As the years have passed, Kaitlyn Dever‘s talents have grown more prominent in television and film. With a malleable acting persona and appearance, her roles have started to define her already accomplished career. Like a handful of established actresses today, she was introduced to the film world through a movie stemming from the American Girl doll franchise. Her first film performance was in An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong in 2009, where she played Gwen Thompson. Since then, she’s popped up in several different genres, cementing herself as an adaptable performer.
Originally hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, Dever’s family relocated to Dallas, Texas, when she was young, beginning her acting career there. Following her credit in Chrissa, her TV roles began to increase, followed by those in film. As she’s grown up, her on-screen appearances have become more powerful, tackling serious real-life concepts through her skills, and she has become one of the most exciting performers working. Fans of both the actress and the post-apocalyptic series The Last of Us were thrilled when it was revealed that she would be taking on the crucial role of Abby for season 2 of the HBO hit, starring alongside Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey. Here are Kaitlyn Dever’s best performances, ranked.
Update January 12, 2024: In honor of the news of Kaitlyn Dever joining the cast of The Last Of Us season 2, this article has been updated with even more great performances to check out in preparation for her upcoming role in the acclaimed series.
12 Justified (2010-2015)
Justified, which earned two Emmy Awards, is described as a neo-Western with plenty of grit to go around. In the series, Raylan Givens finds himself back in his native Kentucky, where his brash view of morality entangles him in some close-to-home transgressions. Timothy Olyphant famously starred as the rebellious lawman, fighting against many ruthless foes like Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Rober Quarles (Neal McDonough) over the course of the drama’s six seasons.
Dever’s Shows Off Her Range
Dever plays the character of Loretta McCready, who gives Dever the opportunity to portray a girl caught in the crossfire of her surrounding lawlessness, coming-of-age as she comes to terms with who she really is. The talented actress more than held her own when sharing the screen with TV legend Margo Martindale, the ruthless matriarch of the Bennett crime family who takes Loretta in despite her shady dealing. The role was deemed as Dever’s breakout performance, and she earned a Young Artist Award nod for her impressive work. Stream on Hulu
11 Beautiful Boy (2018)
With an illustrious cast led by Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, and Amy Ryan, the gripping biographical drama Beautiful Boy tells the powerful true story of successful writer David Sheff and his desperate mission to save his bright and talented son Nic after the teen develops a devastating addiction to meth. Dever appears as fellow drug addict Lauren, whom Nic reconnects with and goes on a dangerous bender that has an everlasting effect on both of their young lives.
Dever & Chalamet’s Heart-wrenching Portrayals
Both Chalamet and Dever knocked it out of the park when they portrayed the drug-addicted teenagers, impressively capturing all their anguish, frustrations, and inner turmoil in the heart-heavy roles. Dever once again proved there wasn’t a character or subject matter she couldn’t take on and completely commit to, and the drama helped foreshadow the exceptional work she would do in another drug-related project, Dopesick. Stream on Prime Video
10 Last Man Standing (2011-2021)
Making home audiences laugh and gasp for the ten years it ran and beyond, Last Man Standing welcomes audiences into the Baxter family. Mike Baxter (Tim Allen) is a father of three outspoken daughters going through the ins and outs of the female experience alongside Mike’s wife, Vanessa. Dever’s performance as Eve, the youngest Baxter, showcased her growth from a naive girl into a driven and brave member of the Armed Forces, and audiences truly watched Eve (and Dever herself) come into her own over the years.
A Skyrocketing Career
The actress clearly became bigger than the show itself and took on a smaller role as the series went on to focus on her film career, making her that rare star who was able to break from television to be a legit movie star. She scaled back her appearance on the sitcom to a recurring role beginning in the seventh season onwards, as she was busy filming other projects like the acclaimed comedy Booksmart and Dear Evan Hansen during its final seasons. Stream on Hulu
9 Outside In (2017)
After serving 20 years for murder, Chris Connelly (Jay Duplass) struggles to adjust to a life of freedom in his small hometown and ends up forging an intense connection with his former high school teacher Carol Beasley (Edie Falco) in the moving drama Outside In. Kaitlyn Dever portrays Carol’s teenage daughter Hildy, who develops an interest in Chris and the two end up developing an endearing bond, despite his extreme devotion and mounting affections for her mother.
