Sarah Paulson Might as Well Be a Chameleon With These 9 Movie and TV Roles
Sarah Paulson, the reigning queen of screams on American Horror Story, has proven time and time again that she knows how to deliver a memorable performance. She first began her career in 1994 with an episode of Law & Order, and since then she's been in every genre, from horror and thrillers to comedy and drama. Not one to stick strictly to film or TV, Paulson's made sure to diversify her filmography with shows like Mrs. America and American Crime Story, and movies like Blue Jay and Carol. With her most recent role as Nurse Mildred Ratched on Netflix's Ratched, she's back to terrify us once more. Below we've ranked some of her best performances.
Sarah Paulson as Alice Macray on Mrs. America (2020)
A composite of sorts, Paulson's Alice Macray was a shining light on Mrs. America. Even when Alice wasn't the center of the story, Paulson held our attention while bringing meaning to the character's actions. It would've been easy for Paulson to have gotten lost in the shuffle with the talented cast, yet she held her own while fully embodying the character.
Sarah Paulson as Amanda in Blue Jay (2016)
An indie romance, Blue Jay sees Paulson as Amanda, who runs into her high school sweetheart years after their breakup. What makes her performance so memorable is the fact that it's vulnerable, emotional, and honest. We feel as if we're watching a true slice of life as the couple comes together to reminisce.
Sarah Paulson as Mistress Mary Epps in 12 Years a Slave (2013)
As the cruel wife of demented slave owner Edwin Epps, Paulson's theater background is on full display. She truly disappears into the character and we're left not watching Paulson, but a deplorable woman who is capable of almost anything. With every nasty word and indefensible action, Paulson is able to get across who Mary Epps is and how she deals with her own husband's actions.
Sarah Paulson as Wilhelmina Venable/Cordelia Goode on American Horror Story: Apocalypse (2018)
If Paulson had only played Wilhelmina on Apocalypse, this performance wouldn't have made the list. The double duty of supreme Cordelia Goode and wannabe-antagonist Wilhelmina Venable had Paulson at the top of her game. While Paulson couldn't save a lackluster season, she did give us some fashion inspiration, as well as one of our favorite Coven characters back.
Sarah Paulson as Abby Gerhard in Carol (2015)
Paulson gives a masterful performance as Abby, the former girlfriend of the titular Carol. Somewhat reserved, it's Abby that tells Carol to follow her heart, and Paulson gives the portrayal her all, with subtle details one can pick up on subsequent viewings.
Sarah Paulson as Nurse Mildred Ratched (2020)
A new addition to the Paulson filmography, Mildred easily became one of Paulson's best roles. Not quite as terrifying as her One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest counterpart, Paulson was able to humanize the role and actually make us love her. Even when she is plotting murder or boiling a man alive, you just can't help but root for Mildred Ratched.
Sarah Paulson as Sally McKenna on American Horror Story: Hotel (2015-2016)
Heartbreaking, and somewhat terrifying, Hypodermic Sally is certainly one of Paulson's most iconically dressed characters. We both loved her and loved to hate her, depending upon who Sally was trying to f*ck over at the Hotel Cortez. The duality Paulson was able to bring to the role, evidenced by the vulnerability and the darkness, solidified Sally as one of her best roles.
Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark on The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (2016)
At first, we were wary about whether or not Paulson would be able to portray the legendary Marcia Clark. However, we were wrong to doubt her. It was hard to discern where Paulson ended and Marcia began while watching. It was also a testament to just how seriously Paulson takes her craft, and how much time and effort she puts into each role.
Sarah Paulson as Lana Winters on American Horror Story: Asylum (2012-2013)
Hands down, Lana Winters is Paulson's greatest role to date. Between wrongful imprisonment, forced electroshock therapy, and being abducted by a murderer, Lana had a tough time during Asylum. Paulson's energy was off the charts, and her chemistry with fellow AHS favorites Evan Peters and Jessica Lange was palpable. We were on the edge of our seats the entire season as we waited to see what would become of her, as Ryan Murphy has a habit of killing off our favorites.