Jennifer Aniston's Best Onscreen Performances

Jennifer Aniston catapulted to fame as America's sweetheart Rachel Green on "Friends," but the popular actress has since proven herself to be so much more than just one-sixth of the world's best-known friend group. In the last decade, she has played everything from a sex-crazed, abusive boss to an aging small-town pageant queen to a grieving mom addicted to pain medication. Aniston has shown that she can do excel not only in comedies -– romantic comedies, black comedies, slapstick –- but drama as well, as evidenced by her acclaimed role in the movie "Cake" and her current award-nominated gig on "The Morning Show."

Aniston started her career by appearing in terrible movies –- "Leprechaun," anyone? –- and forgettable television shows, such as "Molloy," "Ferris Bueller," and "Muddling Through." When "Friends" hit it big, she could have easily coasted on the role for the rest of her career. Instead, Aniston has continuously challenged herself by choosing roles incredibly different from the one that first made her famous. Here are some of Jennifer Aniston's best onscreen performances, starting with the one that put her on the map nearly 30 years ago.


In 1994, the world discovered Aniston when she started her iconic role as Rachel Green in NBC's "Friends." In the pilot, Rachel had just run out on her wedding to Barry, reuniting with high school friend Monica in the now-legendary Central Perk café. The entire cast of "Friends" became mega-famous –- and mega-rich -– because of the show, but it was Aniston's Rachel who received the most attention (her hairstyle became known as "The Rachel," after all). And while Aniston will probably always be known best for "Friends" given the cultural impact of the show and the fact that it reruns near-constantly, it is mind-blowing to think that the part was almost recast at the last minute due to another TV show Aniston starred on at the time (per USA Today). Luckily, that show failed quickly, and the rest is television history.

Rachel grew exponentially over the years, starting as a spoiled, ambition-less princess who couldn't do anything for herself and ending as a successful businesswoman with a thriving fashion career and a beautiful baby daughter. Whether it was Rachel flipping out over Joey's (Matt LeBlanc's) soap opera colleagues or hiding her Pottery Barn purchases from Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Aniston never had trouble making us laugh, nor did she have an issue making us cry in her dramatic moments (like the Ross breakup). For her portrayal of Rachel, Aniston was recognized by many award-giving entities. She received two Golden Globe award nominations (winning once in 2003), five Emmy award nominations (winning once in 2002), and nine Screen Actors Guild Nominations (winning once as part of the "Friends" ensemble), among others.

Office Space

All of the actors on "Friends" were really great at using their downtime efficiently. For Aniston, that meant starring in a slew of movies, including "She's the One" in 1996, "Picture Perfect" in 1997, and "The Object of My Affection" in 1998. But none of these subpar movies really capitalized on her immense star quality, and it was not until Mike Judge's "Office Space" that Aniston appeared in a truly good film. In the 1999 movie, Aniston played Joanna, a disgruntled waitress who dates one of the main characters, Peter (Ron Livingston).

Though the role was small, Aniston was praised for her part in the dark comedy. "Jennifer Aniston has a featured role as a waitress in a chain restaurant with her own job problems. She doesn't have much screen time, but in playing this slightly insecure, affable young woman, she does her best film acting to date," wrote San Francisco Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle.

The Good Girl

While "The Good Girl" turned in forgettable results at the box office, it remains one of Aniston's best and it is certainly worth checking out if you have not already seen it. In the 2002 dark comedy/drama, Aniston portrays Justine Last, a depressed Texas woman who is unsatisfied with her life, which includes working at a discount retail store and living with her pothead husband Phil (John C. Reilly). She begins a friendship with a mysterious young co-worker, writer Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal), which eventually turns into an affair. Justine's life consequently unravels due to Holden's instability, her husband's shady friend Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson), and a surprise pregnancy.

Critics were deeply impressed by Aniston's performance, which proved she could go darker than the fluff comedies in which she frequently starred. "Jennifer Aniston has at last decisively broken with her 'Friends' image in an independent film of satiric fire and emotional turmoil," wrote famed movie critic Roger Ebert, who gave the film four stars and declared that "it will no longer be possible to consider her in the same way." Aniston was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, a Satellite Award, and an award from the Online Film Critics Society for her performance.

