All Helen Mirren's 61 movies – ranked!

Mirren’s oeuvre is phenomenal. As she brings her star appeal to a retelling of The Nutcracker, we look at her roles, from kick-ass assassins through downtrodden wives to Queen Elizabeth herself

61. Collateral Beauty (2016)

A frankly horrific film, a bizarre sentimental fantasy which – sad to say – brings out the very worst of Mirren’s haughty/imperious mannerisms. She plays one of the actors hired by the associates of a bereaved and grief-crazed businessman (Will Smith) to interrogate him in the persona of “Death”. Yikes.

60. Arthur (2011)

Mirren plays the lovable lush’s nanny – a truly terrible role, in this truly terrible remake of the Dudley Moore comedy. In the original, the lovable lush had a butler played by John Gielgud; now he has a nanny, played by Mirren.

59. Woman in Gold (2015)

Mirren goes into self-parody mode as the Austrian Jewish woman battling to recover her family’s artworks, stolen by the Nazis.

58. The Syndicate: A Death in the Family (1970)

Mirren has a walk-on in this cult Italian pulp thriller.

57. The Fiendish Plot of Dr Fu Manchu (1980)

Oh dear. Mirren plays sexy singing policewoman Alice Rage, the swansong for a visibly ill Peter Sellers, reprising his regrettable “yellowface” turn as evil Chinese genius Fu Manchu.

56. Winchester (2018)

A very silly performance from Mirren in an unscary movie, playing Sarah Winchester, the tormented widow of the inventor of the rifle.

55. Critical Care (1997)

A laboured satire on privatised medicine, with Mirren as the head nurse, Stella, and James Spader as a doctor troubled by qualms of conscience about coma patients kept alive to keep the insurance payments rolling in.

54. The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)

Mirren has the hauteur on autopilot as the Michelin-starred restaurant boss facing off with Om Puri’s Indian establishment.

53. No Such Thing (2001)

Hal Hartley’s bland and whimsical film about a supposed “monster” living in Iceland features a forgettable Mirren as a hardbitten TV news executive.

52. Teaching Mrs Tingle (1999)

Kevin Williamson’s high school satire has Mirren as the hated meanie teacher, Mrs Tingle, who is kidnapped by her pupils. A misfire, although Mirren does her best.

51. When the Whales Came (1989)

A worthy and slightly lifeless adaptation of the Michael Morpurgo children’s novel. Mirren and David Threlfall play the parents of the boy who grows up to be the lonely “Birdman”.

50. Royal Deceit (1994)

Mirren plays the “Gertrude” role in this screen adaptation of the Amleth legend from Saxo Grammaticus’s history of Denmark, which inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Not altogether successful, but a serious role.

With Harrison Ford in The Mosquito Coast.
With Harrison Ford in The Mosquito Coast. Photograph: Allstar/Warner Bros

49. The Mosquito Coast (1986)

A huge role for Harrison Ford, playing the obsessive back-to-nature idealist who moves his family to the Central American jungle – but terrible for Mirren, stuck playing his uncomplaining wife.

48. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

Mirren is on mythic form as Mother Ginger in this tale from ETA Hoffmann.

47. National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)

This wacky sub-Dan-Brown conspiracy action adventure has Helen Mirren playing Nicolas Cage’s mum. She phones it in, a bit.

46. The Leisure Seeker (2017)

Another sentimental heartwarmer. Mirren is the wife of Donald Sutherland’s dementia-struck retiree, on their final journey in their Winnebago.

45. Trumbo (2015)

Mirren turns in a respectable impersonation of screechy, reactionary Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper in this McCarthy-era tale.

44. Hitchcock (2012)

A rather reverential biopic about Alfred Hitchcock, with Mirren going through the motions as his wife Alma Reville.

43. 2010 (1984)

Mirren has little to do, or to emote as cosmonaut Tanya Kirbuk – in charge of the Russian spaceship in a US-Soviet joint mission to Jupiter – in this sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

42. Age of Consent (1969)

Directed by Michael Powell, set in Australia, this was Mirren’s big breakthrough. She played the sexy model-muse of James Mason’s artist, carrying off nudity with cheerful insouciance.

