Claire Danes' Greatest Roles You Forgot About

Photo: via Columbia Pictures
We've loved Claire Danes for a long time. Before Homeland, before cry-face, and before Vogue started amputating her limbs, we loved that girl and her wobbly chin. In anticipation of Danes' return to the small screen next week and the release of her new film As Cool As I Am, we've been doing some reminiscing.
Sure, you remember My So-Called Life, Romeo + Juliet, and all those roles that made her a fixture of your childhood-poster collection. But for every Angela Chase, there are a dozen other roles she played back in the day that you probably forgot about. In some cases, that's okay. (Yes, The Mod Squad was a travesty, but you made mistakes in college, too.) And, there are some roles we were psyched to revisit. Claire has been a Hollywood fixture since she was 14 years old, and in that time, we've watched her grow into one of the greatest living actresses and ugly criers on earth. Click through for our favorite picks, unsung gems, and the occasional flop, with this chronological guide to early Danes.
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Photo: via Columbia Pictures.
Little Women
At 14, Danes had us sobbing in the theater as the sweet, pale, sickly Beth. Without a drop of of saccharine, she pulled off this milquetoast role like a boss. When's the last time someone said that about Beth?
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Photo: via Universal Pictures.
How To Make An American Quilt
Despite the fact that this film starred many of her frequent cast mates (including Jared Leto Jordan Catalano!), Claire had just a blink-and-you'll-miss-it role in this film. But we'd know that chin anywhere.
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Photo: via Paramount Pictures.
Home For The Holidays
Finally allowed to take off her corset, Claire played the role of a contemporary teenager in Jodie Foster's directorial debut. A much overlooked film starring Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr., this black comedy will absolutely save your Thanksgiving.
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Photo: via Canal+.
I Love You, I Love You Not
Welcome to the flops! Play-to-film adaptations rarely go well, and this is no exception. It's really only acceptable when you're 14 and home sick from school. However, if you can get through it, you'll get a peak at not only a little Claire, but also young Jude Law, young Julia Stiles, and a pre-Dawson's Creek James Van Der Beek.
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Photo: via Triumph Films.
To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday
A slightly less sucky theater adaptation, To Gillian... features Danes as, get this, a thoughtful teenaged daughter! Obvious casting aside, she hits it out of the park as a subtle, sad kid. Be warned, if you Google this movie, you'll get 5,000 pictures of Claire's teenaged butt in a thong. No wait, come back!
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Photo: via 20th Century Fox.
William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet
You didn't forget this, we know. Let's just take a moment and enjoy the pretty. You're going to need it.
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Photo: via TriStar Pictures.
U Turn
Because here comes U Turn! In this little part, Claire mostly spends her screen time screeching at Joaquin Phoenix and trying to pull off an acid-washed miniskirt. Oliver Stone did, after all, write her recommendation to Yale, so we guess she owed him one.
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Photo: via Paramount Pictures.
The Rainmaker
Oof, talk about cry-face. If you'd like to spend a few hours watching a gloomy legal drama featuring Claire as a severely abused housewife (this shot is from the one-and-only scene she's not in a face bandage), then by all means. Have funsies with The Rainmaker.
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Photo: via Columbia Pictures.
Les Misérables
No no, not that one. We're talking about the '98 adaptation of the Les Mis source material that absolutely no one wanted to see. It's no singing and all misérables, so we can't imagine why this 1,000-hour-long drama wasn't a runaway hit. Still. Nice hat?
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Photo: via Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Polish Wedding
Claire makes a valiant effort to shake off her angel-face persona, playing a smoking, drinking, pregnant teenager in a traditional religious community. Oh, honey, it's going to take a lot more than a curling iron to pull that off.
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Photo: via MGM.
The Mod Squad
The less said about The Mod Squad, the better. NEXT.
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Photo: via 20th Century Fox.
Brokedown Palace
Don't act like you don't drop everything and watch this when it's on television every single weekend of your life. It is such a bummer, but also an irresistible lady-buddy movie. Claire's got a handle on badass now, not to mention a sick prison bob.
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Photo: via MGM.
Igby Goes Down
It's hard to overstate how much we love this movie, and Claire is a big part of that. She's a B-character at best, but her few scenes stop this film from leaning toward angsty teenage mope-fest. She's that gorgeous, edgy, kind-of-mean girl you fall in love with and never really stop loving. If there's an opposite of a manic-pixie-dream girl, Claire invented it here.
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Photo: via Paramount Pictures.
The Hours
Ah, the end of the teenage-era Danes. Both she and Hollywood were ready for her to grow up, but, boy, did she go out with a bang. Playing Meryl Streep's college-age daughter, she pops into this film like a bright spot of sunshine on a dark-and-gloomy day. That's what we love about Claire. Even when she's weeping, we could watch it all day.
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