Warner Huntington III: You got into Harvard Law?
Life seems to be going swimmingly for sorority socialite Elle Woods. Homecoming queen, president of Delta Nu, and girlfriend to Warner Huntington III, Elle has no qualms with the way her life is heading, particularly as she suspects Warner is soon to pop the question. However, things take a turn when Warner dumps her on the night she thought he was going to propose. His reason? "If I'm going to be a politician, I need to marry a Jackie, not a Marilyn."
So Elle is dumped for being "not serious enough." However, she realizes the perfect way to get Warner back -- by becoming a serious law student. Elle manages to get into Harvard Law School, but this is only the beginning as she strives to prove her worth to Warner, her professors, her fellow students, and even herself. All the while dressed in pink and with her Chihuahua Bruiser by her side.
Based on the semi-autobiographical story of Amanda Brown, this 2001 film starred Reese Witherspoon in her first break-out role. In 2003, there was a sequel made titled Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, while the genuinely great adaptation Legally Blonde the Musical hit Broadway in 2007.
- Alpha Bitch: Played with in Vivian, who fills this role despite not being this character archetype. Furthermore, Elle is a clear subversion - while the other law students expect her to act like this and give her the cold shoulder, she's extremely friendly and doesn't discriminate.
- Always Camp: Everywhere. If the guy isn't a law student, a lawyer, or a love interest, chances are he's FLAMING.
- Amoral Attorney: Played straight and subverted.
- Artistic License: Law: Several, although Elle being able to act as lead counsel when she hasn't even passed the bar yet (in any jurisdiction) is one of the crowners.
- Big Secret:
Brooke: I was getting liposuction.
- Bitch Alert: Enid, Vivian and Professor Stromwell. Stromwell turns out to be not so bad, Vivian defrosts and Enid gets put in her place.
- Blithe Spirit: Elle; arguably it's the whole point of the film.
- Break the Cutie: Elle, though she usually bounces back.
- Bunny Ears Lawyer: Elle, at one point even doing this almost literally. Almost, because she hadn't graduated yet.
- Butch Lesbian: Enid Wexler, at least in personality. In appearance, she's more of a "Soft Butch."
- California Doubling: UCLA stands in for Harvard. (Which is ironic, given that Elle graduated from "CULA" and the movie goes out of its way to show how different the school environments are.)
- Camp Gay: Presented as an iron rule - gay men know brand named shoes, straight men don't.
- Chekhov's Skill: Elle's supreme knowledge of fashion and hair mentioned throughout the film pays off twice at Brooke's trial. Elle winds up getting the pool boy outed as gay in front of the court because she noticed his unusual knowledge of shoes. When she herself is defending Brooke, she notices Chutney's perfect, fresh perm and realizes that her alibi of being the shower was false because the water from the shower would have ruined the chemicals in her hair.
- Conviction by Contradiction: As noted in the entry above, Elle uses this to find the real murderer during Brooke's trial.
- Cucumber Facial
- The Cutie: Elle.
- Deathbringer the Adorable: Bruiser the Chihuahua.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Vivian. Subverted with Callahan, because the viewers think he's defrosting but he's not, and with Stromwell (the female law professor) because she was nice all along; just really, really tough.
- Did Not Do the Research: The film's epilogue says that Warner graduated with no honors, yet he's actually shown wearing the red stripe of the Dean's List.
- Warner's goal is impossible. He's trying to be a US Senator before reaching 30. Thirty is the youngest that a person can be in order to even run for Senate under the Constitution. Depending on the exact year of his birth, there might not even be a senatorial election the year he turns 30.
- Domestic Abuse: Poor Paulette...
- Dumb Blonde: Subverted with Elle, making this more of a case of Obfuscating Stupidity. Sort of.
- She also got exemplary scores on the LSATs, proving that she actually is pretty intelligent. It's played straight with some of Elle's sorority sisters, though.
- Also, unless she does sports or has a building with her last name on it, she would have to be pretty smart to begin with to get into UCLA (well, it's UCLA in the musical, anyway).
- Dumb Is Good: For a movie like this, surprisingly Averted, and played with all over the place by various characters.
- Ethnic Menial Labor: Enrique.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: Elle Woods is homecoming queen, president of Delta Nu, and girlfriend to pre-law student Warner Huntington III. All of this changes, though, when she gets to Harvard.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: Some of Elle's outfits.
- Filing Their Nails: Inverted when Elle's sorority sisters take her to the nail salon after Warner breaks up with her. Serena converses with her manicurist in Korean about what happened with sympathy and firmness that Warner was a tool, as Elle is unusually disinterested in getting her nails done while waiting at reception. That's what leads her to read a magazine about Warner's brother marrying a lawyer, and Elle gets a Eureka Moment to attend Harvard Law School.
- Fluffy Fashion Feathers: A few of Elle's outfits, including the Playboy Bunny outfit.
