Greatest Judi Dench Movies Ranked Worst To Best

Dame Judi Dench is one of the world's greatest living actors. She's been on screens big and small, acted her way through countless stage productions, and even lent her talents to the occasional voice-over booth throughout the years. Over and over again, Dench has proven that there's nothing she can't do.

Of course, no actor has a perfect track record, and Dench has starred in her fair share of film flops, but even the messiest movies are elevated by her presence on the screen. Whether she's trying to add some dignity to an ill-advised take on "Cats" or winning an Oscar with an eight-minute performance in "Shakespeare in Love," it's impossible to watch Dench and not be impressed.

Judi Dench has played wealthy socialites, starving artists, multiple English Queens, and even a fairy police captain. With every performance, she reminds audiences why she's one of the acting world's greatest treasures. Here are all of her film roles ranked from worst to best.

51. Artemis Fowl

This adaptation of Eoin Colfer's beloved young adult novel might be the biggest critical flop that Judi Dench has ever had a hand in. Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) is a young criminal mastermind who's discovered an underground society of fairies and other magical creatures living beneath Ireland. Believing the fairies may be involved with his father's disappearance, Artemis launches a battle against their forces, which are led by Commander Julius Root (Dench) of the Lower Elements Police.

"Artemis Fowl" saw its opening shifted by the COVID-19 pandemic when Disney opted to put it on Disney+ rather than screening it in theaters (via Variety). Unfortunately, a theatrical release likely wouldn't have helped this film perform any better. It currently holds an 8% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics agreeing that the film "will anger fans of the source material and leave newcomers befuddled." What could have been the start of a new franchise turned out to be a total flop. Dench at least received praise for the "mischievous glint in her eyes," which were the film's "only nod to irony and self-awareness." 

50. Cats

Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic musical premiered in 1981 and has since become one of the best-known and highly regarded Broadway musicals of all time. Tom Hooper's film adaptation, released in 2019, will likely be remembered, too, but for all the wrong reasons. The film cost $95 million to make, and it brought in not quite $74 million at the global box office (via Box Office Mojo). According to Rotten Tomatoes, critics hated the film, and audiences weren't too impressed either. In fact, it was so bizarre that people took to Twitter en masse to dunk on it.  

The plot of "Cats," such as it is, follows a group of so-called Jellicle cats who are gathering for the annual Jellicle ball. Each of the cats sings a story about their life. Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) chooses the best song. Whoever wins the competition is given a chance at a new life. Nothing about "Cats" makes too much sense, and the film replaces the spectacle of a stage performance with a difficult-to-look-at CGI explosion. It brought Dench the honor of her very first Razzie nomination. 

49. Dead Cert

Dick Francis published his mystery novel "Dead Cert" in 1962. This 1974 film is an adaptation of that book that stars Scott Antony, Ian Hogg, and Judi Dench. Bill Davidson (Hogg) dies from severe injuries after his horse collapses mid-race. Davidson's friend Alan (Antony) suspects that the horse may have been drugged by people who'd bet against Davidson in the race. Alan turns to Davidson's widow, Laura (Dench), for help in getting to the bottom of the situation.

Francis' novel never became a sensation, and the same can be said of the film adaptation. While "Dead Cert" has the elements of a great mystery movie, including strong lead performers, the parts fail to cohere. IMDb users gave the film only a 4.9-star rating (out of 10), so for anyone not in desperate need of a horse-centered mystery flick, "Dead Cert" is probably worth skipping.

48. Saigon: Year of the Cat

The 1983 TV movie was directed by Stephen Frears and dramatizes events leading up to the fall of Saigon in 1975. Judi Dench stars as British foreign banker Barbara Dean. While managing a bank in Saigon, Barbara strikes up a relationship with American Bob Chesneau, played by Frederic Forrest. Barbara slowly begins to realize that her new romantic partner is actually a CIA operative and that the city of Saigon may not have much time left.

"Saigon: Year of the Cat" is a largely forgotten Dench film at this point. Despite receiving five BAFTA nominations upon its release, the film has had little staying power. IMDb users have given it a rating of 5.7 out of 10. For fans of wartime romances, it's definitely still worth a watch.

47. Four in the Morning

The 1965 film marked the first leading role in a feature film for Judi Dench. She impressed audiences from the get-go, winning the BAFTA for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Role. The film, which was written and directed by Anthony Simmons, splits its focus between two unnamed couples. An older married couple is expecting a child, and a younger couple is hoping to make the best of London's music scene. All four of them find their lives intertwined when a young girl's body is discovered in the Thames.

"Four in the Morning" is a satisfying, if dated, mystery movie. IMDb users have given the film a lukewarm reception. It currently sits at a rating of just 6.2 stars out of 10. Still, for major Dench fans, seeing her first leading performance is a must. It was obvious even from this point in Dench's career that she was destined for success.

46. The Cherry Orchard

In 1981, Judi Dench starred in a TV movie based on a stage production of the same name written by famed Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. The story's focus on class struggles has kept it relevant for decades after its original publication. Madame Ranevsky (Dench) returns to her family estate after defaulting on the mortgage to take one last walk down memory lane before it's gone forever. Lopakhin (Bill Paterson) was once Madame Ranevsky's servant, but has now become a wealthy merchant with his eyes on owning the estate, which includes the titular cherry orchard.

