In 2000, Ryder received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, honoring her legacy in the film industry. Although the part went to Annabeth Gish, writer/director David Seltzer noticed her talent and cast her in his film Lucas (1986), about a boy called Lucas (Corey Haim) and his life at high school.Ryder's personal life has attracted significant media attention. In 1985, Ryder sent a videotaped audition, where she recited a monologue from the novel Franny and Zooey by J. Shot in the summer of 1985, the film co-starred Charlie Sheen and Kerri Green with Ryder playing Rina, one of Lucas's friends at school.
She later appeared in the coming of age drama Mermaids (1990), earning a Golden Globe Award nomination, and in the same year appeared alongside Johnny Depp in Burton's dark fairy-tale Edward Scissorhands (1990), and shortly thereafter with Keanu Reeves in Francis Ford Coppola's gothic romance Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).
Eventually, Coppola's daughter Sofia Coppola was cast in the role.
Ryder's ninth role was in the family comedy-drama Mermaids (1990), which co-starred Cher and Christina Ricci.
She also reunited with Burton for Frankenweenie (2012). Ryder won acclaim for her role, and the Los Angeles Times called her performance in Square Dance "a remarkable debut." In the film, she plays goth teenager Lydia Deetz.
Since 2016, she has starred as Joyce Byers in the Netflix supernatural-horror series Stranger Things, for which she has garnered Golden Globe and SAG nominations. Lydia's family moves to a haunted house populated by ghosts played by Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin and Michael Keaton.
During her first week at Kenilworth Junior High, she was bullied by a group of her peers who mistook her for an effeminate, scrawny boy. In 1989, Ryder graduated from Petaluma High School with a 4.0 GPA. Ryder's agent initially begged her to turn the role down, saying the film would "ruin her career".