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16 Best Anthony Hopkins Movies Ranked

Anthony Hopkins is a living legend and one of the most vivid, unmistakable cinematic figures of the last few decades. His acting prowess even led to him getting a richly deserved knighthood, and that was in 1993, when some of his finest roles were still ahead of him.

Over the years, Hopkins has played both icons and ordinary men, and he's equally good at both. And while one of the most defining roles of his career has shown how well he can horrify us, a deeper dig into his filmography shows that he's also adept at pulling our heartstrings and even making us laugh.

Compiling a best-of list for his career was an intimidating task, but with his Best Actor Oscar win, we couldn't pass up the chance to revisit his impressive — and astonishingly varied — body of work. He's worked so long and so successfully that even with a top 16, there are still some gems we couldn't manage to include. We can't think of a better tribute to an actor than that.

16. 84 Charing Cross Road

If you're a book lover who just wants to soak up the feeling of being in a bookstore for an hour or two, bringing in that dusty old book smell, then "84 Charing Cross Road" might be the movie for you. The film explores the real-life, long-distance friendship between New Yorker Helene Hanff (Anne Bancroft) and Londoner Frank Doel (Anthony Hopkins). Despite the ocean between them, the two strike up a long and close friendship — bordering on a quiet romance — via letters, all while bonding over their mutual fondness for classic books.

"84 Charing Cross Road" is the kind of low-key, bookish movie you have to be in a particular mood for. Don't expect action, just warmhearted and genteel conversation. But if that hits the spot — or if you've ever had a close pen pal of your own — you'll fall under the film's sweet spell. Variety gave it a glowing review, calling it "an uncommonly and sweetly civilized adult romance between two transatlantic correspondents who never meet" and "an appealing film on several counts." Time Out praised Hopkins' performance as a "staid, shy family man" whose reality helped make the film hit home.

A lot of Hopkins' roles go big, and it's hard to do "big" better than Anthony Hopkins. But this movie, and others like it, remind us of how superb and emotionally affecting he can be when he goes small.

15. Magic

Horror has given us plenty of creepy dummy movies — understandably — but 1978's "Magic" is one of the best and weirdest. The film tells the story of aspiring magician Corky (Anthony Hopkins), who suffers from debilitating shyness on stage until he gets himself a gimmick — a crude, wisecracking dummy he calls Fats. Corky is officially a sensation, and he's offered the chance at his own TV show. He's even reconnecting with an old flame (Ann-Margret). But Corky's success is just a thin veneer over his growing instability because the truth is, he can't control Fats. Fats is controlling him.

The result is a wild ride of a psychological horror film — and one of Hopkins' finest performances. The more Corky unravels, and the blurrier the line between him and Fats becomes, the more Hopkins shines. Few actors can pull off this kind of nail-biting mental disintegration. Corky is as emotionally affecting as he is terrifying, with Hopkins portraying his need for Fats as something like an overwhelming addiction. When Hopkins goes one-on-one with the equally great Burgess Meredith, who plays Corky's agent, the movie is almost hypnotically compelling.

In a retrospective review, Film Threat concentrated on the greatness of Hopkins' performance, saying, "With Hopkins' eyes, there are moments allowed for close-ups and in watching Hopkins closely enough, he makes obvious the staggering future ahead of him circa 1978. ... [It] is those moments that bring 'Magic' to a level barely felt in today's thrillers."

14. The World's Fastest Indian

"The World's Fastest Indian" is a sports movie with a twist. Anthony Hopkins stars as Burt Munro, a real-life New Zealand man who had a gift for breaking records with his souped-up vintage motorcycle. If it's hard to picture Hopkins — especially in his late 60s — astride a death-defying motorcycle, rest assured, that's part of the appeal of this big-hearted and quirky film. Against his doctor's advice, Burt makes the journey to race at the Bonneville Salt Flats, running into a motley assortment of characters who all work together to form a kind of oddball support system. If you need your faith in humanity restored, this is the movie for you.

