Julia Roberts is one of Hollywood’s most famous stars, but she also has a versatility that isn’t often talked about. She can play a working-class single mother who takes on a greedy corporation or a prostitute who falls in love with a businessman and his lavish lifestyle or a woman who fakes her death to escape from her abusive husband – not many actors could play all of those roles convincingly.
She’s starred in lighthearted movies and darkly-themed movies; true-to-life stories and pure escapist fiction; movies that were great and movies that weren’t so great. Here are Julia Roberts’ 10 Best Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes.
10 TIE: Everyone Says I Love You (79%)
Released in the mid-‘90s, Everyone Says I Love You was Woody Allen’s attempt at making a musical. He cast an ensemble of A-listers – including Drew Barrymore, Edward Norton, Natalie Portman, Tim Roth, and of course, Julia Roberts – none of whom had any musical background, and didn’t dub over their singing.
So, the novelty of the film was the chance to see actors who aren’t singers singing. The movie isn’t narratively perfect, but it does get you with the musical bug. It doesn’t rank among Allen’s very best work, but it is considered to be one of his better later films.
9 TIE: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (79%)
Sometimes filmmakers come across a true story that’s so incredible, it’s like it was made for the big screen. And so goes Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, the story of a game show host named Chuck Barris who claimed to be a sleeper agent for the CIA.
George Clooney directed the movie, with himself in the cast – though not in the lead role, as Sam Rockwell played Barris – alongside Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore. The movie carries the comedic tone that is inherent to the premise, but it also digs deep into Barris’ psyche – what else do you expect from a script by Charlie Kaufman?
8 TIE: Charlotte’s Web (79%)
This lovable adaptation of E.B. White’s children’s book of the same name is a charming translation of the story of a spider who writes words in her webs that is brimming with lighthearted fun.
Julia Roberts is joined by such other famous names as Oprah Winfrey, John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer, Robert Redford, Kathy Bates, and Steve Buscemi in the film’s voice cast, but as the voice of the titular literate spider, Roberts is the film’s real A-list star. Dakota Fanning is also compelling as the live-action lead at the height of her reign as the world’s biggest child actor.
7 TIE: Ocean’s Eleven (82%)
Julia Roberts starred alongside fellow A-listers George Clooney and Brad Pitt in Steven Soderbergh’s remake of the classic Rat Pack heist movie Ocean’s 11. She played Tess Ocean, the wife of Clooney’s lead character Danny Ocean, in one of the slickest, most memorable heist films in recent memory.
In the sequel, Roberts’ character Tess would get swept up in a truly weird subplot in which Matt Damon acknowledges her resemblance to Julia Roberts and she impersonates Roberts in-universe and bumps into Bruce Willis, who is convinced that she is the actual Roberts. This is yet another case of a great movie getting ruined by its ridiculous sequel.
6 TIE: Charlie Wilson’s War (82%)
As both the final film of legendary filmmaker Mike Nichols and the true story of a U.S. Congressman and a CIA operative who interfere in the Soviet-Afghan War with Operation Cyclone, Charlie Wilson’s War is a significant political dramedy.
With a triple-whammy lead cast of Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman and a screenplay written by master of dialogue Aaron Sorkin, the film’s execution of its curious true-to-life tale lives up to its full potential. Charlie Wilson’s War is both entertaining and educational – it’s a movie above all, not a history lesson, but the history is still there.
5 TIE: Ben is Back (82%)
Last year’s Ben is Back is a powerful two-hander about the relationship between a mother, played by Julia Roberts, and her son, played by Lucas Hedges (the son of the film’s director Peter Hedges), a recovering addict who has just completed a stint at rehab.
The movie relies on Roberts and Hedges for their chemistry and character work, and thankfully, they both give performances that are impeccable enough to make a movie with no discernible plot interesting from beginning to end. The “recovering addict” story has been done over and over, but Ben is Back manages to upend all the genre’s stereotypes with honest storytelling.
4 Notting Hill (93%)
When Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant get together to make a romantic comedy, they always manage to cook up something magical. In Notting Hill, Grant plays a mild-mannered bookstore owner who lives in a quaint suburb of London and has his life turned upside down when he starts dating an A-list movie star, played by Julia Roberts.
Notting Hill is an endless bank of corny, yet irresistible romcom one-liners, such as, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” And as is customary with a Curtis movie, there are countless lovable supporting characters – namely, Rhys Ifans as Spike.
3 Erin Brockovich (84%)
This true story of an embattled unemployed single mother who takes an evil corporation to court struck a chord with moviegoers. Many real-life small towns are stuck under the thumb of a giant company, and this tale of one woman’s quest to liberate her town came like a rallying cry to the masses.
The movie juxtaposes the dramatic story about taking down an energy company with the humorous performance delivered by Julia Roberts in the title role in interesting ways. It’s no wonder that the movie went on to earn over $250 million at the worldwide box office – it was something of a cultural moment.
2 Wonder (85%)
Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson star in Wonder as the parents of a child with Treacher Collins syndrome played by Jacob Tremblay. The plot is a little predictable, but the message – that it’s okay to be different – is a strong one.
Wonder occasionally borders on treacly or schmaltzy, but in a movie this heartwarming and sweet, you’d have to be a cynic made of stone not to be moved. There was a slight controversy around the film, given that Tremblay was cast to play a child with a disease he does not suffer from, which some critics noted detracting from the film’s message, and it is a valid criticism.
1 The Normal Heart (94%)
It’s odd that the highest-rated Julia Roberts movie on Rotten Tomatoes is essentially a movie-of-the-week, having been produced for television. But then, it was an HBO movie and it was also a fantastic, powerful, affecting film about a real-world social issue. Set in the 1980s, it follows a writer played by Mark Ruffalo through the madness of the AIDS crisis.
The film was praised for its acting, its direction (even if Ryan Murphy couldn’t resist gravitating towards the tone of American Horror Story in some scenes), and its writing – but the main point of praise went to its positive message.