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12 Photos of Young Meg Ryan — See the ’90s Rom-Com Sweetheart in Her Early Days

We'll have what she's having!

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Born Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra in Fairfield, Connecticut, a young Meg Ryan didn’t know she would one day grow up to be one of the most famous faces in Hollywood.

While she’s known for her romantic charm and comedic chops today, Meg Ryan originally had other professional goals, and attended college at New York University to study journalism. It was during this time that she began acting in the popular soap As the World Turns, leading her to ditch her academic aspirations and pursue acting full time.

TV roles came and went after As the World Turns, as she appeared on series like Charles in Charge and Wildside, but it was her 1986 role as Goose’s wife in the blockbuster Top Gun that propelled her toward stardom.

MUST-READ: ‘Top Gun’ 1986 Cast Then and Now: See Maverick, Goose, Iceman and More!

Meg Ryan, 1987
Meg Ryan in 1987Bonnie Schiffman/Getty

By 1989, the floodgates opened for a career that would earn her “America’s sweetheart” status. That year gave us the classic rom-com When Harry Met Sally. Sleepless in Seattle followed suit in 1993. Later came You’ve Got Mail in 1998.

MUST-READ: The 10 Most Iconic Meg Ryan Rom-Com Movies, Ranked

Of course, her body of work expands far beyond these Nora Ephron classics, but their appeal to the masses is not lost on her.

I believe in comfort movies,” Ryan told Glamour in 2023. “In the movies I did with Nora, the characters lead separate lives, but whatever was happening, they were destined to find one another. There’s a comfort in the kismet and the idea of an inevitable connection. It’s a wonderland idea. It’s an enchanted idea.”

Meg Ryan, 1990
Meg Ryan in 1990Robin Platzer/IMAGES/Getty

Other movies in her repertoire we love to revisit include Prelude to a Kiss (1992), French Kiss (1995), I.Q. (1994) and more. Meg Ryan remains one of the most iconic names in Hollywood to this day, with recent works including What Happens Later (2023), which she also wrote and directed, but we can’t help but look back lovingly on the actress’ early days, when she became the embodiment of the perky and likable rom-com heroine.

Read on to check out fun photos of a young Meg Ryan!

Young Meg Ryan

1981: A big debut for young Meg Ryan

Meg Ryan and Candice Bergen, Rich and Famous, 1981
Meg Ryan and Candice Bergen in Rich and Famous (1981)Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

A young Meg made her film debut in 1981’s Rich and Famous, also starring Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen.

MUST READ: Jacqueline Bisset Looks Back On The Early Years of Her Six-Decade Career

1988: A Hollywood love affair

Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, 1988
Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid in D.O.A. (1988)Touchstone Pictures/Getty

Ryan and Dennis Quaid starred opposite one another in 1988’s D.O.A. The duo married in 1991, divorcing ten years later. They have a son, Jack Quaid, who is now an actor himself.

MUST-READ: Dennis Quaid Shares About His Album, Upcoming Projects and Faith in New TV Special: “There’s Blessings Coming Our Way!”

1989: Silver screen sweethearts

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally, 1989
Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally (1989) Hulton Archive/Getty

Ryan shines as Sally in When Harry Met Sally, the beloved 1989 classic exploring the eternal question of whether men and women can be ever be just friends. We’ll have what she’s having!

1990: Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are an on-screen match made in heaven

Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, Joe Versus the Volcano, 1990
Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)Warner Brothers/Getty

Joe Versus the Volcano pairs Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, two of the ultimate ’90s sweethearts, in a romantic adventure. Three years later, the duo would join forces once again in one of their most iconic films, Sleepless in Seattle.

MUST-READ: Tom Hanks Through the Years: 27 Rare Photos of the ‘Nicest Guy In Hollywood’

1995: Ryan goes to Paris

The actress in French Kiss, 1995
Ryan in French Kiss (1995)Etienne George/Sygma via Getty

The 1995 rom-com French Kiss puts Ryan en route to France to get back her fiance with an unlikely companion.

1993: Meg Ryan the “it” girl

The actress in 1993
Ryan in 1993 Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty

Ryan’s cute and casual style has always been on-point. Here, she’s cool as can be in a pair of black shades.

1994: Ryan looks radiant

Meg Ryan, 1994
Ryan in 1994Eric Robert/Sygma/Sygma via Getty

A young Ryan flashes her adorable smile in 1994.

1996: The starlet goes brunette

The actress in 1996
Ryan in Courage Under Fire (1996)Hulton Archive/Getty

Ryan swapped out her signature blonde locks for a brunette ‘do in the 1996 war drama Courage Under Fire.

1998: America’s sweetheart

The actress in City of Angels, 1998
Ryan in City of Angels (1998)Warner Bros. Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

Ryan starred opposite Nicolas Cage in the 1998 fantasy film City of Angels.

2000: Ryan and Russell

Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, Proof of Life, 2000
Ryan and Russell Crowe in Proof of Life (2000)Warner Brothers/Getty

Ryan hasn’t just been in rom-coms. In 2000, she starred opposite Russell Crowe in the thriller Proof of Life.

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