It’s hard to talk about Winona Ryder without waxing lyrical for literal days about how perfect she is while forging teenage suicide with Christian Slater in Heathers or embodying her strange and unusual self in Beetlejuice but alas, this is a list dedicated to the ’90s and thus I shall control myself.
Unless you’ve been hiding on the flip-side, a.k.a. The Upside Down, for the last month, you’ll know that Ms. Ryder is in the midst of a massive comeback. Despairingly, she’s been somewhat M.I.A. in the bizz since her run-in with the feds back in 2001 — which she refuses to talk about now but describes to Porter Magazine as hardly “the crime of the century!” — yet anyone who clocked her face in the trailer for Stranger Things earlier this summer was nothing short of stoked for her return. And it did not disappoint.
While some claim her portrayal of Joyce Byers, a mother plagued by her son’s disappearance and a ton of telepathic fairy lights, is somewhat OTT, I think her performance is a real return to form; after all, nobody can do off-kilter crazy quite like Ryder. While we know she’s potentially in line to star in the upcoming Beetlejuice 2 alongside Michael Keaton, we’re all hoping there’s more in the pipeline that’ll further highlight Ryder’s talent and help her shift the focus from her ’90s back catalogue.
That said though, we’re not there yet. And, as the woman is a true ’90s icon, we’ve decided to celebrate that fact with a reminder of her best roles of that decade. Starting with:
1. Edward Scissorhands — 1990
Who else starred? Johnny Depp, Dianne Wiest, Kathy Baker, Anthony Michael Hall
Character: Kim Boggs
In this early ’90s Tim Burton classic, Ryder stars as Kim, a stunning and popular suburban teenager who could see past the makeshift appendages of Edward — a robot with scissors for hands. Kim goes to great lengths to defend Edward from her misguided community, lying about his death so he can retreat to his mansion and live in peace.
Kim: “Hold me.” Edward: “I can’t.”
2. Mermaids — 1990
Who else starred? Cher, Bob Hoskins, Michael Schoeffling, Christina Ricci
Character: Charlotte Flax
The daughter to a flamboyant and exceedingly well dressed mother named Rachel, (of course, it’s Cher) Ryder plays a hormone-riddled teen brimming with lust, which is quite contrary to her obsession with Catholicism and nuns, despite being Jewish. As you might have guessed, the combo makes for a hilarious character.
“Oh, I’m going to hell for sure. Here he is, talking about his poor dead mother and I can’t help wishing his hands were unbuttoning my dress!”
3. Bram Stoker’s Dracula — 1992
Who else starred? Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Richard E. Grant
Character: Mina Murray / Elisabeta
Winona’s Mina/Elisabeta is probably* the best thing about Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but then again I could just be biased. Aside from her sumptuous selection of vampy gowns, some of which you can check out in the trailer below, Ryder’s performance is beyond melodramatic, pretty kinky and therefore fabulous.
“Don’t worry, I’ve had my fill of throats for this evening”
4. Reality Bites — 1994
Who else starred? Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn, Ben Stiller
Character: Lelaina Pierce
Like many graduates, Lelaina holds high expectations and soon finds out — yep, you guessed it — that reality sure does bite. Through the film’s hour and a half, you’re handed highs (both literally and figuratively) and lows, one AIDS crisis, one brief, dire dating spree with Ben Stiller and some pretty slammin’ outfits.
“I was really going to be somebody by the time I was 23.”
5. Little Women — 1994
Who else starred? Susan Sarandon, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Christian Bale
Character: Josephine March
A hotheaded bookworm with a heart of gold, Ryder’s character Jo is Little Woman‘s protagonist and second-eldest sister (out of four). She spends her days poring over novels, caring for her ill sibling Beth and complaining about being forced to wear long skirts — we are talking about post-Civil War America, after all. She uses slang wildly, writes and performs her self-penned plays and is never afraid to speak her mind. In other words, she’s brilliant.
“I go around turning down perfectly good marriage proposals!”
6. Girl, Interrupted — 1999
Who else starred? Angelina Jolie Pitt, Clea DuVall, Brittany Murphy, Elizabeth Moss, Jared Leto
Girl, Interrupted is told through the diary of Ryder’s Susanna, a young woman who finds herself committed to a psychiatric institution after necking a bottle of aspirin, followed by a bottle of vodka. She’s not disturbed, she’s just — to use one of her favorite words — ambivalent, and rather than playing ball to the wardens, Susanna finds herself sliding down a slippery slope with a sociopath named Lisa. Similarly to Stranger Things, this is a role where Ryder truly shows her ability to project mental states. All while pulling off a tidy ’60s crop.
“You know, taking us for ice creams in a blizzard… makes you wonder who the real whack jobs are.”
Are you a Winona Ryder fan?
Staff Writer at MP. Lover of bad puns, nostalgic feels and all things Winona.