The idea of IT girls isn't new. In fact, the title is almost a century old. It usually refers to a woman, often someone famous, who is both physically appealing and has a winning personality. Essentially, it's someone with the whole package. In the real world, these figures are celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence or Julia Roberts.
As with all things, the definition of an IT girl has changed with time. While many of the IT girls on this list are cheerleaders or princesses, some are athletes or warriors. What unites them all is both their beauty and how easy it is to like them. They're characters that are often complicated, but they all have radiant personalities worth gushing about. Here are 40 TV and movie characters who were quintessential IT girls.
Holly Golightly is one of the coolest characters ever imagined for the screen. She's a bit of a mystery, but it's clear that her status is hugely important to her. She dresses in the finest clothes and throws enormous parties in her tiny apartment.
As played by Audrey Hepburn, Holly is guarded and fragile. She doesn't want to open up or make any commitments out of a fear of losing someone she loves. Even though Holly is wounded, she's not in need of fixing. What makes her such a compelling character and an IT girl is her ability to fend for herself.
Cher is clueless, but she's also a queen. In Clueless, Cher is shallow and rich, but she ultimately realizes that there's more to life. Clueless is designed to parody many of the tropes of high school comedies. Cher is the ultimate IT girl, and her journey is about learning how little that ultimately matters.
It doesn't hurt to be popular, but it's ultimately much more important to show kindness and compassion to those around you. Cher ultimately realizes how misguided she's been, and lives happily ever after. Along the way, she proves that IT girls don't have to be shallow or stupid.
Olivia Pope is both glamorous and powerful. She's an IT girl who knows how to handle the world of politics. Kerry Washington's fierce performance in the role is pitched to perfection. There aren't many women who can say they've carried on affairs with the president, but Olivia is one of them.
Olivia is not always kind or sweet. Her life can be a bit messy actually. What makes Olivia such a potent IT girl is her brain and her understanding of how to take advantage of any situation. She's not the nicest girl you'll ever meet, but you don't come to Olivia Pope for nice.
Lorelai Gilmore is a manic, strange person. She's also beautiful and charming, sometimes to a fault. What makes her a prototypical IT girl, though, is her seeming ability to do it all. She can raise a daughter, run an inn, make friends with everyone in her small town, and keep up a very interesting romantic life.
Although Lorelai rejects her parents' money and all of the social status that came with it, she was born to be a socialite. She's good at charming everyone in a room. From her parent's perspective, it's a shame that that natural talent was never put to good use schmoozing with the wealthy.
The Breakfast Club's entire mission is to break down the stereotypes that high school perpetuates. Claire Standish is the IT girl stranded in detention with people below her social strata. She's also a lot more than that.
Claire is an iconic character because she's a smart, interesting person who's been reduced to stereotypes. She likes being popular and looking pretty, but that's not all there is to her. She rejects easy characterizations, just like all of the other characters in the film. Claire is an IT girl who's not afraid to break the mold for what IT girls are supposed to be.
Rachel Green is a prototypical IT girl when we first meet her, but she's also a little clueless. As Friends unfolds over the course of ten seasons, she evolves into an empowered woman who rarely relies on the men around her. That evolution, coupled with Jennifer Aniston's thoroughly charming performance, make her a character worth celebrating.
Rachel is an obvious candidate for inclusion on this list. She's beautiful, and her will-they won't-they relationship gripped an entire country for ten years. Now that the show is on Netflix, an even greater number of people are experiencing her beautiful clothes and varying hairstyles for the first time.
Reese Witherspoon has carved an entire career out of playing IT girls, and Elle Woods is the pinnacle of that career. As Elle, a law student who appears to be a dumb blonde, Reese is able to complicate that stereotype while maintaining her femininity.
Legally Blonde is a movie designed to stick up for IT girls everywhere. Elle Woods is able to prove herself to everyone at Harvard Law School who judges her. She's as smart as they are, and she earned her place just like they did. She can be popular, pretty, feminine, and intelligent. There's no reason she can't have it all.
