Despite never really wanting to be an actress, Meg Ryan has done quite well for herself on the big screen over the years. One of the most beloved Hollywood stars of the past 35-plus years, and an actress who has been in more than a few of the best romantic comedies of all time, Ryan is one of those people you can’t help but watch whenever she’s on the screen.
In honor of her contributions to cinema throughout her career, we have put together a list of the best Meg Ryan movies and just about all the ways you can watch, whether it’s on a streaming service or old-fashioned physical media. There are a lot of movies (13 in total) to break down, so let’s get this show on the road.
When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
Rob Reiner’s 1989 classic romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally…, has a simple yet terrifically effective premise: boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy runs into girl every couple of years, they become friends, and slowly fall in love with one another.
Everything about When Harry Met Sally… just works. Nora Ephron’s writing is to die for, the supporting cast is about as good as it gets, and the two leads — Billy Crystal’s Harry Burns and Meg Ryan’s Sally Albright — have this undeniable chemistry and charm. And, let's not forget perhaps the most iconic scene in all of romantic comedies either.
Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
A few years after writing When Harry Met Sally… Nora Ephron wrote and directed the second best romantic comedy of all time: Sleepless in Seattle. The movie centers on widower Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) as he becomes an overnight sensation after his son calls into a syndicated radio program in hopes of finding someone for his dad. On the other end of the country is Annie Reed (Meg Ryan), who becomes infatuated with his story.
There is no denying Sleepless in Seattle's place in conversation of the best romantic comedies of all time. The story, cast, and even music, all work together to create this timeless classic that shows just how good a movie can be when the stars align.
You've Got Mail (1998)
Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks got together for a third time in Nora Ephron’s 1998 romantic comedy, You’ve Got Mail. This time around, the two play rivals Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox, who own and operate two completely different types of bookstores in New York City. Despite despising one another in real life, they unknowingly fall for one another online.
You’ve Got Mail is probably the most dated of the three movies starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, but it does serve as a time capsule to the culture of the late 1990s. Sure, it's cheesy and a little too sentimental at times, but it's one of those movies you can't help but watch whenever it's showing on TNT some random Sunday afternoon.
Joe Versus The Volcano (1990)
Before they fell in love over the radio and AOL, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks fall for one another in the face of death. John Patrick Shanley’s offbeat romantic comedy, Joe Versus the Volcano, follows Joe Banks (Tom Hanks), a beaten down man who embarks on a journey to uncover the meaning of life before he jumps to his death in a volcano.
No surprise her, but Tom Hanks is to die for as the neurotic Joe Banks, but it’s really Meg Ryan who steals the show. Taking on not one, not two, but three different characters throughout the movie, each one more different than the last. You really see her range with this triple-threat.
Top Gun (1986)
Tony Scott’s legendary '80s movie, Top Gun, mostly follows Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) as he sets out to prove his worth to his superiors and fellow Navy pilots, but also himself. Meg Ryan comes into play as Carole Bradshaw, the wife of Maverick’s wingman Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) in two of the movie’s most memorable scenes.
Despite only having a few credits to her name by the time Top Gun came out, it’s hard to tell by the way Meg Ryan takes command of the screen. Whether it’s the light-hearted bar scene (“Hey, Goose, you big stud!”) or her emotional moment later on in the movie, it’s easy to see how she became a massive star not long after.
The Doors (1991)
Oliver Stone’s 1991 biographical drama, The Doors, tells the story of the astronomical rise and quick fall of the band’s lead singer and lyricist, Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer). Because Morrison’s real life journey, and that of The Doors, featured Pamela Courson (Meg Ryan) so much, it should come as no surprise that his longtime partner would have a major role in this sprawling epic.
One of the best things about Meg Ryan’s performance in The Doors, besides her commitment to the role, is the fact that she (like the woman she is portraying) is so complex throughout the movie. Her back-and-forth relationship with Val Kilmer's version of Jim Morrison also grounds the movie that could have very well gotten too carried away.
Courage Under Fire (1996)
Edward Zwick’s 1996 military drama, Courage Under Fire, centers on Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Sterling (Denzel Washington) as he attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the death of helicopter pilot Captain Karen Emma Walden (Meg Ryan), who is to be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
A more dramatic role than seen in her romantic comedies, Meg Ryan still manages a way to bring out the most in her character through her sheer likability and charm, which really humanizes Karen Walden. Even though this is more remembered as a Denzel Washington movie, Ryan shows can pull off more than romantic comedies.
Joe Dante’s 1987 sci-fi comedy, Innerspace, follows Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid) as he shrinks down to a near-microscopic size as part of a revolutionary experiment. When outside parties attempt to sabotage the operation, Tuck finds himself transferring from one body to the another, including that of his estranged girlfriend, Lydia Maxwell (Meg Ryan).
Throughout Innerspace it is easy to see why Meg Ryan would become such a bankable star in years following its release, as the movie allows her to riff alongside co-star Martin Short and show off her charm and comedic timing.
French Kiss (1996)
Lawrence Kasden’s 1996 romantic comedy, French Kiss, centers on a woman named Kate (Meg Ryan) whose attempt to confront her cheating fiancé in Paris is upended by a charismatic and prolific thief named Luc (Kevin Kline).
Part romantic comedy and part crime caper, French Kiss is an overall good time, especially for fans of the two leads. It has a great story and the chemistry shared by Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline is to die for.
Prelude To A Kiss (1992)
Released in 1992, Norman René’s fantasy romance, Prelude to a Kiss, tells the story of Peter Hoskins (Alec Baldwin) and Rita Boyle (Meg Ryan), whose relationship becomes all the more complicated when Rita’s consciousness is swapped with that of an elderly man after he kisses her.
Prelude to a Kiss isn’t your standard romantic comedy and has a lot of fun with a concept. I mean, where else are you going to see Meg Ryan act like she's an elderly man trapped in a woman's body? It's fun, it's sweet, and features some of the star's signature charm.
When A Man Loves A Woman (1994)
After years of severe alcohol abuse and several close calls involving her young children, Alice Green (Meg Ryan) decides to finally seek help and make a change before it’s too late. But when her decision forces her to take a look at her relationship with her husband Michael (Andy Garcia), she finds out she’s not out of the woods yet.
Luis Mandoki’s 1994 romantic drama, When a Man Loves a Woman, features one of the rawest Meg Ryan performances. Her vulnerability and emotional range only make the movie better, especially when she tells the heart-wrenching story about misplacing her young daughter while drunk.
Addicted To Love (1997)
Griffin Dunne’s 1997 romantic comedy Addicted to Love follows two broken-hearted strangers, Maggie (Meg Ryan) and Sam (Matthew Broderick), who are brought together to get back at exes who just so happen to be in an affair.
Meg Ryan plays a character with a harder edge than we’re used to seeing her portray, which gives Addicted to Love a unique quality when compared to her more toned-down Nora Ephron characters. Plus, her chemistry with Matthew Broderick adds a nice touch to the movie.
Kate And Leopold (2001)
Kate McKay’s (Meg Ryan) life is thrown for a loop when she meets and falls in love with Leopold (Hugh Jackman), a 19th-Century duke who is mysteriously transported to the early 21st Century.
If you are looking for a movie where a modern woman falls in love with a man out of time, then James Mangold’s 2001 fantasy romantic comedy Kate & Leopold is the movie for you. Sure, the movie has a silly concept, but Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman are so great together, you sort of forget some of the movie's problems.
This is just a portion of the great Meg Ryan movies that are available streaming, but it is a good place to start. If you want to know about everything new coming to theaters and streaming services, check out our list of all the 2022 new movie releases.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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