Ten of the Best… British Actors

After my two articles about German actors and actresses, I wanted to give you a little overview of British talents, some of whom are prominent and others that still have to win their spurs. These names are indicative so don’t consider this to be a definite ranking.

10. Ralph Fiennes

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Ralph Fiennes as Count László Almásy in The English Patient (1996) (x)

Ralph Fiennes, who also made his debut as director for Coriolanus (2011), is definitely one of the most well-known British actors. He has received many awards and prestigious nominations in his long-standing career, including a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance as Amon Goet in Schindler’s list (1993) and Best Actor for his leading role in The English Patient (1996). He is also recognisable for his portrayal of Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter Saga, though most recently he has starred as Monsier Gustave H. in the comedy film The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). He’s a British great because he’s a talented and eclectic actor who has portrayed many different characters throughout his long career, making it really difficult to define in what role he was most convincing and moving. My personal favourite is perhaps the role of Charles Dickens in The invisible woman (2013). I’m certainly looking forward for his upcoming projects.

9. Benedict Cumberbatch

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Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock (2010) (x)

Benedict Cumberbatch is a famous English actor whose prolific career skyrocketed after the BBC TV-Series Sherlock (2010) reached worldwide success. From that moment on he has starred in many important and well-known film productions as well as a number of critically acclaimed theatre roles. He starred in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), Thinker Tailor Soldier (2011), The Imitation Game (2015), and he also lent his voice in The Hobbit series for the character of Smaug (the Dragon). He also played Richard III in the famous TV adaptation of Shakespeare’s History plays The Hollow Crown (2012-2016). His theatre career includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2001), Romeo and Juliet (2002), As You Like it (2002), Frankestein (2011) and Hamlet (2015). He’s one of my personal favourite English actors because of his interesting and captivating portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series as I didn’t know him before watching that show and I must say that I’m very grateful to this series for letting me know such an amazing actor. He’s currently very busy with his schedule, filming a number of different new projects, so prepare to see him again very soon on the silver screen.

8. Tom Hiddleston

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Tom Hiddleston as Loki (x)

You cannot write about British talents without including Tom Hiddleston. Along with Benedict Cumberbatch and Ralph Fiennes, he is perhaps one of the most famous British actors worldwide. His most acclaimed role is perhaps the one of Loki in Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012) and Thor: The Dark World (2013). I also watched his performance in War Horse (2011) as Captain Nicholls and I found it quite impressive despite how he wasn’t a leading character. He also starred in a lot of TV films and period dramas like The life and adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (2001) and Return to Cranford (2009). His best known roles are as Henry IV in The Hollow Crown and mostly for role of the villain Loki which earned him several nominations. His next role will be as central character Thomas Sharpe in the horror film by Gulliermo del Toro, Crimson Peak (2015). The biopic I Saw The Light (2015) and the action-drama film High-Rise (2016), which was presented at BFI in London this year, will follow soon after. He’s certainly one of my favourite actors and a very talented one.

7. Burn Gorman

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Burn Gorman as Major Hewlett in Turn : Washington’s Spies (2014) (x)

Burn Gorman is an American-born English actor. You might know him for his role as Major Edmund Hewlett in the American TV-series Turn:Washington’s Spies (2014). I really enjoyed his performance in this show and I think this role is actually one of his best ones. Major Hewlett is kind-hearted, loyal and caring, and Gorman conveys these emotions with a shrewd confidence. I’m currently waiting to see him again in the third series. Apart from this role Burn Gorman has an interesting career with his role as Karl Tanner in the HBO Game of Thrones (2013-14), though he also starred in the TV adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Bleak House (2005) and worked with many theatre companies. I’d keep an eye on his career because I’m sure he’ll get more success and credit in the future.

6. James McAvoy

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James McAvoy as Robbie Turner in Atonement (2007) (x)

James McAvoy is a famous Scottish actor who first won my attention with his role in the World War II drama Atonement (2007) based on the novel of the same name by Ian McEwan. He was superb with his portrayl of young private Robbie Turner. This dramatic part earned him a Golden Globe and a BAFTA nomination. He also won a BAFTA Award for his role in Filth (2013). In my opinion, the actor should have won his nominations for Atonement and The Last King of Scotland (2006) too. McAvoy is also well-known for his role as the young professor Charles Xavier in  X-Men: First Class (2011) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). He will reprise his role again in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse (2016). He recently starred in the drama film The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (2015) with co-star Jessica Chastain, and also has a prolific theatre career. I’m waiting for his next role as Viktor Frankenstein in the American horror film Victor Frankenstein (2015).

5. Matthew Rhys

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Matthew Rhys as Dylan Thomas in The Edge of Love (2008) (x)

I couldn’t leave out Matthew Rhys. Rhys is a Welsh actor mostly known for his role in the American TV-Series Brothers & Sisters (2006-2011) as Kevin Walker. He starred in the BBC adaptation of Dicken’s novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012), and he’s currently starring opposite Keri Russell in the TV-Series The Americans (2013). I very much enjoyed his performance as Mr Darcy in the BBC TV-series Death Comes to Pemberley (2013). It was a good performance, though my favourite is probably the one as Dylan Thomas in the drama film The Edge of love (2008), as he seemed to be completely absorbed by the role and I think it has something to do with the importance of the preservation of Welsh heritage and culture. Speaking of which, he is a speaker of both English and Welsh, and starred in the 2014 TV-film Under the Milk Wood which was made to honour the poet Dylan Thomas. I admire his commitment to preserve Welsh culture and his acting career, and I think he should be more famous and have worldwide praise for his work.

