The 15 best Colin Farrell movies
Not sure whether you'd like to laugh, cry, or do a bit of both for your next Colin Farrell movie night? With the right selection of his work, you get a little bit of everything as the Golden Globe-winning actor has been turning out stellar performances since Tigerland in 2000, amassing a solid, eclectic filmography along the way. To help ensure the next Farrell movie you watch is a good one, keep reading to discover EW's breakdown, in no particular order, of the Hollywood star's best films.
<i>In Bruges</i> (2008)
In Bruges is an amazing film on many levels, but it will likely always hold a special place in Colin Farrell's heart. After all, this was the first film for which he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor. And this honor is made all the more impressive by the fact that Farrell held his own alongside acting powerhouse Brendan Gleeson, who happens to give an unforgettable performance of his very own in a movie that EW's Joey Nolfi called a "balance of culture and fun."
Part of what makes Farrell's performance so electric in this Martin McDonagh-directed film is that his character is allowed to embrace the full breadth of the actor's different strengths. For example, when he drops a sexy swagger to impress a girl or leaps into action to stop an armed robber, we see Farrell the leading man, all fiery passion and wiry muscles. However, other scenes show the character's boundless remorse for killing a young child in a hit gone wrong and how it makes him question whether he even has the right to go on living.
In short, his character Ray takes a manic journey of emotional highs and lows over the course of the film, and Farrell's career-best performance is enough to make us do the unthinkable: to empathize with a child-killing hitman even as we share the character's curiosity over whether he should just kill himself and be done with it all.
If you liked In Bruges, you might also enjoy: Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (1998).
<i>The Banshees of Inisherin</i> (2022)
The Banshees of Inisherin is the spiritual sequel to In Bruges, reuniting Colin Farrell with Brendan Gleeson in another film both written and directed by Martin McDonagh. However, Inisherin, set in 1923 during the Irish Civil War, is a much quieter film than its predecessor, centering instead on the friction between Farrell and Gleeson's characters after Gleeson's older Colm decides to stop being friends with the younger Pádraic. This causes extreme distress in the latter character, whom EW's Leah Greenblatt described as "alternately bruised, defiant, achingly sincere, and also very funny."
In a fun (if obvious) metaphor, the conflict between these two men is about everything and nothing all at once, just as the Civil War appears to be to residents of this small island. Fortunately, a more mature Farrell is perfectly able to embrace the complexities of this role, with Pádraic pinwheeling from questioning whether he is too dull to entertain his beloved friend to considering if Colm was ever really a friend at all. Ultimately, Farrell fully deserves the Golden Globe for Best Actor for his performance in this captivating, slow-burning film, as he helps transform a simple story of two men having a row into an unrelentingly honest exploration of the human condition.
If you liked The Banshees of Inisherin, you might also enjoy: The Guard (2011).
<i>The Batman</i> (2022)
It was easy to be skeptical when Warner Bros. announced that Colin Farrell would be playing the Penguin in Matt Reeves' The Batman. For one thing, the actor is unrecognizable as the obese villain, which had EW's Leah Greenblatt questioning "Hollywood's recent fetish with casting the prettiest actors, then burying them in Shrek-face prosthetics." Secondly, Farrell's track record for genre films is spotty at best (Total Recall, anyone?), so it was easy to worry that his appearance in Gotham City would be awful or something even worse: completely forgettable.
Fortunately, Farrell manages to give a captivating performance as he disappears (quite literally) into this role. Since Penguin is just a minor villain in The Batman, it would have been tempting to portray him as a one-note gangster. However, Farrell infuses the character with a kind of smarmy charm that barely masks his overflowing ambition. Ultimately, he steals the show from Paul Dano's Riddler in a big way, and fans are understandably excited to see him reprise the role for the upcoming HBO Max spinoff series.
