The 32 greatest Julia Roberts movies

Julia Roberts walks down the aisle in Runaway Bride
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

She’s just a girl, standing in front of an audience, asking them to love her. And boy is it so easy to love Julia Roberts. But which of her movies are actually the greatest of all time?

One of the most revered and bankable stars in Hollywood, Julia Roberts has sustained a career over several decades since her star-making rise in the 1990 romantic comedy Pretty Woman. Best known for starring in adult-oriented romantic comedies and family dramas – with extremely rare dalliances in genres like spy thriller and horror – Roberts is the picture definition of a Hollywood movie star, her luminous smile and vibrant energy practically made for the big screen. 

Born and raised in Georgia to Atlanta-area playwrights, the hospital bill for Roberts’ birth was paid for by Coretta King, the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., as a gesture of thanks to Roberts’ parents for running the only racially integrated theater in the Atlanta region. While she intended to pursue being a veterinarian, Roberts dropped out of George State University and ventured to New York City to pursue a career in acting. As one of the stars in the 1988 coming-of-age comedy Mystic Pizza, critic Roger Ebert complimented Roberts as “a major beauty with fierce energy” in his review. He also correctly predicted she may soon be a huge star.

In celebration of her ongoing career, here are the 32 greatest Julia Roberts movies ever.

32. Sleeping With the Enemy (1991)

Julia Roberts stands in a bathroom in Sleeping With the Enemy

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Based on a 1987 novel by Nancy Price and directed by Joseph Ruben, Sleeping With the Enemy stars Julia Roberts as a woman who flees an abusive marriage by faking her death to lead a new life in Iowa. Despite her best efforts to conceal her old identity, her “ex”-husband figures out the ruse and violently returns to force her back to him. While an average psychological thriller at best, there’s still novel appeal in its exhibition of Roberts still maturing as an actress. Released only a year after Pretty Woman, Sleeping With the Enemy reveals a different, darker side from a soon-to-be unstoppable movie star.

31. Full Frontal (2002)

Julia Robert sits behind the scenes in Full Frontal

(Image credit: Miramax)

Steven Soderbergh’s experimental movie Full Frontal, his first using digital video photography, did not receive favorable reviews by critics when it first opened in 2002. Over the years it has undergone some reevaluation as a smart film whose dingy aesthetics are meant to commentate on Hollywood’s inauthenticity. In this movie about the movie biz, Julia Roberts plays an actor starring in the movie-within-a-movie. Roberts is hardly a real fixture here, but Full Frontal is worth a gander for something unusual from what we expect movies should “look” like. 

30. Conspiracy Theory (1997)

Julia Roberts comforts a dying Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

In retrospect, it’s kind of hilarious that Mel Gibson stars in this one. Directed by Richard Donner, Conspiracy Theory is about a taxi driver (Gibson) who believes that several major world events are all part of a vast government-engineered conspiracy. Julia Roberts co-stars as Alice Sutton, a lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department who puts up with his mad ravings. Between Richard Donner’s close-ups and Mel Gibson’s blabbering, there’s Julia Roberts being captivating. Fun fact: She actually learned to ride a horse for the movie’s final scene.

29. America’s Sweethearts (2001)

Julia Roberts confronts Catherine Zeta-Jones and John Cusack in America's Sweethearts

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Proving that Hollywood really loves movies about Hollywood, Joe Roth’s buoyant rom-com is a satire of Tinseltown’s many farces – including its celebrity couples. While John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones co-star as actors whose romance keeps the tabloids in print, Billy Crystal and Julia Roberts are the real heroes as a publicist and personal assistant respectively who make sure their love isn’t dead. But things get complicated when film star Eddie Thomas (Cusack) begins to have feelings for Kiki (Roberts). More than just a rom-com, America’s Sweethearts is a lasting, vivid snapshot of the early 2000s pop culture zeitgeist.

28. Something to Talk About (1995)

Julia Roberts stands outside of a bar angry in Something to Talk About

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Old fashioned small town values clash with modern realities in Lasse Hallstrom’s bizarre but boisterous Something to Talk About. When Grace Bichon (Julia Roberts) finds out her husband (Dennis Quaid) has been cheating on her, their bickering becomes a very public affair, leading everyone in their small Southern town to have something to say about it. All the while, these two once-passionate love birds try their darndest to find their way back to each other. Although its story promises something juicy with regards to the intrusiveness of small town communities, Something to Talk About is still a chill time with Roberts being predictably delightful.

