Can you believe Meg Ryan's been making movies since 1981? The legendary rom-com queen was once a darling of the movie industry who starred in some of our favorite films over the years. On Nov. 19, 2017, Meg turns 56 — and still looks as gorgeous as she did when she first appeared on the big screen. In honor of her birthday, Wonderwall.com is looking back through her movie roles to see which ones were our favorites and which we'd probably like to forget. Keep reading to see our Meg movie lineup, from worst characters to the very best…
No. 24: Jackie Kallen in "Against the Ropes"
Chances are you've never actually heard of the 2004 drama "Against the Ropes" and we'll be the first to say, that's not a bad thing. In the film, Meg Ryan plays an entirely fictionalized version of the real life Jackie Kallen — a boxing manager who defied gender stereotypes in a very male-dominated sport. The film also stars Omar Epps as one of Jackie's boxing discoveries from the 'hood and while we'd have hoped two normally strong character actors would have made movie magic, this film was a confusing and frustrating hour and 51 minutes of Meg talking with a terrible Detroit accent that we'll never get back.
No. 23: Martha Durand in "My Mom's New Boyfriend"
Meg Ryan, what were you thinking signing on to make this terrible, should-have-never-happened-in-a-million-years film?! In "My Mom's New Boyfriend," Meg plays a mom named Martha who has an adult son in the FBI. Martha's lost hundreds of pounds since she last saw her son (played by Colin Hanks) and now has a sexual appetite that could rival a teenager's. Of course, that lust is directed at the one man Martha shouldn't be attracted to — a criminal her son is investigating. We'd just like to pretend this was a movie that never happened and not damage our pristine memory of Meg making on-screen magic.
No. 22: Mary Haines in "The Women"
We really (really) wanted to like the 2008 dramedy "The Women" starring Meg Ryan as a jilted wife named Mary Haines whose husband is having an affair with a younger woman. The one cool thing about the movie is that no men appear in the film (hence the title). While Meg wasn't awful in the role, she wasn't relatable (like in the scene depicted in this picture, when she comes across the woman her husband is cheating with as she tries on lingerie and says absolutely nothing). Critics panned the film and called the performances "underwhelming" and we can't help but agree.
No. 21: Rita Boyle in "Prelude to a Kiss"
The good news is that we're done talking about movies Meg Ryan should never have starred in. The bad news is that even with Meg's quirky sense of humor, bright eyes and undeniable talent, some movies, like "Prelude to a Kiss," couldn't be saved. In the film, Meg plays Rita, a woman passionately in love with her new husband (played by Alec Baldwin). Trouble strikes when an elderly man asks to kiss the new bride on her wedding day and somehow manages to pull a freaky Friday and switch bodies with her. It was a cute concept, but having Meg play a grumpy old man for more than half the film was such a waste of her effervescence and charm.
No. 20: Maggie Cavanaugh in "Armed and Dangerous"
Although Meg Ryan was super-funny as security guard supervisor Maggie Cavanaugh in "Armed and Dangerous," we hardly got any significant screen time with her or any significant character development, for that matter. This film was all about the main stars, John Candy and Eugene Levy, leaving Meg, who was a few years away from being recognized as a leading lady, to shine quietly in the background.
No. 19: Carole in "Top Gun"
Another film that saw Meg Ryan relegated to a small supporting role was "Top Gun," where she played Goose's (played by Anthony Edwards) wife, Carole. We don't really get much from Meg in the role, but that's totally not her fault. Everyone knows the real story of "Top Gun" was Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Charlie's (Kelly McGillis) love story (and some military planes shooting at other planes and stuff).
No. 18: Louise in "Serious Moonlight"
We weren't suppose to like "Serious Moonlight" starring Meg Ryan as Louise, a wife who's determined to make her cheating husband (played by Timothy Hutton) love her again. It plays on an age-old trope of a woman unable to live without her man, but with a quirky, comedic twist. Louise duct tapes her husband to the toilet and refuses to let him leave until he realizes how much he still loves her. Although critics panned the film and it did poorly at the box office, we think Meg was a convincing marital hostage taker who made the somewhat corny storyline enjoyable.