If you liked The Batman, you might also enjoy: Se7en (1995)
<i>Minority Report</i> (2002)
While he hasn't had too many opportunities to do so, Colin Farrell often shines as the bad guy, and never did this ring so true as in Minority Report. With the charismatic Tom Cruise playing a cop who is pre-cognitively projected to kill someone he has never even met, it would have been easy for audiences to root for him against a monolithic and largely faceless police bureaucracy. However, Farrell steps in to portray the Justice Department agent charged with bringing Cruise in, and his presence adds nothing short of an electric frisson to his scenes, especially those with Cruise. As EW's Darren Franich noted, Farrell's character is "a marvelous sleaze with a surprising moral code."
Part of what makes Farrell's performance so compelling is that he seems to have the same general motivations as his character. The young Danny Witwer is out to prove himself as an arbiter of justice in a world where crime can be predicted, just as young up-and-comer Farrell was out to show that he could hold his own in a big-budget movie directed by Steven Spielberg. And he was more than just successful: his performance (full of both passion and pathos) cemented Farrell as the kind of leading man who could reliably headline tentpole motion pictures.
If you liked Minority Report, you might also enjoy: I, Robot (2004)
<i>The New World</i> (2005)
Perhaps the best aspect of Colin Farrell's performance in Terrence Malick's The New World is that he makes John Smith (a man who is simultaneously legendary and notorious) into a very sympathetic character. Modern students of history often raise their eyebrows at both the real Smith's treatment of Native Americans and especially his relationship with Pocahontas, a girl who would have been as young as 10 years old when they met. A cinematic adaptation of their romance could, in the wrong hands, look more like the plot of an average Criminal Minds episode.
Fortunately, Malick has a very light touch with how the romance is written in the film. But it is Colin Farrell who essentially rehabilitates John Smith in every scene as we see him caught between the duty to his country and men and to his own heart. The movie also makes full use of Farrell's soulful eyes and those famous eyebrows to portray a man who ultimately feels forced to abandon the one woman he ever truly loved. As EW's Lisa Schwarzbaum put it, Farrell is "a vibrant, substantive actor with eyes unfazed by silence, is given plenty of space to establish his Smith as a man not equipped, despite all his sensitivity, for greatness in love or exploit."
Ultimately, the movie whitewashes much of what made the real Smith so problematic, but it's to Farrell's credit that he can transform such a complex figure into such a sublime performance.
If you liked The New World, you might also enjoy: The Thin Red Line (1998)
<i>The Lobster</i> (2015)
Colin Farrell looks less like himself than ever in The Lobster, a movie in which the attractive leading man is transformed into a schlubby, paunchy character sporting a big mustache and corrective lenses. Of course, such a metamorphosis is only fitting in director Yorgos Lanthimos' strange, dystopian world in which those who don't fall in love quickly enough are transmogrified into an animal of their choice — and Farrell's pick is the movie's namesake.
The premise is delightfully absurd, but The Lobster ultimately poses some dark and heavy questions about the very nature of love. As we watch the mousy Farrell (whom Chris Nashawaty described as "formidable" and "fully committed" to the role) go from one horrific situation to the next, it's impossible to not go along with the big questions posed by the film, including whether love is just a matter of finding someone broken in the same way that you are. Our need to both ask such questions and doggedly pursue the answers would not be so keen if Farrell didn't channel such inner reserves of vulnerability. It all leads to an ambiguous climax that will leave you yelling at your television even as you cover your eyes, terrified of what Farrell is prepared to do out of sheer desperation to be loved.
If you liked The Lobster, you might also enjoy: Dogtooth (2009)
<i>Fright Night</i> (2011)
Audiences trained to be skeptical about remakes, and especially horror remakes, were understandably wary of remaking the '80s classic Fright Night. However, the stacked cast (including Toni Collette and Doctor Who alum David Tennant, assuming Roddy McDowall's heroic role of Peter Vincent from the original) helps make this movie just as good, if not better, than its spooky, campy predecessor. But arguably nobody in this ensemble is more impressive than Colin Farrell as Jerry Dandridge, the sexy, yet deadly vampire next door who preys on his community including the neighbor who's on to him, Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin).
Given Farrell's ability to balance charisma and menace, casting him as a vampire was a brilliant move, and nobody appears to be a bigger fan of this film from director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya, Cruella) than Farrell himself. In 2016, the actor made a very bold statement to EW about the film, saying, "Fright Night is the greatest success of my career" — but not because of the reasons you'd think.
