Our Favorite Performances From Sandra Bullock, The Top-Earning Star Of 2009

Sandra Bullock had herself a kickass 2009. “The Proposal” and “The Blind Side” were massive hits, enough to make the sour cherry on top that was “All About Steve” a non-entity. The two big ones have grossed more than $500 million in ticket sales so far, and “The Blind Side” has yet to even see anything more than a domestic opening. The success was enough for a survey of movie theater execs to paint the star as the top-earning performer of 2009, according to /Film.

Not too shabby for an actress who was last seen in the 2007 thriller “The Premonition,” which boasts a lowly 8% rating on RottenTomatoes. Is it really so surprising though? Clunkers like “Premonition” aside, Bullock has had more than her share of fine performances. Given her recent honors, we felt it would be fun to run through some of our favorites…

“Crash” (2004)
I actually hold the opinion that “Crash” is overrated, and that it didn’t deserve its Oscar win for Best Picture. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad movie; I just don’t think it deserved top honors for the year. Considering the size and talents of the ensemble cast and the potential for some real commentary in the meandering narrative, the movie feels like less than the sum of its part. There’s one standout performance in that massive ensemble however, and it belongs to Bullock. She plays Jean Cabot, a bigoted, well-to-do married woman who dials her prejudices up to 11 after she and her husband are carjacked. Jean’s character arc isn’t terribly believable, but it works in the end because Bullock’s performance is so strong.

“Miss Congeniality” (2000)
Some of you readers might scoff at the inclusion of “Miss Congeniality” on this list. Scoff away. It doesn’t change the fact that it was a smash hit at the box office, earning more than $200 million worldwide, or that it nabbed two Golden Globes nominations (one for Bullock’s performance, ’natch). Say what you will; “Miss Congeniality” brings the funny, even if it isn’t your brand of comedy. Bullock stars as a tomboy FBI agent who gets a total makeover when she goes undercover as a Texas beauty pageant contestant in the hopes of bringing a terrorist to justice. It’s a “fish out of water” sort of story, nothing you haven’t seen before. The success therefore hinges on that fish, played by Bullock, and she delivers.

“Demolition Man” (1993)
Ahhhhh… “Demolition Man.” Malign it all you want — critics certainly have — nothing will change the fact that it delivers on classic early ’90s action from two of the biggest stars of the time, Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes. Bullock more than holds her own with this duo, proving early on that she had the chops for action blockbusters. Then there’s the story: a cryogenically frozen criminal (Snipes) escapes, and only the bad-boy cop (Stallone) who caught him — also cryogenically frozen, for criminal acts resulting from his unorthodox methods — can catch him again. Bullock plays Lenina Huxley, the cop assigned to shepherd Stallone’s “caveman” in this future world he’s been thrown into. “Demolition Man” also gets points for turning Taco Bell into a fine dining experience, and for positing a future in which today’s commercial jingles are tomorrow’s oldies radio hits.

“While You Were Sleeping” (1995)
“While You Were Sleeping” is one of two mid-’90s movies that turned Bullock into a superstar. She plays a Lucy, a lonely railroad fare collector in Chicago. One day, she watches as one of her regular commuters — a man whom she harbors a secret crush for — is mugged and then pushed onto the railroad tracks, leaving him in a coma. She is mistaken at the hospital for his fiancée, a fact the grieving family accepts. Only Jack, the comatose man’s brother, suspects otherwise. It isn’t a movie that everyone can enjoy, but Bullock’s performance and the film’s success — $182 million in box office sales — cemented her status as a superstar.

“Speed” (1994)
Had to save the best for last, right? Fresh off of “Demolition Man,” Bullock turned to action yet again for her starring role (opposite Keanu Reeves) in “Speed.” It’s got a marvelously simple setup: a madman (Dennis Hopper) takes a city bus hostage when he plants a bomb that arms itself once the vehicle hits a speed of 50 miles per hour. Said bomb is set to detonate if the bus’s speed drops below 50. When the bus driver is injured by a confused and scared passenger, that Wildcat Bullock is forced to step up and take the wheel. Joke all you want about “pop quiz” hilarity and Keanu’s “whoa”-factor… this is classic ’90s action at its best.