No. 17: Lydia Maxwell in "Innerspace"
The '80s were all about bizarre comedies taking place in unlikely settings. Such was the case for the 1987 film "Innerspace" starring Meg Ryan as Lydia Maxwell, the ex-girlfriend of an aviator named Tuck (played by Dennis Quaid) who was miniaturized and injected into a hypochondriac grocery clerk after a top-secret experiment went awry. While the storyline was improbable at best, it was also hilarious. Plus Meg and Dennis met on the set of this film, leading to their eventual 10-year marriage (which gives us all the butterflies and heart signs).
No. 16: Frannie in "In the Cut"
In the 2003 mystery thriller "In the Cut," Meg Ryan plays Frannie Avery, a high school teacher and writer who's pulled into a romantic tryst with the detective (played by Mark Ruffalo) investigating the murder of a woman who Frannie saw at a bar the night she died. While the film itself was a considered a flop at the box office, we liked Frannie's vulnerability and imperfections.
No. 15: Alice Bowman in "Proof of Life"
Everyone who remembers going to the theater to see "Proof of Life" also likely remembers that the film's stars — Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan — had an affair while filming (and while Meg was still married to Dennis Quaid). While the scandal became a big part of the movie's draw, it didn't rescue it from its own mediocrity. Meg's character Alice Bowman, however, was one of the brighter parts of the movie. She portrayed a woman determined to save her husband from guerrilla rebels while falling for the man sent to negotiate her husband's release. We won't comment on the irony of Russell being the real life and fictitious man who interferes in Meg's marriage(s).
No. 14: Katharine in "Restoration"
Meg Ryan brings something magical to slightly dark and wounded characters like Katharine in "Restoration." The film co-stars Robert Downey Jr. as Merivel, a physician of the king's court who makes the mistake of falling in love with the king's mistress, which leads to his banishment. Outside the palace walls, Merivel finds new love with Katharine, a woman whose heart has hardened after losing both her first child and her first husband. Although Meg's part is small, her portrayal of a broken woman finding new love is worthy of praise.
No. 13: Catherine Boyd in "I.Q."
Meg Ryan stars alongside film legend Walter Matthau in the 1994 odd-ball romantic comedy "I.Q." In the movie, Meg stars as Catherine, the niece of legendary physicist Albert Einstein (played by Walter) whose prospective love interest (played by Tim Robbins) gets a little help from Albert and his friends.
No. 12: Maggie in "Addicted to Love"
When Meg Ryan was cast as Maggie in "Addicted to Love" alongside Matthew Broderick as Sam, the film gods were smiling. Meg's perfect as a vengeful ex-girlfriend who coops up with Sam to spy on their exes who've left them for each other. Not only do we love how unapologetic Meg is in this role, but we totally felt the chemistry between her and her fellow stalker, Sam.
No. 11: Kate in "French Kiss"
In the 1995 rom-com "French Kiss," Meg Ryan plays Kate, a woman who flies to France to confront her fiance, who's left her for another woman. (Why is this a constant theme in romantic comedies? Sigh.) What we adore about Kate is how totally neurotic she is yet how she still manages to fall in love with a giant crook (played by Kevin Kline) and commit a few soft crimes like it's no big deal.
No. 10: Dr. Maggie Rice in "City of Angels"
Call us romantics, but one of our favorite Meg Ryan films is definitely "City of Angels." Meg's character, Dr. Maggie Rice, might be a hardcore heart surgeon, but when an angel named Seth (played by Nicolas Cage) promises to love her for the rest of her life, she's willing to put everything on the line. Sappy, yes, but do we care? Nope.
No. 9: Eve Mozell Marks in "Hanging Up"
We know critics hated "Hanging Up" and that it was an official flop at the box office, but hear us out. Meg Ryan's character, Eve, was full of warmth, heart and forgiveness. Even though she'd been abandoned by her mother, hurt by her father (played by Walter Matthau) and left to deal with him by her sisters, she still did it with grace and humility. Plus this happened to be the last film Walter ever made. He died just five months after the movie's release, making their last co-starring roles together even more sentimental.
