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Top 10 Emma Thompson Performances

VO: Richard Bush WRITTEN BY: Georgie Grier
From Jane Austen to Walt Disney, she’s excelled for them all. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Emma Thompson performances. For this list, we’ve gathered the best and most memorable film and TV roles from the much-loved English actress. Special thanks to our user RichardFB for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Emma Thompson Performances


From Jane Austen to Walt Disney, she’s excelled for them all. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Emma Thompson performances.

For this list, we’ve gathered the best and most memorable film and TV roles from the much-loved English actress.

#10: Frances
“The Winter Guest” (1997)


A regular collaborator with Alan Rickman throughout her career, Emma Thompson takes centre stage here - for Rickman’s directorial debut. She plays Frances, a woman who must contend with a visit from her mother (who’s played by Thompson’s real-life mother, Phyllida Law). There’s trouble afoot, emotional turmoil and more than the odd argument, but the pair pin together a movie invested in everyday families, friendships and relationships. And Emma scooped a wave of Indie film award nominations for her work, too.

#9: Vivian Bearing
“Wit” (2001)


Starring in this hard-hitting screen adaptation of a stage play about one woman’s battle with cancer, Thompson reminds us of her immense acting versatility. She takes on the role of Dr Vivian Bearing in her final weeks of life as she undergoes painful treatment for her illness, and reflects on the world around her. The actress gives a tender portrayal of her character’s vulnerability and shows us the importance of kindness and compassion. It’s a lower profile movie than most she’s in, but a must see for any Thompson fans.

#8: Miss Kenton
“The Remains of the Day” (1993)


Nominated for multiple Oscars, this film gained some serious attention, including sincere appreciation for Emma Thompson’s keenly-tuned performance. With Thompson playing Miss Kenton, the housekeeper on an estate in the 1930s, she forms a relationship of sorts with her colleague, a butler named Stevens. But their friendship proves more difficult than first anticipated, as Stevens continually rejects her. And so, Thompson’s warm and endearing character gently battles to make an impression - throughout a frustrating but gripping and spirited story.

#7: Gareth Peirce
“In the Name of the Father” (1993)


For a film based on the true story of the Guildford Four, who were falsely convicted for pub bombings in the ‘70s, Emma plays a supporting role and her amount of screen time is relatively brief. Nevertheless, her infrequent moments provide some welcome injections of hope, in a storyline that’s otherwise quite harrowing. Ultimately, she earned herself a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her performance as Gareth, the lawyer who unearths the game-changing inconsistencies of the case. And while it’s Daniel Day-Lewis who takes the lead, Thompson plays perhaps the most vital character.

#6: Professor Trelawney
The “Harry Potter” Series (2001-11)


Another supporting role, but another stand-out character. As the Divination teacher at Hogwarts, Professor Trelawney, our actress is pretty hard to miss. Although she’s virtually unrecognisable, with thick glasses and back combed hair. And in the few scenes she is in, Trelawney proves entirely unique. From awkward arguments with Hermione Granger, to pivotal prophecies about the Chosen One, she also has an uncanny ability to put her foot in it, providing comic relief with some questionable predictions.

#5: Nanny McPhee
“Nanny McPhee” (2005)


To another unrecognisable role, this time as the children’s governess Nanny McPhee. This family favourite sees her character try to control several children who have driven all previous nannies away - and she is not one to take any prisoners. An expertly delivered, light-hearted role, she eventually transforms from a scary teacher figure into someone the kids learn to trust. There’s magic throughout this story, and this Thompson turn is right at the heart of it.

#4: Karen
“Love Actually” (2003)


This festive fave is famous for its intertwining storylines and stellar cast. But even alongside everyone else, Emma Thompson shines as the Prime Minister’s sister Karen, whose husband goes behind her back with another woman. In one memorable, and completely heartbreaking moment, her realisation hits home for an emotional few minutes, before an equally unbearable confrontation scene. And all of this alongside Alan Rickman again. What a team those two made!

#3: Elinor Dashwood
“Sense and Sensibility” (1995)


Not only did she star in this film, but Thompson also wrote the screenplay, which was of course adapted from the classic Jane Austen novel. All in, it earned her several awards - which isn’t all that surprising. Thompson plays Elinor, a quietly reserved character who’s said to represent the ‘Sense’ part of Austen’s title. But this is no super-stuffy period drama, but a snappy, contemporary take on a classic - with Thompson’s performance proving a driving force for its eventual success.

#2: P.L. Travers
“Saving Mr Banks” (2013)


In this star-studded outing, Emma Thompson plays P.L. Travers, the writer who created Mary Poppins. But, life isn’t such a spoonful of sugar when Travers is faced with a decision on whether to sign away the rights of her precious character and novel to Walt Disney, however. Conveying her character’s inner turmoil, Thompson brings out the tension in different guises, forcing the audience to both dislike Travers and immediately warm towards her. The until-then largely untold story behind one of cinema’s most famous movies, Thompson is a triumph!

#1: Margaret Schlegel
“Howards End” (1992)


Our winner? Emma’s role as the strong-willed Margaret Schlegel, who gets caught up in a saga over an inheritance. And while the film looks at the story across three different families, Emma takes the lead with a multi-layered performance. In the face of adversity, and in between outed secrets and betrayals, Margaret stays determined, sensitive and true to herself. And Thompson’s portrayal took her to the very top of her trade, bagging her an Oscar, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and numerous other awards.
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