She’s a starrrr: 5 films that cemented Mia Goth’s scream queen status

Chatting to W Magazine last year, Mia Goth claimed that her current trajectory as a horror icon du jour was never planned out: it’s just in her bones. Or perhaps her lungs. “I have such a naturally high-pitched voice”, Goth correctly notes, frequently memed-on for speaking like a haunted Victorian porcelain doll; “and I guess that just comes from anxiety. It’s quite nice to become unhinged like that.”

It’s a good thing Goth is having fun, because it’s been a blast for us, too, to watch the British actor quickly claim her scream queen crown. She’s played both scary and scared for Hollywood and European cinema’s most celebrated auteurs, and worked with X director Ti West to expand her multiple creepy characters into a fresh horror franchise. With that trilogy’s 1980s-set conclusion MaXXXine raunching up cinemas soon, there’s no better time to look back at Mia Goth’s freaky filmography. Her breakout character Pearl put it best; she’s a starrrrrr”.

A Cure For Wellness (2016)

Goth’s film debut was in Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, but she’d really make her presence known three years later as the face of this yucky Gore Verbinski thriller. Unfortunately, she isn’t given terribly much to do in the story itself, playing a ghostly gal raised within the walls of an eerie sanitarium in the Swiss Alps—a lotta creepy whispering, wounded glances, and typical damsel-in-distress moments as hero Dane DeHaan tries to figure out the truth behind the little blue vials she’s been downing. But she elevates the gnarly imagery she’s working with, writhing a bathtub of eels and putting that creepy lost child vocal effect to good use.

Suspiria (2018)

Luca Guadagnino tossed out the remake rulebook for this bleak, beautiful, confusing take on Argento, and one of the film’s most surprising moves occurs when our protagonist Dakota Johnson seems to be fully hypnotised by a Berlin dance school’s witchy ways. For a minute there, relative unknown Goth takes over as the heart of the story, meeting with multiple Tilda Swintons (Swintonii?) and fatally finding herself in the haunted halls of the academy. Goth’s Shelley Duvall looks and runway modelling experience made her believable as one of the coven’s bewildered, bewitched dancers. Audiences would remember her face—even if they didn’t know what was going on in the film itself—and they wouldn’t have to wait long to see Goth in another elaborate, brutal death scene.

High Life (2018)

In Claire Denis’ nutty spin on Tarkovsky-esque sci-fi, Goth really gets put through the ringer (almost literally). She’s a criminal trapped on a spaceship with Robert Pattinson, André 3000 and co., treated as one of scientist Juliette Binoche’s kinky guinea pigs. Threatened with constant violation of her human body, she nopes out into the abyss of outer space, ultimately succumbing to a terrible fate known as spaghettification—yes, space is horrifying. We love to see Goth in period costume as a horror victim whose screams echo throughout time, and this conceptual, futuristic space oddity suits her unique quality, too.

Pearl (2022)

Goth was twice as nice in Ti West’s X, playing both a wizened, hateful crone and a blossoming young wannabe pornstar. It’d be a lot for even a seasoned horror heroine to tackle, but—shooting in Aotearoa during claustrophobic COVID lockdowns—Goth doubled down further, co-writing the script to this superior prequel with West and delivering a melodramatic sensation of a character study. You see, before farmgirl Pearl was X‘s wrinkly villain, she too had sensual dreams of stardom and escapism…and any who’d dare tell her otherwise are likely to get fed to her pet gator Theda, or to wind up on the wrong end of her hoe.

The screeching, manic performance delights at its heights, but it’s also gut-droppingly sad. Especially in that sorrowful third-act monologue, the character’s heart bleeding out in one long, achingly vulnerable take: “all I really want is to be loved”, she mumbles; “I’m having such a hard time without it lately.”

Infinity Pool (2023)

Do not hang out with Mia Goth on your beach vacay; she’ll drug you, encourage you to kill locals for sport, and even lie about having read your crappy book. In Brandon Cronenberg’s twisted Ballardian thriller, loser Alexander Skarsgård gets sucked into Goth’s troupe of holidaying psychopaths, who get their kicks from exploiting a governmental sci-fi loophole that allows them to pin their crimes onto trippy clones of themselves. Blonde, bellowing, and flailing a gun in her hands, Goth had by this point proven that she could carry the madness of such an unhinged genre film squarely on her back. After her work on the X trilogy, she’s totally believable as a bloodthirsty tourist, forcing Skarsgård to lick his own clone’s blood off her bare boob. Here’s hoping MaXXXine offers more Goth-ic madness, then.