In this article:
- Kaitlyn Dever has acted in TV shows, commercials, and eventually, films, since she was 13, giving her a resume that could make a veteran jealous.
- Across 37 acting credits in the last 12 years, she’s done a little bit of everything from comedy to drama, and has worked with — and learned from — some of the most talented people in Hollywood.
- Trigger warnings are in order for brief mentions of rape, drug addiction, and self-harm in a few of the titles below (which will be labeled accordingly).
At 25, Kaitlyn Dever has been a scene-stealer for more than half of her life.
After having starred in shows like FX’s Justified and making rounds in the likes of Modern Family, Private Practice, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dever worked on critically acclaimed films like Short Term 12 (2013).
She hasn’t looked back since, taking on more and more leading roles in recent years — like the wonderful Booksmart (2019) and the Netflix limited series Unbelievable.
Despite these wins, Kaitlyn Dever doesn’t truly believe she’s made it. With every project, she says, she feels like she’s starting over. “I start from scratch and each experience has its own mindset,” she tells NME.
“I never want to feel like I’ve stopped learning.”
And Dever’s got range to show for it.
Fresh off Dear Evan Hansen (a musical coming-of-age drama) and Dopesick (a harrowing miniseries on the opioid crisis), she’s set to star in two movies to be released this year.
One is Rosaline, the story of Romeo and Juliet told through the eyes of Juliet’s cousin who happens to be Romeo’s ex, and the other is Ticket to Paradise, a rom-com where she plays the daughter of none other than George Clooney and Julia Roberts.
Of course, there’s surely more to come in the future. But for a young actress, she’s already built for herself a pretty solid body of work. Below are some of her best ones, according to IMDb.
IMDb Rating: 8.7
This eight-part series is based on Beth Macy’s book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America.
It takes viewers to the Virginia mining community, the boardrooms of Purdue Pharma, and the offices of government agencies like the FDA and the DOJ — while studying the opioid drug OxyContin that tied them all.
Here, Kaitlyn Dever plays Betsy Mallum, a young closeted lesbian in rural Virginia.
She dreams of a bigger life for herself while working in precarious conditions in the coal mines and living with her religious parents. When she hurts her back in a mining accident, she finds herself falling victim to the drug her doctor prescribes her.
Dopesick showcases Dever at her best yet.
For her, the performance means something bigger than herself. “I didn’t know much about the injustice of the epidemic or how it started,” she says, explaining that most young people know that the opioid crisis happened once — but not much else.
“It’s important that people know the truth.”
IMDb Rating: 8.6
From one of Kaitlyn Dever’s latest projects, we go to one of her first — and interestingly, it’s set in another coal mining town, this time in Kentucky.
In FX’s Justified, viewers follow the story of Raylan Givens, a US Marshall who gets reassigned from Miami to his hometown in Kentucky. We meet Dever’s character, Loretta McCready, in season 2 of the show, and she’s a troubled teen involved in the weed business.
She recalls that she was originally only supposed to come in for a few episodes, but the showrunners kept bringing her back, and it’s not hard to see why.
Here’s a quick clip of her as Loretta, as well as an interview. Even as a young teen, she was already clearly a pro:
Her recurring role spanned 17 episodes across four seasons, and cemented her place in people’s minds as a young actor to watch.
IMDb Rating: 8.4
“If the truth is inconvenient, they don’t believe it,” says Marie Adler, Kaitlyn Dever’s character, at the end of the trailer for Netflix’s Unbelievable, a limited series based on the award-winning report An Unbelievable Story of Rape by Ken Armstrong and T. Christian Miller.
And I know. Netflix originals don’t exactly have the best record when it comes to quality, though the streaming service is known to churn out a really great one now and then. There’s the Natasha Lyonne-led Russian Doll, the delightfully raunchy Sex Education, and of course, there is Unbelievable.
The powerful eight-part series tackles the very real problem of police inadequacy in dealing with rape and abuse, and can be very hard to watch at times.
But Dever does an amazing job in carrying Marie’s character with such grace that her getting snubbed by the Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, and TCA Awards is, honestly, a crime.
Short Term 12 (2013)
Speaking of crimes, Short Term 12 is probably the best movie you’ve never heard of, and it stars some pretty big names from before they were big.
There’s Brie Larson (who went on to do 2015’s Room and 2019’s Captain Marvel), Rami Malek (2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody and the USA Network’s Mr. Robot), LaKeith Stanfield (2021’s Judas and the Black Messiah and FX’s Atlanta), and Stephanie Beatriz (Fox / NBC’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine and 2021’s Encanto).
And of course, the film stars Kaitlyn Dever.
Led by Larson’s moving performance as Grace, Short Term 12 is set at a group home for troubled teenagers, and tells the story of the kids themselves and the counselors who spend time with them.
Here, Dever plays Jayden Cole, a recent arrival with a history of self-harm, to whom Larson’s Grace Howard grows close.
The film is very well-written, well-paced, and definitely well-acted, and it’s one I can’t recommend enough.
Last Man Standing (2011-2021)
IMDb Rating: 7.6
ABC’s Last Man Standing, a sit-com about a sporting goods store executive and his family, may not be critically acclaimed outside of IMDb.
Rotten Tomatoes, for example, described the first season as “thoroughly middling” and gave it a 14% rating — but it did last a good 10 years, spanning nine seasons and nearly 200 episodes.
The show stars Tim Allen as Mike Baxter, who lives with his wife and three daughters in Denver, Colorado. The show frames him as the odd man out of the household, and often contrasts his home life with his work life at Outdoor Man, where he sells sporting goods.
Kaitlyn Dever, who played his youngest daughter Eve, was a regular all throughout seasons 1 through 6. She then became a rarer but still recurring character in later seasons to make room for other projects.
