Carey Mulligan claimed her first Oscar nomination for her lead role in the 2009 coming-of-age saga “An Education.” Then the British actress once again collected bountiful awards nominations (and some wins) for her role as a #MeToo- era femme fatale avenger in the darkly comic thriller “Promising Young Woman.”
Like many of the directors whose names appear on her resume, first-time helmer Emerald Fennell — the Season 2 showrunner for ”Killing Eve” who also plays Camila Parker Bowles in “The Crown” — has a distinctive vision that allows the actress to inhabit abundant shades of emotion, from ballsy and badass to pastel-pink and girly.
Her latest in 2022 was “She Said,” based on the intense investigation into sexual allegations against Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein.
In honor of her latest, take a photo gallery tour of Mulligan’s 13best movies, ranked worst to best. In addition to the films mentioned above, we also include “Pride and Prejudice,” “Mudbound,” “Wildlife” and more.
13. “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (2010)
In the 1987 Oliver Stone film “Wall Street,” greed was notoriously declared “good” by corporate raider Gordon Gekko, a role that allowed Michael Douglas to claim his lone Best Actor Oscar win. Twenty-three years later, this sequel set during the 2008 recession sees Douglas released from prison after serving time for committing financial times. Mulligan, in her first major studio film, plays his estranged daughter, Winnie, who is dating Jake, a young trader (Shia LeBeouf). Gekko manipulates her beau with various deals in the hopes to reunite with his daughter again. Winnie is the moral center of the jargon-heavy and complicated plot. Reviews were mixed, but Mulligan acquits herself well enough to skate by.
12. “Drive” (2011)
This ultra-violent vehicle from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn stars Ryan Gosling as an unnamed Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway specialist. He becomes close to his angel-faced neighbor Irene (Mulligan) and her young son, Benicio. When her husband (Oscar Isaac) is let out of prison, both men participate in a botched million-dollar heist that endangers all concerned. This movie didn’t exactly do any damage for Mulligan’s trajectory as a star but it also didn’t do her any favors, either. The film would receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Editing.
11. “Never Let Me Go” (2010)
After Peter Rice, the-then head of 20th Century Fox, saw Mulligan in “An Education” at Sundance in 2009, he suggested that she should star as the lead character and narrator Kathy in director Mark Romanek’s “Never Let Me Go,” a tear-jerker based on Kazuou Ishiguro’s ultra- bleak novel about a world where human clones are created so they can have their organs harvested. This time, her “Pride & Prejudice” sibling Keira Knightley had the supporting role of Ruth, who is part of a love triangle that involves Andrew Garfield as Tommy. While the film was mostly well-received by critics, the depressing subject matter failed to connect with audiences, it barely grossed $10 million at the U.S. box office.
10. “Shame” (2011)
With this explicit psychological drama from British director Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) that bore a rare NC-17 rating, Mulligan was at the stage of her career where she was game enough to snuff out her good girl image. She’s the sister of Michael Fassbender’s deeply disturbed sex-addicted New York City executive Brandon. When we first see her lounge singer Sissy, she is in her brother’s shower stark naked while her brother happens upon her. Later, Brandon and David, his married boss, go to a club and watch her perform a downbeat rendition of “New York, New York.” She eventually has sex with David in her brother’s apartment, much to Brandon’s disgust. She later tries get in bed with her brother. Sissy, whose arms bear the signs of self-inflicted wounds, exhibits signs of borderline personality disorder. Sure enough Brandon finds her on the bathroom floor covered in blood with her wrists slashed, although she somehow survives. 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.”
9.”The Great Gatsby” (2013)
Aussie director Baz Luhrmann, whose previous features include “Strictly Ballroon,” “Romeo+Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge!” never met a movie concept he couldn’t bedazzle into relevance, complete with 3-D. That includes this take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel that is a cork-popping, confetti-strewn collage of Jazz Age and Jay-Z glam style and amid abundant excess. Leonardo DiCaprio takes on the affluent role of the affluent Jay Gatsby while Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the married object of his desire. The actress has said of the role, “She is tricky. She is not very grounded in reality. She does live in a bit of a fairy world. I think she is bored, really bored. And that is one of her biggest problems.” While the consensus is this is a far less snoozy adaptation than the 1974 version that starred Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, the frenzy of it all dilutes the essence of Fitzgerald’s illustrious tome. The film won Oscars for production design and costume designs.
