From the hilarious to the heartbreaking, these are some of the performances that helped Witherspoon become one of the most beloved actresses of her time.
(Warning: Some videos contain explicit language)
Legally Blonde: Warner breaks up with Elle
Never before has a devastated woman crying in public been so hilarious. The actress pulled it off as Warner (Matthew Davis) tells Elle (Witherspoon) she’s too much of a “Marilyn” to get the engagement ring she expected.
Walk the Line: Johnny proposes to June
In her Oscar-winning role as June Carter Cash, Witherspoon expertly evoked the star’s complicated combination of unwavering strength and her deep love for Johnny Cash. The actress’ intricate portrayal of June is on full display when Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) begs her to accept his marriage proposal onstage.
Election: Tracy Flick amps up her campaign
Witherspoon was nothing short of mesmerizing as the win-at-all-costs Ohama high schooler. We couldn’t help but root for her even at her most devious, and the moment she confronts Paul (Chris Klein) about running against her for student body president is a perfect example of her unique ability to channel lovable rage.
Freeway: Vanessa goes to court
Witherspoon went all in as the daring, vulgar teenager in this 1996 take on the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale. Here, her courtroom antics are equal parts disturbing and hilarious.
Cruel Intentions: Sebastian breaks up with Annette
It’s hard not to feel Annette’s pain as Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) completely betrays her. The actress even improvised the slap and director Roger Kumble liked it so much that he kept it in the movie.
Wild: Cheryl goes to therapy
As Cheryl speaks to a counselor, we see a blunt, unapologetically self-destructive side of Witherspoon that we rarely encounter on-screen.
The Man in the Moon: Dani’s first kiss
Witherspoon made her professional film debut in the 1991 coming-of-age drama. The sweet first kiss moment with Court (Jason London) is proof the actress is just as apt at playing the ingénue as she is suited for the meatier roles she took on years later.
Legally Blonde: The bend and snap
Sixteen years later and reenacting this is as fun as ever.