“Legally Blonde” first charmed audiences with its sparkling story of a heartbroken blonde-turned-brilliant Harvard Law student when it arrived in theaters on July 13, 2001. Brought to life by the incomparable Reese Witherspoon, Elle Woods was immediately charming: A bubbly SoCal optimist with a perpetually pink wardrobe and unfailing faith in people equally as delightful.
Elle’s legacy — a film franchise-turned-haven practically designed for effervescent underdogs — developed more slowly. Over the past 21 years, the movie that critics received well enough but didn’t fawn over in 2001 (it holds a 70 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) became a cult classic, inspiring generations of dreamers to chase their passions in and outside the lecture hall.
Elle’s story was first imagined by author Amanda Brown in her novel of the same name, released the same year as the film. But Witherspoon and director Robert Luketic imbued the character with distinct likability, morphing what could have been a one-note lesson in how not to write onscreen women into a fish-out-of-water masterclass that boasts multiple complex female characters.
For those uninitiated: After undergrad boyfriend Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis) breaks up with Elle — claiming the UCLA fashion merchandising major isn’t “serious enough” for his future — the fearless Delta Nu sorority president applies and is admitted to Harvard Law School. Her plans to win Warner back, however, are temporarily upended when she learns he’s already engaged to the uptight Vivian Kensignton (Selma Blair). Already in Boston, Elle plots to steal the would-be attorney back, but charismatic good guy Emmett (Luke Wilson), devoted manicurist Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge), extremely good boy Bruiser, and Elle’s natural aptitude for the law push her toward a new path.
Since its debut, “Legally Blonde” has become one of the most unimpeachably rewatchable films ever made, with lines like “What? Like it’s hard?” and “I’ll show you how valuable Elle Woods can be!” earning top marks in cinema’s unofficial dialogue hall of fame. Elle surprises not just scene by scene, but line by line, even word by word, with a free-flowing kindness and self-assuredness that’s served as a brand of philosophy among fashion-forward dog lovers for more than two decades. “Legally Blonde” sent Elle to Washington, D.C. with a patriotic sequel in 2003, titled “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde.” In 2007, Elle’s story got the Broadway treatment with Nell Benjamin and Laurence O’Keefe’s musical earning seven Tony nominations.
In honor of the 21st anniversary of “Legally Blonde” — and one of the most impossibly fantastic characters ever written — here are the 21 best Elle Woods quotes ever, ranked.
Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.