Dench won a BAFTA for Best Actress for her work in the film. Watching "The Cherry Orchard" on the small screen doesn't quite live up to the experience of seeing it performed live, but there's no denying the joy of watching one of the greatest actresses of a generation taking on material from one of history's greatest playwrights. IMDb users gave the film a 6.6 rating.

45. Tulip Fever

This period-piece romantic drama was based on a novel of the same name by Deborah Moggach. The story takes place in 17th-century Netherlands. Dane DeHaan stars as a young artist who falls in love with the aristocratic Sophia Sandvoort (Alicia Vikander) when he's commissioned to paint her portrait. Judi Dench has a small supporting role as an abbess with connections to both DeHaan's and Vikander's characters.

"Tulip Fever" debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015, but production on the film began as far back as 2004 (via The Atlantic). It would take another two years after Cannes for the film to see wide release, and when that happened the movie failed to make a big splash. It holds a 6.2 rating on IMDb, but it bombed at the box office and critics lambasted the film, giving it just a 10% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

44. Blithe Spirit

2020 wasn't the first time that audiences had the opportunity to enjoy the story of "Blithe Spirit." The film is based on a 1941 play of the same name written by Noël Coward, which received a film adaptation in 1945. The latest edition was directed by Edward Hall and stars Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, and Judi Dench. Despite the star power, "Blithe Spirit" failed to impress, with only 28% of critics giving the film a positive rating, according to Rotten Tomatoes (it fared a little better on IMDb, with a 5.2 rating).

In the film, Charles Condomine (Stevens) is a writer short on material for his next book. Getting desperate, he and his wife, played by Fisher, decide to hold a seance to gather ideas. Medium Madame Arcati (Dench) arrives to perform the seance, but she ends up contacting Condomine's late wife, and the couple now has to contend with a ghostly love triangle. "Blithe Spirit" is a wacky and hilarious comedy, even if the 2020 film doesn't perfectly capture the beats of the original play.

43. A Handful of Dust

Based on a 1934 novel of the same name by Evelyn Waugh, "A Handful of Dust" tells the story of a wealthy English couple unraveling. Brenda Last (Kristin Scott Thomas) begins an affair with John Beaver (Rupert Graves), whose mother, played by Judi Dench, pushes for Brenda to divorce her husband to win money for the new couple. Tony Last (James Wilby) decides to travel to Brazil before finalizing the divorce, but he never returns. Without money coming his way, John abandons the affair.

"A Handful of Dust" is an odd combination of romantic drama, thriller, and satire. The plot is messy, but the performances in the movie help carry it along. Dench won the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for her small role in the film, and it wouldn't be the last time she pulled a win with minimal screen time. Users rated the film a 6.6 on IMDb.

42. Rage

Sally Potter's "Rage" stands out from the crowd. The film follows a fashion blogger performing interviews with industry bigwigs on a cell phone. The movie itself was first released in segments online and on cell phones. That decision is especially bold considering the film was first released in 2009, just a couple of years after the iPhone made its debut. As more characters from the fashion world are introduced, including a critic played by Judi Dench, the plot slowly becomes a murder mystery.

"Rage" is an uneasy mix of drama and satire. The film's attempt at black comedy will certainly amuse some, but most audience members and critics weren't impressed. Potter's film has just a 38% approval rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and audiences weren't much happier, giving the film a 40% rating. It may be unique, but "Rage" isn't necessarily a must-watch.

41. A Midsummer Night's Dream

This filmed take on one of Shakespeare's classics aired on television in 1968 and won itself a Primetime Emmy nomination. Directed by Peter Hall, the film didn't stray too far from what one would expect to see in a stage production. Derek Godfrey and Barbara Jefford starred in the lead roles. Judi Dench, who was well on her way to becoming one of the most recognizable leading ladies in film, made a memorable appearance as Titania, Queen of the Fairies.

There's not much in terms of innovation to find here, but the classic sets and costumes conjure up the perfect atmosphere for this surreal and somewhat comedic tale. Any fans of Shakespeare or old black-and-white movies will find themselves right at home in this production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." On the other hand, for those who usually avoid the Bard, this likely isn't a film that will change their minds.

40. Luther

"Luther" is another film based on a stage production. This one was originally from playwright John Osborne, then adapted for film by screenwriter Edward Anhalt and director Guy Green. The story dramatizes the life of theologian Martin Luther (Stacy Keach). Judi Dench plays Luther's wife, who supports him as he endeavors to change the church and ultimately ends up founding his own.

"Luther" is an interesting look at the life of an incredibly influential monk. However, the film isn't the most gripping story ever told. On IMDb, it holds a 6.5-star rating, putting it solidly in the "mixed reception" category. Rotten Tomatoes audiences, though, gave the film a slightly lower rating of 56%.

39. The Third Secret

Judi Dench's first feature film role came in a 1964 neo-noir directed by Charles Crichton. "The Third Secret" posits that people keep secrets from others and from themselves, and the third secret they keep is the actual truth. When psychologist Dr. Whitset (Peter Copley) turns up dead, one of his patients, Alex Stedman (Stephen Boyd), decides to investigate the situation at the urging of Dr. Whitset's daughter. Dench portrays the assistant of an art gallery director who's one of Alex's prime suspects.

