A commercial success, the picture also garnered Thurman recognition and acclaim from critics and audiences; Malkovich said of her, "There is nothing twitchy teenager-ish about her, I haven’t met anyone like her at that age. The film was the first to receive an NC-17 rating and partly because many American newspapers refused to advertise films with the new rating, it did not get wide release in the United States. The New York Times wrote: "Thurman, as the Brooklyn-accented June, takes a larger-than-life character and makes her even bigger, though the performance is often as curious as it is commanding." In the 1991 British adventure Robin Hood, she played Maid Marian, the love interest of the titular character.The film was originally intended for a theatrical release in the US, but premiered as a television film for Fox network.She took little advantage of her new-found fame by choosing not to do any big-budget films for the next three years.1996 would see Thurman in two films, the first of which was the ensemble romantic comedy Beautiful Girls, alongside Mira Sorvino, Martha Plimpton, and Natalie Portman.
In the early 2000s, she starred in several independent films, such as Vatel (2000), Tape (2001), and Chelsea Walls (2001).
She obtained a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Best Sci-fi Actress and was also nominated for Favourite Movie Actress at the Kids' Choice Awards.
In 1998, she starred as a British secret agent in The Avengers, another financial and critical flop; CNN described her as "so distanced you feel like you’re watching her through the wrong end of a telescope." She took on the role of Fantine in Les Misérables, the 1998 film version of Victor Hugo's novel of the same name, directed by Bille August.
Several actresses were considered for the role, but Tarantino wanted Thurman after their first meeting.
For her performance, Thurman was nominated for the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and launched into the celebrity A-list.