Despite her 2022 breakout role as Wednesday Addams in the smash Netflix series Wednesday, Jenna Ortega is far from a Hollywood newbie.
The 20-year-old actress debuted in films like Insidious: Chapter 2 and Iron Man 3 as a kid star before becoming one of the scream queens of Gen Z. In the 2010s, Ortega appeared on several Disney programs, including her breakout role as Harley Diaz on Stuck in the Middle, before her appearance in the horror film Insidious hinted at her future work in genre.
Following her co-starring roles in four horror films with Wednesday, Ortega’s career took off last year, solidifying her position as one of the most in-demand young actors in Hollywood.
Ortega will undoubtedly continue to appear on film for quite a while, what with all the projects she’s currently working on (including Beetlejuice 2, where she’s supposedly going to play Lydia’s daughter). Come along as EW ranks the ten most significant films and television series in which Jenna Ortega has appeared, based on the impact of her performances.
10. Yes Day (2021)
Allison (Jennifer Garner) and Carlos (Édgar Ramirez) used to jump at every chance when they were younger, but now they have to tell their kids “no” all the time. Allison and Carlos decide to have a “Yes Day” when all of their children’s wishes are fulfilled without hesitation in order to ease the family’s collective tension, particularly that of their teenage daughter Katie (Ortega), who is incredibly anxious about her parents letting her go to a concert.
Filmmaker Miguel Arteta, known for his work on The Good Girl and Beatriz at Dinner, steps in with Yes Day to fill a void in modern family entertainment. An unabashedly family-friendly live-action picture featuring A-list stars, it skillfully blends explosive comedic sequences with more grounded emotional moments and isn’t afraid to target parents and their young children.
Ortega adds depth to the stereotypical arrogant adolescent role as the eldest of Allison and Carlos’s three children. Her relationship with Garner is the finest part of the film, and she taps into something real and convincing.
9. The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020)
Cole Johnson’s (Judah Lewis) parents don’t believe his story from the first film, The Babysitter, and so they put him in a mental institution after he survives a murderous cult. The revived cult members aren’t far behind Cole and his friends as they flee to a lakeside retreat. Cole, aided by his new student Phoebe Atwell (Ortega), must once again do his utmost to rescue the day.
The role that Ortega plays in Killer Queen exemplifies is the proto-final girl. Ortega reveals every nuance of Phoebe’s eventual horror credentials here, even while she denies her the agency of Tara in Scream and Lorraine in X. In light of all the spectacular acrobatics and pyrotechnics, her performance is actually rather good. (It is, in the end, a film directed by McG.) What makes it special, though, is the way Ortega imbues Phoebe with personal flourishes that ground her in a familiar reality—her first lead performance in a major studio project.
8. American Carnage (2022)
Think of it as a hybrid of Get Out and The New Mutants, but with more constant tones. Diego Hallivis’s comedic thriller, which imagines a future where the offspring of undocumented immigrants are treated as criminals and subject to arrest warrants, hinges on that premise. After their detention, the powers that be offer the teens an opportunity to serve out their sentences by volunteering at an elderly care facility; however, it soon becomes clear that this is all a trap to hide a far more sinister agenda.
What American Carnage lacks in nuance it more than makes up for with its throwback, go-for-broke attitude. Thrillingly, Hallivis’ film brings to mind the wild teen thrillers from the late ’80s and early ’90s that were released straight to video.
Despite playing more muted roles in Scream and X, Ortega displays a different side in Carnage, the fourth horror film she worked on in 2022. In her role as the spitfire of the prison gang, Camila, Ortega gives fans a taste of the edgy intensity and sharply polished comedic abilities they would witness in her depiction of Wednesday Addams a few months later.
7. Jane the Virgin (2014-2019)
Jane Villanueva, played by Gina Rodriguez, is an upright young woman who vows she would not make the same mistake her mother did by having a family too soon. Despite her best intentions, though, she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant with Rafael’s (Justin Baldoni) child. Jane is confronted with challenging choices and ridiculous obstacles as her world is turned upside down, jeopardizing the meticulously plotted version of her life.
Ortega became famous on Disney Channel and beyond after starring in 30 episodes as a younger Jane in this energetic comedy series. I can see why Disney executives would be interested in Ortega, but what really makes her performance on Jane the Virgin stand out is how she avoided the standard child actor stereotypes. Her delivery is natural and, at times, carefree, which is a quality that even seasoned performers find challenging.
6. You, season 2 (2019)
Season 2 of the critically acclaimed, sexually explicit serial thriller on Netflix follows Penn Badgley’s Joe Goldberg as he relocates to Los Angeles, romances his next-door neighbor Delilah Alves (Carmela Zumbado), an investigative journalist, and her film-obsessed sister Ellie (Ortega), a 15-year-old girl. Joe falls for and becomes obsessed with Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti).
