Idris Elba is one of the hottest actors on the planet right now. Recently, the English star appeared in three big summer movies in 2022; Thor: Love and Thunder, Beast, and Three Thousand Years of Longing.
Since his first appearance on the big screen way back in 1999, the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain alumnus has amassed a filmography of more than fifty movies – many of which have been very good.
In this piece, we'll take you through Elba's best 15 movies and tell you a little about them.
15. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015, Directed by Joss Whedon)
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a superhero movie, the sequel to 2012's The Avengers and the 11th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the film, the heroes go up against Ultron, a murderous artificial intelligence inadvertently created by the Avengers' own Tony Stark and Bruce Banner.
Elba reprises his role as the all-seeing Heimdall from the Thor movie. However, he only appears briefly, speaking to Thor in a haunting vision caused by the Scarlet Witch.
Plays The All-seeing Heimdall
Although it's the poorest of the Avengers to date, Age of Ultron is still a blast. It's overstuffed, and its action scenes are a little messy at times, but it successfully created a worthy opponent for Earth's Mightiest Heroes, which was arguably its most important task. It's bigger and louder than the first Avengers outing but has fewer memorable moments.
14. Second Coming (2014, Directed by Debbie Tucker Green)
Second Coming is a British romantic drama written in the style of magical realism, with the dialogue often being unspecific and ambiguous. It's about a female social worker called Jackie who finds out she's become pregnant under unusual circumstances. The pregnancy creates drama with those closest to her. Elba plays Mark Trent, Jackie's husband.
A British Romantic Drama
It's a very peculiar and fascinating movie. It has a lot of the bleakness that British cinema is renowned for, and it's complex to the point of being confusing at times, but it feels incredibly fresh – and that's enough to keep viewers interested regardless. Second Coming has lots of soul and heart, and Elba is bringing his best to it.
13. Thor (2011, Directed by Kenneth Branagh)
Thor is a superhero movie and the fourth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the film, Thor is about to be crowned King of Asgard, but he reignites a dormant war and has his powers and hammer Mjölnir removed before being banished to Earth. Thor must prove himself worthy again as his brother Loki plots to take the Asgardian throne.
Elba plays Heimdall, Thor's good friend and the sentry of the Bifröst Bridge, who can see and hear everything.
Thor's Good Friend
It's a gorgeous-looking movie with a Shakespearian vibe, courtesy of director Branagh. It introduces Chris Hemsworth's Thor and Tom Hiddleston's Loki with a real bang. It's fun, action-packed, and large in scale, yet it still gets across an abundance of human familial drama. Elba plays the formidable, wise, and loyal Heimdall wonderfully.
12. Concrete Cowboy (2020, Directed by Ricky Staub)
Concrete Cowboy is a Western drama based on the 2011 novel Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri, which took inspiration from Philadelphia's authentic urban African-American horseriding culture. The movie follows a rebellious teen who as he goes to live with his estranged father for the summer in a tight-knit Philadelphia community of Black cowboys. Elba plays Harp, the estranged father in question.
The Estranged Father
Exploring a little-seen corner of American culture, this is a cowboy movie with a contemporary twist. It's brilliantly directed with the acting to match. It's emotional and hard-hitting but ultimately uplifting. It's one of Elba's most demanding roles, and he undoubtedly delivers with his performance.
11. American Gangster (2007, Directed by Ridley Scott)
American Gangster is a biographical crime movie fictionally based on the criminal career of Frank Lucas, a gangster from La Grange, North Carolina. Lucas smuggled heroin into America on service planes returning from the Vietnam War before being detained. Elba plays a minor role as Tango, a rival drug dealer who Lucas shoots on a crowded sidewalk.
A Rival Drug Dealer
It's a gritty movie that's also wildly entertaining. It feels like something of a throwback to the gangster movies of old. The cast is a who's who of Hollywood A-listers, and the result is a movie that reflects that (Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, in particular, are fantastic). Elba doesn't have much to do but does what he has to ably, as expected.
