Karen Gillan is probably best known to science fiction fans in the UK, and across the globe, for her roles in Doctor Who on the BBC and as Nebula in the Avengers franchise. However, there is much more to Gillan than these genre pieces as she has proven across the years as an actor, and also as a writer.
The Scottish actor, born in 1987 in Inverness, shot to international fame after being cast opposite Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor in Doctor Who in 2010, but has since then broken through into some major Hollywood roles, as well as continuing to make indie films where she’s taken a close role in every area of development and production.
Here we are counting down some of the best Karen Gillan performances from both movies and TV shows over the years, so if you’re ready, perhaps we should begin…
This show may not have had longevity, and it didn’t win over every critic – but Gillan’s performance as Eliza Dooley in this 2014 My Fair Lady-inspired story was a fine one. Gillan played a completely new character from anything we’d seen from her before, taking on the role of a social media-obsessed young woman who is looking to quit her day job to be a full-time influencer. Perhaps this show was in some ways ahead of its time, but it certainly hit the spot with Gillan’s excellent performance.
6. Gunpowder Milkshake
This is no ordinary role. Sam has to team up with her mother who she hasn’t spent time with for a very long time as well as some of her colleagues in order to stop the assassination of a girl at the hands of a rival gang. Yep, this is a good one. Gillan has to grapple with a complicated story arc for her character as well as her fair share of serious action scenes in this fascinating 2021 movie with an equally fascinating performance from our star Karen.
5. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
At first, it may appear that Gillan is playing a simple Lara Croft-type character in this movie, but once you begin to watch you’ll realise that this is a nuanced and brilliant performance from the Scottish actor. The role of Ruby Roundhouse is not a simple one because Gillan is actually portraying teen Martha living within the body of Ruby, and therefore this is a complex role at the heart of what is a fantastic family movie.
4. Avengers Endgame
In both Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II and Avengers Endgame we see Nebula’s character really come to life as her story plays out in much more depth. Gillan is once again challenged with a role, like that in Jumanji which has more than one part to it and once again she manages to pull off a brilliant characterisation which is both believable and exciting to watch.
This 2022 movie stars an exceptional performance from Karen Gillan as Sarah, a woman who has a seemingly terminal illness and undergoes a medical procedure to clone herself. However, when it turns out the illness has gone away, that leaves two Sarahs, which may be a problem going forward. The solution is a battle royale between the two versions of herself to see which one will survive to live the life of Sarah, because there ain’t enough room in the world for two of the same person it seems.
2. Doctor Who
Her role as Amy Pond in Doctor Who is certainly one of the most famous of her career, and can without a doubt be chalked up as one that catapulted Karen Gillan to international fame. However, far more than just a companion to the Doctor, Gillan proved that she was able to hold both emotional and action scenes in the series alone and won over armies of fans because of the strength and breadth of her range in the role. In many ways, the versatility that she displayed in Amy Pond was a display of the incredible roles she would go on to play on the big screen after leaving the TARDIS.
1. The Party’s Just Beginning
This 2018 movie is written by and stars Karen Gillan. A far cry from some of the action in her more famous blockbuster roles, this is the story of a young woman in her mid-twenties who is trying to deal with the death of her best friend by suicide. Her life slowly spirals out of control as she approaches the anniversary of the death and this quickly become a dark, poignant and incredibly well-thought-out look at the human condition. Filled with light and shade the brilliant central performance from Gillan shows just what a versatile actor she can be.