The Best Movie Ever | Best Sandra Bullock Movies List

If there really is such a thing as an overnight success, Sandra Bullock wasn’t that. She worked her way through films like The Preppie Murder and Religion, Inc. for the better part of a decade before finally landing her breakout roles in the early 1990s, in Speed and While You Were Sleeping. Nowadays she is one of the most recognizable and well liked movie stars in the world, an Oscar-winning actress with over 50 credits to her name on IMDb alone, and she deserves all the credit in the world.

She’s been in blockbusters and celebrated indies (and, in the interest of fairness, also some junk), and now we have to ask: What are the best Sandra Bullock movies ever? We polled our three film critics – Crave’s William Bibbiani and Witney Seibold, and Collider’s Brian Formo – to find out which film, if they could only pick one, they think best represents Bullock’s work. And they could only agree on one thing… it isn’t The Blind Side.

Related: The Best Movie Ever | Ghosts 

Find out what they picked as the best Sandra Bullock movies and come back next week for another all-new and highly debatable installment of The Best Movie Ever!

Best Sandra Bullock Movies List

Witney Seibold’s Pick: Speed (1994)

20th Century Fox

Sandra Bullock’s defining characteristics as an actress are hard to pinpoint, which is why she may be as big a star as she is. She generally plays likeable, genial, somewhat tough, but sweetly smiling everywomen whose personal dramas – be they romantic misunderstandings or spacebound disasters – are never so grave that she is in any real danger of failure. As a critic, I tend to distinguish between actors and movie stars. Actors are performers who study their craft, challenge themselves by tackling a variety of roles, and work to improve and diversify as a thespian. Movie stars can be great actors, of course, but movie stars tend to be notable less for their raw talent, and more for their screen presence, charm, chemistry, and other ineffable “it” qualities. Actors act. Movie stars are alluring. 

Sandra Bullock is most certainly a movie star. She can command a screen. She has a vulnerability that everyone can relate to, even if her roles aren’t ever dramatically different from one another. As such, when trying to select Bullock’s best film, I have to rely on a film that she improved with her charm. A film she lent humanity to. A film whose heart she is responsible for. And that film is 1994’s action blockbuster Speed. Speed is a taut and wonderful thriller about a hard-line cop played by Keanu Reeves rescuing a busful of strangers from a mad bomber. Sandra Bullock was, in 1994, not much of a known quantity, but as the female lead of that film, she created a memorable and relatable character that lent the otherwise action-packed thriller a little bit of down-to-earth sense. She keeps a cool head in a crisis, and we believe her. It’s no surprise that Speed kind of launched her from obscurity into movie stardom. 

A generation has passed since Speed was released, and I’m not sure how many young people are still watching it. If 1994 is a distant historical date for you, I encourage you to find Speed. It’s one of the best action films of the 1990s. 

William Bibbiani’s Pick: Miss Congeniality (2000)

Warner Bros.

I’ve always liked Sandra Bullock as an actress, from as far back as I can remember seeing her. (This would be Love Potion #9.) But she’s a very in your face actor, not always one for subtlety. Look at her performance in the Oscar-winning melodrama Crash to see how she handles serious roles. Heck, look at the role that won her an Oscar, for The Blind Side. It’s as forceful as a tank with a battering ram attachment. 

And I genuinely like that about Sandra Bullock. She dominates a room, she owns the screen. That’s why – even though she has obviously made better films (see: GravitySpeedDemolition Man) – I feel compelled to say that the best example of Sandra Bullock’s work is Miss Congeniality, a rather fluffy comedy from the director of Mystic Pizza and Grumpy Old Men. It’s a film about a decidedly unfeminine FBI agent (Bullock) who is forced to go undercover at a beauty pageant, as one of the contestants.

Miss Congeniality won no Oscars, and with more or less good cause. It’s frivolous to an extreme. But perhaps more than any other film, Miss Congeniality seems tailor-made to Bullock’s strengths. The film is about an ongoing conflict between a character’s attractive physical features and their overpowering strength, mentally and physically, and a world that demands women to have only one attribute or the other. Bullock embodies both elements, and has spent her career careening back and forth between them, sometimes with great success and sometimes without it. In Miss Congeniality she gets to play both, in a well-written but lighthearted film, and she absolutely nails it. No one else could have played this role so well. It may not be her best movie, but it’s the best “Sandra Bullock” movie ever.

Brian Formo’s Pick: Gravity (2013)

Warner Bros.

Sandra Bullock’s part in Our Brand Is Crisis was originally written for a man. The final product is an average film, but she absolutely owns it, and there’s nothing about the part that screams “a man.” Roles originally written for men and being gender-swapped is a phenomenon that is beginning. Thankfully, because if you need any evidence that women can also be physically resolute, wise in a jam and able to lead through tough situations, 2015 is also a banner year for “We Can Do It” moxie. You have Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road, Rebecca Ferguson in Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation and Jada Pinkett Smith in Magic Mike XXL (Pinkett Smith’s role was also originally written as a dude, but she’s even more cocksure than the men). 

Cinematically speaking, Bullock has been playing badasses for a while. She drove the goddamn bus in Speed, understood the brutish nature of policing in Demolition Man, and went toe-to-toe with football knowledge in The Blind Side. Bullock is an expert at playing someone who is hardened without being cartoonishly hard. She isn’t a caricature, she’s a woman who can weather shit. For most of her career, Hollywood wasn’t sure what to do with her other put her resoluteness in “girly” situations (such as beauty pageants in the Miss Congeniality series). But Bullock’s weather-shit talent was never fully utilized until Gravity

Alfonso Cuaron’s whip-snap thrill ride (Cast Away in outer space) is a technical marvel whose heart is anchored in Bullock. Sure, her astronaut Stone has the backstory of a depression from a child who has passed away, but the main reason why we root for her as the lone survivor from an outer space accident is because we’ve come to know Bullock as a performer, as someone who has to overcome. And in Gravity she maps out and sustains all the physical movements required in major choreographies of helplessness. And we believe she has the strength to pull through.

Let us know what you consider the best Sandra Bullock movies ever in the comment section below.

Top Photo: 20th Century Fox / Warner Bros.