Happy 26th birthday to Florence Pugh! Come for the consistently bonkers acting skills, stay for the baking videos — Florence is a joy to behold no matter the project. Over the past few years, Pugh has proven that she can truly do it all, knocking it out of the park in indie darlings and massive blockbusters alike.
After a critical breakthrough in 2016, Florence starred in three major, wildly different releases in 2019, and has only continued to captivate the screen since. It’s clear that there’s so much more in store from the actress, but, in the meantime, we’ve rounded up five of her best roles so far.
— Mary Siroky
05. Lady Macbeth (2016)
This 2016 film was a turning point for Pugh. Her brooding performance in the titular role caught the attention of many directors, setting her on the bright upward trajectory we still see her on today. Rightly so, too — her turn as a young, unhappy wife who eventually turns violent was the kind of performance that usually comes from an actor much more experienced. It’s no wonder Pugh shines when acting opposite young actors who often earn the same kind of praise, like Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan. — M.S.
04. Black Widow (2021)
Black Widow was Marvel’s grand cinematic foray into Phase 4 of the MCU, and though it garnered mixed results, Pugh’s introduction as Natasha Romanoff’s sister Yelena was a breath of fresh air. Playing deftly off David Harbour and Rachel Weisz, Pugh’s comedic chops are on full display in the film, even through the character’s thick Russian dialect.
Her subsequent appearance as Yelena in the recently-released Hawkeye TV show was even more lovely, particularly in her scenes opposite Hailee Steinfeld. Pugh has proven time and again now that she can play serious, so when she loosens up and has some fun as Yelena, it’s even more gratifying. — Paolo Ragusa
03. Little Women (2019)
The performance that earned Florence her first Oscar nomination is a wonder to behold. Often, awards shows aren’t true reflections of the best performances of the year — but, even with that in mind, it’s difficult to look at Amy’s “I’m not a poet, I’m just a woman” monologue and imagine that anyone could have turned in better work that year. Pugh did the impossible in her performance in Greta Gerwig‘s loving interpretation of Little Women — she made the historically unlikable Amy not just sympathetic, but the standout of the film. — M.S.
02. Fighting With My Family (2019)
About as far from a British period drama as one can physically get without literally blasting off into space, Pugh was introduced to a whole new audience in Fighting With My Family, a slightly airbrushed sports comedy about the rise of Paige, one of the WWE’s most celebrated female wrestlers.
Written and directed by Stephen Merchant, a brilliantly nuanced storyteller best known for co-creating the original Office alongside Ricky Gervais, Fighting With My Family is a bit paint-by-numbers, but extremely enjoyable with some refreshing twists on the typical underdog sports tale. Plus, Pugh’s commitment to the role is extraordinary. One can only hope that she taught the Little Women cast how to do an attitude adjustment, during that production. — Liz Shannon Miller
01. Midsommar (2019)
Ari Aster’s Midsommar ends up feeling less like a horror film and much more like an opera; its leading performance, then, requires something much more dynamic than the occasional blood-curdling scream. Florence Pugh’s turn as the grief-stricken Dani Ardor proves that she is a true force to be reckoned with, and as the film oscillates between idyllic and horrifying, she never loses her tense grip on the character’s emotional life.
From the outset of the film, which depicts tragedy in a raw, unflinching way, to its maniacal ending, Pugh exhibits command over every iteration of anguish, despair, anger, and even joy. With each unsettling step deeper into madness, Pugh’s performance in Midsommar is a brilliant example of an actress and a filmmaker working at the highest level together to construct a unique and fraught character journey that lingers long after the movie finishes.
And all of this is evident in one of the most significant images and memes from the film: Pugh standing head to toe in an absurd, entirely floral dress, staring directly at the camera, absolutely sobbing. — P.R.