Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: Julia Roberts, David Brisbin, Dawn Didawick

Erin Brockovich is not a lawyer. She just plays (close to one) in the movies. In 2000, the woman who calls herself a “consumer advocate” gained worldwide recognition when Julia Roberts decided to throw on a tank top and assume the role of the tough-talking legal clerk who helped bring justice ($333 million worth) to a tiny town in California whose residents were being poisoned by their own drinking water. For her work on the case, Brockovich received a $2 million bonus; for her role as Brockovich, Roberts received an Oscar.

While Steven Soderbergh had originally risen to prominence in 1989, when he came out of nowhere as a leading member of the new wave of American independent moviemakers with Sex, Lies, and Videotape, the year of Brockovich represented an important turning point in his career—one that would allow him to more easily adapt the John Cassavetes “one for me, one for them” model of moviemaking. Soderbergh’s masterful direction, coupled with his indie sensibility, heralded a new breed of filmmaker. While he was honored with a Best Director Oscar nomination for his work on the film, he lost out to, well, Steven Soderbergh. Traffic, Soderbergh’s epic tale of America’s war on drugs, was released just in time for Oscar considering, on December 27th, and is the film that won the director his first—and so far only—Oscar.