Here is a look at every movie in Idris Elba’s impressive catalog, ranked from worst to best. The British-born actor has quickly become one of the most recognizable and dependable faces in Hollywood, making a name for himself as a versatile and capable performer. Deftly navigating a bevy of different accents and character archetypes, Elba’s meteoric rise to fame has evidently not dampened the actor’s desire to push his limits, a commendable trait that is rewarding for both Idris Elba and fans of his movies alike.
Idrissa “Idris” Elba was born on September 6th, 1972 in Hackney, a borough of London, England. He briefly attended Barking and Dagenham College before winning a spot in the National Youth Music Theatre, a UK organization aimed at providing pre-professional stage experience to young actors. He filled much of the time between his early roles taking on odd jobs, from cold-calling to starting his own DJ business at the age of fourteen under the name “Big Driis”.
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Elba boasts one of the most impressive and diverse careers in Hollywood, appearing in hugely popular film and television series alongside a host of other professional interests. He has released one full-length album and five EPs as a musician, and in 2016 he won his first professional kickboxing match against Lionel Graves as part of the Discovery Channel documentary show Idris Elba: Fighter. His curiosity and commitment make him a stand-out performer, leading him to steal the spotlight in nearly every role he takes on. With that in mind, here is a look at Elba’s impressive career thus far.
Cats is a movie musical based on the long-running Broadway show written by legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Weber and based on the 1939 poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Elliot. Elba appears as Macavity, a magical and villainous cat in contest for the gift of rebirth. The film’s blend of live-action and computer animation has been nearly universally rejected as it is filled with poorly-considered and nightmarish sequences that have made it one of the worst received movies of all time, both critically and more generally.
44. Prom Night(2008)
Prom Night is an uninspired remake of the 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis horror movie by the same name. Donna Keppel’s prom night takes a sadistic turn when a dangerous and obsessive figure from her past returns to exact his revenge. Elba leads the film’s B-story as the officer investigating the mysterious ongoings, Detective Winn. Director Nelson McCormick would go on to direct another poorly-received horror remake the following year, adapting the 1987 Joseph Ruben thriller The Stepfather in 2009.
43. The Unborn(2009)
The Unborn is a possession movie directed by Foundation creator David S. Goyer. A young woman is haunted by visions of her twin brother that died in the womb, his malevolent tormenting her in search of a way to possess the life that was taken from him. Elba appears alongside a surprisingly star-studded cast, including Gary Oldman and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Rachel Brosnahan, but the impressive talent of the film’s actors was not enough to save what is ultimately one of the most forgettable horror movies of the 2000s.
42. Legacy (2010)
Legacy (also known as Legacy: Black Ops) is a psychological thriller executive produced by Idris Elba. The story follows Malcolm Gray (played by Elba) as he reflects on the consequences of his past and the potential future for his brother Darnell, an unscrupulous senator with presidential aspirations. The film premiered at the Glasgow Film Festival in February 2010 before getting an American release a few months later, failing to garner much notoriety on either occasion.
41. Obsessed (2009)
Obsessed is a psychological thriller by The Tudors director Steve Shill. An office temp develops romantic feelings for her boss, relentlessly pursuing him and causing tensions in his marriage as their reluctant love triangle takes a deadly turn. Elba stars alongside Ali Larter and occasional movie star Beyoncé Knowles-Carter in what is ultimately an over-dramatized and underwhelming waste of the actors’ talents. The film claims to take inspiration from the works and styles of Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock, yet it lacks the nuance and atmosphere for which the two directors are known.
40. Second Coming (2014)
Second Coming is a British drama featuring the directorial debut of Debbie Tucker Green. The story centers around a woman who gets pregnant under unusual circumstances, detailing the emotional turmoil that her predicament causes her, her husband (played by Elba), and their young son. The plot and dialogue are intentionally ambiguous at times in service of the movie’s religious undertones, earning Green a BAFTA nomination amid generally mixed reviews.