27. Hook (1991)

Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell stands in front of Peter Pan in Hook

(Image credit: TriStar Pictures)

Steven Spielberg’s nostalgic fantasy film is a “sequel” to the story of Peter Pan, in which the mischievous hero has grown up into a cynical San Francisco lawyer (played by Robin Williams). His adventure back to Neverland really begins when Tinkerbell arrives, played by Julia Roberts. Unlike her famous animated counterpart, Roberts’ Tinkerbell is a big-time talker, and her affection for Peter is more explicit than it is in other movies. While Hook is primarily a Robin Williams vehicle, Julia Roberts is still magically enchanting as the most famous fairy in pop culture.

26. Larry Crowne (2011)

Julia Roberts sits on a school desk in Larry Crowne

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

In this Tom Hanks film that the celebrated actor also writes and directs, Julia Roberts co-stars as Mercedes Tainot, an unenthused English teacher at a community college. Against her own judgment, “Miss Tainot” ends up romantically involved with the title character (Hanks), a middle-aged Navy veteran hoping to finally get a college degree. Hanks and Roberts have undeniable chemistry in that classic Hollywood sort of way, which helps elevate this lightweight comedy into something that could actually teach us a thing or two about starting all over.

25. Eat Pray Love (2010)

Julia Roberts eats ice cream in Italy while sitting next to nuns in Eat Pray Love

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

In Ryan Murphy’s film adaptation of the best-selling 2006 memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, Julia Roberts plays the real-life author who, post-divorce, finds spiritual healing through indulgent travels around the world. While any and all criticisms about the book’s shallow understanding of self-discovery and fulfillment can be afforded to the movie, Roberts is still an irrefutable powerhouse as someone who knows their ho-hum life needs zest. Instead of skirting around out of fear, Roberts’ Elizabeth simply books the next flight available. May we all feel such an appetite for adventure. 

24. Ticket to Paradise (2022)

Julia Roberts and George Clooney jump off a boat together in Ticket to Paradise

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

For one weekend in October 2022, it felt like the early 2000s again. On the same Friday that opened Black Adam, a DC superhero epic starring Dwayne Johnson, there was also Ticket to Paradise, a breezy rom-com with Julia Roberts and George Clooney as a counterprogramming alternative. A throwback to star-driven romances of yesteryear, Ol Parker’s film features Roberts and Clooney as a divorced couple who put aside their bickering to sabotage their daughter’s wedding in Indonesia. While The Rock tore up the DC Universe with thunderous VFX, Ticket to Paradise was like a sunny getaway for anyone fatigued by world-ending stakes. 

23. Stepmom (1998)

Susan Sarandon walks up to Julia Roberts in autumn clothing in Stepmom

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Directed by Chris Columbus, Stepmom pits Susan Sarandon opposite Julia Roberts, with the two playing warring women who try to reconcile over shared men and children. In this bittersweet comedy about family, death, and motherhood, Sarandon plays a terminally ill mom who resents her ex-husband’s new fiance (Roberts). Although the two fail to get along at first, they slowly begin to understand each other in ways only they could ever know. While Stepmom can get a bit mawkish, it is still an attractive showcase for two dynamite leads whose emotions explode against picturesque autumn scenery – a visual metaphor for changing phases.

22. The Pelican Brief (1993)

Julia Roberts sits in a classroom in The Pelican Brief

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

In Alan J. Pakula’s final film, Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington team up in this legal thriller where a young law student (Roberts) is targeted by shadowy forces when they learn she’s onto a hidden connection between two assassinated Supreme Court Justices. Fearing for her life, she contacts a Washington Herald journalist (Washington) to help her bring the truth to light. As an adaptation of a John Grisham novel, The Pelican Brief is pulpy and propulsive. But Roberts and Washington are particularly formidable as an onscreen tag team, and their attractive chemistry makes it curious why they haven’t done more movies together.

21. Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

Julia Roberts stands before a classroom of art students in Mona Lisa Smile

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

In this underrated 1950s period piece by director Mike Newell, Julia Roberts plays a young graduate student, Katherine Watson, who comes from California and takes a position teaching art history at prestigious Wellesley College. Although her students eat her alive at first, they eventually warm up to her as Katherine introduces them to modern art. This inspires stirring conversations about modern womanhood, much to the dismay of their conservative environment. While Roberts isn’t in her usual sharp shape in Mona Lisa Smile, and the movie itself is ironically too safe despite its championing of transgressive art, there’s still some worthy insight that’s worth studying.