"The Third Secret" is an entertaining enough movie that doesn't manage to be groundbreaking or truly memorable, despite a solid twist in the mystery at its core. IMDb users have rated the film a 6.5 out of 10. Anyone who loves noir or who's interested in seeing Dench's earliest film role should consider taking a look at it.

38. A Study in Terror

Judi Dench followed up "The Third Secret" with 1965's "A Study in Terror." The film borrows Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective and his trusty partner to tell an otherwise original story. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (played by John Neville and Donald Houston, respectively) are hot on the trail of London's most infamous killer: Jack the Ripper. Dench plays Sally Young, who ends up leading Holmes and Watson to a key piece of information for their case.

Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper seem like a match made in detective fiction heaven. Aside from its central pairing, the film is a fairly conventional detective story, though a contemporary reviewer for The New York Times did say it was "several cuts above the normal chiller dreamed up these days." Modern audiences have given the film a mixed reception. It currently has a 6.5 rating on IMDb.

37. Chronicles of Riddick

Critics and audiences frequently have trouble agreeing, but the chasm between their opinions never seems to be wider than when they're reviewing a sci-fi movie. According to Rotten Tomatoes, only 29% of critics enjoyed "The Chronicles of Riddick," but 65% percent of audiences had a good time with the film. On IMDb, audiences were solidly mixed and gave the film a 6.6 rating.

Vin Diesel reprises his role from "Pitch Black" and continues the story of futuristic fugitive Riddick in a performance that earned him a Razzie nomination for Worst Actor. Riddick is still on the run, but an encounter with Aereon (Judi Dench), a member of a race of Elemental beings, changes his course forever. Riddick learns that the Necromongers are attempting to lead a violent war for the sake of galactic domination. Aereon believes Riddick can stop the Necromongers and convinces him to take up the cause.

36. Red Joan

"Red Joan" tells an incredible story inspired by real-life events. The film is based on Jennie Rooney's novel of the same name. Rooney found the inspiration for her novel in the life of KGB spy Melita Norwood. Judi Dench plays Joan Stanley, a British widow living a quiet life who's arrested by Scotland Yard. While being interrogated, Joan tells her life story and reveals that she's been a Soviet spy for decades.

There's so much going for "Red Joan," from an intriguing story to one of the greatest lead performers working today, that it's shocking the film failed to make a big impression. It performed moderately well at the box office, but critics were underwhelmed. The consensus on Rotten Tomatoes says that the film tells "a fascinating real-life story dramatized in perplexingly dull fashion." Critics agreed that Dench's incredible talent was wasted in what could have been a spectacular movie.

35. Six Minutes to Midnight

Directed by Anthony Goddard, "Six Minutes to Midnight" is a fascinating World War II-era spy story based on real events. It's set in the two weeks leading up to Britain formally declaring war on Germany. Eddie Izzard stars as Thomas Miller, a British secret agent who's investigating the disappearance of a teacher at an elite English school that teaches the daughters of high-ranking Nazi officials. Judi Dench plays Miss Rocholl, the school's principal, who finds herself torn between love of her students and loyalty to her country.

Despite an exciting premise and strong lead performers, "Six Minutes to Midnight" underperformed across the board. It had a disappointing theatrical run that failed to bring in big box office dollars (via The Numbers). Critics were equally let down by the film, saying on Rotten Tomatoes that it "loses [a fascinating story] in muddled spy shenanigans." However, World War II buffs will likely still find plenty to enjoy in the movie's 99-minute runtime.

34. Nine

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Italian film director Guido Contini in this 2009 film directed by Rob Marshall. Guido is struggling to create yet another film, and his professional struggles dovetail with his difficulty managing his personal life. Judi Dench plays costume designer Liliane La Fleur, one of the few people that Guido feels he can confide in. Liliane helps Guido get his life and work back under control.

"Nine" is yet another example of a promising movie not performing up to expectations. The film was made on an $80 million budget, but it earned only $54 million throughout its entire theatrical run (via Box Office Mojo). Ticket sales weren't helped by poor critical reception. "Nine" currently holds a 39% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and general audiences were slightly less impressed, giving the film a 37% rating. There's no denying the strength of all the film's actors, which include Penélope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson, and Nicole Kidman. It's not for everyone, but some will have a good time with "Nine."

33. J. Edgar

There's no shortage of great performances in this biopic that, according to Rotten Tomatoes, "stumbles in all other departments." Leonardo DiCaprio stars as the titular head of the FBI. Judi Dench portrays Edgar's mother, Annie. Both actors received numerous award nominations for their work in the film. Though "J. Edgar" is far from a thrilling historical drama, seeing DiCaprio and Dench work together is still a joy. 

The film did particularly well at the box office. During its theatrical run, "J. Edgar" earned over $80 million off of a $35 million budget (via Box Office Mojo). The leads carry the film, but its weight is still too much for them. The movie has a 43% Rotten Tomatoes score, with critics complaining about "cheesy makeup, poor lighting, confusing narrative, and humdrum storytelling." Still, with the actors involved bringing their A-game, "J. Edgar" is not without some merits. 

