The late, great Brittany Murphy is one of the most memorable actresses of the late ’90s and early 2000s. She took on dramas, horrors, romances, and comedies, and crafted dynamic characters with her contagious smile and always-telling eyes. As we come up on what will have been Murphy’s 40th birthday (November 10th), we remember her by listing some of her films that may have flown under your radar.
Perhaps Murphy’s most memorable character was her breakout role as Tai in 1995’s Clueless. She played a high school newbie taken under the wing of the popular, good-intentioned Cher Horowitz. From there, Murphy acted in over 30 films until her life was cut short at the age of 32, reportedly from pneumonia.
Alongside her perhaps best-known role as Tai, Murphy gained recognition for playing Alex in 2002’s 8 Mile and Molly in 2003’s Uptown Girls. After building up such an extensive repertoire in her 32 years, we don’t blame you for forgetting some of Murphy’s lesser known films, or films in which she played supporting characters. Lucky for you, we’ve done the remembering for you.
Rifle through your DVD stash and pull up your streaming sites to binge-watch Murphy’s movies and remember her the best way possible.
Murphy plays a teen living with her alcoholic mother (played by Karen Allen) in this 1998 drama. As Murphy’s character Emily learns how to give her mother a second chance, she explores high school romance and what following her own dreams might entail.
In 1999’s Girl, Interrupted, Murphy joined the ranks of Winona Ryder, Elisabeth Moss, and Angelina Jolie, who all play patients in a 1960s mental hospital. Based on a true story, Ryder’s character interacts with and befriends her fellow inmates during her 18-month stay. Although be warned — Murphy’s character does not receive a happy ending.
3Zack and Reba
Both a bit unhinged, Zack and Reba are both trying to cope with the death of their respective partners. In the process of getting over their grief, they find new romance with one another.
4Drop Dead Gorgeous
It may be a small town, but this beauty pageant is a big deal. In fact, some contestants and their pageant moms will take deadly measures to ensure their girl is a winner. Kirsten Dunst and Denise Richards face off against each other and Murphy’s hilarious bubbly laugh. Also, keep your eyes peeled for 1999 Amy Adams!
Remember when Brittany Murphy went dark? In this 2000 teen slasher flick, Murphy’s character Jody is trying to stay alive while a serial killer is picking off the virgins in her high school. Jody’s goal is to solve the initial case that started the chain of murders in order to save herself and countless other citizens of Cherry Falls.
6Don’t Say A Word
Murphy stayed in the thriller genre for 2001’s Don’t Say A Word, in which she plays a psych patient of Michael Douglas’ Dr. Nathan R. Conrad. Murphy’s character, who struggles with PTSD, is hiding a secret code that is the key to saving Douglas’ kidnapped daughter.
A black comedy, 2002’s Spun follows the three-day binge of a small crew of addicts. Jason Schwartzman plays Ross, who is addicted to meth and tasked with driving Murphy’s character, Nikki, back home in exchange for more drugs. He then becomes the hired driver for a drug dealer and his band of cohorts.
8Little Black Book
Who are the women of her man’s past? Stacy and her coworkers are about to find out in a very 2004 way. By filing through her boyfriend’s PalmPilot, Murphy’s Stacy secretly contacts and visits each woman that came before her in hopes of solidifying her future with the man she loves.
It’s dark, edgy, artsy, and hosts a star-studded cast with the likes of Jessica Alba, Alexis Bledel, Nick Offerman, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood, and of course, Brittany Murphy. They all muddle their way through their corrupted town and do their best to stay alive and out of trouble, but trouble is hard to stay out of in Basin City.
Starring alongside Ashton Kutcher, Murphy and Kutcher play a newlyweds from different walks of life who test their relationship while on their European honeymoon. Just Married is a classic slapstick-styled rom-com with its fair share of bursting through walls, getting clunked on the head, and happily ever after — hopefully!
Happy Feet is a bit of a double-whammy due to the fact that it stars two late favorites — Murphy and Robin Williams. Murphy plays the virtuoso penguin, Gloria, who belts out a spectacular rendition of Queen’s “Somebody To Love.”
We have chills and we’re weeping!
Brittany Murphy was an unprecedented talent in Hollywood and we’re so grateful that we were able to watch her shine for the amount of time we could. Gather together your BFFs and celebrate the actress who made the movies of the ’90s and early 2000s so memorable.