And Hopkins turns in an incredible performance. It's so good, in fact, that New Zealanders could forgive him for his never-quite-right accent. His pronunciation is off, but he gets everything else right. According to Peter Calder of The New Zealand Herald, "Hopkins has said he hasn't enjoyed a film as much, and he shows it, turning in a generous, genial and utterly approachable performance. ... [He] has inhaled the nature of a mid-century Kiwi bloody good bloke, and he inhabits the part to perfection."

13. The Mask of Zorro

Released in 1998, "The Mask of Zorro" rebooted the classic adventure hero Zorro, a masked swordsman who defends the innocent and looks dashing while doing it. "The Mask of Zorro" splits the hero's adventures in two, with the original Zorro, Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins), training his successor, Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas).

There's no way you should pass up a chance to see a swashbuckling Anthony Hopkins. "The Mask of Zorro" is a lot of nostalgic fun in its own right, especially if you love old-fashioned swordplay, but it's especially great as an unusual showcase for Hopkins, who — as usual — makes the most of his role. Entertainment Weekly had nothing but praise for his work as the older Zorro, saying, "Hopkins, once again tackling the most outlandish of character roles and making the work look like fun, conveys contemplative elegance and maturity, everything one could want in a mentor."

And it seems like Hopkins had a blast with the role and its unusual opportunities. After doing a lot of elevated action, sometimes you just want to swing from a chandelier and brush up on your fencing. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, director Martin Campbell claims Hopkins told him, "'I'm fed up with those Merchant-Ivory-type numbers where you're dead from the knees up. I want to do a two-hour popcorn movie.'" The result is a genuine treat.

12. The Two Popes

We understand if "The Two Popes" didn't immediately sound like a must-watch. It's a high-minded slice of recent history that doubles as a mini-biopic of two different popes. It doesn't scream "popcorn movie." But the film is lively, funny, and engrossing. It was a surprise hit at the Telluride Film Festival, where, as Variety says, viewers went in expecting a "heavy dissertation on religion and morality," only to be pleasantly surprised and come out cheerfully speculating about possible Oscar nominations.

The New York Times' A.O. Scott says the film makes for "a subtle and engaging double portrait that touches on complicated matters of faith, ambition, and moral responsibility." All that and funny? We're sold. Scott's review also praises Anthony Hopkins' performance as Pope Benedict XVI, saying, "[He] stealthily does some of his craftiest acting in years. He mutters and whispers, sighs and fidgets, and turns Benedict from a presumed villain into an almost tragic figure, a brilliant theoretical mind tethered to a complex and troubled soul." 

Hopkins is often a master of scene-stealing hamminess, as Scott notes, but he's equally great — and equally memorable — in quieter roles. His career has thankfully brought him plenty of opportunities to show off both skill sets, and it's always good to have another reminder of his incredible range.

11. Legends of the Fall

"Legends of the Fall" is hard to categorize. Is it a Western? A historical drama? A romance? It can be easily watched as any of these, and it probably partly depends on which character you focus on the most. This family saga follows the Ludlows — Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins), the patriarch who rebuilds his life in rural Montana, and his three sons, Alfred (Aidan Quinn), Samuel (Henry Thomas), and Tristan (Brad Pitt). They live highly dramatic and sometimes grisly lives, making for a rich exploration of frontier America.

The film received mixed reviews on its original release, but it's been reappraised as showcasing one of the best films that melodrama — highly emotional and full of deliberate extremes — has to offer. The site 25 Years Later deemed it "a prime example of melodrama done with ardent creative commitment and brawny will that does not lose a hair of its emotional weight through epic storytelling." It wants to do everything, and it comes pretty close, offering some quintessential movie and storytelling pleasures. It's the kind of thing that never goes out of style.

Hopkins excels in the movie, offering what Roger Ebert calls "one of those strange Anthony Hopkins performances that steals every scene with its air of brooding, motionless menace." He has exactly the right presence to both match the film's passionate grandeur and give it a unique twist all his own.

10. Titus

One of Shakespeare's stranger, darker plays, "Titus Andronicus" supplies the framework for Julie Taymor's 1999 "Titus." This is Shakespeare made surreal, and it's an inventive and thoroughly unforgettable experience. Anthony Hopkins plays Titus, a Roman general whose success unravels spectacularly and horrifically under the forceful revenge plot of Tamora (Jessica Lange), whose son Titus executed. Titus and Tamora clash on an epic scale, resulting in a bloody tapestry of murder, rape, mutilation, amputation, and forced cannibalism.

