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.

Winona Ryder Getty Images H 2016
Chance Yeh/Getty Images
  1. 10


    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

    Show Me a Hero

    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

    Girl, Interrupted

    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

    Little Women

    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

    The Crucible

    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


    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

    Reality Bites

    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

    The Age of Innocence

    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

    Bram Stoker's Dracula

    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


    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.