Girls on Film: The Movie Hair that Shaped Us

And potentially nearly caused a few straightener-related fires along the way


I can vividly remember the first time I watched 10 Things I Hate About You. I saw it three times in a row when it first came out. I only sort of knew what a “Prada” was and I was mesmerized by all of the belly buttons. More than that, however, I was completely and utterly besotted with Julia Stiles’ hair. It was curly in all the right places and straight in all the others. It hung by her waist as a sort of fortress. Yes, she was smart, fiery, feminist-y. And yes, she got Heath Ledger in the end (by being herself!). But it was her hair — her long, twirling mane spiraling down her back that inspired me for years to come.

It’s pretty amazing that I still have hair given what I’ve done to it in the name of mimicking the on-screen women I’ve loved (straightening, waving, applying potentially illegal chemicals that required I wear a FACE MASK during the procedure). But these cinematic hair-muses shaped my childhood, teenage years, and if I’m being completely honest, even now. So rather than fight my hair with an iron, I’d like to celebrate these women and raise my round brush to the following:

Cady Heron, Mean Girls


At the apex of her career, Lindsay Lohan made me want to be a redhead. Her character in Mean Girls, Cady Heron, was the ideal high school movie heroine: she became popular, claimed the iron throne, learned her lesson, and then realized that life was about a lot more than pretending to be bad at math. In fact, she was fantastic at math. She was also funny, wordly and smart, which meant her hair — that auburn, loose-waved hair — was too.

Cher & Dionne, Clueless


Cher Horowitz had a heart of gold. She also had The Most Perfect Blowout of all time: silky, full of body, with the ends flipped under like a shampoo commercial. I spent hours in the bathroom trying to copy it — a goal I almost achieved once. But that’s the thing about (almost) getting your hair to do exactly what you want…it only happens sporadically.

Cher’s better half, Dionne, matched her in both plaid outfits and tress ferocity. Her hair was an amazement of flawless braids that she’d toss over her shoulder with a manicured backhand and major attitude. Sometimes, for Val parties, she added ribbons. She also clearly wore the baggy pants in her relationship with Murray and mastered his vernacular: “Most of the feminine pronouns do have mocking, but not necessarily misogynistic undertones” is something I vastly underrated at the time. But not her hair. I immediately appreciated her hair.

Wednesday Addams: The Addams Family


I lived for Wednesday Addams’ widow’s peak, and long, braided, jet-black hair. She was scary in a boss way, and her side-eye could cut a bitch. You did not mess with Wednesday Addams. I spent a solid four months braiding my hair in different ways to emulate her…mostly when I played softball in the outfield because nothing ever came my way. Looking back, it was time well spent.

Love Story


Ali MacGraw’s character Jenny Cavalleri was mesmerizing. She was fierce, funny, independent, sexy without being sexualized and most importantly, confident. Because of her I wore oversized collegiate sweatshirts, parted my hair severely down the middle and very seriously considered ironing it with an actual iron.

I still have a picture of these women in my mind, and I have an actual picture of Julia Stiles taped to my childhood bathroom mirror should I feel inspired to bust out the old crimper/product-cocktail. But in reflecting on these women at the age I am now, I’ve realized that the fascination was not only about the hair. It was about the heads each strand was attached to — strong, funny, intelligent heads — which means that personality adds just as much to a hair style (if not more) as the actual hair.

Now it’s your turn. What movie ‘do inspired you?

Meredith Fineman is the founder of FinePoint. You can read more of her writing here.

Get more Pop Culture ?
  • Jen

    In my early 20s I would have to say I wanted Meg Ryan’s hair in the movie French Kiss.

    • elisabeth quinn


  • Winston and I were inspired by Wednesday. One time I did try to cut my front hair side bangs like Kristin Cavallari during the Laguna Beach era, and that did not end up the way I had hoped.

  • Posh Spice… stick straight… those narrow, purple toned sunglasses… slip dresses…

  • Elisa

    My first-ever hair icon was Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, I remember actually taking notes while watching it for the third time, like ‘straight hair parted on the left with small barette on the right’. Lol.

    Elisa – Wandering Minds

  • I would never have gotten the nerve to buzz all my hair off if it weren’t for Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta. I did it twice, at 21 and 25, and I have no regrets.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Did you really?? That’s awesome.

    • Stephanie

      Same, Evey Hammond inspired my buzz cuts at 18 and 20.

  • frankly, i’m shocked Matilda didn’t make the list. I spent so many of my school years with a red ribbon tied around my head xx

    • Matilda! I wanted her ribbony hair and her Trunchbull owning powers. 🙂

  • Dominique
  • ee_by_cc

    LOL – love all of these. Especially Wednesday Addams, unexpected and well-played choice!

  • Sonsy

    Winona Ryder in Reality Bites.

    • elisabeth quinn

      Winona Ryder, period.

    • Not Constantinople

      Winona forever.

  • BethanyBeach

    When I was little I wanted to dye my hair red to match Ariel and Jessica Rabbit…
    good thing that my mom made me wait until I became a teenager to dye it since it wouldn’t match my ivory skin at all!

    • Edie Rose

      Red hair wouldn’t match your ivory skin? o.O
      Aren’t they supposed to be made for one another?
      We redheads are naturally quite pasty.

      • BethanyBeach

        I probably should have phrased that better haha. I have very pale skin without a hint of freckles and hardly any color, so anything other than my natural blonde would probably not suit it.

