With over 125 acting credits to his name and career spanning nearly 50 years, Anthony Hopkins has played some truly memorable roles , but how many have you seen?. Discover some of the hidden gems amongst his many films of merit by the reclusive Welsh dynamo. Hereʼs our top ten…
10) THE WORLDʼS FASTEST INDIAN (2005)
The story of Burt Munro, a ageing New-Zealander who with a diseased heart, sets out to build an Indian bike and race on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Never going to be a blockbuster is it? But it doesnʼt have to be to be a good film. Again Hopkins delivers, and despite his Kiwi accent sometimes disappearing, offers up an eccentric, riveting masterclass. His performance as Munro was so engaging that when Munroʼs children visited the set and watched Hopkins in action, they were literally moved to tears, so realistic was his portrayal. It is a cute, feel-good movie. Hopkins is a cranky yet loveable old dreamer, who, like the film, wears his heart on his sleeve.
9) NIXON (1995)
Another impressive performance as the flawed President. His portrayal captures the pain and paranoia of Richard Nixon, but with an edge of sympathy too. Hopkins absolutely nails Richard Nixonʼs strengths and weaknesses, he is inner conflict personified. A conflict which Hopkins himself was feeling while making the film, both loving the material and worried about the quality of his performance. This bothered him to such an extent that he actually quit the production after criticism from Paul Sorvino and James Woods. He was persuaded back by director Oliver Stone and persistence paid off as his performance earned him a deserved Oscar-nomination.
8) REMAINS OF THE DAY (1993)
You will either love this film or it just wonʼt be your thing. Anthony Hopkins plays a butler in post- WW1 Britain. His devotion to his job is everything. Duty, decorum and absolutely no emotion. His character is the very epitome of English reserve. But this is tested by the arrival of a housekeeper played by Emma Thompson. As the film progresses Hopkins slowly comes to question whether his priorities to the master of the house are correct, especially when Thompson falls in love with him. The film is almost painful in its portrayal of two people who desperately need each other, but never remotely getting close enough to do so. It is very much a love story but the film has no scenes of romance in it at all. Unrequited love brilliantly portrayed by two acting greats. Hopkins has said that his aim as a butler, was when he walked into a room to make it seem even emptier. Which makes his performance even more remarkable, because he manages it and yet we are more aware of him than ever.
7) A BRIDGE TOO FAR (1977)
Itʼs a long detailed story, a very good, realistic and terrible one too. It chronicles the disastrous Battle of Arnhem in WW2. It is this tale of a plan unravelling, of a military fuck- up, that probably prevented the film from receiving the accolades it deserved. People are put off by failure. But with a screenplay by William Goldman, directed by Dicky Attenborough and a cast that will never be bettered (Bogarde, Connery, OʼNeal, Hackman, Fox, Caine, Hopkins, Caan, Gould, Olivier, Redford etc), it delivers some stand out ￼moments of brilliance. Fear, bravery, terror and a good dosage of the British stiff upper lip mentality, best summed up by Hopkins himself, who was rebuked by an advisor on the film, Colonel John Frost, who participated in the real Battle of Arnhem. The Colonelʼs complaint? That Hopkins British character would never have run anywhere, but would have walked through the rain of bullets with correct posture and a total disdain for the enemy fire. They donʼt make them like that anymore. People or films.
6) ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL (1975)
A pleasurable, nostalgic film that spawned a whole TV series which run for some time on British TV. But the programme didnʼt have Hopkins, who in the film stars as the slightly cantankerous, mischievous and eccentric mentor to the lead character James Herriot (Simon Ward). It is a pastiche of rural goings-on concerning two vets in the Yorkshire Dales. An arm up a cows anus here, shooting a critically ill dog there. Hopkins is great as Siegfried Farnon, and it is the relationship between the two vets that really make the film work. Simon Wardʼs fresh, naivety and Hopkins as his self-righteous, wise tutor bounce off each other and create a humorous and entertaining relationship. Yorkshire is really brought to life here and you can almost smell the manure, which is why Hopkins nicknamed the show ʻAll Creatures Grunt and Smellʼ.