10. Molly's Game (2017, Directed by Aaron Sorkin)
Molly's Game is another biographical crime movie and this one's based on the 2014 memoir of the same name by Molly Bloom. It follows Bloom as she becomes the target of an FBI investigation when her underground poker empire for wealthy individuals like Hollywood celebrities, business tycoons, sports stars, and the Russian mob gets exposed.
Elba plays Charlie Jaffey, Bloom's expensive and high-profile New York lawyer.
A High-Profile New York Lawyer
Jessica Chastain is brilliant as Bloom – her exquisite talent truly shines through – and the movie benefits massively from her performance. The story is intriguing, the whole thing feels dynamic, and the script is electrifying. It brilliantly chronicles the idea of a woman's tribulations in a supposed “man's world.” Elba gives a top-class performance in the movie's prime supporting role.
9. Avengers: Infinity War (2018, Directed by The Russo Brothers)
Avengers: Infinity War is a superhero movie, the sequel to 2012's The Avengers and 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the 19th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the movie, the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy try to thwart Thanos' attempts to collect all six Infinity Stones as part of his quest to erase half of all life in the universe.
Elba reprises the part of Heimdall at the start of the movie in a small but pivotal role.
A Small but Pivotal Role
It's a bona fide Hollywood blockbuster with impressive special effects, incredible action, and a genuinely epic but devastating story. It manages to juggle a massive cast of weird and wonderful characters brilliantly. Josh Brolin is fantastic as the Mad Titan Thanos, providing us with one of the finest cinematic villains of recent times.
Elba again plays Heimdall to perfection, albeit very briefly.
8. Star Trek Beyond (2016, Directed by Justin Lin)
Star Trek Beyond is a sci-fi action movie based on the television series Star Trek. It's the 13th installment in the Star Trek franchise and the third in the reboot series, following 2009's Star Trek and 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness. In this one, the USS Enterprise's crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space and encounters a new ruthless enemy, Krall – played by Elba – the former commander of the USS Franklin. He has mutated into a powerful alien creature.
A Ruthless Enemy
The Star Trek franchise went on a hot streak when the reboot series began, and this great movie allowed it to continue. So it's a huge compliment to say the film feels like a brilliant but long episode from the original series. The action is excellent, the special effects are stunning, and the all-star cast does a brilliant job.
The fan response to Elba as the villain wasn't great, but he did a decent job under some heavy prosthetics.
7. The Harder They Fall (2021, Directed by Jeymes Samuel)
The Harder They Fall is another Western movie with a cast of predominantly black actors, like Concrete Cowboys. In the film, an outlaw discovers his enemy has escaped prison, so he reunites with his gang to seek revenge against him. Elba plays Rufus Buck, the enemy in question, who had killed the outlaw's parents and carved a cross into his forehead twenty years earlier.
An Enemy Who Had Killed an Outlaw's Parents
It's a stylish movie with an incredible cast teeming with energy and bounce. The core characters are bold, fearless, and genuinely interesting, and the plot is superb. It's a genuine shame that The Harder They Fall received a belated and limited release due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Elba plays his role in hardcore fashion, and the result is a memorable character.
6. The Suicide Squad (2021, Directed by James Gunn)
The Suicide Squad is a superhero movie, a standalone sequel to 2016's Suicide Squad, and the 10th installment in the DC Extended Universe. In the film, a group of convicts with unique abilities join a task force known as the “Suicide Squad” in exchange for lighter sentences. Their mission is to destroy all traces of a giant alien called Starro before it is under government control.
Elba plays Bloodsport, a skilled mercenary convicted of shooting Superman with a Kryptonite bullet.
A Skilled Mercenary Convicted of Shooting Superman
This movie is heaps of fun and a far cry from its drab 2016 predecessor. It's fast-paced, hilariously funny, and full of the trademark violence that made the source material so readable. Its characters are incredibly diverse and bizarre, and Elba's straight performance as the more grounded Bloodsport is the perfect foil to the likes of the walking shark and anthropomorphic weasel.
