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Top 10 Helen Mirren Performances

VO: Richard Bush WRITTEN BY: Jack Beresford
As the first actor to play three different English Queens, she’s acting royalty of the highest order. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, where today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Helen Mirren performances. For this list, we’ve revisited some of Mirren’s most memorable movies – including the films that first stoked her glittering career, and those that have fuelled it ever since. Special thanks to our users jkellis, drewbrown, Sam Ricketts, King Paul the Critic, dksoulstice and hulkfan for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Helen Mirren Performances


As the first actor to play three different English Queens, she’s acting royalty of the highest order. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, where today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Helen Mirren performances.

For this list, we’ve revisited some of Mirren’s most memorable movies – including the films that first stoked her glittering career, and those that have fuelled it ever since.

#10: Chris Harper
“Calendar Girls” (2003)

Mirren led an all-star cast for this true-to-life tale centring on a chapter of the Women’s Institute who, after one of their members loses a husband to leukaemia, raise funds for a local hospital by producing a nude calendar. In the film, Helen plays Chris, the leader of the group and a character based on Tricia Stewart, the real-life brains behind the Calendar Girls movement. It’s a powerful and, at times, emotional performance from Mirren, in part due to the death of her own brother, who died of cancer during filming.

#9: Amy Dodds
“Last Orders” (2001)

For a film boasting the talents of Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Ray Winstone and the late Bob Hoskins, it’s Helen Mirren who steals the show as widower Amy Dodds. When her husband passes, it’s his dying wish that his wife and his four closest friends travel to Margate to scatter his ashes. Along the way, the group begin to reminisce about the old days, with several long-kept secrets coming to the fore in the process. A huge hit with critics, Mirren’s performance in particular was singled out for praise.

#8: Georgina Spica
“The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover” (1989)

One-part art-house black comedy, another part gangster movie gore-fest, there are few films out there like “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover”. And honestly, how could there be? But, there are also few performances quite like Mirren’s as Georgina Spica, the wife of Michael Gambon’s Albert Spica, the titular thief, who’s also a despicably violent gangster. Anything but formulaic, director Peter Greenaway’s film is a story of adultery, revenge and even cannibalism with Mirren front, centre and utterly unforgettable.

#7: Queen Elizabeth I
“Elizabeth I” (2005)

Mirren was HBO’s first choice to play the Tudor Queen for this show, long before anything resembling a script was even written for the two-part mini-series. And it proved a wise casting choice, with the stage and screen veteran delivering an acting masterclass for the part - capturing Elizabeth I’s now-legendary role as ruler. And Mirren’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed either, as she picked up an Emmy, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Golden Globe for her work. But of course, this wasn’t the first or last time she’d play a British monarch.

#6: Mrs. Wilson
“Gosford Park” (2001)

Writer Julian Fellowes originally conceived “Downton Abbey” as a spin-off to his 2001 film “Gosford Park”, before opting to develop it as a stand-alone property. While it certainly would have been intriguing to see Mirren appear on the series as Mrs Wilson, the screen time she did gives us does not disappoint. The very definition of restraint, Dame Helen plays Gosford Park’s head housekeeper; the woman responsible for much of the day-to-day running of the house. But, she’s also someone holding onto a deep, dark secret of her own.

#5: Marcella
“Cal” (1984)

Lauded by the judges at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984 - who crowned Mirren as Best Actress for her role - “Cal” is the story of a young man on the fringes of the IRA who begins a love affair with a Catholic woman... Whose protestant policeman husband he had helped to kill a year earlier. It’s complicated, but compelling! Mirren plays the widower Marcella for an emotionally-charged but expertly measured performance. And, she proves herself more than capable of adopting the often-tricky Irish accent, too.

#4: Victoria
“The Long Good Friday” (1980)

Rightly regarded as one of the greatest British films of all-time, “The Long Good Friday” might have been an entirely different movie had Mirren not been involved. The actress reportedly fought hard to ensure her character Victoria was much more complex than originally planned, avoiding most of the stereotypes associated with most mob boss molls at the time. And her influence doesn’t go unnoticed, with Mirren’s multi-layered portrayal adding an extra dose of gritty realism and raw emotion to the gruesome proceedings.

#3: Jane Tennison
“Prime Suspect” (1991-2006)

Mirren made a massive push for gender equality as Jane Tennison in “Prime Suspect” - which became a definitive role for her. A police drama dealing with unique cases on a series-by-series basis, it showcased the trials and tribulations of the Greater London Metropolitan Police Service’s first female Detective Chief Inspector - and also gave viewers an inside look at the kind of institutionalised sexism that existed in the force at the time. It wasn't all for the sake of high drama, either. When the first “Prime Suspect” was shown to the Met Police, it actually received a standing ovation for its accuracy.

#2: Queen Charlotte
“The Madness of King George” (1994)

Mirren bagged her first Oscar and second Bafta nominations for this performance, alongside fellow nominee Nigel Hawthorne. Based on the real-life experiences of the mentally ill monarch George III, and a script from renowned playwright Alan Bennett, “The Madness of King George” also earned praise at the Cannes Film Festival - with Mirren bagging another Best Actress Award for her troubles. Her role as Charlotte is largely a supporting one to Hawthorne’s eponymous King, but her scenes are stacked with the sort of splendour we’ve since come to expect.

#1: Queen Elizabeth II
“The Queen” (2006)

It’s the film that confirmed Mirren a household name all around the world. In short, “The Queen” captures this actress at her very best, charting the Head of the Royal Family’s response to the death of Princess Diana. Mirren studied photos and video footage for the role, and worked extensively with an accent coach to perfect her performance. The results were so convincing that production staff reportedly began addressing her as if she were her majesty herself. Of course, the public and critics were equally impressed, and Mirren finally bagged that long-awaited Oscar.
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