Every Lupita Nyong'o movie, ranked according to critics

Gabbi Shaw
·7 min read
lupita nyongo
Lupita Nyong'o. Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
  • Lupita Nyong'o has acted in 10 feature films — nine have a score above 60% on Rotten Tomatoes.

  • In honor of Nyongo's 38th birthday on March 1, we've ranked all her movies, according to critics.

  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, "Black Panther" takes the top spot.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

There's never been a star quite like Lupita Nyong'o - the Mexico-born, Kenyan-raised actress won an Oscar for her film debut, "12 Years a Slave," and since then, has been in two movies total with a score lower than 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Clearly, she has impeccable taste.

To celebrate her 38th birthday on March 1, we've ranked all 10 of her feature film roles from worst to best, according to critics' scores on Rotten Tomatoes. The scores were accurate as of February 2021.

Keep scrolling to see where your faves like "Star Wars," "Black Panther," and "Us" fall.

The lowest-rated film of Nyong'o's career is 2019's "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," in which she reprises her role as Maz Kanata.

maz kanata rise of skywalker
"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

In "Rise of Skywalker," the much-maligned conclusion of the Skywalker Saga and the only "rotten" film in her career, Nyong'o plays Maz once again, in a larger role than "Last Jedi," but not as big as "The Force Awakens."

"Even as 'The Rise of Skywalker's' characters claim their ultimate triumph, the film feels clumsy, hurried, and above all, like an admission of creative defeat," wrote Polygon's Tasha Robinson.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 51%

A few weeks before she'd win an Oscar, the 2014 thriller "Non-Stop" premiered, featuring Nyong'o in a small role as a flight attendant.

non stop lupita nyongo
"Non-Stop." Universal Pictures

In "Non-Stop," Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, an alcoholic US air marshal, who is blackmailed by a would-be suicide bomber aboard the plane. Nyong'o has a small role as a flight attendant named Gwen.

"The filmmaking is playful without feeling jokey, the narrative stuffed with fun complications," wrote Ben Sachs of the Chicago Reader.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 62%

Nyong'o plays a kindergarten teacher dealing with a zombie apocalypse in 2019's "Little Monsters."

lupita nyongo little monsters
"Little Monsters." Neon; Hulu

In "Little Monsters," Nyong'o stars as Miss Caroline, a lovely kindergarten teacher, opposite Alexander England as Dave, a washed-up musician who is forced to live with his sister and nephew, and Josh Gad as Teddy McGiggle, a popular children's musician. The three adults are left to fend for themselves and Miss Caroline's class when a zombie outbreak runs rampant across the US.

"The reason to see this is Nyong'o. A kind of zombie-killing version of Julie Andrews in a sunny yellow dress, the US star proves you can defeat anything with a positive attitude and some 'Tay Tay on your uke-y,'" wrote Metro's Larushka Ivan-Zadeh.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%

In 2017, Nyong'o once again played Maz Kanata in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

maz kanata last jedi
"Star Wars: The Last Jedi." Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Maz's appearance in "The Last Jedi" is essentially a glorified cameo — when main characters Finn and Rose are looking for someone to help them disable the villainous First Order's tracking device, they call up Maz, and she directs them to a casino in the city Canto Bight, setting up their plot in the film.

"Rian Johnson's middle chapter in the current 'Star Wars' trilogy is the epic you've been looking for. Capped by Mark Hamill in the performance of his career, it points the way ahead to a next generation of skywalkers — and, thrillingly, to a new hope," wrote Peter Travers for Rolling Stone.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%

But her first appearance as the character was in 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

maz kanata force awakens
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

In "The Force Awakens," Maz is presented as the owner and operator of a tavern on the planet Takodana. She's established as an ancient being, a former pirate and smuggler, close friend of Han Solo and Chewbacca, and supporter of the Resistance.

"'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' honors the series and takes it in exciting new directions. Both The Millennium Falcon and millennials, it would seem, are in good hands," wrote Baltimore Magazine's Max Weiss.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

Many thought Nyong'o's double performance in 2019's "Us" deserved an Oscar.

us
"Us." Universal

In Jordan Peele's chilling follow-up to "Get Out," Nyong'o pulls double duty as the seemingly normal Adelaide Wilson, who, along with her family, are targeted by doppelgänger versions of themselves. Adelaide's doppelgänger (called a "tethered" in the film) is named Red. But all is not what it seems in Adelaide's history.

"The real genius at work in 'Us' is Nyong'o, who anchors the story with underlying rage as well as the protective qualities usually reserved for male leads," wrote critic Jourdain Searles.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

She played the mother of a chess prodigy in the 2016 film "Queen of Katwe."

queen of katwe lupita nyongo
"Queen of Katwe." Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

"Queen of Katwe" follows 10-year-old Phiona living in Uganda with her mother Nakku. When her family can't afford to send her to school anymore, Phiona meets Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) at a missionary program. He begins to teach her chess, and before long, Phiona is competing at an international level.

"Oyelowo and Nyong'o's performances temper the film with heart-wrenching emotion. And Mira Nair's touching portrait of Katwe's inspiring young queen with a dream is one to remember," wrote Candice Frederick of Reel Talk Online.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

The actress lent her voice talents to the 2016 live-action "The Jungle Book" remake as Raksha, Mowgli's adopted mom.

Raksha the jungle book
"The Jungle Book." Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Nyong'o's version of Raksha, the wolf who adopts Mowgli, a human, after he's left behind in the jungle, plays a larger role in the 2016 remake than she does in the original 1967 animated film. In the remake, she's seen throughout as a mother figure to Mowgli as he deals with the various issues of being a "man-cub" in a jungle surrounded by foes.

Slashfilm's Angie Han put it simply: "A must-see spectacle."

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Nyong'o won her first Oscar for her breakout role in 2013's "12 Years a Slave."

lupito nyong'o 12 years a slave
"12 Years a Slave." Fox Searchlight Pictures

In "12 Years a Slave," Nyong'o plays Patsey, a slave who bonds with the film's protagonist Solomon (also called Platt), while he is held as a slave at a Georgian plantation. Patsey is subjected to many horrors throughout the film, including rape, mental abuse, and brutal punishment.

"'12 Years a Slave' isn't simply a masterpiece, it's a milestone. This, at last, really is history written with lightning," wrote the Daily Telegraph's Robbie Collin.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

The best-reviewed film of her career thus far is 2018's groundbreaking superhero film "Black Panther," in which she played the spy Nakia.

black panther
Nakia and T'Challa's sister Shuri in Black Panther. Marvel

While "Black Panther" is mainly the story of T'Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman) and his struggles with how to rightfully lead his country, Wakanda, Nyong'o's Nakia is an essential part of the film. Nakia, T'Challa's ex, is a hero in her own way — she works as a spy, supports T'Challa and his family, and is one of the few who pushes him to open up Wakanda to the rest of the world. Expect her to play a big role in "Black Panther 2."

"'Black Panther' lived up to the hype," wrote Lawrence Ware of the New York Times.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

Read the original article on Insider