20. Leave the World Behind (2023)

Julia Roberts dances with Mahershala Ali in Leave the World Behind

(Image credit: Netflix)

In this searing doomsday thriller by Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail, a Brooklyn family spontaneously takes a summer weekend vacationing at a luxury hamlet. While there, bizarre phenomena start to occur, including a sudden severance in working telecommunications. What unfolds is an anxiety-inducing psychological drama that explores the grave cost of trust at the onset of armageddon. Julia Roberts masterfully takes charge as a misanthropic mother who whisks her family away to the sticks, unwittingly isolating them just as civilization starts to fall. 

19. Flatliners (1990)

Julia Roberts gets hooked up to a machine in Flatliners

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Right after Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts took a walk on the dark side with Flatliners, a sci-fi psychological horror directed by Joel Schumacher. Roberts plays one of several medical students who conduct experiments to learn what awaits us in death by replicating near-death conditions. While Flatliners drew mixed reviews upon release, it is now one of the most attractive puzzle pieces in Schumacher’s filmography as well as one of the few instances of Roberts doing horror. Of Roberts’ scant few genre movies, Flatliners is easily one of the best.

18. Steel Magnolias (1989)

Julia Roberts gets a perm in Steel Magnolias

(Image credit: Tri-Star Pictures)

One of Julia Roberts’ earliest films is this lively ensemble comedy from 1989, based on Robert Haling’s 1987 play. Also starring Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, and Daryl Hannah, Roberts plays Shelby, the daughter of Sally Field’s character M’Lynn. Though she suffers from type one diabetes, she still pursues marriage and tries to raise a family. While Steel Magnolias isn’t a movie for Roberts to shine alone, it is still a heartwarming and heartbreaking drama about women who are deeply woven in their small Southern community. 

17. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)

Julia Roberts wears a big hat in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

(Image credit: Miramiax)

Helmed by George Clooney in his directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a biographical spy movie based on the supposed real life of game show host Chuck Barris and his claims to have moonlighted as a CIA assassin. (The CIA vehemently denies his claims.) Whether true or not, Clooney’s movie goes buckwild with the remote possibility that Barris was telling the truth. While Sam Rockwell eclipses the movie in a star-making performance, Julia Roberts is still breathtaking as a lethally gorgeous spy femme fatale.

16. Everyone Says I Love You (1996)

Julia Roberts stands in a museum with Woody Allen in Everyone Says I Love You

(Image credit: Miramax)

There’s no question that Julia Roberts is a talented actress. But is she a talented singer? The whole appeal of Woody Allen’s 1996 romantic comedy Everyone Says I Love You is that it’s also a musical, one where known Hollywood actors who aren’t known for singing sing their hearts out. Among the movie’s parade of stars is Julia Roberts, as gorgeously elegant Von Sidell who quite literally runs into Woody Allen’s character Joe in Venice. While Everyone Says I Love You is divisive in the canon of a polarizing filmmaker, it at least offers audiences a chance to hear Roberts sing in a rendition of Sam Stept and Sidney Mitchell’s “All My Life.”

15. Charlotte’s Web (2006)

Wilbur the piglet meets Charlotte the spider in Charlotte's Web

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

In one of the rare movies that stars Julia Roberts in a voice-over role, the actress mystifies as the titular Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web (directed by Gary Winick), a delightful film version of E. B. White’s 1952 children’s classic book and live-action remake of the 1973 animated hit. Contrasting then-child actor’s Dominic Scott Kay’s adorable voice for piglet Wilbur is Roberts’ own for Charlotte. Warm and caring in an ethereal way – a highly specific tone that only someone like Julia Roberts could pull off – Charlotte doesn’t necessarily baby Wilbur but remains good-natured in helping Wilbur understand difficult concepts like death. Even when she dies, Wilbur never forgets her memory. And neither do we.

14. Duplicity (2009)

Julia Roberts and Clive Owen sit in a fancy lobby at the end of Duplicity

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

While the genre hybrid of romantic comedy/spy action often spawns really obnoxious pictures, there is one exception in Tony Gilroy’s Duplicity. Julia Roberts and Clive Owen star as two corporate spies with sultry history who collaborate on a lucrative heist. With unique plotting that zips back and forth in time, Duplicity is kind of exhausting to keep up. Thankfully, Roberts and Owen are present to ground viewers’ feet, with Roberts especially holding court in a genre she is not typically known for.