8. “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013)
Joel and Ethan Coen’s homage to the ‘60s folk era provided a break-out role for actor Oscar Isaac sings and strums his guitar while performing at the landmark New York City club the Gaslight. This slinky self-defeating soul spends much of the movie being followed by a sweet orange tabby. Mulligan, meanwhile, is the female half of the more mainstream duo Jean and Jim (Justin Timberlake) who might have been impregnated by Llewyn. She and Timberlake perform a version of the evergreen folk standard “Five Hundred Miles” with another male artist at the club while Llewyn, who clearly has a chip on his shoulder, grows ever more disgruntled while the patrons join in singing the song. Clearly, a gray cloud follows him wherever he goes. Mulligan described her role in the film this way: “I play one of the title character’s friends. Predominantly, what I do in the movie is to yell at him and give him a hard time. Ultimately, I am trying to help him. I wear a dark wig and look quite moody.” The film was Oscar-nominated for cinematography and best sound mixing.
7. “Far From the Madding Crowd” (2015)
Danish helmer Thomas Vinterberg is behind this fourth remake of the big-screen adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel stands a bit in the shadow of the 1967 version comes that starred Julia Christie, the It girl of ‘60s British cinema, as Bathsheba Everdene, a single woman who her inherits her late uncle’s farm while proving her worth to those in the patriarchal community. That sweeping three-hour epic version of events was chopped down to two for the latest version, as Mulligan puts her spin on a proto-feminist heroine whose name influenced Katniss Everdeen of “The Hunger Games” fame. As in the original film, her Bathsheba is wooed by a trio of Victorian-era suitors who all vie for her attention: Matthias Schoenaerts as steadfast sheep herder Gabriel Oaks, Tom Sturridge as seductive Sgt. Troy and Michael Sheen as lonely older man of means William Boldwood. Mulligan was lavished with praise for her performance. The Guardian gushed that “her face has a pinched girlish prettiness combined with a shrewd, slightly schoolmistress-y intelligence … Her Bathsheba is well turned out with an impressive line in hats. She is a horsewoman and very keen on rough shooting, not activities that much interested Julie Christie, who was almost ethereally beautiful and fancy-free in the part.”
6. “Mudbound “(2017)
Dee Rees directed this historical drama that intertwines the fates of two families, one white and the other black in the Mississippi Delta shortly before World War II begins.. The white McAllan clan headed by Henry (Jason Clarke) and wife Laura (Carey Mulligan), buys a farm outside of Marietta where they live with their daughters and Henry’s cruelly racist Pappy (Jonathon Banks). They allow the Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) and his family, including wife Florence (Mary J. Blige) to tend their cotton fields as tenants. When the war begins, Henry’s younger brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) joins the Air Force while the Jacksons’ eldest son, Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), picks the U.S. Army. Both soldiers suffer from PTSD from their experiences while their families are beset with poverty as well as heath issues, alcoholism, and virulent racism. Laura has an affair with her brother -in-law Jamie and he and Ronsel suffer a nightmarish run-in with the Ku Klux Klan that upends both their lives. While Mulligan held her own, she was upstaged by supporting actress Blige, who became the first person ever to be Oscar-nominated for both acting and songwriting (“Mighty River”) in the same year. Other records: Rachel Morrison was the first woman ever to compete in the cinematography category while Rees was the first Black woman to be nominated for best adapted screenplay.
5. “She Said” (2022)
Director: Maria Schrader. Writer: Rebecca Lenkiewicz. Starring: Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson, Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Morton and Ashley Judd playing herself.