Bruce Almighty

Aniston went back to her comedy roots with 2003's "Bruce Almighty," a Jim Carrey vehicle that was a box-office smash (the movie earned nearly $500 million worldwide). Aniston appears in the film as Grace Connelly, the girlfriend of Carrey's Bruce Nolan, a television reporter who, after getting mad at God for his misfortunes, becomes God himself for a week. Grace eventually breaks up with Bruce due to his oversized ego. Aniston and Carrey have compelling chemistry, and while it's your typical "girlfriend" role, it is still one of Aniston's best of that type.

The film received mixed reviews from critics, and a lot of the attention went toward Carrey and Morgan Freeman (who played God). Nonetheless, Aniston was singled out in a number of reviews as well. "Aniston, as a sweet kindergarten teacher and fiancée, shows again (after 'The Good Girl') that she really will have a movie career, despite the small-minded cavils of those who think she should have stayed on television," wrote Roger Ebert in his review. "She can play comedy, which is not easy, and she can keep up with Carrey while not simply mirroring his zaniness; that's one of those gifts like being able to sing one song while typing the words to another." Other reviewers were less positive, mostly due to the way the role was written. For example, a BBC reviewer called Aniston "excellent" but "underused" and Slant said she was "merely a decorative distraction."

Friends With Money

Once "Friends" ended, Aniston continued to expand her film career, with starring roles in flicks like "Derailed," and "Rumor Has It..." but her next great performance didn't come until "Friends With Money," a tiny movie that flew largely under the radar despite its charm. In the film, Aniston plays Olivia, a teacher-turned-housecleaner who struggles with both money and relationships –- a stark contrast to the rest of her social circle, all of whom are married and wealthy. But despite having money, Olivia's friends Franny (Joan Cusack), Christine (Catherine Keener), and Jane (Frances McDormand) have issues of their own, and this is really a movie about female friendship just as much as it is about class and materialism.

Olivia's friends (and the audience) pity her, but Aniston plays the wayward pothead so well that you also can't help but love her. Writing for the Seattle Times, movie critic Moira Macdonald said, "Aniston, wearing stained sweatpants and holey sweaters so casually you barely notice them (a lesser actress — and director — would make a point of showing them to us), shrugs off her celebrity persona and brings a sad girl-next-door sweetness to Olivia." And Boston Globe critic Wesley Morris proclaimed that Aniston gives "the most relaxed movie performance of her life" in the film.

Marley & Me

From "Beethoven" to "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," nothing warms audiences' hearts like a good movie about pets. "Marley & Me" pretty much tops the list when it comes to these sorts of films, and it is one of Jennifer Aniston's biggest films to date (it grossed over a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide). Aniston plays Jenny Grogan in the 2008 film, which is based on a memoir of the same name. At the start of the film, Jenny and her new husband John (Owen Wilson) embark on a move and decide to adopt a dog –- an adorable but ill-behaved yellow lab that they name Marley. The film deals with the joys and struggles of pet ownership over the course of a dog's life, tracing Marley's impact from arrival to departure.

It has been reported that 22 dogs play the "world's worst dog" Marley over the course of the movie, but the same human actors portray their characters as they age across the span of 15 years. While not every critic loved the film, many praised the chemistry between the actors and the dog, as well as between Aniston and Wilson (see The Hollywood Reporter, for example). In his three-star review, Roger Ebert wrote, "When Marley is not on the screen, Wilson and Aniston demonstrate why they are gifted comic actors. They have a relationship that's not too sitcomish, not too sentimental, mostly smart and realistic." We have to warn you, though –- Kleenex will be needed.

The Switch

"The Switch" received mixed reviews, but we think it was a strong outing for Aniston, who appears as Kassie Larson, a single woman who decides to have a baby through a sperm donor. Though Kassie originally vetoed her best friend Wally Mars (Jason Bateman) from being the donor, an accident leads to him swapping out his sperm for the donor sperm. Yes, it is all very icky, but it is also a decently cute romantic comedy with strong performances from Aniston, Bateman, and a supporting cast that includes Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, and Juliette Lewis.

