Anyone who knows me knows that I have an infatuation with Sandy. Since I was a kid I've always appreciated how down-to-earth she's seemed. Plus, she's hot. And, growing up in the 90s, it was hard to not have the star engrained in the pop culture I remember (Speed was my very first R-rated film, so I guess I have that to blame).
Bullock has been through the ringer with critics and audiences haven't always approved of every film choice she's made, but she's always remained a highly respected person, actress or not. In the 90's she rose to fame thanks to her supporting turns in Speed and Demolition Man, which led to her first major starring role in While You Were Sleeping. By the late 90's she had a few misses, but was still a decent box office draw, with even subpar films like Practical Magic and Hope Floats lighting up the box office and becoming fan favorites.
Jump a little over a decade to 2009 and she quickly regained her reign as Queen of the Box Office with two huge hits, The Proposal and The Blind Side, and a plethora of new fans. The latter won her her first Oscar and set her on a path for critical and commercial acclaim. She's continued to have hit after hit, receiving another Oscar nomination earlier this year for her role in Gravity. When many actresses her age are having a hard time finding roles, or are defined to one genre, Bullock defies the odds by showcasing talent and bringing in box office returns no matter what type of film. Plus, despite even personal turmoil, like her divorce shortly after her Oscar win, Bullock continues to smile and present herself like everyone's best friend. She's truly America's Sweetheart. Happy birthday!
To celebrate, let's take a look at some of her greatest work:
10. FORCES OF NATURE (1999)
Directed by Bronwen Hughes
Starring Sandra Bullock, Ben Affleck, Blythe Danner, Maura Tierney, Steve Zahn
The movie was number one it's opening weekend at the box office, despite mixed reviews. Over time it's become a forgotten late 90's/early 00's hit that frequents the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. The uniquely-plotted romantic comedy places Bullock as a ball of energy against Affleck's straightforward rule-follower. The two end up in a mixture of hijinks as they try to travel from New York to Savannah for separate events: Affleck's Ben Holmes is getting married and Bullock's Sarah Lewis is selling the property her and her illegitimate husband once owned. The film is beautifully shot, with brilliant uses of imagery and effects to create an ethereal world around this idea of literal and figurative storms. Bullock is at her rom-com prime. It's too bad that the film hasn't built its own following over the years.
9. CRASH (2005)
Directed by Paul Haggis
Starring Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Thandie Newton, and a million other people
The great shocker at the 2006 Academy Awards was Crash defeating Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture. The race-relation commentary that is Crash shocked audiences when it was released and opened dialogue even further for racism on all fronts, not just white-to-black. While the movie hasn't quite kept up over the years and its overt sentimentalism shines through a little more now than when it first released, there's no denying that there are some powerful moments, especially when Bullock is on screen. She'd shied away from a lot of dramas at this point in her career, and she'd never played the "bad guy," so seeing her be a filthy rich female dog was way different than anyone was used to. And, she succeeded. It was arguably her first true Oscar-worthy turn and it set the stage for the career she was hoping to build on shortly after.
8. MISS CONGENIALITY (2000)
Directed by Donald Petrie
Starring Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt, Candice Bergen, William Shatner
If Bullock hadn't convinced anyone that she could be the charming girl-next-door while also being this generation's Lucille Ball, Miss Congeniality made that declaration very clear. Bullock shined as Gracie Hart, a tomboyish FBI agent who goes against grain and type by becoming an undercover Miss United States beauty pageant contestant. The film was a critical and commercial success, proving Bullock could open a film to great box office numbers. The film went on to spawn a sequel that was fun, but unnecessary, leading Bullock to vow to never make a sequel again (even though many have their fingers crossed for a The Heat sequel). Bullock received her second Golden Globe nod for Best Actress for her work in the film and the script's numerous one-liners have become fan favorites to repeat.
7. THE PROPOSAL (2009)
Directed by Anne Fletcher
Starring Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Betty White
After a decent break from acting (thanks to the poorly received The Lake House and Premonition years of her work), Bullock returned in romantic-comedy force with The Proposal. She played a mean boss forced to convince American authorities that her and her assistant are madly in love so that she can renew her visa t continue working in America. Reynolds, as the assistant, was in his short-lived prime and made an excellent frat-professional for Bullock's stylish wit to bounce off of. The film was a huge hit the summer of 2009 becoming Bullock's largest opening weekend ever and completely solidifying her resurrection to box office status again. The comedy was infectious and capitalized on the rise of America's returning love of Betty White, as well. Bullock received her third Golden Globe nomination for the film, losing to Meryl Streep. Time will tell if the film will keep, but for now it's already become a part of the romantic comedy lexicon.
