The Best Lupita Nyong’o Movies And How To Watch Them

Lupita Nyongo's Nakia in a green costume in Black Panther 2
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Over the years, Lupita Nyong’o has been part of a reclusive and closed-off African kingdom with seemingly infinite power and technological advances, a galaxly far, far away, and a brutal plantation of the American South, where she has provided decorated and award-winning performances the likes of which will not be soon forgotten. During that same stretch of time, the Academy Award winner has also face-off with doppelgängers, fought zombies, and provided the narration for a documentary on one of the most beloved lovable losers in comic strip history.

In honor of the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which sees the actress reprise her role from one of the best Marvel movies to date, we have put together a list of Lupita Nyong’o’s best movies and how to watch them in a variety of ways. There are a lot of movies to break down, so let’s get this show on the road…

Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

Although Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is still playing in theaters and doesn’t have a release date for either its home release or eventual debut on Disney+, leaving it off the list of Lupita Nyong’o’s best movies would be a disservice to the actress’s portrayal of Nakia as it would be to Ryan Coogler’s emotional tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman.

Without giving too much away for those who have yet to watch the 2022 movie, Nyong’o’s take on Nakia the second time around is not only as captivating as the first go-around, it’s far more brilliant in every possible way. Whether it’s moments where she’s still coming to terms with the death of her king and lover, investigating Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía), or fighting alongside Shuri (Letitia Wright), Nyong’o is, once again, a shining star.

Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia in Dora Milaje outfit in Wakanda in Black Panther

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Black Panther (2018)

Following the death of his father and the king of Wakanda, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) ascends to the throne as the sworn protector of his people and protector of their secretive nation. But, when a ghost from his family’s past arrives in the form of vengeful and revolutionary Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), the titular hero of Black Panther prepares to fight his toughest and most personal fight yet.

Brought in early on in the movie (during the incredible nighttime rescue mission), Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia quickly shows T’Challa (and the audience) that she is more than capable of handling her own in a fight. The same can be said about the “War Dog” when it comes to matters off of the battlefield, as she proves time and time again in one of the MCU’s best supporting performances.

Stream Black Panther on Disney+. (opens in new tab)
Buy/Rent Black Panther on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
Get it on Blu-ray on Amazon. (opens in new tab)

Lupita Nyong'o as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave

(Image credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

12 Years A Slave (2013)

Nearly five years before playing one of the fiercest heroines in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Lupita Nyong’o made a name for herself as the incredibly strong-willed Patsey in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. The movie, which follows Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) as he goes from a free man living in the North to being kidnapped and sold into slavery, remains one of the most grueling yet inspiring Oscar winners in the past decade.

12 Years a Slave immediately turned Nyong’o into a massive star with her Oscar win and stunning on-screen performance. At the center of some of the movie’s most heartbreaking scenes while also being in some of the more tender, her take on the character is an absolute triumph.

Stream 12 Years a Slave on HBO Max. (opens in new tab)
Buy/Rent 12 Years a Slave on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
Get it on Blu-ray on Amazon. (opens in new tab)

Lupita Nyongo with doppelganger in Us

(Image credit: Universal)

Us (2019)

Two years after the critical and commercial success of Get Out, writer-director Jordan Peele continued his unique brand of socially-concious horror movies with the 2019 thriller Us. In the movie, Nyong’o plays Adelaide “Addy” Wilson, a woman who goes with her husband and two kids on a vacation, only instead of peace and relaxation, the family encounters an unnerving discovery.

Much like Get Out and Nope three years later, Us is full of complex characters, themes, and a mysterious ending that will leave you going back to watch it a second or third time. This is due to Peele’s mastery of horror, suspense, and social commentary, as well as because of the performances, especially those of Nyong’o.

Buy/Rent Us on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
Get it on Blu-ray on Amazon. (opens in new tab)

Maz Kantana in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

A little over three years after Disney’s 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm, audiences received their first live-action Star Wars movie during the 2015 holiday season. The first installment of a new trilogy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens introduced a new crop of heroes and villains with a story that that could be described as equal parts sequel and reboot.

Many new faces were introduced (and familiar fan-favorites brought back) throughout the movie, including Lupita Nyong’o’s Maz Kanata, a friend of Han Solo who helped Rey (Daisy Ridley) on her own hero’s journey as well as one of self-discovery. The character with a mysterious past was brought back in the two subsequent titles, but her grand introduction and wonderful motion-capture performance by Nyong’o was at its best early on.

Stream Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Disney+. (opens in new tab)
Buy/Rent Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
Get it on Blu-ray on Amazon. (opens in new tab)

Mowgli and Raksha embracing in the rain in The Jungle Book

(Image credit: Disney)

The Jungle Book (2016)

Jon Favreau’s 2016 remake of The Jungle Book brought the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi) to life like never before with a combination of live-action and CGI characters and elements. Much like the original novel and 1967 musical animated comedy, the movie saw the young orphaned boy go from an unlikely member of a pack of wolves to one of the key figures in the survival of the animal kingdom by taking on the feared Shere Khan (Idris Elba).

