Best Bill Nighy Performances

Bill Nighy in Living

The wonderful Bill Nighy is the star and leading actor in Living. The English language reboot/remake of Akira Kurosawa’s classic 1952 Ikiru. In celebration of Living now in UK cinemas I’ve decided to create a list of some of Nighy’s best moments. Sometimes that film might be critically acclaimed other times not but he is the stand out. The list as ever is not in order and is only a selection and anyone who knows Nighy he was already an established stage and Television actor…

Still Crazy (1998)

Amazing to think Nighy’s breakthrough role was for his 2003 film which is next on the list. However followers of the actor will have us go back 5 years to his role as the washed up front man of rock band Strange Fruit.

He plays the eccentric Ray Simms who reunites with the other members (Jimmy Nail, Stephen Rea, Timothy Spall and Billy Connolly). The first time in twenty years, he’s volatile, self-obsessive most of all broken man. You could say this is a way a precursor to the next film as Ray is loveable in every way, despite struggling with booze and drugs.

Highly entertaining and funny in a stereotypical British way. Possibly thanks to the film’s writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the pair wrote some of the classic TV comedy and dramas. From Porridge, The Likely Lads, and Auf Wiedersehen Pet.

Love, Actually (2003)

This is the breakthrough role for the actor which also won Nighy Bafta as ageing rock star Billy Mack. Jokingly telling Ant & Dec, ‘Don’t buy Drugs, get them for free as a rock star’ He sings the Troggs ‘Love Is All Around’ changing the lyrics to ‘Christmas Is All Around’ which actually came a number one for real. This may be one of his slightly longer ‘smaller roles’ playing an important part in the two main characters meeting and falling in love. Gregor Fisher plays his manager finding out the pair rather get drunk and watch porn.

Their Finest (2017)

When times are bad, people need an uplift and the 2017 film was set during the dark days of World War II. People need escapism in this one Nighy plays Catrin Cole an ageing actor who plays Ambrose Hilliard a popular detective series. He’s not the lead in this drama story, Gemma Atherton is a Welsh writer in dire need to pay her rent. To provide the funny escapism in a screwball comedy with Cole in lead. The film highlights the sexism and struggles women had during the War time trying to do what many believed was a ‘man’s job’ whilst bringing some morale. Nighy does steal the show in this one. Read my review.

Shaun Of The Dead (2004)

Look you have red on your shirt. Edgar Wright’s comedic (or Zom Com) homage to the classic George Romero zombie films. Once again his role is small but pivotal to Simon Pegg’s Shaun. He plays Shaun’s Step-Father Phillip and husband to Penelope Wilton. Phillip doesn’t get on with our slacker protagonist and reveals some truths to Shuan before he becomes a member of the Undead. An endearing role that you actually have empathy for the character. “Lets go to Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all this to blow over” 

Hot Fuzz (2007)

The second film of the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy with Shaun Of The Dead the first, The World’s End the third and Nighy has been in all three. This one follows a tough, unlikeable London police man (played by Pegg) who is sent to a small, idyllic village all thanks to bringing London’s crimes rate down too quickly. Nighy plays  Chief Inspector Kenneth, and Wright one of many who lined up to praise the actor. Many also consider this to be Edgar Wright’s best film to date if not the trilogy.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

As I mentioned before, not all films on this list are great films. The cast are always the standouts and Bill Nighy is unrecognizable  as ole fishy face Davy Jones. The tyrannical captain of the Flying Dutchman, now a ghost ship and the dark lord of the seven seas. Iconic pirate Jones has Scottish Descent his role was mostly motion capture he brought gravitas to the role which won Industrial, Light and Magic and Oscar.

Valkyrie (2007)

This is a World War II film based around the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler by his own SS Officers led by Tom Cruise . Probably one of Bill Nighy most straight up performances , as  Friedrich Olbricht one of the plotters. Nighy was no stranger to the story playing a similar role in the 1985 TV film Hitler’s SS: Portrait in Evil

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part One (2009)

Cinephiles will always know who Bill Nighy is. To those his face may look familiar, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part One will be his one of his biggest and famous roles. He plays Rufus Scrimgeour the minister of Magic in the penultimate film of the franchise. The role maybe a small one, fans of the franchise said he perfectly acted the role perfectly translating from pages of the book onto the big screen. A role that would help protect the boy wizard before he is tortured to death .


Arthur Christmas (2011), Pride (2014), Underworld (2003), Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2013), The Constant Gardener (2005) About Time (2015) and his screen debut The Bitch (1979) with Joan Collins.

Did you also know he was also very close to playing Withnal in Bruce Robinson’s 1987 cult Withnail & I?

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