13. Money Monster (2016)

Julia Roberts talks into a headset at a TV news station in Money Monster

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Directed by actress Jodie Foster, Money Monster reunites George Clooney and Julia Roberts, this time for a serious hostage thriller set in a CNBC-like television station. Clooney plays a flamboyant financial expert who hosts his own TV show; Roberts plays his producer. Money Monster is steeped in contemporary economic anxieties that feel more relevant than even when it first released in 2016, and the undisputed star power of Roberts and Clooney help add necessary dramatic weight to the material.

12. Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

Julia Roberts does her makeup in a vanity mirror in Charlie Wilson's War

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Baffling politics aside, Charlie Wilson’s War – the last film from celebrated director Mike Nichols – drops Julia Roberts like strategic warheads. She never overwhelms the film, but in the few minutes she appears, no one can look away. In Charlie Wilson’s War, Roberts plays real-life figure Joanne Herring, a conservative Texas socialite and businesswoman whose money is wrapped up in politics. She has something of a casual affair with Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks), which is how she helps seed the United States’ involvement in the Soviet-Afghan War. While the movie’s plot frames her as some sort of ally, the resulting devastation of her work, and everyone else’s, arguably makes her one of the most unusual villains in movie history.

11. Ben Is Back (2018)

Julia Roberts comforts her son in Ben Is Back

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

In this no-nonsense family drama directed by Peter Hedges, Julia Roberts plays a mother who is at first relieved to see her drug addict son return home on Christmas Eve. But what happens next really tests the limits of how much a mother can love her son unconditionally. A heart-wrenching picture that takes unexpected turns, Ben Is Back is a remarkably taut movie that proves Julia Roberts is an acting tour de force even in the second act of her career.

10. Wonder (2017)

Julia Roberts talks to her son, who is wearing an astronaut helmet, in Wonder

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

While Stephen Chbosky’s Wonder may tug at the heartstrings a bit too much for comfort, Julia Roberts is impeccable in this tender coming-of-age movie about acceptance, self-love, and adolescent joy. An adaptation of R. J. Palacio’s 2012 novel, a young boy (Jacob Tremblay) with a severe facial deformity braves his first day at middle school after years of homeschooling. Roberts plays the boy’s mother, Isabel, while Owen Wilson co-stars as father/husband Nate. In one of the movie’s most shattering moments, Julia Roberts delivers an impassioned, honest speech to her son about living life openly with scars exposed.

9. Runaway Bride (1999)

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere ride on a horse in Runaway Bride

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Runaway Bride is one of Julia Roberts’ least realistic movies, in that it’s about people everywhere being loyal newspaper readers. Kidding aside, Garry Marshall’s lovely comedy follows a small town Maryland woman (Roberts) who has been almost married several times, because she keeps leaving her grooms at the altar. But at last, her feet may finally stay put when she meets a New York journalist (Richard Gere) who is interested in telling her story. However much the story tests one’s patience for suspension of disbelief, Gere’s handsome charisma and Roberts’ heart-stopping smile are enough to make you run wild.

8. Closer (2004)

Julia Roberts takes a picture in Closer

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Mike Nichols’ penultimate movie Closer is a movie teeming with sexual angst. Based on a 1997 play, it follows four troubled adults – played by Clive Owen, Natalie Portman, Jude Law, and of course, Julia Roberts – whose incestuous relationships reveal the toxicity within us all. Roberts plays Anna, a photographer who keeps an iron wall surrounding her feelings yet still attracts men like moths to a flame. Closer is a deeply strange movie; it radiates an icky feeling, similar to how one feels in their guilt from a torrid affair. Nevertheless, Nichols’ sharp direction ensures that all four main actors in the movie penetrate viewers’ souls, Roberts included.

7. My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

Julia Roberts sits next to her gay best friend in My Best Friend's Wedding

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

A quintessential ‘90s rom-com with a slightly unusual ending, My Best Friend’s Wedding from director P.J. Hogan features Julia Roberts at maximum levels of her starpower. As New York food critic Jules Potter, Julia Roberts plays a distraught woman who realizes that her longtime male best friend (Dermont Mulroney) is actually her soulmate, and does all she can to disrupt his imminent marriage to a young heiress (Cameron Diaz). Funny and breezy, My Best Friend’s Wedding stands as a vibrant ode to anyone who realizes they’re on the wrong side of the aisle.