Instead, Farrell loved the movie because a chance set visit from his mother led to her meeting movie producer Joel Michaels, and the pair ended up getting married six months later. While vampires may not be real, love itself is truly immortal, and Farrell will always remember this movie for bringing such joy to his mother even as it brought his deliciously over-the-top performance to horror fans throughout the world.
If you liked Fright Night, you might also enjoy: The Lost Boys (1987)
<i>The Killing of a Sacred Deer</i> (2017)
In The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Colin Farrell is reunited with The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos, but the result isn't quite as satisfying as their previous collaboration. While it's fun to see Farrell in more of a horror movie, this film, which has the actor playing a surgeon who befriends the strange child of a deceased patient is, as EW's Chris Nashawaty put it, "icy, remote, and too enigmatic."
As is often the case, Farrell proves to be the real highlight of this movie. While we can appreciate the energy that Nicole Kidman brings to the table, it's Farrell who steals the show as the movie leans into his seemingly boundless capacity to emote guilt and pain that borders on radioactive. The way he grapples with this remorse over having the power of life and death in his hands helps to elevate what might otherwise be a rather plain revenge movie.
If you liked The Killing of a Sacred Deer, you might also enjoy: mother! (2017)
<i>Miss Julie</i> (2014)
Miss Julie may have received mixed reviews (it suffered from being a bit too static and by the numbers as an adaption of the classic 1888 play), but it certainly serves as a tour-de-force for Colin Farrell's acting abilities. When the movie begins, it's easy to root for his low-class valet Jean and root against Jessica Chastain's character, the titular Miss Julie, as she tyrannically lords power over servants, going so far as to make Jean kiss her boots. Before the end of the movie, though, Farrell has gone from being a stricken servant to being a monstrous force we can't look away from.
Ultimately, Farrell headlines the kind of period piece that you show to people who don't normally like such films. As EW's critic once noted, Miss Julie is "more along the lines of Quills than Downton Abbey." If the kinky nature of this class-conscious film doesn't turn you away (or perhaps it's appealing in and of itself), you'll get to see a darker side to Farrell's performance than we have previously ever seen.
If you liked Miss Julie, you might also enjoy: Torrents of Spring (1989)
<i>Phone Booth</i> (2002)
Phone Booth is the kind of movie that sounds like a fever dream when you describe it to others. Yes, Colin Farrell plays a smarmy PR guy who spends almost the entire movie in the titular phone booth. Yes, Kiefer Sutherland is hired to play a killer mastermind that we only see onscreen one time. And, oh yes, Farrell's performance in this is so much better than you would expect (he brings what EW's Owen Gleiberman called "coiled skill" to the film) from a movie that, if we're being honest, sounds more than a bit like action shlock.
Phone Booth was going to either succeed or fail based on Farrell's performance, and fortunately for director Joel Schumacher, the young actor was absolutely pitch-perfect. In the beginning, he is all predatory sleaze, showing no value for human life as he alternates between tormenting his unpaid assistant and trying to sleep with an aspiring actress despite the fact that he is married. By the end, however, Farrell's character has bared his entire soul, and it's downright difficult not to cry along with him as he is forced to confront how hollow his existence really is. The actor's performance reflects this to a tee, and this early entry in Farrell's filmography helped establish that he was much more than just a pretty face.
If you liked Phone Booth, you might also enjoy: Cellular (2004)
<i>After Yang</i> (2021)
While After Yang isn't quite on par with his work in In Bruges, it shares one important quality with that movie: it gives Colin Farrell a simple story that serves as the backdrop for some very human complexity. The actor plays Jake, a man who has grown apart from his wife Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) and adoptive daughter Mike and hopes to restore things to the way they were before by fixing the titular Yang, his daughter's broken "techno" companion.
As EW's Leah Greenblatt noted in her review of the film, Farrell does a lot "to add subtext to all the things that seem to go unspoken" between his character and his not-quite-close, not-quite-estranged wife. To be quite frank, Farrell rises above the often ambiguous script to add extra dimensions to his character. And his character's overabundant humanity helps us to wrestle with questions about our own even as he tries, ironically, to make something artificial (a metaphor, perhaps, for his relationships) whole once more.
