In less than a decade, the career of Anya Taylor-Joy has quickly shot to the stratosphere of acclaim and proven her to be one of the most sought-after performers to cast in a film. She has shown she can have a dynamic screen presence that can carry a film, even in ones that may not be as fully up to task as she is. In just a short period of time, she has taken on an impressive number of different roles that show she has an impressive amount of range across a variety of genres. Be it where she began in horror with Robert Eggers’ The Witch or more recent films like the period romance Emma., she has always carried herself with a confidence and control that is impossible to look away from, even in some of the films where you may feel like you want to. No matter the film, she commands the screen.
With Taylor-Joy starring in the new Edgar Wright-directed movie Last Night in Soho this October, and a recently announced role in the upcoming The Northman that reunites her with Eggers, it is worth going back through her film career up until this point. There is a lot of outstanding craft to parse through, even as there are some misses that we might rather forget. Still, it’s all worth diving into in order to get a full picture of the trajectory of how Taylor-Joy has grown into many new and exciting roles that stick with you. Here are Anya Taylor-Joy’s movies ranked from worst to best.
Playmobil: The Movie
Do you remember the fact that an entire feature-length film about Playmobils came out in 2019? Do you remember how it starred Taylor-Joy as Marla, a girl who is accidentally transported with her brother to a Playmobil world where they find themselves trapped? No? Then you are not alone. The fact that this movie even exists is much more interesting than anything that takes place within it. It is a children’s film that clearly was hoping to follow in the footsteps of the far superior Lego Movie; it just came out nearly five years too late and lacked any of the charm of what it was clearly ripping off. It is something that you can put on to distract children, they would just have to be of the age where they are entertained simply by bright colors. This all may sound a bit harsh, but it’s impossible to evaluate this mess of a cash grab any other way.
The New Mutants
The release of The New Mutants went on for years. With delay after delay, concerns began to arise about whether the film was even worth seeing. Upon its release, the answer we got was a decisive “no.” The story the film attempted to tell was about a group of young mutants held in some sort of mysterious institution where they weren’t allowed to leave; a constrained premise that it ends up doing next to nothing with. Amidst the group is Taylor-Joy as Illyana Rasputin, a secondary antagonist of sorts who frequently bullied the film’s Indigenous protagonist Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt), who is Cheyenne. This is one of the film’s biggest problems as the litany of racist taunts begins to really go overboard. It all serves as a lazy way to create conflict where there was none in the story. It subsequently gets dropped from the film, making it feel cheap and unnecessary to the overall scope of the narrative.
To make it all worse, Taylor-Joy attempts to deliver all these lines in something resembling a Russian accent. Incredibly inconsistent, it was a strange character choice that only proves to be a distraction. Taylor-Joy isn’t the sole offender as many of the other characters also struggle with respective accents, so it is hard to cast the blame solely at her feet. However, the result is still bad especially when the rest of the film isn’t good on its own. There is a meandering plot and half-hearted attempts at scares as the facility seems haunted that all just builds to a mess of a conclusion. It was a film that concluded the X-Men franchise on a lackluster note where we only wish we could forget it.
Here Are the Young Men
A film that doesn’t do any favors to its compelling cast, Here Are the Young Men is one of the more strange parts of Taylor-Joy’s filmography. Based on the novel of the same name by Rob Doyle, it is a film that attempts to say something about the uncertainty that comes from having to enter into the real world of adulthood. Set in Dublin, it follows recent high school graduate Dean-Charles Chapman as Matthew and Taylor-Joy as his girlfriend Jen as they navigate the uncertainty of growing up. What it ends up becoming is a very muddled film that traces the impact a violent accident has on the young men of the title. It’s unfortunate that the film becomes more juvenile and uncertain than the characters within it. It seems to think it is much slicker than it ends up being, creating surreal and often frightening dream sequences that both play out on television screens as well as in the minds of its characters. Much of these sequences are the result of heavy drug use, making it hard to trust what you are seeing.
It soon becomes clear that some of these dreams aren’t dreams and in fact real events from memory that reveal the dangerous side of these young men; in particular, Finn Cole’s Kearney begins to descend into a dark place and threatens to drag the rest of the characters down with him. Taylor-Joy gets lost in the shuffle in most of the film and regrettably is relegated to being the love interest without much development beyond that. It all ends up feeling tragically trite, following a pattern you’ve seen laid out plenty of times before about how things can spiral out of control (especially in the superior Trainspotting). It doesn’t help that the film shoots itself in the foot by creating a narrative structure where the end is shown at the beginning, undercutting much of the narrative tension. But hey, at least the accents feel more authentic and remain consistent throughout.
This mixed bag of a film is the most strict biopic Taylor-Joy has performed in. She shows up as Irène, the daughter of acclaimed scientist Marie Sklodowska-Curie (Rosamund Pike). In one of a few brief scenes, she talks to her mother about the dangers of warfare and how soldiers are being given substandard care even as they are risking their lives. In a film that is dragged down by the formula of the biopic, Taylor-Joy’s passion in these scenes changes the course of the film and injects it with life by giving her mother something to believe in. It takes an understated yet powerful performance to make such an impact in such a brief amount of time, and this is a prime example of that. Taylor-Joy is resolute in a harsh world, standing up to the system that chews people up and spits them out. Later, when Irène has a conversation with her mother while driving through the destruction of the war, the two capture the complex feelings of trying to reconnect when the world is in chaos. It is a simple yet effective scene carried by the two performers.
It’s just a shame that the rest of the film is not up to the same standard as the performers who give it their all. Its intentions are good, though the story is far too wrapped up in the conventions that doom most biopics. As most other films of the genre do, it decides to show nearly every single event of its subject’s life, and ends up spreading itself far too thin. It never gives scenes time to breathe or sink in, instead opting to cast such a wide net over its subject matter that nuance ends up slipping through the gaps. There are some interesting visual moments and shifts in the narrative that break up some of the Spark Notes-esque storytelling, though it isn’t enough to instill the story with anything memorable. It ends up dooming itself to convention.