For years, Idris Elba has cemented himself as one of the most captivating and diverse actors in the industry. His continued success is undoubtedly due to his remarkable versatility. Speculation persists that he may soon become the next James Bond after Daniel Craig departs. Along with his latest venture Hijack, which he also produced, the 50-year-old has portrayed a multitude of characters. From animated police officers to a brilliant criminal mastermind, Idris has been garnering an impressive assortment of awards and nominations in the process. If you’re looking for Idris Elba movies, here are some of his most compelling roles.
7. Shere Khan – The Jungle Book (2016)
Idris Elba showcases his remarkable talent as the voice of Shere Khan in the 2016 remake of Rudyard Kipling’s timeless classic. He artfully evokes Khan’s maliciousness, accentuating his emotions with his signature baritone and conveying a vengeful dialog resplendent with gravity. From their first confrontation, Khan ominously questions Mowgli’s value of life. Favreau’s retelling is a nail-biting escape film as opposed to an animated romp.
6. Heimdall – Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Idris Elba’s portrayal of Heimdall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a masterclass in acting. His take on the All-Seeing guardian of the Bifrost is one of wry humor and confident screen presence. Additionally, his loyalty was often tested by circumstances that required him to commit treason against Odin. For instance, he aided Thor in hiding Jane Foster from Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, driven by a desire to protect Asgard from an even greater danger. Similarly, in Thor: Ragnarok, Elba shines as Heimdall hides the people of Asgard from Hela and works towards reuniting them with Thor. Despite his understated role, Elba left viewers yearning for more of the All-Seeing One until he met his demise in Avengers: Infinity War.
5. Stacker Pentecost – Pacific Rim (2013)
When the future of the world hangs precariously in the balance, who better to call on than Stacker Pentecost? As portrayed by Elba, this resolute leader of the Pan Pacific Defence Corps proves incredibly inspiring. From delivering motivational speeches to channeling an imposing demeanor towards Charlie Hunnam’s Raleigh Becket, Elba masterfully conveys Pentecost’s sense of duty and commitment to saving mankind. Furthermore, the actor’s powerful performance is a perfect foil to Del Toro’s electric, vibrant style, further enhanced by a suave mustache. All in all, this is one of those Idris Elba movies that cements his place as a go-to star for action adventures.
4. Nelson Mandela – Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom (2013)
Idris Elba fearlessly took on the daunting challenge of portraying South Africa’s beloved anti-Apartheid leader and activist Nelson Mandela. To prepare, he spent a night on Robben Island, near the cell where Mandela once served his 27-year imprisonment. In doing so, Elba brought all facets of Mandela’s life to the screen. Through his hard-hitting portrayal, Elba humanized the injustice of Apartheid laws and governance while also commemorating the real-life Mandela. Sadly, on the night of its London premiere, the film became a tribute to Mandela who had passed just hours prior at age 95.
3. Commandant – Beasts Of No Nation (2015)
Idris Elba is a force to be reckoned with in Beasts Of No Nation. As the enigmatic Commandant, he commands the viewer’s attention, delivering an unwavering portrayal of a man consumed by a grizzly war. His presence is both authoritative and monstrous, making a palpable portrayal of the brutality of conflict and exposing its grim reality. Elba seamlessly navigates between a heroic leader and a callous killer, embodying the moral ambiguity inherent in armed struggle. His charisma awakens in us a fear that somehow we are meant to sympathize with this man. On the other hand, our conscience revolts at the atrocities he perpetrates. With an all but unequaled acting prowess, Elba conveys the horror of battle in all its unadulterated cruelty. Undoubtedly, Beasts of No Nation will go down as of the best Idris Elba movies.
2. John Luther – Luther (2010 – 2019)
Idris Elba’s portrayal of DCI John Luther is legendary. His signature style – a grey coat, red tie, and grey shirt – has become emblematic of the beloved detective, who tirelessly navigates crime scenes, criminal underworlds, and an enigmatic relationship with Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson). With wit and moral complexity, Elba masterfully paints a character that consistently teeters between the darkness and the light. Through this iconic role, Elba has cemented his status as a famous figure on British television.
Idris Elba’s unique vocal accent is a treat to behold in the BBC show, allowing him to showcase his captivating tones without alteration. His character, Luther, strikes an interesting contrast between his cool composure and uncompromising wrath—one never knows when he may burst forth with rage, making for a riveting viewing experience.
1. Stringer Bell – The Wire (2002 – 2004)
With immense poise, Idris Elba captivated viewers in The Wire as Stringer Bell – a multifaceted character who strategically directs a drug empire and isn’t afraid to commit lethal deeds. A true visionary, Stringer remains driven to better himself, even while exuding an air of authority far surpassing his nominal rank. Through Elba’s nuanced portrayal, we observe a masterful reflection of strength and insight, making the audience well aware of why this performance became one of Elba’s most iconic. It is no wonder that when most people consider Elba’s acting career, Stringer Bell is among the first characters they recall; such is the excellence of this performance.