Let’s stop pretending this is a food blog.
If you’ve been keeping up with my podcast, Under the Bleachers, you know that I’ve been on a mission to watch every movie that features Carey Mulligan as a lead. Well, I did, and now I need to make something of those ~30 hours. Below is my ranking of 14 CM movies based on nothing more than my dumb little thoughts.
Special commendation: Pride and Prejudice, 2005
This movie rocks, but Carey plays Kitty, not quite a large enough role to make the list. And as much as I enjoyed the 2005 adaptation, it left me wanting to watch the BBC version. Notably Pride and Prejudice is Carey’s film debut – and not the last time she stars alongside Kiera Knightly and Rosamund Pike (Keep reading to find out more!!)
14. The Great Gatsby, 2013
I didn’t love reading The Great Gatsby in high school and I really didn’t love this movie. At worst it felt like a Family Guy Roaring ’20s cut-away, at best Carey Mulligan looked so beautiful it didn’t matter. Her performance feels satirical. I’m pretty sure she was doing exactly what she was directed to, but this style didn’t work for me. And a runtime of 2:22? Get outta here.
13. The Greatest, 2009
The Greatest would probably be bumped up one spot if it weren’t for Pierce Brosnan. Is this how he always acts? It was distracting and when he finally “let’s go” I was uncomfortable. While the story and writing are laughably predictable, it’s fun to see Carey with her prestige vibes played down. She makes the most of what she’s given, and her brown hair is lovely. Also: young Zoey Kravitz has a role!
12. Suffragette, 2015
A fairly straightforward historical drama. Carey is excellent and I was touched by the scenes between Maud and her son. I enjoyed learning about this time period in the UK, although the very specific point-of-view made me question how much I was actually learning. There just isn’t a lot to say about a movie which is exactly what I expected it to be and unfortunately not much more.
11. Never Let Me Go, 2010
When I was first recommended this book everyone was like, you will be destroyed! But I wasn’t. When the movie came out everyone was like, you will cry forever! But I didn’t. And when I watched it a second time, I had the same block as I had ten years earlier. The characters feel so separate from their circumstances, so unaware of how cruelly they are being treated, that the horror of the situation never comes through. Even the other characters who are supposed to be empathic are stoic beyond belief. And on top of all of that, child actors carry the movie for the first 20 minutes. Yikes.
10. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, 2010
This movie had four things going against it: 1) It’s about the stock market, which my brain refuses to understand. 2) It stars the abusive monster Shia Lebouf. 3) I wasn’t paying close attention while I watched. 4) I haven’t seen the original. Despite all this and even though I couldn’t possibly tell you what happened, I still enjoyed what I saw of Wall Street 2. The general rich people aesthetic triggers some endorphins for me and all of the leads were convincing. I think ~2010 was a time when short-haired girls got to star as the hot girl – or maybe there was just also a hot short-haired girl in The Social Network and I’m jumping to conclusions. Regardless, Carey looks ridiculously cute with this specific pixie cut.
9. Drive, 2011
A good movie but forgettable. While eventually there is plenty of violent action, the characters are very passive. As Driver says, “I don’t sit in while you’re running it down. I don’t carry a gun. I drive.” Carey’s Irene mostly worries about her son and stands meekly in her apartment. And tell me this: are we really supposed to believe that she and Ryan Gosling never fuck? Please. The driving is cool at least.
8. Inside Llewyn Davis, 2013
Seems low, no? Here’s the thing: Carey’s part is fairly small, and not a lot happens. That’s the point, and that’s okay! We are supposed to be going through a typical day with Llewyn and feeling what he feels, and I definitely did. After experiencing that twice, I would rather listen to the soundtrack than watch Inside Llewyn Davis a third time.
7. Wildlife, 2018
I had been wanting to watch this movie since it came out and then right as I started my CM completionist mission – bam – it was on Netflix. This is a great movie, but not so much fun to watch. I had the same reaction to Carey’s Jeane as I did to Julianne Moore’s Laura in The Hours: all I wanted was to care for their children. Joe, Jean’s son, is the real star to me, and there were tiny moments where I didn’t believe Carey’s meanness. Mostly though, she’s incredible, and so is Wildlife.
6. Mudbound, 2017
I couldn’t imagine there being a CM movie more difficult to watch than Shame, and then I watched Mudbound. From the beginning you know that something terrible will happen. For the next 2+ hours terrible things continue to happen, and even when there are moments of levity, they are taking place in terrible circumstances. Carey is perfect as the “old maid” (lol), but I didn’t care that much about her storyline. I was all about Ronsel and Jamie, who best demonstrated what I took away as the theme of the movie: there are no “good ones” within a racist system.
5. Promising Young Woman, 2020
Parts of this movie are fun and sexy, and this makes the parts that are not fun and sexy that much more heartbreaking. Overall it’s really successful, but Carey’s Cassandra is so focused on her goal that she’s hard to know. Resourceful, determined, obsessed – she isn’t stewing in her sadness, she is taking action. This detached devotion is addressed, but it made me feel far away from the movie rather than right inside it. Again, Promising Young Woman is really, really good, and I liked the ending, but maybe I wanted a little bit more from our girl CM.
4. Shame, 2011
It’s strange to say you like a movie like Shame because you don’t really like it. Do I want to watch this again? Yes, actually, but I know it will be distressing. Sissy and Brandon’s relationship crosses boundaries it shouldn’t and gives you an incomplete look into what trauma they might have experienced in their childhoods. The singular focus of Shame allowed the story to develop fully and kept me (big idiot) from getting distracted. A role like Sissy proves CM’s chops – she doesn’t always play a dignified woman keeping her shit together, she can also be a complete mess.
3. The Dig, 2021
In the same year that Carey played a hot woman taking on misogyny she also played a frail mom digging up her backyard – talk about range! The Dig is a classic old-person film that I loved so much. There are plenty of scenes about artifacts and dirt but lots of emotions to back those up. CM never oversells herself, which is partly why a movie that could easily be thought of as pretentious (it’s freaking titled The Dig) feels grounded. I was so involved in these characters that when the epilogue text scrolled down I shouted at the screen.
2. Far From The Madding Crowd, 2015
I had no idea what this was about and was not prepared for the extreme levels of horniness. I literally gasped multiple times and think Carey should leave Mumford man to be with Matthias Schoenaerts. I do need to ask: is Michael Sheen hot? Anyway, this is the kind of movie which I normally see myself as not smart or patient enough for, but I was totally absorbed in the story. Getting invested in Carey has made it easier for me to get invested in content I think is out of my league. Thank you, Carey! I can’t wait to watch Far From The Madding Crowd again.
1. An Education, 2009
I first saw An Education in theaters with my best friend when I was 16 years old. I liked it so much that I got bangs because Jenny had bangs. Watching this ten years later I have a deeper appreciation for what actually happens, and even though I still see Jenny as untouchably glamourous, I can better understand how ignorant she is. Why couldn’t I have looked like Carey Mulligan when I was equally naive? A sentimental favorite.