New Line Cinema
Rachel McAdams has more range than most actresses. That helps to explain how she wound up with two entries on this list. As Allie Calhoun in The Notebook, she's intelligent, feisty and fierce. She feels like a real person who has been swept up in a romantic odyssey.
Allie is the perfect IT girl because she's always humble about her looks and her personality. She leaves it to the men around her to tell her how great she is. The Notebook remains the very best Nicholas Sparks adaptation, and that's thanks in large part to Rachel's work as Allie in the film.
Betty Cooper is an IT girl with a dark side. At school, she seems to have it all. She's a pretty cheerleader with a long-time crush on the cute boy next door. Her life is almost too good to be true.
Underneath all that, though, Betty is interested in adventure and mystery. She enjoys sleuthing and solving mysteries, and she lives in a great town for both of those hobbies. Betty is an interesting character because she's both an IT girl and a weirdo. She can be pretty and wear pink and simultaneously acknowledge the darkness that lives inside her.
Buffy Summers is a lot of things to a lot of people. She's a daughter, a friend, a love interest, a savior, and, for those in her high school, she's a smart, pretty girl. Buffy is not defined by her status as an IT girl, but she would like to be. Instead, she's tasked with hunting vampires and saving the world from complete destruction.
Part of the fun of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the way it played with Buffy's conflicting roles as a chosen one and a popular girl. She liked to do her makeup and play with her hair, but that didn't make her any worse at saving the day.
Regina George is a mean girl, which helps explain the movie's title. Even so, part of the point of Mean Girls is that she's more complicated than she seems. The first part of the movie is focused solely on humbling her, but that's not where her story ends.
Regina realizes that, although she's beautiful and popular, there's more to leading a life worth living. As the film progresses, she becomes a moving and transformative figure. Regina learns some valuable lessons about why being popular doesn't have to make you mean. Being kind is always the right thing to do, even if you don't have to do it.
Scarlett O'Hara is the oldest IT girl on this list, but she's still a prime example of the trope. She has all the boys fawning over her, and she's also got the kind of fiery personality that makes her feel entitled. Part of Gone With the Wind's story, along with a glorification of the antebellum South, is about Scarlett's evolution into a more humble person.
Scarlett never loses her inherent appeal, though. She's beautiful and gregarious, and willing to take whatever she wants. She was an IT girl in a time before that phrase existed — a southern belle with more intelligence than she let on.
This might seem like a weird inclusion, especially considering Jenna's age when the film starts. Part of what makes her such a magnetic personality, though, is the fact that she's a 13-year-old living in a 30-year-old's body. As a result, she's full of life, and not at all interested in adult inhibitions.
13 Going on 30 is a very silly movie, but it's also really sweet. Jenna is the kind of girl who deserves a happily ever after, and the movie makes that clear. Jennifer Garner doesn't get to play roles like these often, so we need to recognize the ones that emphasize her incredibly charming screen presence.
The entire premise of Forgetting Sarah Marshall is based on the idea that Sarah Marshall is an IT girl. Jason Segel's Peter spends most of the film trying to decide if he can get over her.
Ultimately, he does, and finds another IT girl in Mila Kunis's Rachel. Still, as performed to perfection by Kristen Bell, Sarah is meant to be the film's obsession. Even as Peter obsesses, he comes to realize how stupid his obsession is, and he begins to move on with his life. Sarah may be everything he ever wanted, but ultimately, she didn't want to be with him.
For many people, When Harry Met Sally is the pinnacle of romantic comedy storytelling. Meg Ryan's Sally Albright is a huge component in that equation. She's brash and sometimes rude, but she's also smart and beautiful. She's a complicated lady, and her relationship with long-time friend Harry is no less complicated.
Meg had a run of great performances in romantic comedies during this period, but Sally is her most lasting character. She's an argumentative fireball who always manages to hold her own against Harry. That's what makes her so appealing to him, and what has allowed her to stand the test of time.
