George Miller will unleash his highly anticipated Mad Max: Fury Road prequel, Furisoa: A Mad Max Saga, on us this week, and I, for one, cannot wait to see what the action maestro has up his sleeve for an encore. Too much time has passed since our last adventure into Miller’s post-apocalyptic world. After switching gears from Mel Gibson to Tom Hardy in Fury Road, audiences must make another transition from Charlize Theron to Anya Taylor-Joy, who assumes the role of Furiosa.

The talented actress first wowed audiences with her breakout role in Robert Eggers’ The Witch and has since morphed into quite the star, so let’s take a look at the best Anya Taylor-Joy movies.

The Witch (2015)

You won’t find many films as disturbing as The Witch. My first foray into Robert Eggers’s world left me cold but respectful of his immense filmmaking craft. Honestly, I’m not sure anyone outside of film circles will appreciate the Witch. It’s a dark, morbid curiosity that nonetheless achieves what it set out to do—scare the bejesus out of viewers. Not in a fun way, mind you. The Witch buries itself deep under your skin, and its authentic approach to the material only makes it more disturbing. 

Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Thomasin, a young girl who watches her family fall prey to witchcraft and a black goat that may or may not be the Devil. As I said, it’s weird as hell with infant murder, possessed children, striking moments of violence, and a consistently downbeat tone that’ll require at least a worth of old Disney films to shake. Still, Taylor-Joy does a bang-up job guiding us through the madness. I’ve only seen The Witch once, but she left an impression. So much so that for years, I only identified her as that actress from The Witch. Well played.   

Split (2016)

Anya Taylor-Joy again displayed her immense talent in M. Night Shyamalan’s disturbing thriller Split. Here, she plays Casey, one of a group of young women kidnapped by a man named Dennis (a ferociously intense James McAvoy). The twist is that Dennis suffers from multiple personalities that randomly assume control of his body. Some of his personalities are kindhearted souls longing for attention, while others are more dangerous. Casey and her friends must escape before a more destructive force, the Beast, emerges and kills them all.

Split marked Shyamalan’s return to form following a handful of flops. The writer/director crafts an intelligent thriller and gets the most from his stars, particularly Taylor-Joy, who does a fine job reacting to McAvoy’s varied character portrayals. Once again, she serves as our guide, and while McAvoy ultimately runs away from the picture, her nuanced performance adds much-needed heart to the story.

Emma (2020)

Following a series of dark thrillers, Anya Taylor-Joy lightened up in 2020’s Emma, the seemingly millionth adaptation of Jane Austen’s famous novel. The film offers nothing new, but Taylor-Joy’s charming radiance gives the character a fresh feel. She alone is worth the price of admission, displaying elegance and sharp comic timing despite her rigid trappings.

For those unaware, Emma is the story of a well-meaning young woman who spends far too much time creating romances between her friends. Her tampering creates unwelcome friction, leading Emma to reevaluate her role as a matchmaker while finding true love for herself. Emma won’t knock your socks off, but Taylor-Joy will leave you breathless, which is why it ends up on our list of the best Anya Taylor-Joy movies.

The Queen’s Gambit (2020)

The Queen’s Gambit is more of a mini-series, but creators Scott Frank and Allan Scott coat the entire affair with enough cinematic pizzaz to qualify it as a film. Or, at least, that’s how I justify placing it on this list. Then again, how could this masterful drama about chess in the 1960s not appear here? The series represents Taylor-Joy’s finest performance to date. As the central character, Beth, a fictional chess prodigy, Taylor-Joy delivers a mesmerizing performance, portraying a complex individual burdened by her own brilliance.

Based in part on real-life chess champions like Bobby Fisher, Beth suffers from drug and alcohol addiction and must deal with the atypical pratfalls that go hand in hand with stardom. Spawning several decades, The Queen’s Gambit is an incredible, even powerful story about one woman’s rise to fame and her struggles at the top. 

Last Night in Soho (2021)

Edgar Wright’s stylish thriller finds Anya Taylor-Joy assuming the role of Sandie, an illustrious singer struggling to achieve her dreams in 1960s London. Her misadventures are witnessed via dreams by Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie), an aspiring fashion designer living in the modern-day, who moves into a bedsit and suddenly finds herself transported to the past. As the two women’s lives collide, Ellie uncovers Sandie’s secrets, culminating in several terrifying revelations that could change how she views the world.

As usual, Wright directs the hell out of the production, applying his extraordinary technical prowess to the thriller genre with electrifying results. Grossly overlooked at its release, Last Night in Soho is one of the talented director’s best. While it may not be Taylor-Joy’s most significant role, the actress does wonders in a supporting performance that sells her character’s heartbreak and tragic downfall. Seriously, if you missed this one in 2021, make amends now! Last Night in Soho is unbelievable.

Bonus: The Northman (2022)

The actress’ performance in The Menu also deserves a shoutout on the list of the best Anya Taylor-Joy movies, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t mention her small but pivotal role in Robert Eggers’ The Northman. The actress fits this strange Viking universe like a glove, portraying Olga of the Birch Forest or the love interest to Alexander Skarsgard’s Amleth. Her natural beauty stands out in this rugged landscape and provides a much-needed soul to this barbaric universe.

Jeff Ames

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Best Anya Taylor-Joy Movies to Watch After Furiosa