Olivia Colman's 12 best movies – from The Father to Hot Fuzz
Showing items 1 to 12 of 12
The Lost Daughter
- Maggie Gyllenhaal
- 122 mins
Forty-something language professor Leda Caruso rents a cottage for a month in a small fishing town in Greece. She is drawn to a mother called Nina, who is visibly struggling to raise a three-year-old daughter without interference. An unspoken bond is forged when little Elena goes missing.How to watch
Why watch The Lost Daughter?:
Colman was nominated for her third Oscar nomination in just four years for her turn in Maggie Gyllenhaal's excellent directorial debut, a smart and thought-provoking adaptation of Elena Ferrante's novel of the same name. And the nod was thoroughly well deserved – Colman turns in another spectacular performance as Leda, a college professor who unexpectedly finds herself confronting her past while on holiday in Greece.
Combining scenes set in the present day with flashbacks to her time as a young mother – which star Jessie Buckley as a younger version of Leda– the film is a consistently gripping and intelligent exploration of motherhood that allows Colman plenty of opportunities to shine. A scene in which she angrily yells at a group of louts for interrupting a showing of a classic movie is one of many highlights.
- Edgar Wright
- 115 mins
Action comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. London policeman Nicholas Angel is reassigned to a sleepy rural village, but soon finds that the big city doesn't have a monopoly on crime.How to watch
Why watch Hot Fuzz?:
Colman had already appeared in a couple of movies before taking a small role in Edgar Wright's terrific comedy – but this is the first film on her CV that can be considered a real hit. She stars as PC Doris Thatcher, the only female police officer working in Sandford, the village where city cop Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is dispatched to by his resentful colleagues.
Compared to some of the films she's gone on to star in since, this is a relatively minor role, but Colman still gives a memorable performance as Thatcher – who enjoys a spot of rather saucy banter with her colleagues – and delivers her raucous lines with all the humour you'd expect.
- Rufus Norris
- 87 mins
Musical based on a true story and adapted from the National Theatre production, starring Olivia Colman and Tom Hardy. Ipswich, 2006: a serial killer is on the loose. As the community becomes the centre of a media frenzy and a paranoid atmosphere pervades where everyone is either a potential victim or suspect, one group of residents refuse to let events drive them apart.How to watch
Why watch London Road?:
Perhaps one of the lesser-known entries in Colman's filmography, London Road is a drama adapted from the National Theatre musical of the same name, set against the backdrop of the murders carried out by serial killer Steve Wright around Ipswich in 2006. Colman stars as Julie, a woman determined to ensure that a group of local residents stick together through the turmoil the killing spree has brought about in their hometown.
The film takes an undoubtedly unconventional approach – the lyrics for several songs are taken from the exact words spoken by real Ipswich locals in interviews – but it brings about good results, even if the film's stage roots are perhaps a little obvious at times. Tom Hardy also stars as a paranoid taxi driver, while other cast members include Anita Dobson, Kate Fleetwood, and Clare Burt.
- Paddy Considine
- 88 mins
Drama starring Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman. After being beaten up by a gang, the angry, bitter Joseph takes refuge at the charity shop where Hannah works. They strike up a tentative rapport, but Hannah has problems of her own that could destroy their chance of friendship.How to watch
Why watch Tyrannosaur?:
This is perhaps Colman's first real knockout performance on the big screen, playing one of the leads in this rather bleak directorial debut from Paddy Considine – with whom she had previously worked on the short film Dog Altogether. She stars as charity shop worker Hannah, who strikes up an intriguing friendship with Peter Mullan's unemployed alcoholic Joseph.
As the film goes on, we slowly learn that Hannah is hiding some real inner demons, and Colman brings the character to life with a stunning, devastating performance that no viewer could forget in a hurry. The film also gave Colman her first taste of awards success, as she picked up the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress – a sign of things to come.
The Iron Lady
- Phyllida Lloyd
- 104 mins
Biographical drama starring Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent. An elderly Margaret Thatcher looks back on her life as she sorts through her late husband's possessions. She reflects on her turbulent political career and how she rose through the ranks of the Conservative Party to become Britain's first female prime minister.How to watch
Why watch The Iron Lady?:
Hot Fuzz is not the only film in which Colman has played a character with the surname Thatcher – and in 2011's The Iron Lady, the actress took on the role of Carol Thatcher, the daughter of former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret (played in the film by Meryl Streep, who picked up an Oscar for her performance).
The film follows the former premier as she reflects on various stages of her adult life, and Colman's performance – along with her aforementioned turn in Tyrannosaur – saw her named as the British Actress of the Year by the London Film Critics' Circle.
- Yorgos Lanthimos
- 114 mins
In a dystopian near-future, the law dictates that single people are taken to a hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in 45 days or be transformed into animals and sent off to live in the woods. Sci-fi comedy drama, starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman and Ben WhishawHow to watch
Why watch The Lobster?:
It was working with Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos that would see Colman pick up her Oscar in 2019, but before that, she played a supporting role in his 2015 film The Lobster – a rather unusual dystopian drama that takes place in a world in which all single people are forced to live in a hotel, where they will be turned into an animal of their choice if they can't find a romantic partner in 45 days.
The film revolves around Colin Farrell's David – one of the new singletons at the hotel – and Colman stars as the hotel manager in charge of enforcing the bizarre rules. Undoubtedly strange but often very amusing, The Lobster is very much a film worth your time – a surrealist satire that's quite unlike anything else.
