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Top 10 Idris Elba Performances

Written by JJ Heaton He’s been a cop and a criminal, a martyr and a tyrant, and fought off gods and kaiju. Is there anything he can’t do? Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top Ten Idris Elba Performances. For this list, we’ll be highlighting the greatest and most memorable performances from British actor Idris Elba, from dramatic war epics to playful animation. Special thanks to our users drewbrown, Jesús M. Soto González, Ruston BlackBatman Henry, Andrew A. Dennison, Andrew A. Dennison, Jordan Collins, Asiimov, Deathmatch1959 and Andrew A. Dennison for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 Idris Elba Performances

He’s been a cop and a criminal, a martyr and a tyrant, and fought off gods and kaiju. Is there anything he can’t do? Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top Ten Idris Elba Performances.

For this list, we’ll be highlighting the greatest and most memorable performances from British actor Idris Elba, from dramatic war epics to playful animation.

#10: Captain Janek
“Prometheus” (2012)

In this divisive prequel to the “Alien” saga, Elba takes on the role of Janek, captain of the titular ship Prometheus. Though confined to the ship for much of the runtime, Janek remains a charismatic presence throughout, mainly thanks to Elba’s own natural charm. The way he effortlessly seduces the glacial Vickers is both sweet and amusing, but he also shows his noble side in his willingness to sacrifice the ship for the good of mankind. Prometheus certainly has its dumb characters, but Janek isn’t one of them.

#9: Heimdall
“Marvel Cinematic Universe” (2008-present)

As with most casting decisions of its ilk, there was some furor on the internet when Idris Elba was cast as the Norse god Heimdall in the first Thor movie. However, audiences were quickly swayed by Elba’s performance, and he’s since become a memorable supporting player in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the stalwart guardian of the Bifrost Bridge, Heimdall has proven himself as both a wise mentor to Thor and a cunning warrior who protects Asgard at all costs. He may not boast leading credits here, but he’s a presence to be reckoned with when on screen.

#8: Stacker Pentecost
“Pacific Rim” (2013)

Acting seriously in a movie about giant mechs fighting against super-sized monsters can be a difficult task, but Idris proves he knows what he’s doing. Playing the wonderfully-named Stacker Pentecost, Elba commands the screen as the commanding officer of the Jaeger Initiative. A role that could have easily fallen into cliche, Elba gives the role some flavour thanks to his father-daughter dynamic with Mako Mori, and after sitting on the sidelines for the whole movie, he finally joins the action for the climactic underwater showdown with the kaiju. Also, he gets to deliver the best motivational speech this side of “Independence Day”.

#7: Krall
“Star Trek Beyond” (2016)

Playing the bad guy in a Star Trek movie is a dream come true for many actors, and a chance to join such classic adversaries as Ricardo Montalban, Christopher Lloyd and Christopher Plummer. Though unrecognisable for much of the film under heavy make-up, Idris Elba’s performance as the devious Krall shines through, making him one of the most memorable original Trek villains in years. His obsession with destroying the Federation is all-consuming, and the final reveal of his true identity shows his motivations don’t come from a place of complete evil. He’s an antagonist that reflects our age, and a suitable foe for our modern Enterprise crew to tackle.

#6: Shere Khan
“The Jungle Book” (2016)

Shere Khan is of the most memorable Disney villains ever, appearing in the original 1967 animated film “The Jungle Book”, mainly thanks to the wonderful voice work of George Sanders. For the 2016 remake, Idris Elba had some big shoes to fill, and he did so with gusto. Bringing more of a foreboding menace to the antagonistic tiger, the new Shere Khan feels like a genuine threat to Mowgli’s life, and Elba’s menacing voice is a huge part of that. Bringing fear to every animal he crosses paths with, this performance certainly makes a rare case for the reinterpretation being superior to the original.

#5: Nelson Mandela
“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (2013)

Playing such a beloved real-life figure like Nelson Mandela would be difficult for any actor, especially coming on the heels of Morgan Freeman’s memorable portrayal of the politician and activist in the 2009 sports drama “Invictus”. Though the film itself received a mixed reception, Idris Elba’s portrayal of Mandela in “Long Walk to Freedom” was widely praised and earned him a Golden Globe nomination in 2014. Covering Mandela’s whole life rather than any one specific moment, the film and Elba’s performance is given extra weight by the fact that Mandela himself tragically passed away mere days after its theatrical release in his native South Africa.

#4: Chief Bogo
“Zootropolis” (2016)

2016 was a big year for Idris Elba and voice acting. Although starring as the aforementioned Shere Khan in “The Jungle Book” and Fluke in Pixar’s “Finding Dory”, it was his performance in “Zootropolis” as the police chief Bogo that shined brightest. Taking on the typical angry chief role in this animated take on the buddy cop film, Elba manages to balance that fine line between being an entertaining cartoon character and giving a genuine and insightful performance. Like many of the characters in the film, Bogo proves himself to be more than just the angry buffalo he appears to be.

#3: Commandant
“Beasts of No Nation” (2015)

Many were shocked in 2016 when Idris Elba failed to receive an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the Commandant in this moving war drama. Playing the charismatic but threatening leader of an army of West African child soldiers, Elba’s performance helps carry the film’s mostly unknown cast of child actors and makes for a truly menacing mentor figure to the young protagonist Agu. The Academy may have flubbed, but Elba didn’t fail to receive his accolades elsewhere. He went on to receive Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for his performance, as well as winning the Screen Actors’ Guild award for Best Supporting Actor.

#2: Russell “Stringer” Bell
“The Wire” (2002-2008)

Idris Elba has been a working actor in the UK since the mid 90s, but it wasn’t until 2002 that he got his big breakout role in this landmark HBO crime drama. Starting the series as second-in-command to drug kingpin Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell soon moves up the ranks and legitimizes the narcotics empire during Avon’s imprisonment. Loosely based on real-life drug trader turned businessman Kenneth A. Johnson, Bell further protects his illegitimate dealings through money laundering and gaining political influence with major players in Baltimore, proving himself to be more than just another street criminal. Elba’s portrayal of him left a lasting impact on the series and helped jumpstart the actor’s career to stardom.

#1: DCI John Luther
“Luther” (2010-present)

Now operating on the opposite side of the law, Elba’s role as the obsessive and morally-dubious detective John Luther in this BBC crime drama finally allowed the actor to prove himself in the spotlight. The beleaguered and fanatical cop is hardly new to the genre, but Elba’s take on the character gives the trope a new life, elevating what could have been just another murder mystery series into something memorable. His troublesome relationship with psychopathic frenemy Alice Morgan only adds to Luther’s complex morality, finding himself more and more consumed by the dark world his job requires him to live in.

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