Minnesota Star Tribune movie critic Tom Horgen wrote that "Aniston and Bateman find a funny chemistry together, and the film's bemusing setup unfolds with wit and charm." In the San Francisco Chronicle, Mike LaSalle wrote that "Jennifer Aniston brings certain things to movies: A relaxed yet spontaneous comic ability. An attentiveness to the other actors that is rare in its focus. A quality of stumbling humanity that is making a nice transition from youth to middle age, backed by another quality — the glowing sanity of someone old enough to know her place in the universe and the importance of other people."

Some felt the role and the movie lacked depth, and others felt the content came too close to Aniston's own "single gal" tabloid persona (see Slate's review, for example). But overall, if there was any recurring critique of Aniston, it was that she was playing into type. "Aniston has been playing Aniston for so long now that it seems she's incapable of anything else," wrote Marc Savlov in The Austin Chronicle. "She's a genre unto herself." But then again, why is that a bad thing?

Horrible Bosses

It is always fun to watch a squeaky-clean celebrity try to dirty up their image by playing against type, and that is exactly what Aniston did when she played a boss from hell in "Horrible Bosses" back in 2011. Aniston appeared in the film as Dr. Julia Harris, a dentist with a filthy mouth and mind who sexually harasses her dental assistant and tries to bribe him into having sex with her. Aniston won an MTV Movie Award for "Best On-Screen Dirtbag," and she reprised the role of Julia three years later in "Horrible Bosses 2" –- which was fine, but not quite as entertaining or successful as the original.

Critics were a fan of Aniston's raunchy role in the ensemble comedy, with the Independent's review calling her "very funny" and the Observer's reviewer saying Aniston was "in the funniest role—maybe only funny role?—of her career." The San Francisco Chronicle's reviewer, Mike LaSalle, wrote that "the Aniston scenes play off against her wholesome image — she says naughty things — and benefit from her comic timing" and Roger Ebert claimed "the surprise for many may be Jennifer Aniston" due to the way "she has acute comic timing and hilariously enacts alarming sexual hungers."


In 2012's "Wanderlust," Aniston starred alongside old pal Paul Rudd –- her co-star in 1998's "The Object of My Affection" and in the last two seasons of "Friends" –- and then-boyfriend and future ex-husband Justin Theroux. In the movie, she plays Linda Gergenblatt, one half of a down-on-their-luck urban couple who is forced to leave New York City for a pity job in Atlanta, Georgia. On the way, Linda and her husband George (Rudd) discover a rural commune named Elysium, which they end up returning to after not enjoying the chaos of George's brother Rick's home. They befriend the various hippies on the commune, including nudist Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio), and embrace the "free love" lifestyle by flirting with hotties Seth (Theroux) and Eve (Malin Akerman).

The movie received mixed-to-poor reviews and performed shockingly poorly at the box office for a Judd Apatow production. Nonetheless, Aniston still managed to eke out a decent performance as a yuppie living on a hippie commune. New York Magazine's David Edelstein said that Aniston's "mugging mushiness works beautifully for the overeager Linda," which is (we think) a compliment, and Entertainment Weekly's critic Lisa Schwarzbaum said, "it's a pleasure to see Aniston thrive in her comedy zone."

We're the Millers

Aniston again played raunchy in the 2013 action comedy "We're the Millers," which found her as Rose O'Reilly, a stripper who poses as a suburban mom in order to smuggle drugs across the border. On her quest to Mexico for drugs, Rose is joined by David Clark (Jason Sudeikis), the neighbor who is paying her for the job, as well as their two fake children, nerdy neighbor kid Kenny (Will Poulter) and homeless thief Casey (Emma Roberts). Together, the four become the Millers in order to enact their scheme, which of course does not come together as smoothly as anyone would have hoped.

"We're the Millers" was a big box office hit, though audiences enjoyed the road trip comedy more than the critics (a pattern with many of Aniston's comedies). Still, fans of the actress will be into Aniston's role in the flick, which US Weekly called her "'Best Comedic Work' since 'Friends.'" Salon's movie critic Andrew O'Hehir had similar praise when he wrote, "Jennifer Aniston, funny again at last," and Steve Davis, writing for The Austin Chronicle, declared that "Aniston once again proves why she's the Friend with the most staying power, performing a mean striptease in a to-die-for body while conveying a subtle maternal instinct and vulnerability along the way."


