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Renée Zellweger's Best Movies, Ranked by Metacritic

The two-time Oscar winner had a penchant for rom-coms, but more recently turned to biopics. Discover her top 10 films, ranked by Metascore.
by Taylor Freitas — 
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Renée Zellweger

Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

With an acting career stretching more than three decades, Renée Zellweger has established herself as one of Hollywood's most successful (and profitable) leading ladies. Since landing her first film roles in the early 1990s, Zellweger has appeared in a broad range of movies and TV shows that highlight her versatility as a performer.

Zellweger, who was born and raised in Texas, began her career with a few minor roles in made-for-TV movies and miniseries. From there, she made the leap to the silver screen, with small roles in films such as Dazed and Confused, Reality Bites, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, and Empire Records.

She found mainstream success in 1996 when she played single mother Dorothy Boyd in Jerry Maguire. Soon after, Zellweger embraced her newfound role as a lead actor, headling movies including Nurse Betty, Me, Myself & Irene, and Bridget Jones's Diary. Her work in Nurse Betty earned her first Golden Globe, while her performance as the titular character in Bridget Jones's Diary helped her land her second. In the 20 years since, Zellweger has won two more Golden Globes, two Academy Awards, two BAFTA Awards, and four SAG Awards (among others).

Most recently, Zellweger has gone back into her TV roots with a starring role in NBC's limited series The Thing About Pam, in which she plays the real-life Pam Hupp, a convicted murderer who has also been a suspect in additional murders. The show examines her alleged involvement in the death of her friend Betsy Faria.

Here, Metacritic highlights Zellweger's top 10 movies, ranked by Metascore.


Chicago

Metascore: 81
Best for: Fans of Broadway musicals and black comedies
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunesVudu
Runtime: 113 minutes

Chicago tells the story of Roxie Hart (Zellweger) and Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), two murderers who compete for fame in an attempt to avoid the death penalty. The film is based on the 1927 movie of the same name, which inspired the well-known Broadway musical. It dives into the themes of celebrity, power, and corruption, set to the tune of an award-winning soundtrack. Chicago won six Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Zeta-Jones), while Zellweger took home the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical for her performance.

"The movie is a total blast, and what a surprise." — Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle


Dazed and Confused

Metascore: 78
Best for: Cult classic film lovers
Where to watch: 

Google Play, iTunes, , Vudu
Runtime: 102 minutes

Set in Texas in 1976, Dazed and Confused is a coming-of-age comedy that follows a group of high schoolers on the final day of the school year. The film, which was released in 1993, features a long list of actors who would go on to have successful Hollywood careers, including Jason London, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Joey Lauren Adams, and Adam Goldberg. It was also one of Zellweger's earliest roles. In the film, she has an uncredited role as a high schooler, appearing briefly in the back of a pickup truck while holding a beer funnel.

"What could have been a narrow, cultish little picture, a mere retro-trip, fans out into a broader study of longing and belonging." — Anthony Lane, The New Yorker


Jerry Maguire

Metascore: 77
Best for: Sports fans and romantic comedy lovers
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 139 minutes

Written, produced, and directed by Cameron Crowe, Jerry Maguire is about a sports agent (Tom Cruise) who's committed to getting his client's (Cuba Gooding Jr.) football career back on track. In the process, he develops a close relationship with a young single mother (Zellweger), an employee at his former firm who supports his vision. Jerry Maguire was a box-office success, coming in as one of the top-10 grossing films of 1996. It also received love from critics and awards bodies, netting five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor, and winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (for Gooding Jr.).

"A wholly unexpected film, as heady and surprising in its humor as in its emotional texture." — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times


Cold Mountain

Metascore: 73
Best for: Fans of historical dramas
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Paramount+, Vudu
Runtime: 154 minutes

Released in 2003, Cold Mountain is based on Charles Frazier's novel of the same title. Set during the Civil War, it follows William "W. P." Inman (Jude Law), a Confederate soldier who leaves battle to return home to his love Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman). Zellweger plays Ruby Thewes, a close confidant of Ada's who helps her survive after her father dies. Cold Mountain earned seven nominations at the 2004 Academy Awards, including nods for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography. Zellweger won an Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA Award for her performance in the supporting actress category.

