Kate Mara has rocketed to fame over the last decade, and for good reason. She’s a fantastic actress who – despite coming from an influential family – earned her success on raw talent and skill. Her latest film is Chappaquiddick, which follows the events leading up to and following the 1969 death of a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne. Senator Ted Kennedy was at the center of this mystery, and what happened to Kopechne might have changed the landscape of American politics.

The film highlights a piece of history that reverberates through the mainstream, even if the details have been forgotten by many. Mara plays Mary Jo Kopechne opposite Jason Clarke as Ted Kennedy. Although Mara has been praised for her television roles on House of Cards, Jack & Bobby and American Horror Story, her early film work is just as worthy of attention. In preparation for role in Chappaquiddick, we’re looking at five of Kate Mara’s best film roles to date.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

[Credit: Focus Features]

Brokeback Mountain premiered 13 years ago, but it is still a part of the cultural zeitgeist. Anchored by an impressive cast, critics and audiences praised Ang Lee’s masterpiece. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal were the stars of the film; however, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams and Kate Mara were all outstanding. Mara didn’t have a particularly large role, but she held her own. At the time, Mara mostly worked on TV shows. But, her performance in Brokeback Mountain proved that she was an extremely versatile actor who could succeed in more than one medium.

Transsiberian (2008)

[Credit: Icon Film Distribution]

Following Brokeback Mountain, Kate Mara continued her transition from television to film. She had sizable roles in We Are Marshall and Shooter, but neither films were received well by critics. She did, however, catch another big break in 2008, when she landed a role in Brad Anderson’s Transsiberian. The crime-thriller was a critical darling, and it was an extremely important moment in Mara’s career. She gave a great performance (of course), but this was one of the first major films where she was billed as one of the starring actors. She shared the marquee with some impressive actors including Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer and Ben Kingsley. Mara’s role in Brokeback Mountain was her first step towards becoming a Hollywood heavyweight, but it was Transsiberian that proved she was a genuine talent.

127 Hours (2010)

[Credit: Fox Searchlight]

For the most part, 127 Hours was basically James Franco’s one-man show. A majority of the film centers on Franco’s character after his arm became lodged in the side of canyon. Before that tragic event, Franco’s character, Aron Ralston, met two young women, Kristi and Abby, portrayed by Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn respectively. The movie was a huge milestone for Franco, but all the ancillary characters had very little screen time. So, why did we include this is one of Kate Mara’s best roles?

For one, it’s one of the best films she’s been in. More importantly, 127 Hours revealed one of Mara’s hidden (and passive) talents. It may sound a bit odd, but she is extremely memorable and instantly recognizable. Most people can only remember 2 actors who appeared in 127 Hours, and it’s usually James Franco and Kate Mara (unless you ask a hardcore Treat Williams fan, of course). Her role in 127 Hours confirmed that Mara had the X-factor that separates actors from movie stars. It could be charisma, gravitas or natural charm, but whatever you call it, Mara has got “it”. Mara also gave a stellar performance in the film, but with 127 Hours, she proved that she was on another level (even if no one knew it at the time).    

The Martian (2015)

[Credit: 20th Century Fox]

Ridley Scotts’ The Martian was a return to form for the distinguished director. The film was outstanding and grossed over $600 million at the worldwide box office. The stellar ensemble cast was led by Matt Damon, but the film was a “who’s who” of character actors. The cast ranged from veteran Hollywood stars like Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain and Sean Bean, to up-and-coming stars like Sebastian Stan, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover and Michael Pena.

Kate Mara portrayed a member of the Ares 3 mission to Mars, which ultimately decided to go back to the red planet to rescue Damon’s character. She delivered an earnest performance, but she also displayed her ability to mesh with her co-stars. Even though each cast members had impressive individual careers at the time, they “suited up” and all played their parts perfectly.

Megan Leavey (2017)

[Credit: Bleeker St.]

In 2017, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Megan Leavey seemed like it came out of nowhere. This was the director’s first feature film, and besides Kate Mara and Edie Falco, it wasn’t exactly a star-studded affair. It was, however, a genuinely moving film, that is arguably Mara’s best performance to date. The film follows the true-life story of a United States Marine corporal (named Megan Leavey), who saved many lives with her combat dog during a tour in Iraq. Kate Mara stars as the titular Marine and her performance was nothing short of inspirational. She was able to portray strength, vulnerability and compassion in a visceral way that connected with moviegoers. Critics and audiences praised Megan Leavey and Kate Mara’s performance as absolute triumphs.  

You can see Kate Mara in Chappaquiddick when it hits theaters on April 6, 2018