In 2014, Aniston appeared in "Cake," the most acclaimed role of her career and one for which she received a considerable amount of Oscar buzz. The Oscar nomination may not have happened, but the performance was nonetheless a knockout. In the movie, Aniston plays Claire Bennett, a grieving mother who is suffering from chronic pain and a pill addiction. Between her son's death in a car accident that she herself survived, and the suicide of a woman from her chronic pain support group (Nina, played by Anna Kendrick), Claire is incredibly mean and uncooperative, especially when it comes to her housekeeper/caretake Silvana (Adriana Barraza), who is forced to drive her around. She is also in the throes of a heavy addiction that threatens to completely ruin what is left of her life, including her marriage to Jason (Chris Messina).

The movie was not beloved by all critics, but Aniston's performance was highly lauded. "If I were Jennifer Aniston, I would be fuming. And I would be wondering what exactly I had to do to get an Oscar nomination for best actress," wrote Wendy Ide in The Sunday Times. "Because, all things considered, she should be up there this Sunday evening, giving Julianne Moore a run for her money." And while there was no Academy Award nomination, Aniston did receive nominations for Best Actress at the Golden Globes Award, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and Critics Choice Movie Awards. "Jennifer Aniston turns in the riskiest, most emotionally naked performance of her career in 'Cake.' The anti-vanity leap she takes is big, brave and deserving of sustained admiration," wrote The Star Tribune's Kristin Tillotson.

The Morning Show

Ever since the end of "Friends" in 2004, people have wanted Aniston back on the small screen. But while many of her former co-stars stayed mainly in the TV world -– Courteney Cox with "Dirt" and "Cougartown," Matt LeBlanc with "Joey" and "Episodes," Lisa Kudrow with "The Comeback" and "Therapy," and Matthew Perry with a whole slew of shows –- Aniston seemed dead-set on a career in movies. So, color us surprised when, in 2019, she finally decided to take on another television show: "The Morning Show" alongside Reese Witherspoon.

Witherspoon and Aniston both serve as producers on "The Morning Show," which has them starring as unlikely co-anchors on a morning program plagued by scandal. Aniston plays Alex Levy, a longtime co-host of UBA Networks' The Morning Show who must fight to stay on the air during her co-anchor Mitch Kessler's (Steve Carell) sexual harassment charges. Meanwhile, she has to deal with new anchor Bradley Jackson (Witherspoon), of whom Alex is not a fan.

For her role in season one of the series, Aniston was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Critics Choice Television Award. She also won the Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series, her second career SAG award and her first since 1996. "The Morning Show" will soon begin its second season on Apple TV+, and we cannot wait to see how Alex's storyline evolves.


In "Dumplin'," Aniston plays Rosie, a former beauty queen from small-town Texas, who has a teenage daughter named Willowdean (played by Danielle Macdonald) with whom she has trouble connecting. After the death of WIllowdean's beloved aunt Lucy, she is stuck only with her mother, who seemingly resents her for being plus-sized. As a form of protest, Willowdean signs up for the town beauty pageant -– the Miss Teen Bluebonnet Pageant, which Rosie organizes -– in the process inspiring other atypical contestants to fight for the crown.

"Dumplin'" is a charming little movie that has everything one could ask for in a coming-of-age story: mother-daughter tension (between Rosie and Willowdean, whom Rosie calls Dumplin'), a teenage love affair (between Willowdean and a co-worker at her part-time job), and even a mentor with a heart of gold (a drag queen who was friends with Lucy). There's also a soundtrack from Dolly Parton, as Willowdean is obsessed with the singer.

Critics responded favorably to the film, which was released directly to Netflix in 2020. They also warmed to Aniston as looks-obsessed Rosie, who eventually proves that she has unconditional love for her Dumplin' despite their differences. Variety's critic said the actress added "a welcome bit of pepper to proceedings as the protagonist's conflicted mom" and Vox's review said she "turns in a sympathetic performance." And writing for The Chicago Sun-Times, iconic critic Richard Roeper -– who co-hosted "At the Movies" with Ebert for eight years -– had only good things to say about "the nuanced work by Jennifer Aniston that ensures Rosie's never a caricature of a pageant mom."