From classic titles like the Tori Spelling-starrer Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? to an abnormally vast collection of Christmas movies starring Dean Cain, pop culture (and movie punch lines) wouldn't be the same without the hundreds of Lifetime Movies we have come to know and love. Though the made-for-TV movies originally ran on the regular Lifetime channel, on June 29, 1998, the network gave these so-bad-they're-good films their very own platform with the launch of the Lifetime Movie Network, or LMN (which today goes by the truncated Lifetime Movies moniker).
To celebrate 20 years of bad-ass women getting revenge and real-life crime stories being played out in semi-fictional—and often overly dramatic—ways, we're paying tribute to 15 celebrities who've lent their acting talents to Lifetime movies.
1. AND 2. WILL FERRELL AND KRISTEN WIIG
The timing couldn’t have been more appropriate, or suspicious: On April 1, 2015, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig had secretly filmed a Lifetime movie. “This is no April Fools’ joke,” the story began, then went on to explain that the movie, titled A Deadly Adoption, would see Ferrell and Wiig playing a well-to-do couple who open their home to a pregnant young woman “with the hopes of adopting her unborn child—then things quickly go awry .”
Just as quickly as the news made headlines, Entertainment Weekly issued its own exclusive that because the “top secret” project had leaked, they were now killing it entirely ... which was followed by another “exclusive,” this time from The Wrap, that Ferrell’s denial was likely just a ploy. That final report turned out to be correct; in June of the same year, audiences got to sink their teeth into the slightly tongue-in-cheek adoption drama.
3. ROB LOWE
Rob Lowe has clearly caught the Lifetime bug. After taking on the title role in 2012’s Drew Peterson: Untouchable—about the Chicago police officer accused of killing one wife and making a second one disappear—he returned a year later to play Florida prosecutor Jeff Ashton in Prosecuting Casey Anthony. In January, Lowe returned to the estrogen-charged channel to play Miami playboy—and heir to the Fontainebleau hotel fortune—Ben Novack, Jr., who was brutally murdered (along with his mother) at the behest of his wealth-seeking wife (a former stripper). What would Sam Seaborn say?
4. KALEY CUOCO
Speaking of Drew Peterson: that wife he made disappear? That would be Stacy Peterson, who was portrayed by The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco in the 2012 movie.
5. REESE WITHERSPOON
In 1991, the same year that Reese Witherspoon made her big-screen debut in The Man in the Moon, the future Oscar-winner—then all of 15 years old—starred alongside fellow future Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette in Diane Keaton’s feature directorial debut, Wildflower, about a youngster (Witherspoon) who befriends an abused and partially deaf girl (Arquette).
6. HILARY SWANK
In between The Next Karate Kid and Beverly Hills, 90210, Hilary Swank logged some time on the set of 1997’s Dying to Belong. Swank plays an aspiring sorority sister who is haunted by a Hell Week hazing that ends in the death of her friend. Though it’s ruled a suicide, Swank isn’t buying it and is determined to find the truth (regardless of whether anyone believes her). Three years later, Swank won an Oscar. (Five years after that, she won a second Oscar.)
7. ZAC EFRON
Mary-Louise Parker is a single mother to twin sons who’ve been diagnosed with autism in 2004’s Miracle Run (The Unexpected Journey), which is based on a true story. Zac Efron plays one of those sons, whose dreams are championed by his mom. (Cue the waterworks.)
8. KIRSTEN DUNST
Before there was 16 & Pregnant, there was Fifteen and Pregnant, a 1998 Lifetime movie in which the cute little bloodsucker from Interview with the Vampire gets pregnant, much to the embarrassment of her family. But over the next nine months, what began as a fracture turns into a bond. Who’s ready for a group hug?
9. MARCIA GAY HARDEN
Marcia Gay Harden has never let a little thing like an Oscar win stand in her way when it comes to saying “yes” to a Lifetime movie. She’s one of the channel’s most beloved veterans, working on both true crime biopics like 2011’s Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy and somewhat campier entries like 2004’s She’s Too Young, about a mom who discovers her seemingly perfect daughter is getting up to all sorts of sexual shenanigans with her friends.
10. HAYDEN PANETTIERE
Playing the titular role in Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy—and Marcia Gay Harden’s daughter—is former Heroes star Hayden Panettiere, who herself is a Lifetime movie vet. In 1999, she starred in If You Believe, playing the Christmas-loving inner-spirit of a frazzled book editor in this Lifetime play on A Christmas Carol.
11. KRISTEN BELL
In 2004—the same year that Veronica Mars debuted—Kristen Bell nabbed the title role in Gracie’s Choice, about a teenage girl who becomes a surrogate parent to her four younger siblings when their drug addict mom is carted off to jail.
12. KERI RUSSELL
Two years before her star-making turn in Felicity, Keri Russell dug her nails into the role of a teenage Lolita in 1996’s The Babysitter’s Seduction. The title may sound self-explanatory, but there’s even more to it: Yes, the babysitter gets seduced. But she also gets embroiled in a murder investigation.
13. KIM BASINGER
In 2006, nearly a decade after winning an Oscar for L.A. Confidential, Kim Basinger starred in The Mermaid Chair, Lifetime’s adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s novel about a wife who finds herself falling in love with a Benedictine monk.
14. CHRISTINA HENDRICKS
Four years before she became Mad Men’s resident bombshell Joan Holloway, Christina Hendricks starred in Hunger Point, a 2003 movie about a weight-obsessed family (with Hendricks stuck in the middle).
15. CHRISTINA RICCI
Like The Client List before it, Lifetime’s 2014 movie Lizzie Borden Took an Ax, starring Christina Ricci as the famously homicidal young woman of the title, proved popular enough with audiences to be turned into a series, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles.