3. Julia Roberts, 'Erin Brockovich'
Stars matter: Rarely has that been truer than when Julia Roberts locked onto the story of Erin Brockovich, a struggling single mother who helped fight for a small Southern California community that had been slowly poisoned by a Goliath energy corporation. This is not to suggest that Erin Brockovich isn't a smart, moving tale, but it's Roberts' natural likability, brassiness and frank sex appeal that continually elevate the material. (Indeed, this may be the one Steven Soderbergh film that belongs more to its lead than to the director.) Telling off corporate bigwigs, squaring off with a possible love interest (Aaron Eckhart) and hurling magnificent amounts of sass at Albert Finney's befuddled boss, Roberts doesn't so much embody a role as she perfects her persona.