Winona Ryder, The Comeback

Because so many of us grew up watching Winona Ryder's awesome run of movies in the late '80s and early '90s, it's felt as though she's been overdue a comeback for a while. Thanks to her appearance in Marc Jacobs’ Spring 2016 campaign and her lead role in award-winning Netflix series Stranger Things, the Winona revival finally started last year – even if you haven't watched it yet, you've surely seen tweets or Facebook statuses praising the show’s gripping story, its clever references to classic Steven Spielberg movies, and Ryder's fierce performance as the distraught mother of a 12-year-old boy who has mysteriously gone missing.

Now Winona has capped off her comeback in the most 2017 way possible: by becoming a meme. On Sunday night, her Stranger Things co-star David Harbour delivered a stirring speech at the SAG Awards, and Ryder, standing next to him, responded with a bewildering array of facial expressions that transfixed the internet. As she reacted with shock, confusion, affection, excitement, awe and something approaching sheer delight, Winona Ryder was all of us in these challenging and uncertain times.

With GIFs of her beautifully fluid face flooding our social feeds, it feels like the perfect time to look back at some of the actress's most memorable movie roles, from Heathers to Mermaids to Little Women. Combined, these performances surely make her one of the ultimate ‘90s icons.
1 of 10
Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
Beetlejuice (1988)

Tim Burton's raucous haunted house comedy was 16-year-old Winona Ryder's first big hit. She plays Lydia Deetz, a teenage girl whose dark dress sense and unexpected empathy with the movie's spooks makes her an enduring goth icon. It's not 100% official yet, but Ryder said last year that a sequel is on its way.
2 of 10
Photo: Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock.
Heathers (1989)

In what is probably her most iconic role, Ryder shines as conflicted teenager Veronica Sawyer, a supposed good girl whose romance with bad boy J.D. (Christian Slater) ends in disaster for the toxic clique she was briefly part of. Heathers was actually a box office flop at the time, but it's now rightly acknowledged as a cult classic and one of the great American high school movies.
3 of 10
Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Tim Burton cast Ryder again in his affecting gothic fantasy about an unfinished artificial man who has scissors for hands. She's suitably enchanting as Kim Boggs, the suburban teenager who catches the eye of Johnny Depp's title character, and soon begins to appreciate the inner sweetness in him that others overlook.
4 of 10
Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
Mermaids (1990)

Ryder, Cher and a young Christina Ricci make up one of the coolest movie families in this likeable comedy-drama set in 1960s New England. Mermaids is largely lighthearted, but the scene where Ryder's character enjoys a sexual awakening while her younger sister comes close to drowning remains powerful however many times you've seen it.
5 of 10
Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
Dracula (1992)

Her goth cred already established, Ryder was perfectly cast in Francis Ford Coppola's lavish adaptation of the classic Bram Stoker novel. She gives a typically stylish performance as Dracula's main victim Mina Harker, but it's hard not to wish the script had made her character a bit feistier (as it surely would if the film were being made today.)
6 of 10
Photo: Everett Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
The Age of Innocence (1993)

Ryder would earn her first Oscar nomination (and win a Golden Globe award) for her cleverly layered performance in Martin Scorsese's adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel. Bouncing off Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer, she captures the complexities of fresh-faced socialite May Welland beautifully, creating a character who's not nearly as naive as she initially seems.
7 of 10
Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
Little Women (1994)

Ryder also earned an Oscar nomination for her performance as Jo March, the self-proclaimed "man of the family while Papa's away", in this successful adaptation of the much-loved Louisa May Alcott novel. Playing a character who's sometimes described as a proto-feminist, Ryder supplies a smartly-judged balance of sweetness and stalwart grit.
8 of 10
Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
The Crucible (1996)

Despite positive reviews, this adaptation of Arthur Miller's play about the Salem witch trials didn't do very well at the box office at the time. That's a shame all-round, not least because the usually endearing Ryder gives a fantastic against-type performance as the witches' spiteful, self-righteous accuser Abigail Williams.
9 of 10
Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
Girl, Interrupted (1999)

Though this film is mainly remembered for Angelina Jolie's Oscar-winning breakthrough role as charismatic sociopath Lisa Rowe, Ryder's lead performance as Susanna Kaysen, a woman enduring an 18-month stay in a mental institution that she's convinced she doesn't need, is actually very underrated. Ryder also served as an executive producer on Girl, Interrupted, a still-gripping film that's well worth revisiting.
10 of 10
Photo: TM & copyright 20th Century Fox/REX.
Black Swan (2009)

It could be argued that casting Winona Ryder as a fading star ballerina surrendering her crown to Natalie Portman's talented upstart was a little cruel. But at the same time, Ryder's small but memorable role as Beth MacIntyre a.k.a. the 'Dying Swan' is her best screen work in a decade, and her grisly confrontation with Portman's character remains brilliantly intense.

More from Entertainment


R29 Original Series