If you liked After Yang, you might also enjoy: A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
In retrospect, the fact that Farrell made such an impact with his role in Widows is damn impressive. As EW's Devan Coggan reported, one of the film's stars, Viola Davis, notes how the movie is all about "female power," with the titular widows teaming up to complete a complex heist. Farrell, playing an aspiring politician whose home houses the ladies' target, is effectively caught in the middle.
Given this narrative, it would have been easy for Farrell to play a one-dimensional sleazy male politician focused on disrupting that female power. Instead, he gives a more nuanced performance that forces us to question his real motivations for political power, especially given that he mostly wants to please dear old dad, a major political powerhouse played by Robert Duvall. It's the kind of performance that keeps us both delighted and guessing, all of which serves to make this Steve McQueen-directed thriller that much better.
If you liked Widows, you might also enjoy: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)
<i>Seven Psychopaths</i> (2012)
Writer and director Martin McDonagh may love to make movies starring Colin Farrell, but Seven Psychopaths is the only one in which the actor is essentially playing a version of McDonagh. As EW's critic reported, Farrell said as much on set: "I mean, I'm playing a character writing a script called Seven Psychopaths, and his name is Martin, so …" before trailing off. Specifically, the film has Farrell playing a struggling screenwriter who, inspired by the hijinks of his oddball friends ( Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken), takes out an ad asking others like them to share their stories so that he can complete his own script for a movie called, yes, Seven Psychopaths.
From almost any other creator, McDonagh's story would likely come across as a bit too meta and self-referential. But he understands his cast and how to make the most of a talent like Farrell, who can make McDonagh's sometimes dense verbiage seem natural while adding his own spin to each line. While the final result is a dark comedy/crime-drama that's a bit less captivating than In Bruges or The Banshees of Inisherin, it's one that is still definitely worth watching, especially for fans of this quirky and fruitful director/actor collaboration.
If you liked Seven Psychopaths, you might also enjoy: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
<i>Horrible Bosses</i> (2011)
Colin Farrell plays a very brief role in Horrible Bosses, and it's easy to not catch who the actor really was behind the performance. As EW's Lisa Schwarzbaum noted, Farrell is "hilarious in his prosthetic transformation" of a "coked-up party guy." And it would be easy for his presence to be little more than a visual gag, much like when Tom Cruise made a surprise appearance in Tropic Thunder.
However, Farrell brings the kind of over-the-top humor required by such a garish physical transformation. While he can be a very funny actor, most directors have limited Farrell to occasional bits of sarcasm or sardonic wit. Here, as a drug-addled bad boss, he gets to go even bigger than his co-stars (including Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston), and he unlocks the kind of gear as an actor that leaves us wanting more comedic roles. As is, we'll have to settle for rewatching Farrell in Martin McDonagh's movies which often leave audiences laughing and crying in equal measure.
If you liked Horrible Bosses, you might also enjoy: Office Space (1999)
While different movies have helped elevate Colin Farrell's career to new heights, it was Tigerland that marked his first true big break in Hollywood. As EW's Lisa Schwarzbaum pointed out, director Joel Schumacher "found" the actor and his performance "is as exciting and pleasingly rough-hewn a leading man as Hollywood's most famous, right there on the playing field with George Clooney and Russell Crowe."
This movie came out over two decades ago, and her words have certainly proven to be prophetic. In the film, the mostly-unknown Farrell shines as an anti-war advocate who gets drafted into Vietnam and must struggle to balance his anti-war sentiments with the fact that he is a natural-born leader of soldiers. And while Farrell was still developing his chops as an actor, Schwarzbaum quickly identified the qualities that have helped him become so successful: he is "scruffy, sullen, unpredictable, and magnetic." It may have been Joel Schumacher that helped Farrell go mainstream, but it was the magical combination of those different traits that helped transform a young lad from the Irish suburbs into one of Hollywood's most consistently compelling performers.
If you liked Tigerland, you might also enjoy: Platoon (1986)