Idris Elba has not had any more successes, in the cinematic sense, because he has certainly received many awards over his career (and then some).
Elba has been a regular presence on our screens for two decades now, achieving sustained fame and acclaim. Yet, despite his abilities and stature, he's still a tad under some of the big names out there. That might be due to the fact that he's immersed in his work, with a credit to his name between TV and film every year since 1994.
Elba was named People's Sexiest Man Alive just two months after his 46th birthday, and according to Box Office Mojo, his films have eclipsed $10 billion in earnings throughout his career (landing in a few Avengers and MCU films certainly helped), or his portrayal of Nelson Mandela, one of the most influential people of our lifetime? (Elba was named to the Time 100 list of Most Influential People in the World in 2016 himself.)
Elba, who is 50 years old, shows no signs of slowing down. Just last year, he was in three films and appeared in two TV programs. Let's see what emerges as his 10 greatest.
First, it appears a 'what could have been' is in order, only because the lead-up to the long-awaited release of The Dark Tower, based on Stephen King's epic novels, was so short and short that it had so much potential to be his greatest role, sparking a run of single-name-on-the-poster roles (well, Beast counts). Alas, somehow we got Elba and Matthew McConaughey together and material ripe with beauty.
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Elba is fantastic. The film, unfortunately, isn't. This is a topic that will be discussed again. For anyone who loves Elba's, this is a moving performance full of emotional struggle and a portrayal of a haunted man who cannot come to grips with the past nor grasp the present.
9.Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
Elba seems to be doing the most with what he's given here, and we'll be damned if his character weren't killed off before we could see him turn toward the "good side" like every other bad guy in the Fast & Furious universe and get his own spinoff of a spinoff.
We're keeping the original film in here to represent the whole lot, because Elba as Heimdall was fantastic. We wish he would have stayed longer and had more to do during Taika Waititi's charge of the Thor films; that might have been some magic on-screen with Waititi's ability to bring out the true humorous side of his cast, something we can still see in Elba in his many animated performances and subtle humor in The Office and others.
(2015): Beasts of No Nation
Cary Joji Fukunga's analysis of the costs and effects of war while demonstrating how people come together in unexpected ways, despite the horror, is harrowing at times. It's also a tough watch sometimes, as mentioned above.
Concrete Cowboy (2020)
Elba as a stern father and a cowboy... it's win-win. The story's pacing is solid, and the interaction between Elba and his on-screen son, Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) is drenched in the tenderness that can exist between father and son, no matter their relationship, but especially in the circumstances that followed their reunion.
The Harder They Fall (2021)
Jonathan Majors, Regina King, Laketih Stanfield, and Elba, to name a few, give the film a sense of depth, even if we could have gotten more screen time for either of them. Because of the setting and timeframe, we can see both of these films as a bit of a precursor to last year's Nope, which continued a tradition of all-white westerns.
Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom (2013)
Elba takes the stage nicely into Mandela's shoes, before, during, and after the prison, or because director Justin Chadwick didn't know exactly how to reveal a hidden side of Mandela.
Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)
This film is packed with stuff that keeps it from falling into all-time greatness. Despite superb performances from Elba and costar Tilda Swinton, a little more tweaking the plotline or tightening up the editing might have made this a household name. Prepare to be a bit distorted and even left empty when all is said and done. It continues to enthuse us, and more from the films he's in.
Luther (TV: 2010-2019; Luther: The Fallen Sun is set to release in 2023).
Elba's role as DCI John Luther was almost enough to take the top spot in his longest-running role as a detective on The Wire. In typical British series fashion, the program came out in bursts of short episode runs, but the intensity never faded, with Elba immersing himself in the main issues he is investigating.
The film will be released on February 24 and will be available on Netflix two weeks later, on March 10.
The Wire (2002-2004)
Stringer Bell is still considered as one of the greatest television character performances of our lifetime, from what is regarded as the genre's best. All with charm and a sometimes soft spot, Elba embodied the show as a whole, revealing the true side of humanity in the midst of Baltimore's out-of-control drug trade and political maneuvering.