Back in 1989, a then-unknown actress named Sandra Bullock made her debut in the made-for-TV Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. Not many movie fans will remember that role now, but it led to more work on the small screen and in indie projects, which eventually got Bullock cast in the 1993 sci-fi action film, Demolition Man.
Cut to today and Bullock has been one of the biggest movie stars in the world for decades. Her latest big screen offering, opening March 25, is The Lost City. In the action-comedy, directed by the Nee brothers (Aaron and Adam Nee), Bullock plays a romance novelist who finds herself on a life-or-death adventure with her Fabio-esque cover model (Channing Tatum). The movie co-stars Brad Pitt, Daniel Radcliffe and Da'Vine Joy Randolph.
So, how did we get from Bionic Showdown to The Lost City? A.frame has put together an essential Sandra Bullock viewing guide, including all of her best romantic comedies, prestige dramas, and the movie that won her an Oscar for Best Actress.
The movie that made Sandra Bullock a movie star. Jan de Bont's Speed is the perfect '90s action movie, with an outlandish concept (a terrorist plants a bomb on a Los Angeles bus that will detonate if the bus drops below 50 miles per hour) and a star turn from the then 29-year-old Bullock as Annie, the unwitting heroine who steps up to drive the bus when the bus driver gets shot. Keanu Reeves plays Jack, the LAPD officer who boards the bus to save the passengers. Speed features such a seminal Bullock performance that it's hard to imagine that she got the part only after the likes of Halle Berry and Meryl Streep passed on the role.
"America's Sweetheart" isn't one single person, but a title bestowed upon greats like Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts and, yes, Bullock. She earned her place in the pantheon of sweethearts with this, her first major romantic comedy, in which she plays a plucky token taker in a preposterous love triangle with the comatose commuter she's pretending is her fiancé and his younger brother. But it's Bullock's charming performance that makes this one a classic rom-com.
Come for the outdated internet references — The Net hails from the era of floppy discs —and stay for Bullock's grounded turn as a computer programmer whose identity is erased by hackers. As wild as the plot of this cyberthriller gets — and things do get weird — the portrayal of the dark side of the web was ahead of its time. And the fact that a character could order pizza online was downright prescient. (The Net is one of only a handful of films directed by Oscar-winning producer Irwin Winkler.)
Practical Magic takes Bullock's knack for rom-coms and adds a spooky twist to it. Based on Alice Hoffman's novel of the same name, Bullock and Nicole Kidman play sisters raised by their witch aunts (Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest, as if the movie's cast couldn't get any better). Together, the sisters must fight their family's supernatural curse: Any man who falls in love with them is doomed to an untimely death. It's no wonder this one is a cult classic.
Bullock plays an FBI agent who goes undercover at the Miss United States pageant to thwart a terrorist attack in this smash hit. (Hence the 2005 sequel, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous.) As far as rom-coms go, it's up there as one of the most rewatchable movies. All together now: "You think I'm gorgeous... you want to kiss me... You want to hug me... You want to love me... You want to hug me... You want to smooch me..."
Writer-director Paul Haggis' tale about race relations in Los Angeles won the Best Picture Oscar, the first and only film starring Bullock to do so. She portrays an affluent white lady and wife of the District Attorney, among an ensemble cast that includes Don Cheadle, Jennifer Esposito, Brendan Fraser, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Terrence Howard, Thandiwe Newton, and Matt Dillon (who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor).
Bullock earned her first Oscar nomination and win with this sports biopic about Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who becomes a star athlete with the help of a caring woman and her family. In the John Lee Hancock film, Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, Oher's adoptive mother and the outspoken Southern matriarch of the family.
"Did I really earn this or did I just wear you all down?" Bullock joked upon accepting her award for Best Actress. "I would like to thank what this film was about for me — which are the moms that take care of the babies and the children, no matter where they come from."
The Proposal arrived the same year as The Blind Side, setting a sort-of precedent for Bullock being in an Oscar contender and a hit comedy in the same year. Here, she plays a boss from hell, who, faced with deportation to Canada, convinces her assistant to marry her. Hijinks ensue, as does palpable chemistry with co-star Ryan Reynolds.
Bullock earned her second Best Actress nomination playing Dr. Ryan Stone, an astronaut stranded in outer space and fighting to get back down to earth. Gravity would go on to win a whopping seven Oscars, including Best Director for Alfonso Cuarón.
(Which hit comedy was paired with this particular Oscar contender? That would be Paul Feig's The Heat, co-starring Melissa McCarthy. Consider it an honorary mention on this list.)
Bullock went post-apocalyptic for this Susanne Bier thriller, in which she plays a mother on a desperate quest to save her children from suicide-inducing monsters. Upon its release, Bird Box became the most-watched original film on Netflix, holding that distinction for three years and prompting Netflix to greenlight a sequel and an entire Bird Box cinematic universe.
Bullock co-stars with Channing Tatum in this action-comedy about a reclusive novelist, Loretta Sage (Bullock), who gets kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire, Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe). See, Abigail thinks Loretta can lead him to an ancient lost treasure described in her latest romance saga. Attempting to prove he's a hero in real life too, the handsome cover model of Loretta's books (Tatum), sets off to rescue her — hijinks ensue.