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Tom Wilkinson’s 10 Best Movies

Like Scottish actor Brian Cox, British film legend Tom Wilkinson (who sadly passed away on December 30th, 2023) was widely considered one of the most remarkable performers of his generation. With a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, an Emmy, and two Oscar nominations (but, unfortunately, no wins on that front), Wilkinson’s performances were consistently hailed as high points of each and every project in which he took part. Even if it was in something unfortunate like Unfinished Business (at least the thespian got to have some fun).


With such an expansive filmography, there are bound to be some entries that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Those are the films that follow, the most revered and widely-seen projects featuring Tom Wilkinson, and it’s impressive how even his genre films managed to be elevated to the level of high art just by having him on the roster.


10 The Full Monty (1997)

One of the most purely charming movies of the 1990s, Peter Cattaneo’s The Full Monty is a well-cast riot that gave Wilkinson some of his earliest wide-scale exposure. And that’s pretty darn impressive considering it’s a movie about six recently-unemployed steelworkers who take up dancing at Chippendale’s to help pay the stacking bills. And what helps them stand apart? They’re willing to do full nudity.

Who Did Tom Play?

tom wilkinson as gerald cooper in the full monty
20th Century Studios

Wilkinson portrays Gerald Cooper, who was the group’s foreman up until their collective termination. An uptight man, Cooper is the toughest individual to sell on the male dancing concept…but he comes around (after all, Wilkinson and his character came back for the 2023 legacy sequel series).

Stream The Full Monty on Cinemax Amazon Channel

9 Shakespeare in Love (1998)

John Madden’s Shakespeare in Love was both one of 1998’s most critically-beloved films and one of its most controversial all the same. And, oddly enough, the controversy was because it was so well-revered…especially when it won the Academy Award for Best Picture over Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan.

Who Did Tom Play?

tom wilkinson and geoffrey rush in shakespeare in love
Miramax

Wilkinson’s Hugh Fennyman, who finances the title character’s plays, isn’t in much of the film, but he’s captivating in his few spots. Not to mention, one of the film’s best scenes is when the stage fright-prone Fennyman fumbles his small role in Romeo and Juliet.

Stream Shakespeare in Love on Max

8 In the Bedroom (2001)

Director Todd Field’s masterpiece, In the Bedroom is an absolutely devastating tale of grief and the quest for revenge that often follows. After all, no parent should ever outlive their child.

Who Did Tom Play?

tom wilkinson as dr matt fowler in in the bedroom
Miramax

The film’s catalyst is the murder of a couple’s 20-something boy, who has gotten into a relationship with a beautiful older woman (Marisa Tomei) only to have her estranged husband forcefully return home. Wilkinson portrayed Dr. Matt Fowler, who, along with his wife Ruth (Sissy Spacek), goes through various forms of emotional processing before ultimately settling on taking justice into their own hands.

Stream In the Bedroom on Fubo TV

7 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the aughts’ greatest contributions to cinema history, with a brilliant narrative that will leave viewers analyzing the trajectories of their own lives long after the credits have rolled. And, at the center of it all, is Jim Carrey’s Joel, who learns that his ex has paid to have every memory of him erased…and now he wants the same treatment.

RELATED: 15 Romance Movies to Watch in Your 30s

Who Did Tom Play?

tim wilkinson and jim carrey in eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
Universal Pictures

The inventor of this memory erasing process, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak, is played by Wilkinson, and while he and the director clashed behind the scenes, the actor brings considerable gravitas to Eternal Sunshine, a film packed to the brim with other terrific performances. Wilkinson infused the role with a cerebral aura, not to mention the steely edge that was required to really sell the adulterer subplot for his character.

Stream Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on Peacock Premium

6 Batman Begins (2005)

The first installment of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman Begins, did much to revise the direction superhero cinema as a whole was going. But, of course, its immediate successor would do far more.

Who Did Tom Play?

