best film: Judi Dench has been extremely prolific (she was in nearly twenty films between the age of 70 and 80) and has compiled a fine collection of archiveable films, but landing a role a role in a masterpiece has eluded her all these years. Still, Joe Wright’s woefully underrated Pride & Prejudice is just a step below that masterpiece level (Dench plays Lady Catherine de Bourg). Not far behind the 2005 Jane Austen adaptation is A Room with a View (1985), Skyfall (2012) and Belfast (2021). Indeed, it is quite telling of Dench’s longevity that her best four films have come in four different decades.
best performance: Daniel Craig flexes his acting chops as 007 in Sam Mendes’ superb 2012 film Skyfall, but Judi Dench flexes right back – she is phenomenal here. This is her sendoff as “M” (she played the role in seven James Bond films) and it may very well be in the best film in the series. Dench’s work in Notes on a Scandal (2006) comes in at a close second place. It is interesting that her two best performances come in an action film franchise film and a contemporary thriller, when so much of her career is in Shakespeare and other renowned literary adaptations.
stylistic innovations/traits: Judi Dench has split her time between theater work, television, and film. The 5’1 actor was born in 1934 and currently sits with seventeen (17) archiveable films – indeed, a crazy high number of archiveable films to have for an actor this far down the list. Her weakness really is the top two categories above. The strength of her case for being on this list rests on the shoulders of that deep archiveable filmography. She is an eight-time Oscar nominee (amongst other awards and designations) and she has indisputable acting chops.
directors worked with: Kenneth Branagh (4), Richard Eyre (2), James Ivory (1), Joe Wright (1), Sam Mendes (1)
top five performances:
- Notes on a Scandal
- Shakespeare in Love
|1985- A Room with a View|
|1987- 84 Charing Cross Road|
|1988- A Handful of Dust|
|1989- Henry V|
|1998- Shakespeare in Love|
|2005- Pride and Prejudice|
|2006- Casino Royale|
|2006- Notes on a Scandal|
|2011- Jane Eyre|
|2011- My Week with Marilyn|
|2017- Murder on the Orient Express|
Stunned to see her here. But I’m not sure that I can make any argument against her.
@Drake-Hmm. What about her A room with a View(1985) co-star and six-time Oscar nominee(2-time winner) Maggie Smith? Will she make this list?
@Malith- She has quite a resume – thank you for tracking along as the list has come out here. I am not going to reveal the list before I reveal the list.
Not sure I quite get this one. Obviously no disrespect as she’s a massive talent (love her in Notes On A Scandal) but I know in the past you’ve defended leaving her off because of a lacking resume. I wonder what changed
I wholeheartedly agree with most of what you wrote. She is a powerhouse who, for some strange reason, has not been able to secure a role in a masterful film despite her longevity and undeniable acting talent. I would also say that Pride and prejudice is her best film, and she’s not even a main player in it. But still, she deserves some sort of placement in this list, and 89th is a fitting choice given her resume, although I would probably rank her a bit higher. I think she gives her best performance by far in Notes on a scandal, followed by Iris and Mrs. Brown.
Has Skyfall gone up in your estimation recently? Asking because on 2012 page Dench didn’t even get a mention there which might have been more reflective of Skyfall’s position on the top 10 than other factors.
@Harry- I might actually do all the Bond movies again here soon in some big marathon (last did this in 2012)- but no, I have not recently revisited Skyfall. Dench’s case for being on this list is really about the depth and full body of work (17 films) and sort of undeniable acting talent and ability. I believe she is the only one out of the 100 to not have a single yearly mention as one of the best of the year.