15 Essential Julia Roberts Movies You Can Stream Right Now

Few actresses can command a box office like Julia Roberts. She seamlessly transitions from comedy to drama, from madcap fun to serious cinema, with a knowing smile.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

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Image Credit: The Weinstein Company.

Few actresses can command a box office like Julia Roberts. She seamlessly transitions from comedy to drama, from madcap fun to serious cinema, with a knowing smile. However, in recent years, she has been noticeably absent from the world of romantic comedies. It's been almost twenty years. While the nineties and early 2000s were chock full of comedy outings by the veteran actress, her recent acting gigs have been in more serious roles.

“What I've learned is that you always want to do what you're not doing,” said Julia Roberts in a recent interview with the New York Times. “Whenever I'm in a comedy, I think I just want to be at a table with a cup of tea sobbing over something. Then you're doing that, and you think, oh, to be wearing a pretty dress and laughing,” says Roberts.

Luckily, all that is about to change. Roberts is making her triumphant return to romcoms alongside her friend George Clooney in Ticket to Paradise, which she also produced.

In preparation for that film's release, we're looking back through her lengthy and versatile career to give some love to her most fantastic performances and some incredible performances that don't always get the love or attention they deserve. You ready? Let's do this.

Image Credit: The Weinstein Company.

15. Ocean's Twelve

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Okay, this is not a good movie. I love Steven Soderbergh's follow-up to Ocean's Eleven; however, the sequel is unequivocally inferior. The plot is too easy, and the payoff doesn't measure the tense joy we feel watching Ocean's crew take down the Bellagio Casino in part one. Where this movie succeeds is that it reunited the original cast, so even when the film isn't particularly thrilling or funny, you at least get to watch your friends on screen. Right?

This movie makes it on the list because of one scene where Roberts as Tess Ocean impersonates Julia Roberts as part of a diamond heist. It is a hilarious and slightly ridiculous segment that allows the creative team to get away with the pregnant Julia Roberts playing a non-pregnant character. Sure it could be better, but Julia really shines through and has fun with the material, and sometimes that's all we need from a movie.

Stream it on HBO Max.

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

14. Mary Reilly

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Image Credit: TriStar Pictures.

No one can say Julia Roberts had much free time in the 90s. I don't think she ever stopped working, making her appearance in the gothic horror flick Mary Reilly all the more impressive. Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this film pairs Julia Roberts with John Malkovich.

One of the rare Julia Roberts films to lose money at the box office, Mary Reilly showcased her dramatic acting chops long before she dazzled us with some performances you'll see later on this list.

Stream it on HBO Max.

Image Credit: TriStar Pictures.

13. Hook

Image Credit: Columbia TriStar Pictures.

Julia Roberts is a leading lady through and through. So outside of her appearances in Gary Marshall ensemble pictures, her performance as Tinkerbell in 1991's Hook stands out as an outlier. She shares screen time perfectly with the talented ensemble and carves out her identity as the classic fairytale character.

Hook is a very emotional movie, with lead actors Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman working overtime to make us mourn the loss of childhood innocence and then regain some of that squandered splendor. Bonus points for Maggie Smith, who is playing one of her timeless old lady roles, albeit nineteen years before she portrayed the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey.

Stream it on Starz.

Image Credit: Columbia TriStar Pictures.

12. Runaway Bride

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Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

With the success of the new Star Wars trilogy, 2018's Halloween, and 2022's Scream, audiences have yearned for what is unlovably called “the requel,” where legacy actors return to a quasi reboot/sequel of a popular film from years past.

Romantic comedies never had to worry about this because pairing up two actors in different movies was second nature. Pretty Woman never needed a requel because if audiences wanted Julia Roberts and Richard Gere together again, an entirely new film could be made.