Murder on the Orient Express
- Kenneth Branagh
- 109 mins
All-star murder mystery starring Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Pfeiffer and Johnny Depp. En route from Istanbul to London, luxury train the Orient Express gets stuck in the snow and one of the passengers is found dead. Everyone on board falls under the suspicion of famed detective Hercule Poirot, but who is the culprit?How to watch
Why watch Murder on the Orient Express?:
Sir Kenneth Branagh brought together a legion of big names for this 2017 adaptation of one of Agatha Christie's most enduring mysteries – with Willem Dafoe, Dame Judi Dench and Penelope Cruz among those in key roles, and Branagh himself taking on the part of esteemed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.
On this occasion, Colman's role isn't one of the more major parts – she plays Hildegarde Schmidt, a German maid and cook – but she still delivers a fine performance that proves she's every bit as comfortable as part of a large ensemble as she is in a leading role. The film itself is enjoyable as well, telling the age-old story in a lavish and engaging fashion.
- Yorgos Lanthimos
- 114 mins
Historical black comedy starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. In 1711, a depressed and sickly Queen Anne has privately ceded most of her political decision-making to her lover, Lady Sarah Churchill. Lady Sarah's penniless cousin Abigail arrives at court and is quickly promoted from scullery maid to Lady of the Bedchamber. So begins an increasingly deranged battle of wills as the two cousins vie for the queen's affections.How to watch
Why watch The Favourite?:
Colman reteamed with Lanthimos for this superb but unorthodox period drama, delivering perhaps the finest performance of her career to date and deservedly picking up an Oscar in the process – leading to a very memorable acceptance speech.
She stars as Queen Anne in the film, which follows the monarch after she falls ill and finds two very different women competing for her attention: her closest aide Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), and Sarah's cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) who has only recently arrived. What follows is a darkly comic chamber piece with three perfectly pitched performances at its centre.
- Florian Zeller
- 97 mins
Anthony lives in his London apartment, where he is visited daily by his daughter Anne, who acts as his caretaker now he is grappling with dementia. He becomes agitated when a different woman enters the flat also claiming to be Anne.How to watch
Why watch The Father?:
Sir Anthony Hopkins won his second Oscar for his performance in this devastating drama from first-time director Florian Zeller – adapted from his stage play of the same name – and while he is very much the main man, Colman is reliably terrific in support, herself gaining several awards nominations.
The film follows Anthony, an elderly man struggling with dementia who out of pride refuses help from his daughter Anne, played by Colman. It's an often disorientating experience that makes brilliant use of production design to place the viewer in the mind of the central character – and what follows is a truly remarkable but undoubtedly heartbreaking piece of work.
The Mitchells vs the Machines
- Michael Rianda
- 109 mins
Animated sci-fi comedy featuring the voices of Abbi Jacobson and Danny McBride. Katie Mitchell is ready to leave for college, but then her fretting father has the bright idea to drive her there himself, and packs the whole family into the car for a cross-country road trip. This enforced bonding experience is somewhat hampered by an robot uprising, as a scheming AI plots to launch every human being into space. Can the family - and the population of Earth - survive?How to watch
Why watch The Mitchells vs the Machines?:
Colman has provided the voices to a fair few animated characters in her career so far, and her role in this hugely enjoyable family film is the pick of the bunch. She voices an Artificially Intelligent robot called PAL, who kickstarts a machine uprising against humans after she is rendered obsolete by her tech entrepreneur creator Mark Bowman.
As the film progresses, it falls to an apparently normal family, the titular Mitchells, to put a stop to PAL's increasingly ruthless revenge mission. Colman is clearly having a lot of fun voicing the rather maniacal villain – perhaps there's a Bond villain role somewhere in her future?
- Eva Husson
- 104 mins
On a warm spring day in 1924, house maid and foundling Jane Fairchild (Odessa Young) finds herself alone on Mother's Day. Her employers, Mr and Mrs Niven (Colin Firth and Olivia Colman), are out and she has the rare chance to spend quality time with her secret lover, Paul (Josh O'Connor).How to watch
Why watch Mothering Sunday?:
One of Colman's most recent turns was in this romantic drama from French director Eva Husson, which premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. Based on the 2016 Graham Swift novel of the same name the film is set in the aftermath of the First World War and tells the story of an orphaned housekeeper named Jane Fairfax (Odessa Young) who spends the titular day with the wealthy man with whom she is having an affair, unbeknown to her employers.
Colman plays Mrs Niven, one of the people for whom Jane works, and is one of many big names in the cast, which also includes Josh O'Connor, Colin Firth, Sope Dirisu, and Glenda Jackson. It's a well-crafted period film that intelligently explores grief and loneliness – another worthy addition to Colman's filmography.
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain
- Will Sharpe
- 111 mins
English artist Louis Wain rises to prominence at the end of the 19th century for his surreal cat paintings, which seem to reflect his declining sanity. Director Will Sharpe's biographical drama, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy, Andrea Riseborough and Toby JonesHow to watch
Why watch The Electrical Life of Louis Wain?:
Colman stars as the unseen narrator in Will Sharpe's quirky biopic of artist Louis Wain – and is just one of many big names to appear in the cast alongside lead Benedict Cumberbatch. Colman's narration is warm and witty and helps to set the scene in the drama, as we learn of the various woes facing the eccentric polymath, who is now most famous for his surreal cat paintings.
The film's incredibly whimsical approach – which matches the eccentricity of the artist being depicted – might not be to everybody's taste, but it found plenty of admirers following its release. And there is an impressive number of famous cameos throughout, from Taika Waititi as newspaper editor Max Kase to Nick Cave as iconic sci-fi writer HG Wells.