5. Beasts of No Nation (2015, Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga)
Beasts of No Nation is a war drama about a young boy who becomes a child soldier as his country – an unspecified West African nation – experiences a horrific civil war. Elba plays a character known simply as the Commandant, the despicable leader of a battalion in the rebel faction known as the Native Defense Forces.
Focusing on the human cost of war, Beasts of No Nation is harrowing, uncompromising, and sobering, yet it still feels somewhat hopeful and uplifting. The movie's cast is fantastic – seriously, it's teeming with top talent – and they make it incredibly watchable. Elba is excellent in this one, and his character is awful, but he masterfully portrays him.
4. Thor: Ragnarok (2017, Directed by Taika Waititi)
Thor: Ragnarok is a superhero movie, the sequel to 2011's Thor and 2013's Thor: The Dark World, and the 17th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the film, Thor must escape from the alien planet Sakaar, where he's held captive as a gladiator, to save Asgard from his evil sister Hela and the impending Ragnarök. Elba reprises his role as Heimdall in a vital role.
Reprises His Role as Heimdall in a Vital Role
It's a colorful, aesthetically exciting, fun, and funny movie brimming with personality. The special effects are spectacular, the story is compelling, and the dialogue is snappy in the typical Taika Waititi style. Cate Blanchett makes a fantastic antagonist as Hela. Elba shines in Heimdall's most prominent MCU appearance, helping the plot to roll along nicely.
3. The Jungle Book (2016, Directed by Jon Favreau)
The Jungle Book is an adventure drama and a live-action/CGI remake of Walt Disney's 1967 animated film of the same name, which in turn was an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's eponymous collective works. It's about Mowgli, an orphaned human boy who, with the help of his animal guardians, embarks on a journey of self-discovery while evading the threat of the scarred Bengal tiger Shere Khan. Elba voices Shere Khan in this one.
The Voice of Shere Khan
An astonishing voice cast brings the animals to life in this one, including Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, and Lupita Nyong'o. It looks stunning and won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. It's genuinely better than its predecessors and is entirely fascinating. It's fast-paced, lighthearted, and one for all the family – although some scenes might scare younger children.
2. Finding Dory (2016, Directed by Andrew Stanton)
Finding Dory is a computer-animated comedy-drama adventure by Pixar. The direct sequel to 2003's Finding Nemo, it's about the amnesiac fish Dory, who sets off on a journey to reunite with her parents. Elba voices Fluke, a California sea lion who is friends with Rudder, another sea lion.
The Voice of Fluke, a Sea Lion
Like pretty much every Pixar movie, Finding Dory is excellent. It's a funny, emotional, and thought-provoking film that looks beautiful. Viewers will have their hearts warmed and their minds charmed by it. The brilliant voice cast performs their roles superbly. Elba's role is minor, but his voice is incredibly distinctive, and he performs his lines adeptly.
1. Zootopia (2016, Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush)
Zootopia – also called Zootropolis in some parts of the world – is a Disney computer-animated buddy cop action-comedy. The 55th Disney animated feature occurs in the eponymous city, where anthropomorphic mammals coexist. It's about a partnership between a rabbit police officer and a red fox con artist, as the likely pair uncover a criminal conspiracy involving the disappearance of predators.
Elba voices Chief Bogo, an African buffalo who is the police chief of the Zootopia Police Department's 1st Precinct.
The Voice of Chief Bogo, an African Buffalo
Zootopia might be the perfect animated movie. Its message is thoughtful and inclusive, its story is compelling and fun, its voice cast performs wonderfully, and it looks gorgeous. The colors, energy, and humor will keep any child entertained, but there is more than enough for the adults. Elba is superbly cast as the authoritative Bogo and does a great job.
Honorable Mention: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013, Directed by Justin Chadwick)
Writing this piece without mentioning the biographical movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom would be remiss. While it's not a great movie, Elba is fantastic as the iconic anti-apartheid revolutionary and former South African President Nelson Mandela. His performance is towering in a film that's too respectful for its own good.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.