That’s the great actress Tessa Thompson She is perhaps best known to some for her role as the heroic Valkyrie in the latest Marvel film Thor: Love and Thunder or for her role as a host on the currently airing HBO series western world. However, these are not the only works that Thompson has to offer. Her best performances have been in films, all of which are of similar strength and span a variety of genres and tones, all of which are well worth checking out. So for anyone who wants to delve deeper into her filmography and everything she has to offer, we’ve got the best of the best you’ll want to see for yourself ASAP.
Josie Radek in Annihilation (2018)
A sci-fi exploration of the self and what it means to destroy what one should start over, destruction has the most stunning graphics of any film on this list. Directed by Alex garland and loosely based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer, it follows a group of women as they embark on a dangerous expedition into an uncharted zone called “Shimmer”. What they discover there will fundamentally change who they are and what they learned about themselves. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a film best experienced with as little prior knowledge as possible. What I’m saying is that as astrophysicist Josie Radek, Thompson has one of the most striking scenes in a movie that’s packed with it. As she undergoes a transformation towards the end, the monologue she delivers and the seriousness she brings to the scene are nothing short of breathtaking.
Bianca in Creed (2015)
a soft one Rocky a kind of reboot that has nothing to do with being as good as it is, but turns out to be good nonetheless, Ryan Coogler‘s Believe is a stunning hit of a film that benefits from consistently outstanding performances. It focuses on Michael B Jordan‘s Adonis, the son of the late Apollo Creed, who died in the previous films. He’s looking for training from a little boxer named Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) on a journey he hopes will bring both salvation and a connection to his father. Along the way, he meets Thompson’s Bianca, who becomes an integral part of the experience. A talented musician who is more than just a love interest to Adonis, the chemistry they have is undeniable in every scene they share together. In a film full of strong actors and performers, Thompson proves she can once again display an outstanding presence in whatever she tackles.
Samantha in White Love (2014)
The breakout Sundance hit that started a streak and showed Thompson could walk a tonal tightrope with ease, Dear whites is a film with a lot of bite, with which he tells his very own satirical story. Set at Winchester University’s fictional Ivy League College, it follows four black students as they navigate the still-present racism etched into the institution’s founding. It centers on Thompson’s Samantha ‘Sam’ White, an art student who runs a witty radio show that gives the film its title, and takes on the establishment. However, when pushed into a leadership role that involves more pressure, she needs to think about what she wants for herself and her future. Often playing on some kind of skit as an interlude, the film takes in all the casually racist aspects of college life in America with a wink and a smile. Thompson excels throughout, bringing both humor and heart to give the story an emotional foundation. When everything reaches a climax and ends with a perfectly timed final joke, it turns out to be an enduringly funny work worth re-watching.
Ollie in the Little Woods (2018)
A crime thriller of sorts that challenges our understanding of the genre and those who must struggle on the fringes of modern life, writer and director Nia DaCosta‘s Small forest is a thoughtful work that proves as stirring as it is quietly devastating. It focuses on two sisters, Ollie (Thompson) and Deb (LilyJames) as they struggle to make a living in rural North Dakota. It wasn’t easy after the death of their mother, a loss they knew was coming but it left a hole in their lives nonetheless. Now, Ollie is trying to bounce back from legal troubles, but is caught unawares by a crisis that will leave the duo with few options for the future. It’s a film that’s a heartfelt portrait of her life that also shows how cruel and callous the world can be. Driven by desperation and turning to each other, it is a somber reflection of how strained American life can be for those left behind. Beautifully shot and sharply acted by a feisty Thompson, it’s the kind of film that sneaks up on you before all of a sudden takes your breath away.
Irene in passing (2021)
Poetic and profound at the same time, without ever exaggerating, Rebecca Hallhis directorial debut pass is a precise portrait of two people that comes up with something more. Shot in beautiful black and white, it’s about two friends who find each other after not seeing each other since high school. Based on the 1929 novel of the same name Nella Larsenit sees Irene (Thompson) discover that Clare (Ruth Negga) passed as white. This enabled her to marry a wealthy white man and gain access to far more than a black man would normally have in 1920s New York. What follows is a series of tense and incredibly well shot scenes as the characters’ respective worlds begin to intertwine with the catastrophe looming on the horizon. While Negga received plenty of praise for her work and the way she moved from scene to scene, Thompson is similarly outstanding. Both complementary and contradictory, two friends who have drifted apart while their paths have taken very different directions. When it all comes together in tragedy, it leaves a lasting impact that is as revealing as it is deeply captivating.
Detroit in Sorry to Bother You (2018)
Written and directed by the surrealist and uncompromising satire, this is also the most energetic debut feature film in recent memory Boots Riley‘s Sorry to bother you is unlike anything you have ever seen and likely ever will see. Set in a dystopian contemporary Oakland all too similar to ours, it follows the ill-fated Cassius Green (LaKeith Stanfield) who takes on a telemarketing gig to make ends meet. When he discovers he possesses a skill that can help him achieve personal and professional success, he is thrown into a world where greed rules everything. A crucial counterweight to Cassius is Thompson’s Detroit, an artist who also works as a sign spinner. Not only does the character have the best earrings of any film of all time, but he also cuts out and challenges Cassius as he begins to become corrupted. As Riley has said, they and all of the characters represent the different parts of him that he has been throughout his life. The result is a character who, even as a supporting actor, advances the story to interesting new points in the shortest of moments. One art installation scene in particular is weird but silly in the best possible way and a standout moment in the film.
Sylvie in Sylvie’s Love (2020)
A richly textured film about love and the enduring ways it can take over your life, Sylvie’s love is the kind of work that will knock you off your feet as her story unfolds. Written and directed with a passionate eye by Eugene Ashe, he follows two young people who meet in the 1950s and are changed forever by the encounter. The titular Sylvie (Thompson) works in her father’s record store but aspires to work in television. Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) is an aspiring saxophonist looking to break into the world of music. Both begin a cautious flirtation that turns into a passionate love, complicated by their respective lives and situations that threaten to separate them. Shot on beautiful Super 16mm that brings every single frame to life, it’s a film that thrives on the charm of its protagonists and the dynamic environments they inhabit. Thompson in particular shines once again, capturing the character’s nuances as she attempts to build a future for herself with a compassionate touch. When it all comes together, you will be glad to have been drawn into his fully realized world.
Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
While the new Thor isn’t nearly as good as what came before for the God of Thunder, Thor: Ragnarok yet there remains a roaring good time that makes you forget the last misstep. Seeing Thompson make his debut as a Valkyrie who tries to get drunk off her ship and fall before getting back up is still the best performance of a superhero the series has ever done. As we learn more about her character and the past she carries with her, Thompson tactilely hits the right comedic notes that hide her greater trauma. The way she carries herself gives the character a clear sense of strength and street smarts, making every scene she takes part in endlessly entertaining. When things really get going towards the end when she struts into battle with fireworks behind her, you can’t help but be amazed by the sheer appeal she brings to the role. Sure, there are plenty of other funny moments, but it’s Thompson who completely steals the show.