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Top 16 Reese Witherspoon Movies and Shows — And Surprising Behind-the-Scenes Info

Reese was initially beat out for her role in Legally Blonde by this less well-known actress

Ever since she burst onto the scene in the 1990s, Reese Witherspoon has been one of our favorite Hollywood stars. Her signature perkiness and all-American good girl persona make her delightful to watch, and while she’s excellent at playing enthusiastic blonde overachievers, she also has an impressive range, having starred in everything from rom-coms to costume dramas.

Witherspoon isn’t just an Oscar-winning actress — she’s also produced a variety of movies and shows, written books and has her own celebrity book club. She even has a clothing line, Draper James, inspired by her Southern heritage.

Witherspoon’s resume is undeniably impressive, and while she’s certainly racked up the achievements, she’s also managed to maintain a sense of approachability and a lack of pretension. She’s the kind of actress we could imagine being friends with, and we’ll watch anything she’s in.

Here are some of our favorite Reese Witherspoon movies and shows, and little secrets you may not know about them.

Reese Witherspoon Movies

Legally Blonde (2001)

It’s impossible not to love Legally Blonde. In this early-2000s classic, Witherspoon plays Elle Woods, an exuberant sorority girl who makes the unexpected decision to go to Harvard Law School, where she just so happens to excel. The movie is infinitely quotable, and spawned a sequel, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde in 2003, with another one said to be on the way.

Both movies are major fashion inspirations featuring a fabulous array of pink costumes — 60 costumes Witherspoon actually got to keep for herself, thanks to a clause in her contract (can you say jealous?). Legally Blonde is a feel-good favorite that perfectly captures the actress’ sunny personality.

Fun fact: Christina Applegate was originally wanted for the role of Elle, but she turned it down after fearing she’d be typecast as another perky blonde like her Married… With Children character.

Wild (2014)

Based on the bestselling memoir from author Cheryl Strayed, Wild is a powerful story of finding redemption in nature. Witherspoon plays Strayed, a troubled woman who tries to find herself by going on an epic solo hike, with no prior experience. Wild shows Witherspoon’s dramatic side, and she gave the role her all, saying in a Vulture interview, “By far, this is the hardest movie I’ve ever made in my life.”

Fun fact: At the very beginning of her trip in the book, Cheryl flies to Los Angeles and gets a ride to the starting point in Mojave with the brother of a friend. In the movie, her driver gets an upgrade: The real-life Strayed drops Witherspoon’s Cheryl off in a quick cameo.

Walk the Line (2005)

This captivating biopic explores the lives of musicians Johnny Cash and June Carter. The movie details the ups and downs of country music’s royal couple, and Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix capture both their musical brilliance and the personal demons they fought. Witherspoon won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Fun fact: Reese Witherspoon did her own singing for the role. Both she and Joaquin Phoenix  performed all of the songs themselves, without being dubbed. They also learned to play their instruments (guitar and auto-harp, respectively) from scratch.

Election (1999)

In this pitch-black comedy, Witherspoon plays Tracy Flick, a type-A high school student who is determined to win her student government president election by any means necessary. Along the way, she butts heads with her history teacher, and the movie shows how power-hungry political dynamics can play out anywhere — even within the walls of a high school in Nebraska.

Fun fact: Witherspoon drew on real life for her high-strung performance, telling Entertainment Weekly she based it a classmate who was her enemy in middle school.

Pleasantville (1998)

Pleasantville is a fantastical film in which Witherspoon’s character and her brother go back in time, mysteriously finding themselves in the black-and-white world of a ’50s sitcom. As the present and the past meld together, the show-within-the-movie slowly shifts from black-and-white to color, and it becomes apparent that the midcentury world isn’t as idyllic as it might seem.

Fun fact: The distinctive look of the film meant that 163,000 frames of it had to be digitized in order to remove some colors and add others, which was no easy feat.

Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

With Witherspoon’s charm, it makes sense that she’s often a rom-com heroine. Sweet Home Alabama finds her playing a successful New York City fashion designer who has to return home to Alabama to finalize her divorce — only to realize that she never should’ve left to begin with. The movie provides an ideal showcase for the actress’ Southern roots.

Fun fact: On an episode of The Drew Barrymore Show, Witherspoon revealed that she still has the wedding dress she wears in the movie. Between that and the Legally Blonde clothes, we wish we could raid her closet!

Water for Elephants (2011)

This ’30s-set romance, based on the popular novel, stars Witherspoon as a circus performer who has a relationship with the hunky Robert Pattinson. In order to take on her challenging role, Witherspoon had to do circus training and work with elephants and horses for five months. Training alongside elephants may not have been easy, but it certainly shows her dedication!

