Critic's Picks: Winona Ryder's 10 Best Onscreen Performances

6:00 AM 7/15/2016

by Leslie Felperin

As Ryder makes a TV comeback in Netflix's 'Stranger Things,' a THR film critic picks the top films from the 44-year-old's rocky career.

Chance Yeh/Getty Images
  1. 10
    10

    Beetlejuice

    1988

    Warner Bros/Photofest

    In her first lead in a truly major motion picture, Ryder won the hearts of emo kids worldwide as a black-clad Goth teen with a drone of a voice and a killer way with line delivery, who becomes embroiled in ghostly shenanigans at her new home.

  2. 9
    10

    Show Me a Hero

    2015 (TV Series)

    Courtesy of HBO

    The Ryder Renaissance, kicked off by her turn as the ousted ballerina in Black Swan, gathered further steam with her storming turn in this HBO miniseries as an often-drunk New York politician embroiled in City Hall deadlock.

  3. 8
    10

    Girl, Interrupted

    1999

    Sony Pictures Entertainment/Photofest

    It’s a shame for Ryder that this mental-hospital-set psychodrama is now remembered mostly as an Angelina Jolie Oscar-rewarded showcase. Ryder is actually very good as the damaged Susanna Kaysen, who would go on to write the memoir on which this was based.

  4. 7
    10

    Little Women

    1994

    Columbia Pictures/Photofest

    Ryder played novelist Louisa May Alcott’s fictional avatar feisty Jo, the sister with literary ambitions, in this sprightly, faithful adaptation from Gillian Armstrong. It offers a chance to appreciate how good Ryder (nominated for a best actress Oscar) is particularly when working with a strong female ensemble (Trini Alvarado, Claire Danes and Kirsten Dunst as her sisters and Susan Sarandon as beloved "Marmee").

  5. 6
    10

    The Crucible

    1996

    20th Century-Fox/Photofest

    Ryder reteamed with Daniel Day-Lewis for this Nicholas Hytner-directed adaptation of Arthur Miller’s withering study of mass hysteria and guilt. Although it was Day-Lewis and Joan Allen who got the most attention, Ryder is quite their equal as the vengeful, petulant Abigail Williams.

  6. 5
    10

    Experimenter

    2015

    Magnolia Pictures/Photofest

    As the wife of controversial 1960s social psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard), who tested people's disturbing capacity for obedience, Ryder delivers a flinty, unsentimental supporting turn.

  7. 4
    10

    Reality Bites

    1994

    Universal Pictures/Photofest

    Ryder's natural grunge-cool made her a perfect fit for this witty look at Gen X anomie, in which her character must choose between Ben Stiller's yupster television exec and Ethan Hawke's moody guitarist.

  8. 3
    10

    The Age of Innocence

    1993

    Columbia Pictures/Photofest

    Ryder's turn in Martin Scorsese's Edith Wharton adaptation, as the scheming debutante Daniel Day-Lewis' high-society New Yorker is supposed to marry (before he falls for Michelle Pfeiffer's divorcee), demonstrated her great range.

  9. 2
    10

    Bram Stoker's Dracula

    1992

    Columbia/Tristar

    Playing both the Victorian Mina and the medieval Elisabeta — the eternal loves of Gary Oldman's Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola's camp-goth extravaganza — Ryder is enchanting, the type of girl one would risk damnation for.

  10. 1
    10

    Heathers

    1989

    New World Pictures/Photofest

    Ryder's popular girl pairs with Christian Slater's enigmatic new kid for murderous mischief in Michael Lehmann's pitch-black teen-com. It's the actress' most "Winonic" performance: cult, kooky and smarter than it looks.

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