If you can stomach all that brutality, "Titus" is truly awe-inspiring. As Scott Tobias at The A.V. Club said, "Bold and decadent, 'Titus' is built on jarring and darkly comic juxtapositions, colliding the past with the present, garishness with serene poetry, and wild excess with chilly aestheticism." It's a lot to take in, but if you like your movies dark, weird, and over-the-top, they don't get much better than this. And with all that in mind, Hopkins' casting is, as Roger Ebert pointed out, essential. Taymor needed someone who could nail the corrupt, wild Shakespearean grandeur ... and carry with him a cannibalistic alter-ego to acknowledge the bad taste of it all up front. Ebert saw plenty of parallels between Titus and Hopkins' most famous role, saying, "Hopkins plays him, like Hannibal Lecter, as a man pitiable, intelligent, and depraved."

It's a lot to take in, but "Titus" makes it all work, even if it might be a film you can't watch more than once.

9. The Lion in Winter

Released in 1968, "The Lion in Winter" is a grand but intimate (and suitably muddy) historical film dealing with succession and squabbling among the adult children of flawed monarchs King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) and Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katherine Hepburn). The movie offered Anthony Hopkins his first big role, giving him the chance to play the legendary Richard the Lionheart.

Combining the feel of a luxurious history with the grubby reality of England in 1183, "The Lion in Winter" gives you a ton of traditional soap opera-like satisfaction and — considering the time all this plotting is going on — makes for an unusual but great Christmas movie. Renata Adler with The New York Times described the acting as "joyful and solid," and in what's practically his first time on the big screen, it's remarkable that Hopkins manages to ably hold his own alongside powerhouses like O'Toole and Hepburn. And his role has aged well, with Richard's desire for Philip II (Timothy Dalton) presented without it taking away his dignity — a rarity in '68 and for a number of years after that.

Snappy, razor-sharp dialogue and tons of screen presence make "The Lion in Winter" a lasting favorite, and it certainly gave Hopkins a terrific character to mark his first major role.

8. King Lear

A BBC-Amazon collaboration, 2018's "King Lear" gives us Anthony Hopkins at his most Shakespearean, and that's something no one should miss. The production brings this story of kingship, fathers, daughters, inheritances, and feuds into a kind of contemporary dystopia, evoking dread and making it feel all too relatable. Here, Lear's kingdom is a military dictatorship ruled over with exercises of raw power, which makes it all the more dangerous when that power begins to slip.

Lear feels like one of the roles Hopkins was always meant to play, so it's no surprise that he's absolutely riveting in the part. Writing for The Guardian, Sam Wollaston says, "Now 80 himself, the right age, Hopkins is at home in Lear's skin. Shouty, angry, cruel one moment; vulnerable, tender, loving the next –- or at the same time. A mesmerizing performance." His tremendous work is supported by excellent turns from his high caliber co-stars — frequent collaborator Emma Thompson, Emily Watson, Florence Pugh, Jim Broadbent, Tobias Menzies, and Christopher Eccleston, among others.

Productions like this one — creatively adapted, cinematic, and complete with an all-star cast — prove that there's always a good reason to come back to Shakespeare. The classics never get old.

7. Thor: Ragnarok

After the slightly lackluster reception of "Thor: The Dark World," "Ragnarok" rejuvenated the franchise, adding a lightning bolt of color and humor while still delivering plenty of grand mythic feeling. There's nothing like a climactic battle scene set on Asgard's Rainbow Bridge and scored to Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song."

And critics agreed that "Ragnarok" was a winner. Empire's James Dyer speaks for us all, saying, "Like a cosmic fever dream, "'Ragnarok' is a disorientating cocktail of riotous color and batty antics. .... Roll with this and you'll discover not only a top-tier addition to the MCU but one of the most flat-out enjoyable comedies of the year."

And Hopkins' Odin is undeniably part of the movie's greatness. The first two "Thor" movies gave Anthony Hopkins some great opportunities for both bombast and genuine emotion — he really brings Shakespeare to the MCU. But in "Ragnarok," he gets to change the scale of his performance as Odin. It shows how perfectly Hopkins can calibrate himself for a role. Whether director Taika Waititi goes irreverently funny or quietly human, Hopkins follows him. 

As Loki-as-Odin, he's downright hilarious and even gets one of the film's best laugh lines when he reacts to Thor's unexpected homecoming. And as a dying father saying goodbye to his sons — while dropping another enormous secret on them — he's quietly heartbreaking. The end result is that even when he's playing a myth, Hopkins delivers a nuanced and human performance.

6. Howards End

"Howards End" is a masterfully crafted adaptation of E.M. Forster's classic novel. Social classes collide when Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave) decides on her deathbed to leave her home, Howards End, to the genteel but impoverished Margaret (Emma Thompson). But Ruth's business-minded husband, Henry (Anthony Hopkins), has no intention of fulfilling her wish. Instead, rationalizing all of it away, he remarries ... to Margaret. Basically the same thing, right? Meanwhile, Margaret's impetuous, idealistic sister, Helen (Helena Bonham Carter), also crosses social lines in befriending and developing feelings for a struggling class clerk, Leonard (Samuel West), which puts her at odds with Henry.

The film could easily be staid, with its luxury and prestige freezing it in place. But instead, it's moving and well-paced. As Roger Ebert wrote, "That the characters are generally well-behaved says less about their manners than their inhibitions." There is real savagery here, and the actors make sure the hypocrisy on display strings as much as it should.

"Howards End" received nearly universal critical acclaim, garnering nine Oscar nominations and three wins. And reviews often made special mention of Hopkins' performance as the tragic near-villain of the piece, a very human man whose flaws wind up causing great harm. Vincent Canby with The New York Times said, "Mr. Hopkins is splendid and easy as the Edwardian era's equivalent to a corporate raider, outwardly tough and willful but, at heart, almost fatally fragile." That contrast between appearance and reality is at the core of "Howards End," which is really a must-see.

5. The Remains of the Day

"The Remains of the Day" digs deep into the inner life of a classic English figure most often seen only in the background — the butler. Anthony Hopkins plays Stevens, a long-term servant at Darlington Hall, now in the twilight of his life. He's seen enormous changes over the course of his career, and the heyday of the elegant, supremely professional service he prizes is now in the past. His trip through the English countryside — on a meandering journey to ask Darlington Hall's one-time housekeeper, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), to return — causes him to reminisce about his life, which is one of declined offers and unmade moral stands and which may have been ill-spent.

Bittersweet and elegiac, "The Remains of the Day" is a quietly moving and profound look at the history of both the world and of one very narrowly focused man in particular. This kind of thoughtful movie lives and dies by its lead performance. Luckily for us, it's in Hopkins' careful hands. The Hollywood Reporter called his performance "truly colossal" and a "tour de force ... which is largely achieved through his penetrating eyes, body language and facial expressions." The end result is a complex and layered film that, without much in the way of actual plot, nevertheless gets at both the heart and the mind and leaves an indelible impression.

4. Shadowlands

Elegant, well-acted, and full of emotion, "Shadowlands" follows the unusual and heartfelt love story between "Chronicles of Narnia" writer C.S. "Jack" Lewis and his wife, Joy Davidman Gresham (Debra Winger). The romance comes along unexpectedly, when Jack is already settled in his comfortable life as a long-time bachelor, and it throws him for a loop. And before he can even realize he loves her, her cancer diagnosis tests all his beliefs about God and the meaning of suffering.

Hopkins turns in a masterful performance as C.S. Lewis, with Variety saying, "Hopkins adds another laurel to his recent achievements. As always, there's music in his speech, and nothing is over-deliberate or forced about his acting." The New York Times second that, calling him "simply wonderful" and saying that his performance offers "a model of clipped diction and veiled affection during most of the film," but it "becomes desperately intense in those portions of the film that deal with grief." His crumbling sense of reserve provides the movie's emotional core. As much as "Shadowlands" is a tragic romance, it's also a story of how necessary it can be to let your heart finally take the lead. You open yourself up to a lot of suffering when you love, but "Shadowlands" shows how taking that risk makes Hopkins' Jack more human.