32. The World Is Not Enough

Judi Dench took on the role of M for the third time in 1999's "The World Is Not Enough." The film marked Pierce Brosnan's third outing as MI6 agent James Bond. In the story, Bond is assigned to protect Elektra King (Sophie Marceau) from the same group that murdered her father, a wealthy oil tycoon and friend of M. Bond faces off against a terrorist named Renard (Robert Carlyle), who can't feel pain, while simultaneously struggling to prevent yet another global catastrophe. 

Unsurprisingly, "The World Is Not Enough" was a major box office success. According to Box Office Mojo, the film took its $135 million budget and earned over $360 million at the global box office. The film debuted to mixed critical reception at best; on Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a 52% rating. Critics complained that the film had "mediocre writing, uneven acting, and a fairly by-the-numbers plot," but there's still enough over-the-top Bond action for fans of the franchise to have a good time watching it. 

31. The Shipping News

This 2001 movie was based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Annie Proulx. Robert Nelson Jacobs adapted the story for the screen and director Lasse Hallström led the production. Kevin Spacey stars as Quoyle, a withdrawn ink setter struggling to reconnect with his daughter after dramatic events ended in his wife's death. Quoyle's aunt Agnis (Judi Dench) convinces him to move to an old family home in Newfoundland. Once there, Quoyle begins to uncover some old family secrets.

Few stories survive the transition from page to screen fully intact and "The Shipping News" is no exception. The film earned $24 million at the box office, but unfortunately that meant it fell short of recouping its budget by a whopping $14 million. According to Rotten Tomatoes, critics had mixed views on the film, appreciating its direction and performances while complaining that its story was "heavy-handed and dull." Audiences were more forgiving of the film's shortcomings and gave it a 64% score.

30. Tomorrow Never Dies

In 1997's "Tomorrow Never Dies," both Pierce Brosnan and Judi Dench reprise their roles as two of the most important people at MI6. This time around, James Bond is working to stop crazed newsman Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) from stoking the flames of war between China and the West in an effort to expand his media empire across the globe. Bond is assisted by Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese secret agent who wants to end Carver's operations in her country.

Anticipation was high for the follow-up to the massively successful 1995 Bond flick "GoldenEye." Unfortunately, "Tomorrow Never Dies" couldn't top its predecessor. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has just a 56% approval rating, with the audience score coming in a few points lower than that. Despite the film's disappointing story, it was still a box office success. Over the course of its run in theaters, "Tomorrow Never Dies" pulled in a stunning $333 million.

29. Die Another Day

"Die Another Day" was the final Bond film of the Pierce Brosnan era. It was not, however, the last time that Judi Dench would appear in the franchise as M. In this 2002 adventure, Bond is captured by agents from North Korea. Once free, Bond becomes convinced that someone in MI6 betrayed him. As he hunts down the man who turned on him, Bond crosses paths with an NSA agent named Jinx (Halle Berry) and uncovers an evil plot involving a giant laser.

"Die Another Day" was about as well-reviewed as the previous two Brosnan Bond films. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 56% approval rating among critics and a 41% rating among audiences. At the box office, however, "Die Another Day" exceeded all possible expectations. The film earned well over $430 million. While it's not among the best Bond films of all time, "Die Another Day" is a more than adequate send-off for the Brosnan years.

28. The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" is a stage classic, but writer/director Oliver Parker's 2002 film adaptation leaves much to be desired. Critics had highly mixed views on the film, but audiences were more open to it and gave it mostly positive reviews per Rotten Tomatoes. The film earned a smattering of award nominations, including a nod to Judi Dench's performance as Lady Bracknell from AARP Movies for Grownups. On top of that, the movie brought in just over $18 million at the global box office.

Originally staged in 1895, "The Importance of Being Earnest" is a comedy of manners that skewers Victorian-era high society. The plot follows two young men who each use an invented man named "Earnest" to mingle with wealthy women outside the city. When they go on a country trip together, their secret identities begin to hilariously unravel.

27. Murder on the Orient Express

Star-studded doesn't begin to describe this 2017 film from director Kenneth Branagh. Based on Agatha Christie's classic mystery novel, the film stars Branagh alongside actors like Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penélope Cruz, Leslie Odom Jr., and Willem Dafoe. Famed detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) is present for a murder on a train, and it's up to him to figure out which of the other passengers is the culprit.

Between Branagh's directorial talents and the overwhelming strength of the film's cast, "Murder on the Orient Express" was an undeniable success. At the box office, the film performed spectacularly, earning over $350 million off a budget of just $55 million (via Box Office Mojo). Critics were slightly impressed by the film, giving it a 61% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences only gave the film a 53%, but mixed reviews and box office success were enough to guarantee the film a sequel.

26. Chocolat

Judi Dench earned an Oscar nomination for her supporting role in this romantic drama from director Lasse Hallström. "Chocolat" is based on a 1999 novel from author Joanne Harris. As he did with "The Shipping News," Hallström partnered with screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs for the adaptation. The story follows a woman named Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her young daughter as they move into a small French town and open a chocolate shop across the street from the local church. Their arrival shakes up the town and changes the lives of the people living there forever. The movie also features performances from actors like Alfred Molina, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Johnny Depp.