And so we get Runaway Bride. When I think of Richard Gere, I think of American Gigolo first and foremost. Still, his ability to seamlessly transition from gritty erotic thrillers to romantic comedies to musical comedies deserves a standing ovation. This reunion performance did not receive the love that Pretty Woman garnered, but it took in $309 million worldwide box office receipts.

Stream it on Amazon Prime.

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

11. Sleeping with the Enemy

sleeping with the enemy
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

The 90s loved to give us erotic thrillers. Sharon Stone fed us Basic Instinct, and our appetites have never been satiated since. In the wake of Basic Instinct, Fatal Attraction, andSingle White Female, other romantic erotic thrillers started popping up, and while most of them weren't spectacular, they did scratch an itch. Sleeping with the Enemy is no exception.

Julia Roberts plays Laura, a woman who fakes her death to escape her abusive husband, only to have him pursue her in a rural town where she has started a new life. The tension is a bit too easy.

For instance, her abusive husband Martin (played by Patrick Bergin) has OCD, so you can often tell he is creeping around if the kitchen towels have been reorganized along with the canned goods. Still, Roberts rises above the script's mediocrity, and the film makes for a fun movie night.

Stream it on HBO Max.

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

10. Ocean's Eleven

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

My only complaint about this movie is that Julia Roberts is not in it enough. Yes, that is a greedy position to take in regards to an ensemble film that has the courtesy to let you know how many actors are in it in the title. However, still, I yearn for more of Julia's Tess Ocean, the ex-wife of crime leader Danny Ocean, played by George Clooney.

Julia Roberts adds some nuance and intrigue to the role of a woman who fell for the bad boy and then latched on to another, slightly less criminal bad boy, only to choose her original baddie in the end. I would have loved for her to appear in the Sandra Bullock-led Oceans Eight, but that type of fantasy casting would break the Internet.

Stream it on HBO Max.

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

9. The Normal Heart

Image Credit: HBO Films.

This is a tough movie to watch. Based on Larry Kramer's 1985 play, The Normal Heart chronicles the early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York City. The play and subsequent film adaptation are angry cries for help to a world that was not interested in helping a population dying off in alarming numbers. Roberts plays Dr. Emma Brookner, the doctor who starts linking the cases of gay men afflicted with a strange and insidious disease.

Her role is as unglamorous as it is unsympathetic. She wants to help, but her doctor-mind struggles to see the nuances of the disease's impact on queer liberation. She delivers an unwavering performance that makes this gut-wrenching film necessary to view.

Stream it on HBO Max.

Image Credit: HBO Films.

8. Erin Brokovich

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

She won the Academy Award for this role, perhaps overdue after her nominations for Steel MagnoliasandPretty Woman. Her turn as the single mom in need of a job who inadvertently helps take down an evil corporation embodied Netflix's Strong Female Lead subcategory years before the subscription service even existed.

It alternates between comedy and harrowing drama, as Roberts never misses a beat, nor does she slip into caricature when it seems complicated not to. The entire film speaks to an ever-present American disillusionment today, particularly in the wake of some serious inflation spikes. Still, Roberts keeps us moving forward, reminding us that if we can keep fighting, we can make even the smallest difference.

Stream it on Amazon Prime.

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

7. Steel Magnolias

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Image Credit: TriStar Pictures.

Along with Fried Green Tomatoes, Practical Magic, and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Steel Magnolias submerges us in the power of the female bond.

The film has left an indelible mark on our culture with an all-star cast including Sally Field, Dolly Parton, and Shirley MacLaine. More than just a sentimental film, the movie reminds us how important it is to love, feel, and be brave. Robert's performance as the diabetic Shelby stood out among the top-notch cast, sealing her cinematic fate as one of our great leading ladies.

Stream it on Netflix.

Image Credit: TriStar Pictures.

6. Mystic Pizza

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Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

It can be said that Mystic Pizza exists in the same universe as Steel MagnoliasandPretty Woman. All three were made within a few years, and they catch a young, agile Julia Roberts before she learns just what a mega-success she would become. This film adroitly and tangibly tackles classicism and big dreams even today. It is the perfect first Julia Roberts movie to watch because you get to watch a powerful actress learning her craft as she prepares to take over the world.

Stream it on Paramount+.

Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

5. Closer

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Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

The early 2000s saw Roberts take on nontraditional roles for her brand. Look no further than the Mike Nichols-directed adaptation of Patrick Marber's outstanding play: Closer.

Closer tells the story of co-mingling couples engaged in a decisive sexual game in which trust and loyalty are constantly questioned. Roberts stars alongside Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen. She handled the role well, although the film adaptation lost some of the humor of the stage play. It was an early example of Roberts taking on a play adaptation and proving she had serious acting chops. Luckily, it was not her last.

Stream it on Amazon Prime.

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

4. Pretty Woman

Image Credit: Touchstone Pictures.

If you were pitching a romantic comedy in 2022, you would probably be laughed at if you wanted to tell the tale of a sex worker who falls in love with the high-powered corporate raider who takes a shine to her. Is it as classic a love story as Romeo and Juliet? Is it PC enough? Is it unrealistic? Probably. But there's something of the rule breaker about this film.

It is a rom-com, but it dances around other genres as it ultimately tells a story about how we judge other people at first glance, and Roberts does everything she can to ensure we never do that again.

Stream it on Amazon Prime.

Image Credit: Touchstone Pictures.

3. The Pelican Brief

the pelican brief
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Based on the novel by John Grisham, The Pelican Brief was one of many star-studded Grisham adaptations that succeeded in the 90s and made many of us watching at home consider a career in law.

The Pelican Brief might be my favorite because Roberts and co-star Denzel Washington shine as they unearth a government conspiracy that feels relevant today. Like her role in Erin Brockovich, Roberts plays a role peripheral to the main action. She is a young law student, not a lawyer, politician, or journalist like Washington. It makes her position a precarious one.

If the movie had been made ten years earlier, she would have been sidelined in the role of Girl Friday. But Roberts makes sure her character is integral to the main action.

Stream it on HBO Max.

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

2. August: Osage County

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Image Credit: The Weinstein Company.

Sometimes I feel bad for people who star alongside Meryl Streep. What pressure that must be! How do they manage to learn their lines and get a good night's sleep? But then I force myself to stop pitying those actors because they are in a Meryl Streep movie, and I am not. Julia Roberts does not let acting vet Meryl pull focus in this classic family drama, adapted from Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

While the film tackles addiction, incest, and grief, Roberts's performance as Barbara keeps us always grounded in reality until the moment when she's finally had enough. It's an exciting and challenging film, bringing to life one of theater's most important contemporary writers. Roberts and Streep star alongside Sam Shepard, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, and Chris Cooper.

Stream it on Showtime.

Image Credit: The Weinstein Company.

1. My Best Friend's Wedding

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Image Credit: TriStar Pictures.

Long before The Sopranos and Breaking Bad taught us the importance of a lovable anti-hero, we had Julianne Potter, the food critic who tries to break up her best friend's wedding because she thinks she's in love with him. Today she might be called an ungrateful Karen. But in 1997, Julianne taught us to follow our hearts, even if they will be swiftly crushed.

With an ensemble cast including Dermot Mulroney, Cameron Diaz, and Rupert Everett, Roberts takes us through a wild comedy that harkens back to the days of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. It would not have surprised me if My Best Friend's Wedding devolved into a whodunit. Alas, Roberts keeps us grounded in reality as she toggles flawlessly between humor and longing, loss and acceptance. She is *chef's kiss* perfection.

Stream it on Amazon Prime.

Image Credit: TriStar Pictures.

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Justin McDevitt is a playwright and essayist from New York City. His latest play HAUNT ME had its first public reading at Theater for the New City in September. He is a contributor for RUE MORGUE where he lends a queer eye to horror cinema in his column STAB ME GENTLY.