Having Chris D’Elia as a scene partner was the most terrifying, but Ortega handled it all with that gauzy, we’re-just-joking feel that she so expertly masters in You, the role that broke her out of her kiddie Disney-star reputation. It’s easy to see why Ortega has become a horror film favorite; her portrayal embodies the terrors of harassment and deceit with an endearing charm that transforms into genuine fear when her character is in danger.
5. Scream VI (2023)
In the most recent episode of Scream, Melissa Barrera and Tela Ortega, played by Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy-Brown, respectively, try to flee from Woodsboro to New York in an effort to escape the ghost of the slaughter that happened in 2022. However, none could have predicted that a fresh round of Ghostface killings would start the moment they arrived.
Whether it was on purpose or not, Scream VI has a lot of gameplay with other slashers that came out after Scream, like Urban Legend and Wrong Turn, which were popular in the ’90s and ’00s. Although it might have been intentional, the film is obviously ridiculous and fails to live up to the expectations set by the 2022 edition directed by returning team Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin. (After all, isn’t a slasher sequel just a slightly better but ultimately pointless remake of the original?).
Ortega is Scream VI’s rightful owner; he’s in almost every scene and constantly explains the progressively twisted story points. Despite still reeling from the brutal murder of multiple friends, her character Tara is able to relax and enjoy herself in this sequel, which is a major improvement from her 2022 film Scream. Also, among the 122 minutes of increasing violence, her blossoming romance with Gooding’s character is a tasteful touch.
4. Scream (2022)
This highly regarded legacy sequel (or “requel”) to the Scream franchise was the first feature film directed by a non-Craven filmmaker after Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not) and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin. A new group of characters, including the Carpenter sisters, Sam (Melissa Barrera), and Tara (Ortega), join forces with Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courteney Cox), and Dewey (David Arquette) twenty-five years after she was targeted in Woodsboro, in order to expose the most recent Ghostface killer or killers.
Despite the unfortunate moniker, Scream (why not 5cream??) is undeniably the third-best game in the series. It successfully blends new characters with beloved ones while returning to the show’s appropriately gruesome, so-violent-you-can’t-believe-it origins. With the exception of the first part, this one has true life-or-death stakes; you could die (or be exposed as the killer) at any moment.
The fact that Ortega is in the picture is a meta-wink in and of itself. The harshness and star power of the chilly opening sequences in this franchise made her appearance there lead many viewers to wonder who she was. “Don’t worry,” the film appears to be saying, “you’ll know her all too well in about a half hour.” Ortega became an integral part of the Scream franchise after becoming the first (and only) character to survive the opening credits.
3. X (2022)
Starting off A24’s debut series, a bunch of naive performers and filmmakers—including Mia Goth’s self-proclaimed “sex symbol” Maxine and Ortega’s wallflower boom operator Lorraine—go to a remote Texas estate to shoot a porno. The low-budget picture runs into trouble, though, when the property owners, Howard (Stephen Ure) and Pearl (Goth, so convincingly disguised that you wouldn’t identify her), object to its content.
Ti West, known for his work in House of the Devil and The Sacrament, finally found his footing with this decadent homage to exploitation films from the 1970s. Goth (star of Pearl and shortly MaXXXine) and Brittany Snow (onscreen talent Bobby-Lynne) deliver consistently stellar performances in this slasher that embraces and subverts the genre’s conventions.
Ortega displays some of her most nuanced acting here as the initially timid Lorraine. We won’t tell you what happens to her in case you haven’t seen X, but she spends the first third of the film on the sidelines before she comes into her own and acts out the most interesting and complex character development throughout the whole film.
2. Wednesday (2022-present)
Despite her parents’ wishes, Wednesday Addams (Ortega) is enrolled against her will at Nevermore Academy and soon becomes entangled in a murder mystery and the same enigma that plagued her parents, Gomez (Luis Guzmán) and Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), many years ago.
When Ortega got the part in Wednesday, directed by Tim Burton, it was the ideal vehicle for her. Although it was sufficiently gory to avoid turning off the genre fans the actor had garnered in the preceding year, it served as a reminder to audiences worldwide that she was prepared to be perceived as more than just a scream queen.
Ortega is the show’s technical and aesthetic focal point; she carries herself with the poise and confidence of a young Winona Ryder, another protégé of Burton’s, as she deftly navigates each set piece.
1. The Fallout (2022)
Vada (Ortega) and Mia (Maddie Ziegler) develop an unexpected friendship after enduring a terrifying school massacre side by side. Vada finds comfort in fellow survivor Quinton (Niles Fitch), whose brother was murdered in the massacre, and investigates her bond with Mia as she tries to readjust to her family life.
Ortega gives a performance that incorporates all of her unique acting abilities in Megan Park’s scorching drama, her best work to date. The fact that the overall quality of The Fallout is on par with Ortega’s work is an incredible bonus. Without being overly harsh, Park’s film is delicate and restrained. The film’s 92 minutes contribute to its breezy tone, which errs on the side of optimism while never minimizing the gravity of the situation. This is unquestionably Park’s debut feature picture, and it also happens to be one of Ortega’s early, groundbreaking performances in the film industry.