What are the best Idris Elba movies? When he shot to fame in The Wire and Luther, one thing was clear: Elba had something special about him. Whatever he’s in, he never fails to elevate it to another level and gives his absolute all.
People might know him simply as ‘the guy from Luther,’ and while the drama series is undoubtedly some of his best work, it does him a disservice not to consider all the great action movies and thriller movies he’s been in over the past decade. Throughout his illustrious career, Elba has been nominated for four Golden Globes and five Emmys. As of May 2019, his movies had earned more than $9.8 billion at the global box office, while in North America, he is among the top 20 highest-paid actors.
Maybe you know him more from his music career as DJ Big Driis, but no matter how you got introduced to the thespian, let us guide you through the best Idris Elba movies out there, in order — at least, in our opinion.
Best Idris Elba movies
- Molly’s Game
- The Suicide Squad
- The Jungle Book
- Hobbs and Shaw
- Star Trek Beyond
- Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom
- Pacific Rim
- Beasts of No Nation
10. Cats (2019)
Idris Elba isn’t just a badly CGI’d musical cat in this movie… he is a naked, badly-animated musical cat.
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Macavity lives in my head rent-free the way a sleep paralysis demon perches on the end of your bed.
9. Molly’s Game (2017)
Molly’s Game features a fine performance by Elba as the lawyer opposite Jessica Chastain’s nuanced and layered portrayal of Molly Bloom. The character is a pillar of consistency in a fairly chaotic movie, but I can’t move past Idris’ American accent in this. Sorry.
8. The Suicide Squad (2021)
The good news is that the second DCU Suicide Squad movie, directed by James Gunn, is a hell of a lot better than the first one.
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The bad news is that the first action movie was so terrible that the bar is literally in hell. Elba, again, fulfils his brief as the grizzled, reluctant leader Bloodsport, but it’s a fairly generic role in a fairly generic movie.
7. The Jungle Book (2017)
The power of voice acting should never be underestimated, as Elba showed us in the Disney live-action remake of The Jungle Book. He sneers his way through the sinister role of Shere Khan so excellently that it genuinely sends a shiver down my spine.
6. Zootopia (2016)
I don’t know about you, but Chief Bogo is the only cop I trust. He’s stoic, steely, demands respect and delivers killer lines like, “Life isn’t some cartoon musical where you sing a little song and all your insipid dreams magically come true.”
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Zootopia is one of those Disney movies that go above and beyond. It’s actually a pretty compelling watch for people of all ages, and part of that is honestly due to Elba’s vocal talent. Don’t lie to yourself — Chief Bogo is clearly the breakout cartoon character of this film.
5. Hobbs and Shaw (2019)
But Elba’s role as the menacing, part-robot “Black Superman” Brixton Lore is definitely one of the more unique and memorable villains from the franchise. He says stuff like “genocide, shmenocide,” has superpowers, and throws The Rock around like a ragdoll.
4. Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Krall is one of those movie villains where, despite not necessarily agreeing with his methods (being a warlord is bad, guys), you kind of understand where he’s coming from in terms of being frustrated with the Federation.
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What makes Krall especially heart wrenching is the knowledge that he isn’t just your standard scary alien villain — he was previously Captain Edison, a committed soldier who ended up slowly becoming disillusioned. It’s hard to feel bad for, you know, warlords, but Elba manages it with a layered performance.
3. Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom (2013)
How can you capture the spirit and determination of a legend like Nelson Mandela? It’s a hard part to play, especially if, as in A Long Walk to Freedom, it’s over a long period of time, but Elba produces some of his most compelling work in this biopic, where he captures Mandela’s steely determination and courage in a way that makes this drama movie unforgettable.
2. Pacific Rim (2013)
Pacific Rim will go down in history not only as one of Elba’s best-ever roles, but as a modern classic. In terms of why his role as Marshal Stacker Pentecost is so compelling, director Guillermo del Toro puts it best. “I wanted somebody that could bring a lot of authority, but that you could feel the weight of the world on his shoulders,” he told IGN.
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Idris is one of those actors that is capable of embodying humanity, in almost like a Rodin sculpture-type, larger than life, almost like a Russian realism statue, you know, big hands, all the turmoil of humanity in his eyes. I wanted somebody that you could have doubts internally, and very few guys can do that.”
1. Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Beasts of No Nation is a harrowing, unflinching war movie about the depravity of warfare and the way young people are manipulated into becoming killing machines.
Told from the point of view of a child soldier, Agu, Elba is exceptional as the unflinching, manipulative, and truly terrifying Commandment, with the role earning him well-deserved Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. It’s unlike any role he has performed before, and as difficult a watch as it is, Elba’s performance is nothing short of phenomenal.
For more top actors, here is our guide to the best Tom Cruise movies and best Ben Affleck movies of all time, and keep an eye on our list of the new movies coming out this year and the best movies of all time to see where else Elba might pop up.