The 7 Best Chiwetel Ejiofor Movies
Chiwetel Ejiofor is a truly talented actor. He has worked with a myriad of talented directors, including Spike Lee, Alfonso Cuaron, Steven Spielberg, and Ridley Scott. His performance in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave earned him much-deserved praise. In the years since he has picked up prominent roles in Scott’s The Martian as well as Doctor Strange — and by extension, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He must be in the good graces of the Walt Disney Company considering he is slated to play Scar in Jon Favreau’s The Lion King remake, as well as an unknown role in the upcoming Maleficent sequel. Any role Ejiofor plays in, no matter how good or bad the film, is worth watching. When the movie is great, he is transcendent. Here are his seven best to date.
Children of Men (2006)
Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men is as beautiful as it is chilling. Set in near-future London where all of Earth is hurtling toward collapse. It has been twenty years since a new child has been born. Most of the world’s population are refugees. Ejiofor plays Luke, a key member of the militant immigrant rights group operating in the area. His leader, Julian Taylor (Julianne Moore), recruits her ex-husband Theo Faron (Clive Owen) to help assist Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) — the first pregnant woman in years — to gain citizenship. The world Cuaron creates is cynical and miserable but his technical prowess is incredible. Ejiofor and his co-stars are each brilliant.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
Ejiofor gives his greatest performance to date in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. The film is based on the memoirs of Solomon Northup (played by Ejiofor) a freeman who was kidnapped and sold back into slavery in 1841. The film details this tragic event and the nightmarish twelve years between his kidnapping and return to freedom. Ejiofor is supported by great performances from Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch. With McQueen’s meticulous hand behind the camera, it is one of the most moving, heartbreaking and earnestly-made portrayals of American slavery put to film
Amistad is Steven Spielberg’s most underrated historical drama, if not his most underrated film period. He details the 1839 slave mutiny on the titular ship and the complex legal battle which followed. Djimon Hounsou gives a strong performance as Joseph Cinque, the leader of the revolt. Ejiofor, in his feature film debut, plays James Covey, a former slave and interpreter for Cinque during the trial. There is no shortage of truly powerful performances throughout, including Anthony Hopkins as former president John Quincy Adams. It is an important historical precursor to the American Civil War told by one of America’s best filmmakers.
Inside Man (2006)
Spike Lee has more than established himself as a master filmmaker. With Inside Man, he twists what could be an average heist film into something truly great. The plot centers around a bank robbery and the hostage situation it creates. The New York Police Department dispatches their hostage negotiator Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) and his partner Bill Mitchell (Ejiofor). They butt heads with Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), the mastermind of the intricate heist. Even today, it feels timely and intelligent without losing the ability to also be enjoyably tense.
Love Actually (2003)
Richard Curtis’ impact on the contemporary romance film cannot be overstated. The man has been behind Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and more. Love Actually may be his most personal piece to date, as he directed it as well as wrote. It is impressively sprawling in scope for this particular genre. Curtis tells ten interconnected stories about love and loss. Many of the stories are built around the wedding of Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter (Ejiofor). If nothing else, it shows that few are as good as Curtis at tugging at an audience’s heartstrings.
American Gangster (2007)
Ridley Scott’s American Gangster tells the story of Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), a titan of organized crime in Harlem. In the late 1960s, Lucas built his power on supplying heroin to sellers all over New York City. Scott blends this thread with that of Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), the by-the-book detective put in charge of identifying the biggest suppliers in the area. Ejiofor gives a sturdy supporting performance as Huey, Frank’s brother who he makes one of his lieutenants in his sizeable empire.
Z for Zachariah (2015)
Whom amongst us does not enjoy a personal, character-driven story of people in dire circumstances? Nuclear warfare has left Earth desolate and precious few humans remain. Two of them, John Loomis (Ejiofor) and Ann Burden (Margot Robbie) find each other and forge a sort of relationship. Each of them traumatized by the immensely grim reality in which they live, their codependence is nothing if not delicate. A third person, Caleb (Chris Pine) arrives and the situation becomes tense. While much more is at stake than romance, the two men vie for Ann’s attention to the detriment of the group. With three sturdy performances, Z for Zachariah is a worthwhile watch indeed.
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