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American films

Sandra Bullock’s five best films: before Ocean’s 8 hits cinemas, catch up on her best performances

Over the last two decades, America’s sweetheart has made her mark on Hollywood. Whether she is starring in a comedy or a drama, Bullock has a unique ability to lift a film to new heights. Here are her top flicks

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 June, 2018, 10:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 June, 2018, 10:01am

She has been dubbed “America’s sweetheart”, was at one time Hollywood’s highest-paid actress, and won an Oscar and a Razzie in the same weekend, but Sandra Bullock’s rise to the top has been steady and near faultless.

Since landing the lead in an ill-fated TV spin-off of Working Girl, Bullock quickly transitioned to the big screen, and by the mid-’90s had established herself as a bankable leading lady, who paired numerous romantic comedies with more serious dramatic roles.

Bullock’s effortlessly charming screen presence and unassuming beauty are often juxtaposed by the characters she plays: driven, awkward career women who are mocked and ostracised by those around her. And even when the films themselves prove less than stellar, she is almost always the best thing on screen.

Girl on a wire: Sandra Bullock interview on her 2013 space drama Gravity

This week sees the 53-year-old actress assemble a team of formidable females for the heist comedy spin-off Ocean’s 8. But before you catch it at the cinema, look back at Bullock’s five best performances.

5. Speed (1994)

Bullock first came to mainstream attention as Annie, the unwitting passenger of a Los Angeles public bus, which she is forced to steer through city traffic at breakneck speed, after Dennis Hopper plants a bomb on it.

While Keanu Reeves gets to work diffusing the device, it is Sandy’s affable, cool-under-pressure character who keeps proceedings on an even keel. Stealing audience’s hearts as readily as her co-star’s, Bullock became Hollywood’s hottest new ticket overnight, leaving a decade of obscurity firmly in the rear-view mirror.

4. Miss Congeniality (2000)

Bullock produced and starred in Miss Congeniality as the unkempt and unpopular FBI agent Gracie Hart, who must go undercover at a Miss America beauty pageant when it becomes a terrorist target.

Her character arch, from uptight social outcast to crime-fighting bombshell (in this case, under Michael Caine’s tutelage), has become something of a career staple for the actress. She reprised the role in Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous, before dialling up the intensity in the 2013 R-rated action comedy The Heat.

3. The Blind Side (2009)

The Academy finally came calling in 2009, awarding Bullock top honours for her performance in this real-life sports drama. When receiving her Oscar for best actress, she quipped, “Did I really earn this, or did I just wear you all down?”, and in truth, this isn’t her best work.

As formidable tiger mom Leigh Anne Tuohy, Bullock is playing very much against type, as she manages to hold her own against the towering presence of newcomer Quinton Aaron. The film is too earnest, but undeniably enjoyable, if only for the moment Bullock threatens an aggressive drug dealer by revealing that she’s a well-connected NRA (National Rifle Association) member who’s “always packing”.

2. The Proposal (2009)

When Canadian boss-from-hell Margaret Tate (Bullock) learns she is about to be deported from the United States, she blackmails her young male assistant (Ryan Reynolds) into marrying her. Cue a hilarious weekend trip away to his family home in Alaska, where the embittered colleagues must masquerade as newly engaged lovebirds.

What follows is essentially a remould of 1995’s While You Were Sleeping, as Margaret is presented with the family she has been denied until now, albeit under false pretences. The chemistry between Bullock and Reynolds is electric, while her cold-hearted, fish-out-of-water routine stands as her best comedy performance yet.

1. Gravity (2013)

Unquestionably her finest work to date, Bullock plays marooned astronaut Ryan Stone in director Alfonso Cuarón’s breathless space drama. Isolating herself once again, in the most literal way imaginable, Bullock is on-screen throughout this technical tour de force, battling the elements to return safely to Earth.

Combining unprecedented physicality, raw emotion and magnetic screen presence, she draws upon all her resources and experience to create a character who is as human and vulnerable as she is resourceful and capable. Beaten to the best actress Oscar by her Ocean’s 8 co-star Cate Blanchett, in 2014, Gravity presents Bullock at the peak of her powers, and as an actress fully in control of her own destiny.

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