Reese Witherspoon has undergone an interesting career trajectory. She started out as a teen actress, became a star with a run of romantic comedies, and then transitioned into Oscar-winning dramatic roles. She now seems to be cycling back to her comedy roots with this weekend’s Hot Pursuit, a buddy comedy about a by-the-book cop forced to go on the run with a drug dealer’s wife, played by Sofia Vergara. She’s also hosting SNL this weekend.
Despite her successes, though, Witherspoon is often unfairly dismissed (ah, the double-edged sword of being America’s Sweetheart), due to the presence of regrettable choices on her resume. As if all actors weren’t capable of picking a dud from time-to-time.
If you’re a fan of her’s, it’s likely that none of that matters, and you’re getting ready to enjoy this rare Weekend of Reese. Before you go see Hot Pursuit or tune in to watch SNL, be sure to add a few of these great streaming Reese Witherspoon movies to your queue.
The Man in the Moon (Amazon)
Witherspoon’s first acting role was in The Man in the Moon, a Southern coming of age film. Her winsome portrayal of Dani, a teenage girl growing up in the shadow of her popular older sister, is a must-see for anyone who has tasted the bittersweetness of first love.
Witherspoon stars in Pleasantville with Tobey Maguire, a film about two 1990s teenagers who end up stuck in a 1950s sitcom. As they bring their progressive sensibilities to the repressed world they find themselves in, color slowly bleeds back into a literally black and white world.
Cruel Intentions (Amazon)
If you were a girl who grew up in the ’90s, you definitely watched Cruel Intentions at a slumber party, and you definitely didn’t tell your mom about it. Witherspoon stars as the quintessential good girl who offers bad boy Ryan Phillippe a shot a redemption.
Alexander Payne’s Election is the first movie that gave the world a hint of “Oscar-Winner Reese Witherspoon.” Her take on ambitious go-getter Tracy Flick is iconic. Is she deranged? Is she a feminist hero? Can she be both?
Legally Blonde (Netflix)
With Legally Blonde, Witherspoon showed a different side of ambition. Elle Woods, a bubbly girly girl, follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School with only the intention of winning him back. However, she ends up excelling in her field, proving that you can care about Prada’s fall line and getting an A in torts class.
The Importance of Being Earnest (Netflix)
While she may usually have a thoroughly modern sensibility, Witherspoon is charming as the naive Cecily in this adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic play. While the film really belongs to Colin Firth and Rupert Everett, she proves that she can also be a valuable supporting player.
Sweet Home Alabama (Amazon)
Witherspoon has starred in a handful of romantic comedies, to mixed critical results. Sweet Home Alabama is definitely the most successful. She acquits herself well to the exaggerated Southern setting without going overboard, and she has palpable chemistry opposite Josh Lucas.
Walk the Line (Amazon)
June Carter Cash is an icon of American music, and Witherspoon’s ferocious portrayal of her in Walk the Line earned her Best Actress at the Academy Awards. Opposite Joaquin Phoenix’s Johnny Cash, the usually sweet Witherspoon brought real bite to the role, even doing all her own singing and learning how to play the auto-harp.
Witherspoon’s harrowing portrayal of Cheryl Strayed garnered her BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Academy Award nominations, and for good reason. She managed to completely shed her “good girl” image to convincingly show Strayed’s grief over losing her beloved mother and subsequent drug and sexual addiction. When Witherspoon pulls out her own toenail and fashioned a pair of boots out of duct tape, it was very clear that Elle Woods had left the building.