Audrey Hepburn burst onto the scene in Roman Holiday, and won an Oscar for her work. As Princess Ann, Audrey plays a character who has everything but wants to have just a little fun. She's royalty, but on her excursion with a reporter, she spends her time getting a haircut and goofing off.
Princess Ann works as an IT girl because she's incredibly popular but also filled with life. It may be unrealistic to say that that kind of life wouldn't change a person, but Ann is totally normal. She may be a little sheltered, but all she really wants is to have some fun while she can.
As the lead character on a show called Gossip Girl, Blair Waldorf almost automatically merited inclusion on this list. Blair is a complex figure on the show. She's a wealthy New York socialite who can sometimes be snobbish, but that's not the only thing that defines her.
There are occasional moments of sentiment and sweetness that punctuate Blair's persona. Leighton Meester believes that Blair is insecure about her social status, which only feeds into flaws in her character. Even New York socialites have insecurities. That's one of the overriding lessons of Gossip Girl, and helps explain why the show holds up so well.
Saved By The Bell was a pretty standard high school comedy. Kelly Kapowski was the love interest of two of the show's male leads, and with good reason. She's beautiful and smart, and she's got the kind of attitude that makes her easy to love.
Kelly existed at the very top of the social strata in the world of Saved By The Bell. She's the kind of character that helped form the groundwork for our current understanding of what an IT girl is. She's powerful and funny, and she doesn't lack for personality. All of that creates a compelling character that's hard to ignore.
There are times on Gossip Girl when Serena van der Woodsen is explicitly described as an IT girl, and it's easy to see why. She fits the mold to a tee. She's beautiful, and her beauty is complemented by a radiant personality. As a result, Serena often finds that it's very easy for her to get whatever she might want.
She's also Blair's best friend, and she's played to perfection by Blake Lively. Blake has proven that she knows how to use her beauty productively, and Serena is no different. She's popular, wealthy, and perfect. At least that's how she seems.
Most of Riverdale's leading ladies are IT girls in one way or another, and Cheryl Blossom is no exception. Although it turns out her family is filled with criminals, Cheryl comes from old money. She lives in the biggest house in Riverdale and isn't afraid to flaunt her wealth.
Cheryl is also the captain of the cheerleading squad, and, although she's not part of the show's inner circle of friends, she knows how to make herself prominent. Very little happens on Riverdale without Cheryl knowing about it. She's the show's resident socialite, and one of the show's several fascinating IT girls.
Marissa Cooper is a fascinating combination of popular and troubled. In spite of her family's substantial wealth, Marissa's life is far from perfect. She often engaged in fairly risky behavior, and rarely showed much interest in any of the privileges that she had been afforded.
In that way, Marissa offered a more modern twist on the IT girl by becoming someone who didn't care about her own status. As she grows over the course of the series, her perspective shifts and she becomes more caring. When we first meet her, though, she's the ultimate IT girl, and she doesn't care at all.
Summer's role on The O.C. was originally supposed to be quite small. Eventually, she became a major player on the show as one of its two main IT girls. Summer comes from a wealthy home, but she was characterized by a tough attitude.
Summer has all the conventional beauty of an IT girl, but she's also got a take-charge attitude that makes her unique. She is wildly intelligent, and she's even concerned with things like the environment. All of these qualities only make her even more appealing. Summer is an IT girl who cares, and that's a powerful, fascinating combination of traits.
Brooke Davis initially seems like a shallow party girl. Over the course of One Tree Hill, though, she evolves into someone less disaffected and more caring. She's neglected by her parents, so it's easy to see why she turned to a life of partying.
As the series progresses, though, she learns from her friends how to become a more balanced person. All teen shows tackle the problems that teenagers face, and One Tree Hill was no different. Brooke was an IT girl with a partying lifestyle who spent the entire series changing and growing. That's exactly what your teenage years are for.
Quinn Fabray goes through plenty of hard times over the course of Glee, but when the show begins, she has everything. She's a captain on the cheerleading squad, and she's dating the quarterback.
