Most actors’ filmographies are a mixed bag, especially young actors who are still making a name for themselves and have to take what roles they get. But Mia Goth arrived on the big screen, seemingly fully formed and aware of the kinds of movies she wanted to make.
Since appearing in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Vol. II in 2013, she’s had roles in 12 other feature films. That’s 13 total. In only one of those is she a tertiary character; in the two that I dislike, her performances are the clear highlights. The other 10 are movies I feel comfortable calling some of the best of the last decade.
10. Marrowbone (2017)
Marrowbone features a who’s who of young actors, including Anya Taylor-Joy, George MacKay, and Charlie Heaton, in an atmospheric ghost story, or is it? The film follows Allie (Taylor-Joy), who meets and befriends a family of four siblings who live in their ancestral home, which they claim is haunted by a ghost.
The film plays out like a supernatural puzzle similar to other films we’ve seen before, but the performances and the atmosphere make it worth seeking out.
9. The House (2022)
The House is the only animated film Goth has contributed her voice to (thus far), and it fits right into her oeuvre as another creepy thought-provoking film. The anthology film tells three different stories, each made in a different stop-motion style, about the eponymous house and the people who have lived there at different times.
Goth voices a young girl in the first short who sees her parents slowly become part of the house and struggles to make sense of the geography of the everchanging space. It’s a wonderfully odd movie that’s a must-see for fans of stop-motion.
8. Emma (2020)
Based on the novel of the same name by Jane Austen, Emma centers on the wealthy young Emma (Taylor-Joy in her second film with Goth) who meddles in the lives of others in the early 19th century. One of those people is Harriet (Goth), whom Emma befriends and attempts to influence in her romantic life with little success.
The movie is a brightly colored comedy that brings Austen’s wit and humor to the screen with style.
7. Pearl (2022)
The second in a planned trilogy of films starring Goth and written and directed by Ti West, Pearl is actually the first film in the story chronologically. The film follows the eponymous Pearl (Goth), a young woman who dreams of becoming a silent movie star during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
But Pearl’s dreams are far from her reality, she lives on a struggling farm with her sick father and bitter mother, and when an audition to join a dancing troupe goes poorly, she snaps. Pearl is more a character study than a horror movie, and it offers Goth’s best performance yet.
6. A Cure for Wellness (2016)
Fourteen years after The Ring, Gore Verbinski returned to horror with A Cure for Wellness, and offered audiences something wonderfully strange. The movie follows a young businessman on a mission to convince his old boss to return to work from a mysterious and possibly mystical spa high in the Swiss Alps. Once there, the young man meets several other wealthy elderly people, and among them the young Hannah (Goth).
He becomes convinced that something sinister is happening at the spa and begins to investigate, leading him to find more than he ever bargained for. A Cure for Wellness is a fantastic gothic horror story that delivers atmosphere, ickiness, and genuine scares.
5. Suspiria (2018)
Remaking Dario Argento’s 1977 masterpiece is a bold endeavor. While Luca Guadagnino’s reimagining distinguishes itself from the original film, it can’t compete with that film’s greatness. What’s surprising, though, is that the story of an American ballerina attending a German ballet academy that may be run by witches offers something ineffably fascinating that makes it incredibly watchable.
There are the brilliant central performances from Goth, Dakota Johnson, and Tilda Swinton (in several roles) and one of the most impactful horror sequences of the 21st century, but it’s more than that that makes the remake something special; I just wish I could say what.
4. Nymphomaniac Vol. II (2013)
Goth’s first film role takes up about forty minutes as a main character but feels like a comparatively small part in a film that, combined with the first volume, runs over five hours. So it’s all the more impressive that Goth, as the young P, is so memorable in this epic about a, that’s right, nymphomaniac played by Charlotte Gainsbourg.
The film uses its framing device, of an asexual man nursing Joe (Gainsbourg) back to health after finding her beaten at the start of the film, to tell the story of her life. Like many of writer/director Lars von Trier’s films, it’s full of provocation and pretension, but his ability to mix the two creates a captivating, if uncomfortable, viewing experience.
3. The Survivalist (2015)
Goth’s second feature film role places her character Milja in a post-apocalyptic UK where she and her mother Kathryn (Olwen Fouéré) seek shelter at the home of an unnamed man credited only as “the survivalist.”
The Survivalist is a sparse film with little dialogue that allows its images of day-to-day life in this world to draw the audience in before introducing various threats from within and without. It’s an often brutal movie that takes a harsh look at humanity in crisis without giving up on hope.
2. X (2022)
The first film in Ti West’s planned trilogy with Goth sees her take on dual roles as both the now-old Pearl and the young adult film star Maxine. X centers on the farm owned by Pearl and her husband Howard (Stephen Ure), where Maxine and a crew surreptitiously film their next movie. But their work doesn’t go unnoticed and soon the aging Pearl is on the attack again.
It’s a slasher film that’s also an emotionally resonant movie about aging, sex, and desire that made me cry before any of the violence started.
1. High Life (2018)
Goth isn’t the star of the best film she’s been in, that honor goes to Robert Pattinson, who does a phenomenal job, but she is a key part of the ensemble around him that makes High Life great. The film tells stories in parallel timelines, one of a man alone on a spaceship raising his daughter and the other about how he came to be the only adult alive on the ship carrying only death row inmates on a journey to explore black holes.
The latter plot includes characters played by a cast including Goth, Juliette Binoche, and André Benjamin. Goth’s character has a strange connection with Pattinson’s Monte, but is desperate to escape the ship, leading her to take violent action.
Despite what may sound like a clear dual narrative, High Life is a wonderfully beguiling film from celebrated writer/director Claire Denis and, as of now, the best film of Goth’s career.
Kyle Logan is a film and television critic and general pop culture writer who has written for Alternative Press, Cultured Vultures, Film Stories, Screen Anarchy, and more. Kyle is particularly interested in horror and animation, as well as genre films written and directed by queer people and women. Kyle has an MA in philosophy from Boston College, is a member of the Chicago Indie Critics, and along with writing, organizes a Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd.