Winona Ryder has a knack of making every role seem as if it were written especially for her. But this is not the case; with her unusual and melodious voice and unending capacity for expression, she just happens to be made from talent.
10. The Age Of Innocence (Scorsese, 1993)
Ms Ryder is surprisingly conventional and naive as May in Edith Wharton’s tale of 19th century New York society, hence its presence on this list but bringing up the rear at number 10. For an actress who is in touch with her inner goth and general wackiness, this part must have been a challenge, but she rises to it admirably. Picture perfect and with an engaging smile to match, she adorns every one of her scenes with natural loveliness, which is just as well, seeing as her character is not blessed with the best lines.
9. Night On Earth (Jarmusch, 1991)
With her shiny hair and carefully placed streak of oil on her cheek, Winona Ryder looks far too delectable as Corky the cabbie. But she imparts a sort of weariness, in keeping with her character which is of someone who has found herself driving cabs in L.A. en route to fulfilling her dream. Again, a fairly mundane role for a young Winona, but all the more testing because of it. Hats off to her for setting aside her huge talent and being suitably understated as the cabbie who plays a part for her customers.
See Also: Top 10 Films Set Over One Night
8. Little Women (Armstrong, 1994)
There is a hint of Esther (Judy Garland) from Meet Me in St Louis about Winona Ryder’s performance as Jo in this movie. But then, the whole movie is reminiscent of the popular MGM musical, in story and presentation. Ryder plays Jo as the charismatic centrepiece of the March family and emerges as the wild (by 1860s standards), creative daughter from whom you expect the unexpected. With apple-pie niceness you can almost smell baking, you want the best for her; but Ryder manages to sneak in a little petulance, lest you get a sugar-rush from her sweetness.
7. Girl, Interrupted (Mangold, 1999)
It’s always tough playing the straight guy, especially when you are required to work alongside the absolute antithesis of the straight guy. You would expect Ryder’s character, Susannah, to be the crazy sociopath, as she is the main protagonist, but that part went to the supporting role of Lisa. Set in a mental health institution in the 1960s, this is a true reflection of one woman’s experiences and the credibility Ryder imparts to the role of a girl who has temporarily lost her way earns her a place in the top 10.
6. Edward Scissorhands (Burton, 1990)
Few could fail to be enchanted by this gothic fairytale and Ryder has the pleasure of playing the part of the unofficial princess, Kim, which she does to royal perfection. She succumbs to true love during a moment that can only be described as an epiphany, when she catches sight of the unique Edward Scissorhands on TV. The unwavering gaze she affords Edward through the screen is nothing short of magical and for romantic value she scores a clear 10/10, along with her carefree dance in the snow whilst Edward carves an ice-statue.
See Also: Top 10 Bizarre Suburban Films
5. The Crucible (Hytner, 1996)
Ryder is rarely the bad guy and so her portrayal of the cheating, lying and spiteful Abigail in this true story of the Salem witch trials, earns her performance a secure place on this list. With many a close-angle lens practically touching her nose, there is no rest for Ryder, clearly manifested in the full range of facial expressions she uses, from seduction, to mock horror and scorn. With a tendency to collect either alternative or magnanimous roles, this role is proof of her incredibly wide-ranging talent.
4. Beetlejuice (Burton, 1988)
The role of Lydia in Beetlejuice is quintessential Winona Ryder. Gothic, alternative and reflective, it is little wonder that she can see the ghosts in her house that others cannot. Only a teenager at the time of the movie’s release, she plays the part so beautifully that one imagines the young Winona was a rather atypical teenager herself in many respects.
“I, myself, am strange and unusual …” she states to the resident spirits in her parents’ newly acquired mansion, with the look of a child, yet the natural ease of someone more mature in years.
See Also: Top 10 Tim Burton Characters
3. Heathers (Lehmann, 1988)
Directors do well to give Winona Ryder a diary-writing facet to her roles. She does ‘thoughtful and reflective’ well; and she has one of the most listenable voices for narration ever. As Veronica in Heathers, she keeps a diary which she scribbles in a highly-strung state of teenage anxiety, giving rise to some quotable lines, delivered with memorable melodrama, such as: “My teen angst bullshit has a body count,” and “Are we going to Hell or prom?” A great satire on high school dynamics, make this the Winona Ryder movie you watch.
See Also: Top 10 American High School Films From The 1980s Excluding John Hughes | Top 10 Teenage Rebellion Films
2. Reality Bites (Stiller, 1994)
Although Ryder does ‘quirky’ brilliantly, this rather regular role is one of her finest performances. I guarantee that you will struggle to top this naturalness in an actor elsewhere. Playing a post-uni twenty-something trying to make her mark, Ryder plays the nice, normal, funny and sometimes lazy Lelaina, who does not always make good choices. In short, she is very real and I doubt that there isn’t at least one part of her persona to which you cannot relate. Filming must be a breeze where Ryder is the protagonist as her every expression tells a story.
See Also: Top 10 Spontaneous Dance Sequences In Film
1. Mermaids (Benjamin, 1990)
One of her earliest movies, Ryder shines as Charlotte, the adolescent teenage daughter of the flighty Mrs Flax, who spends her life running from her problems, taking Charlotte and her younger sister with her. Ryder gives a faultless performance as a child who thinks far too much and sets herself impossible standards, whilst trying to deal with surging hormones and a very unconventional homelife. The contrasts within her character are presented so clearly by Ryder: innocence and sexual awakening; desire for convention and quirkiness; maturity and childishness. A clear winner, all the more laudable given her youth.
Over to you: what are the best performances of Winona Ryder?