“I don’t really feel like I belong anywhere which makes me belong everywhere.”
A forever misfit and a self-proclaimed “odd-duck”, Anya Taylor-Joy is a lot more than the brown-haired chess prodigy Beth Harmon that she played in the popular Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit which won her hordes of awards, accolades and praise. At 25, she is perhaps one of the most stunning and promising actresses in Hollywood. Born in Miami on April 16, 1996, this polyglot grew up speaking Spanish as her family had moved to Buenos Aires when she was an infant. When her family moved to London, she refused to speak English hoping to convince her parents to move back and continued doing so for two years.
Trained in ballet, Taylor-Joy dropped out of high school at fourteen, complaining of bullying and expressing her desire to pursue acting. She later said, “I think, probably, the place that I feel I most belong is a movie set. It doesn’t matter where it is in the world or who I’m making the movie with; that’s the closest thing that I’ve got to a sense of placement. So I guess acting was a way of finding a home if that makes sense.”
Her first acting debut was in a 2014 horror comedy called Vampire Academy before making various other appearances in other films. She, however, rose to prominence with her role in Robert Egger’s horror flick The Witch which was set amidst paganism. It was called a “feminist” film by Taylor-Joy who played the eerie protagonist. While Netflix streamed this film just a few months back, it is a shame to see the platform remove it. after all, it was one of the most thought-provoking and visually disturbing horror films in this decade.
Becoming the face of indie cinema, she has won countless awards already in her blossoming career. This also defined the kind of strong and spirited roles she would take on in the future. Most recently, her brilliant performance as Beth Harmon has won her a devoted fanbase who were impressed by her wonderful acting abilities. Taylor-Joy has often said that she only takes up films and roles that she is “passionate” about. “I’ve been very lucky with the roles that I’ve played in that they were wonderful roles for women. They’re incredible, flawed characters that I really gravitate toward. I just never want anybody to be able to put me in a box.”
While rumour mills are abuzz about this new face of Hollywood being a part of various projects, the ones that are most exciting are Eggers’ remake of the horror classic Nosferatu as well as David O’Russel’s yet-to-be-titled film that stars heavyweight actors such as Robert DeNiro, Margot Robbie, Mike Myers, Christian Bale and more.
Here, we take a look at some of her best films and series that are streaming on Netflix.
What are Anya Taylor-Joy’s best films and series on Netflix?
Barry (Vikram Gandhi, 2016)
This film focuses on the life of the ex-President of the United States Barack Obama, who was lovingly known as Barry in his college days at Columbia University in the early-1980s. He was one of the very few Black students at Columbia, and he struggles to stay in touch with his estranged father, his mother as well as classmates amidst various racial injustices and prejudices. He tries hard to adapt to the new changes while learning more about politics and the nation.
The film was focused on the formative years of former President Obama and provided an insight into the building of American history. Anya Taylor-Joy played Charlotte, a girl in Barry’s political science class who stirs his interest with her sharp wit and shared interests in politics and debate. She portrays the character with perfection, bringing out Charlotte’s angst at never being able to decode Barack wonderfully.
“You know, every time I open my mouth in class, it’s like… I’m supposed to speak on behalf of all Black people. Meanwhile, I, uh… I quit going to Black Student Union meetings because I didn’t feel like I belong there either.”
Thoroughbreds (Cory Finley, 2017)
In his directorial debut, Finley presents a thriller film infused with dark comedy which opens with a gut-wrenching scene of a horse being euthanised. Amanda and Lily are best friends who reconnect over their shared misery and angst. Amanda feels no emotions and Lily wants to use this to her advantage by coaxing Amanda into killing her strict and abusive stepfather. However, plans go awry and soon the girls find themselves in the midst of a bloody mess.
Anya Taylor-Joy played the academically inclined popular student Lily who absolutely despises her stepfather. She is smart and calculative yet harbours a soft spot for her friend. In an unpredictable and wickedly humorous script, Finley upholds the psychotic nature of girls who thirst for blood. This was, however, originally supposed to be staged which explains the wonderful timing of dark humour and violence.
“You should be honest about your feelings. Otherwise, it starts coming out in passive-aggressive ways.”
Emma (Autumn de Wilde, 2020)
Based on Jane Austen’s eponymous 1815 novel, the film is set during the Regency period of England and is a scathing social satire Emma Woodhouse is rich and beautiful and is nearly the centre of the pretentious society she lives in. To keep herself occupied, she tries setting people up and controlling the romantic whereabouts of people close to her. The film, like the book, follows her journey in an aristocratic society as well as the struggles she faces as she grows up where friendships sour and relationships fall apart before she finally realises how to identify her beloved.
Taylor-Joy plays the spirited and elegant Emma Woodhouse who is also somewhat spoiled. She plays her part with incredible passion and talent and brings out the required commentary via her actions. Jane Austen fans shall love the film although it has, at times, drifted away from the source.
“You have been a friend and companion such as few possess.”
Peaky Blinders (Steven Knight, 2013-)
This period piece which changed the course of British crime dramas is set in between the two Great Wars in a moody and dark atmospheric setting. It chronicles the varied escapades of the Black Country gang that is infamous for their viciousness, notoriety as well as tendency to conceal razor blades in their peaked caps. Set in post-war Birmingham, this captivating series follows the rendezvous of Thomas Shelby, the handsome and eloquent man played by the uber-talented Cillian Murphy, who is ambitious and shrewd as well as cunning.
Anya Taylor-Joy plays Gina Gray in season five who is the wife of Michael Gray and is also one of the antagonists in the season. As the scheming and controlling Gina, Taylor-Joy does a brilliant job. She is manipulative and rude and constantly hints at her displeasure towards the new family by showcasing the same on her face; power-hungry and vile, she has complete control over Michael’s decisions.
“Intelligence is a very valuable thing, innit, my friend? And usually, it comes far too fucking late.”
The Queen’s Gambit (Scott Frank, Allan Scott, 2020)
Set in the mid-1950s and continued into the 1960s, the series revolves around an orphaned chess prodigy named Beth Harmon who undertakes the perilous journey to become the world’s greatest chess player. However, she is a woman in a man’s world and various obstacles beset her path which includes emotional and psychological turmoil as well as incessant substance abuse and a drug-fuelled life.
A riveting watch, it is most definitely one of Netflix’s finest Originals that has been well-received by the chess community. Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth delivers a stellar performance and has received high praise. She won a Golden Globe as well as a SAG award for her incredible performance as a quick-thinking female genius.
“Do you ever go over games in your head? When you’re alone, I mean. Play all the way through them?”