6. THE BLIND SIDE (2009)
Directed by John Lee Hancock
Starring Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Kathy Bates, Tim McGraw
2009 was the year of the Bullock. After the success of The Proposal over the summer, no one was quite expecting the impact of the November release of The Blind Side. Powered by its empowering story of family and acceptance, plus Bullock's A-list status, the film became Bullock's new number one opening weekend and largest grossing film. It also set the record for the biggest opening weekend for a movie marketed with a sole female star, a feat that is kind of embarrassing (in the sense that more female-driven films hadn't reached that capacity), but also a hint at the power of Bullock's status as a star. Her role as the feisty mom who takes Quinton Aaron's Michael Oher under her wing won her her first Academy Award nomination and win, as well as a Golden Globe win, along with countless other awards. The film was also a nominee for Best Picture that year, losing to The Hurt Locker.
5. 28 DAYS (2000)
Directed by Betty Thomas
Starring Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West, Elizabeth Perkins
When this indie film was released, Bullock was most known for her hilarious and endearing turns in romantic comedies, as well as female heroines in action/thrillers like The Net. The alcohol/drug rehab dark comedy 28 Days was a huge leap in a different direction for the star, but one that should have received more acclaim. The film tackles a pretty dark subject in a very respectful and realistic way. The supporting cast Bullock worked with was just as stellar and help 28 Days become a sleeper hit that went on to see a decent life in DVD and video sales. It was our first glimpse at Bullock going a bit deeper than just delivering funny lines with her charming smile. 28 Days has raw substance that shows up again in later Bullock films like Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Crash.
4. INFAMOUS (2006)
Directed by Douglas McGrath
Starring Toby Jones, Daniel Craig, Sandra Bullock
This is probably the most unfamiliar film in Bullock's resume, even though it was released in the middle of her strange The Lake House and Premonition days. The film suffered from being one of two major films released that year based on the life of Truman Capote. Capote, the other film, ended up being an awards darling, winning its star, Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Academy Award. Most critics will agree, however, that Infamous tells the better version of the story, following Capote as he develops a relationship with convicted murderer Perry Smith as research for In Cold Blood. Bullock played Capote's best friend and American author Harper Lee to her utmost best. Never before had we seen Bullock completely melt into a role. Many critics argued that it was Bullock's coming out as a serious actress. The film was little seen and received a pretty small box office. It will always serve as a gem that's worth a watch whenever available. Plus, Gwyneth Paltrow's tiny cameo as singer Kitty Dean is heartbreaking and beautiful.
3. SPEED (1994)
Directed by Jan de Bont
Starring Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Daniels
Speed is known for three things. It is one of the biggest action films of all time. It spawned an infamous sequel that will go down as one of Hollywood's bad ideas. And, it introduced the world to its newest star: Sandra Bullock. The film's premise was somewhat simple: a bus has an explosive attached to it and must keep a certain speed or else it will explode. Reeves stars as the good guy/cop who ultimately saves the day. Bullock plays the cute, innocent bystander who ends up being the right-hand gal saving the day. Her charm sold her character and became a female role audiences hadn't quite seen before. She was strong while also being sheepish and girl-next-door. The film has kept its action pretty well over the years. It still takes your stomach away to watch the bus try to jump the bridge on the unfinished California interstate. Plus, what's more Hollywood than the classic kiss between the two stars in the midst of the chaos of a subway train wreck. When most approaches to this look cheesy, it works with Speed.
2. WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING (1995)
Directed by Jon Turteltaub
Starring Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman, Peter Gallagher
Shortly after the success of Speed, Bullock was entrusted with her first top-billed role as the Chicago subway ticket taker who fakes being engaged to an injured man after a holiday accident on the train tracks. When the man's family mistakenly thinks Bullock's Lucy is their future daughter, Lucy goes along for the ride, but ends up falling for brother of the comatose "fiance." Romantic comedy ensues. Bullock, who had already shown us her prevailing girl-next-door charm in Speed, encapsulated and perfected that charm even more. The role was famously meant for Demi Moore, who passed on the opportunity, but we're way better off for it now. Bullock's ability to create a well-liked character in the midst of chaos became her defining feature thanks to films like While You Were Sleeping. She was interesting watch and audiences felt like they could relate to her. Bullock received raves and earned her first of many Golden Globe nominations. The film has become a 90s classic and shows up on TV quite a bit.
1. GRAVITY (2013)
Directed by Alfonso Curaon
Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Some may say that the film is too new to deserve a spot on this list, but it is, without a doubt, Bullock's most-realized role. It's clear from the beginning what kind of dedication the actress had to commit to in order to pull off the desperation of an astronaut possibly lost in space. Physically, the role required a great deal of preparation and execution. Emotionally, Bullock dove deeper than we've ever seen to a place of heartbreak and strength. The film works on countless different levels, especially the groundbreaking effects its director, Alfonso Cuaron, created specifically in order to pull off the incredible feat that is Gravity. But, despite the beauty of what you see, the story wouldn't work without a tour de force performance and Bullock definitely delivers. Gravity was a huge player at the 2014 Academy Awards, winning an impressive 7 Oscars. Bullock was nominated for her second Oscar for her turn. As the film goes on into the future, there's no doubt that it will eventually earn a spot next to the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey and other classic space films, as well as cinematic accomplishments in general.