A Sensitive & Impactful Drama
Dever is such a powerhouse on screen and she is able to brilliantly tackle a role no matter how big or small, and she once again brought an emotional depth to the character of Hildy that helped elevate the story. Her interest in the extremely fragile Chris and their friendship was just another reason Outside In was the critical triumph it was, and she had no problem shining alongside the Golden Globe-winning Falco. The New York Times raved about the tender picture, writing, “Exploring big questions through small, intimate moments, Outside In is a love story that prioritizes patience and pragmatism over passion.” Stream on Netflix
8 Unbelievable (2019)
Unbelievable, from Netflix, is a startling and important story based on a true occurrence. The miniseries expands on the real-life story of a woman who reported her assault and allegedly lied about her experience, referred to as Marie and portrayed by Dever. The actress appeared alongside Toni Collette in the gripping true crime drama, which premiered to widespread critical acclaim.
A Thought-Provoking Depiction
CinemaBlend reported that while Dever wasn’t in touch with the actual Marie during the show’s production, Dever said that after it came out, “[Marie] said that she watched the show and she thought it was incredible, and that she even found a bit of closure from it.” Multiple shows like this one sensationalize such serious topics in a careless and entertainment-focused way, but this performance clearly amounted to some real good. Stream on Netflix
7 Detroit (2017)
It is no secret that Kathryn Bigelow is known for giving space to difficult topics and inner turmoil. In her drama film Detroit, which was released in 2017, the director focuses on the topics of police violence, racism, and the shocking events that took place in the city of the same name in 1967. Detroit does not only carry an incredibly important piece of history and refers to an ongoing segregation, but it also marks a significant time for Dever.
Dever’s Powerhouse Performance
Her portrayal of Karen is a standout performance. The emotions she brings to the table are incredibly moving. Bigelow’s approach as a director supported Dever’s performance since the director prefers to leave the actors in the blue in order to create real emotions. Detroit was lauded for its faithfulness to what actually occurred during the harrowing 1967 riots, and was given the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Independent Motion Picture. Rent/Buy on Prime Video
6 Ticket to Paradise (2022)
Ticket to Paradise is one of those movies that will put you in a good mood right away. Great music, stunning beaches, entertaining characters, and a spectacular cast. Kaitlyn Dever has the honor of acting next to George Clooney and Julia Roberts. In Ol Parker’s rom-com, Kaitlyn steps into the role of Lily, the daughter of Georgia (Roberts) and David Cotton (Clooney), and does an impeccable job. When the parents find out that Lily wants to give up her life in the big city and marry her boyfriend, whom she met in Bali, the divorced couple jumps right in and tries everything to put their daughter back in the right lane. Lily’s resistance is expected; however, old disagreements and, rather unexpectedly, the previous infatuation catch up with Georgia and David along the way. Rather than dictating their daughter’s life, maybe they can actually learn from her.
The Return of the Rom-Com
While Clooney and Roberts might have the star power, Dever is not upstaged and, in fact, holds her own against the two cinematic legends. She is believable plays their daughter and carries a great sense of history with her two co-stars, and for audiences that somehow missed out on her many other roles, she is a highlight of the movie. In real life, Clooney and Roberts are great friends, but they take Dever in as though she is their real child and carry that energy onto the screen. Stream on Prime Video
5 Short Term 12 (2013)
Short Term 12 introduces viewers to young people inside a foster care facility, enmeshing a care provider named Grace (Brie Larson) in the difficulties that mental illness creates for many in its path. Dever is Jayden, a resident who begins to trust Grace and bond with the girl during her time in Short Term 12, growing more and more throughout her healing journey.
