Elizabeth Olsen may have taken a back seat to her older sisters when they became superstars back in the 90s and early 2000s but in terms of an acting career, she is far more famous now than that once-popular set of twins. After an early role with her sisters in How the West Was Won (not to be confused with the classic western of the same name), she went on to star in a string of movies that have given her heaps of critical claim and audience adoration.
If you’re looking to check out some of the best movies starring this gifted actress, check out our picks below.
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
Before Olsen starred in several big-budget movies within the MCU, she was acting in such low budget gems as this one. Olsen stars as a former cult member in this slow and intense psychological drama that is a difficult but rewarding watch. She gives a restrained but powerful performance as the woman who struggles to be free of the cult that enslaved her and she received a lot of acclaim for her early performance.
This was her second major movie role after her starring turn in the disappointing horror movie Silent House and it was clear that she was destined for big things after the sterling work she delivered here.
Wind River (2017)
After crafting the scripts for Sicario and Hell Or High Water, acclaimed screenwriter Taylor Sheridan made his second foray into directing with this gripping mystery thriller and it was far more successful than his first, the little-seen (and for good reason) Vile, that is the only blip on his otherwise decent resume.
Olsen stars as FBI agent Jane Banner who teams up with seasoned game tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) to solve the mystery behind a young Native American’s murder. Both stars are as good as you expect and it’s nice to see them together again after the superhero dramatics of their shared Marvel movies. However, it’s the vast landscape of the cold and chilly Wyoming setting that takes centre stage here as it becomes as important to the movie as the mismatched pairing that roam within it.
Liberal Arts (2012)
Here’s a movie you have probably never heard of. It’s the kind of indie gem that could easily slip you buy and while it’s not the greatest movie on Olsen’s resume, it’s still one that deserves a little bit of extra attention. It’s a relationship drama about a college admissions counsellor (Josh Radnor) and a sophomore theatre student (Olsen) and it chronicles the various ups and downs they experience as they romantically get involved with one another.
With a nice sense of humour and some entertaining side characters, this is a talky but enjoyable movie that fans of Olsen and quirky romance stories should appreciate.
In Secret (2013)
In this adaption of Emile Zola’s classic novel, Olsen plays Thérèse Raquin, the sexually repressed wife of Camille (Tom Felton), who falls in love with the charming Laurent (Oscar Isaac). Set in 1860s Paris, this is for you if you’re a fan of costume dramas and stories about heated passions and it’s also for you if you want to see Olsen in a period setting.
The actress gives a fine performance as the woman who is slowly wilting away because of her lifeless marriage and she more than holds her own against Jessica Lange, who magnificently portrays Therese’s domineering mother-in-law.
Did we really need a remake of Park Chan-Wook’s Korean thriller? No, not really but this isn’t as bad as some people were expecting. Josh Brolin stars as the man who is out for revenge after being imprisoned for a long time, in Spike Lees’ rare foray into thriller territory. It’s a dark and violent film that mercifully doesn’t feature any scenes of live octopus eating.
After a run of small indie-type movies, this was Olsen’s first role in a mainstream movie as the drug clinic worker who helps Brolin’s character piece together the identity of the man who held him captive. It’s not a role that she will be remembered for perhaps and the movie won’t be considered the best of Spike Lee’s career either.
However, it did give Olsen her first opportunity to work with the future Thanos and she manages to give a natural and grounded performance, despite the madness that goes on around her.
Ingrid Goes West (2017)
Aubrey Plaza stars as the Ingrid of the title, an unhinged social media stalker who becomes obsessed with Taylor Sloane (Olsen), an Instagram influencer who unwisely responds to a comment Ingrid makes about one of her food photos. What follows is a darkly funny tale about one woman insinuating herself into another person’s life and the tragic repercussions that follow.
Both actresses are terrific in this savage takedown of social media and society’s obsession with it, and the movie as a whole is a squirm-inducing delight. It’s that rare kind of comedy that will stick you after the credits roll, not least because it might make you question your own Facebook addiction and Insta-obsession.
Kill Your Darlings (2013)
Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan headline this movie about beat poet Allen Ginsberg and his colleague Lucien Carr. It’s a fascinating true story that is less about the literary aspirations of these core characters and more about a murder that threatens to shake up their privileged world. As the wife of Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), Olsen only gets a supporting position in this one but she still manages to make an impact with the limited screen time she is given.
Olsen entered blockbuster territory in 2015 when she took on the role of Wanda Maximoff in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But despite the scale of that movie, she didn’t forget her low budget roots and she went on to star in a number of smaller dramas after the success of that ensemble Marvel extravaganza. Kodachrome was one such movie and while she didn’t have a leading role, she still turned in an affecting performance as the nurse who cares for Ed Harris’s dying character.
At its heart, this is a father-son drama about two men trying to reconnect with one another (Harris and Jason Sudekis) but it’s also about the passing of time and the demise of Kodak after it went out of fashion because of the digital revolution.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
We could have filled this page with Marvel entries but that would have done Olsen a disservice as she has had a wide and varied movie career outside of the MCU. Still, it would have been remiss of us not to mention this blockbuster movie, the second half of an incredible two-parter that marked the final appearance of several major characters.
As this is an ensemble movie, Olsen doesn’t take centre stage but she still gets her moment against Thanos and nearly takes the finger-snapping villain down alone. The actress is terrific as Wanda Maximoff, ably portraying both the emotional and ass-kicking sides of the character as she appears throughout the movie. She made a comeback as Wanda in Wandavision but as we all know by now, she wasn’t quite the person that she used to be in that short-lived Marvel mini-series.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
Despite the title, this is as much about Wanda as it is about Doctor Strange. Sure, he gets to travel through the multiverse, get turned into paint, and develop a third eye, but Wanda (aka. the Scarlet Witch) still gets plenty of screen time. Olsen was given the opportunity to portray a darker side to her character in this one with a surprising plot twist that anybody who saw the movie’s trailer probably didn’t see coming.
The movie has divided those who have seen it but whatever you think of the finished product, it can’t be denied that this is bonkers stuff, a startling blend of comic book flick and horror movie with the cinematic flourishes that director Sam Raimi is famous for.
It’s not the best movie within the MCU and despite the multiverse setting, it isn’t as epic as Spiderman: No Way Home. But it’s still worth a watch if you’re a fan of the franchise not least because of Olsen who manages to add new dimensions to her powerful sorceress.
And there we have it, our picks for our 10 favourite Elizabeth Olsen movies!
What do you think of our list? Have we included your favourites? Or have we missed any must-watch movies? We love to hear from you so do feel free to let us know in the comments below!