"Chocolat" was released in 2000, and it was met with remarkable success. The film grossed over $150 million at the box office, despite being made with a budget of just $25 million. According to Rotten Tomatoes, critics gave the film generally positive reviews. Audiences enjoyed the film more enthusiastically, giving it an 83% rating. Across the board, "Chocolat" was the most successful collaboration between Hallström, Jacobs, and Dench.

25. Tea With Mussolini

Judi Dench stars alongside Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, and Charlie Lucas in this 1999 historical drama set in Italy in the early days of World War II. While Luca (Lucas) is still reeling from his mother's death, his stern father sends him to British expatriate Mary Wallace (Plowright) instead of caring for the boy himself. Luca forms a strong relationship with Mary and her friends, including the artist Arabella (Dench), but as Mussolini sides with the Nazis and the Allies begin targeting Italy, all their lives are thrown into chaos.

"Tea With Mussolini" received plenty of recognition upon its release. Maggie Smith's performance won her the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress, and the film as a whole was lauded for its costume design (via IMDb). Those awards also translated into box office and critical success. "Tea With Mussolini" topped $14 million at the global box office. According to Rotten Tomatoes, critics and audiences alike enjoyed the film. The critics consensus says the film is "too likable — and well-cast — to completely resist." Less a wartime movie and more a drama with war as a backdrop, "Tea With Mussolini" will appeal to just about anyone.

24. Quantum of Solace

Sequels are hard to pull off, but the follow-up to "Casino Royale" offers a Bond adventure that manages to be among the best in the entire franchise (though it doesn't quite surpass its predecessor). "Quantum of Solace" sees Daniel Craig reprise his role as MI6 agent James Bond. Judi Dench also returns to the franchise to play M for the sixth time. In the film, it becomes Bond's responsibility to stop an evil organization known as Quantum from taking control of Bolivia's entire water supply and extorting the country for money. The smaller-scale conflict helps the film stand out from Bond's extensive catalog of potentially world-ending conflicts.

It would have been nearly impossible to top the success of "Casino Royale." Director Marc Forster brought his best to the sequel, but it still received some mixed reviews from critics and audiences. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently holds a 64% rating from critics and a 58% rating from general audiences. Despite that lukewarm reception, "Quantum of Solace" still nearly tripled its $200 million budget and provided a clear path forward for Craig's Bond series.

23. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Tim Burton directed this adaptation of Ransom Riggs' 2011 young adult novel. The film combines Burton's typically inventive imagery with a superpower-focused sci-fi plot and performances from big stars like Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Judi Dench, and Samuel L. Jackson. The film follows Jake Portman (Butterfield), who grows up hearing his grandfather tell stories about a mysterious school for people called "Peculiars" who have supernatural abilities. Jake's grandfather's dying words lead the boy to the U.K. in search of the school, but what he finds challenges his ideas about time and the nature of reality and could very well put his life at risk.

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" is weighed down by a complicated, difficult-to-follow story, but its best elements were enough to bring the film some success. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes wrote that the film is "on stronger footing as a visual experience than a narrative one," but still gave the film a 64% positive score. The film didn't disappoint at the box office either. It earned nearly $300 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Altogether, "Miss Peregrine's" is a curious experience that captures a good deal of what made the book a hit.

22. Ladies in Lavender

This 2004 film from writer/director Charles Dance is based on a short story written in 1908 by William J. Locke. Judi Dench and Maggie Smith star as sisters Ursula and Janet Widdington. The sisters live a quiet life in a seaside town, but one day they discover a young man named Andrea (Daniel Brühl) washed up on the beach. The sisters take Andrea in and help care for him until he's healthy enough to return to considering his career as a violinist. Through the course of their time together, Ursula develops romantic feelings for Andrea, but he's pulled away to London by the allure of a musician's lifestyle.

"Ladies in Lavender" opened to moderate critical and box office success. Over the course of its 35-week theatrical run, the film earned upwards of $20 million. The critics consensus on Rotten Tomatoes says the film is "a charming, if slight, period drama that quietly showcases fine performances by its two stars." Audiences were also pleased with the film, giving it a 66% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a solid 7.0 rating on IMDb.

21. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This sequel to "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" saw most of the first film's cast return, and what a cast it is. Directed by John Madden and written by Ol Parker, this sequel stars Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, and Dev Patel. The characters continue to balance the intricacies of life, love, and retirement, but this time they're also striving to open a new hotel as a companion to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The story is about as straightforward as they come, but it's really just a vehicle for getting this incredibly talented cast together again.

"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" gets by almost entirely on the strength of its cast. Writing on Rotten Tomatoes, critics pointed out the lack of originality in the script while also acknowledging that "with a cast this talented and effortlessly charming, that hardly matters." A paint-by-numbers plot did nothing to hamper the film's box office success. Made with a budget of $10 million, the movie earned over $85 million at the box office (via Box Office Mojo). This sequel is just more of the first film, but that's hardly a criticism in this case.

