After several small roles, Lynch was cast in her breakthrough role in the feature film Cocktail (1988). In 1989, Lynch starred opposite Patrick Swayze in the action film Road House and was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead for her performance in the crime drama Drugstore Cowboy, directed by Gus Van Sant. She was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for The Beans of Egypt, Maine (1994). She turned down the role of Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct (1992). Lynch later had leading roles in a number of independent movies and co-starred in several Hollywood feature films, including Desperate Hours (1990), Curly Sue (1991), Three of Hearts (1993), Imaginary Crimes (1994), Virtuosity (1995), Heaven's Prisoners (1996), Mr. Magoo (1997), and Homegrown (1998). In the 2000s, Lynch has had supporting roles in the films Charlie's Angels (2000), Joe Somebody (2001), and The Jacket (2005).