This biographical drama is based on a 2019 same-titled book with Mulligan and Kazan playing “The New York Times” Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Cantor who investigated and exposed movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s history of abuse and sexual misconduct with various actresses. While Rowan Farrow gets a shout-out on screen, these intrepid woman investigative reporters were the ones who brought Weinstein down. Meanwhile, they are supported by managing editor Dean Baquet (Braugher) as they try to bring down for this Hollywood predator. However, not every victim wants to spill the ugly beans. But they get more and more women to tell happened to them. The shocking story also served as a launching pad for the #MeToo movement, shattering decades of silence around the subject of sexual assault and harassment. As one female critic noted, the camera lingers on the dreadful scenes of an abuser’s hotel room, as women’s voices fill the space he once inhabited. The issue at hand isn’t the most cinematic topic, but it does celebrate the fact that Weinstein’s brave victims found relief because these brave journalists made Weinstein have to face the legal music.
4. “Pride and Prejudice” (2005)
Mulligan made her big-screen debut in director Joe Wright’s adaptation Jane Austen’s story of the Bennet family, whose five daughters are all in need of suitors, by enlisting the aid of Julien Fellowes (“Downtown Abbey,” “Gosford Park”) after he spoke at her school. He was impressed enough to get in touch with the right people, which led to her casting as the second youngest sister, Kitty. The romantic drama would collect Oscar nominations for Keira Knightley in the role of Elizabeth as well as for its original score, art direction and costume design.
3. “Wildlife” (2017)
Actor Paul Dano co-wrote his directing debut with an adapted screenplay co-written with his partner Zoe Kazan. Mulligan co-stars with Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeanette and Jerry Brinson, a haunted couple with an owlish teen son (Ed Oxenbould) whose small-town family life in 1960 Great Falls, Montana grows increasingly dysfunctional. The man of the house loses his golf course job and drowns his sorrows with beer. But when Jerry makes a decision to join a crew of men fighting a raging wildfire in the mountains for little pay, Jeanette snaps. She takes a job as a swimming instructor and flirts with a burly auto-shop mogul. Years before the feminist movement took hold, Jeanette seethes inside while she ignores her son. This well-focused domestic drama shows the ways that the nuclear family was on the verge of blowing up while Mulligan explodes with volcanic intensity as a mad housewife in Big Sky Country.
2. “Promising Young Woman” (2020)
More than 10 years after her breakout in “An Education”, Mulligan snags another role of a lifetime thanks to a female director, Emerald Fennell, who also wrote the screenplay. In this darkly comic thriller, she is Cassandra, a med-school dropout who works as a barista. She spends her nights going to clubs and setting traps for males as she pretend to be drunk out of her mind. Invariably, a guy will come over and pretend to rescue her. But instead of taking her home, they take her to their place and ply her with alcohol while trying to take advantage of her supposed state. She then suddenly becomes stone-cold sober and confronts her would-be attackers and shames their actions. Mulligan is cosplaying her butt off in each of her acts of #MeToo vengeance but the reason for her femme fatale performances comes from a place of grief, loss and sadness. She initially meets a guy she actually likes, a sweet pediatrician (Bo Burnham), who is tongue-tied whenever he is around her. But she soon learns that even he has crossed the line and the film builds to a fiendishly satisfying climax.
1. “An Education” (2009)
Based on a memoir set in 1961 and directed by Danish director Lone Scherfig, London schoolgirl Jenny Mellor is a smart and attractive 16-year-old who is itching to get out from under the thumb of her strict father and can’t wait to attend Oxford University. After an orchestra rehearsal, she waits at a bus stop in the rain and meets David Goldman, a seductive older Jewish man (Peter Sarsgaard) driving a fancy Bristol 405 car. He lets her put her cello in his car and later invites her inside. She confesses that she wants indulge in such cultural activities as visiting art galleries and watching French films. David invites her to a concert with his friends, Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Helen (Rosamund Pike). After seeing David charm her parents by over a round of drinks, she soon learns that her boyfriend is a con man who is who makes money with a variety of shady schemes. She is even more shocked when, after losing her virginity to him on a trip to Paris, she learns that he is already married. In a star-making Oscar-nominated performance, Mulligan nailed every smug know-it-all teen girl who can’t wait to defy the wishes of her parents and teachers while seeking the allure of being cosmopolitan and sophisticated. The film also competed for Best Picture and adapted screenplay.