No. 8: Kate in "Kate & Leopold"
We have two words for why Meg Ryan's character Kate in "Kate & Leopold" is our No. 8 pick: Hugh Jackman. While we know that's totally unfair to Meg, Hugh absolutely was the only reason we watched this film (and enjoyed it). Sure, Kate — an advertising executive who gets to fall in love with a man who's mysteriously time traveled from the late 19th century — is a great character, but we're far more interested in seeing Leopold (played by Hugh) declare his undying love for Kate dressed like a perfect (historical) gentleman.
No. 7: Pamela Courson in "The Doors"
In the 1991 biopic "The Doors," Meg Ryan stars as Pamela Courson, the real-life companion and muse of the band's lead singer, Jim Morrison. Meg nails the role of a drug-addled young woman in a deeply dysfunctional relationship with a man who called himself the Lizard King.
No. 6: Patricia in "Joe Versus the Volcano"
The 1990 romantic comedy "Joe Versus the Volcano" is one of the goofiest films ever made in the genre. Still, there's something magnetic about Joe (played by Tom Hanks) and Meg Ryan's many characters in the film (she plays DeDe, Angelica and Patricia). Our favorite, undoubtedly, was Patricia (seen here) — the captain of the yacht that takes Joe to the island where he's determined to sacrifice himself into the mouth of an active volcano. Patricia also happens to be the anchor that gives new meaning to Joe's once-sad life.
No. 5: Kathleen Kelly in "You've Got Mail"
The year was 1998 and AOL still ruled the world, setting the stage for one of our favorite rom-coms ever, "You've Got Mail." The movie stars Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly, a small bookstore owner on the verge of going out of business and Tom Hanks as Joe Fox, owner of the large chain bookstore stealing all of Kathleen's business. Of course, the two fall madly in love over the internet, without realizing who the other one is. The movie never gets old (even if AOL did) and we'll never stop fawning over the on-screen chemistry between Meg and Tom. Meg earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.
No. 4: Karen Walden in "Courage Under Fire"
In the 1996 war drama "Courage Under Fire," Meg Ryan plays fallen Army Captain Karen Walden, who was nominated for the Medal of Honor after her death on the battlefield. The film came out a year before Demi Moore's "G.I. Jane" and was one of the few war stories featuring a woman in command. The arc of the story was whether or not Captain Walden demonstrated the kind of bravery and self-sacrifice required for one of the military's highest honors and while audiences wouldn't know the answer until the end, Meg's performance was undeniably inspiring.
No. 3: Annie Reed in "Sleepless in Seattle"
The 1993 dramatic rom-com "Sleepless in Seattle" earned our No. 3 spot because it's perhaps one of the sweetest love stories ever made. The movie stars Tom Hanks as Sam — a lonely widower and father of one who calls a radio station to confess his heartache over losing his wife. Of the many listeners, one is Annie Reed (played by Meg Ryan), who falls for Sam just by hearing his sad story. Annie's a bit of a stalker, but she's also a hopeless romantic who isn't afraid to take a risk on losing everything for love. Meg earned her second Golden Globe nomination for this performance.
No. 2: Sally Albright in "When Harry Met Sally"
Anyone who's ever watched "When Harry Met Sally" knows that Meg Ryan's role as Sally Albright is one of her finest. Whether they're remembering her infamous fake orgasm in the deli while Harry (played by Billy Crystal) looked on with embarrassment, or her hilariously tearful episode about "one day turning 40" when she was only 32, it's hard to top her performance in this legendary rom-com. For her performance, Meg earned her first Golden Globe nomination and the admiration of women everywhere for helping men learn a little bit more about what really happens in the bedroom.
No. 1: Alice Green in "When a Man Loves a Woman"
We're not sure why Meg Ryan wasn't nominated for an Academy Award for her riveting performance as Alice, an alcoholic wife and mother in "When a Man Loves a Woman." Alice and husband Michael (played by Andy Garcia) seem perfectly in love, but underneath their fairy tale romance is Alice's dependency on alcohol, her reckless behavior and, eventually, her negligent care of their children. The movie explores the pain of addiction and how families can sometimes unwittingly contribute to the disease. Meg shined in this film and was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for her outstanding performance.