For many, “Clueless” defined high school in the 90s. What separates the teen comedy from other 90s high school movies is Brittany Murphy, who plays Tai, the average-looking, overall-wearing 10th grader. She was the prototype of the Cady Heron (“Mean Girls”) character, the ordinary girl befriended by the popular girl who transforms both physically and emotionally to become the new “Queen Bee.” Directed by Amy Heckerling, “Clueless” marks the very beginning of Murphy’s career, showcasing her ability to be both sassy and slapstick. Check out the sass-factor on this one:
“Girl, Interrupted (1999)
“Girl, Interrupted” was a game changer for Murphy’s career — after having done mostly comedies at this point, her character Daisy showed us a new corner in the realm of her capabilities. Playing one of the many troubled patients at the Claymoore Mental Hospital, Daisy is a bulimic young woman who collects the raw chicken her father sends her and places it under her bed. Here’s a scene where we believe her pain, acting alongside Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie.
“Don’t Say A Word” (2001)
Two years later, Murphy played a similar role in this thriller as Elizabeth Burrows, a disturbed young woman recovering from traumatic events who refuses to speak with detectives. She’s achingly vulnerable in the scene below:
“Sidewalks of New York” (2001)
Ed Burns’ “Sidewalks of New York” is a romantic comedy worth watching in part because of Murphy’s charming performance as Ashley, a waitress pining for love. Murphy is a killer flirt, as seen in this scene below with David Krumholtz:
“8 Mile” (2002)
“8 Mile” tracks the tough rise to success of rapper Eminem. Murphy plays Alex, the love interest of Eminem’s on-screen character, Jimmy Smith Jr. Alex elicits a genuinely sensitive, vulnerable side from Jimmy, adding a touch of love to their often loveless journey in the movie.
“Uptown Girls” (2003)
While Dakota Fanning kicks butt playing a sassy, mature private elementary school girl in this film, Murphy plays a different kind of child — a woman who, on the outside plays up her confidence, but on the inside struggles with loneliness and the inability to move on from the loss of her parents at an early age. Here we see her open up to that weakness:
“Sin City” (2005)
Murphy plays Shellie, a scorned woman trying to defend her honor. She’s never been as furious as she is in this scene from “Sin City”: