A sample of her strong-as-steel characters

Lemon Sky (1988)
Role: Foster kid Carol, a pill-popping, promiscuous teen, preternaturally wise.
Look: Pedal pushers, ponytail, bomber jacket.
Onscreen gem: “Don’t make excuses for me, for God’s sake — you’re supposed to be bawling me out!”
In Sedgwick’s words: “Carol got tits early. Just because you have a hot body and good tits, men will think, ‘Of course, you want it,’ and I think sometimes women fall into that role.”

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Role: Demure Donna, love interest to Tom Cruise’s Ron Kovic, grows into a powerful anti-Vietnam War activist.
Look: In high school, dainty skirts and blouses, prim prom gown. Later, long hippie skirts and flowing hair.
Onscreen gem: “All the boys who sacrificed their minds and their bodies … War is so wrong, Ronny. It’s so wrong. I just had to do something.”
In Sedgwick’s words: “Donna defined the era for so many girls. So many girls were innocent; the country was innocent and wanting to do the right thing. Then it became embittered and embroiled in a war that didn’t feel right.”

Singles ( 1992)
Role: Linda Powell, a spirited but vulnerable single twentysomething trying to find love and save the world.
Look: Jeans, blazer, antique blouse, sweet smile, big curls.
Onscreen gem: “How long have I been saying there are no guys? I met one when I was least expecting it. He’s like a comet.”
In Sedgwick’s words: “It was the early ’90s, and I kept getting these scripts where it was the girl part, and there was nothing substantive. This role was wonderful because I knew this girl. I loved her.”

Miss Rose White (1992)
Role: Rose White — a conflicted young woman in 1940s New York — hides her Jewish identity. When her estranged sister returns from the concentration camps, Rose boldly confronts her past.
Look: Authentic ’40s skirts and fitted jackets, hats, pearls, gloves, plus perfectly coiffed hair.
Onscreen gem: “Everything was so simple before you came here — I knew who I was, and I knew where I belonged. It was simple!”
In Sedgwick’s words: “Rose was a fascinating character to get inside. I needed to do a lot of research on what it is to really be a semi-Orthodox Jew. While my mother’s Jewish and I’m Jewish, I was never a real practicing Jew. I learned to say the Sabbath prayer, and learned a lot about the candles. This (ritual) was something I had to study.”

Something to Talk About (1995)
Role: Emma Rae King, family-business-devoted daughter, the son her father never had and dogged sidekick to scorned sister Julia Roberts.
Look: Tight black knit miniskirt, black tights, plus oversize sweater for easy angst-ridden movement.
Onscreen gem: “Are you addressing me? Well, lick it, put a stamp on it and mail it to someone who gives a shit.”
In Sedgwick’s words: “The part was so killer! The lines were so great. Everyone tells me I look like Julia, so for that reason also I was like, ‘I have to get this part.’ 

Personal Velocity (2002)
Role: Thirty-four-year-old Delia Shunt, longtime victim of domestic abuse who finally leaves her high school-sweetheart husband with kids in tow.
Look: Levi’s, low-cut tops, hair tied back carelessly.
Onscreen gem (from narrator): “Delia was tough: She beat up a guy in a bar once just for grabbing her ass. He hit her back, and she broke a chair over his head.”
In Sedgwick’s words: “I had never played any really working-class person. The way Delia’s described in the book, it wouldn’t have been your first thought: ‘Kyra Sedgwick for this part.’ I felt blessed and blown away by the fact that (director) Rebecca Miller wanted me.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more