Carey Mulligan

Carey Mulligan’s best roles, from Promising Young Woman to Never Let Me Go

Posted by for Film

Can’t get enough of Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman? Check out more of her brilliant work with this guide to her best film and TV roles so far.

Carey Mulligan is having a moment.

On top of the fact that her standout new film Promising Young Woman has been praised by critics and fans alike, she’s also won and been nominated for a long list of awards for her performance, including an Oscar nomination for best actress.

With so much buzz surrounding her latest film, it’s easy to presume that this is the first time Mulligan has made her mark on the film and TV industries – but that’s not the case.

In fact, not only has Mulligan starred in a number of brilliant titles over the years, including Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, but she’s also been nominated for the best actress Oscar before for her breakout performance in Lone Scherfig’s An Education.      

So, ahead of the Oscars ceremony tonight (25 February), in which Mulligan has been tipped to take home the win, we thought we’d take a look back at some of Mulligan’s best roles from her career so far. 

Jenny Mellor in An Education (2009)

Although Mulligan had been acting for some time before she starred in An Education, this film is often cited as her breakthrough performance.

A coming-of-age drama based on the memoir of the same name by journalist Lynn Barber, An Education follows Mulligan’s character, a schoolgirl named Jenny Mellor, as she falls in love with a charming conman (Peter Sarsgaard).   

Kathy in Never Let Me Go (2011)

An adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s iconic dystopian novel of the same name, Never Let Me Go sees Mulligan star as Kathy, a young woman who spends her days dreaming of the time she spent at the mysterious Hailsham boarding school.

Also starring Keira Knightley as Ruth and Andrew Garfield as Tommy, Never Let Me Go is a haunting and compelling exploration of love, betrayal and loss.  

Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby (2013)

In yet another literary adaptation, this time of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Mulligan plays Daisy Buchanan, the charming but fickle love interest of the film’s titular character (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Sprinkled with Baz Luhrmann’s iconic charm and the glamour of 1920’s New York, the film is narrated by Gatsby’s neighbour Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), who finds himself increasingly intertwined with Gatsby as the latter attempts to reunite with Daisy, who happens to be his ex-lover. 

Bathsheba Everdene in Far From The Madding Crowd (2015)

If you needed any further proof that Mulligan knows how to nail a strong female character, look no further than her performance as Bathsheba Everdene in the 2015 film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd.

Set in Victorian England, Far From The Madding Crowd follows Bathsheba as she deals with the attention of three very different suitors, and is forced to confront what she really wants from her relationships.  

Maud Watts in Suffragette

In this historical drama about the women’s suffrage movement, Mulligan plays Maud Watts – a young working mother who finds herself swept into radical political activism in the fight to ensure women received the vote.

Alongside the likes of Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter, Mulligan gives an incredibly powerful performance that’s certainly worth a watch.  

DI Kip Glaspie in Collateral (2018)

Although she did a lot of TV in her early career, since 2009 Mulligan has predominantly starred in feature films – and that’s what makes her performance as DI Kip Glaspie in the TV mini-series Collateral so great to watch.

In the series, Mulligan plays a no-nonsense detective investigating the murder of a local pizza delivery man in a London suburb.  

Cassie Thomas in Promising Young Woman (2020)

There are plenty of reasons why Mulligan has received so many award nominations for her role in Promising Young Woman – and all of them will become clear as soon as you watch her performance as the stoic and determined Cassie Thomas.

In short, Thomas is a woman on a mission – at the start of the movie, we learn that, most nights, she leaves her home, heads to a bar and pretends to be drunk, after which she lets ‘nice guys’ take her home. However, when they get back, the men quickly realise she’s not the drunk woman they were expecting – in fact, she’s poised to hit them with some hard truths.

As Stylist writer Hannah-Rose Yee wrote of the film: “The trap is immaculate and lush. It’s wearing dungarees and Glossier-pink mohair sweaters and silky, cornflower blue wrap dresses. It welcomes you in. And that’s when you realise how deep this rabbit hole of rage goes.” 

Lady Edith Pretty in The Dig

Netflix’s latest period drama may see Mulligan take on a role which is a far cry from Cassie Thomas, but her performance as Lady Edith Pretty, a wealthy widow who hires an archaeologist to investigate a series of mounds on her property, is undoubtedly worth a watch.

Based on a true story, the film’s depiction of the famous Sutton Hoo dig against the backdrop of looming war makes for a quietly impactful watch that will, as Stylist’s Kayleigh Dray aptly put it, stay with you “long after the credits roll”.  

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.