- Genius Ditz: Elle.
- Genre Savvy: Knowing that girls tend to be unreasonably attracted to bad guys and seeing a "dorky" all-around good guy she respected get turned down for a date, Elle pretended that he broke her heart to get the other girl interested. It worked.
- Genre Shift: 2/3's of the way in it switches from rom-com to court-room drama with comedic elements.
- Gold Digger: This is Callahan's initial impression of Brooke, a good-looking younger blonde married to a seventy-year-old millionaire. However, she's got her own money, and she insists that he had... other assets of more interest.
- Actually kind of a Deconstructed Trope, as Elle points out that Brooke actually did what she could to stay married to the old man, who has a history of getting divorced on a whim.
- Hair of Gold: Elle could be the poster girl for the trope.
- Heel Face Revolving Door: Callahan. He goes from being a hard-ass lecturer to an understanding mentor to a pervert who hits on his student the second the movie needs a reason for Elle to defend Brooke.
- Hello, Attorney!: Elle. She's like a chameleon!
- Also Vivian, in a Brainy Brunette way.
- Ironic Echo:
Warner: (start of the movie) If I'm gonna be a senator by the time I'm thirty, I've gotta stop dicking around.
- It's a Costume Party, I Swear: Vivian pulls this one on Elle. Elle works it anyway.
- Ivy League for Everyone: The movie's explanation for Elle's admission is paper-thin.
- Somewhat subverted. She has a 4.0 from a UCLA equivalent, near perfect LSAT scores (as in, one point off from a perfect score), and is the president of a relatively large sorority, at which she is incredibly active and prolific. Maybe not Harvard Law School-worthy, but she'd have no problem getting into a decent law school wherever, even with a fashion merchandising major (heck, for all they know she plans on going into some form of retail law).
- I Won't Say I'm Guilty: Brooke.
- Licked by the Dog: Vivian.
- Lipstick and Load Montage: Elle during the opening credits.
- The Makeover: When Elle reinvents herself after the costume party.
- Market-Based Title: In Japan the title was changed to "Cutie Blonde." It makes sense to do something like that seeing as the really lame pun in the title probably wouldn't have translated, but there is really no reason why they would change the sequel title from "Red White and Blonde" to "Happy Max."
- May-December Romance: Brooke and her late husband.
- Mister Muffykins: Bruiser.
- Morning Routine: How the movie begins (cross-cut between shots of other girls preparing for her date).
- Ms. Fanservice: Not too much, but Elle certainly isn't afraid to strut around in bikini tops and Playboy Bunny attire.
- No Bisexuals: The defense team "proves" that Enrique couldn't have been sleeping with Brooke because he has a boyfriend. No one in the film, let alone the prosecution, tries to suggest he could be bisexual and a flirt. There's also the other problem that him having a boyfriend doesn't actually preclude him from cheating on his boyfriend either. However, his response to said boyfriend's outburst in the courtroom would have proven the point far better (though the defense could not have possibly known said boyfriend would be in attendance).
- Only Cool People Matter: Played with in many, many ways, all of which ultimately reinforce the trope.
- The Perry Mason Method:
Chutney: I didn't mean to shoot him. (points at Brooke) I thought it was you walking through the door!
- Pink Means Feminine: Several of Elle's outfits.
- Playboy Bunny: Elle goes to a party dressed as this. Unfortunately she may have received some wrong information from an unreliable source.
- Reflexive Response:
Emmet: And your boyfriend's name is...?
- Second Love: Emmet.
- Shout-Out: Brooke's May-December Romance marriage is very reminiscent of Anna Nicole Smith.
- Smart People Wear Glasses: Invoked by Elle when she dons glasses to pose as Paulette's lawyer and help get her dog back
- So Beautiful It's a Curse:
Elle: All people see when they look at me is blonde hair and big boobs. No one's ever going to take me seriously.
- Someday This Will Come in Handy: Elle's haircare knowledge wins her first court case.
- Spoiled Sweet: Oh, Elle.
- Straw Feminist: Enid shows shades of this, such as in her speech to Warner at the Halloween party about changing the name "semester" to "ovester." The latter example was actually drawn from a real student Amanda Brown met during her brief tenure at Stanford Law School, who suggested the same thing in all seriousness.
- This Looks Like a Job For Aquaman: Or the only Harvard law student who knows about perms in detail.
- Trophy Wife
- Underestimating Badassery: The entire point of the film.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: Not only are none of Elle's clothes re-used, but none of her hairstyles as well. It also applies in the musical to an extent which means a lot of rapid costume changes for the lead, which is helped by all the dresses being fastened by magnets, making them easily removable.
- Where Are They Now? Epilogue: The film ends with a scene showing what happened to the main characters while they attend Elle's graduation.
- You Just Told Me: Enrique's Reflexive Response.
- Your Makeup Is Running: Elle after Warner breaks up with her.