Colin Firth returned to movie screens this summer with the sequel “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” reuniting the original all-star cast of Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper, Stellan Skarsgård, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters) plus adding Cher to the cast (surprisingly as the mother of Streep).
Firth began his career on the British stage which led to roles in film and television. It wouldn’t be until 10 years into his career that Firth would become a household name in the United Kingdom when he starred in the highly successful BBC production of “Pride and Prejudice.” His role as Mr. Darcy in the film made him one of the top sex symbols in his native country. He would later lampoon his position as one of the countries most desired men when he played the role of Mark Darcy in “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” Bridget longs for her own version of the “Pride and Prejudice” hero but it takes her a while to realize that she has one in her life who even bares the same last name as Jane Austin’s character.
Fame in the US was a gradual think for Firth. While devotees of the BBC knew his name, it would take American audiences a bit longer to get to know him. Through a series of roles in films Firth began to become a familiar face to American audiences culminating in 2009 and 2010 when he received consecutive Oscar nominations for his work in “A Single Man” and “The King’s Speech.” He would go on to win the Oscar for Best Actor for the latter, which swept that year’s awards including the Academy Award for Best Picture.
With the opening of another movie, let’s take a tour in our photo gallery above of the 15 greatest movies in his career, ranked worst to best.
15. A THOUSAND ACRES (1997)
Firth has a supporting role in this film which has an extremely fine pedigree. It’s a “King Lear” story relocated to an Iowa farm about three sisters dealing with their aging father’s mental problems and secrets from their childhood. Firth plays a neighboring farmer whom both Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer have romantic feelings towards.
14. NANNY MCPHEE (2005)
Emma Thompson wrote and starred in this film version of a popular series of children’s books in which the character was instead called Nurse Matilda. Firth plays a widower with seven out of control children. Thompson plays the nanny who comes in to their lives and calms the children and sets the widower Firth on course to marry the woman he really loves.
13. THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (2002)
Firth took on one of the stage’s most popular stories in this screen adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play. The story is that of two men, an aristocrat and a commoner both assuming false identities and using the name Ernest. In their deceptions both end up falling in love with farcical consequences. Firth plays the aristocrat Jack Worthing, which by this time had become a typical type of role for him.
12. TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (2011)
Firth plays a senior officer of the British Secret Intelligence Service in this adaptation of John LeCarre’s political thriller. Set in the mid-1970s during the height of the Cold War, the film is typical of LeCarre’s intricately plotted stories.
11. MAMMA MIA! (2008)
This adaptation of the hit stage musical became the most profitable movie musical of its time. The plot uses the songs of ABBA to tell the story of a young woman getting married who invites the three men she thinks may be her father to her wedding. Firth plays one of the potential fathers who had romanced Streep.
10. ANOTHER COUNTRY (1984)
This film tells the story of the early education of Guy Burgess, who became an infamous British spy who defected to the Soviet Union. In the film Firth plays Tommy Judd, a Marxist friend of Burgess and shines in an angry speech denouncing the British educational system.
9. VALMONT (1989)
Firth got his first major leading role in an American film as the title character in this adaptation of the novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” Timing proved to be everything though and this film was highly overshadowed by another version of the same story entitled “Dangerous Liaisons,” which was released only a year before this one.
8. APARTMENT ZERO (1988)
Firth gave a complex and dark performance in this cult film about a man who owns a revival movie house in Buenos Aires. Due to low ticket sales at the theater he is forced to take in a roommate. He begins to wonder if the roommate is actually a serial killer. Firth often excels at emotionally repressed characters who seem to have something simmering under the surface. In some films his characters have a surprising goodness underneath but, in this film, it is the opposite. The character is consumed with bad thoughts and paranoia underneath his outward demeanor.
7. LOVE ACTUALLY (2003)
Firth was among the huge cast of this film that has become a bit of a holiday classic. Written by Richard Curtis, who excels at British love stories such as “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” the film tells a number of separate stories of various people falling in and out of love. Firth plays a man shocked by his girlfriend’s infidelity with his brother. He then travels to a house he owns in France. While there he falls in love with his non-English speaking housekeeper. His final proclamation of love while an entire town looks on is one of many of the film’s beloved moments.
6. GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING (2003)
Firth brings an obsessive intensity to his role as Johannes Vermeer, a famous Dutch painter who specialized in painting scenes from ordinary day life. This film tells a fictionalized version of how Vermeer’s most famous painting came about. The film supposes that Vermeer became obsessed with a young maid whom inspired him to paint what became his most famous painting.
5. THE ENGLISH PATIENT (1996)
This highly acclaimed film was nominated for 12 Oscars and won nine of them, including Best Picture, Director and a surprise Supporting Actress win for Juliette Binoche. The cast is uniformly excellent and Firth is no exception. He brings a sad tragic tone to the man whose wife the title character has fallen in love with. His ultimate demise is one of films most terrifying and sad deaths.
4. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998)
Two years after “The English Patient,” Firth found himself in another Oscar winning Best Picture when he was cast as the stuffy Lord Wessex in “Shakespeare in Love.” The film was nominated for 13 Oscars and won seven of them. Gwyneth Paltrow’s character is pledged to marry Wessex even though her true love is the Bard himself, William Shakespeare.
3. BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY (2001)
The adventures of an awkward single woman trying to navigate her career and love life won the hearts of readers on both sides of the Atlantic. A prime topic element of the book is Bridget’s fantasies about meeting her own version of Mr. Darcy the romantic leading man of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” While Bridget pines for her womanizing disrespectful boss played by Hugh Grant, it is actual Firth as this version of Mr. Darcy who turns out to be Bridget’s true love.
2. A SINGLE MAN (2009)
Firth received his first Oscar nomination for this film, which marked the directing debut of fashion designer Tom Ford. The film tells the story of a British professor of English who falls into a deep depression after his boyfriend is suddenly killed in a car accident. Firth would end up losing the award for Best Actor to Jeff Bridges for “Crazy Heart,” but he would only have to wait one year until he himself would take to the Oscar stage.
1. THE KING’S SPEECH (2010)
Firth won the Best Actor Oscar for this highly acclaimed film, which was nominated for 12 Oscars. In addition to Firth’s win, it also was recognized as Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay. The film tells the story of King George VI, who unexpectedly has to ascend to the British throne after his brother abdicates in order to marry a divorced woman, which is forbidden by the rules of British law. King George was a shy man who had a terrible problem with stammering so being thrust into the unexpected role of a king caused him great stress.