In the aughts, few starlets were busier than Hilary Duff. From playing the clumsy, lovable fashionista Lizzie McGuire to soundtracking MTV’s iconic mid-aughts shows Laguna Beach and My Super Sweet 16 with her perfect, lab-engineered vocals, Duff was everywhere. Ahead, we’ve collected Duff’s most memorable performances, from Cinderella Story to Gossip Girl, and everything in between.
We were robbed of a reboot, but only in the name of genuine character development! Hilary Duff (reasonably) wanted Lizzie to be an adult living in a non-PG-rated-Brooklyn, but the Puritans at Disney refused, so Duff walked away. But that’s okay: Lizzie lives forever in iconic scenes throughout the show’s two seasons. Who can forget when she discovers rhythmic gymnastics, or she yells at her mom that she doesn’t want a bra, or when she kissed Aaron Carter? Team Olivia Rodrigo knows the value of the show; the “Brutal” music video is filled with looks taken straight out of Miranda’s closet. (Disney+)
Hands down the most effective, accidental military recruitment video I’ve ever seen — the U.S. Army should take notes from this Disney Channel original movie rather than keep trying to reel in recruits with those cursed astrology posts on Instagram. In Cadet Kelly, Duff goes to military school, where she gets yelled at for accessorizing and eventually assimilates, getting really good at spinning a gun around in a sort of patriotic rhythmic gymnastics of the NRA way. (Disney+)
The year is 2003. Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8r boi” is peaking on the Billboard charts and Frankie Muniz and Duff are smooching on the cover of Tiger Beat: all is right in the world. Duff and Muniz, maybe Hollywood’s most wholesome teen stars dated IRL after meeting on the set of Agent Cody Banks, which isn’t a great movie per say, but an essential entry into a post-9/11 kids movie espionage canon that also included five iterations of Spy Kids. (YouTube)
La bella luna! Duff showed her acting chops playing not one, but two characters in this perfect movie that gave us the goodbye Lizzie deserved — and the Gordo kiss everyone thought they needed, but probably would have been fine without. There are too many perfect scenes in this movie: the fashion show where walks the runway in an igloo dress to Taylor Dayne’s “Supermodel,” her horrifying Italian accent, the moment she rips off the silver “What Dreams Are Made Of” gown to reveal rockin’, silver flare pants. Sing to me, Paolo! (Disney+)
Chad Michael Murray, Jennifer Coolidge, Regina King and Hilary Duff — what else could you want in a mid-aughts teen rom-com? And of course, the line that graced everyone’s Tumblr even half a decade later, when Duff tells Chad Michael Murray: “Waiting for you is like waiting for rain in this drought: useless and disappointing.” Ugh, the angst! (Also a Trojan horse of a line to get us to think about climate change?!) But the most fun fact regarding the film is that Duff reportedly banned Lindsay Lohan from attending the premiere because Lohan was pissed she worked with, AKA made out with, Chad Michael Murray. (Netflix)
With a comically low 4% score on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s more useful to look at Material Girls as an anthropological text than box office hit. The film, starring Hilary and her significantly less famous older sister Haylie, is more a satire of the Paris Hilton effect. It’s about two sister heiresses who hit the clubs in sequin dresses and newsboy caps and don’t know how to do anything, but have to get — gasp, jobs! and take public transportation — when their father’s company goes bankrupt, which isn’t unlike the plot of The Simple Life. And yes, Hilary did cover Madonna for the film, and no, it’s not good. (Amazon Prime)
Duff’s played a girl sucked into the military industrial complex, an Italian pop star, and various types of teens, but what’s her most powerful role to date? An ally. The 2008 PSA in which Duff chastises a girl for using “gay” as a pejorative is funny every single time you watch it. It’s a true gem, and if you don’t get it, take a cue from Duff herself: “Knock it off!”
We might never get over the threesome in which Dan, Vanessa, and Duff (who is playing a teen actor famous for being in erotic vampire movies because this during the Twilight and True Blood-ification of culture), have a threesome in the NYU dorm of all places, while a sultry cover of T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” plays. Amazing. (HBO Max)
Hillary Duff stars alongside Winona Ryder, Sean Astin, and Chevy Chase in this indie film about a successful author returning to his high school 19 years later to give a commencement address — in one of her first post-Disney roles, where she lets loose and gets drunk at a prom. The chains of the the House of Mouse are broken!
We’re so happy for Duff, who, unlike so many child stars, was able to parlay her early work into a meaty role into her 20s and 30s, without virtually any scandal! On Darren Star’s Younger, she brings her signature earnestness to the role of Kelsey Peters, a book editor-turned-publisher who befriends Sutton Foster. There was talk of a Younger spinoff starring Duff. It, along with the ill-fated Lizzie McGuire reboot, have been cancelled, but it just proves people can’t get enough of her. (Paramount+)