10 Best Benedict Cumberbatch Roles
Benedict Cumberbatch has gotten increasing burn in the spotlight in recent years. Since he began his role as the eponymous detective in Sherlock in 2010, he has become something of a superstar. He has taken on many prestige pictures but has made no qualms with taking mass-market roles as well. Since 2016 he has been an important member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with his turn as the character Doctor Strange. He has worked with talented directors like Steven Spielberg, Steve McQueen, Peter Jackson, and J.J. Abrams. There is certainly more on the horizon for Cumberbatch fans to look forward to (especially those who are also fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe), but there is much to look back on as well. Having only hit mainstream audiences in 2010, his past eight years have been overstuffed with work.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
Steve McQueen’s heartbreaking film 12 Years a Slave is arguably the best in Cumberbatch’s body of work. The film documents the tragic real-life of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) — a free black American who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. Cumberbatch plays William Ford, one of the masters to whom Northup is forced to answer. It was acclaimed by audiences and critics alike — rightfully so — for its moving, emotional content.
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Sherlock (2010 to 2017)
Steven Moffat’s BBC adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes brought the eponymous detective into the 21st century. It is largely considered to be Cumberbatch’s breakout role. Both he and co-star Martin Freeman were lauded for their performances. Its style is cleverly minimalist and a great watch for anyone who enjoys British procedural shows.
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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
In the Cold War era spy film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, an MI6 agent pulled back from retirement to help sniff out a mole in the organization. Cumberbatch’s character, Peter Guillam, is added as a member of Smiley’s team. The film is tense — and was met with sizeable acclaim from critics.
The Imitation Game (2014)
The Imitation Game tracks the real-life codebreaker Alan Turing (Cumberbatch)’s time at MI6 during World War II. He and his group of scientists and mathematicians are tasked with decoding the Third Reich’s encoded messaging machine known as Enigma. Though the film was criticized for a number of historical inaccuracies, it also received praise as it brought to large audiences the story of a significant figure in both the LGBT community as well as a forefather of computer science.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
With his second entry into the rebooted Star Trek film, J.J. Abrams revived a familiar villain — Khan. Cumberbatch’s performance of the character is markedly different than that of Ricardo Montalban, but the film once again pits him up against Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Though many longtime fans remain loyal to Montalban’s turn as Khan — the slick production design and fast-paced excitement of Abrams’ sequel-reboot is undeniable.
War Horse (2011)
In Steven Spielberg’s World War I-era drama, a teenage boy (Jeremy Irvine) and his beloved horse are separated when the horse is sold into the British cavalry. The film documents their struggle to return to one another. Cumberbatch plays Major Jamie Stewart, the officer under which the horse serves. It is a moving film about the connection to humanity and the animals they care for.
August: Osage County (2013)
In the ensemble dramedy August: Osage County, a family is brought together by the death and subsequent funeral of Beverly Weston, its ostensible patriarch. Meryl Streep plays Violet Weston, the cruel, drug-addicted matriarch he left behind. The film documents the family’s various tensions. Cumberbatch plays Charles Aiken Jr., the son of Violet’s younger sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale). As it was based on a play, the characters are larger than life but the sets are small. It is a sturdy film with some of the best character actors in the business today.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
The Lord of the Rings prequel trilogy continues from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with The Desolation of Smaug. The eponymous Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues his journey to defeat the titular Smaug, to whom Cumberbatch lends his voice. Shot at a stunning 48 frames per second, it is an exciting film for any fan of Jackson’s take on The Lord of the Rings story.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
Jackson brings the story of Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) to a satisfying conclusion as he must meet his destiny. Cumberbatch once again gives voice to the villain Smaug, and Sauron, the antagonist from the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. This final film comes full circle to the beginning of his nephew Frodo’s journey sixty or so years later to the tune of nearly a billion dollars at the box office.
The Fifth Estate (2013)
Prior to The Imitation Game, Cumberbatch filled the role of another central historical figure in a biopic. In The Fifth Estate, he plays controversial whistleblower Julian Assange. The film accounts his development — along with partner Daniel Domscheit-Berg, played by Daniel Bruhl — of the website Wikileaks. It would be a stretch to say the film has been widely-beloved considering it was met with lukewarm reception from critics and made back only a third or so of its budget. However, it is a cannot-miss for any Cumberbatch completionist.
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