3. The Father

The year 2020 was already emotionally wrenching in its own right — and then came "The Father," Florian Zeller's exquisite and unflinching story of an elderly man whose mind is slipping away from him. Anthony Hopkins plays Anthony, who's succumbing to dementia, and the film puts viewers inside his unreliable, agonizingly malleable perspective. The results are vivid ... and unbelievably hard to watch.

The film wouldn't be possible without one of Anthony Hopkins' all-time best performances. This is a movie that lives and dies by how well it evokes Anthony's state of mind, and a lesser actor would be lost in the role. Hopkins is anything but. Writing for Variety, Owen Gleiberman says, "Hopkins is flat-out stunning. He acts, for a while, with grizzled charm and roaring certainty, but the quality that holds his performance together, and begins to take it over, is a cosmic confusion laced with terror. Anthony is losing more than his memory — he's losing himself. The triumph of Hopkins' acting is that even as he does, you're right there with him."

Even against stiff competition, Hopkins took home the 2020 Best Actor Oscar for his work as Anthony. He might be nearing the end of his career, but he's rarely been better. His success in the role speaks to his incredible longevity as an actor — many of his greatest roles came to him after other, less tireless performers might have bowed out. "The Father" might be especially poignant as a swan song, but even as just another jewel in Hopkins' crown, it has plenty of luster.

2. The Elephant Man

One of legendary director David Lynch's best — and most accessible — films, "The Elephant Man" is a compassionate, aching, and beautifully shot look at the fraught life of John Merrick (John Hurt), a Victorian man whose life is shaped by his severe deformities. Merrick is on exhibit in a freak show, imprisoned and abused, when he attracts the attention of surgeon Frederick Treves (Hopkins). Treves wants to study Merrick ... and sometimes the attention of the medical world feels like just a slightly more reputable version of the freak show.

Treves is one of Hopkins' best roles, and Hopkins especially excels at showing the surgeon's growing crisis of conscience over whether, despite his good intentions, he's just another one of Merrick's ringmasters. Pauline Kael described his work as an "unexpectedly crisp, highly varied performance — the kind you respect an actor for." And Hopkins and Hurt play off each other so well here that we wish they'd collaborated more often.

And, of course, the film is incredibly powerful. Lynch doesn't mine his story for cheap sentiment but produces something genuine and graceful instead. As Slant notes, "Lynch shows ... restraint in staging the narrative's emotional crescendos. ... He understands that Merrick's story is inherently heartbreaking and frequently ends scenes the second they reach a catharsis, without wallowing in aggrandizing joy or misery. This strategy allows us to savor the fleetingness, the value, of each of Merrick's lovely encounters." It's a movie we're sure will stay with you for a long time.

1. The Silence of the Lambs

Cannibalistic psychologist Hannibal Lecter is one of the best bad guys around — charismatic, manipulative, brilliant, and terrifying. And we've had a couple of excellent Hannibal performances from great actors like Brian Cox ("Manhunter") and Mads Mikkelsen (TV's "Hannibal"). But you can't get more iconic than Anthony Hopkins in "Silence of the Lambs." 

From the moment Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) sees him standing in his cell, already attuned to her presence, we're hooked. Hopkins took home an Academy Award for Best Actor for a film where he had only 16 minutes of screen time ... and no one who's seen "Silence of the Lambs" would object to that. He doesn't need any more time than that to leave an absolutely unforgettable impression. Hopkins' Hannibal provides some of our best movie memories — his delivery on the phrase "a nice Chianti" is unforgettable, for one thing — and fuel for some of our darkest nightmares.

And even outside of Hopkins, "The Silence of the Lambs" is an incredibly well-made film. Our growing understanding of trans issues has made the film's legacy a complicated one, and trans critics like Harmony Colangelo have examined the troubling portrayal of Ted Levine's Buffalo Bill. But much of the film holds up well — Clarice remains one of the most beloved female characters in the movies — and provides plenty of gripping horror. Hopkins' Hannibal is even enshrined as the American Film Institute's all-time best villain. Which is good, because if there's one person you don't want to offend, it's Hannibal Lecter.