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Top 10 Keira Knightley Performances

VO: Richard Bush WRITTEN BY: JJ Heaton
This British starlet has been acting since she was six years old, and she’s really rather good at it. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Keira Knightley performances. For this list, we’ll be highlighting Keira Knightley’s best and most memorable roles, from period dramas to rom-com classics. Special thanks to our users Rachel Bloom, Stephen-616, JosephT, Travis Tenbrunsel and Jaime Enrique Gutierrez Pérez for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Keira Knightley Performances


This British starlet has been acting since she was six years old, and she’s really rather good at it. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Keira Knightley performances.

For this list, we’ll be highlighting Keira Knightley’s best and most memorable roles, from period dramas to rom-com classics.

#10: Frankie Smith
“The Hole” (2001)


In one of her earliest film performances, Knightley plays an integral part in this psychological thriller, also starring Thora Birch. Taking on the role of ‘the popular girl’ Frankie, Keira becomes involved in a twisted narrative about a group of private school students who find themselves trapped in an abandoned fallout shelter. Still a teenager herself at the time of filming, Knightley shows early promise as a big-screen star, in a film which fans still rave about today.

#9: Sabina Spielrein
“A Dangerous Method” (2011)


In this historical drama about the development of modern psychoanalysis, Knightley plays a key figure in the lives of two of the field’s leading names: Karl Jung and Sigmund Freud. As the patient and eventual mistress of Jung, Knightley delivers a role unlike any of her previous work, especially in scenes showing her crippling hysteria. A standout and dedicated performance as part of an accomplished cast, including Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen, if you haven’t seen it already, stick it on your list.

#8: Ruth C
“Never Let Me Go” (2010)


Knightley admits she only took her role in this dystopian film at the insistence of her friend and co-star Carey Mulligan, but Keira’s performance is a definite highlight. Caught in a unique love triangle with Mulligan and Andrew Garfield, playing childhood friends doomed to a horrible, futuristic fate, Knightley’s Ruth channels fear and loneliness in the face of her own mortality. Ultimately, Knightley received BIFA and Saturn Award nominations for bringing the character to life; not bad for a film done as a favour.

#7: Juliet
“Love Actually” (2003)


Starring as one of an ensemble cast in this fan-favourite Christmas rom-com, Knightley manages to make her “Love Actually” character one of the most memorable of all. Playing opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor and Andrew Lincoln, Knightley’s Juliet finds herself in an odd situation with her new husband’s best man, discovering his apparent coldness to her is born out of deep-rooted affection. A particularly romantic storyline which culminates in probably the movie’s most iconic scene, it secured Keira a coveted spot in British rom-com history.

#6: Jules Paxton
“Bend It Like Beckham” (2002)


Though she did already have Hollywood credits to her name, “Bend it Like Beckham” was the first film to bag Knightley widespread, mainstream attention - especially in the UK. Playing opposite Parminder Nagra, who stars as Jess, Knightley’s turn as her teammate, best friend, and eventual love rival had her score well with the critics. Unsurprisingly, the comedy became a launchpad to a catalogue of future successes, with Keira proving her now-famed versatility.

#5: Anna Karenina
“Anna Karenina” (2012)


Knightley is no stranger to period pieces, especially in her work with director Joe Wright, and this adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel proved to be one of their most daring collaborations. Starring as the titular Russian aristocrat caught in a tempestuous affair, the actress has to straddle a fine line between being relatable and detestable given her situation, but it’s a challenge she meets majestically. Though the film has been criticised for favouring style over substance, Knightley’s performance was widely noted as an uncontested highlight.

#4: Joan Clarke
“The Imitation Game” (2014)


Although this film largely belongs to Benedict Cumberbatch, for his performance as Alan Turing, Knightley’s stellar work shouldn’t be overlooked. As Joan Clarke, she plays a brilliant mathematician and an important character in Turing’s attempts to crack the German code - as well as a vital figure in his personal life. A heartfelt and memorable supporting role which more than deserved the Oscar nomination Keira eventually received, she brings charm, emotion and energy into every scene she’s in.

#3: Elizabeth Swann
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” Series (2003-)


“Bend It Like Beckham” may have given Knightley her shot at stardom, but this role in Disney’s flagship action-adventure franchise secured it. Again, she’s probably not the first face most would picture when thinking of the “Pirates” films, that’d be Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, but Knightley’s Swann is the real protagonist of at least the first installment, “The Curse of the Black Pearl”. And she remains an important part of the series’ first trilogy. This may be the only major franchise to Keira’s name, but it’s a swashbuckler and then some!

#2: Elizabeth Bennet
“Pride & Prejudice” (2005)


Given the heralded adaptations that had gone before, reimagining the beloved protagonist of Jane Austen’s seminal novel might’ve been an impossible task. But Knightley rises to the challenge here. Keira portrays the character’s progressive attitude with a delightful disdain for traditional societal expectations, bringing Austen’s words to life with a fresh and contemporary flair. Providing a rulebook 101 for period dramas, it’s a role which also earned Knightley a Best Actress Oscar nod. She’s a grade A fit for the grand occasion.

#1: Cecilia Tallis
“Atonement” (2007)


Although this Joe Wright collaboration didn’t land Knightley with another Oscar nomination, it takes today’s top spot as her finest and most memorable film. Playing Cecilia, the daughter of a wealthy family who becomes embroiled in a contentious relationship with the housekeeper’s son, Keira’s character stands as modern romance movie icon. And while the Academy looked elsewhere, she did receive well-deserved recognition from the Golden Globes and BAFTA. Knightley’s passionate performance and on-screen chemistry with James McAvoy make for a teary, tragic and timeless wartime story.
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