20. Victoria & Abdul

Judi Dench has had the opportunity to play British royalty more than once, and she took up the role of Queen Victoria for this 2017 historical drama directed by Stephen Frears. The screenplay was written by Lee Hall and based on a book of the same name by Shrabani Basu. The film tells the true story of Queen Victoria's friendship with Indian prison clerk Abdul Karim. Though her entire family is viciously opposed to Abdul's presence, Queen Victoria stays loyal to her friend until her death in 1901.

"Victoria & Abdul" was an undeniable success. The film garnered two Oscar nominations, as well as a bevy of other award nominations and wins. Critics were moderately impressed by the film, giving it a 66% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and stating that Judi Dench in the role of Queen Victoria "is all this period drama needs to overcome its imbalanced narrative." For a historical drama with a heaping of heart, it doesn't get much better than this.

19. Wetherby

This 1985 drama from writer/director David Hare has a shocking and intriguing premise. Jean Travers (Vanessa Redgrave) is a middle-aged woman hosting a dinner party for friends, where she meets young John Morgan. Assuming her friends invited John, she's surprised when he shows up at her house the following day. After Jean invites John in for tea, he commits a shockingly violent act. Flashbacks and interlinked stories unravel the mystery for the rest of the film. Judi Dench plays Jean's friend Marcia Pilborough in a role that earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Opinions were split on "Wetherby," which isn't surprising considering the film's touchy subject matter and non-linear storytelling. Critics mostly enjoyed the film, and "Wetherby" currently holds a 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. General audiences, however, were unsure and only gave the film a 45% approval rating. "Wetherby" might be hit-or-miss for viewers, but it's a solid mystery with an emotional core powered by strong performers.

18. The Last of the Blonde Bombshells

This TV movie earned five Primetime Emmy nominations when it was released in 2000. Judi Dench stars as Elizabeth, a saxophonist who plays with a swing band during World War II. When Elizabeth's husband dies, she begins playing music again and eventually reunites with her old drummer Patrick (Ian Holm). Together, the two set out to bring the band back together for a new performance.

At 84 minutes, "The Last of the Blonde Bombshells" doesn't overstay its welcome, and for such a short film, it packs a real emotional punch. The performances from Dench and Holm elevate this movie to an entirely new level. It clearly connected with audiences, too. IMDb users gave the film a 7.2-star rating. If romance, music, and nostalgia appeal to you, then this film is a must-watch.

17. Mrs. Henderson Presents

This 2005 musical drama from director Stephen Frears is based on a true story. Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) buys a theater after her husband dies, and she hires Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins), despite some personal disagreements, to manage it. To spice things up and encourage more people to come to the theater, Mrs. Henderson decides to add female nudity to the shows. Just as the theater is picking up steam, World War II breaks out, but Mrs. Henderson and Vivian keep the show going even through the London Blitz.

"Mrs. Henderson Presents" is a delightful film that pleased audiences and critics alike. Dench was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the film. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 67% rating from critics and a 72% rating from audiences. While it wasn't necessarily a box office smash, the film's success inspired a stage musical adaptation that debuted at the Theatre Royal Bath in London.

16. All Is True

Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench star as William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway in this 2018 historical drama. The story is set shortly after the 1613 fire that burned the Globe Theatre to the ground. Shakespeare leaves London to return home, where he contends with his struggling marriage and grief from the loss of his only son. He works to rebuild his relationship with his wife and daughters now that his life in London has come to an end. 

It's hard to imagine better casting for this film. Branagh and Dench shine in their roles and bring a new weight to an already powerful script from screenwriter Ben Elton. Dench won another AARP Movies for Grownups Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Shakespeare's wife. Critics were very impressed by the film and gave it a 72% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Fans of period pieces and heartfelt dramas will find "All is True" to be an absolute joy to watch.

15. Jack & Sarah

This 1995 romantic comedy from writer/director Tim Sullivan begins in tragedy. Jack (Richard E. Grant) and his wife Sarah (Imogen Stubbs) are expecting a child, but when Sarah dies while giving birth, Jack quickly falls into a depression and begins drinking the day away. Jack's parents (played by David Swift and Judi Dench) help him connect with his new daughter and pull his life back together. Along the way, Jack begins to fall in love with Amy (Samantha Mathis), his daughter's new nanny.

"Jack & Sarah" is a near-perfect romantic comedy. The film has a strong script, great performers, and manages to deal with heavy topics with a sense of humor. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently has a 74% rating with critics, but that jumps to a shocking 79% rating among general audiences. Even people who normally avoid rom-coms will probably find themselves swayed by the charms of "Jack & Sarah."

14. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Based on Deborah Moggach's 2004 novel "These Foolish Things," this 2011 film from director John Madden and screenwriter Ol Parker had all the ingredients necessary for success: good source material, a solid script, a strong director, and an unbelievably talented cast. Judi Dench stars alongside people like Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, and Penelope Wilton in this story about British retirees moving into the Marigold Hotel in India.

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" was a success at every level. The film earned over $136 million at the box office off a budget of just $10 million. It was nominated for nearly two dozen awards and walked away with several wins. Critics were thoroughly impressed by the film. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 78% approval rating from both critics and general audiences, with the critics consensus praising the "top-notch cast of veteran actors."

