Hollywood has long had a soft spot for comedically threatening, dark-haired, quietly judgmental women with witchy inclinations; in other words, Elvira’s offspring. There is no more menacing sisterhood than that of the Wednesdays, from the clumsy Enid of Ghost World to the Lydia of Beetlejuice to the 2-D Daria.
The top DOE on the list is Aubrey Plaza, who is a real person and not a fictional one (though, in a twist, Plaza has portrayed Daria). Because wishes may come true, we now have Agatha: Coven of Chaos, a WandaVision spin-off starring Aubrey Plaza and Kathryn Hahn.
Of course, if Plaza wasn’t so amusing, her whole steely-eyed, strip-mall noir thing would be terrible. And if you think she can only portray carefree characters, her filmography will set you straight. The top 15 Plaza acting roles in films and TV shows are listed here.
15. Mystery Team (2009)
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Intriguingly, Plaza and Donald Glover have known each other for quite some time. Both attended NYU and developed their talents at UCB. Even though he composed a song about her (2010’s “Put It in My Video” by Childish Gambino), We can’t help but wonder how he feels about the line “I’m writing movies where I’m making out with Aubrey Plaza” today.
Of fact, he was probably simply talking about Mystery Team, a charming, super-silly, uncategorizable treasure. This, eh, R-rated kids (?) movie has young Plaza in semi-Velma mode and features Glover in his clean-shaven, polos-buttoned-all-the-way-up heyday. Fans of either actor will find it enjoyable because of the on-screen kiss (and the chemistry between them).
14 Child’s Play (2019)
Several years before a certain dancing robot with dead eyes reached theaters, Plaza starred in this (eerily?) similar reboot of the Chucky property. Like M3GAN, this adaptation of Child’s Play follows a creepy/cute robotic doll as it infiltrates a troubled family unit (a single young mother and her lonely child). Possibly because she modeled the role on her own mother, who was similarly young when she was born, Plaza brings just the right amount of comedy and compassion to the role of mom.
13. An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn (2018)
Aubrey Plaza has always been comfortable in her own unlikable skin. She is an extremely unusual example of a celebrity who chooses to pursue her own artistic muse against public opinion. For instance? The audience rating for An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn was 49 percent, while the critic rating was 53 percent. Neither the “weird and annoying” nor the “vexing anti-comedy” critics’ assessments were our favorites.
Although this bizarre treasure isn’t for everyone, we’d still recommend it, if only to see Jemaine Clement and Plaza’s sizzling chemistry. The dynamic combo, much like their Legion partnership, exudes an irresistible, electrifying matter-of-factness. Come on in if you like eerie settings, offbeat viewpoints, offbeat atmospheres, and “humor” that maybe should be put in quotation marks.
12. Funny People (2009)
Glasses? Bangs? Capable of intimidating others with only a roll of the eyes and a deadpan remark? The description works for both Aubrey Plaza and Janeane Garofalo, from whom she drew inspiration for her character in Funny People. Popular America first saw Plaza’s dry charms in Parks and Recreation, which came out three months before Judd Apatow’s L.A.-centered stand-up comic drama and angst fest. Playing “the girl comedian” and Seth Rogen’s love interest, Plaza, at age 24, holds her own amid industry giants and makes it seem easy.
11. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
The geek-tastic world of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has entered and will stay in the cultural canon like a pixelated neon arrow piercing the hearts of every nerd. Plaza, as the girl who knows everyone—Julie Powers—is just as great as the rest of the group. Michael Cera’s character, Pilgrim, is a socially awkward, hopelessly in-love protagonist who is completely perplexed, terrified, and irritated by Plaza’s caustic and hysterically nasty witticisms.
The fact that they met and started dating while working on this film makes it… weirder? Funnier? Both? She has a very little part in this cult favorite but, as usual, leaves quite an impact.
10. The To-Do List (2013)
From Porky’s through American Pie, male filmmakers have mostly dominated racy adolescent sex comedies, although Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Booksmart, and Maggie Carey’s The Do List are three prominent (and brilliant) exceptions. Plaza is the ideal director for this surprisingly clean story of a high school valedictorian who, among other things, “forgot” to lose her virginity. This is a humorous heroine’s journey for the ages, thanks to her meticulous technique (the “to-do list”) to get it on.
9. Life After Beth (2014)
Plaza shines as a reanimated girl who returns to torment her ex-boyfriend (Dane DeHaan) in this zone-com. Plaza’s entire existence seems to be designed for the zombie comedy of this slimy ilk, and she has a blood-splattered blast in her husband Jeff Baena’s directorial debut. Her long-suffering parents, Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly, are pitch-perfect, turning Life After Beth into an absolute blast.
8. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
This low-budget, capital Q for Quirk film hits all the right indie notes in terms of being funny and quirky while still being sensitive and intellectual. Plaza gives an emotionally engaging performance as a journalist looking into rumors of a time traveler (Mark Duplass) without losing any of the fundamental saltiness that is so vital to a story that might sometimes veer too sweet. It’s the ideal proportion for guaranteed success in the kitchen of cinematic nostalgia.
7. The Little Hours (2017)
It’s easy to feel like you’ve seen it all while browsing Netflix. Comedy, suspense, and drama… Medieval nuns in a black comedy? Yes, you can always count on Plaza (and her life and work partner, director Jeff Baena) to defy expectations and assemble a stellar cast. There are bawdy nuns, a coven of witches, belladonna, and forbidden love in The Little Hours, a film that destroys algorithms and is based on The Decameron (a work of literature written in the 14th century). Plaza plays the lead role of one of the sisters, whose character is a sadist. Plaza’s determination to pursue her strange inspiration (and urge to tinker with Netflix’s recommendation engine) is on full display in this short.
6. Ingrid Goes West (2017)
The Instagram star cast includes Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen. Alert the Academy: The app provided significant inspiration for the style, feel, and narrative of this understated thriller. Plaza’s performance, frightening and broken as an online stalker in the present day, is spot on. Without a doubt, Ingrid Goes West will serve as a time capsule for the 2010s, complete with enough avocado toast, wide-brimmed hats, Joan Didion quotations, and Olsen instructing Plaza on how to pose for selfies to constitute a master class for those who may one day wonder what “social media” was.
Plaza’s character is obsessed with Olsen, and their on-screen relationship is a hazardous game from which the audience cannot turn away. The story’s overall theme is sad but true, despite the difficult and twisted finish.
5. White Lotus, Season 2 (2022)
Plaza makes it appear as effortless as sipping a glass of fine Italian wine to steal a show of this magnitude. She’ll be playing Harper Spiller, a “normie” lawyer and newly wealthy lady whose marriage to Ethan (Will Sharpe) has lost its luster, in the second season of Mike White’s blockbuster anthology series White Lotus. Against the breathtaking background of Sicily, they test the boundaries of their connection and intimacy, which stands in stark contrast to their adversarial couple’s outward displays of affection.
Plaza has plenty of opportunity to reveal the depths of her character’s complexity via the conflict, which keeps her husband wondering (and us all screaming on the sofa) about her morals and virtues. Plaza brings a new level of maturity to her portrayal of the character, yet she allows space for her trademark sarcasm and cynicism.
4. Emily the Criminal (2022)
Emily the Criminal demonstrated to the world that Plaza could carry off a meaty, no-frills character with the same intensity and seriousness as a pile of outstanding college bills. Some of the most depressingly basic and realistic depictions of what labor in the gig economy truly looks like are interspersed throughout this narrative of a young lady whose debt pushes her into a life of crime. This film is crucial, essential, and timely; it keeps its audience on the edge of their seats until the last, unexpectedly rewarding scene.
3. Black Bear (2020)
Because our goal is always one step ahead of everyone else, Aubrey created Black Bear long before Cocaine Bear and FX’s The Bear. In this Charlie Kaufman-esque mystery, Plaza portrays an unnamed stranger whose interactions with a married couple at a remote cabin are not what they appear to be. Plaza’s smoldering acting skills are on full display in this eerie meditation on art, filmmaking, relationships, and the very nature of reality, and it has been called one of her greatest performances.
2. Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)
It’s the Fonz. Squiggy, Kramer, and Lenny When April Ludgate rolls around, While it’s nothing new for supporting characters to take the spotlight on television, it had been a while since we’d seen one like the receptionist with the hypnotically flat effect outside Ron Swanson’s office.
This was no small feat among such a star-studded cast as Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Chris Pratt, and more, but Plaza’s Ludgate came out of left field like a pop fly fireball, somber and morbid in her delivery that she immediately stood out from the sunshine and rainbow vibes of her fellow Parks Dept. co-workers. It seems that the casting director saw something in Plaza’s alien relatability that made her want to cast her as April (something that has happened often to her throughout her career).
1. Legion (2017-2019)
Oh, you thought Plaza’s job was to maintain a flat, unchanging expression? I suggest you inquire as to the opinion of her Legion character, Lenny. Plaza’s reappearance as the mutant Shadow King after the death of her upbeat character in the pilot is something of a risk. She demonstrates her bravery by playing a malicious character who is capable of conducting group therapy sessions while simultaneously dancing, singing, murdering, seducing, getting high, cracking jokes, brandishing weapons, and more.
Then, of course, comes the climax. She breaks our hearts with a sweet, emotional last act after portraying the most terrifying sociopath on this side of Hannibal Lecter. What’s her secret? Going “backward and in heels,” as the saying goes. Extras include a well-choreographed singing-and-shooting performance by Jemaine Clement, a dance war, a poolside hangout, and a road trip to remember.