The show complicates her from there, but Quinn remains the show's de facto IT girl through its first three seasons. Glee was at its best when it complicated Quinn's narrative. She was incredibly popular, sure, but she also cheats on her boyfriend and winds up pregnant. She makes mistakes. Like the rest of the kids in the glee club, she finds some solace there and becomes a kinder person for it.
New World Pictures
Heather Chandler is hugely popular. She's also a deeply terrible person. Along with the two other Heathers that make up the film's unholy trinity, she creates tons of pain for her classmates. One of the tricks of Heathers is that it introduces Heather Chandler as a demon, and eventually makes you feel sympathy for her.
As the film unfolds, and each of the Heathers is murdered, it becomes clear that they are pitiful figures. Heather may have seemed like she had it all, and like she deserved to be punished for her cruelty. Even so, murder seems like an extreme solution.
Penny Lane's appeal comes almost entirely from her mysterious aura. She's a young girl who wants desperately to be seen as an adult. She's beautiful and popular in the eyes of the groupies she leads. Following a band around is an exciting and depressing life, and Penny encapsulates both of those feelings.
Penny is the unstable yet irresistible woman at the center of this flick. Part of what makes her so compelling is Kate Hudson's wonderful performance. There's also a feeling that she's pretending, somehow. It seems like she knows a lot about how the world works, but really, she's still just a kid.
Summer is an interesting case of the IT girl phenomenon. Because (500) Days of Summer is told from the man's perspective, it's hard to get a great sense of who she is. She feels like an IT girl because the man perceives her that way.
By the end of the film, though, you realize that she may ultimately be more normal than she seems. (500) Days of Summer is consistently questioning the very idea of a woman who is perfect. Summer is mysterious and funny, but she's also human. It's important to remember that humanity, especially when you're working in stereotypes like the IT girl.
Tahani is very aware of the fact that she's an IT girl. She has every celebrity you've ever heard on speed-dial. She even has a number for Bono that The Edge doesn't have. Tahani's status is everything to her, and her vanity is ultimately a fatal flaw.
A show like The Good Place is about what being an IT girl can do to a person who loses herself in the popularity. Tahani may have been a charitable queen on earth, but she did it for all the wrong reasons. She worked so hard to be popular that she forgot how it felt to be loved.
Robin Scherbatsky is not a conventional IT girl, but that doesn't mean she isn't one. For one thing, she certainly has plenty of friends. She's also a former child star, and she dates two of the show's other main characters.
If How I Met Your Mother is a story about friends growing up in New York, Robin is a key ingredient in its success. She's sarcastic and funny. She's beautiful and caring. Many people hate on the finale of this show, but it's hard to argue with Ted's decision. Robin's a very easy girl to fall in love with, even if you're just watching her from your couch.
When Wonder Woman hit theaters in June of 2017, it was something of a miracle. Not only was the movie a massive success focused on a female superhero, but it was also a radiantly optimistic film.
That's in large part thanks to Gal Gadot's performance in the role. As Diana, she's fierce, but she's also kind and charming. She obsesses over ice cream and babies. She's filled with life, and it becomes impossible not to fall in love with her totally and completely. Although she can also kick butt, Wonder Woman works so well because its central character is so full of life.
Titanic is about a high-society woman who falls in love with a low-class boy. Rose DeWitt Bukater is the picture of high society, but she treats her status as a prison. Still, it certainly comes with some perks, even if they don't mean much to her.
As played with perfect spunk by Kate Winslet, Rose radiates with life. It's hard not to admire the woman for her charisma, and it's easy to see why Jack falls for her. Rose is a high society woman with an edge. She's looking for adventure, and on the Titanic, she finds more than she had ever hoped for.
The entirety of Ocean's 11 is really about winning back Julia Robert's Tess Ocean. It's a credit to Julia and to the movie that the elaborate heist at the center of the film feels worth it for her.
Tess is a bit of an enigma, but a beautiful, charming one. She dresses in the finest clothes, but she knows how to handle Danny Ocean and his crew. Julia's presence in all of these movies makes them infinitely more effective. She was Hollywood's IT girl for a generation, and in the Ocean's movies, she gets to be an IT girl on screen as well.