13. Iris

Judi Dench and Kate Winslet both star as famed author Iris Murdoch in this 2001 biopic. Director Richard Eyre co-wrote the script with Charles Wood, and the two of them based their work on the 1999 memoir "Elegy for Iris," which was written by Murdoch's husband John Bayley. Jim Broadbent and Hugh Bonneville each portray Bayley in the film, which follows Iris from her days as a young upstart to her later life with Alzheimer's.

Dench and Winslet both received Oscar nominations for their roles in the film, while Broadbent was given the award for Best Actor in a Lead Role (via IMDb). "Iris" has a 79% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics praising the strength of the film's four leads. The film is deeply touching without straying too far from the real details of Murdoch's life and her relationship with Bayley. It's an absolute must for fans of the writer.

12. GoldenEye

The first James Bond movie starring Pierce Brosnan was undoubtedly the best film of his run on the franchise, but "GoldenEye" is also simply one of the best Bond films of all time. It currently holds an 80% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and audiences rate the film a few points higher than that. "GoldenEye" absolutely dominated the box office when it was released, earning over $350 million during its theatrical run (via Box Office Mojo). The film introduces a more modern Bond with a bang, kicking off an action-adventure story that is still fondly remembered almost 30 years later.

Bond and M (Judi Dench) are betrayed when MI6 Agent 006 (Sean Bean) goes rogue and steals a satellite weapon that has the potential to destroy the entire planet. Bond isn't just up against rogue agents, however. He also comes face-to-face with an assassin named Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) and relies on the help of programmer Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) to save the day.

11. Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel "Jane Eyre" is a literary classic for good reason. The story is a fantastic example of Gothic romance. Cary Joji Fukunaga's 2011 film adaption perfectly captures what has given the novel its staying power. Mia Wasikowska stars as the film's titular character, and Michael Fassbender plays Edward Rochester, Jane's primary romantic interest. The two are joined by Judi Dench playing Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper of Rochester's Thornfield Hall. Jane finds herself falling for Rochester, but their budding romance is threatened by a dark secret from his past.

This version of "Jane Eyre" is a pitch-perfect period piece that earned an Oscar nomination for its costume design. The scenery isn't all that impresses in the film, though, as the cast absolutely shines. The critics consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, where the film has an 84% approval rating, praises Wasikowska's performance in particular, describing it as "possibly the best portrayal of the title character ever." The film is bound to please anyone from those intimately familiar with the source material to those interested in exploring Brontë's work for the first time.

10. Belfast

Kenneth Branagh wrote and directed this semi-autobiographical film. The coming-of-age story is set in 1960s Ireland and follows young Buddy (Jude Hill) and his family as they live through the drama of The Troubles. Judi Dench plays Buddy's grandmother, who watches her family leave Belfast behind for a safer life in England.

"Belfast" showcases the best of Branagh's talent. It won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and it was nominated for an additional six awards on top of that (via IMDb). In addition to having a stunning script and wonderful direction, the film is also filled to the brim with memorable performances. "Belfast" has an 86% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes, and audiences gave it a 92%. That's a big part of how a black-and-white film was able to earn over $48 million at the box office in 2021. It's also one of Dench's best films and should definitely be seen by any of her fans.

9. Pride & Prejudice

This movie from director Joe Wright is far from the first big-screen adaptation of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," but it's definitely one of the best. It's not often that a period piece based on a novel from the early 1800s earns $100 million at the box office, but this 2005 film blew past that number with ease (via Box Office Mojo). The film stars Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen in the lead roles, while Judi Dench portrays Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

"Pride and Prejudice" doesn't stray far from the source material. The love story centers on Elizabeth Bennet (Knightley) and the wealthy Mr. Darcy (Macfadyen). The powerful performances and excellent cinematography help this version stand out. This take on the story has an 87% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and earned four Oscar nominations. For novel adaptations, it doesn't get much better than this. 

8. Notes on a Scandal

This is another incredibly successful novel adaptation starring Judi Dench in a lead role. Directed by Richard Eyre, "Notes on a Scandal" was adapted from Zoë Heller's 2003 novel of the same name by screenwriter Patrick Marber. The story is set at St. George's school in London, where Barbara Covett (Dench) is a seasoned teacher. Barbara finds herself drawn to the new hire Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett). As their friendship grows, Barbara discovers that Sheba has a dark secret, and she's torn about what to do with that information.

Dench and Blanchett both earned Oscar nominations for their roles, and the film itself earned two additional nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score (via IMDb). On Rotten Tomatoes, "Notes on a Scandal" has an 87% approval rating, with critics heaping praise on the performances from Dench and Blanchett. The film was one of 2006's best, and it still stands as a phenomenal psychological thriller.

7. 84 Charing Cross Road

1987's "84 Charing Cross Road" has an interesting origin story. Directed by David Hugh Jones, the screenplay was written by Hugh Whitemore, who adapted it from James Roose-Evans' stage play, which he adapted from Helene Hanff's 1970 epistolary memoir. Anne Bancroft stars as Hanff, who writes a letter to a London bookstore in search of some rare texts. The reply she gets from the store's owner, Frank Doel (Anthony Hopkins), ignites a friendship that spans decades. Judi Dench plays Doel's wife, Nora, who also corresponds with Hanff and comes to consider the foreign woman a friend.

