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.


She may be five feet tall and nearly eight (80) years old in Skyfall, but there is an undeniable fortitude – or backbone – that pervades much of Dench’s body of work that is most definitely on display here in abundance.



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.


Dench is deliciously terrifying as Barbara Covett in 2006’s Notes on a Scandal. Dueling (and probably outdueling) the great Cate Blanchett is a nice feather in the cap for any actor.


directors worked with:  Kenneth Branagh (4), Richard Eyre (2), James Ivory (1), Joe Wright (1), Sam Mendes (1)


The Merchant Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster, A Room with a View, was a breakthrough for many of the cast and crew, including Dench here as Eleanor Lavish. Dench is certainly a rarity on this in that her first archiveable film came in 1985 – past the age of 50.



top five performances:

  1. Skyfall
  2. Notes on a Scandal
  3. Iris
  4. Shakespeare in Love
  5. Philomena


archiveable films

1985- A Room with a View
1987- 84 Charing Cross Road
1988- A Handful of Dust
1989- Henry V
1996- Hamlet
1998- Shakespeare in Love
2000- Chocolat
2001- Iris
2005- Pride and Prejudice
2006- Casino Royale
2006- Notes on a Scandal
2011- Jane Eyre
2011- My Week with Marilyn
2012- Skyfall
2013- Philomena
2017- Murder on the Orient Express
2021- Belfast