5 Breakout 90s Movies of Halle Berry
Halle Berry is an Academy Award-winning actress who has been working in the industry since the late 1980s. She came into prominence in the 1990s in a series of romantic roles but quickly established herself as a multi-talented entertainer that had great range and deep commitment to her performances. Known for her uniquely beautiful appearance, it was her charm and strong, empowered characters that won audiences over around the world. Here are 5 defining films of her career in the 1990s that made her a breakout star.
Strictly Business (1991)
Meant to be the breakout film for young comedian Tommy Davidson, the film centers on party-boy Bobby (Davidson), who works as a mail clerk at a big-time firm but wants to move up. His best friend Waymon (Joseph C. Phillips) is an executive in the same office and is very near getting named as a partner. Bobby needs help getting into the trainee program and Waymon is his only in, so they broker a deal: Waymon met an unbelievably attractive woman named Natalie (Berry) who works as a waitress, who is also a party girl, and if Bobby can get she and he together, he’ll put him in the program. Easier said than done.
Directed by Kevin Hooks, this film would have been a standard forgotten by-the-numbers romantic comedy except for one thing: the unforgettable Halle Berry, who left everyone dizzy with her smoldering screen presence. While the cast boasted such acclaimed names as a young Sam Rockwell and Samuel L. Jackson, all eyes were on Berry who was sensual, intimate, funny and effortlessly charming. She was supposed to be the dream girl for Waymon but instead had everyone in the audience wishing she was theirs. It wasn’t long after that when the right people in Hollywood were swooning as well. Us too.
Eddie Murphy was a king at the Box Office in the 90s and one of his early hits was this romantic comedy where he stars as Marcus, an ad executive who is a veritable Casanova with women, bedding beautiful ladies with absolute ease, but with no emotional attachments. When his company merges with another and he is passed over for a promotion, the position is given to a woman named Jacqueline Broyer (Robin Givens) who Marcus wants to be with. They date but lack chemistry, even after they have sex, but Marcus thinks he’s in love. She’s not. Meanwhile, Jacqueline introduces him to Angela Lewis (Halle Berry), who works for the company, and suggests the two work on a project together. You can guess the rest, in this romantic tale of love and sex where the player gets played.
Directed by Reginald Hudlin, this star-studded movie was considered a success for Murphy but what it really did was establish that the quietly sensual and inviting Halle Berry was here to stay. Not easy to draw attention from the already beautiful and talented Robin Givens, Berry stole the show, winning not only Marcus over but even more critics and movie-goers. Playing it less sexy compared to Strictly Business, she instead is a comfort, warm and charming, but most of all, wickedly independent, putting Marcus in his place in one of the film’s better moments when she explains what real love is. It just made her all the more desirable. We wanted more. And we got it.
Losing Isaiah (1995)
Berry’s first starring role came as a surprise as it was not the romantic comedy that perhaps most were expecting. In fact, it was anything but and while it was not a Box Office success, her performance was praised. The story is about a crack-abusing mother named Khaila Richards (Berry), who in a drugged out haze, abandons her infant in a cardboard box. The baby is later rescued and adopted by the nurse who cares for it, giving she and her husband (played by Jessica Lange and David Strathairn) a family. A few years later, Khaila sobers up, get rehabilitation and finds her son, wanting to take him back. A bitter custody battle ensues (with Samuel L. Jackson, with whom Berry worked with in Strictly Business as her lawyer) in a heart-breaking trial that devolves into a fight about race and drugs.
Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal, this earnest drama is really about the characters but fell under fire for its contrivances, weakening the narrative impact. That said, both Berry and Lange are great, and Berry especially has a some tremendously effective moments as her character struggles with recovery and loss. While it didn’t propel Berry into the superstardom it perhaps should have, it remains the starting point for where she would take things later, demonstrating a fearlessness to go against the model-beauty type she was getting typecast as, a type she would never revisit again. We’re happy she made the right choice. She wasn’t done changing expectations though. Up next, a little action.
Executive Decision (1996)
A jumbo jet airliner headed to Washington D. C. is taken over by terrorists with plans to use the plane as a delivery system for a nerve-gas bomb. In an effort to stop them, a team of U.S. Special Forces and specialists use a top-secret experimental stealth aircraft to board the plane, but things do not go entirely according to plan and they lose a key member (surprise cameo by someone you have to see to believe). Led by Dr. David Grant (Kurt Russell) an intelligence consultant, they make contact with a flight attendant (Berry) who helps coordinate a plan of attack.
Directed by Stuart Baird, this action-packed thriller was a surprise hit, combining a great mix of adventure and tension with a fun cast. Berry is back in a supporting role, but an important one in this ensemble film that put a lot of talent together. A thinking-man’s thriller, it allowed Berry to showcase her looks again, but also a bit of action and more of that independence she really encompasses. Convincingly portraying a woman caught in the middle of two men using her to their advantage, she grounds the film’s reality and as the only female in the cast with any substance, adds depth to the otherwise testosterone-fueled agenda. We’ll fly with her anywhere.
This highly-charged drama starred Warren Beatty as a disillusioned politician who’s compromised his values to try and keep his seat. With a marriage in ruins and a political landscape that he views as nothing but a fallacy, he contemplates suicide, but wanting to make sure the $10 million life insurance goes to his daughter, contracts an assassination on himself. Liberated by the prospect, he lets loose on the campaign trail, embracing a more relaxed outspoken attitude, meeting and engaging in a romance with a young black activist named Nina (Berry), who has a surprise for him late in the game.
Written and directed by Beatty, that actor fires up the screen in an explosive performance that completely went against expectations but was highly-praised. His equal is Berry, again showing great range and depth as she plays the romantic interest but once again, a fiercely independent and powerfully intelligent character that keeps us guessing. The May-December romance of Bulworth and Nina might be a bit of a stretch, but her performance earned her a lot of praise and the doors flew open. A bona-fide superstar, she would go into the new millennium with roles in the X-Men franchise, be a Bond girl, and win an Oscar for her most challenging performance yet. While she’s had a few flops (meow), she is still one of her generation’s greatest actresses, inspiring many women around the world. We look forward to lots more.