4. Jack Lowden

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Jack Lowden as Michael in The Passing Bells (2014) (x)

Lowden is a young Scottish actor best known for his role as Michael in the WWI BBC Mini-series The Passing Bells (2014). He has had a lot of success in theatre for his roles, winning a Lawrence Olivier Award for his role as Oswald in Richard Eyre’s adaptation of Ibsen’s Ghosts. He was also described as ‘Outstanding’ for his performance in the theatre adaptation of Chariots of Fire (2012). Since 2013 he’s been joining important BBC productions such as the upcoming War and Peace adaptation that will be released in January 2016. He’s also in cinemas at the moment with the new Peter Pan film Pan (2015), as Dobkins. He may also be recognisable for his minor role opposite Jack O’Connell in the war drama 71’(2014). I must say I can’t wait to watch his new projects as unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend his stage plays. In fact, it was only after watching his touching performance as the young German soldier Michael, that I knew he was going to have a lot of success and make it to the big screen. In that TV-series, his monologue with his girlfriend about how it was living in the trenches really managed to tug at my heartstrings – he was so convincing that I couldn’t hold back my tears. He’s a young and promising actor who I’m sure is poised for great things.

3. Jack O’Connell

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Jack O’Connell as Luois Zamperini in Unbroken (2015) (x)

Jack O’Connell is an English actor who became widely recognisable for his role in the independent film Starred Up (2013) and he made his Hollywood breakthrough thanks to his role as Luois Zamperini in the WWII drama Unbroken (2015), directed by Angelina Jolie. For his rising career he won a BAFTA Star Award in 2014; for his portrayal of young and troubled James Cook in Skins he won a Best actor Award at the TV choice Awards. Although I don’t doubt his skills in both Starred Up (2013) and Skins (2009-2010), I haven’t actually seen him in those roles. I’m putting him on this list for his outstanding performance as Luis Zamperini. I loved this film and the story was moving and interesting, especially in the way it centered on the idea of survival and on the complexity of human nature. I couldn’t think about any other actor to act in this film apart from O’Connell; he was that good. I also had the opportunity to watch his performance as Gary Hook in the Drama film 71’ (2014). His acting skills are really impressive and these two parts are, for me, great examples of how much he can achieve in the future.

2. Aneurin Barnard 

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Aneurin Barnard as Richard III in The White Queen (2013) (x)

Among any list of young British talents I must include Welshman Aneurin Barnard who became famous after his majestic and convincing performance as Richard III in the BBC TV-series The White Queen (2013) and has since acted in a number of period dramas such as Moonfleet (2013), Cilla (2014) and The Scandalous Lady W (2015), alongside Natalie Dormer. After seeing him in the The White Queen I became interested in his career and I watched all his films prior to his Richard III role. I discovered that he was already a talented, convincing and gifted actor; in all his roles he puts across something of his own and I loved every role he played from the devil-may-care and cheeky attitude of David Bailey in We’ll Take Manhattan (2012) opposite Karen Gilian, to young Davey in Hunky Dory (2011) or Claude in The Truth About Emanuel (2013). His role as the young husband Tommy in the horror film Citadel (2012) is also worth mentioning. In all of these roles his performance stood up and I was always happily surprised. Aneurin Barnard also won an Oliver Award for Best Actor in a Musical – Spring Awakening – for his role as Melchior. I’m waiting to see his next role in War and Peace this January and his other role as Mykola in The Devil’s Harvest (2015) again opposite his The White Queen co-star Max Irons. Among all his performances thus far, my favourites are Richard III in The White Queen (2013) and Bobby Willis Jr. opposite Sheridan Smith in Cilla (2014), for which he should have been praised more. I’m quite sure he’ll get the fame and recognition he deserves very soon as he’s an incredibly talented actor.

   1. Eddie Redmayne

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Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Wraysford in Birdsong (2012) (x)

Eddie Redmayne recently won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his outstanding performance as Steven Hawking in The Theory of Everything (2015). Playing the role opposite Felicity Jones, who also delivered an impressive performance as his wife, his acting was so true and his performance so striking that I knew he was due an award. Even so, I actually knew of him before this great success and worldwide fame. In fact, I watched him in the two part television drama Birdsong back in 2012; a drama based on the novel of the same name by Sebastian Faulks. He played Stephen Wraysford who fell in love with Isabelle Azaire, the wife of his boss. The story is complicated but the two main characters played by Eddie Redmayne and Clémence Poésy are both engaging and their chemistry on screen helped to bring about a way for the audience to identify with the characters. Moving forward, Redmayne is to star in The Danish Girl (2015) opposite Alica Vikander, Ben Wishaw, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Sebastian Koch. With a stellar cast, the film seems already promising. I hope to enjoy his upcoming projects and that he will keep up with his career.

5 Iconic British Actresses

For more on The Danish Girl, see our featurette of the cast & crew at Venice International Film Festival.

Francesca Amalie Militello

Francesca Amalie Militello

It was love at first sight between me and the great Charles Chaplin (through the medium of my tv, of course) but thanks to him I have been drawn to the wonderful world of films from a young age.
I'm particularly passionate about British and German cinema, and I'm a sucker for a good old war film.
Francesca Amalie Militello

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