A collage of Mary Elizabeth Winstead characters from '10 Cloverfield Lane,' 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,' and 'Birds of Prey,' over a comic book style abstract background

From Evil Exes to Saving the Galaxy, Mary Elizabeth Winstead Has Done It All

If you’ve been watching Ahsoka and thinking, wow this actor playing Hera has sure got plenty of sass, gravitas, and wit—I wonder what else she’s been in? Then you’re in luck.

Recommended Videos

The actor in question is, of course, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, a repeat champion of horror movies who has also flexed her acting skills in various other genres. I first fell in love with her (and based much of my teenage personality on her character) back in 2010 in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but there’s much more to Winstead than colored hair (or green lekku, if we jump forward to Hera’s look).

If you’re looking to experience more of what this great actor has to offer, here are 10 of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s best movies.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter'
(20th Century Studios)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is just as out there as it sounds, and divided critics and casual moviegoers alike. For me at least, if you meet the film at its premise that Abraham Lincoln was actually a lifelong vampire hunter fighting against a caste of vampiric slave owners during the American Civil War era, then you’ll have fun with it.

The action sequences are admittedly jarring and there are moments when the CGI seems to be taking on a mind of its own, but it’s clear that the cast, including Winstead as the President’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, had a great time with the film. Period gowns and vampire-hunting—what’s not to love?

The Thing

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'The Thing'
(Universal Pictures)

In a world full of immaculate sci-fi films, not enough love is given to the silly, goofy sci-fi movies that still deserve a place on the shelf. The Thing is just such a movie.

Yes, it’s probably not as good as the original, but 2011’s The Thing does achieve its goals: get in a few good alien scares and set the scene for the original 1982 classic. Though it was labeled a box office bomb and received scathing reviews upon release, more and more people (myself included) have come around to the film as a pretty solid alien flick.


Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'Kate'

A fan of women-led action? Look no further. Winstead plays an assassin named—you guessed it—Kate who faces a race against time when her mentor, played by Woody Harrelson, assigns her to kill a high-ranking yakuza boss. Kate discovers that she has been poisoned, leaving her with a day to live, so she uses her remaining time to find out who set her up and exact some sweet revenge. Fast-paced action ensues in a fun (if somewhat predictable) film.


Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul in 'Smashed'
(Sony Pictures)

While the first few entries on this list have been admittedly silly, don’t let that fool you into thinking Winstead doesn’t have strong Acting skills. Winstead stars alongside Aaron Paul as a pair of married alcoholics in Smashed, a movie inspired by the real-life experiences of co-writer Susan Burke.

Shot on a $500,000 budget, Smashed takes an emotional, empathetic approach to addiction struggles. In a way that’s rare in movies discussing such topics, it doesn’t revel in highlighting sordid detail, nor does it glamorize addiction, preferring instead to explore relationships and complex characters. Winstead and Paul both deliver this exploration with ease in outstanding performances.

Alex of Venice

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Chris Messina in 'Alex of Venice'
(Screen Media Films)

Another character-driven work, Alex of Venice sees Winstead in the lead role as Alex, a young environmental lawyer grappling with a troubled relationship and care arrangements for her child. While Alex of Venice tells a story recognizable from both real life and dozens of other movies—a woman coming to terms with her own strength and relationships with others—the performances of Winstead and the rest of the cast make this film a standout.

Swiss Army Man

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'Swiss Army Man'

Admittedly, Winstead plays a more minor role in this film, but if I ever get the chance to recommend Swiss Army Man, I always will. In this surreal dramedy from Daniels, the filmmaking duo behind Everything Everywhere All at Once, Winstead plays Sarah, the apparent love interest in the movie until the twist at the end. I won’t go into more detail because everyone should get to experience this movie blind at least once, but just know that Winstead manages to deliver a believable performance in an entirely surreal movie. For instance, that face above is exactly how I too would react to a farting corpse.

Final Destination 3

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'Final Destination 3'
(New Line Cinema)

Winstead impressed writer and director James Wong so much in her audition for Final Destination 3 that he actually rewrote the role from being a perky blonde to the sensitive, emotional girl that Wendy ended up being. Even if you haven’t watched any of the Final Destination movies, the concept is simple: Someone gets a premonition of impending disaster and prevents it from happening—only for “death” to chase after them and anyone else they saved for the rest of the movie, with increasingly chaotic attempts to kill them.

Despite the often-goofy effects, Winstead delivers a heartfelt performance that has you truly rooting for Wendy—no small feat in a franchise often filled with dumb teenagers with no real emotional hook.

Birds of Prey

Mary Elizabeth Winstead wields a crossbow as the vigilante Huntress in 'Birds of Prey'
(Warner Bros.)

Say goodbye to Suicide Squad and its weirdly sexualized portrayal of women’s mental health, and hello to Birds of Prey and its interpretation of the power of female friendship. Because who doesn’t love to bond over guns and killing?

In Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn spinoff, Winstead plays Huntress, also known as Helena Bertinelli, a crossbow-wielding assassin intent on hunting down everyone involved in killing her family. She gradually becomes one part of an all-women vigilante crew who prove you can kick ass and look good doing it. It’s pure good fun and I just can never get enough of women-led action, especially when it’s packaged as a break-up flick.

10 Cloverfield Lane

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in '10 Cloverfield Lane'
(Paramount Pictures)

Returning once more to Winstead’s home genre of horror, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a perfect balance of suspense and thrills. It follows a young woman (Winstead) who wakes up in an underground bunker after a car cash, finding herself with two men who insist that an event has left the surface of Earth uninhabitable. The setting of a confined space and constant tension delivers a perfect horror experience, making it well worth the heart palpitations as you watch.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'Scott Pilgrim vs the World'
(Universal Pictures)

This is where it all began—for me, anyway. Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World stars Michael Cera as the eponymous protagonist and Winstead as his dream girl, Ramona Flowers. The two want to date each other, but there’s a slight problem: Scott will need to fight Ramona’s seven evil exes in order for them to be together.

Live-action, comic book-style fights follow, with enough anime and comic book references to satisfy even the nerdiest of nerds. If you’ve somehow made it 17 years without watching this movie, remedy that immediately.

(featured image: Paramount Pictures / Universal Pictures / Warner Bros. / Getty Images / Illustration by The Mary Sue)

The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy