As one of Britain’s most talented and successful acting exports, James McAvoy continues to go from strength to strength within the world of big movie releases. His latest is M. Night Shyamalan’s flick Split, released this weekend to cinemas and theaters, so we’ve decided to take a look back at the actor’s top 10 movies and reflect on his performances so far…
10. Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)
Loosely based on William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, Gnomeo and Juliet was financed by Disney and independently produced by Rocket Pictures, animated by Starz Animation and released through Touchstone Pictures. The 3D computer-animated flick saw James McAvoy lend his voicing talents to the lead character Gnomeo, opposite Emily Blunt’s Juliet; a pair of gnomes that would come to life along with their respective red-hat and blue-hat gnomes whenever their owners would leave the garden. The charming tale was well told and featured some incredible music from Elton John, Chris P. Bacon and James Newton Howard. This isn’t McAvoy’s best work by a long stretch, but the movie’s certainly a child-friendly flick that will have you going back for more every year or so.
9. The Last Station (2009)
Stepping into the role of private secretary Valentin Fedorovich Bulgakov, McAvoy here may not have been a part of a box office smash hit, but that doesn’t mean his performance is any less impressive. Telling the real-life story of Leo Tolstoy and his disciples, who go up against Tolstoy’s wife Sofya for control over his work once he has died, the movie took place in the gorgeous country estate of Yasnaya Polyana, with filming taking place in the German federal states of Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg and Thuringia. Various scenes were also filmed in Leipzig in Saxony and different historical Russian locations. With a compelling storyline and beautiful cinematography, this is certainly a movie that will go down in history as one of McAvoy’s best.
8. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2005)
Whilst this wasn’t McAvoy’s most attractive and good-looking role, he certainly made a lasting impression as Mr. Tumnus, a faun who works for the White Witch and joins Aslan’s forces against the evils manoeuvring around Narnia. Mr. Tumnus is one of the most important characters in the Narnia tales, as he’s the first being that Lucy encounters after going through the wardrobe for the first time into the fantasy world. Long-time fans of the Narnia franchise were quick to become fans of McAvoy’s take on the faun, and when you watch the first movie entry for the first time, it’s easy to see why.
7. The Last King of Scotland (2006)
Based on Giles Foden’s novel of the same name, this critically-acclaimed film starred Forest Whitaker in the lead role opposite Kerry Washington and McAvoy. McAvoy steps into the role of medical school graduate Nicholas Garrigan, who decides to go abroad and seek adventure by working at a Ugandan missionary clinic. Set in the 1970s, this tale of love, deceit and intertwining relationships is a must-see for anybody who wants to see McAvoy’s best work.
6. Starter For 10 (2006)
Written by David Nicholls, Starter For 10 is one of the funniest McAvoy flicks you’re able to get your hands on. Set in the mid-80s, McAvoy plays a university student who wins a place on a University Challenge quiz team. Whilst the premise of the movie doesn’t seem like the most exciting thing in the world, it’s certainly one to watch if you’re looking for a good laugh. Unfortunately, the film didn’t do very well at all in the box office, but that’s not to say it’s not one worth a viewing.
5. Wanted (2008)
Starring alongside Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy stars in perhaps his most famous movie Wanted, an American-German action flick based on the comic book miniseries of the same name by J. G. Jones and Mark Millar. What may be most interesting to big fans of the film is that McAvoy was initially rejected for the lead role after early screen-testing, with the studio citing his look and physique as the main problem. Originally searching for someone with conventional and stereotypical Hollywood vibes, they went back on themselves and figured that they actually wanted a geek for the role. McAvoy was snapped up, and quickly went to work on his physique to fit their ideal.
4. X-Men: First Class (2011)
The X-Men movies are some of the most successful superhero releases of all time, and James McAvoy joined the team for the first time in 2011 as a young Professor X. Whilst McAvoy admits he didn’t read comic books in his younger years, he was a fan of the X-Men cartoons from the age of 10. In all of his movies, you can see McAvoy is having a good time, but this is perhaps the role where he looks most at home. As Charles Xavier, he really brings his own unique flair and style to the character without feeling forced to do an adaptation that calls back to the many presentations of Professor X in the past. The X-Men series was good before McAvoy’s inclusion, but now it’s great.
3. Arthur Christmas (2011)
Lending his voice to another animated movie with Arthur Christmas, McAvoy takes on the titular role in a flick that will likely become a Christmas classic within the next decade or so. This is a charming and addictive story that has become a must-see each and every festive holiday for many families, with McAvoy bringing the lead character to life in a way few other actors would have been able to do. He still plays the hapless, geeky and misconstrued role well despite his various other roles that have been the complete opposite of that in the many years before this was released.
2. Filth (2013)
Based on Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name, Filth weaves comedy, drama and crime together in one of 2013’s most exciting British movie releases. Jon S. Baird wrote the screenplay for the movie, also sitting in the director’s chair and bringing McAvoy together with Jamie Bell and Jim Broadbent for the first time. McAvoy here plays bipolar-suffering Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson, residing in Edinburgh, Scotland and enjoying many of life’s vices, such as drugs, alcohol and ‘the games’ – a phrase he uses for the plots he puts together directed at his fellow colleagues. Whilst the film is extremely dark at times, it does make the viewing audience smile throughout. Living up to its name in more ways than one, this warped flick is a must-see.
1. Atonement (2007)
Despite now nearly being a decade old, Atonement is still McAvoy’s best work. Based on Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name, this multi-award-winning movie sees McAvoy in the lead role of Robbie Turner, a man with a Cambridge education which wasn’t earned, but gained because of his mother’s close relationship to her employer. McAvoy has said that Robbie has been one of the most difficult characters he’s ever had to play, but he seems more than at home throughout the film. It’s easy to see on your first viewing of Atonement exactly why it took home the Golden Globe Award for Best Drama Motion Picture.
New James McAvoy movie Split is out now in both cinemas and theaters in the UK and USA.
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