41. Greenfingers (2000)

A gentle British comedy in which Mirren plays a wacky horticultural expert working with inmates of a local prison. It was bizarrely seared into the memories of UK critics when the London press screening, held at the 20th Century Fox building on 11 September 2001, had its final credits interrupted by the projectionist, who flashed up the live TV feed of the burning World Trade Center on the big screen to reviewers’ astonishment.

40. Bethune: The Making of a Hero (1990)

A worthy real-life drama about a Canadian surgeon and communist (Donald Sutherland) who volunteered as a medic in Mao’s army in China. Mirren, yet again, is stuck playing the wife.

39. Raising Helen (2004)

Schmaltzy heartwarmer in which party-animal Kate Hudson has to raise her late sister’s kids. An undemanding role for Mirren, who plays her demanding boss.

38. State of Play (2009)

Paul Abbott’s TV conspiracy thriller was transferred to the big screen, and to the US, and the part of the newspaper editor, Bill Nighy in Abbott’s original TV conspiracy thriller, is taken on by Mirren for the US big screen. She gives it the same sort of toughness as her classic TV character, police detective Jane Tennison.

37. Love Ranch (2010)

This based-on-a-true-story movie is low-octane straight-to-video stuff. Mirren is the raunchy-glam wife of Joe Pesci’s Nevada brothel owner, who has an affair with a younger man.

36. Inkheart (2008)

A great Mirren cameo as a splendidly dyspeptic great-aunt in this children’s fantasy-adventure.

Mikhail Baryshnikov and Mirren in White Nights.
Mikhail Baryshnikov and Mirren in White Nights. Photograph: Allstar/Columbia Pictures

35. White Nights (1985)

For Mirren fans, notable as the film where she met her future husband, Taylor Hackford. It is another of her “Russian” roles (born Helen Mironoff, she is in fact the granddaughter of an exiled Russian diplomat). Here she plays a Soviet bureaucrat and former lover of a Russian dancer, played by Mikhail Baryshnikov, who is trying to defect.

34. The Debt (2010)

Mirren brings her signature hauteur to the role of a retired Mossad agent and Nazi hunter.

33. Brighton Rock (2010)

A reasonable attempt at updating the Graham Greene classic to 1960s mods v rockers. Mirren is good as the blowsy but good-natured teashop manager who makes it her business to bring Pinkie to justice.

32. Heavenly Pursuits (1986)

A gentle heartwarmer with Mirren as a teacher at a Scottish Catholic school. She is a little upstaged by her wryly unbelieving colleague (Tom Conti), who is in love with her, as well as apparently the vessel for actual miracles.

31. The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Nice turn from Mirren in the lucrative action franchise playing Jason Statham’s mum.

30. The Clearing (2004)

Interesting, possibly underrated straight-to-video release with Mirren as the wife of a kidnapped businessman played by Robert Redford.

29. Shadowboxer (2005)

Whoa! A freaky classic from director Lee Daniels, with one of the great weird star pairings. Mirren plays Rose, a contract killer, living with her lover – who is also her stepson, played by Cuba Gooding Jr. A wacky Mirren outing.

28. Pascali’s Island (1988)

A better role for Mirren: it is a relief to see her not as an artist’s pouting muse, but an artist herself. She is Lydia, a painter on the Greek island of Simi in 1908, and the mysterious expatriate Pascali (Ben Kingsley) is yearningly in love with her.

27. Where Angels Fear to Tread (1991)

An EM Forster adaptation, and as subject to the chocolate-boxy picturesque approach as any others from this era. But it’s a decent assertive role for Mirren as a well-to-do widowed Englishwoman who falls in love in Italy, with tragicomic consequences.

26. The Tempest (2010)

Mirren brings a forceful performance as Prospera – the feminised version of Prospero. Perhaps gender-bending Shakespeare is the way to give her the roles she deserves.