Tom Wilkinosn as Carmine Falcone in Batman Begins

Bruce Wayne’s early years as Batman are primarily occupied by Ra’s al Ghul and Scarecrow, but Wilkinson’s career criminal Carmine Falcone is in the mix, too. And the actor immediately makes the audience believe that he could basically buy and weaponize the Gotham Police Department at his own convenience…and that’s not a level of loathsome intimidation many performers can pull off.

Stream Batman Begins on Max

5 The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

An early display of director Scott Derrickson’s talent, The Exorcism of Emily Rose was far more than a straightforward horror film. And, much to its credit, the court room scenes are nearly as compelling as the scare scenes are horrifying.

Who Did Tom Play?

tom wilkinson as rev. moore in the exorcism of emily rose
Sony Pictures

The question of whether Emily Rose was actually possessed is the film’s major throughline, and the priest accused of providing her the resurrection that ultimately killed her is played by none other than Wilkinson. By his side is lawyer Erin Bruner, who interestingly enough was played by Laura Linney, another revered performer who’s seldom come anywhere near horror.

Rent The Exorcism of Emily Rose on Amazon

4 Michael Clayton (2007)

Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton was just one of several major Oscar darlings in which Wilkinson had a comparably major role. The narrative follows the title character (George Clooney), a fixer for a gargantuan New York law firm who gets in far over his head when the top litigator has a breakdown.

RELATED: Why George Clooney’s Best Role May be Michael Clayton

Who Did Tom Play?

tom wilkinson and george clooney in michael clayton
Warner Bros.

Wilkinson portrays the aforementioned troubled litigator, Arthur Edens, whose behavior only becomes more erratic once Clayton is sent in to sweep away the incident and boost the firm’s reputation. But Edens knows what his client’s been up to, just as he knows they’re after him, and Wilkinson sells his character’s fear just as well as his overall shaken disposition.

Rent Michael Clayton on Amazon

3 Valkyrie (2008)

valkyrie

valkyrie

Release Date
December 25, 2008

Director
Bryan Singer

Rating
PG-13

More of an Ocean’s Eleven during World War II than a historically-faithful piece, Valkyrie is an entertaining and underrated action thriller with standout performances from a very talented cast. In the lead, there’s Tom Cruise as spy Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who recruits fellow members of the German resistance to use Hitler’s own emergency escape plan to assassinate him.

Who Did Tom Play?

tom wilkinson as general fromm in valkyrie
20th Century Studios

Wilkinson played the role of General Friedrich Fromm, the head of the Reserve Army and the only one who can initiate the escape plan. But, as both history and the film go to show, it didn’t play out that way (making Wilkinson’s role in Valkyrie one of his least likable).

Stream Valkyrie on Amazon Prime Video

2 The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

Buoyed and carried by tremendously charming performances from Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, and Wilkinson, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a very solid Sunday afternoon movie. And, fortunately, it was enough of a hit to earn a sequel (which also featured Wilkinson and also netted excellent reviews).

Who Did Tom Play?

tom wilkinson as graham dashwood in the best exotic marigold hotel
Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films put Wilkinson in the shoes of Sir Graham Dashwood, one of several British retirees who move to Jaipur, India to live in the ritsy retirement home the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. And, unlike his soon-to-be-friends, Dashwood actually grew up in Jaipur as a child. And, like his fellow cast members, it’s clear as day Wilkinson felt at ease during the making of the two movies, developing and solidifying friendships along the way.

Rent The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on Amazon

1 The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Considered by some Wes Anderson fans to be his finest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a star-studded and stylish masterpiece. The story follows Ralph Fiennes’ concierge Gustave H and his lobby boy (and greatest comrade) Zero Moustafa as the former finds himself the recipient of a priceless painting after his elderly lover passes away.

Who Did Tom Play?

tom wilkinson in the grand budapest hotel
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Simply named Author, Wilkinson’s character was the one to tell the world Gustave and Zero’s story. The character is also played by Jude Law during the Author’s younger years, back when he first visited the hotel and learned of its secrets from an older Zero. Of the two, Law gets a bit more to do, but like every other member of the film’s expansive cast list, Wilkinson seemed comfortable on Anderson’s wavelength.

Rent The Grand Budapest Hotel on Amazon

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