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The 10 Best Benedict Cumberbatch Movies, Ranked

Benedict Cumberbatch in Avengers: Infinity War

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There are a lot of people out there who say that Benedict Cumberbatch is one of the greatest actors of his generation, and there’s not a lot to use as an argument against that belief. For more than 20 years now, the British actor has brought laughter, pain, joy, and sorrow to the stage, television, and cinema. With performances in every genre from comic-book action films to WWII-era biopics and everything in between, Benedict Cumberbatch has taken audiences on some pretty wild rides. And while we would love to break down Cumberbatch’s best television roles (hello, Sherlock) and runs in the theatre (Frankenstein, anyone?), for now we’ll focus on his best movies. So without wasting any more of anyone’s time, let’s take a look at Benedict Cumberbatch’s 10 best movies.

Benedict Cumberbatch laying it all out on the line in Star Trek Into Darkness

10. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

When it was revealed that Benedict Cumberbatch was cast as a villain in Star Trek Into Darkness, pretty much everyone expected him to be taking on the role of Khan, though it wasn't confirmed. And in the role, Cumberbatch didn’t let us down. The film centers around Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew of the Starship Enterprise as they track down the super soldier Khan following the events of a devastating terrorist attack on Starfleet headquarters. Following a cat and mouse game between Kirk and Khan and a series of revelations, the two square off in one of the most satisfying encounters from the franchise. And a lot of this is thanks to Cumberbatch’s brilliant delivery that makes you both fear and admire the conflicted villain. This one is definitely worth a watch, but I’m sure most of you have already seen it… multiple times.

Stream it here.

Benedict Cumberbatch in Black Mass

9. Black Mass (2015)

Although Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t the first actor you recall when thinking about the 2015 James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) biopic Black Mass, but yeah, he’s all in this movie. Portraying Whitey’s brother William “Billy” Bulger, Cumberbatch gave audiences one of the film’s best performances as he tried to balance his brother’s criminal history and role as an FBI informant with that of his as the Massachusetts Senate President. And while we would have loved to have seen more of Cumberbatch’s performance as Bulger, he is part of several key moments throughout the film. His Boston accent alone should have Cumberbatch up for some awards consideration.

Stream it here.

Benedict Cumberbatch being smug in Atonement

8. Atonement (2007)

It was hard to avoid Atonement, a film following the lives of young lovers Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) and Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley) as they are torn apart by Cecilia’s younger sister, Briony (Saoirse Ronan). The lie, which kick-starts the plot of the Academy Award-nominated period piece, comes about after Briony believes she has witnessed Robbie sexually assaulting her 15-year-old cousin, Lola, when in fact it was Paul Marshall (Benedict Cumberbatch) who was committing the act.

From the very first time we meet Paul, we are introduced to a menacing and disgusting member of society’s upper-class who believes that he is above everyone else and is brought to life only in a way that Cumberbatch could pull off. It’s one of those performances where you absolutely detest the character but find yourself not being able to get enough of the actor’s performance.

Stream it here.

Benedict Cumberbatch going over notes in Starter For 10

7. Starter For 10 (2006)

Before Benedict Cumberbatch and James McAvoy shared the screen in Atonement, the two appeared against one another in the 2006 British indie film Starter For 10. The film features Cumberbatch in smaller role as Patrick Watts, the post-grad captain of a college quiz team who goes back and forth with McAvoy’s character, Brian Jackson, as their team prepares for the University Challenge television quiz show. Cumberbatch isn’t in the film as much as McAvoy or co-stars Alice Eve and Rebecca Hall, but he does give us one of his most pretentious and unintentionally hilarious characters of his career. This was one of Cumberbatch’s first film roles and it showed the world (or at least those who saw the movie when it first came out) what he was capable of achieving on screen.

Stream it here.

Benedict Cumberbatch following the paper trail in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Before Benedict Cumberbatch showed up in billion-dollar franchises he was still finding smaller roles in a number of different films, and that’s very much the case for his performance in the 2011 spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. When a mission to discover the identity of a Soviet mole in the ranks of MI6 goes horribly wrong, ages George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is forced out of retirement to uncover the double-agent and stop them in their tracks. With not a lot of trust in those outside his inner-circle, Smiley enlists the help of agent Peter Guillam (Cumberbatch) to help sniff out and expose the person who is feeding information to the Russians. Cumberbatch has a bit of an understated performance throughout the film, and is especially a departure from the over the time and otherworldly characters he would be known to portray a few years later into his career.

Stream it here.

