Based off her agents advice, she moved to Los Angeles so she could start her acting career. Fortunately, she was able to land a part in the film The Ice Storm (1997) in one of her first auditions.
Due to her busy schedule with her schools production of Damn Yankees in which she played Lola Holmes struggled to make auditions during pilot season. She caught a break when Kevin Williamson and the producers of what was to become Dawsons Creek allowed her to mail an audition tape instead of having to come in person. She was asked to come for a callback so they could see her live, but the date they requested was the opening night of her play. In a bold move, she postponed the callback and the producers were happy to reschedule. When she finally came in to read her lines, the producers didnt need to think twice and gave her the part of Joey Potter, which she played until the show ended in 2003. Early in the shows life, Holmes began dating co-star Joshua Jackson but that didnt last long.
During her first year with show, she also starred in Disturbing Behavior (1998) and Go (1999). For her role in Disturbing Behavior she won Best Breakthrough Female Performance in the 1999 MTV Movie Awards. That same year, she was named by both the British and American editions of FHM magazine as one of the sexiest women in the world, and was given the title each year since. The following year she acted in Wonder Boys (2000), in which she played the role of Hannah Green, an author whos boarding at her teachers house, and tries to seduce him.
Also in 2000, she starred in The Gift, in which she plays a promiscuous girl who has affairs with a variety of people and is ultimately murdered by her fianc. This movie also marks Holmess first nude scene right before shes about to be murdered. That same year, she met actor Chris Klein and they began dating. The couple became engaged in 2003, but called it off in 2005. Weeks after the relationship ended, she began dating actor Tom Cruise. In June of the same year, he proposed to her on top of the Eiffel Tower. In April 2006 she gave birth to their daughter Suri, and then in November the couple was married. I felt so proud to be having a baby and so excited. And I felt closer to other women to my sisters, to my mom. I felt empowered, like, Ive given birth. I did it! Theres nothing I cant handle.
During her time with Dawsons Creek she didnt star in too many other roles since the show took up most of her time, but she did land a lead role in Abandon (2002). She played Katie Burke, a college student haunted by the strange disappearance of her boyfriend whos been missing for two years.
With Dawsons Creek coming to a close she used the opportunity to star in more movies such as The Singing Detective (2003) and Pieces of April (2003). She followed up in 2004 with First Daughter, in which she plays the Presidents daughter who wants to attend college without having the secret service trail her. That same year she was named one of People magazines 50 Most Beautiful People, and one of the 25 Hottest Stars Under 25 by Teen People. All this attention and success was a big deal for her; I know it sounds dorky, but Im always having this out-of-body experience with my career. I cant wait to write it down. I cant wait to tell my grandchildren. Its amazing.
In 2005 she starred in Batman Begins and Thank You for Smoking. Although these were big roles for her, critics didnt receive her performances too well. She also agreed to star in a biopic about country singer Spade Cooley, Shame on You, but shooting, which was scheduled to take place in New Orleans, was delayed due to Hurricane Katrina. This push caused Holmes to drop out due to her pregnancy. She didnt get a chance to reprise the role of Rachel Dawes in the Batman Begins sequel, The Dark Knight, and as a result she starred in Mad Money (2008). Unfortunately, her role here wasnt received well by critics either. During this year, she also started a clothing line with stylist Jeanne Yang, called Holmes & Yang. They presented fashion line for the first time in September 2012 at New York Fashion Week.
2008 also marked Holmess Broadway debut in a remake of Arthur Millers All My Sons, for which she received mixed reviews. In 2009 she launched a dance scholarship fund called the Dizzy Feet Foundation along with Nigel Lythgoe, Adam Shankman, and Carrie Ann Inaba. In January 2011 she became the new face of Ann Taylor Spring 11 Collection. In April of that year she ranked 6th in People magazines 100 Most Beautiful Issue. Also in 2011, Holmes played Jackie Kenedy in the series The Kennedys, where she once again received mixed reviews from critics.
In July 2012 Holmes and Cruise had a divorce, and they decided that Suri can stay with her mother.