For more than two decades, Reese Witherspoon has been one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. She started off on the indie scene in the 90s, but it wasn’t long before she’d crossed over into making more mainstream Hollywood movies.
Since then, she has earned an Oscar, an Emmy, and her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In recent years, Witherspoon has started producing movies for other directors and stars, but the movies she’s best known for are still the ones she’s acted in (or, in some cases, lent her considerable vocal talents to). Which are her very best? Well, thanks to Rotten Tomatoes, we can find out! Let's take a look.
10 Sing (72%)
Written and directed by Garth Jennings, this all-star animated musical tells the story of some talking animals who take part in a singing competition. Reese Witherspoon is one of many A-listers to appear in the film’s star-studded cast. The others include Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Seth MacFarlane, and Taron Egerton.
The movie is nothing special, but it does have plenty of catchy songs. Sing was a huge box office success, grossing more than $600 million worldwide, and in a movie-going landscape where original stories are in direly short supply, it’s great to see one do so well.
9 Inherent Vice (73%)
Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and directed this adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as private eye Doc Sportello. Reese Witherspoon joins a large supporting cast that also includes Katherine Waterston and Josh Brolin.
The Coen brothers did a better job of putting an incompetent lead in a modern-day film noir when they made The Big Lebowski, but if you’ve seen The Big Lebowski one too many times and want to watch something different, Inherent Vice isn’t a bad consolation prize. Inherent Vice could’ve been funnier, but with Anderson at the helm, it’s undeniably well-crafted.
8 Monsters vs. Aliens (73%)
DreamWorks Animation has parodied a few obscure genres through the lens of a kids’ cartoon, from the mafia movie tropes lampooned in Shark Tale to the martial arts classics referenced by Kung Fu Panda. Monsters vs. Aliens is perhaps their best genre parody, tackling the monster-centric B-movies of the 1950s.
Reese Witherspoon stars as Susan Murphy, who is hit by a radioactive meteor on her wedding day and grows to 49 feet tall. She’s codenamed “Ginormica” and recruited by the government to join the team of monsters that they plan to use to counter the alien invaders that have arrived. It's a brilliant animated movie that deserves more attention.
7 Freeway (77%)
This neo-noir retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale stars Reese Witherspoon as a teenage runaway, while Kiefer Sutherland plays the school counselor who picks her up on her way to her grandma’s house. Writer-director Matthew Bright’s curious script for the movie takes the tropes and motifs of its fairy tale source material and transplants them into a modern urban setting.
If it doesn’t make for a masterpiece, it certainly makes for an entertaining movie. This wasn’t Witherspoon’s first movie, but it was the one that made her career.
6 Walk the Line (83%)
Reese Witherspoon fstarred as June Carter, the wife of Johnny Cash, in this Joaquin Phoenix-starring Cash biopic. She performed so well in the role that she earned herself an Academy Award for her troubles.
Walk the Line is a compelling, well-made biopic, its only failing being that it missed out huge chunks of Cash’s life. Still, as long as director James Mangold wanted to focus on Cash’s relationship with June Carter and he was confined by a two-hour runtime, that can be excused. Walk the Line is a heartfelt look at one of the music industry’s most troubled icons and his part in one of its most famous couples.
5 Pleasantville (85%)
Written and directed by Gary Ross, who would go on to helm The Hunger Games and Ocean’s 8, Pleasantville is one of the quirkiest little comedies ever made. Reese Witherspoon and Tobey Maguire star as twins who have little in common and find themselves trapped inside a 50s-era black-and-white TV show, set in a small Midwestern town where every resident seems to be perfect.
Maguire’s character is a fan of the show, so he’s in his element, but Witherspoon’s character is popular, vain, and couldn’t care less about an old TV show from the 50s. Pleasantville was like a precursor to the new Jumanji movies.
4 Wild (89%)
Adapted from the memoir of the same title, Wild stars Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed, a woman who has hardly any hiking experience, but attempts to hike 1,100 miles of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail anyway.
During the walk, which she does surprisingly well despite not really knowing what she’s doing, Cheryl reflects on her past. Laura Dern plays her mother, while Gaby Hoffmann plays her best friend in Minnesota, where she begins the trek. Both Witherspoon and Dern were nominated for Oscars for their performances in the film, though neither won.
3 The Man in the Moon (90%)
This was Reese Witherspoon’s first ever movie, and coincidentally, it also ended up being director Robert Mulligan’s last ever movie before his death. Mulligan is best-known for helming the Gregory Peck-starring film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird in the 60s, but The Man in the Moon is still a stellar late-career outing for the film-maker.
Witherspoon was just 14 years old when she made her screen debut in this film. Casting a child actor with no experience to star in the movie was a risk, but she knocked it out of the park.
2 Election (92%)
Alexander Payne helmed this dark comedy about a high school election. Reese Witherspoon plays an ambitious go-getter who’ll do whatever it takes to win. Matthew Broderick plays a mild-mannered teacher.
As other students start to run in the titular election and their relationships with one another become apparent, the film becomes as complex as the Tom Perrotta novel it was adapted from. Due to its storyline and dark sense of humor, Election didn’t make a huge splash at the box office, which is a shame because movies like this don’t come along often.
1 Mud (97%)
Matthew McConaughey is the true star of this independent drama from director Jeff Nichols. It’s a coming-of-age story about two teenage boys who hang out in a boat that got stuck in a tree. One day, they find the eponymous fugitive living in the boat, asking them to bring him food.
Reese Witherspoon has a supporting role, but she steals every scene she’s in. She plays Mud’s girlfriend, who is the reason he came to town and pitched up in the kids’ boat in the first place. Witherspoon relishes the role of a troubled soul trying to make her way in the world.