29 Actresses In Truly Iconic '90s Movie Roles

Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz in Clueless, classroom monologue
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

When it comes to the '90s, there are so many iconic movies that I’m sure every single one of you has seen reading this article. But with these iconic movies comes iconic film roles, and these actresses were some of the best in the business. Here are several actresses with some truly iconic film roles in '90s movies. 

Jack and Rose in Titanic

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Kate Winslet (Titanic)

Considering Titanic was once the biggest film in the world, it’s not surprising the first pick here is Kate Winslet, who played Rose DeWitt Bukater. It’s certainly one of Winslet’s best films so far, and put her on the fast track to become the famous actor she is today.  

Gwyneth Paltrow in Se7en.

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Gwyneth Paltrow (Se7en)

While Gwyneth Paltrow known amazingly well now from her variety of film performances, her role of Tracy Mills in Se7en is certainly an iconic one, with her character playing an essential role throughout the story. It wasn’t that long after she would star in Shakespeare in Love and win an Academy Award for her acting. 

Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.

(Image credit: TriStar Pictures)

Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct)

Yes, this is Sharon Stone from that controversial scene in Basic Instinct. But no one can deny that her performance in this film was great, and she acted her butt off in this erotic thriller. Every single scene she was in, she stole the show.

Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs.

(Image credit: Orion Pictures)

Jodie Foster (The Silence Of The Lambs)

The '90s were filled to the brim with iconic horror films like The Silence of the Lambs, and was only the third film in history to win the Big Five at the Academy Awards - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Actor. Best Actress went to Jodie Foster for her amazing portrayal of Clarice Starling. 

Sandra Bullock in Speed.

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Sandra Bullock (Speed)

While Sandra Bullock is currently busy in 2022 with her film, The Lost City, one of her first big roles ever was starring alongside Keanu Reeves in the action film, Speed, portraying Annie Porter, the main love interest of the film and a total badass. 

Winona Ryder in Edward Scissorhands.

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Winona Ryder (Edward Scissorhands)

This is definitely one of Winona Ryder’s best movies. Playing Kim Boggs in Edward Scissorhands, Ryder perfectly captured what true kindness is meant to look like, and her love story with Edward is one for the history books that anyone would adore to witness.  

Rachel Leigh Cook in She's All That.

(Image credit: Miramax Films )

Rachel Leigh Cook (She’s All That)

While the reboot, He’s All That, made plenty of references to the original film, She’s All That just can’t be beaten, and that includes Rachel Leigh Cook’s iconic performance as Laney Boggs. I mean, who could forget that memorable “Kiss Me” scene? It’s the epitome of teen movie makeovers. You have to love it. 

Meryl Streep in The Bridges of Madison County.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Meryl Streep (The Bridges Of Madison County)

Meryl Streep has been around for many years in the movie industry and has some amazing films under her belt. And while she did plenty of movies in the '90s, my personal favorite performance of hers was in The Bridges of Madison County, where she played Francesca Johnson, a married mother who has a steamy four-day love affair with a photojournalist. Her chemistry with Clint Eastwood is second to none. 

Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Meg Ryan (Sleepless In Seattle, You’ve Got Mail)

A legendary queen of romantic comedies, you could not stop Meg Ryan in the '90s. Not only was she in two iconic roles in romantic comedies, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, both of those films were alongside Tom Hanks and showed just how amazing their chemistry is. 

Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in Ghost

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Demi Moore (Ghost)

That damn pottery scene has been recreated by so many people - I mean, even Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart recreated it! - but no one can quite beat Demi Moore's performance. She shined in her leading role of Molly Jensen alongside Patrick Swayze. I think all of us have wished at least once we were in her shoes. 

Sarah Michelle Gellar in I Know What You Did Last Summer.

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Sarah Michelle Gellar (I Know What You Did Last Summer)

While plenty of folks know Sarah Michelle Gellar for her portrayal of Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gellar starred in another horror hit that same year portraying Helen Shivers in I Know What You Did Last Summer, giving a masterclass in chase scenes in horror movies. 

Sister Mary Clarence conducting the choir with an audience in the background.

(Image credit: Touchstone Pictures)

Whoopi Goldberg (Sister Act, Ghost)

Whoopi Goldberg is certainly an iconic name that I am sure you’ve heard of plenty of times before, and she had not one but two iconic roles in the '90s. To me, my favorite is her lead role in Sister Act, starring as Deloris Van Cartier and bringing some soul into religion, but I can’t not mention her Academy Award-nominated performance as Oda Mae Brown in Ghost. 

Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman)

It’s one of Julia Roberts' best movies. Pretty Woman has some pretty iconic scenes, but none of them could have been accomplished if not for the charming performance that Roberts delivered as Vivian. I’m pretty sure every time I’ve watched that movie, all I want is to be in that bathtub. That looks so damn nice.

Drew Barrymore in Scream

(Image credit: Dimension Films)

Drew Barrymore (Scream) 

Drew Barrymore was only in the first twelve minutes of the first Scream movie, and yet her scene has become iconic in every sense of the word. You go up to a horror movie fan and ask “do you like scary movies?” and they’ll know exactly what film its from as well as what scene - and Drew Barrymore is the star of it. 

Neve Campbell in Scream.

(Image credit: Dimension Films)

Neve Campbell (Scream)

Even if Drew Barrymore was the star of the first twelve minutes, it was Neve Campbell that became the star of the Scream franchise, reprising her role in every single new film since, showing just how badass she is as the ultimate final girl. 

Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon in Cruel Intentions screenshot

(Image credit: Youtube)

Reese Witherspoon (Cruel Intentions)

Witherspoon has been in many movies and some great TV shows, but back in the '90s, she was still just starting out, and Cruel Intentions was a breakthrough role for her. She played Annette Hargrove, a young woman who was the target of the two main characters of the film. In this '90s movie, she showed just how talented she is at acting. 

Alicia Silverstone in Clueless.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Alicia Silverstone (Clueless)

Ugh, as if! Alicia Silverstone truly stole the screen when she played Cher in Clueless, a story about a teenage girl who ends up befriending a new student and decides to give her a makeover. I mean, those outfits alone are definitely iconic enough for her to be on this list.  

Laura Dern in Jurassic Park.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Laura Dern (Jurassic Park)

Raise your hand if you’re excited to see Laura Dern back in Jurassic World: Dominion. *Raises hand* Regardless, Laura Dern in the original Jurassic Park was freaking amazing, and Dr. Ellie Sattler was a badass that I looked up to, and I can’t wait to see what she’s been up to after all these years. 

Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You

(Image credit: Disney)

Julia Stiles (10 Things I Hate About You)

Ugh, 10 Things I Hate About You is one of my favorites, and it’s legit because of the chemistry that Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger have in this film. They are my all-time favorite romantic couple and Julia Stiles rocks it as Kat. 

Halle Berry in Jungle Fever.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Halle Berry (Jungle Fever)

While Halle Berry has been in plenty of badass roles over the last two decades, there was a time where she was just getting started in Hollywood. One of the first films that she had a supporting role in was Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, where she played Vivian. While she's gone on to play more prominent roles since then, it was one of the movies that broke her out onto the scene and paved the way for bigger things down the line, like X-Men and Monster’s Ball. 

Natalie Portman in The Phantom Menace.

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Natalie Portman (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace)

Padme Amidala, known as the Queen/Senator of Naboo and Anakin Skywalker's lover (later wife) was a Star Wars character that made her debut in 1999, and was a badass in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Natalie Portman portrayed the legendary Star Wars character for the prequel trilogy, and inspired young girls everywhere - but we don’t need to talk about how her character ends in Revenge of the Sith. 

Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.

(Image credit: Miramax Films)

Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction)

While my personal all-time favorite Uma Thurman performance is her role in Kill Bill, one of her biggest roles prior to this was portraying Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction, earning her a nomination at the Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor. I mean, she was the literal character featured on the poster for this film, and honestly, I can see why. She has such star appeal. She has plenty of great performances but this is one of her best. 

Mena Suvari in American Beauty.

(Image credit: DreamWorks Pictures)

Mena Suvari (American Beauty)

This 1999 film, American Beauty, told a captivating story about a man having a midlife crisis, but the main star to me of this was Mena Suvari as Angela Hayes, the object of affection for the main character, Lester Burnham. Even if the film didn’t age too well, I think we call agree Suvari was phenomenal in it. 

Robin Wright in Forrest Gump.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Robin Wright (Forrest Gump)

If you’re not saying “Jenny” by the end of Forrest Gump in a Southern drawl, I don’t think we were watching the same film. This Academy Award-winning film starring Tom Hanks told the story of Forrest Gump and his legendary life, often times where he would think of his young love, Jenny, played by Robin Wright. Their love story is a tumultuous one, but a memorable one as well. 

Kirsten Dunst in Interview with the Vampire.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Kirsten Dunst (Interview With The Vampire)

Kirsten Dunst in Interview with the Vampire is iconic for many reasons, showing how amazingly talented she was as an actress at the tender age of eleven. She later went on to star in films like Bring it On and Spider-Man, but no one can quite forget her character, Claudia.

Salma Hayek in Desperado

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing )

Salma Hayek (Desperado)

Salma Hayek has been in many different kinds of films, such as being a part of the Grown Ups cast or starring in The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, but Desperado was one of the early films that made her the star she is today. Starring alongside Antonio Banderas as Carolina, Hayek was badass and her character was just as amazing. It’s definitely one of her best movies, and I would watch another film with both her and Banderas.  

Angela Bassett in What's Love Got To Do With It?

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures)

Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got To Do With It, Waiting To Exhale) 

Angela Bassett is a master-class actress, and has shown just how amazingly talented she is in any role. I mean, there are so many movie parts that she should have been nominated for an Oscar, However, one of her most iconic roles from the '90s did indeed earn her nominations - her portrayal of Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do with It. And another great role for Bassett in the '90s was Bernadine Harris in Waiting to Exhale. Both of these movies were great showcases of her acting prowess. 

Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Whitney Houston (The Bodyguard)

“And I will always love you.” 

You know the song, I know you do. It’s one of the most iconic songs of all time and has been performed by so many people. Even though it was originally written by Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston sang this iconic song for the soundtrack for The Bodyguard, where she played Rachel Marron, a famous singer who falls for the bodyguard tasked with protecting her. 

Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies.

(Image credit: MGM)

Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies)

Last but not least, we have Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies. While she’s been in plenty of amazing movies such as Crazy Rich Asians and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, one of my personal favorites of hers is her role as Wai Lin, a Chinese spy and an ally to James Bond. 

Yeoh is a bloody badass. This James Bond alum truly defined the term “kick ass and take names” because she was one of the best Bond girls ever, in my opinion. I would gladly see her return to the franchise alongside Pierce Brosnan, but I don’t think that’ll happen anytime soon, so I’ll just re-watch this movie over and over. 

There are truly so many other iconic roles, but these are some of the best that you should check out again next time you want to watch a great movie. Now, if you don’t mind me, I’m going to re-watch Jurassic Park again before the latest sequel.  

Alexandra Ramos
Content Producer

Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!