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Helen Hunt Movies: 17 of The Leading Lady’s Most Memorable Roles

She's as good as it gets! Take a look back at Hunt's greatest silver screen performances


Helen Hunt came into the American lexicon when she rose to fame in 1992 portraying Jamie Buchman in the hit 90s sitcom Mad About You. Her performance was her first career bump and led to three Golden Globe awards for Best Actress and four Primetime Emmy Awards for Lead Actress. Hunt’s warm smile and natural charisma made viewers feel like a family member or neighbor you want to get to know better, a feeling which would be enhanced later on through numerous Helen Hunt movies.

Helen Hunt and Mad About You co-star Paul Reiser, 1990s
Helen Hunt and Mad About You co-star Paul Reiser, 1990s Hulton Archive/Handout/Getty

But truth be told, Helen Elizabeth Hunt was an actress decades prior to taking on the role of Jamie Buchman. She began working as a child actress in the 1970s with early roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the feature Rollercoaster (1977) and alongside Lindsay Wagner in an episode of The Bionic Woman.

MUST READ: The Mary Tyler Moore Show Cast: Surprising Facts About The Beloved ‘70s Comedy’s Stars

Several sitcom appearances through the 70s and 80s kept the young actress busy. Her love of show biz was apparent and why not? She had show biz in her blood — literally. Dad was Gordon Hunt, a film, voice and stage director; and her uncle Peter Hunt was also a director.

At the age of five, she began attending plays with her dad and remembers seeing the original production of Godspell in a church basement. “And that was it,” Hunt says. “I didn’t even know if I wanted to be acting or singing or directing. I just wanted to be in that building.” To this day, theater holds a special place in her heart as an actress, writer and director.

Hellen Hunt and Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets, 1997
Hellen Hunt and Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets, 1997TriStar Productions/Gracie Films/MoviestillsDB

By the mid and late 80s, Helen Hunt movies became more frequent and were aimed at a teen audience. In the eyes of some, Hunt’s Oscar winning performance alongside Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, was as good as she got.

Her career trajectory went into the stratosphere and Helen Hunt movies became a regular event. But her multi-talents didn’t stop there. Here is a look back at some of the many Helen Hunt movies – some just okay and some as good as they get.    

1. Trancers (1984)

This was Hunt’s first major film role and the first in the Trancers series. She portrays Lena, a punk rock girl, in this sci-fi film.  

2. Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985)

Hunt plays Lynne Stone, the friend of an army brat in this comedy with Sarah Jessica Parker and Shannen Doherty

3. Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

In this Francis Ford Coppola movie, Hunt is featured as the daughter of a woman on the verge of divorce who is her mom’s plus one for mom’s high school reunion. The film was a box office success and received positive reviews, ultimately finding itself nominated for three Academy Awards. 

4. Stealing Home (1988)

Gradually making her way into a more adult realm of Helen Hunt movies, she appears as the sister of Billy Wyatt, played by Mark Harmon, and a cast featuring Jodie Foster and Harold Ramis in Stealing Home, a coming of age romantic drama. The film was a box office disappointment, but has since garnered a cult following. 

5. Next of Kin (1989)

Hunt is the pregnant wife of a respectable lawman opposite Patrick Swayze and Liam Neeson. The action thriller features Ben Stiller in one of his earliest roles. 

(Click through to our sister site’s roundup of Patrick Swayze’s best movies!)

6. Kiss of Death (1995)

Kiss of Death is a loosely-based remake of the 1947 film noir classic of the same name featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Nicholas Cage. Hunt plays Bev Killmartin, wife of an ex-con living in Queens.

7. Twister (1996)

In this disaster film — not in terms of box office, but rather climatic disaster – Hunt stars opposite Bill Paxton as storm chasers researching tornadoes. Twister was the second highest grossing film of 1996. During the filming, both actors were temporarily blinded by bright electronic lamps halfway through filming and needed hepatitis shots after shooting in a particularly toxic ditch. Maybe it was a disaster film after all.

8. As Good as It Gets (1997)

The movie brought Hunt super fame. And not only did she bring home an Oscar, but she formed a friendship with co-star Jack Nicholson who plays a crotchety author that frequents the diner where Hunt’s waitress character works. The single mom and cranky author form a love-hate relationship on screen but off screen, Hunt saw a different side of Nicholson — not cranky and not the wild man of film lore.

“My expectation about Jack was that he would be unpredictable and not bother with the mundane things that I bothered with,” Hunt told The Guardian. “The truth is he’s an acting class guy, so he and I had all the same questions. I felt as if I was with a friend and in acting class rather than an iconic movie star. It was just some frequency we both could tune into that was very, very compatible.” 