5) MAGIC (1978)
Another screenplay by Goldman, another Dicky Attenborough picture and the film that really made people aware of Hopkins as a major player. Hopkins is a struggling magician, but his act is transformed when he becomes a ventriloquist, with the help of his dummy named ʻFatsʼ. A foul-mouthed puppet. This is freaky, as Fats actually looks like Hopkins. Itʼs unnerving. Hopkins and Fats become intertwined, psychological meltdown ensues as schizophrenia takes over and the seemingly demonic dummy begins to assert its control over the shy Hopkins. The movie works so well because Fats isnʼt actually alive at all, it is scarier because he ISNʼT, and that itʼs Hopkins character that simply goes mad. Anthony Hopkins with a miniature Anthony Hopkins as a psychopathic ventriloquist dummy? If that doesnʼt frighten you slightly, youʼre more of a man than me.
4) THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980)
This was David Lynchʼs first studio film (he was working as a roofer at the time), and he manages to create a tight thoughtful little film with some stellar performances. It is a movie that highlights the peaks and troughs of humanity. There has never been a life more miserable than John Merrickʼs. A deformed, abused and, assumedly, demented circus freak is rescued by kind doctor played by Anthony Hopkins. As time goes on the silent horror of the Elephant Man subsides as he begins to open up and communicate, and we realise that he is both kind, intelligent and sensitive. Hopkins is excellent, but overshadowed by the performance of an unrecognisable John Hurt as the tragic titular character. The film was nominated for 8 Oscars, and was even the catalyst for a new Oscar, that being – Best Make-Up. Though it didnʼt actually win any. Shame.
3) THE BOUNTY (1984)
It flopped on its release in 1984. Which is weird as it is an excellent film. Look at the cast, Hopkins, Mel Gibson, Laurence Olivier, Liam Neeson, Daniel Day Lewis. All do a good job, but once again itʼs Hopkins film. He plays William Bligh, and is a strict disciplinarian aboard his ship the Bounty, and the film details the journey and the subsequent mutiny (led by Mel Gibson) of his crew. Itʼs a famous story, and this is the best version. Who was at fault, Bligh? For being a tyrant, or Fletcher Christian (Gibson) for being a bit of an asshole? In some respects, the film is deliberately ambivalent. It leaves it up to you to decide without ever making it glaringly obvious. It is a fairly slow paced film, that isnʼt perfect, but it is beautifully shot, the story is classic, the acting is great and it even has a soundtrack by the 80ʼs movie soundtrack maestro Vangelis. Progressive ambient jazz rock on the high seas.
2) THE BUNKER (1981)
Talking of scary, how about this? Anthony Hopkins as Hitler. Yup, and a brilliant performance too. So uncanny in his impersonation that the soldiers when Hopkins came on set, would immediately snap to attention. So forceful is his portrayal, that after certain scenes, he would have the studio cleared completely, to give himself time alone just to compose himself. Hopkins Hitler is a broken man, a former untouchable who is now a trembling husk , a drug-addicted dead man walking. Yet his descent into madness in his final days in his bunker are not without huge bouts of anger and outbursts which Hopkins delivers potently. We literally see him age before our very eyes. If you liked him as Lecter, there are similarities here. A hugely layered character, complex, confused, unpredictable, demonic and full of rage and hate. Arguably Hopkins has never been better.
1) THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)
Hopkins performance as Hannibal Lecter is so extraordinary, that we have to take a step back to think about it. The film simply fades to nothing when he isnʼt on the screen. He totally dominates the picture from start to finish with an acting masterclass. Intense and understated. When Lecter disappears from the film after a daring escape, something about the film dies. Silence of the Lambs needs Anthony Hopkins like Warren Beatty needs women. They simply canʼt exist on any level without. Lecter is a man that without actually saying it, knowʼs everything. An intelligent, calculated killer thoroughly in control. The strange and potent fact about Hopkins Oscar-winning turn, is that he is only on the screen for around 16 minutes. It says something when he is pretty much all we remember. Amazing performance.