Benedict Cumberbatch preparing for battle in Doctor Strange

5. Doctor Strange (2016)

By the time Benedict Cumberbatch entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Dr. Stephen Strange in the 2016 hit Doctor Strange, the actor had already appeared in multiple major franchises (Star Trek and The Hobbit come to mind), so the accomplished actor was more than prepared for what would become a career-defining role.

This origin film does two things in that it tells the story of how Strange went from a world-renowned surgeon to a multidimensional sorcerer and also further expanded the MCU as the overreaching arc prepared audiences for what was to come later on in the “Infinity Saga.” Cumberbatch had already proven that he was capable of handling the grueling physicality of role as well as the certain level of arrogance that made Doctor Strange such a memorable character. And this might have been the first time audiences were introduced to Doctor Strange, but thankfully, it wasn’t the last.

Stream it here.

Benedict Cumberbatch surrendering the Time Stone in Avengers: Infinity War

4. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

We didn’t see Dr. Strange’s true potential until the end of his first film, but by the time Avengers: Infinity War rolled into theaters in April 2018, the character had not only reached his potential, he exceeded it. You could tell that Cumberbatch was fully intertwined with the character in every scene where he is featured in this crossover epic. Whether it be when he’s casting spells protecting the Time Stone from Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his underlings or teaming up with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Cumberbatch is in control the entire time, even when it seems that he’s throwing in the towel and giving Thanos the stone.

We're including an honorable mention to Avengers: Endgame here, as Strange didn't join the film until the big return in the third act. The look on Cumberbatch’s face as he submits the stone to Thanos in Infinity War is only matched by his face at the end of Avengers: Endgame when he confirms to Iron Man exactly what he meant when he said there was only one out of 14,000,605 different futures in which Thanos is defeated. There’s barely a verbal exchange between Strange and Stark, but the looks says it all.

Stream it here.

Benedict Cumberbatch in 12 Years A Slave

3. 12 Years A Slave (2013)

12 Years A Slave is one of the most beautiful, riveting, and emotional movies I have seen in the past 10 years, but it’s so taxing, brutal, and harrowing that I will probably never watch again despite how much I loved my first viewing. This is mostly due to the fact that the film is one of the most accurate and horrifying portrayals of slavery in recent years and should probably been seen by everyone, but man, it’s a tough film.

We only see Cumberbatch’s portrayal of plantation owner William Ford for a short time in the 12-year struggle by Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and during that time, we see as tender of a performance as we can see from a slave owner. Compared to what comes later in the form of Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), Ford comes off as a conflicted and complicated man on his time that is capable of seeing the error of his ways. This especially seen in the scene where Ford gifts the classically trained musician a violin. But then again, he does sell Northup to Epps after an incident with an overseer on the plantation.

Stream it here.

Benedict Cumberbatch standing down in 1917

2. 1917 (2019)

Benedict Cumberbatch, while only featured in 1917 for less than five minutes of the film’s runtime, is a key component in the conflict driving the narrative of this World War I military epic. Centered around two young British soldiers, Lance Corporal William “Will” Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Thomas “Tom” Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) as they try to prevent an ill-fated attack led by Colonel Mackenzie (Cumberbatch) that will result in the deaths of over 1,600 British soldiers, the film is nothing short of a masterpiece in emotional storytelling.

And though we don’t see Cumberbatch’s Mackenzie until the final moments of the film, he is very much a character throughout the movie as the two young soldiers race against time (and German soldiers) as they try to call off the attack before it ends in a massacre. The look on Cumberbatch’s face right before he reluctantly calls off the attack is painted with a mixture of pride and pain, a look only Cumberbatch could pull off in that moment.

Stream it here.

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

1. The Imitation Game (2014)

Benedict Cumberbatch was mostly featured in supporting roles in the lion’s share of his films going into The Imitation Game, but that would change after the actor gave one of the emotionally gutting performances of 2014 in the biopic about the Cambridge mathematician Alan Turing, who helps crack Nazi codes during World War II and later commits suicide after being thrown in prison for being gay.

Cumberbatch brings a certain level of arrogance and nervousness to the role that to this day remains his most captivating performance. Throughout the film, we see Turing learn to work tirelessly to protect his country from the Nazis only to be chastised, punished, and ridiculed by the country he helped protect years later after he was outed as a homosexual. In those final moments of the film we see how much the pain of a hidden life and tarnished public image weighs on Turing both physically and emotionally.

Stream it here.

Do you agree with our ranking of Benedict Cumberbatch's best movies? Let us know in the comments below.

Philip Sledge
Philip Sledge

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.