50 years old Winona Ryder was only 15 when she made her debut in David Seltzer’s romantic dramedy Lucas (1986). It didn’t take long for Winona to establish herself as one of the most recognizable cinematic personalities of the 1980s and 1990s.
Ryder immediately gained a reputation for oddball, spooky movies, which fit with her Halloween birthday. She became somewhat of a muse for Tim Burton early in her career by appearing in his movies Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice. In the black teen comedy Heathers and Girl, Interrupted, she played a violent high school student and a patient in a mental institution, respectively, continuing this trend.
Then in the 90s, she developed a reputation as an indie darling. However, it might be an understatement to term her a “darling” given her captivating stage appearance. After surviving a brief career slump, the charismatic actress returned to the big screen with parts in celebrated films like Black Swan and The Iceman in the early 2000s.
She is presently garnering prominence for her starring role as Joyce Byers in Netflix’s Stranger Things which is proceeding in its fourth season. To acknowledge her grand comeback and past masterpieces, we list the top 10 movies from her filmography.
In addition to being one of the most well-known fictional characters ever created, Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice appeared in one of the 1980s’ most influential films. In Burton’s horror/comedy, Adam and Barbara, a deceased couple, use the help of bio-exorcist Betelguise to frighten away a new couple that has moved into their former home.
Winona Ryder’s portrayal of Lydia in Beetlejuice is iconic. It’s not surprising that she can see the ghosts in her home when others cannot because she is gothic, alternative, and contemplative. She plays the part so flawlessly that one imagines the young Winona was a fairly unusual teenager in many ways, even though she was only a teenager when the movie was released.
In this 1992 Gothic horror film, directed by the renowned Francis Ford Coppola, the infamous vampire travels to England on a mission to seduce Jonathan Harker’s fiancée Mina Murray, whom he thinks to be the reincarnation of his late wife.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a box-office success and went on to win three Academy Awards. All thanks to the extra abilities of Gary Oldman as Count Dracula himself, Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, and Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker.
Ryder is captivating, the kind of girl for whom one would risk damnation. She plays both the medieval Elisabeta and the Victorian Mina, the perennial loves of Gary Oldman’s Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola’s camp-goth epic.
Edward Scissorhands- 1990
This Burton movie is one of the most sensitive and poignant fantasy movies of the 1990s. The story follows a young boy named Edward, who is falsely accused of conducting a crime. Yet, despite the character’s artificial scissors hands, Edward’s narrative is sympathetic and human.
Ryder plays Kim, the daughter of the suburban family that takes in Edward after the passing of his father. The two rapidly become close, and Edward develops feelings for Kim because of her generosity and kindness. Edward Scissorhands is regarded as one of Tim Burton’s most underappreciated movies, despite its engaging characters and heartfelt script.
Girl, Interrupted- 1999
Winona Ryder plays Susanna, the aimless adolescent brought to a psychiatric hospital following a purported suicide attempt in James Mangold’s Girl, Interrupted. The movie follows Susanna as she interacts with a group of problematic young women in the Claymoore Institution. As a result, her perspective on life is altered.
Ryder is paired with a talented group of actors in the movie, including Angelina Jolie, Clea DuVall, and Elizabeth Moss. Each actress can offer something fresh to the table and significantly impact the tale despite the fact that each role is incredibly distinct and different from the others.
Heathers is regarded by many viewers as one of the greatest teen comedies from the 1980s. In fact, the movie has amassed such a devoted following that it was transformed into a popular stage musical in 2010. Winona Ryder plays Veronica Sawyer in the original film, one of the most popular girls in high school until she begins murdering the popular kids with the assistance of her boyfriend.
The movie offers a really bold and daring story. Still, thanks to its engaging cast and distinctive storytelling style, it manages to pull it off. It’s a movie like any other, and Winona Ryder gives what could be her greatest-ever performance in it.
The Crucible- 1996
The historical drama The Crucible, released in 1996, is based on the play by Arthur Miller of the same name. It tells the story of some teenage girls who are accused of witchcraft after being found casting love charms in the woods. A fictitious Abigail Williams, played by Winona Ryder, was one of the first to accuse their neighbors unjustly of witchcraft in 1692, ultimately leading to the Salem witch trials.
The Crucible, which co-starred one of cinema’s best performers, Daniel Day-Lewis, didn’t do well at the box office but won recognition from critics for the stellar work of its talented protagonists.
The Age of Innocence- 1993
One of the most captivating and original love stories of the 1990s is Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence. It tells the touching tale of lawyer Newland Archer and his scandalous affair with Ellen Olenska, his wife’s cousin. Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder deliver outstanding performances, which help to bring the plot to life.
Ryder is the plotting debutante May, whom the hero was supposed to wed before falling for Ellen. This role must have been difficult for the actress because of her inner goth and general wackiness, yet she handles it wonderfully. She adorns every one of her parts with genuine beauty, which is fortunate given that her character doesn’t have the finest lines and is picture-perfect with a smile to match.
Mermaids, a film directed by Richard Benjamin, centers on a young adolescent named Charlotte who causes a major upheaval in her family when she develops feelings for an older guy. Despite its mature and unsettling themes, the movie nonetheless plays out as a wild comedy with plenty of classic moments and enormous laughs.
In Mermaids, Winona Ryder portrays Charlotte, the main character, while Cher plays her crazy mother. The two get along quite well and can completely nail the mother-daughter connection that the movie depends on.
Little Women- 1994
This adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel revolves around the lives of the March siblings as they develop and come to understand the challenges and complexities of womanhood. Winona Ryder portrays the heroine Jo March in the story. It’s a classic tale of romance and self-discovery that has been adapted numerous times. Still, Gillian Armstrong’s adaptation from 1994 is considered among the best.
Little Women tells this well-known narrative from a refreshingly unexpected perspective. It is filled with strong female characters and motivational quotations, making it one of the screen’s most significant stories ever adapted. Along with her compelling relationship with Christian Bale’s Laurie, Ryder’s portrayal as Jo is one of the movie’s greatest points.
Reality Bites- 1994
Reality Bites, a classic rom-com directed by Ben Stiller, follows a videographer as she starts to make a documentary about her friends, housemates, and herself. Ben Stiller and Ethan Hawke co-star alongside Ryder in the starring role, and each of the three actors have an equal opportunity to shine.
In terms of ’90s rom-com, Reality Bites has pretty much everything you’d anticipate: a straightforward but intriguing plot, endearing and charismatic actors, and lots of wonderful laughs throughout. Though occasionally trite and formulaic, this only enhances the nostalgic appeal of the film.