Born as Winona Laura Horowitz on October 29, 1971 in Winona, Minnesota Winona Ryder would begin her acting career in 1986 in the film Lucas and would continue to find success throughout her almost 35 year career. She is currently best known for her role on Netflix’s Stranger Things which is a key role to her being back in the spotlight but this list will be about her films only. The actress turned 48 yesterday so I thought it the perfect time to take a look at some of her key roles that have made Winona Ryder a household name. Winona Ryder has won a Golden Globe Award and has been nominated for numerous other awards throughout the years.
In 1986 Winona Ryder would star in her first film Lucas, playing Rina , who is friends with Lucas, played by Corey Haim. The film depicts the struggles of a young man trying to fit in and trying to win the heart and respect of the girl he has a crush on and also starred Charlie Sheen and Jeremy Piven. Although the film was not a huge commercial success, only grossing $8.6 million it does have a bit of a cult following and is responsible for kickstarting Winona Ryder’s career.
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Released in 1988 the Tim Burton film Beetlejuice become an almost instant classic and where Lucas was responsible for getting Winona Ryder noticed it was Beetlejuice that really put her on the map and ensure we’d see her on screen for years to come. The film is a horror-comedy focusing on a deceased couple and their attempts to navigate the afterlife with help from a goofy and twisted deceased man named Beetlejuice. The film also starred Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis. The film was a commercial success grossing over $73 million and it won multiple awards including an Academy Award for Best Makeup.
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Released in 1989 was the Dark Comedy Heathers in which Ryder played Veronica Sawyer. The film revolves around a group of four female high school friends who are the “cool” girls at school , three of who are named Heather. The film also stars Christian Slater and Shannen Doherty and was not a great success at release but later gained a huge cult following and won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature Film. The film has since been adapted into a television series and a musical.
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Great Balls of Fire
Also released in 1989 was the film Great Balls of Fire which was a biographical film about the life of Rock and Roll great Jerry Lee Lewis. Winona Ryder would play Myra Gale Lewis the 13 year old cousin that Jerry Lee Lewis married , the marriage is credited with being the downfall of his career. The movie also starred Dennis Quaid, Alec Baldwin and Jerry Lee Lewis himself who performed the music for the movie.
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Released in 1990 Edward Scissorhands would be Winona Ryder’s second time starring in a Tim Burton film, this time alongside Johnny Depp. The movie is about a strange young man who, you guessed it, has scissors for hands and explores the struggles he endures trying to fit in with “normal” people. Also starring Anthony Michael Hall, Dianne Wiest and Alan Arkin the film was a financial success and was nominated for many awards and Winona Ryder won a Young Artist Award for Best Young Artist Starring in a Motion Picture.
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Released at the end of 1990 the film Mermaids would put Ryder in the role of Charlotte Flax, a Quirky 15-year-old girl who is trying to maneuver through all the obstacles that come along with moving to a new town with your eccentric mother. The movie also stars Cher, Christina Ricci and Bob Hoskins. The film was not a huge success, only grossing $35 million at the box office but has since found a good amount of fans that simply adore the film.
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Bram Stoker’s Dracula
In 1992 Winona Ryder would star in the film Bram Stoker’s Dracula as Mina Murray. The film is based on the Novel by Bram Stoker and was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and also starred Keanu Reeves, Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins. The movie was tremendously successful , grossing $215 million at the box office and receiving numerous nominations for awards and won 3 Academy Awards including one for Best Makeup.
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Released in 1994 the Romantic Comedy-Drama Reality Bites portrays the life and struggles of a group of Generation X friends and was a super relatable movie. Winona Ryder played Lelaina Pierce who is making a documentary on the same subject as the movie she is starring in. The film found decent success at release grossing over $33 million at the box office and has since garnered a cult following. The movie also stars Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Ethan Hawke and Swoosie Kurtz and was nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss.
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Released in 1994 Little Women was based on the novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott and focuses on four sisters growing up around the time of the American Civil War and depicts some of the struggles women had in those times. Also starring Gabriel Byrne, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Christian Bale and Susan Sarandon it’s no surprise the film was successful, grossing over $50 million at the box office and was nominated for 3 Academy Awards including one for best actress for Ryder’s role.
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Released in 1997 Alien Resurrection would be the fourth movie in the Alien franchise and has Winona Ryder in a pivotal role. The film also starred Sigourney Weaver and Ron Perlman and grossed over $160 million at the box office. although not the most successful of the Alien movies it was and still is a role I remember Winona Ryder in fondly.
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Released in 1999 Girl, Interrupted is a psychological drama based on the memoir by Susanna Kaysen and portrays what it’s like for a group of young women to live in a mental institute, Ryder’s character being one of them and attempts to break down some of the stigma attached to mental illness. Also starring Angelina Jolie, Brittany Murphy, Jared Leto and Whoopi Goldberg the film was wildly successful and multiple awards including an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for angelina Jolie’s role.
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In 2002 Winona Ryder would star in the comedy Mr. Deeds alongside Adam Sandler, who was at the peak of his career at the time. The movie explores what it would be like to be an average guy that suddenly inherits billions and even though I’m not the biggest Sandler fan I do enjoy this movie quite a lot. Also starring John Turturro and Peter Gallagher. The film was a critical failure even receiving a couple of Razzie Awards but it did great at the box office grossing over $126 million in the USA alone.
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A Scanner Darkly
Released in 2006 A Scanner Darkly was based on the novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick and explores a dystopian future where drug addiction and constant government surveillance are all too real. It has a very unique visual style which people either loved or totally hated at the time of release. Aside from Winona Ryder the film also stars Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson and although it was a critical and commercial failure it was unique enough to be memorable this many years later.
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Released in 2010 Black Swan would see Winona Ryder in the role of a retiring ballerina who is being replaced by two competing younger ballerinas. Directed by Darren Aronofsky the film has a unique dark style and feel to it and was very critically and commercially successful. The movie also stars Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Vincent Cassel and grossed over $329 at the box office and won an Academy Award for Natalie Portman’s performance.
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Winona Ryder would star in a handful of movies after this one but none of them quite had the success she was used to throughout her career, she would make a huge comeback but not in film , this time it would be on television on the Netflix series Stranger Things she is still currently starring in and set to be in the next season.
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