Rachael Leigh Cook Movies and TV Shows: From '90s Teen Queen to Hallmark Star

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In the late '90s and early '00s, Rachael Leigh Cook was the reigning teen movie queen. The petite, doe-eyed star, who rose to prominence with the 1999 movie She's All That, projected a warm, girl-next-door energy, and decades after she first hit the screen, she's as charming as ever in her Hallmark and Netflix rom-com roles. Here's a look back at the Rachael Leigh Cook movies and TV shows that made her the girl we all wanted to be BFFs with, and an update on what she's been up to lately.

Rachael Leigh Cook's early days

Rachael Leigh Cook got her start as a child model, and appeared in Target catalogs and packaging for Milk-Bone dog biscuits. In 1995, at 16, she made her film debut as Mary Anne in the movie version of The Baby-Sitters Club and played Becky Thatcher in Tom and Huck, a live-action Disney adaptation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. She also appeared in movies like Carpool, The House of Yes, All I Wanna Do and Living Out Loud. She then became a ubiquitous TV presence in 1997 with her role in the infamous "This Is Your Brain on Drugs" PSA.

Rachael Leigh Cook in 1997
Rachael Leigh Cook in 1997
Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty

Rachael Leigh Cook movies and TV shows

By the late '90s, Cook was poised for teen movie stardom with her role in She's All That. She played Laney Boggs, a girl who becomes the subject of a popular guy's (Freddie Prinze Jr.) bet that he can take any girl from social outcast to queen bee, in a very of-the-time reimagining of the old Pygmalion/My Fair Lady story.

Related: Best 90s Teen Movies, Ranked: Throwbacks Sure To Make You Laugh, Cry and Swoon!

Left to right: Clea Du Vall, Rachael Leigh Cook and Tamara Mello in 'She's All That,' 1999
Left to right: Clea Du Vall, Rachael Leigh Cook (pre-makeover) and Tamara Mello in She's All That (1999)
Ronald Siemoneit/Sygma/Sygma via Getty

In classic teen movie fashion, the audience is supposed to believe that the adorable actress is an undesirable nerd simply because her character wears glasses and likes to paint, but implausible as its plot may have been, the film was a huge hit and catapulted Cook to the A-list.

Rachael Leigh Cook in 'She's All That,' 1999
Rachael Leigh Cook (post-makeover) in She's All That (1999)
Ronald Siemoneit/Sygma/Sygma via Getty

After She's All That, Cook had a three-episode run on Dawson's Creek and appeared in a string of movies that weren't as well-received, including an action remake (Get Carter), a cyber-thriller (Antitrust), a rom-com (Blow Dry) and a Western (Texas Rangers).

In 2001, she starred as Josie in the live-action adaptation of the comic Josie and the Pussycats. While Josie and the Pussycats didn't do well at the box office, it's developed a cult following among millennial women thanks to its over-the-top satire, campy aesthetic, poppy soundtrack and charming cast (which also included fellow early-'00s teen queens Tara Reid and Rosario Dawson).

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Tara Reid, Rachael Leigh Cook and Rosario Dawson in publicity portrait for the film 'Josie And The Pussycats', 2001
Left to right: Tara Reid, Rachael Leigh Cook and Rosario Dawson in Josie And The Pussycats (2001)

"Movie jail" and TV

Because Josie and the Pussycats didn't reach as wide a teen audience as She's All That, Cook said she was put in "movie jail" and didn't get as many big projects as she hoped for following its release.

As she recalled, after Josie, "I was making close to three, sometimes four independent movies a year. So I didn't feel like I was any less busy, I just knew that the movies had smaller budgets. But it wasn't until the indie scene then began to shift and dry up even a little bit that I knew things were not in the very best place for me personally."

Rachael Leigh Cook in 2001
Rachael Leigh Cook in 2001
Jason Kirk/Newsmakers/Getty

Ultimately, Cook enjoyed her time in the indie scene, and found some of her more challenging roles rewarding. "I was feeling really creatively fulfilled," she said, "I was cast as a schizophrenic a couple of times, and a rape victim I think another three or four times. So I was doing things that felt challenging and that required me to dig deeper. Weird was my happy place."

Rachael Leigh Cook in 2002
Rachael Leigh Cook in 2002
Kurt Krieger/Corbis via Getty

As Cook embraced her weird side, her mid-'00s filmography filled up with smaller, artier movies and direct-to-video titles. Cook also found work in TV, with appearances in Las Vegas, Ghost Whisperer and Psych. From 2012 to 2015, she starred as FBI agent Kate Morretti in the crime procedural Perception.

Left to right: 'Perception' stars Eric McCormack, Kelly Rowan, Rachael Leigh Cook and Arjay Smith in 2012
Left to right: Perception stars Eric McCormack, Kelly Rowan, Rachael Leigh Cook and Arjay Smith in 2012
Jordan Strauss/WireImage/Getty

Rachael Leigh Cook's Hallmark renaissance

Like her '90s teen star contemporaries Lacey Chabert and Melissa Joan Hart, Rachael Leigh Cook has found a home on the Hallmark channel in recent years.

MUST-READ: Melissa Joan Hart Opens Up About Her Favorite Role, Learning to Say ‘No’ and the Cause Close to Her Heart (EXCLUSIVE)

In 2016, she made her Hallmark debut with Summer Love, playing a widowed mom who takes on an internship in the tech world. That same year, she also starred in Autumn in the Vineyard, an adaptation of the St. Helena Vineyard romance novel series by Marina Adair.

Cook's character, Frankie Baldwin, proved so popular that she came back in two more movies, Autumn in the Vineyard and Valentine in the Vineyard — turns out wine, romance and a lovably nostalgic actress makes for a winning combination!

Behind the scenes of 'Autumn in the Vineyard,' 2016
Rachael Leigh Cook behind the scenes of Autumn in the Vineyard (2016)

Of course, Cook has also starred in a number of delightful Hallmark Christmas movies, including A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas, Cross Country Christmas, 'Tis the Season To Be Merry and, most recently, Rescuing Christmas, a movie she described as "silly fun for the whole family."

'Rescuing Christmas,' 2023
Rachael Leigh Cook in Rescuing Christmas (2023)
©2023 Hallmark/Courtesy MarVista Entertainment

Cook has stepped into the producer role for many of her Hallmark movies, telling the New York Post, "I’m pretty nosy; I like to have my hands on things, and to be able to raise my voice, have it be heard and taken seriously."

While many actors who started out as teen stars struggled to find their footing in adulthood, Cook has found a niche for herself in the cozy world of Hallmark. As she described in an interview with The Independent, "The head space I happen to be in now is that I’m a lot more drawn to feel-good content... It feels good to dream a little.”

MUST-READ: Hallmark Heartthrobs! Our Top 15 Favorite Actors, Ranked

Cook in 'Love, Guaranteed,' 2020
Rachel Leigh Cook in Love, Guaranteed (2020) Rachael Leigh Cook Movies and TV Shows
Ricardo Hubbs/Netflix

Cook's feel-good roles can also be seen on Netflix, where she's starred in the frothy rom-coms Love, Guaranteed and A Tourist's Guide to Love. 25 years after her '90s teen movie streak, she's still a joy to watch, and she brings a welcome touch of her signature quirky sweetness to every role, whether she's playing a pop star, an FBI agent or a romantic leading lady.

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