From having her acting debut in The Falling as Abbie Mortimer in 2014 to later becoming an Academy Award nominee for playing Amy March in Little Women in 2020, the English actress Florence Pugh has had a very productive and incredible past few years, and it looks like she is not stopping any time soon.
Pugh will star alongside Harry Styles, Gemma Chan, Chris Pine, KiKi Layne, and more as Alice Chambers in Olivia Wilde‘s psychological thriller film Don’t Worry Darling, which is set for release on September 23 in the U.S. Moreover, she will also be voicing Goldilocks in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, a sequel to the 2011 film. In 2023, she will be seen in Zach Braff‘s American drama film, A Good Person and Christopher Nolan‘s Oppenheimer, with the latter boasting an all-star cast, including Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, and Rami Malek.
With many projects ahead of her, let’s take a look at some of Florence Pugh’s best performances that led her to become one of the most promising rising talents in Hollywood today.
Katherine Lester in Lady Macbeth (2016)
Based on Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District novella by Nikolai Leskov, this 2016 drama film adaptation set in 19th Century England follows Katherine Lester (Pugh), a woman stuck in a loveless marriage to a man twice her age. When her husband, Alexander Lester, has to leave for business matters, Katherine is left at home with the housemaid, Anna. This gives Katherine the freedom to properly explore the estate.
Pugh’s ability to portray a character who is clearly unsatisfied with her colorless life was what made critics define this as her breakout role. She was able to communicate her emotions just by her eyes, whether it be a spark of happiness, anger, desperation, or serenity. Her rage, for the longest time, has been bottled up and once it finally bursts out, one can see — and even feel — everything that surges through Katherine, which is also thanks to Ari Wegner‘s careful and intentional approach to Katherine’s close-ups. The acclaim that Pugh has gotten for this performance is no surprise.
Elizabeth de Burgh in Outlaw King (2018)
The 2018 historical film about the 14th Century Scottish King Robert the Bruce stars Chris Pine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Pugh as Elizabeth de Burgh, Bruce’s wife. Directed by David Mackenzie, the Netflix film follows the life of Bruce, who became an outlaw after rebelling against Edward I and his ruling in Scotland.
By this time, Pugh has already been steadily gaining attention for her previous projects, and this one role further pushed her ionto the radar. While not the main character — and despite the mixed reviews due to certain historical inaccuracies and the overall script — Pugh was praised for her alluring and powerful performance.
Saraya “Paige” Knight in Fighting with My Family (2019)
This 2019 British comedy film directed by Stephen Merchant is based on the life of retired professional wrestler Saraya “Paige” Knight and her journey toward that career. The film follows Paige (Pugh) who, alongside her brother Zak, were raised to follow the footsteps of their parents as wrestlers. The siblings join the WWE and are evaluated by Hutch Morgan, who later chooses Paige to train and forces Zak to go back home. With Zak gone, Paige finds herself alone and having to work with other trainees who are mostly models and is faced with a challenge of learning what she is capable of as a professional wrestler.
Pugh’s roles before Fighting with My Family were mostly serious in nature, already having proven her acting skills in the drama department incredibly well. However, this film showed that she can also take on a comedic character that still has that dramatic element tied to it. It definitely further introduced Pugh’s range and proved that she can pull off different roles, no matter the genre.
Dani Ardor in Midsommar (2019)
Written and directed by Ari Aster, who also helmed the critically acclaimed Hereditary, this folk horror follows a group of friends as they travel to Sweden to attend a midsummer festival. Pugh plays Dani Ardor, who was left traumatized after losing her sister and parents in a murder-suicide and is also in a rocky relationship with her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor). When Dani confronts Christian about the Sweden trip, Christian, feeling guilty, decides to invite her. However, when they finally reach their destination, they soon realize that things in the commune are not what they seem.
Pugh is no stranger to taking on roles with disturbing pasts, but this specific role earned a lot of praise from critics because of her unsettling approach to Dani. From the very start, it is obvious that Dani is not happy with how her life is going, especially when she learns of the tragic fate of her family. Pugh knows how to bring a character who is deeply disconnected with reality alive, making it known by how she moves and speaks. Her acting, further uplifted by Pawel Pogorzelski‘s eerie cinematography, serves as the central element to the psychological day-lit horror film.
Amy March in Little Women (2019)
It seems that 2019 was certainly Pugh’s year as after her acclaimed role in Midsommar, she once again proved her range by playing Amy March in the coming-of-age period drama film, Little Women. Directed and written by Greta Gerwig, this is the seventh film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott‘s 1868 novel of the same name, and it chronicles the lives of four sisters, Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy March, who each possess different personalities. Amy, the youngest among the March sisters, is a spoiled kid who would often be jealous of Jo. However, later in life, she becomes a well-spoken and artistic woman who always strives to be perfect, according to what society dictates.
Having to play Amy both as a little kid and as a grown-up can prove to be a challenge, but Pugh managed to pull it off with ease, a testament to her commitment in her roles. Her portrayal of Amy made people understand the character in a more empathetic light, making them see that Amy may be annoying, but at the end of the day, she was just a little kid who wanted to feel included and seen by her loved ones. Pugh’s performance captivated the hearts of people and even went on to become a nominee for Best Supporting Actress at the 92nd Academy Awards.
Yelena Belova in Black Widow (2021) and Hawkeye (2021)
For her Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) debut, Pugh took on an action-packed role as Yelena Belova in the highly-anticipated film, Black Widow. The standalone film stars Scarlett Johansson, who reprised her role as Natasha Romanoff aka the titular character, and is Yelena’s older sister. Much like Natasha, Yelena is also trained in the Red Room, making her an equally skilled assassin. When their family reunite with the hope of taking down the Red Room operations, Natasha and Yelena must also help save the other Black Widows from Dreykov’s (Ray Winstone) ruthless control.
Pugh had already been making a name for herself in the industry when it was announced that she’d be playing Yelena in Black Widow. She is definitely no stranger to doing films that involve action, but Pugh knows how to uniquely and distinctively shape her different characters to life, something that can also be seen in the Disney+ series, Hawkeye, which was released in late 2021, and where Yelena made a special appearance. Pugh delivered justice to Yelena and her dark past, and her dynamic with Johansson created a film that not only centered on action, but also highlighted the importance of reconnecting with your past and family.