Zooey Deschanel kicked off her acting career in 1999, debuting in the comedy film Mumford. It wasn’t long after that that she began starring in films, taking on the leading role in a comedy TV series (New Girl), forming her own jazzy guy-girl duo (She & Him), and even creating her own female-focused website (Hello Giggles). In other words, this woman has done a lot. And because she’s so fabulous, we found it only fitting to look at her most memorable acting roles so far.
While sometimes Deschanel has played a mundane department store worker, other times she’s taken on the roles of a rebellious teenager or a musical school teacher. No matter what direction she goes, though, we are here for it.
With that said, here are Zooey Deschanel’s best roles to date.
10 500 Days of Summer
500 Days of Summer tells the story of a longtime romantic who falls for a girl who doesn’t believe in love. While Joseph Gordon-Levitt played the boy with heart eyes, Zooey Deschanel played the titular not-looking-for-a-relationship Summer.
The two had magnetic onscreen (and offscreen) chemistry, and the film became a sleeper hit. Though many villanize Deschanel’s character for leading Gordon-Levitt’s on, her co-star later suggested to viewers that it was more his fault for misinterpreting things and encouraged the world to rewatch the film through this new viewpoint.
The Christmas classic starring Will Ferrell, who plays a man named Buddy who was adopted by elves and decides to journey through New York City to find his real father, contains more than one notable star. Buddy ends up falling for a girl named Jovie who works at the Gimbels department store, and that girl is portrayed by Zooey Deschanel.
Though she definitely looks different as a blonde, Deschanel played the role with all her usual quirk and cuteness and helped make Elf as hilarious as it is. Just because it’s Will Ferrell’s story doesn’t mean she didn’t help out a bunch.
8 New Girl
One of Zooey Deschanel’s best-known roles is that of Jess in New Girl.
If you somehow missed the bandwagon, New Girl was a seven-season comedy about an elementary school teacher who moves into a loft with three guys. Each of them has intense personalities, but none is quite as adorkable as Jess who has most definitely “touched glitter in the last 24 hours.”
Much of New Girl follows Jess’ on-again, off-again relationship with her roommate who is a bartender (and later author), Nick. Fans came back week after week to find out what would happen between the pair as well as the rest of the gang.
7 Almost Famous
Almost Famous was the 2000s movie created by Cameron Crowe that loosely followed his experiences as a teenage Rolling Stone writer. While Patrick Fugit played the character that mirrored Crowe, William Miller, Zooey Deschanel played his strong-willed sister.
While Deschanel’s 18-year-old character leaves her family early on to become a flight attendant, she ends up encountering William toward the end of the film at the airport and decides to return home with him.
6 Our Idiot Brother
This 2011 comedy tells of a man who ends up creating all sorts of crazy in his three sisters’ lives. Elizabeth Banks plays one sister, Emily Mortimer plays another, and Zooey Deschanel plays the youngest.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics, and with a cast so strong and hilarious, it’s no wonder why. It also helped that Deschanel’s character was a free-willed hipster, as based on her performance record, she plays this kind of character well.
5 Bridge To Terabithia
Remember the really sad Disney movie in which Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb became friends and bonded over their magical made-up world called Terabithia? This is it.
In this coming-of-age fantasy, Zooey Deschanel played the kids’ music teacher. She has sweet interactions with them, and of course, we won’t ever complain when Deschanel graces us with her singing skills on screen.
4 Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
This sci-fi comedy was based on Douglas Adam’ novel of the same name. It told of a man (played by Martin Freeman) who is whisked into outer space by an alien that saves him from the Earth’s total destruction. The alien introduces Freeman’s character to his friends, one of which is a refugee named Trillian. She is whom Zooey Deschanel plays.
Though the film’s reviews were mixed, we can’t argue with any film that gave Deschanel more screen time.
This 2016 animated comedy musical about Trolls starred Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake, but no quirky, song-filled film about vintage dolls could have been complete without Zooey Deschanel.
Deschanel took on the role of Bridget, a Bergen who at first works as a scullery maid for the Bergen Chef, but eventually has a Cinderella-style character arc. Though a sequel to the film is set to be released in 2020, Deschanel’s name is not on the currently released cast list.
Yes, we will miss her.
2 All The Real Girls
Though this 2003 film fell short of becoming a box office success, it was critically well-received. It explored the rift that followed two longtime friends after one of them falls in love with the others’ sister. The sister, Noel, is played by Zooey Deschanel.
Sure, not everyone knows about this one, but those who do don’t forget it. The film’s raw look at difficult relationships far transcended its small budget.
1 Yes Man
Yes Man follows a man who decides to stop saying “no” to everything and start saying “yes” instead! Simple enough, right?
The film starred Jim Carrey, who developed this new outlook on life, and Zooey Deschanel, who played the Manic Pixie Dream Girl of his dreams. Yes, Deschanel played a little bit of a stereotype. But let’s not ignore the fact that she played it well.
Deschanel has gotten good at playing quirky female characters, and whether she continues strong in this direction or decides to take on varied roles in the future, we’re excited to watch what she does.
NEXT: New Girl: The 10 Best Holiday Episodes