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I have constantly been asking myself about British Actors of today, and who I find to be my favourite. Here's an anecdote for you: though I am Indian, I was born and raised in England, and for years, I studied acting and Shakespeare. I now hold two degrees, a BA in English, and an MA in Film and Writing–I chose that I'd rather be behind, than in front of the camera after getting that much range of study. I love to look at how an actor functions as a part of a film, and how that has an impact on their choices into other films. For example: if a villain was played well, would that actor then choose more villainous roles? Or would they choose to explore the other realms of character?
Now, when it comes to British Actors, there are ones that I favour over others, I have to say. Mainly because I find their range more interesting, or their acting style less dull, or because they played a character/characters that I absolutely adore. So, shall we have a look at who I've put on this list?
Let me remind you to begin with: since this is a list of actors, this list will be male. I will make one for actresses at a later point.
10. Kenneth Branagh
He may be pushing 60 years old, but Kenneth Branagh, one of the Kings of Shakespearean performance, hasn't slowed down yet. I adored the way he portrayed Lockhart in the Harry Potter Series, and I have also adored many of his Shakespearean productions. Contrary to popular opinion, I thought his adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing was pretty interesting, though people thought it was weird how Keanu Reeves was just there as well for some reason. And obviously, nobody can forget–Branagh's Hamlet –I don't think I really need to explain myself there.
9. Tom Hiddleston
I used to think Hiddleston was thoroughly average, until I saw him do Shakespeare, and portray Hank Williams. Now, as a huge Hank Williams fan, I absolutely adored Hiddleston's portrayal of him in the biopic, I Saw the Light. Let's just have a quick talk about his Shakespearean performances because seriously, it's something we need to talk about. The TV Film of Shakespeare's Henry V, in which Hiddleston portrayed the protagonist, was done to absolute perfection. After watching that, it's very difficult to see anyone else as Shakespeare's most Machiavellian Character.
8. Jude Law
Dr. Watson, arch bad guy, Byronic Hero, gangster, and even an actor who has mastered modern film noir. Jude Law is possibly the most underrated actor I can think of. His filmography is expansive, it's amazing, and I wager you to name me something he hasn't done, and done very well at that. The first film I remember him in is The Talented Mr. Ripley, and I only watched it because I read the book. He was brilliant in portraying Dickie Greenleaf–Ripley's victim in more than one way. In Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, he portrays a perfect Dr. Watson, and in Anna Karenina he made a brilliant Count Karenin. I thought he was brilliant in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (one of my favourite movies ever) and in Dom Hemingway. At the moment though, he's doing an awesome job of playing a young Albus Dumbledore.
7. James McAvoy
After his role in Split, James McAvoy has proved to be an actor of brilliant range, and he has clearly worked damn hard to get there. McAvoy is not one of those common actors who was born into a lot of money, he actually had to do real work to get where he is; it's just one of the things that explains why he's better than most everyone else. Apart from that, he's also been included in the X-Men movies, portraying the youthful Professor X. But my personal favourite role of his must be in the film based on the Irvine Welsh novel, Filth. All in all, McAvoy still has a long way to go, but has proved that he is one of the greatest actors of his generation.
6. Benedict Cumberbatch
I personally always thought this guy was relatively boring, but now that he's done more stuff–I can honestly say he's no longer as boring as I thought he was. Recent roles include the MCU's Doctor Strange and television's Sherlock Holmes, and not to mention all of his Shakespeare stuff, he has proven himself to be one of Britain's best actors. I really liked him as Richard III in the Hollow Crown version of the plays, and even though he wasn't the best guy in the series, he did that play very well indeed. So, he has shown his range, his acting technique, and his ability to do Shakespearean characters very well. He definitely makes this list just for that–we have to wait for his future roles now.
5. Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman is undoubtedly one of Britain's favourite actors. With his filmography including characters like Sid Vicious, Dracula, Sirius Black, George Smiley, and even Winston Churchill, Gary Oldman's range is pretty damn big. His acting techniques, and his films are always better than just good, and he will literally never let you down if he's in the movie. Personally, my favourite roles by Gary Oldman include: George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Commissioner Gordon in Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy. He is an actor with incredible ability, and amazing range, but I have to say he is still very much underrated.