39. The Gospel (2005)
The Gospel is a Christian drama film, retelling the Parable of the Prodigal Son in a modern setting. A Los Angeles musician is called back home to Atlanta after learning of his father’s illness, prompting him to take up a role in his father’s church and forcing him to reevaluate his past decisions. Elba plays the film’s antagonist, Reverend Charles Frank, bringing a degree of life to an otherwise bland and unoriginal rendition of a cliched story.
38. Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance (2011)
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a sequel/reboot of 2007’s Ghost Rider based on the Ghost Rider Marvel comics. Nic Cage returns as Johnny Blaze, although many of the details from the first film are altered retrospectively, including the origins of the character’s demonic powers. With the help of Moreau, a French monk played by Elba, Johnny fights to protect the son of the devil (and eventual Ghost Rider) Danny Ketch in order to free himself from his curse and restore his soul. The film is utter bedlam, with Cage’s chaotic performance matched by a frenzied and messy story with little to offer beyond its impressive visuals.
37. The Human Contract (2008)
The Human Contract is a seductive drama featuring the directorial debut of Jada Pinkett Smith. As a tenuous corporate merger nears its close, a chance encounter with a seductive stranger leads Julian Wright down a dark path of self-discovery that could bring an end to both his professional and personal lives as he’s known them. Elba appears alongside an impressive cast including Jason Clarke, Ted Danson, and writer/director Jada Pinkett Smith herself, but the film’s style and story failed to stand out against the wave of similarly dark films in the late 2000s, blending in with the era’s aesthetic and quickly fading to obscurity.
36.No Good Deed (2014)
No Good Deed is a psychological thriller directed by Sam Miller, with whom Elba had previously collaborated on the BBC crime series Luther. A stay-at-home mother ends up in the path of an escaped convict’s murderous tirade, putting her and her family’s lives at risk as a result of their seemingly random encounter. Idris Elba is unexpectedly chilling as the movie’s lethal antagonist Colin Evans, but the story’s predictability detracts from the overall suspense of the film, ultimately wasting the performances of its talented cast.
35. The Reaping (2007)
The Reaping is a supernatural horror written by Carey and Chad Hayes, the minds behind such horror staples as The Conjuring and House of Wax. Allegedly inspired by real events, the film centers on Katherine Morrissey, a former Christian missionary who strayed from her faith as she attempts to debunk a series of biblical events that plague a small town. The film stirred up a degree of controversy due to its undesirable depiction of Concepción, Chile in its opening scene, which did little to help its already largely negative reviews.
34. The Dark Tower (2017)
The Dark Tower is a gloomy fantasy Western, serving as a sequel to Stephen King’s eight-novel The Dark Tower series. The last gunslinger, Roland Deschain (played by Elba) must prevent the villainous Man in Black (played by Matthew McConaughey) from toppling the Dark Tower, a mystical monolith that binds the universe together. The Dark Tower was intended to be the first installment in a movie series based on King’s novels, but the film’s poor performance doomed the franchise, reportedly earning just over half of its $113 million budget.
33. 100 Streets (2016)
100 Streets is a British drama from Trying director Jim O’Hanlon. The film is comprised of three separate stories that take place within a one-square-mile area of London, with each protagonist forced to face the consequences of their past in an effort to lead a better life. Idris Elba serves as the movie’s producer and music supervisor as well as leading one of the film’s segments. 100 Streets was a financial disaster, reportedly earning less than $400 worldwide against its $3 million budget, making it the lowest-grossing movie of Elba’s career by a substantial margin.
32. Daddy’s Little Girls (2007)
Daddy’s Little Girls is a romantic drama written, directed, and produced by Tyler Perry. When a struggling mechanic (played by Elba) loses custody of his three daughters to his troubled ex-wife, he and his new attorney fight to win them back as a romance blooms between them. Daddy’s Little Girls was the first movie directed by Tyler Perry to not be based on one of his stage plays and is among only a handful in the director’s catalog in which he does not make an appearance. Although reviews for the film are somewhat mixed, Daddy’s Little Girls is among the lowest-grossing movies in Perry’s directorial career, second only to 2014’s Single Moms Club.