There's only one girl in the original lineup of the Avengers, and she doesn't even have any superpowers. Black Widow is a fierce spy, but she's also beautiful. The hero rarely comes into conflict with anyone else in the Avengers lineup, but that doesn't mean they don't take her seriously.
Part of the power of Black Widow, and Scarlett Johansson's performance, is that Black Widow is so thoroughly competent. She's never a hindrance to any of the other Avengers, and she manages to contribute in spite of her lack of powers. She's an ace fighter and a friendly face, which makes her an asset.
A lot of the women on this list are cheerleaders. That's part of what allows them to conform to the mold of IT girls. Monica Wright conforms to a different mold -- the all-star student-athlete. In Love and Basketball, the thing that unites Monica and her long-time sweetheart is a love of basketball.
What makes Monica so winning is how hard she's willing to work to become a great player. She's driven and passionate, but she's also funny and beautiful. Her story is inspiring because it suggests a world in which popular girls can get sweaty and be competitive without losing what makes them amazing.
Like many of the TV IT girls on this list, Caroline Forbes starts the series as a pretty shallow person. She's beautiful, and she's the daughter of the local sheriff, which instantly makes her into something of a celebrity. As the series progresses, Caroline becomes one of the show's female leads and gains more depth of character as well.
The Vampire Diaries typically wrote complex female characters whenever it could, and Caroline is no exception. She's got a complex relationship with her mother that changes over the course of the series. What's more, she becomes much more willing to help those around her as she ages.
Lizzie McGuire was perfectly designed for a tween demographic, and Kate Sanders was the perfect foil for Lizzie. She serves as the series' primary antagonist, and the suggestion seems to be that her popularity changed her. She used to be Lizzie's best friend.
Although Kate is never depicted with many nuances, there's some truth to the idea that your friends change as you age. People grow apart and come together. There's a lot of change happening as you age. Popularity is a fickle beast, and Kate may one day regret losing Lizzie as a friend. We may never know how she ultimately feels.
Bring It On proved that movies about cheerleading could be interesting and compelling. A big reason for the film's success is Kirsten Dunsts's performance as Torrance Shipman. Torrance is a traditional IT girl, but she's not simple by any means. She's the captain of the cheerleading squad and she has a long-term boyfriend. Of course, she's also very popular.
Part of what makes Bring It On so interesting is its willingness to touch on issues of race and class. Torrance is an IT girl, but she discovers that she might have earned that status by stepping on the backs of other people.
London Tipton is a fairly transparent analogue to Paris Hilton. London's father owns a successful chain of hotels, and as a result, she's incredibly spoiled. London's incredible wealth has not exactly made her generous. In fact, it's had the opposite effect.
London is often entitled and bratty, and also has a very poor understanding of how the world works. She's a caricature of an IT girl and a cautionary tale. London reminds audiences about the importance of keeping one foot in the real world. London's not a mean person. She's just been warped by the vast wealth that she's always been surrounded by.
Hanna Marin is one of the four girls at the center of Pretty Little Liars, and a de facto queen bee. She used to be overweight, but when the show starts, she has it all. In the books the show is based on, Hanna is a fierce, sometimes angry character. On the show, though, she's actually quite kind.
Pretty Little Liars is filled with memorable female characters, and Hanna is one of the best. She's beautiful and kind and has to go through an overwhelming ordeal. Because she has close friends, she's able to get through it but not before plenty of drama unfolds.
Alison fits a slightly different definition of IT girl, as, through the first part of the series, she's mysterious. The show kicks off with her disappearance, and she's initially only shown in flashbacks. Hanna is only able to become the IT girl at the center of the show because of Alison's absence.
She was a girl who had it all, and her disappearance sends shockwaves through her community. The disappearance of a hugely popular girl is always startling, and it's part of what makes Alison so interesting. Although she can be indecisive, she can also be ruthless and manipulative in a way that her friend is not.