The Best Carey Mulligan Movies, Ranked


Not every movie that features Carey Mulligan also includes a string version of Britney Spears’ hit single Toxic. The fact that one does feature such an iconic pop song, alongside multiple charming period pieces and intense dramas she’s starred in, perfectly illustrates the eclectic mix of films that her expansive career has showcased. “I know that for a cinema audience, I’m just constantly in period costume,” she told The New York Times, but for movie lovers and Carey Mulligan fans, her filmography is respectably broad.

The British actress’ portrayal of a femme-fatale vigilante in the #MeToo-era comedy thriller Promising Young Woman brought her a second Academy Award nomination, highlighting her as a driving force for varied storytelling about the lives of women as she scooped up the ‘best female lead’ at many awards shows for the rape-revenge comedy.

Mulligan has a bevy of anticipated upcoming projects. She and Adam Sandler will team up for the Netflix comedy Spaceman, and she will also star alongside Zoe Kazan as reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal story in She Said. Until these films are released, this eclectic list of timeless Carey Mulligan movies should keep you busy.

10 Drive

A close-up of Mulligan in Drive

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, the 2011 American action drama Drive stars Mulligan as Irene alongside her neighbor Ryan Gosling as an unnamed Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. He develops a fondness for Irene, and her young son, Benicio. Her performance in Drive earned her a nomination for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role alongside Ryan Gosling, and she gives an emotionally vulnerable performance here. She’s the beating heart of the otherwise cold film.

9 Shame

Mulligan sings at karaoke night in Shame
Momentum Pictures

In this explicit psychological drama, a sex addict’s carefully cultivated private life falls apart after his sister (played by Mulligan) arrives for an indefinite stay. Shame was released the same year as Drive, and Mulligan’s pair of performances here are astounding. Don’t miss the stunning scene in which Carey Mulligan sings Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York, shot at the Standard on the High Line in New York City. Mulligan’s performance, like Steve McQueen’s film itself, is oftentimes painful in its emotional rawness, and hard to watch. Roger Ebert gave the film a top score of four stars, but also noted in his review, “I don’t believe I would be able to see it twice.”

8 Never Let Me Go

Carey Mulligan in a brown overcoat in wheat fields in Never Let Me Go
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Carey Mulligan plays the narrator, Kathy, an introverted, observant character who flourishes from a passionate, optimistic child into a wise and knowledgeable young woman over the course of Never Let Me Go. Prior to her casting, Mulligan had read the novel a few times, attesting that it was a favorite of hers. She recalled that from when she first read the book three years prior she had wanted to play Kathy. The young Mulligan said that she could not “bear the idea of anyone else” portraying Kathy.

While the film was well-received by most critics, the topic failed to connect with viewers; it barely grossed $10 million at the US box office. In 2010, she then won the BIFA for Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film for her role as Kathy who, alongside Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) grow up together and learn the awful secret of their experimental existence.

7 Suffragette

A hat wearing Mulligan in a crowd of protestors in Suffragette

Suffragette, directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan, depicts womens’ suffrage in the UK. The film has an incredibly stacked cast of Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Whishaw, and Meryl Streep. It is the first feature film to shoot in the Houses of Parliament, signaling the importance of the subject for politics from the 20th century not just for the UK, but globally.

6 Far From The Madding Crowd

Schoenartz stands close behind Mulligan in Far From the Madding Crowd
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Far from the Madding Crowd is a romantic drama directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge, Michael Sheen, and Juno Temple. The first teaser trailer debuted on 23 November 2014 and featured the beautiful song “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme,” performed by Mulligan and Michael Sheen. A movie based on the classic literature of Thomas Hardy, where every sentence is generally gorgeous, the film captures the poetic and melancholically gorgeous sensibility of the novel perfectly, largely thanks to Mulligan’s performance and Vinterberg’s great direction.

5 The Great Gatsby

One of Gatsby's epic parties
Warner Bros.

Based on the eponymous novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Baz Luhrmann recreates the historical romantic tragedy of The Great Gatsby with all its Roaring Twenties accoutrements. An incredible cast featuring Carey Mulligan, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, and Elizabeth Debicki star in this bombastic depiction of Fitzgerald’s iconic piece about the American Dream. Mulligan plays the whimsical golden girl Daisy Buchanan in a role which earned her the nomination for the AACTA for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

4 The Dig

Carey Mulligan in the foreground and Ralph Fiennes in a field in The Dig

In the late 1930s, wealthy landowner Edith Pretty (Mulligan) hires amateur archeologist Basil Brown to investigate the mounds on her property in Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, England. He and his team discover a ship from the Dark Ages while digging up a burial ground. The Dig is a very quiet and very British film, and like its title, it methodically digs into the psyches of its characters with meticulous patience. The Dig received positive reviews from critics and received five nominations for the British Academy Film Awards, including one for Outstanding British Film.

3 Pride & Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice actors in dresses, including Mulligan bending over
Universal Pictures

Carey Mulligan was one of many aspiring actors when she joined the set of one of the best Jane Austen movies so far, the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice. This Joe Wright movie helped expose the actor to audiences everywhere, and Mulligan’s fame probably would not have happened had she not picked up this breakthrough role. Who’d have thought sweet Kitty Bennet in Pride & Prejudice would someday become The Great Gatsby‘s Daisy Buchanan?

2 Promising Young Woman

Mulligan stands in the middle of the road in Promising Young Woman
Focus Features / Universal Pictures

Traumatized by a tragic event in her past, Mulligan portrays Cassie in this thrilling story which finds her seeking out vengeance for her best friend’s rape (and subsequent death), smoking out the (not-so) “good guys” in the process. Promising Young Woman is an angry and oftentimes brilliant scream against the complacency of the patriarchy, but has received mixed reviews (despite its Oscar win) for the film’s portrayal of sexual assault and its consequences, as seen through a privileged lens, particularly with the film’s resolution. Siddhant Adlakha writes for The Observer, “The conclusion wants to have its cake and eat it too, wrapping up with the police becoming a magical, fantastical part of the solution, rather than part of the ongoing structural problem.” Mulligan’s performance, however, is unquestionably brilliant in this icy and scheming role.

1 An Education

Mulligan smokes against a brick wall in An Education
E1 / Sony Pictures Classics

Carey Mulligan gives one of her first standout performances in this coming-of-age movie which follows teenage girl Jenny from a sheltered upbringing with a bright future in 1960s suburban London. She has looks and intelligence, with aspirations of attending Oxford University, before her life changes with the arrival of a playboy nearly twice her age. David (Peter Sarsgaard) and his shiny maroon Bristol 405 gives Jenny a taste of adult life that she won’t soon forget in An Education, a fascinating, wonderfully directed film with a complicated protagonist, someone Mulligan clearly relishes exploring.

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