Fun fact: The filming of Marlena and Jacob’s love scene was anything but romantic. “I was doing it when I had a really bad cold,” Pattinson told MTV at the time. “My nose is running all over the place, and it was in one of the additional photography scenes, and Reese had this wig on, and literally, I was wiping my nose on her wig.” 

Four Chistmases (2008)

Ho, ho, ho! In this comedy, Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn play a couple who must visit all four of their divorced parents’ homes on Christmas Day. Naturally, chaos ensues.

Fun fact: While the Christmas tale is suitably silly, there’s been much gossip about behind-the-scenes drama: Witherspoon and Vaughn were said to dislike each other so much that they allegedly refused to do a sex scene for the movie.

Vanity Fair (2004)

In this adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1848 novel, Witherspoon plays Becky Sharp, a woman who comes from a humble background and rises up the social ladder. Surprisingly, this wasn’t Witherspoon’s first role as a 19th-century Brit. Two years before, in 2002, she starred in an adaptation of the classic Oscar Wilde play The Importance of Being Earnest. Clearly, Witherspoon is timeless.

Fun fact: After asking Reese Witherspoon to get pregnant for the role (as a joke, because she thought Reese was too thin), director Mira Nair was delighted when Witherspoon announced she was pregnant after all.

Home Again (2017)

You can’t have too many Reese Witherspoon romantic comedies. By the time the actress starred in Home Again, she already had many movies in the genre under her belt, and this time around she played a 40-year-old single mom who lets three younger aspiring male filmmakers stay at her home. The movie has some serious rom-com bona fides, as its director, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, is the daughter of famed director Nancy Meyers (who made beloved movies like Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday).

Fun fact: Reese’s character’s house in the movie was formerly the home of Cindy Crawford and, before that, producer Stephen J. Friedman.

Reese Witherspoon Shows

Big Little Lies (2017-2019)

With a cast including Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern, among others, Big Little Lies is a high-intensity actress showcase. The show features sex, backstabbing, screaming fights and even murder, and the propulsive plot is full of surprises. As the wealthy California mom Madeline Martha Mackenzie, Witherspoon is deliciously over-the-top and fearsomely ambitious.

Fun fact: While she’s a perfect fit for Madeline, she was originally considered for the roles that ultimately went to Kidman and Dern.

The Morning Show (2019-present)

Starring alongside Jennifer Aniston and a host of other A-listers, Witherspoon plays Bradley Jackson, an upstart reporter who becomes a co-host of a morning news show following a ripped-from-the-headlines controversy.

Fun fact: Witherspoon has expressed a personal connection to her character, saying she and the showrunner, Kerry Ehrin, had deep discussions about “women that we knew, good friends, who in their 40s really just felt the need to push the boundaries of what society had told them for so long — really explore themselves and go on a journey of identity.”

Little Fires Everywhere (2020)

In this ’90s-set miniseries, Witherspoon and Kerry Washington play mothers from two very different backgrounds. The show goes deep on issues of parenting, race and class and challenges viewers to think about what makes a “good” or “bad” mother.

Fun fact: Witherspoon originally chose the novel that would become the show’s source material for her book club in 2017, so she’s clearly passionate about the material.

Movies and shows produced by Reese Witherspoon

Gone Girl (2014)

While Reese Witherspoon has produced a number of movies and shows she’s starred in, she also has producer credits on some movies and shows she doesn’t act in. One of the most surprising ones is Gone Girl, the twisty saga of a frustrated wife who fakes her own death, leading to harrowing results.

Fun fact: Witherspoon originally wanted to play the lead role, but ultimately bowed out. The part ended up going to Rosamund Pike.

Where the Crawdads Sing (2022)

Set in rural North Carolina in the ’50s and ’60s, this adaption of the wildly popular novel follows an independent young woman who is tried for murder. Witherspoon was passionate about bringing this book to the screen, saying, “What I feel… is not on film very often is women in nature… But then when I look at the movies out there that are women in nature, alone in nature… not being saved by someone because they’re scared in the woods, but literally thriving in nature, living through nature, connecting with nature, it’s almost non-existent as a genre.” Where the Crawdads Sing gave Witherspoon an opportunity to help show that overlooked world.

Fun fact: Taylor Swift insisted on writing the song “Carolina” for the film, only after she learned that actress Daisy Edgar-Jones and Reese Witherspoon (as producer) were both involved.

Daisy Jones & The Six (2023)

Yet another literary adaptation produced by Witherspoon, Daisy Jones & The Six captures the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll drama of a ’70s band that bears a strong resemblance to Fleetwood Mac.

Fun fact: While Witherspoon doesn’t act in the show, she joked that if there’s a sequel she could play a tambourine player, and said her dream is for Stevie Nicks to watch the show.

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