"A somber, often downbeat depiction of human savagery and treachery as well as of human kindness." — Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter


Cinderella Man

Metascore: 69
Best for: Biographical film fans and sports lovers
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 144 minutes

Inspired by a true story, Cinderella Man delves into the life of professional boxer James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) and his unlikely rise to success during the Great Depression era. After trading in his boxing gloves for a job as a longshoreman, Braddock gets an unexpected chance to enter the ring again against the wishes of his wife Mae (Zellweger). After its 2005 release, Cinderella Man received significant attention during awards season, earning nominations at the Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, Critics' Choice Movie Awards, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards. Paul Giamatti took home two awards for his performance as Braddock's manager, Joe Gould.

"A broad, foursquare piece of populist filmmaking that happens to be tremendously moving." — Ty Burr, The Boston Globe


Nurse Betty

Metascore: 69
Best for: Comedy fans
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 110 minutes

Nurse Betty is a comedy about a Kansas waitress named Betty Sizemore (Zellweger) who copes with the trauma of witnessing her husband's murder by convincing herself that she's a character from her favorite soap opera. After adopting her new persona, she moves to Los Angeles to pursue a relationship with George McCord (Greg Kinnear), an actor from the series. Zellweger's performance in Nurse Betty was applauded by many, garnering her the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The movie also won Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival, where it premiered in 2000.

"All in all, Nurse Betty is a wonderful movie, unpredictably alive to the fact that the American citizenry is a lot stranger than we like to admit." — Richard Schickel, Time


Reality Bites

Metascore: 67
Best for: Romantic comedy fans
Where to watch: 

Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 99 minutes

Released in 1994, Reality Bites is a cult classic that chronicles the life of Lelaina Pierce (Winona Ryder), an up-and-coming documentary filmmaker. The film tags along with Lelaina as she navigates life as a recent college graduate in Houston, capturing the ups and downs of her romantic and professional lives. Zellweger has a small role in the film as Tami, a woman who has a one-night stand with Troy Dyer (Ethan Hawke), Lelaina's roommate and romantic interest. Reality Bites was directed by Ben Stiller, who also plays the role of Michael Grates, a television producer who dates Lelaina.

"The first film that comes close to capturing the Bohemian flair and everyman accents of Generation X life while remaining a first-rate piece of entertainment." — Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times


Bridget Jones's Diary

Metascore: 66
Best for: Fans of British romantic comedies
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, HBO Max, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 97 minutes

Bridget Jones's Diary is the story of Bridget Jones (Zellweger), a young professional looking for love and fulfillment in London. The movie is narrated by the eponymous character, who keeps track of her adventures in a diary that she begins after a disappointing New Year's Eve. In the process, she becomes romantically involved with her boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), before realizing that she might have feelings for another man, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), a family friend and successful lawyer. Zellweger scored an Oscar nomination for her performance and starred in two sequels (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Bridget Jones's Baby).

"A triumph for all involved." — Carla Meyer, San Francisco Chronicle


Judy

Metascore: 66
Best for: Fans of Judy Garland and biographical movies
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, , iTunes, Paramount+, Vudu
Runtime: 118 minutes

Judy is a biographical movie based on the End of the Rainbow, a play about the final year of singer and actor Garland's life. It follows her as she moves to the U.K. to perform a series of shows at the Talk of the Town in London, decades after rising to stardom in The Wizard of Oz. Zellweger plays the part of Garland, whose health is declining as she struggles with substance abuse. Her performance was lauded by critics and awards voters alike, winning Best Actress at the Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, Critics' Choice Movie Awards, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards.

"Zellweger knocks it out of the park, lighting up this punchy and moving late-life biopic with big-hearted, big-voiced panache." — Kate Stables, Total Film


Appaloosa

Metascore: 64
Best for: Fans of Westerns and crime dramas
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 115 minutes

Based on the Robert B. Parker novel of the same name, Appaloosa is a 2008 film about two men who fight to prevent their small town from being taken over by outlaws. Ed Harris plays Virgil Cole, a law officer who teams up with his deputy Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) to bring peace back to the titular locale. In the midst, Hitch becomes interested in local widow Allie French (Zellweger) but is disappointed when she becomes involved with Cole. 

"Appaloosa is gripping entertainment that keeps springing surprises." — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone