Every couple of years, it seems that Hollywood pounces on a new, fresh face. The talented actress, by that point, usually has quite a career already under her belt, but thanks to one “breakout” role, the world suddenly knows her name. As a result, that lucky lady ends up enjoying several starring roles in top movies, and often ends up winning an Academy Award for one of them. She becomes America’s darling for years, or a hot minute, as the case may be.
Here, we’ve rounded up some of Hollywood’s biggest “It Girls” over the years. Feel that we’ve left someone deserving off the list? Let us know!
1. Farrah Fawcett
Fawcett wasn’t just a pretty face (or an epic hairdo) — she was talented. The actress was nominated for four Emmy Awards and six Golden Globes over the course of her career. While many associate her with her role on Charlie’s Angels, she was actually only a series regular for the first season. (She made guest appearances over the next couple of years.) If you didn’t have a poster of Fawcett on your wall, chances are you had her hairstyle. Tragically, she died at the age of 62 from cancer.
2. Olivia Newton-John
Of course Newton-John rose to stardom when she played Sandy in Grease opposite John Travolta. We probably remember her most in that leather costume during the “You’re the One That I Want” number at the end, but this actress’s talent was not limited to acting in a musical movie. She has won four Grammy Awards (and had several number one singles) as a singer. In fact, she has sold approximately 100 million albums.
3. Goldie Hawn
Once Goldie Hawn started working, she basically never stopped. The world got to know the blond performer when she sported a pixie haircut and heavy mascara in Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. But shame on anyone who didn’t take her seriously, as she went on to win an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for her role in Cactus Flower.
4. Molly Ringwald
As an integral member of the “Brat Pack,” Ringwald won the world over in Sixteen Candles. By that time, though, Ringwald was already a veteran, having starred on Broadway in the musical Annie, and on the show The Facts of Life for a season. She became a John Hughes darling, starring in Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club. She is still acting to this day.
5. Julia Roberts
Some remember Roberts in Mystic Pizza, but she stole everyone’s hearts playing Sally Fields’s diabetic daughter in Steel Magnolias. She hit the big time, though, with the title role in Pretty Woman. Since then, she has gone on to star in nearly 50 projects, and earned herself an Academy Award for her role in Erin Brockovich.
6. Winona Ryder
Ryder made her mark by playing some darker characters as a teenager in films such as Beetlejuice, Heathers, and Mermaids. But she was a household name nonetheless. She won a Golden Globe (and was nominated for an Oscar) for her role in The Age of Innocence. Despite some negative press a few years back, she continues to work, and played a memorable role in Black Swan opposite Natalie Portman.
7. Alicia Silverstone
While many first caught a glimpse of Silverstone in a couple of Aerosmith videos in the early ’90s, most remember her from her starring role in Clueless. Whether people preferred the bad girl image from Crazy and Amazing or good girl Cher, remains to be seen, but she could pull off both seamlessly. She has worked a fair bit since, and is currently starring in the series American Woman.
8. Natalie Portman
At the tender age of 12, Portman showed that she could hold her own when she starred opposite French superstar Jean Reno in Léon: The Professional. She showed her acting chops over and over again in films such as Beautiful Girls, Everyone Says I Love You, and Closer. She has played everything from Luke Skywalker’s mom to Anne Frank (on Broadway). And Portman has shown her intense sense of humor with appearances in Saturday Night Live skits as well. Most notably, though, is her Academy Award for her starring role in Black Swan — oh and her degree from Harvard.
9. Rachel McAdams
We of course got to know McAdams as Regina George in Mean Girls, but the actress has played mostly sympathetic characters ever since. We fell for her in Wedding Crashers, The Notebook, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and The Family Stone. It’s as if she can do no wrong. She earned her first Academy Award nomination for her role in the drama Spotlight.
10. Emma Stone
Early roles in Superbad and Easy A got Stone on the map, but it was when she starred in The Help that she became a Hollywood A-lister. She has since starred in very different types of roles, and earned herself an Academy Award for a part that required singing and dancing in addition to acting: Mia in La La Land.
11. Jennifer Lawrence
J-Law, as she has come to be known, has made a career of The Hunger Games films. Never one to be typecast, though, she has branched out and played everything from an X-Man to a jealous wife in the ’70s disco era. She won an Academy Award (the second youngest to do so) for her role in Silver Linings Playbook. In 2015 and 2016, she was the highest paid actress worldwide.