'New Girl' Zooey Deschanel's 5 Best Roles (Other Than Jess, Of Course)

When it's the birthday of Betty White, it's understandably easy to overlook anything else that's happening on Jan. 17. Yet it shouldn't be forgotten that today also marks the 34th year in the life of Zooey Deschanel, who, over the last few years, has transformed from an indie-film darling to one of TV's biggest stars. Thanks to a little show called New Girl , Deschanel has earned three Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy nod, inspired countless "adorkable" trends, and has turned into a bona-fide, paparazzi-stalked celebrity. It's been a great couple of years for Deschanel, and judging from New Girl's continuing success, 2014 will only be even better.

Still, far too many people only know Deschanel as one-half of TV's most controversial couple. New Girl may have been the show that made the actress a star, but, believe it or not, Deschanel has been a Hollywood regular for over fifteen years. From her film debut in Mumford to her guest roles on The Simpsons, Deschanel had a pretty great acting career long before New Girl was even an idea in Liz Meriwether's head. In honor of Deschanel's birthday, let's take a look back at the five best non-New Girl roles of the actress' career:

1. Almost Famous

Deschanel's second-ever film role, as the older sister of aspiring music journalist William (Patrick Fugit), is one of her most memorable, thanks to Almost Famous' status as a cult classic of the early '00s. It might be hard to believe now, but upon its release, Cameron Crowe's now-iconic film about rock 'n' roll was a box office bomb. Thankfully, it drew praise from critics, earned two Oscar nominations and a win, and made its way onto practically every "best-of" list at the end of the decade.

2. Elf

It's hard to remember anyone other than Will Ferrell being in Elf, because the sole purpose of the now-classic Christmas movie was so clearly to be a vehicle for the Anchorman star. Yet when you watch it on TV this December, look for Deschanel as Buddy's department store co-worker and love-interest. She sings, she dances, and she spreads holiday cheer, all due to the childlike charms of Ferrell's Christmas-obsessed Buddy.

3. Bridge to Terabithia

This so-called "kids movie" (spoiler alert: it's not) cast Deschanel as Ms. Edmunds, the schoolteacher crush of ten-year-old Jesse (Josh Hutcherson). Deschanel's role was small but pivotal; Ms. Edmunds' invite to an art museum field trip is what prevents Jesse from being with his best friend, Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb) when she accidentally drowns. Told you it's not for kids.

4. Weeds

In a four-episode arc on the second and third seasons of Weeds, Deschanel played Kat, the ex-girlfriend of Andy (Justin Kirk), who comes to town to convince Andy to join her on the road. A kleptomaniac who's pursued by bounty hunters and once stabbed Andy with the icicle, Kat is undoubtedly one of the most interesting roles Deschanel's ever had.

5. (500) Days of Summer

In her most famous movie role to date, Deschanel starred alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Summer, the funny, enigmatic girl of Tom (Gordon-Levitt)'s dreams. (500) Days of Summer was a critical and commercial success, propelling both of its lead actors to stardom. Four years later, the film's just as smart, sweet, and original as you remember it, largely due to the chemistry between real life best friends Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt.

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