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Top 10 Ben Kingsley Performances

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by George Cimurt. This bald-headed legend has won our hearts playing the meekest AND the meanest. In this video, counts down our picks for the Top 10 Ben Kingsley performances. For this list, we’re taking a look at those performances that show off this actor at his finest and/or most memorable. From real-life heroes to the baddest movie villains, Sir Ben Kingsley has proven he’s a versatile actor deserving of his Oscar, Grammy, BAFTA, two Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards. Special thanks to our users lostfromview, Allison Kraus, JosephT and Abigail Knowles for submitting the idea on our Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by George Cimurt.

Top 10 Ben Kingsley Performances

This bald-headed legend has won our hearts playing the meekest and the meanest. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Ben Kingsley performances.

For this list, we’re taking a look at those performances that show off this actor at his finest and/or most memorable.

#10: Grinko
“Transsiberian” (2008)

Set on the northern Trans-Siberian Railway, this thriller showcases Ben Kingsley as a Russian narcotics officer who develops an interest in a travelling American couple who have some secrets up their sleeve—but could he also have some of his own? His very presence works to build suspense and dread as the story begins to unveil a tangle of drugs and murder. With his black coat, trooper hat, and thick Russian accent, Kingsley demonstrates that in Siberia, the icy cold is not the only force to be reckoned with.

#9: Dr. Roberto Miranda
“Death and the Maiden” (1994)

At the center of this nail-biting drama set in South America is Kingsley, playing a charming and intelligent doctor who finds himself in a dire predicament: he’s tied to a chair and with his life threatened by an enraged woman who claims that he blindfolded and tortured her during the old fascist regime. Will he survive the interrogation? Is he even the right man? Kingsley’s brilliant performance swings us back and forth between answers, as the helpless man who only has his wits to keep him alive.

#8: Cosmo
“Sneakers” (1992)

Flexing his acting chops as the slimy bad guy, Kingsley plays the smug criminal Cosmo who seeks a computer program that would give him access to any and every secret computer file on Earth. Although you cheer for the break-in team led by Robert Redford, whose aim is to retrieve the code-breaking program, you can’t help but like Kingsley’s international villain whose performance drips with smooth arrogance. Though it’s good to be good, Kingsley makes it fun to be bad.

#7: Bruce Pandolfini
“Searching for Bobby Fischer” (1993)

Strict, brilliant, and unwilling to yield to any way other than his, Kingsley shines in this film as a chess instructor who becomes the coach of young prodigy Josh Waitzkin. As the boy begins to warm up to unconventional chess player and hustler Vinnie, played by Laurence Fishburne, the authoritarian coach bristles and a conflict of interest develops. Played with unbending sincerity, we can’t see anyone but Kingsley play this supporting role with as much depth and passion.

#6: Georges Méliès / Papa Georges
“Hugo” (2011)

Leave it to Kingsley to bring to the screen one of the true life pioneers of French cinema, a man who built the first movie studio and dazzled his audience with technical and visual effects. Kingsley fills the character with a sense of emotion and wonder that makes you speculate whether the real deal was anything like Kingsley’s interpretation. Nevertheless, watching Kingsley’s depiction of the man in this historical adventure drama, particularly in sequences as a grumpy toyshop owner, makes him believable and fun to watch.

#5: Meyer Lansky
“Bugsy” (1991)

In one of the first major films to portray him as something other than a good guy, Kingsley plays the real-life associate of Bugsy Siegel, mafia leader Meyer Lansky – and with the role he proved he could be bad. Kingsley-as-Lansky brought humanity to his layered role as the financial wizard and one of the few men who truly understood Bugsy on a deeper level. Though Kingsley was only a supporting actor in the crime drama, the Academy honored him with an Oscar nomination, and he was also nominated for a Golden Globe.

#4: Col. Massoud Amir Behrani
“House of Sand and Fog” (2003)

This drama is as heart stirring as it is tragic, and Kingsley’s portrayal of the Iranian immigrant with a family is part of what makes it as moving as it is. Trying to rebuild his own life, as well as those of his wife and children, and working two menial jobs to make ends meet, Kingsley makes us sympathize desperately with his character. Though things seem to go from bad to worse when the previous owner of the house demands her home back at any cost, he plays the role with a quiet dignity that won him another Oscar nomination.

#3: Don Logan
“Sexy Beast” (2000)

Perhaps showcasing Kingsley at his best at being the worst, this crime flick won him another Golden Globe and Oscar nomination for his ferocious role. Playing an insane and intimidating sociopath with no self-control, Kingsley mixes black humor with genuine madness to form an intense, twisted performance. Portraying the tough guy helping his boss organize one last bank heist, Kingsley seems to relish the role as the criminal that other criminals dread—a criminal that loves what he does.

#2: Mohandas Gandhi
“Gandhi” (1982)

Arguably one of Kingsley’s greatest performances, he won an Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA for his portrayal of the legendary peacekeeping leader of India during the first half of the 1900s. The epic biographical film takes us through the defining moments of Gandhi’s life, and through them all, Kingsley is enveloped in his character so completely that we forget where he stops and Gandhi starts. Acclaimed from almost every corner of the film world, Kingsley is neither flashy nor theatrical; yet, he made the man come alive like no one before or after him.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Lasker-Jones
“Maurice” (1987)
- Frank Falenczyk
“You Kill Me” (2007)
- Trevor Slattery
“Iron Man 3” (2013)
- Dr. John Cawley
“Shutter Island” (2010)

#1: Itzhak Stern
“Schindler’s List” (1993)

Superior to other entries on this list due not only to Kingsley’s superior acting, but also his memorable character in an incredible all-around film, Itzhak Stern is, next to Liam Neeson’s Oskar Schindler, the hero of this epic historical drama. Playing Schindler’s accountant and working along with him to hire workers for his factory, Stern assisted in saving the lives of hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust. Nominated for a BAFTA in this Nazi-era flick that won multiple awards, Kingsley’s performance here cemented his status as an incredible actor for our generation.

Do you agree with our list? Which Ben Kingsley performance is your favorite? For more entertaining top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to

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