Elisabeth Moss’ best roles so far, from The Handmaid’s Tale to Shirley

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Elisabeth Moss fans, how many of these films and TV shows have you seen? 

Let’s all agree on one thing, shall we? Elisabeth Moss is a phenomenally talented actor. That much is clear by her unwavering ability to convey a world of emotion with just a twitch of her eye, a shift of a facial muscle, or even a goddamned breath.

With a bevy of awards and nominations under her belt, as well as her own production company, Love & Squalor Pictures, it’s little wonder that the actor already has a slew of projects lined up for 2021 and beyond.

There’s Black Match, a psychosexual neo-noir thriller set in modern-day Los Angeles, and Candy, a true-crime drama about murderer Candy Montgomery. There’s also The Shining Girls, a mystery thriller about a time-travelling serial killer, not to mention ghost horror thriller Run Rabbit Run. And, yeah, we have another installment of Hulu’s brilliant adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to look forward to, too.

In the meantime, though, there are a lot of old Moss projects to enjoy. And we mean a lot: she began acting back in the 90s, remember.

So, in a bid to help you narrow down the options for your next Moss-inspired viewing session, we’ve selected the TV shows and films that we feel display her best performances so far. And, naturally, we’ll keep adding to the list as and when those upcoming television and movie projects come out.

Peggy Olson in Mad Men

It’s the show that made her famous, so it makes sense it made the list. If you have yet to watch Moss’ mind-blowingly satisfying stint as Peggy, the earnest and driven secretary turned ace copywriter in Mad Men, you are missing out. Big time.

Polly Clark in Girl, Interrupted

As the sensitive and childlike Polly “Torch” Clark, Moss delivers an unforgettable performance in James Mangold’s Oscar-winning (yet, in retrospect, problematic) drama based on Susanna Kaysen’s 1993 memoir of the same name.

Detective Robin Griffin in Top Of The Lake

Robin Griffin was Top Of The Lake’s gutsy but inexperienced detective, called back to her home town to investigate the case of a young girl who is discovered pregnant and then goes missing. Moss, though, added layer after layer to the role, making it all too clear that her troubled character was steeling herself against her own traumas.

Shirley Jackson in Shirley

As far as biopics of anguished geniuses go, Moss well and truly gets into the head of horror writer Shirley Jackson. And, yeah, her feverish performance is guaranteed to not just give you some insight into Jackson’s toxic writing process, but keep you on the edge of your seat, too.

Watch the trailer below:

Kitty Tyler/Dahlia in Us

The outstanding Lupita Nyong’o is undeniably the star of Us, but there’s no denying that Moss brings her own unique energy to this chilling Jordan Peele film. Playing both Kitty and the deranged Dahlia, be sure to watch out for a particularly unsettling scene with a pair of scissors. Gulp.

Cecilia Kass in The Invisible Man

Just as she does in The Handmaid’s Tale, Moss is able to convey years of pent-up terror and anguish with just a twitch of her lips, or a shift of her eyes in The Invisible Man. Everything she does makes us fully aware of the fact that Cecilia is a victim of abuse. She has to get out before it’s too late. Her life is on the line. Because, if her boyfriend catches her, he will punish her in ways far too horrible for viewers to imagine.

The Invisible Man review: Elisabeth Moss as Cecelia
The Invisible Man: Elisabeth Moss as Cecilia

Becky Something in Her Smell

In this little known movie, Moss uses every weapon in her acting arsenal to give us the shattered rock diva of our dreams.

And, with just one line, she electrifies this entire film into something… well, into something well worth watching.

“Enough of this jibber-jabber. Let’s rock.”

Zoey Bartlet in The West Wing

That’s right: Moss starred in White House drama The West Wing as Zoey Bartlet, aka the youngest of President Bartlet’s three daughters. And, while this was early on in her acting career, Moss handles every storyline thrown her way with absolute aplomb.

Nina Rogerson in Grey’s Anatomy

Long before The Handmaid’s Tale, Moss – or Nina, as her character was known – came into Seattle Grace hospital with her mother, who had a condition that caused bone to grow at the site of any trauma. Fiercely protective and racked with guilt, Nina persuaded her mum to undergo a very risky surgical procedure. Tragically, though, it proved to be too late, and Nina was left devastated when her mother died on the operating table.

Find out more about her all-too-fleeting scenes here.

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale:
The Handmaid’s Tale: Elisabeth Moss as June Osborne.

June Osborne in The Handmaid’s Tale

Arguably the best performance of her career so far, Moss anchors this engrossing dystopian drama with her quietly restrained performance. In each and every episode, she delivers emotional knockout punch after emotional knockout punch – sometimes just with a flash of her blue eyes. She makes us cry, makes us hurt, makes us shout in desperation at the screen. She makes us feel the enormous weight of Gilead on our shoulders. And yet, somehow, she can shock us to laughter, too, with her oh-so-sardonic (and usually expletive-riddled) voiceovers.

In short? She is iconic.

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Images: Getty/Hulu/Channel 4

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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