  • Tinkerbell Jayne

    I was obsessed with Clueless. My friends and I watched it over and over. All I wanted was luscious long straight blonde locks like Cher’s. Instead I was dealing with frizzy wavy hair. Sigh. Like, Whatever.
    x tink x

  • Amelia Diamond

    Julia Roberts’ big big big curly hair from Pretty Woman. I still want it.

    • Damn you, Amelia! You stole my response, but I’ll forgive b/c Julia’s hair was the shit. For my 19th birthday, I convinced my then-boyfriend to gift me a body wave treatment. Big mistake. Big. Huge.

  • Nina

    YES – Julia Stiles in 10 things was the coolest girl EVER! When I was 11, though, in 1998 my biggest hair icon was Natalia Imbruglia.

  • Sully Ann

    After seeing Bring It On I became obsessed with Eliza Dushku, she kind of disappeared and I barely saw her on anything else :(. Now I’m obsessed with Zoey Deschannel’s hair.

  • hdshearburn

    i know this is about film hair, but damn, topanga from Boy Meets World had extremely phenomenal hair.

  • Teresa Mae Leveille

    Before Daenerys Targaryen there was Amalthea in the The Last Unicorn. How I lust for waist-length, perfectly wavy, white hot hair with Stevie Nicks bangs.

  • bumblejeaniepie

    In high school, I was all about short hair. I took Winona stills to the salon (and by “the salon” I mean SuperCuts), every time. Except once I took a pic of Meg Ryan and came out looking 40 years older. These days, I gravitate towards 70s babes with center parts and subtle waves. Can’t think of any films off the top of my head… but also! This pic of Penelope Cruz. Hair AND make-up perfection!

  • Sara

    When I was 17 my number one hairstyle icon was Anna Karina in Vivre Sa Vie, but then I realized a short bob is not flattering for my square face. Nowadays it’s Brigitte Bardot in all her 50s and 60s films. Love the sidebangs and the imperfect bouffant! <3

  • Cyn

    I know this is all about film stars – but hello Kelly Kapowski! My mom left me at the hairdresser when I was 8 to do an errand and gave the woman specific instructions, when she came back I had bangs that were blissfully blown out to the side and my part was teased and sprayed high with aquanet – my mother took one look at me and cringed, the entire ride home she yapped about getting home and combing it down because I looked to old – me – I had the ultimate pep in my step lol.

    Cyn from

  • Julia

    I must say that Cher’s hair is my ultimate dream. In my fantasies for the future, it is always there, my hair looking exactly as perfect. Oh well, a girl can dream! 🙂

  • I, too, still harbor an obsession with Wednesday Addams. Margot Tennenbaum made me want to chop my hair off and wear a barrette. And I will try to rock a bouffant like Brigitte Bardot unit the day I die. Love this post!

    Xo, Randi

  • Cher Horowitz hair forever! “Is this like a Noxzema commercial or what?”

  • Melon Kitt
  • CarlotaLMorais

    Ali for sure! Love the movie and love her hair!

  • Tara Edie

    Cher Horowitz’s hair in the pigtail braids when Josh makes fun of her…classic. And what about when Laney Boggs in She’s All That gets her makeover? That Bob was definitely an influential one.

  • Love Story is one of my favorites of all time. So chic and preppy and tragic.

  • Dara

    SATC, when Carrie cut her hair shortish, it was the episode when Miranda gave birth to Brady and Carrie was wearing the amazing pink Manolos.

  • “But that’s the thing about (almost) getting your hair to do exactly what you want…it only happens sporadically.”
    Preach it, girl.

  • Selma Blair’s hair in Legally Blonde. I could never pull it off, but there was something so beautiful and cool about its severity. Love 🙂

  • Shannon

    Angelina Jolie in Hackers.

  • I’ve been a Wednesday Stan since that movie came out. I would watch that movie over and over again and then my roommate in college got me the first and second movie as a birthday gift. I still have my ritual of watching it every couple of months. She was so badass.

  • Laura

    You forget the most obvious source:

  • rhiarhia

    Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. Janet Jackson in Poetic Justice.

  • Guest

    When I was young I wanted hair exactly like Kristy McNIchol. It was very hard to pull off, being that I’m African-American and all.

  • When I was young I wanted hair exactly like Kristy McNichol. It was pretty hard being that I’m African-American and all!!

  • Sharon

    Best movie hair, in my opinion definitely goes to Cher. I was mesmerised every time she flipped those locks of hers.

  • You left out the fabulous pixie cut ladies! I’m thinking Jean Seberg in Breathless and Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. Who’s with me?

  • marta

    what about Buffy? 🙂

  • marta

    I also love Serena’s hair in Gossip Girl

  • Tabitha

    Jamie Gertz’s wildness in Lost Boys. So bohemian. So independent. I will never have that hair but will always want it.

  • IPM

    not a movie, but from my generations tv shows are the big thing. I gotta say Serena from Gossip girls is my modern tv icon. The hair, the outfits so effortless and beautiful.

  • Laura Medina

    Until now, I Thought I was the only person in the world who was obssesed with Julia Stiles’ hair in “10 Things I Hate About You” 🙂

  • Immediately got box braids after clueless!

  • Caterina

    Pippi Longstocking. The original girl that just wanted to have fun.

  • carolinec

    Centerstage introduced me to the messy bun…

  • Terra Dactyl

    Gwynny P. in Sliding Doors. Sporting it now. My cheekbones have nowhere to hide.

  • Kim Peoples
  • Clairebear

    Mandy Moore circa 2003 in “How to Deal.” I can’t remember the movie but I remember the hair.

  • Marla

    Winona Ryder in Heathers has the most amazing voluminous hair!