Gugu Mbatha-Raw has proven herself a versatile actress, one who time and time again demonstrates that she’ll shine in any role she’s given. Her acting resume spans over two decades, and it’s obvious to anyone watching her why she’ll still be working another two decades from now.
This is why it’s not easy picking the best roles she’s ever played — there are just so many good ones! But by balancing awards won with reviews and just a bit of personal bias on a scale, certain parts of her career just really stand out.
10. Beauty and the Beast
There’s gotta be a lot of pressure after being cast for a role in one of the best Disney musicals of all time, but Gugu Mbatha-Raw handled it well! Beauty and the Beast ended up being one of the top-grossing films in Disney history, too, which certainly doesn’t hurt! She showed her ability not only to voice act, but also bring that character to life in the real world too.
Mbatha-Raw has flexed her acting muscles in a lot of historical movies, but Summerland is a particular standout. The story takes place in during the Battle of Britain in 1940, and during the London Blitz, so it’s unsurprisingly a drama. Since it only had a limited run in American theaters, a lot of U.S. moviegoers probably missed this one. If you’re among those, now is as good a time as any to fix that!
8. All My Dreams On VHS
It’s easy to miss when big name actors star in short films with so much media coming out these days. Which makes it sad that one of the two movies prolific film composer Tim Atack has ever directed has gone so far under the radar. Imagine being able to record dreams each night; what would happen if someone invited over found one of those tapes, and decided to watch? This one is worth tracking down to give a watch.
7. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
Voice acting takes a whole separate set of skills compared to live-action shows, which is why The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is the perfect example of just how flexible Mbatha-Raw is as an actress. She plays Sheladon in the show, which covers parts of the story from the original The Dark Crystal movie that Jim Hensen wasn’t able to bring to life in the original film. The biggest crime here is that the series only got one season.
6. Doctor Who
Don’t worry, Whovians, there’s no way to forget Mbatha-Raw’s time as Tish Jones in Doctor Who. With over twenty six seasons of the show to watch, it’s an honor to be a small part of a legendary series. But what is more important, how popular the show is, or how big her role was in it? Hopefully this philosophical question distracts hardcore fans from being angry at me that it’s not higher up on the list.
5. The Morning Show
Network TV and early morning shows likely have so much more happen behind the scenes that we will never know. The book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV described some of those never before seen stories and inspired what became The Morning Show. Mbatha-Raw played Hannah Shoenfeld for ten episodes of this popular Apple exclusive drama.
4. Black Mirror
There are countless incredible episodes in Black Mirror, but it’s hard to deny just how impactful “San Junipero” was on viewers. It ended up winning two Primetime Emmy Awards, and that’s thanks in part to Mbatha-Raw’s role as Kelly. Trust me, you don’t want the plot twist spoiled on this one if you haven’t seen it yet, so I describe the story in detail. Make sure to see this one for yourself!
3. Beyond the Lights
This romantic drama with Mbatha-Raw at the helm scored her four award nominations with one she brought home for the win. She played Noni Jean, an extremely talented singer who has her life dragged by the pressures of fame and her controlling mother. Would you believe that meeting someone in a surprising way and falling deeply in love helps her escape those shackles to live a happier life?
Look past basic romance tropes and understand despite what may look like a formulaic story, Beyond the Lights presents an extremely compelling drama that makes it stand out in the romance crowd.
Loki stands out as a rare piece of the MCU so good it may be fun to watch even for people not keeping up with everything happening in its multiverse. The deep themes surrounding free will and people being able to forge their own destinies pulls on heartstrings while giving your brain a workout too. Mbatha-Raw’s role as Renslayer has heated up even more in season 2 as well, making her time in the series that much sweeter.
Mbatha-Raw’s performance as Dido Elizabeth Belle in this film ended up with her winning six awards! This British period drama explores themes of race, class, and gender in the 18th-century England, and was inspired by a real painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle from 1779. It was a huge hit back in 2013, and still is just as powerful a movie to watch today.