4. Eddie Redmayne
Born in the early 80s, Eddie Redmayne is an actor who has aged amazingly, and done so damn well when it comes to experimenting with different roles, and knowing what he's good at. Personally, my favourite performance by him is in The Danish Girl as his acting was just phenomenal. In films like Savage Grace, and Like Minds he has portrayed darker characters, and yet in The Theory of Everything, and Fantastic Beasts he portrays lovable and intelligent ones. There is quite a bit of range there, but it really is up to you whether you like him in Jupiter Ascending or not.
3. Christian Bale
Possibly one of the finest actors of his generation, Christian Bale has one of the largest ranges of acting in all of Hollywood history. He first broke the mould playing the self-consumed Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (even though he isn't American, he sure did fool a lot of people). Bale then took on the insomniac role in The Machinist, and is renowned for being the best ever Batman after Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy. Bale has portrayed the anti-heroic Victorian magician in possibly one of my favourites role of his career, Alfred Borden in The Prestige. The Fighter, American Hustle, The Big Short, Equilibrium, Empire of the Sun, 3:10 to Yuma, and even Out of the Furnace, and another one of my favourites–Public Enemies. There is no doubt that Christian Bale has unparalleled amounts of talent–the likes of which the British film industry has hardly ever seen. However, I have to thank Christian Bale personally for giving me my favourite film in all of film history after he portrayed Pastor John in I'm Not There.
2. Ben Whishaw
One of my personal favourite actors, and another one of the greatest actors of his generation–Ben Whishaw is basically good at everything. His role in Cloud Atlas is absolutely mind-blowing, as he portrays a fraudulent musician who then tries to take his own life back with dire consequences. He has portrayed the murderous character in Perfume, and he has portrayed John Keats in Bright Star. He's probably most famous for his roles as Q in the recent James Bond films, and as the voice of Paddington Bear. However, his role on stage as Hamlet in 2004 has been one that hasn't been forgotten by anyone, anywhere who has heard of it remotely. Fun fact: Ben Whishaw's Hamlet inspired Kit Harington to take up acting. My personal favourite films starring Ben Whishaw are: Brideshead Revisited, Lilting, Cloud Atlas, and of course, my favourite film of all time in which he portrays Arthur Rimbaud–I'm Not There.
Here are a couple more mentions before we hit number one, just so we can all see some more good/great British Actors. They didn't make the list, but they are still very, very good at what they do.
His best role currently is also his most well-known as Harington portrays the indecisive but somewhat heroic Jon Snow in the hit TV Show, A Game of Thrones.
He's not just Lord Voldemort from the latter part of the Harry Potter series–he also starred in Red Dragon as the title antagonist, which is possibly my favourite role of his.
This man has great things ahead of him. Though he's still young, he managed to bag the role of Spiderman, and become not just the youngest, but also the highest grossing Spiderman ever. Before Spidey got famous though, he was in another great film–In the Heart of the Sea–which I watched when it came out in cinemas. I suggest you take a look–it's very good.
Did you think he wasn't going to be on the list? We're talking about the best British actors here. Anyways, Tom Hardy has incredible range, and has portrayed many different characters from Bane in the Dark Knight Trilogy to The Kray Twins in a biopic. He has gone on to have a returning role in the hit TV Show, Peaky Blinders.
1. Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis isn't just the greatest British actor, he's just the greatest actor–out of everyone. He's portrayed a multitude of characters, and basically invented method acting. He has incredible presence, and three Best Actor Oscars. From his breakthrough role in My Left Foot–he has gone on to become the most respected name in modern acting. There Will be Blood, and Phantom Thread have been some of my personal favourites of his, including In the Name of the Father, Last of the Mohicans, Gangs of New York, and The Boxer. I'm not going to lie, but I really don't have to explain myself when it comes to putting Daniel Day-Lewis at number one–if there's anyone else at number one then I'm sorry, your opinion is just plain wrong. He's the standard that other actors try, and fail to attain.