31. The Gunman (2015)
The Gunman is an action thriller based on the 1981 French novel The Prone Gunman (or La Position du tireur couché) by Jean-Patrick Manchette. Eight years after his retirement from the Special Forces, a PTSD-suffering Jim Terrier (played by Sean Penn) becomes the target of an assassination, forcing him back into a life that he thought he’d left behind. Elba appears as Jackie Barnes, a federal agent and (in some regards) accomplice to Terrier. Despite touting Oscar-winning performers like Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, and Don’t Look Up’s Mark Rylance, the film was a financial failure, earning roughly half of its $40 million budget.
30. One Love (2003)
One Love is a Jamaican romantic drama directed by The Clash videographer Don Letts. A Rasta musician falls in love with a gospel singer during a music competition, finding himself at odds with her religious father who wishes for his daughter to marry within the church. Elba plays Aaron, the young gospel singer’s intended husband. The relatively simple story is saved by an exceptional soundtrack, featuring songs from Bob Marley and Shaggy as well as performances from the cast.
29. Takers (2010)
Takers (formerly known as Bone Deep) is an action thriller written and directed by Texas Chainsaw’s John Luessenhop. A group of professional bank robbers are pulled into a job by a recently-paroled ex-member, but things take a turn for the worse at the hands of a pair of hard-boiled police officers. Takers is not dissimilar from other heist movies of the late 2000s such as Armored or Inside Man, but the film’s star-studded cast set it apart, with Elba appearing alongside T.I., Hayden Christensen, and the late Paul Walker.
28. This Christmas (2007)
This Christmas is a romantic comedy written, directed, and produced by Preston A. Whitmore II. The film is named for the 1970 Donny Hathaway song of the same name, which is covered by Chris Brown for the soundtrack. The Whitfield family spends Christmas together for the first time in four years, causing strife as a result of their drastically different lifestyles and dredging up memories of their absent father. Elba stands out against the This Christmas cast as Quinten Whitfield Jr., the spitting image of his jazz-playing father, taking on arguably the most complex role in this heart-warming, character-driven Christmas movie.
27. The Losers (2010)
The Losers is an action film based on the 2003 Vertigo Comic series by Andy Diggle and Mark Simpson (a.k.a Jock). An elite U.S. Special Forces unit is betrayed by the CIA and left for dead, prompting them to mount an offensive on the government agency to take revenge on their corrupt former employer. The Losers features an impressive ensemble cast, including Elba, Chris Evans, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, making excellent use of the actors’ comedic and physical capabilities in spite of the film’s mediocre script.
26. Beautiful Mother (1999)
Belle Maman (or Beautiful Mother in English) is a 20th-century French romantic comedy featuring Idris Elba as Grégoire in his film debut. On the day of his wedding, a young groom falls madly in love with his soon-to-be mother-in-law, causing strife in her already tense and unorthodox family. Though it lacks substance in some regards, the film’s farcical tone and occasional genuine moments make it a generally enjoyable watch.
25. The Take (2016)
Bastille Day (released as The Take in North America) is a crime thriller directed by Eden Lake’s James Watkins. After a Parisian pickpocket is unintentionally involved in a terrorist bombing, he teams up with an unruly CIA agent to track down the people behind the attack. Elba stars alongside Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden, with both actors donning an American accent for the film. Elba and Madden’s dramatic talents carry the film, redeeming an otherwise somewhat underwhelming story.
24. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Thor: The Dark World is a sequel to the 2011 MCU movie Thor, with Elba reprising his role as the Norse God Heimdall. As the nine realms converge for the first time in millennia, an evil Dark Elf seeks to use an ancient artifact to erase the whole of existence and bring about an era of darkness. Despite being considered by many to be one of the worst movies in the MCU, Thor: The Dark World is a relatively well-produced film, even creating a complete and original language for the Dark Elves.
23. Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
Hobbs & Shaw is an action team-up of characters from the Fast Saga films in the franchise’s first full-fledged spinoff. Dwayne Johnson reprises his role as Luke Hobbs alongside Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw, the main antagonist of Furious 7. The two form an unlikely alliance when genetically-enhanced supervillain Braxton Lore (played by Elba) threatens to destroy the world with a deadly virus. The film is serviceable as a Fast Saga installment, employing a familiar level of gratuitous action, and the chemistry between Johnson, Statham, and Ryan Reynolds is unsurprisingly entertaining, setting up the possibility for future films.
22. The Mountain Between Us (2017)
The Mountain Between Us is a survival story based on the 2011 Charles Martin novel of the same name. Following a plane crash in the Utah wilderness, a surgeon (played by Elba) and a journalist (played by Avatar 2’s Kate Winslet) must work together to overcome their injuries and survive in the harsh winter conditions. The film had been in production since 2012, undergoing rewrites and staffing changes in the years leading up to its release. The love story is a bit absurd given the setting, but the noteworthy acting talents of Elba and Winslet carry the film through its more ridiculous moments.
21. Buffalo Soldiers (2001)
Buffalo Soldiers is a war comedy based on the 1993 Gregor Jordan novel by the same name. Just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, an American soldier’s illegal dealings are in danger of discovery by a new head of Military Police bent on cleaning up the camp. Elba appears alongside Joaquin Phoenix, Anna Paquin, and Ed Harris in what is perhaps the darkest comedy of the actor’s career, dealing with the heavy topics of war and addiction in a relatively light-hearted manner.
20. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
28 Weeks Later is a sequel to Danny Boyle’s 2002 horror classic 28 Days Later featuring an all-new cast of characters. Following the events of the first film, a facility filled with survivors is awaiting rescue when the infection begins to spread again, forcing two children to abandon their family and fight for their survival. Elba plays Stone, a military officer tasked with protecting the facility and its inhabitants. Although it lacks some of the more atmospheric elements of its predecessor, 28 Weeks Later’s ensemble cast and high-adrenaline sequences make it a worthwhile successor to Boyle’s film.
19. Pacific Rim (2013)
Pacific Rim is a sci-fi monster movie directed by legendary filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro. In the future, the world is at war with the Kaiju, a race of massive sea-dwelling creatures with incredible destructive powers. Elba stars as Raleigh Becket, a washed-up mecha pilot who is called out of retirement in a last-ditch effort to defeat the Kaiju. The story itself is somewhat derivative of other films in the genre, but the impressive animation and colorful imagery made it a global success, spawning a sequel and an animated series as a result.
18. Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Star Trek Beyond is the third film in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek franchise, though it is the only film in the series to be neither written nor directed by J.J. Abrams. The USS Enterprise is destroyed on the edge of the known universe, stranding its crew on an uncharted planet with no hope of escape as they face down Krall (played by Elba), a new alien threat with a well-earned hatred of the Federation and everything for which it stands. Star Trek Beyond received generally positive reviews, dedicating the film to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin due to their unfortunate passings during the film’s production.
17. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a direct sequel to 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog, with the full writing and directing team returning. Fueled by vengeance, Dr. Robotnik returns to Earth with a bevy of new machines and a powerful new ally in Knuckles the Echidna (played by Elba) to enact his revenge on Sonic for stranding him on another world. With the roots of the franchise already established, Sonic 2 makes use of iconic characters from the games by introducing Tails and making Knuckles the movie’s villain, bringing a level of intrigue and familiarity to the story that its predecessor could not.
16. Concrete Cowboy (2020)
Concrete Cowboy is a Western drama based on Greg Neri’s 2009 novel Ghetto Cowboy, which is itself inspired by the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, a Philadelphia organization of African-American horse riders. 15-year-old Cole is sent from Detroit to live with his estranged father in North Philadelphia, finding companionship in the area’s vibrant and historic horse riding community. Elba plays Cole’s stern and withholding father Harp, blending Western culture into modern society in a unique and effective manner.
15. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Avengers: Age of Ultron is the second superhero team-up movie in the MCU, pitting the Avengers and a handful of new allies against an enemy of their own creation. Tony Stark uses the gem from Loki’s scepter to complete his global defense program, which quickly gains sentience and turns against the Avengers, determined to destroy humanity to prevent the Earth’s eventual destruction. Elba briefly reprises his role as Heimdall, appearing in the MCU for the third time. The artificial intelligence story arc is somewhat cliched, but the introduction of Vision and the Scarlet Witch make Avengers: Age of Ultron an important installment in the franchise as a whole.
14. The Harder They Fall (2021)
The Harder They Fall is a dramatic Western loosely based on real inhabitants of the American West featuring an all-Black cast of actors. After learning that his rival Rufus Buck (played by Elba) is to be released from prison, notorious outlaw Nat Love (played by Creed 3’s Jonathan Majors) reunites his old gang to take his revenge. The film’s casting and aesthetic are well-executed, offering a refreshing take on the long-dormant genre of American Westerns.
13. Prometheus (2012)
Prometheus is a sci-fi thriller by legendary filmmaker Ridley Scott. The film serves as a prequel to Scott’s 1979 horror classic Alien, although the events of the two films are not directly related. Having found a map to the location of the supposed creators of humanity, the crew of the Prometheus search for answers on a distant planet with terrifying creatures lurking just beneath the surface. Elba plays the ship’s captain Janek, spending the bulk of the film on board with Charlize Theron’s character, Meredith Vickers. Although it lacks some of the horror elements of its predecessors, Prometheus successfully revitalized the Alien franchise, spawning a sequel in 2017’s Alien: Covenant.
12. Thor (2011)
Thor is the fourth official installment in the MCU following Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2. Thor’s arrogance and entitlement lead Odin to strip him of his status, casting him down to Earth with the help of Heimdall (played by Elba) as his mischievous brother, Loki, plots to overthrow his father to become ruler of Asgard. The Thor series has undergone arguably the most changes within the MCU, varying drastically in style and tone from movie to movie, but the first Thor is perhaps the truest to form, crafting a dynamic character arc for Thor rather than treating him as a one-dimensional buffoon as is done in later films.
11. The Suicide Squad (2021)
The Suicide Squad is a sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad, this time helmed by Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn. Amanda Waller sends another team of convicts on a secret mission, this time tasked with locating The Thinker, the super-intelligent scientist behind the dangerous Project Starfish. Elba stars as Bloodsport, the spiritual successor to Will Smith’s Deadshot, alongside an ensemble cast of new and returning characters. Gunn puts an emphasis on character interaction, with much of the runtime dedicated to dialogue and development rather than flashbacks and pop music, making for a much more enjoyable and substantive story than its predecessor.
10. Finding Dory (2016)
Finding Dory is a sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo, with writer/director Andrew Stanton returning to both positions. Flipping the script of the first film, Dory, the Blue Tang with short-term memory loss, sets out on an adventure to find her lost parents. Elba is reunited with fellow The Wire star Dominic West in the film, with the two British actors portraying sea lions Fluke and Rudder respectively. Despite being released 13 years after the original, Finding Dory manages to justify its existence with a cast of interesting new characters on a familiar but distinct journey.
9. The Jungle Book (2016)
The Jungle Book is a family adventure movie based on the 1967 animated film by the same name, which is itself based on Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 collection of short stories. Raised by wolves since birth, the young Mowgli goes on an adventure through the jungle, learning valuable life lessons from a cast of jungle animals. Elba plays Shere Khan, a fearsome tiger and the main antagonist of the story. The Disney movie pairs live-action actors with computer-animated characters and scenery, bringing a deeper level of immersion to a classic story.
8. Rocknrolla (2008)
Rocknrolla is an action crime film written and directed by Guy Ritchie. The movie features a star-studded ensemble cast, including Elba, Ton Hardy, and Gerard Butler. The story centers on the London underworld, with a bevy of criminals converging to compete for a piece of a lucrative land deal orchestrated by a Russian billionaire. Although it received mixed reviews upon its initial release, Rocknrolla has since achieved cult status due to its stylish aesthetic and balance of comedic and high-adrenaline action sequences.
7. Molly’s Game (2017)
Molly’s Game is a biographical crime drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin in his directorial debut. The story is based on the life of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran one of the country’s highest-stakes underground poker games for the better part of a decade before being caught. Elba appears as Charlie Jaffey, a high-profile New York lawyer employed by Molly after her arrest. The film is well-executed on all fronts, earning Sorkin an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
6. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Thor: Ragnarok is the third film in the Thor series, this time directed by Jojo Rabbit’s Taika Waititi. When Thor is imprisoned and forced into a gladiatorial contest, he must race against time with the help of some familiar faces to prevent Asgard from being destroyed by his vengeful sister, the Norse Goddess of Death Hela. Elba returns briefly as Heimdall, banished from his position by Loki whilst disguised as Odin. Thor: Ragnarok is perhaps the most outwardly comedic movie in the MCU, setting the stage for the gut-wrenching ending of Avengers: Infinity War the following year.
5. Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (2013)
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a biographical drama based on the autobiography by the late South African President Nelson Mandela. Elba stars in the titular role, chronicling the late activist’s life from his childhood to his 27-year prison sentence and eventual run for political office. Elba gives one of the most standout dramatic performances of his career, earning him his first Golden Globe nomination for a film.
4. Zootopia (2016)
Zootopia (also known as Zootropolis) is an animated buddy-cop comedy from Encanto director Byron Howard. In a metropolis of anthropomorphic animals, a novice bunny cop and a jaded and deceitful fox Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde must team up to address a city-wide conspiracy. Elba plays Chief Bogo, a cape buffalo serving as Zootopia’s chief of police. Zootopia is a deeply layered and considerate film, integrating difficult topics like racial inequality and prejudice into a genuine and light-hearted script.
3. Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Beasts of No Nation is a dramatic war film based on Uzodinma Iweala’s 2005 novel by the same name. As civil war rages in Africa, a fierce warlord trains a young orphan to join his group of guerrilla soldiers. Elba stars as the Commandant, the ruthless leader of The Native Defense Forces rebel battalion. Beasts of No Nation marked the beginning of a shift in how streaming content is received critically, helping to legitimize Netflix original movies and forever changing the way that films are distributed (much to the chagrin of traditional theaters).
2. American Gangster (2007)
American Gangster is a biographical crime film based on Mark Jacobson’s 2000 article for the New. York Times titled “The Return of Superfly”. The story fictionalizes the real-life criminal career of Frank Lucas, a North Carolina Gangster who smuggled heroin into the United States on service planes returning from the Vietnam War. Elba appears alongside a star-studded cast, including Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, and Josh Brolin. Despite receiving some criticism for obscuring reality in the film, American Gangster was a critical and financial success, earning two Oscar nominations and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress.
1. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of 10 years and 18 films in the complete MCU timeline. With the battle against Thanos finally at hand, the Avengers team up once again in an attempt to thwart his plans to destroy half of all life in the universe. Idris Elba reprises his role as Heimdall for the fifth and (as of yet) final time, using the Bifrost to save the Hulk at the cost of his own life. Avengers: Infinity War and subsequently Avengers: Endgame are perhaps the most ambitious and impressive films of a generation, paying off years’ worth of carefully considered stories and closing the chapter on one of the most successful franchises in film history.
Next: Infinity War: Why Heimdall Could Only Send Hulk To Earth
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About The Author
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Ian is a 27 year old from Wisconsin with a lifelong passion for entertainment. Having grown up in music and theater, the ability to work in this industry is a dream come true. Ian enjoys Rick and Morty, Batman, and 63% of Game of Thrones.
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