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Bill Nighy’s Best Performances, Ranked

Bill Nighy’s Best Performances, Ranked

English actor Bill Nighy – not the science guy Bill Nye – started his acting journey when he was still a student under the tutelage of a Jesuit priest. His first stint as a professional was in 1969 when he worked as National Theatre’s assistant stage manager. That year also saw him being part of the cast of the comedy Plaza Suite. That was followed by many more plays until he entered the world of television.

His first TV stint was in Softly, Softly: Taskforce,but one of his most popular TV characters was in The Men’s Room, where he played the protagonist, Professor Mark Carleton. One of his most recent TV appearances was in The Man Who Fell to Earth. When he ventured into film, his first role was as a delivery boy in The Bitch in 1979. It was followed by many other minor character roles until he became a big name due to The Men’s Room.

Nighy’s first big break in the film industry was in the 1998 comedy film Still Crazy, where he played the amusing Ray Simms. From then on, he landed major roles in his home country and Hollywood, like Rufus Scrimgeour in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The versatile Nighy is still active even in his 70s, and there’s no stopping this commanding actor.


8/8 Hot Fuzz (2007)

Nighy had a quick turn in the action-comedy film Hot Fuzz, but delivered an “enjoyable” performance, The Guardian’s Boult said. Those who have watched this movie had lots of fun, for sure. It did not just rely on the cameos of many known actors, but on its overall brilliance. Film critic Nate Boss commended Nighy, alongside other actors, for his “great performance.” Director Edgar Wright said it himself: his fellowman, as with other thespians involved in the film, is brilliant and established, adding not just credibility to the movie but experience. With Nighy as Chief Inspector Kenneth, nothing’s cheap.

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7/8 Notes On A Scandal (2006)

Nighy only had a small role in the drama film Notes on a Scandal, but as the ever-versatile actor, he made sure he left a mark. Ricard from Cultured Vultures praised the actor for contributing emotional intensity to the film, saying he “stands out on his own, but also uses the bulk of his short time on screen to enhance the narrative as a whole.” The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw knew that Nighy’s emotional range was tested in the movie even though he had a minor role. Nonetheless, the actor delivered a “delightful” performance. In this movie, Nighy’s is small, but terrifying.

6/8 The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005)

Aside from Shadowland 3D, Nighy also starred in another novel-turned-film. The movie version of the best-selling novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy did not live up to the hype, but Nighy delivered nonetheless. The actor played the role of planet builder Slartibartfast. The Guardian’s Adam Boult said he was a “great choice” to play the vague character, while Screen Daily’s John Hazelton praised the English actor for his “neat” performance. In this science fiction comedy flick, Nighy delivered the line that he would “rather be happy than right any day.” Slartibartfast might not be the most appealing character in this disappointing movie version of the novel, but Nighy made sure to give good acting. As with the previously mentioned quote, it was all about having fun, anyway.

5/8 Valkyrie (2008)

The historical film Valkyrie highlights the plans of some German officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Nighy played the role of Friedrich Olbricht, one of the plotters. This is not the first time that he portrayed a German official as he was part of the 1985 TV movie Hitler’s SS: Portrait in Evil. The filmmakers said Nighy’s casting as Olbricht was an inspired choice as he effectively portrayed the general’s “extreme stress and anxiety.” The Swiss American Historical Society Review said his performance was fantastic, while critic Richard Propes said he, alongside other actors, did “a nice job despite not being given much to do.”

4/8 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Before the evil Naberius in I, Frankenstein, Nighy played the iconic role of Davy Jones in the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. In an interview, the veteran actor mentioned that his stint in this movie is an “odd” one “because it’s not like anything I’ve done before.” Yet, such a uniqueness attracted him to the film when he was offered the job. The tentacles of Davy Jones were computer-generated and it was so convincing they looked like prosthetics. Even though he was almost unrecognizable, the actor effectively played the role of this weird character. The Guardian said he was “unmistakably Bill Nighy,” seconded by The New York Times, saying that his “sinister whisper” is recognizable. An effective actor, indeed.

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3/8 The Girl In The Café (2005)

Nighy played the role of a civil servant, Lawrence, in the TV film The Girl in the Café. Lawrence, a coward and anxious guy, fell in love with the younger Gina (played by Kelly Macdonald). This drama is not just about romance but politics, too – an interesting mix. Author Gabriel Ricard from pop culture website Cultured Vultures said Nighy excelled in this film. Variety’s Brian Lowry, however, said it best: Nighy delivered “a brilliantly restrained performance in a movie that consistently keeps the audience off guard as to where it’s heading.” That review alone is enough to entice film buffs to watch The Girl in the Café to see how the Englishman owned the role.

2/8 Love Actually (2003)

The Christmas movie Love Actually is probably Nighy’s biggest break as it pushed him to a global audience. He played the role of Billy Mack, who belted out “Christmas Is All Around”. Roger Ebert said Nighy “steals the movie,” seconded by Sandra Hall from The Sydney Morning Herald and Empire’s Caroline Westbrook. Propes said the actor “brought such a nice energy.” With such rave reviews even from the meticulous Ebert, it’s not surprising that Nighy garnered awards for his role in this comedy-drama. Among the praises he received were best supporting actor awards from the British Academy Film Awards, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, and London Film Critics Circle Award, and a comedy award from the Evening Standard British Film Awards.

1/8 Sometimes Always Never (2018)

Sometimes Always Never is a comedy-drama movie that follows Nighy’s character, Alan, as he searches for his missing son. It’s an emotional journey, and Nighy is just the right guy to lead it. The Guardian said the actor is “spellbinding,” thanks to his “engaging and consistent voice.” Film critic Glenn Kenny, meanwhile, praised the actor for being “exceptional.” Variety’s Jessica Kiang even believes the role might be one of Nighy’s “best” performances. In this interesting movie, Alan is a Scrabble enthusiast, but there are no words for Nighy’s impressive yet “subtle” acting skills. It’s always nice to be with Nighy.