For her work in the film, Bancroft won the BAFTA for Best Leading Actress. Dench also got another nomination for Best Supporting Actress (via IMDb). The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews. It currently has an 87% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences loved the film almost as much, giving it an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.4-star rating on IMDb.

6. Philomena

Judi Dench worked with director Stephen Frears yet again for this 2013 film based on the 2009 book "The Lost Child of Philomena Lee" by Martin Sixsmith. Steve Coogan portrays Sixsmith in the film and also co-wrote the screenplay with Jeff Pope. Based on a true story, the film follows Philomena (Dench), who was sent to live in a convent as a teenager when she became pregnant. The nuns took Philomena's baby and sent him away. Fifty years later, Philomena travels to America to find her long-lost son with the help of journalist Sixsmith.

"Philomena" impressed at every level. The film earned over $100 million off a $12 million budget, and it was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Dench, Best Original Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay. On Rotten Tomatoes, "Philomena" has a 91% approval rating, with critics agreeing that the film "offers a profoundly affecting drama for adult filmgoers of all ages."

5. Skyfall

"Skyfall" was the third outing for Daniel Craig's iteration of MI6's top agent. It also marked the seventh and final time that Judi Dench took up the role of M. In the film, Bond must reckon with his past and his current fallibility. The main villain, played by Javier Bardem, has an intimate connection with M and MI6, and he's determined to see both destroyed forever. Bond and M have to rely on each other more than ever before in order to survive. 

After audiences were somewhat disappointed with "Quantum of Solace," it was up to 2012's "Skyfall" to revive the Craig Bond franchise. With amazing performances and great direction from Sam Mendes, the film more than achieved that goal. At a 92% rating, "Skyfall" is one of the best-reviewed Bond films, according to Rotten Tomatoes. The film also won two Oscars and was nominated for three more. If that isn't impressive enough, it also grossed over a billion dollars at the box office, setting a new record for the franchise. 

4. Shakespeare in Love

Released in 1998, "Shakespeare in Love" was an Oscar-winning sensation. The film took home 7 awards and it was nominated for six more (via IMDb). Its wins included Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, Best Set Decoration, Best Screenplay, Best Lead Actress for Gwyneth Paltrow, and Best Supporting Actress for Judi Dench. By the '90s, Dench's Oscar was already long overdue, but what makes her win here even more impressive is that she pulled it off with only eight minutes of screen time (via Entertainment Weekly). Her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I really did steal the show.

Written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard and directed by John Madden, "Shakespeare in Love" is a historical drama that is only lightly based on reality. Paltrow stars as Viola De Lesseps, who poses as a man so she can join the acting troupe of William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes). Shakespeare discovers Viola's deception, but the two soon fall madly in love. The film is every bit as good today as it was when it first debuted, which is why it has a stunning 92% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes

3. Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown

"Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown" (also known as simply "Mrs. Brown") is a 1997 film directed by John Madden and written by Jeremy Brock. The story focuses on Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) in the wake of her husband's death. Two years after Victoria's husband has died, the royal family asks John Brown (Billy Connolly), a former servant to the King, to try and help the Queen move past her grief. As the Queen and Brown grow closer, however, rumors about their relationship begin to spread, and the family worries that a scandal may soon break out.

The movie may bend historical facts to better tell its story, but that only helped to make "Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown" a resounding success. The film was nominated for two Oscars, including a Best Actress nod for Dench. It currently holds a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics enthusiastically writing about the film's display of "top-notch acting, the chemistry between its stars, and a witty, thoughtful script."

2. Casino Royale

After 2002's "Die Another Day," the James Bond franchise needed a reboot, and director Martin Campbell delivered with 2006's "Casino Royale." Daniel Craig replaced Pierce Brosnan as 007, but fan-favorite Judi Dench reprised her role as M, even though the movie established a new continuity for the franchise. The film works as a sort of origin story for the James Bond that fans know and love, with his big mission revolving around a high-stakes poker match attended by some particularly unsavory characters.

"Casino Royale," with its 94% score on Rotten Tomatoes, is undoubtedly the best-received film in Craig's run of Bond films. The film leans into a gritty-yet-still-stylish realism that sets it apart from previous Bond outings. The film didn't earn as much as some of the later Craig movies, but with a box office return of over $600, it was far from a disappointment. With superb acting, a smart script, and a good amount of exciting action set pieces, "Casino Royale" is a Bond film that's sure to stand the test of time.

1. A Room With a View

1985's "A Room With a View" was the film debut of Helena Bonham Carter, but the movie also features a jaw-dropping supporting cast that includes Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Daniel Day-Lewis. Directed by James Ivory, the film is based on an E.M. Forster novel of the same name that was adapted for the screen by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. On a tour through Italy, young Lucy Honeychurch (Carter) falls in love with a man named George Emerson (Julian Sands). Once home, Lucy finds herself torn between George and the wealthy Cecil Vyse (Day-Lewis). 

"A Room With a View" is an excellent adaptation of a literary classic. The film turned a budget of $3 million into a theatrical run that topped $21 million (via Box Office Mojo). It launched Carter's career while also impressing just about every critic that saw the film. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 100% rating, which also makes it the best-reviewed film to be graced by Dench's presence. For an astounding period-piece romance, look no further.