The voice cast of The Jungle Book is one of the most impressive of the Disney “live-action” remakes, and includes the likes of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, and Lupita Nyong’o, who takes on the role of Mowgli’s adoptive wolf mother, Raksha. With a more prominent role than the character had in the 1967 version, and Nyong’o made the most of it with a strong, fierce, and nurturing performance.

Stream The Jungle Book on Disney+. (opens in new tab)
Buy/Rent The Jungle Book on Amazon. (opens in new tab)

Lupita Nyong'o and Alexander England singing Shake It Off in Little Monsters

(Image credit: Neon )

Little Monsters (2019)

The 2019 horror comedy, Little Monsters, follows Dave Anderson (Alexander England), a struggling, and recently dumped, musician who goes with his young nephew on a school field trip as an attempt to get closer to his teacher, Miss Audrey Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o). And, while his wish does come true, Dave finds himself trapped in a gift shop with his nephew, Miss Audrey, and the rest of his class as a horde of zombies attempts to eat them as an afternoon snack.

A ridiculous premise and even more ridiculous execution, this offbeat zombie movie is full of thrills, chills, laughter, and heart as its story unfolds. Everyone is in on the gag too, as the performances by the cast, which also includes Josh Gadd as a children’s show host, are out of this world. Nyong’o is especially great with her blend of absurdity and sincerity throughout.

Stream Little Monsters on Hulu. (opens in new tab)

Lupita Nyong'o in Queen of Katwe

(Image credit: Disney)

Queen Of Katwe (2016)

The 2016 sports drama, Queen of Katwe, which is based on a true story, follows Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) as she goes from a young girl living in a Ugandan slum to one of the most inspirational stories in the world of chess.

This uplifting biographical drama also has a great deal of wonderful supporting characters, including Phiona’s mother, Nakku Harriet, played by Lupita Nyong’o. Throughout the movie, Nakku is the embodiment of motherly love and support, as she helps her young daughter’s dreams come true, and never stops supporting her, even when the odds seem insurmountable.

Stream Queen of Katwe on Disney+. (opens in new tab)
Buy/Rent Queen on Katwe on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
Get it on Blu-ray on Amazon. (opens in new tab)

Lupita Nyong'o on Non-Stop

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Non-Stop (2014)

Released in 2014, the Liam Neeson-led action thriller, Non-Stop, sees the Taken star take on the role of U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks, who finds himself in the middle of a hostage situation after an unknown passenger sends a text message saying they will begin killing passengers if a large sum of money is not wired to an offshore account.

The down-on-his-luck marshal isn’t alone in his fight, as flight attendants Nancy (Michelle Dockery) and Gwen (Lupita Nyong’o) play key roles in the tense situation. Although Nyong’o doesn’t get a whole lot of time to shine in Non-Stop, she makes the most of it and provides a memorable performance.

Stream Non-Stop on HBO Max. (opens in new tab)
Buy/Rent Non-Stop on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
Get it on Blu-ray on Amazon. (opens in new tab)

Charlie Brown looking dismayed in Who Are You, Charlie Brown?

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Who Are You, Charlie Brown? (2021)

The 2021 Apple TV+ documentary Who Are You, Charlie Brown? not only explores the impact and significance of the beloved comic strip and its primary character, but also the man who created it all, Charles Schulz. But, this isn’t just some documentary with talking heads (though, there are some), as it also includes a new animated story created solely for the release.

One of the best options for anyone one with an Apple TV+ subscription, this touching documentary also features soft and soothing narration by Lupita Nyong’o, who turns something great into something enchanting.

Stream Who Are You, Charlie Brown? on Apple TV+. (opens in new tab)

Lupita Nyong'o in East River

(Image credit: Kozak Films)

East River (2008)

And then there is Marc Grey’s 2008 short film, East River, which marked the onscreen debut of Lupita Nyong’o. The 17-minute short, which features no dialogue, follows a man (Tommaso Spinelli) as he aimlessly wanders around Brooklyn, encountering people and situations as his personal journey unfolds.

Nyong’o comes into the picture partway through the film as a photographer who strikes up a relationship with the central figure. If anyone wants to see how her career in film got started, East River is a good place to begin.

Stream East River on Vimeo. (opens in new tab)

With only a decade-and-a-half of appearing on the big screen, it’s safe to say this is just beginning for the incredibly talented Lupita Nyong’o. Her next confirmed role is an appearance in A Quiet Place: Day One in 2024, but it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see her in any of the upcoming 2023 new releases before then.