How many Judi Dench movies have you seen? One of the greatest English actresses ever, Dame Judi has been in some brilliant movies. She has been in some less-stellar productions too, but she has always outshone the quality of the story or the script. I’ve put together a short list of Judi Dench movies with a little something for everyone.
I felt I had to start with this one because although I don’t think this is near the best of the Judi Dench movies, it is the one that won her an Oscar. I admire this actress very much, but that she won an Oscar for a 5-minute performance is to me bit odd. I know that Shakespeare in Love won a slew of awards in 1999 (even beating Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture), but Judi Dench has delivered many finer and worthier performances than her role as Elizabeth I – in my opinion – although she was fabulous. Dame Jud has been nominated for 7 acting Oscars. Any of the other 6 would have been a better choice – maybe it was just her time? Anyway, the movie – hmm – I didn’t like it but people obviously did.
Now THIS is a brilliant movie. The cast was a beautifully assembled collection of talent and gorgeousness – Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Johnny Depp and Dame Judi. As Armande Voizin, Judi Dench shows just how good she at using her god-given tools to create interesting, deep characters. She is totally ace at playing an irascible, embittered grandmother with a heavy heart. The story is pure fairytale but oh so believable. I hope you love it as much as I do.
The world took a collective sharp intake of breath when it learned the new “M” was to be a woman! Although Britain had seen Stella Rimington appointed Head of MI5 for real, the idea of James Bond having a female boss was foreign. By Skyfall, however, we’d grown into the idea and were even comfortable with it. So much so that we were all a little saddened and aggrieved when they killed her off. But didn’t she make her exit in oh so a dignified manner? No histrionics, no playing it out for all it’s worth because it was her final performance as M. Kudos!
One of the things that Judi Dench movies prove to me is that she will never be typecast. In Merchant Ivory’s sumptuous production of E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View, Dame Judi plays romantic novelist Eleanor Lavish. She is not the lead character but she’s definitely a scene stealer. It’s a lovely adaptation of an excellent novel.
I’m looking forward to the second journey into the corridors and rooms of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Richard Gere will make an interesting addition to the guest book, as will Tamsin Greig and Celia Imrie. But, for now, back to the first one. I don’t know about you but for me, it was Judi Dench’s character’s story that captivated me the most. There was something interesting in everyone’s reasons to be there, but I just got drawn into Evelyn Greenslade and wanted to know more. There was a quiet but assured acceptance that she knew she was going on a personal journey, but without any idea where it would lead her.
This is another of the movies starring Judi Dench that earned her an Oscar nomination. I know that the movie left out some of the really good stuff in the book (written by Zoe Heller – please read it – you’ll enjoy it), but Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett both act brilliantly in a tense, twisting story about friendship, loneliness, sex, bitterness, jealousy and blackmail. As Barbara Covett, Dame Judi portrayed the fragility and foibles of a lonely, mature, generally-disliked woman most excellently. Dramatic, funny and a little shocking, it’s well worth watching.
Choosing the last one wasn’t easy. Should I go for Mrs. Henderson Presents (another Oscar nomination), Pride and Prejudice (fairly minor role but brilliant), Mrs. Brown (Oscar nominated tour de force), or Philomena (yes, another Oscar nomination). In the end it was Tea with Mussolini that swayed me. I am a big fan of period drama and also the Second World War period. Tea with Mussolini ticks both boxes. The film is a semi-autobiographical story of the early life of famed Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, when he was looked after by a group of British and US female ex-pats in the period up to and during World War II. It’s not fast-paced, it’s not thrilling but it’s perfectly enjoyable and an interesting story. Cher produces a surprisingly good turn as Elsa.
I know she is getting older but I hope there is still plenty of time for many more movies starring Judi Dench. They are always something to look forward to. What do you admire about this great actress?
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