6 of Our Favorite “Bad” Girls Played by Reese Witherspoon
by Jennifer Lafferty
Although actress Reese Witherspoon’s specialty seems to be “good girl” characters, the Oscar-winner has convincingly played her share of villains and antiheroes as well. Interestingly, it was her memorable role in the 1999 dark comedy Election that launched Witherspoon into stardom. While some of these characters are conniving and unscrupulous, others are just very flawed—like Juniper from Mud and Cheryl from Wild. Here are Reese Witherspoon’s top six bad girls.
Reese Witherspoon is probably best known for playing it nice on-screen, but the actress is certainly not all sugar, no spice. Witherspoon has played her fair share of selfish, cunning, arrogant, and drug-addled characters as well. And, to be honest, they’re some of our favorite characters. Here are six of our favorite “spicy” characters played by Reese Witherspoon.
1. Vanity Fair
In 2004 Reese Witherspoon portrayed the cunning opportunist Becky Sharp in a big screen adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic novel Vanity Fair, costarring Gabriel Byrne. She turned in an impressive performance as an initially poverty-stricken girl who schemes her way up the social ladder in early-19th-century London.
This critically acclaimed 2013 drama, set in small-town Arkansas, stars Matthew McConaughey, who plays the title character, a fugitive on the run from vigilantes. Witherspoon plays the wayward Juniper, Mud’s long-lost true love. Although she is significantly flawed, her vulnerability and Mud’s admiration for her make Juniper a sympathetic character.
Witherspoon plays to perfection the despicable and conniving high school overachiever Tracy Flick, who will stop at nothing to become student body president in this popular dark comedy from 1999. She stars opposite Matthew Broderick, portraying Tracy’s bitter adversary, teacher Jim McAllister, who is determined to take her down.
4. Sweet Home Alabama
This 2002 romantic comedy stars Witherspoon as successful but arrogant New York fashion designer Melanie Smooter, who has nothing but contempt for the small Southern town where she grew up. Melanie’s life appears to be a dream come true, but when she is forced to travel back to Alabama to finalize a divorce with her long-estranged husband Jake (Josh Lucas) before she can marry her fiance Andrew (Patrick Dempsey), she begins to reevaluate her priorities.
Witherspoon received an Oscar nomination for her performance in the 2014 drama Wild. In this compelling film, based on Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir, she stars as Cheryl, a young woman who plunges into a self-destructive life full of drugs and promiscuity following her mother’s devastating death. Cheryl eventually attempts to rehabilitate herself with an ambitious 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.
Reese Witherspoon plays a victimized juvenile delinquent in the 1996 crime satire Freeway. Her character, the jaded 15-year-old Vanessa Lutz, fits in with the criminal world she inhabits. The audience is on her side as she tries to escape the clutches of a serial killer played by Kiefer Sutherland in this unusual movie, which could be described as a strange cross between Little Red Riding Hood and Pulp Fiction.