Like it or not, Ryan is unlikely to ever escape her most memorable cinematic moment - the simulated orgasm scene in 'When Harry Met Sally'. However, after a raft of similar light comedy roles to Sally Allbright, such as 'You've Got Mail' and 'Sleepless in Seattle', she's struck out in a new direction...
Born Margaret Mary Emily Ann Hyra, her casting agent mother introduced her to movies but she went on to study journalism at New York University. However, to earn extra money while working on her degree, she went into acting, using her new name Meg Ryan.
In 1981, she had her big screen debut in 'Rich and Famous' and proceeded to win a minor role in low-budget horror sequel 'Amityville 3-D'. At the same time, she began working in TV - as Betsy in the daytime television soap 'As the World Turns', and 'Wildslide' after she moved to LA in 1984. It was her part of Carole Bradshaw in the highly successful 'Top Gun', alongside Tom Cruise in 1986, that launched her career.
It led to a role in executive producer Steven Spielberg's sci-fi yarn 'Innerspace', where she co-starred with Dennis Quaid. They were married on Valentine's Day 1991, and in 1992 their son Jack was born. A series of roles in high-profile films including 'Promised Land' and 'DOA' followed, until she got the call to play Sally opposite Billy Crystal. Her effortless comedy performance led her to being nominated for both a Golden Globe and a BAFTA award.
Roles followed in 'Joe Versus the Volcano' and the biopic of legendary West Coast rock band 'The Doors' in 1991. She was nominated again for a Golden Globe for her performance in 'Sleepless in Seattle' and she followed this with 'Flesh and Bone' alongside her husband.
Ryan convinced as an alcoholic in 'When a Man Loves a Woman', with Andy Garcia, and starred in the Einstein spoof 'IQ' with Tim Robbins. The routine romantic comedy 'French Kiss' was followed by the period drama 'Restoration', adapted from Rose Tremain's novel. After the Gulf War drama 'Courage Under Fire' with Denzel Washington, she was back on familiar rom-com ground with 'Addicted to Love'.
In 1998, she starred opposite Nicolas Cage in the ill-advised remake of 'Wings of Desire', 'City of Angels', and provided the voice for the cartoon 'Anastasia'. Her next high-profile role was opposite Tom Hanks in 'You've Got Mail', for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe. Ryan starred alongside Lisa Kudrow and Diane Keaton as three sisters in 'Hanging Up', before appearing in Ridley Scott's thriller 'Proof of Life', which also landed her a Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination for Favorite Actress.
At this time, Ryan and Quaid announced they were to divorce, and she was seen dating Russell Crowe, after falling for him on the set of 'Proof Of Life'. Next up was the formulaic 'Kate & Leopold', before she engineered a major change of direction to star in Jane Campion's neo-noirish 'In The Cut'. The erotic thriller saw her portray the character of Frannie, a high school teacher and writer who begins an affair with co-star Mark Ruffalo's detective investigating a series of murders of young women in her neighbourhood.
She followed this with an entirely different character in 2004's 'Against the Ropes', a fictionalised account of North America's most famous female boxing promoter, Jackie Kallen. Ryan explored Kallen's struggle to survive and succeed in a male dominated sport in the film, which was panned by critics and was a commercial flop.
It took almost three years before she returned in 2007's 'In the Land of Women', which was followed by three releases in 2008. These included 'The Deal', 'My Mom's New Boyfriend' and 'The Women', which landed her something she may not entirely be proud of - a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress nomination.
Although 'Serious Moonlight' (2009) provided some redeeming grace, it failed to go down well with critics. Her latest role was in 'Serious Moonlight' in 2009.
She is currently dating singer John Mellencamp.