9. Dr. T & The Women (1997)

Hunt is one of the women that enters the average life of a wealthy gynecologist, played by Richard Gere. The romcom is directed by Robert Altman and features a stellar cast of women — Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern, Shelley Long, Kate Hudson, Liv Tyler and Tara Reid — as the various patients he encounters in his everyday life. Country singer Lyle Lovett composed the film’s music. 

10. Pay it Forward (1997)

Hunt plays an alcoholic single mother to 12 year-old Trevor McKinney (The Sixth Sense‘s Haley Joel Osment).  The film is loosely based on the novel of the same name. Set in Las Vegas, it recounts Trevor’s goodwill movement known as pay it forward. 

11. Cast Away (2000)

A favorite film of co-star Tom Hanks himself, Hunt portrays the long time girlfriend of Hanks’ FedEx employee, Chuck Noland, who finds himself marooned on an uninhabited island. 

Although the thought of Kelley is what mainly keeps Chuck motivated to stay alive until he’s rescued, Kelly, who probably thinks he’s dead, may have moved on emotionally from him in the meantime. 

MUST READ: Tom Hanks Through the Years: 27 Rare Photos of the ‘Nicest Guy In Hollywood’

12. What Women Want (2000)

Hunt stars with Mel Gibson as the newly hired co-worker of a Chicago executive who, upset that he’ll be working with a female, falls into his home bathtub with his hairdryer, knocking him unconscious. 

When he wakes up, he discovers he can hear women’s thoughts — which is most upsetting when he learns he is disliked at work, and women consider him an immoral and shady person. But he can also hear his new co-worker, Darcy’s, idea for a Nike ad campaign aimed at women and steals the concept. Will he ever learn what women want?

13. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)

A longtime admirer of Woody Allen, Hunt appears in this film alongside Allen playing a wisecracking efficiency expert hypnotized by a crooked hypnotist into stealing jewels. Allen is known to be very secretive with his scripts and while Hunt was allowed to read the entire script when she was offered the part, she had to do so in one sitting and then return it to the courier who was waiting to take it back to Allen.   

14. Bobby (2006)

The film is a fictionalized account of the hours leading up to the Robert F. Kennedy assassination, written and directed by Emilio Estevez. The stellar ensemble cast includes Ashton Kutcher, Harry Belafonte, Nick Cannon, Joshua Jackson, Lindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Demi Moore, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Freddy Rodriguez, Heather Graham, Elijah Wood and Joy Bryant. Hunt’s performance was singled out and she was nominated for the SAG Award, the film ultimately bringing home the Hollywood Film Festival Award for Best Ensemble Cast. 

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15. Soul Surfer (2010)

AnnaSophia Robb plays real life Bethany Hamilton, a life long surfer who lost her left arm in a terrible shark attack in Hawaii. The biographic film re-counts Hamilton’s incredible recovery and her determination to get back on a surfboard. Hunt plays the mom of the Hawaiian born champion surfer.   

16. The Sessions (2012)

She braves and bares it all as a sex surrogate in this film inspired by a true story of Mark O’Brien, a Berkeley author confined to an iron lung due to childhood polio. One day he decides he wants to lose his virginity, but can’t move any of his limbs. Enter Hunt as the sex surrogate to aid him in his wish. 

“Any hesitation I had about the nudity, I think what I thought was it’s getting late,” Hunt says to Indiewire. “You know what I mean? It’s getting too late in life to care about the small things. It’s getting too late to not be brave, to not live my life fully, to not try to be an artist. This was a real journey that someone had gone on and I wanted to do right by that.” Hunt’s performance earned her several award nominations.  

17. The Miracle Season (2017)

Another of the Helen Hunt movies based on a true story, The Miracle Season caught Hunt’s attention. A slightly unlikeable, tough volleyball coach, who happens to be a woman, is the focus of the film. “I love sports movies.  I mean, I wanted to be Kurt Russell in Miracle, so this was my chance and it was a dream come true. I did Soul Surfer and Ride, both sports movies, so this is a genre that I adore. This one had this giant piece of heartbreak and soul in the middle of it.”  

MUST-READ: Kurt Russell Has the Same Hunky Charm He Did in the 70s and 80s — Check Out His Best Movies & TV Shows Over the Years

What is Helen Hunt doing now?

Watch for Helen to co-star in this year’s Lucca Mortis opposite Dustin Hoffman, now filming in various Italian locations.   

Two projects – Then She Found Me and Ride — revealed Hunt’s ability to step off screen to focus on writing and directing, which she did on these two projects. 

Helen Hunt, 2023
Helen Hunt, 2023Momodu Mansaray/FilmMagic/Getty

Keep reading for more of your favorite leading ladies!

The 10 Most Iconic Meg Ryan Rom-Com Movies, Ranked

Molly Ringwald Movies: A Look Back Through the ’80s Teen Icon’s Best Films

Michelle Pfeiffer Young: A Look Back Through Her Glamorous Hollywood Evolution

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