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If you believe Benedict Cumberbatch is one of the best actors in his time, there’s little you can do to disprove it. It’s been more than 20 years since the British actor first appeared on the big screen or stage. Benedict Cumberbatch has taken viewers on some wild excursions with his performances in a variety of genres, from comic-book action blockbusters to WWII-era biopics. Even though we’d love to discuss Sherlock and Frankenstein, for the time being we’ll focus on Cumberbatch’s best film roles instead. As a result, let’s dive right into our list of the 10 best Benedict Cumberbatch films.
10. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
As soon as it was announced that Benedict Cumberbatch was cast in the part of a villain in Star Trek Into Darkness, most people assumed that he would be playing Khan. And Cumberbatch didn’t disappoint us in the part. Following a terrorist attack on Starfleet headquarters, Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew of the Starship Enterprise are tasked with finding the super soldier Khan. After a tense game of cat and mouse between Kirk and Khan and a slew of discoveries, the two finally face off in one of the series’ most thrilling showdowns. In large part, Cumberbatch’s excellent delivery of the conflicted monster makes you both dread and adore him. You should really watch this, although I’m sure you’ve seen it before… several times.
9. Black Mass (2015)
In the 2015 James “Whitey” Bulger film Black Mass, Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t the first name that comes to mind, but he’s definitely there. He sought to reconcile his duty as Massachusetts Senate President with his part as Whitey’s brother, William “Billy” Bulger’s FBI informant. Cumberbatch produced one of the strongest performances of the film as Whitey’s brother. While we would have liked to see more of Cumberbatch’s acting as Bulger, he is a crucial element of numerous major moments in the movie. Cumberbatch should be nominated for an award for his Boston accent alone.
8. Atonement (2007)
Robbie Turner (Keith McAvoy) and Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley), a young couple torn apart by Cecilia’s younger sister, Briony, are the focus of Atonement (Saoirse Ronan). Following her belief that Robbie had sexually assaulted her cousin, Lola, Briony fabricates a story in which she claims to have witnessed Paul Marshall (Benedict Cumberbatch) sexually assaulting her 15-year-old cousin rather than Robbie.
A threatening and repulsive member of society’s upper class, Paul is brought to life exclusively by Cumberbatch, from the moment we first see him in The Revenant’s prologue. It’s one of those performances where you hate the character but can’t get enough of the actor’s portrayal.
7. Starter For 10 (2006)
A year before Atonement, Benedict Cumberbatch and James McAvoy starred in a British indie film called Starter For 10. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Patrick Watts, the post-graduate captain of a college quiz team, who has a tense relationship with McAvoy’s character Brian Jackson as they prepare for the University Challenge TV quiz competition. McAvoy and co-stars Alice Eve and Rebecca Hall have more screen time in the picture, but Cumberbatch provides one of his most arrogant and inadvertently amusing characters of his career. On his first film appearance, Benedict Cumberbatch was able to show the world what he was capable of.
6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
This is the case with Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance in the 2011 spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which was his first major part before his appearances in billion-dollar franchises. George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is pushed out of retirement after a mission to establish the identify of a Soviet mole in the ranks of MI6 goes terribly wrong. Smiley enlists the services of agent Peter Guillam (Cumberbatch) to find and expose the person who is passing information to the Russians. He has little faith in anybody outside his inner group. Although his portrayal is a tad muted, Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance here is a far cry from his later roles as over-the-top and out-there personalities.
5. Doctor Strange (2016)
Dr. Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, was a career-defining role for the actor, who had already acted in huge series such as Star Trek and The Hobbit, so he was well-prepared for his new position in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It explores the story of how Dr. Strange transitioned from being a world-renowned surgeon to a multidimensional sorcerer while also expanding the MCU in anticipation of the “Infinity Saga” that will follow. Previously, Cumberbatch had shown that he was capable of managing both the physical demands of the job and the hubris that made the character so unforgettable. Doctor Strange was introduced to the public for the first time in this film, but it was happily not the last.
4. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
We didn’t discover Dr. Strange’s full potential until the end of the first film, but by the time Avengers: Infinity War debuted in April 2018, the character had not only reached, but exceeded, his potential. Cumberbatch’s performance in every scene where he is featured in this crossover epic is clear. It doesn’t matter if he’s performing spells to safeguard the Time Stone from Thanos and his minions or teaming up with Tony Stark, Cumberbatch is always in control, even when it appears he’s giving up and handing it over to Thanos.
Avengers: Endgame gets an honorable mention because Strange only makes an appearance in the middle act, when he makes a dramatic comeback. When Cumberbatch reveals to Iron Man at the end of Avengers: Endgame that he meant it when he stated there was only one out of 14,000,605 potential futures in which Thanos is destroyed, his expression in Infinity War is equaled only by his expression in Endgame. Strange and Stark don’t speak, but their facial expressions say it all.
3. 12 Years A Slave (2013)
12-Years-A-Slave is one of my favorite movies of the past decade yet it’s so gruesome and emotionally draining that I’ll probably never see it again, even if it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in years. A large part of this is due to the fact that the film is one of the most authentic depictions of slavery in recent years and should be watched by everyone, yet it’s a difficult picture.
A brief appearance by Benedict Cumberbatch as a plantation owner in the 12-year fight of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) reveals a performance as sympathetic as that of a slave owner. Ford appears to be a troubled and complicated guy on his time, capable of realising the folly of his actions, compared to Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). Especially in the scene where Ford gives the musically trained musician a violin, this can be clearly noticed. Northup is sold to Epps following an incident with one of the plantation’s supervisors.
2. 1917 (2019)
Even though he only appears in 1917 for a few brief scenes, Benedict Cumberbatch plays a significant role in propelling the story of this World War I military saga. Featuring George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman as two young British soldiers tasked with stopping Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) from leading an attack that will result in the deaths of over 1,600 British soldiers, The Imitation Game is a masterwork of dramatic narrative.
We don’t meet Cumberbatch’s character Mackenzie until the conclusion of the film, but the two young soldiers fight against time (and German forces) to call off the attack before it ends in a massacre. Mackenzie is very much a character throughout the movie. Just when Cumberbatch resigned himself to defeat, his expression bore a blend of pride and agony, which only he could achieve at the time.
1. The Imitation Game (2014)
As a supporting actor in most of his films prior to The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch had a relatively low profile, but that all changed when he portrayed Alan Turing, a Cambridge mathematician who helped crack Nazi codes during World War II and later committed suicide after being imprisoned for being gay..
Cumberbatch delivers an arrogance and anxiousness to the role that to this day remains his most enthralling portrayal. On screen, we watch Turing learn to rescue his country from the Nazis, only to be condemned and mocked for his homosexuality by the society he helped save years later. Even in these last few minutes of the film you can clearly see how much Turing’s hidden life and public persona have taken their toll.