6. Mystic Pizza (1988)

Julia Roberts sits at a pizza parlor in Mystic Pizza

(Image credit: The Samuel Goldwyn Company)

In this tender Gen X dramedy from Donald Petrie about love through the eyes of second-generation Portuguese immigrants in America, Julia Roberts stars as Daisy, one of two sisters who work out of a family pizza parlor in sleepy Mystic, Connecticut. However well-worn its story may be, Mystic Pizza still rises with cheesy goodness to be a satisfying, moving picture about young girls figuring out the recipes to adulthood. Released a few years before she stunned the world through Pretty Woman, Mystic Pizza serves up a wholesome Julia Roberts on the verge of superstardom.

5. Pretty Woman (1990)

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere go shopping in Pretty Woman

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

There she is, walking down the street. In the movie that made Julia Roberts a bonafide mega-star, Pretty Woman, from Garry Marshall, is effectively a Hollywood remake of the Italian opera La traviata. It follows a sex worker with a heart of gold who falls in love with a wealthy businessman (played by Richard Gere). A feel-good Hollywood romance of the highest order, Roberts shines as a free-spirited, rough-around-the-edges woman who is much more than her occupation. Pretty Woman is all about finding the heart that hides beneath appearances, and that love doesn’t cost a thing. (Though a Beverly Hills shopping spree certainly might.) 

4. August: Osage County (2013)

Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep sit in a car in August: Osage County

(Image credit: The Weinstein Company)

In this adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer-winning stage play, Julia Roberts leads a ridiculously stacked ensemble cast that includes Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Dermont Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, the late Misty Upham, and none other than Meryl Streep as the aging, drug-addicted matriarch of a dysfunctional Oklahoma family. Heads and hearts explode at the dinner table when this family gathers for a funeral, a suicide that unlocks deep-seated resentments and regrets. While Meryl Streep is predictably awe-inspiring as a poisonous individual, Julia Roberts is more than formidable as her onscreen opponent.

3. Notting Hill (1999)

Julia Roberts stands smiling in a book store in Notting Hill

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

In this simple but soothing rom-com from director Roger Michell, the ultimate “if only…” fantasy takes off when a bookstore owner (played by Hugh Grant) falls in love when the most famous person in the world, movie star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) visits his store. A spiritual 21st century retelling of Roman Holiday, Julia Roberts is effectively playing a version of herself in this indulgent fantasy that still plants itself down to Earth. What would it be like to date a movie star? Notting Hill takes this idea quite seriously, but with a good sense of humor.

2. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Julia Roberts looks up from her seat in a restaurant in Ocean's Eleven

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

It’s hard to say if Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven is a good movie, or a good Julia Roberts movie. On one hand, she is only in it for a handful of minutes including that one scene at a Las Vegas restaurant with her ex-husband, Danny Ocean (George Clooney). On the other hand, this A-plus Hollywood heist would fall apart without Roberts involved. In Steven Soderbergh’s blockbuster caper, the elegant and incandescent Roberts plays art dealer Tess, who divorces Danny and dates scummy casino magnate (Andy Garcia). Ocean’s Eleven hatches a good scheme, but none of it would matter if Danny Ocean – and by that extension, we the audience – didn’t have Tess to fall for. 

1. Erin Brockovich (2000)

Julia Roberts holds a baby while in the role of Erin Brockovich

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Based on the real-life story of single mother turned paralegal and activist Erin Brockovich, Julia Roberts plays the title figure who brought public attention to gas and electric giant PG&E and its fault in contaminating the water in Hinkley, California. While Steven Soderbergh’s movie is archetypal in its premise of a juicy true story made into a triumphant Hollywood movie, Julia Roberts is soaring as a powerful woman who, despite her initial appearances, has exactly the iron resolve to bring a callous corporate giant to its knees. Julia Roberts is simply one of the best Hollywood actresses ever, and Erin Brockovich is admissible in the court of art.

Eric Francisco

Eric Francisco is a freelance entertainment journalist and graduate of Rutgers University. If a movie or TV show has superheroes, spaceships, kung fu, or John Cena, he's your guy to make sense of it. A former senior writer at Inverse, his byline has also appeared at Vulture, The Daily Beast, Observer, and The Mary Sue. You can find him screaming at Devils hockey games or dodging enemy fire in Call of Duty: Warzone.