Allegedly her father’s favorite child, Eve is quick-witted, sarcastic, and athletic, often beating her own father in sports, though she sometimes breaks out of the tomboy mold.
In this scene, Dever gets to showcase a little of her vocal talent:
Beautiful Boy (2018)
IMDb Rating: 7.3
If you’re a softie for family-centric films like I am, then you might enjoy this 2018 film even though we don’t get to see so much of Kaitlyn Dever in it.
Felix van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy tells the story of father and son David and Nicholas Sheff, and the latter’s struggle with addiction. Nicholas is played masterfully by Timothée Chalamet, while Dever plays a supporting role as Lauren, a fellow addict and love interest.
She makes good use of her limited screen time though, and gives us the gift of an emotionally intense scene with the lead character.
IMDb Rating: 7.1
In Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, Kaitlyn Dever plays Amy Anstler, sharing lead credits with Beanie Feldstein, who plays her best friend Molly Davidson.
Booksmart lets Kaitlyn go back to her comedy roots, as it tells the story of two goody two-shoes who decide to party for the first and final time with their peers before they leave for college.
This time, though, she plays an awkward lesbian who’s crushing on her classmate. And she — like the film in general — never misses a beat.
Fast, fresh, and funny, the film even topped Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the best comedy movies of the 2010s. Moreover, both lead performances have been (rightfully) praised. Dever and Feldstein even ended up becoming real-life friends because of the film.
Outside In (2018)
IMDb Rating: 6.7
Lynn Shelton’s Outside In is all about Chris, played by Jay Duplass, who, at the start of the film, is released from prison after serving 20 years.
He has his high school teacher, Carol (Edie Falco), to thank for it. But as Chris struggles to get on his feet in a world that’s changed so much since he went behind bars, another problem is arising.
He’s in love with Carol, who now has a husband and a teenage daughter.
Kaitlyn Dever plays the said teenage daughter, whose name is Hildy. She eventually befriends Chris, and the two bond. Though the drama is anchored on Duplass and Falco’s compelling performances, Dever holds her own, too, in this bittersweet film about love and circumstance.
Men, Women & Children (2014)
IMDb Rating: 6.6
I have to be honest. The 6.6 IMDb rating on this one is confusing given the film’s poor reviews. It currently has a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which might be a bit more accurate, but this is an article based on IMDb, not on Rotten Tomatoes, and so I must soldier on.
The film tells the story of several teenagers and their parents as they navigate the sometimes murky world of intimacy and the Internet.
In Men, Women & Children, Donald and Helen Truby are cheating on each other through web-based services like Ashley Madison, while their son Chris has taken an unhealthy level of liking to online pornography.
He also sexts with his classmate Hannah, whose mom likes to post revealing, often provocative photographs of her online.
In contrast, Kaitlyn Dever’s character Brandy Beltmeyer is guarded by her overprotective mother Patricia, who monitors her texts and social media use.
The whole thing feels a bit like one of those moral panic movies you’re forced to watch at a Catholic high school, designed to try and scare you away from sex and the Internet.
And that’s a shame, because the topic of media use and intimacy is timely then and now, and director Jason Reitman (who gave us 2007’s Juno) has plenty of stars to work with. Dever is joined by the likes of Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ansel Elgort, and Adam Sandler. Even Timothée Chalamet has a small role.
But all that star power can’t fix a poor script and an overbearing approach — though Dever and Elgort in particular do try their very best.
Laggies / Say When (2014)
IMDb Rating: 6.4
Also directed by Outside In’s Lynn Shelton, Laggies (or Say When, if you’re based in the UK) stars Keira Knightley as Megan, a 28-year-old slacker going through a quarter-life crisis.
Kaitlyn Dever joins a pretty star-studded cast here, too, as her character Misty is best friends with Chloë Grace Moretz’s Annika, whose father Craig is played by Sam Rockwell.
But the cast is as far as the similarities go with Men, Women & Children. This rom-com is decidedly light and doesn’t try to teach you too many morals. It’s enjoyable, too, and Shelton has a way of crafting scenes that make you empathize with her characters.
Dever has said several times in interviews how she loves learning from everybody she gets to work with, and maybe part of her remarkable skill today is thanks to movies like this one.
Kaitlyn Dever Films & TV Shows: Some Honorable Mentions
Included in Kaitlyn Dever’s long resume is a handful of small parts in some pretty good movies and TV shows, which you might also want to check out:
- Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-present; 8.8 on IMDb): Dever makes an appearance for a single episode on this well-loved comedy show starring and co-created by Larry David. In season 8, she shows up as a girl scout at David’s door.
- The Mentalist (2008-2015; 8.2 on IMDb): If you’re into procedural shows, this CBS title might be a treat. Kaitlyn Dever is a guest actor on season 3, episode 14, where she plays Trina, the daughter of a key witness who suddenly wound up dead.
- Detroit (2017; 7.3 on IMDb): Dever plays a small, but powerful, role in Katherine Bigelow’s period drama based on Detroit’s 1967 12th Street Riot, as part of an ensemble cast led by John Boyega and Will Poulter.
- The Spectacular Now (2013, 7.1 on IMDb): Another 2013 collaboration with Brie Larson, this time starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, this rom-com tells the story of two high school seniors falling in love in an incredibly empathetic and realistic way. Dever plays a minor role as Krystal.
- Monsterland (2020, 5.3 on IMDb): Despite its low ranking on IMDb, this horror anthology is actually pretty good — Rotten Tomatoes even gave it an 82% rating. The eight episodes tell different stories based on Nathan Ballingrud’s short story collection North American Lake Monsters: Stories, and Kaitlyn Dever stars in three of them.