Twenty years ago today (June 20), America’s Sweetheart, Julia Roberts, graced the theaters with what some would say is her finest work: My Best Friend’s Wedding. The Julia-ness of Julianne “Jules” Potter, from her one-in-a-million smile to her sassy, spunky charm and, of course, that hair, made America fall in love with Julia Roberts all over again. A stellar supporting cast that includes Dermot Mulroney, Rupert Everett and Cameron Diaz, plus an incredible soundtrack featuring Burt Bacharach’s greatest hits, make this a can’t-miss romantic comedy classic. By God, there will be dancing!
But My Best Friend’s Wedding is not the only time Julia shined on screen. Let’s take a look at some of her other great roles. And trust me, it was hard to pick only 10!
Mystic Pizza (1988)—Interested in seeing Julia’s first feature film? Then check out this classic coming-of-age story featuring Julia at just 20 years old! Her signature sass is still present, along with a hint of youthful innocence.
Steel Magnolias (1989)—While Julia’s role as Shelby is not necessarily the standout of this unforgettable classic, she’s still the catalyst upon which all of the masterful performances hinge. If you haven’t seen it, do so now. And bring the tissues.
Pretty Woman (1990)—The movie that put Julia on the map. Julia plays Vivian Ward, the original “hooker with a heart of gold.” Vivian’s tenacity and drive to become more than she currently is has proven to be a common theme in Julia’s body of work.
Sleeping with the Enemy (1991)—The first act alone is a masterpiece: the vivid scenery, the quiet tension, the juxtaposition of Julia’s fragile beauty and inner turmoil as she breaks away from a controlling, vengeful spouse…it’s the original “Lifetime” movie.
Stepmom (1998)—I remember feeling a bit unsettled after my first viewing of Stepmom, but the movie stuck with me nonetheless. It’s an important tale of a complicated family relationship, and Julia’s performance as stepmom Isabel is layered and powerful.
Notting Hill (1999)—Working at a bookstore, I’m inclined to like this movie regardless, but what makes it the most interesting for me is Julia’s portrayal of, in some ways, herself—a Hollywood elite actress under the microscope.
Erin Brockovich (2000)—Every time I come across this movie, I have to stop and watch. It’s a classic David-and-Goliath story. Erin’s gritty determination to avenge a massive corporation’s malfeasance is truly inspiring. And her banter with Ed (Albert Finney) is a joy to watch.
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)—This movie showed that Julia was growing up, shifting from the typical “romantic comedy” fare to something with more depth, in this case the tale of 1950s collegiate women looking to break free from the “June Cleaver” mold. Comparisons to Dead Poets Society are inevitable, but the story still stands on its own.
Closer (2004)—You have to hand it to Julia. It’s not easy as America’s Sweetheart to play a character like Anna, who is cold and, quite frankly, unlikable. But she does it brilliantly here, caught in the midst of a love…square?
August: Osage County (2013)—Another difficult film to watch, August is nonetheless packed with an incredible cast. And Julia sinks her teeth into her role as the daughter of an Oklahoma family in crisis, for which she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
While not a traditional big screen film, I would be remiss not to mention The Normal Heart (2014), HBO’s tragic story of the 1980s AIDS crisis. Julia’s Emmy award-nominated performance as Dr. Emma Brookner, a wheelchair-bound doctor who is a pioneer in recognizing the effects of AIDS, is one I won’t forget for a very long time.
Well, I think it’s time to binge watch some of these Julia Roberts classics! Are there any that I left out? Find your favorite Julia Roberts movie at your local HPB.
Jason is the Email Coordinator at Half Price Books Corporate.