25. Some Mother’s Son (1996)

A good Mirren, and an intriguing cousin to her earlier movie Cal. She plays the mother of a (fictionalised) IRA hunger striker in Troubles-era Northern Ireland, who befriends other mothers in the same situation.

24. Caligula (1979)

It’s so bad, it’s … well, bad. But Mirren is probably the only person to emerge with her reputation intact from this spectacular “art-porn” kitsch epic of ancient Rome. She is reunited with Malcolm McDowell (Caligula), playing his wife, Caesonia.

23. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968)

Mirren plays Hermia in this theatrically conceived movie adaptation with RSC players.

22. The Last Station (2009)

A slightly farcical film, but a meaty role for Mirren as Sofia, the long-suffering wife of Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer).

21. The Door (2012)

This classy, if theatrically hidebound film has Mirren in central-European mode, forcefully playing a cantankerous maid in 60s Hungary to Martina Gedeck’s aspiring novelist.

With Rupert Everett in The Comfort of Strangers.
With Rupert Everett in The Comfort of Strangers. Photograph: Allstar/Paramount Pictures

20. The Comfort of Strangers (1990)

Mirren plays the sinister wife of the no-less-creepy Christopher Walken. They befriend, with malign intentions, a hapless young couple (Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson), on holiday in Venice. Mirren delivers enigmatic menace.

19. The Hawk (1993)

Commissioned as a BBC TV drama, this comes from Mirren’s Prime Suspect era. She plays a depressed housewife who suspects that her boorish husband is a notorious serial killer. The film fizzles, but it’s a great turn from Mirren.

18. Hamlet (1976).

A hyper-experimental, no-budget turn by the London-based Spanish director Celestino Coronado. A charismatic Mirren plays both Gertrude and a very cynical Ophelia. It is a shame that the movies could never entirely represent Mirren’s excellent classical theatre work.

17. Savage Messiah (1972)

In Ken Russell’s biopic of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Mirren plays “Gosh” Boyle, a fictional character based on the artist’s lover. She has an uproarious scene in which she declaims artistic theories while walking down a staircase wearing just a necklace.

Mirren with Nigel Hawthorne in The Madness of King George.
Mirren with Nigel Hawthorne in The Madness of King George. Photograph: Allstar/Channel Four

16. The Madness of King George (1994)

An intelligent, gentle role for Mirren as Queen Charlotte, aghast at King George III’s crumbling sanity but prevented from intimate access to him by her scheming son, the future Regent.

15. The Pledge (2000)

Jack Nicholson is Jerry, an obsessive cop on a mission to find a little girl’s killer, with an equally excellent cameo from Helen Mirren as the psychiatrist who is supposed to be helping him assess the culprit’s psychological makeup, but may actually be assessing Jerry’s own fitness for work.

14. Hussy (1980)

Mirren gives a tough, earnest performance in this underrated drama-thriller. She’s a hardbitten stripper in a scuzzy London nightclub, who falls in love with an American technician from the club.

13. Red 2 (2013)

She’s back! Reprising her kick-ass assassin in Red, Mirren’s character is still game for a laugh and a killshot.

12. Red (2010)

A funny and much-liked turn from Mirren in this silver-years action comedy, in which she plays Victoria, an ex-MI5 assassin who is pretty tasty with a weapon.

11. Excalibur (1981)

Mirren is well cast as the mysterious enchantress Morgana Le Fay from the Arthurian legend – entertainingly bizarre, vampy and campy opposite Nicol Williamson’s Merlin. Here, she met her future boyfriend, the young unknown Liam Neeson.

10. Herostratus (1967)

This experimental feature by artist and film-maker Don Levy showcases Mirren in her first cinema role – an outrageous cameo of cartoon sexiness and sexism, which startled everyone who saw it. Her sketch is of a scantily clad woman advertising washing up gloves. The pure fun she gets from this performance is palpable.

9. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)

Mirren often plays the errant or subversive “wife”, but her role in this Peter Greenaway film – as the spouse of Michael Gambon’s boorish and aggressive criminal, her face a mask of detestation and ennui – is arguably its most stylised, operatically abstracted form.

8. Gosford Park (2001)

This country-house period mystery-drama, directed by Robert Altman and scripted by Julian Fellowes, spawned TV’s Downton Abbey. Mirren has a below-stairs role as head housekeeper Mrs Wilson, a woman with an awful secret and a proud sense of her own place in this stratified world. Mirren’s accent, so often unlocatable in terms of class, is not roughened up.

Mirren in O lucky Man!
Mirren in O lucky Man! Photograph: Allstar/Warner Bros

7. O Lucky Man! (1973)

In Lindsay Anderson’s film, Mirren plays the sexually voracious Patricia, who seduces Malcolm McDowell in the back of a van, then dumps him for a duke. There is such exuberant joy in Mirren’s early, predatory-sexy roles.

6. Last Orders (2010)

This is a very male film – ageing, maudlin blokes in pubs exuding melancholy with the fug of cigarette smoke – but Mirren almost pinches the entire thing. David Hemmings, Bob Hoskins and Tom Courtenay play old mates on a journey with the ashes of their departed friend (Michael Caine). Mirren plays Caine’s widow beautifully, caring for their disabled daughter while the menfolk are down the pub.

Mirren (left) and Julie Walters in Calendar Girls.
Mirren (left) and Julie Walters in Calendar Girls. Photograph: Allstar/Buena Vista

5. Calendar Girls (2003)

“We’re going to need considerably bigger buns!” This remark, now hardly less legendary than the line from Jaws that it is spoofing, comes from Mirren’s character, Chris, the glamorous friend of Julie Walters’s Annie, whose husband has just died of cancer. Annie, Chris and their WI mates do a naughty-but-nice nude calendar to raise money. Mirren’s deadpan drollery is very enjoyable.

Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell in Eye in the Sky.
Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell in Eye in the Sky. Photograph: Allstar/Entertainment One

4. Eye in the Sky (2015)

Mirren is a professional soldier in this excellent thriller. A careworn, khaki-clad colonel, she must make tough decisions about the deployment of a drone to kill terrorists. It is close, perhaps, to her classic TV character, police detective Jane Tennison as a procedural figure dealing with office politics and actual politics. A muscular, bold performance.

Mirren with Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday.
Mirren with Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday. Photograph: Allstar/Handmade Films

3. The Long Good Friday (1980)

Mirren is Victoria, girlfriend of Bob Hoskins’s insecure cockney mobster, who is trying to underpin his new property empire in Thatcher’s Britain. She is smoothly knowing where he is nervy, terrified where he is macho and protective – as intimate as any married couple. Classic early Mirren.

Mirren as Queen Elizabeth in The Queen.
Mirren as Queen Elizabeth in The Queen. Photograph: Allstar/Granada Film Productions

2. The Queen (2006)

One of Mirren’s most loved performances, an Oscar-winning turn that was her own coronation as a blue-chip national treasure. It is a creatively modified impersonation of the Queen at the time of Princess Diana’s death in 1997: taller, less posh, more rhetorically demonstrative and simply more actorly than the real thing – but inspired casting nonetheless.

With John Lynch in Cal.
With John Lynch in Cal. Photograph: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

1. Cal (1984)

This tragedy of star-crossed and not-so-innocent lovers in Troubles-era Northern Ireland brings out Mirren’s acting identity – her sexuality, her nonconformism, her tendency to imperiousness – in the most effective balance. She plays Marcella, a Catholic married to a Protestant police officer murdered by the IRA; John Lynch plays Cal, a younger Catholic man employed as a driver by the Republicans and implicated in the killing. The two begin a claustrophobic and doomy affair. Mirren’s worldly sensuality and her ability to suggest a fully, painfully earned emotional seniority make this her No 1 performance.

This list does not include Mirren’s animation voiceovers, documentaries and TV movies. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is released in the UK on Friday 2 November.


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