20 Years After Her Breakout Role in ‘CLUELESS’, We Examine Brittany Murphy’s Tragically Short Career

This Sunday marks two decades since the world met the young, cherubic Brittany Murphy in one of the best teen comedies of all time.

From there, she catapulted to semi-stardom in a mix of comedies, dramas and thrillers, showing the world her range and skill as an actress before her untimely death in 2009. In honor of the anniversary of her breakout role, we looked back at six films that show what Hollywood lost.


Clueless — “You’re a virgin who can’t drive…”

Starring as the naive Tai Frasier in Amy Heckerling’s seminal teenage masterpiece, Murphy outshone Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash during a lot of the movie (maybe that’s why they ended up a fanatic vegan and right-wing nutcase, respectively.) Her charm was present in every scene, transforming a caricature into a character with each line, especially the deadpan, “You’re a virgin who can’t drive.”

Bonus points for her performance based on this:


8 Mile — “So, I hear you’re a real dope rapper…”

Playing the love interest of Eminem’s character in this hip-hop biopic, Murphy exhibited “hot desperation and calloused vulnerability” in the words of Peter Travers.

Girl, Interrupted — “That’s fucked up, Daisy!”

What could be better than seeing Murphy stash chicken carcasses underneath her bed in a psych ward? In this Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie film about a woman entering the world of a psychiatric hospital, Murphy rounds out the manic menagerie (with Clea DuVall and Elisabeth Moss) as a girl suffering bulimia and OCD.

Spun — “It’s weird, cause stuff happens and you don’t really notice it while it’s happening… life is sort of passing by.”

Perpetually tweaked out during Jonas Åkerlund’s exploration of the Oregon drug subculture, Murphy’s hyperactivity, deceitful depravity, and pole-dancing (yes, pole-dancing)  showed a grittier side to the actress.


Don’t Say a Word — “You want what they want, don’t you… I’ll never tell.”

The critics may have eviscerated Don’t Say a Word upon release, but Girl, Interrupted proved to be an amuse bouche signaling the levels of psychosis Murphy could display on screen in this psychological thriller. Alongside Michael Douglas as a psychiatrist whose daughter is kidnapped, Murphy plays the psych patient who holds the key to getting her back. A standard MacGuffin plot, we at least got some thrills and her iconic delivery of the line, “I’ll never tell.”

Uptown Girls – “I don’t see any grownups around here.”

Though she excelled in most of her dramatic roles, Murphy was a skilled comedienne, drawing comparisons from Roger Ebert to Lucille Ball during her career.  In Uptown Girls, as the nanny of uptight eight-year-old Ray (Dakota Fanning), Murphy flexes her funny bone, playing well off of the precocious Fanning.

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