Dever Excels Once Again
Dever is excellent at playing characters who go through life-altering situations, and this film is a great example of her dexterity playing a vulnerable and strong young woman. Short Term 12 is a film filled with some of the most exciting actors of the 2010s, and Dever is just one of the many names that make this film’s cast all the more impressive. Stream on Peacock
4 Dopesick (2021)
Hulu’s Dopesick zooms in on several regions in the United States to bring awareness to the impact of opioids that have forever affected a number of lives. With a star-studded cast including Michael Keaton, Rosario Dawson, and Peter Sarsgaard, the poignant series chronicles the devastating effects of Oxycontin and its profound impact on the lives of Americans and society.
A Compassionate Approach to Storytelling
Dever’s role as Betsy Mallum shows audiences one painful example of how addiction can take hold of a young individual. As one of her portrayals of someone in crisis that remains a very real issue in the real world, Dever’s power as a performer is made more clear in this short yet punch-packing show. Entertainment Weekly commended the moving drama in their review, writing, “Dopesick deftly corrals the vast addiction epidemic through intimate, deeply engrossing stories of human devastation.” Stream on Hulu
3 Rosaline (2022)
The comedy Rosaline has been lauded for its funny new take on the classic Shakespeare love story between Romeo and Juliet, centering on the eponymous heroine who is forced to watch her one true love and ex-beau Romeo pursue her cousin, so she makes it her mission to break up the legendary duo and win back the object of her affection.
Embracing Her Comedic Side
The character of Rosaline is brought to life through Dever’s portrayal, as outspoken as many of the other roles throughout her resume. Simply put by Grazia Magazine, the story is “retold from the perspective of [Romeo’s] ex,” giving the tale a refreshed point of view that includes more than just the sad story viewers may expect. Rightfully huffy, Rosaline gets inspired to tilt the tale back in her favor. Dever carries the movie, and the premise might not have worked if not for her incredible comedic delivery. Rent/Buy on Prime Video
2 No One Will Save You (2023)
In his new movie No One Will Save You, director Brian Duffield combines everything from horror to science fiction and ensures that the viewers cling to their blanket in excitement. Even if the movie leaves audiences with shudders running down their spine, their yes will be glued to the screen, following the character’s every move. Kaitlyn Dever gets the chance to show off her acting skills in the role of the main character, Brynn, who lives withdrawn from society and immensely struggles with anxiety.
A Scene-Stealing Performance
Even though she ensures her solitude, the silence of the night is disturbed when an alien suddenly intrudes her home. Dever gives a truly outstanding performance, even more impressive, as the film contains almost no dialogue whatsoever. Her reactions and expressions draw the audience right in, allowing them to experience the same suffocating feeling of living in paranoia and trying to survive an alien invasion. This a purely visual performance and one that Dever excels it, showing she can communicate just as much with a look as any line of dialogue. Stream on Hulu
1 Booksmart (2019)
Booksmart is one of the more recent high school stories that encapsulates growing up and graduating in the late 2010s. As Amy, one of the film’s two leads, Kaitlyn Dever, is the perfect picture of a queer, socially aware Gen-Z teen whose future dreams exceed her current social reality at school. Alongside Beanie Feldstein as Amy’s bestie, Molly, the two make a great team as they hustle to enjoy the final freedoms that they feel like they’ve sacrificed throughout their education so far.
A Star-Making Outing
Amy is relatable, funny, earnest, and a faithful friend – absolutely one of Dever’s greatest characters. It was a star-making role for her, one that launched her into a new level of superstardom and solidified her as one of the most exciting actors working today. The phenomenal actress’ chemistry with Feldstein was palpable and she effortlessly showcased her impeccable range as a performer, and Booksmart went on to win countless awards including an Independent Spirit Award and GLAAD Media Award. Rent/Buy on Prime Video