Roberts had become one of the highest-paid actresses in the world, topping the Hollywood Reporter's annual "power list" of top-earning female stars from 2005 to 2006. Her fee for 1990's Pretty Woman was $300,000; in 2003, she was paid an unprecedented $25 million for her role in Mona Lisa Smile (2003). As of 2010, Roberts's net worth was estimated to be $140 million.
Roberts has been named one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" eleven times, tied with Halle Berry. In 2011, she was named one of the "100 Hottest Women of All-Time" by Men's Health In 2001, Ladies Home Journal ranked her as the 11th most powerful woman in the United States, ahead of then national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and former first lady Laura Bush. Roberts has a production company called Red Om Films.
Roberts made her first big screen appearance in the film Satisfaction (1988), released on February 12, 1988, alongside Liam Neeson and Justine Bateman, as a band member looking for a summer gig. She had previously performed a small role opposite her brother, Eric, in Blood Red (1986) (she has two words of dialogue), filmed in 1987 and released in 1989. Her first television appearance was as a juvenile rape victim in the initial season of the series Crime Story with Dennis Farina, in the episode titled "The Survivor", broadcast on February 13, 1987. Her first critical success with moviegoers was her performance in the independent film Mystic Pizza in 1988; that same year, she had a role in the fourth season finale of Miami Vice. In 1989, she was featured in Steel Magnolias, as a young bride with diabetes, and received both her first Academy Award nomination (as Best Supporting Actress) and first Golden Globe Award win (Motion Picture Best Supporting Actress) for her performance.
1990–2000Richard Gere in the Cinderella/Pygmalionesque story, Pretty Woman, in 1990. Roberts won the role after Michelle Pfeiffer, Molly Ringwald, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Karen Allen, and Daryl Hannah (her co-star in Steel Magnolias) all turned it down. The role also earned her a second Oscar nomination, this time as Best Actress, and second Golden Globe Award win, as Motion Picture Best Actress (Musical or Comedy). Her next box office success was the thriller Sleeping with the Enemy, playing a battered wife who escapes her abusive husband, played by Patrick Bergin, and begins a new life in Iowa. She played Tinkerbell in Steven Spielberg's Hook in 1991, and also played a nurse in the 1991 film, Dying Young. This work was followed by a two-year hiatus, during which she made no films other than a cameo appearance in Robert Altman's The Player (1992). In early 1993, she was the subject of a People magazine cover story asking, "What Happened to Julia Roberts?" She was offered the role of Annie Reed in Sleepless in Seattle (1993), but turned it down.
Roberts co-starred with Denzel Washington in The Pelican Brief (1993), based on John Grisham's 1992 novel of the same name. In 1996, she appeared in season 2 of Friends (episode 13 "The One After the Superbowl"). Roberts recorded her scenes from January 6–8, 1996. She had a relationship with cast member Matthew Perry at the time, and an audience member said about their on-screen kiss, "Julia looked at Matt and said 'I'm glad we rehearsed this over the weekend'." She was offered the role of Lucy Eleanor Moderatz in While You Were Sleeping (1995), but also turned it down.
Roberts co-starred with Liam Neeson in Michael Collins (1996). Over the next few years, she starred in Stephen Frears' Mary Reilly (1996), followed by My Best Friend's Wedding in 1997. In 1998, she appeared on Sesame Street opposite the character Elmo, demonstrating her ability to change emotions. She was offered the role of Viola de Lesseps in Shakespeare in Love (1998), but turned it down. She starred with Hugh Grant in Notting Hill (1999). That same year she also starred in Runaway Bride, her second film with Richard Gere. Roberts was a guest star on the Law & Order television series episode "Empire" with series regular Benjamin Bratt (at that time her boyfriend). She earned an nomination for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. Also in 1999 she starred in the critically panned film Stepmom (1998) alongside Susan Sarandon.
In 2001 Roberts received the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Erin Brockovich, who helped wage a successful lawsuit against energy giant Pacific Gas & Electric. While presenting the Best Actor Award to Denzel Washington the following year she made a gaffe, saying she was glad that Tom Conti wasn't there. She meant the conductor, Bill Conti, who had tried to hasten the conclusion of her Oscar speech the previous year, but instead named the Scottish actor. Roberts teamed with Erin Brockovich director Steven Soderbergh for three more films: Ocean's Eleven (2001), Full Frontal (2002), and Ocean's Twelve (2004). Later in 2001 she starred in the road gangster comedy, The Mexican, giving her a chance to work with long-time friend, Brad Pitt. In 2005 she was featured in the music video for the hit single "Dreamgirl" by the Dave Matthews Band; it was her first music video appearance.
Roberts had two films released in 2006, The Ant Bully and Charlotte's Web. Both films were animated features for which she provided voice acting. Her next film was Charlie Wilson's War (2007), with Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman, directed by Mike Nichols and based on the book by former CBS journalist George Crile; it was released on December 21, 2007. Fireflies in the Garden (2008), also starring Ryan Reynolds and Willem Dafoe, was released at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2008 and was subsequently shown in European cinemas; it did not get a North American release until 2011.
Richard Greenberg's 1997 play Three Days of Rain opposite Bradley Cooper and Paul Rudd. Although the play grossed nearly US$1 million dollars in ticket sales during its first week and was a commercial success throughout its limited run, her performance drew criticism. New York Times' critic Ben Brantly described her as being fraught with "self-consciousness (especially in the first act) [and] only glancingly acquainted with the two characters she plays." Brantley also criticized the production of "Greenberg's slender, elegant play," writing that “it's almost impossible to discern its artistic virtues from this wooden and splintered interpretation, directed by Joe Mantello." Three Days of Rain received two Tony Award nominations in stagecraft categories. In 2009, Lancôme announced that Roberts would become their global ambassador for their company. Julia starred with Clive Owen in the comedy-thriller Duplicity for which she received her seventh Golden Globe nomination. In 2010, she appeared in the ensemble romantic comedy Valentine's Day, with Cooper, and starred in the film adaptation of Eat Pray Love. Eat Pray Love had the highest debut at the box office for Roberts in a top-billed role since America's Sweethearts. Later in the year, she signed a five-year extension with Lancôme for GB£32 million (US$50 million). In 2011, she co-starred as Mercedes Tainot opposite Tom Hanks who directed and played the title role in the romantic comedy Larry Crowne. The movie has received generally bad reviews with only 35% of the 175 Rotten Tomatoes reviews giving it high ratings, although Roberts' comedic performance was praised.Roberts appeared in the 2012 Tarsem Singh adaptation of Snow White, called Mirror Mirror, playing the Evil Queen.