After more than 15 years in the game, English-born Carey Mulligan has proven herself to be one of the most talented and exciting actresses working today. With two Oscar nominations to her name, she’s delivered an incredible array of characters and performances, many of which should have been recognized by the Academy.
To celebrate the esteemed actress, Variety ranks her 11 best film performances of her career so far.
Many remember her film debut in Joe Wright’s breathtaking “Pride and Prejudice” (2005) as Kitty Bennett opposite Keira Knightley. Her big break came when she was given the starring role of Jenny in the coming-of-age drama “An Education” (2009). Helmed by Lone Scherfig, the movie’s best picture nomination by the Oscars marked the first time two women-directed features were nominated in the top category in the same year. The other was Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker,” which won. Mulligan’s wistfully methodical portrayal earned her a BAFTA statuette for best actress and an Oscar nom.
After her nom, Mulligan continued exploring challenging and dynamic roles over the next decade, working with some of Hollywood’s most talented actors and directors. As Irene, she surrendered to the Driver (Ryan Gosling) in an elevator in Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” (2011). As Sissy, she displayed heartbreak in the lyrics of the song “New York, New York” opposite Michael Fassbender in Steve McQueen’s criminally underrated “Shame” (2011). Finally, as Jean, she showed frustration in choosing between Oscar Isaac and Justin Timberlake in the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013).
Her next Oscar nom wouldn’t happen until Emerald Fennell steered her into the revenge drama “Promising Young Woman” (2020). Then, in the third instance of two female-directed films nominated for the Academy’s top prize, Mulligan won the second most precursors for her turn as Cassie, a woman looking to right the wrong caused by the men who assaulted her friend during college. Unfortunately, with a global pandemic, a changing BAFTA voting practice that resulted in an egregious snub, and an overlong awards season, she wound up losing the prize to Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”), which would be her third best actress statuette.
More to come from the wife of Mumford and Sons’ leading vocalist Marcus Mumford and the mother of two. She’ll star opposite Adam Sandler and Paul Dano in “Spaceman” by Johan Renck. Many have their eyes on her upcoming role as Leonard Bernstein’s wife, Felicia Montealegre, in Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro.”
Read through the list below and watch the clip of the “scene that proves it” for each selection.
Honorable mentions: “Pride and Prejudice” (2005), “The Great Gatsby” (2013), “The Dig” (2021)