There are actors and actresses that find success with more dramatic roles and others who have impeccable comedic timing and make the most of their abilities. And then there is Olivia Colman, the Academy Award, Primetime Emmy, Golden Golden Globe winner who has managed to bounce between multiple genres and characters flawlessly throughout her career. I mean, we’re talking about the talented thespian who played very different members of the Royal family in The Crown and The Favourite in the same year.
And, this has always been the case with the best Olivia Colman movies and TV shows, as each different film and series shows the dynamic range of one of the greatest living actresses today. Better yet, most of those great examples are available streaming, digitally, and on physical media.
The Crown (2019 - 2020)
Peter Morgan’s sprawling series, The Crown, chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II, starting with her 1947 wedding to Prince Philip and through her decades-long reign as the Queen of England. One of the best Netflix shows, the series recounts some of Elizabeth’s most trying moments, both on the world stage and inside her own family.
Olivia Colman’s turn as Queen Elizabeth II is especially magnificent in the way she portrays the monarch as a ruler more than a decade into her reign, during Seasons 3 and 4 . No longer the young and somewhat naïve character from the first two seasons, Colman plays Elizabeth as a woman who has put duty above all else and carries the emotional scars of her decisions.
The Favourite (2018)
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, the 2018 black comedy, The Favourite, follows rival cousins Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) as they battle for the attention of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) to become her court favourite through any means necessary.
Most of the drama throughout The Favourite centers on the two competing cousins, but the many appearances by Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne is what gives the hilarious period comedy a lot of its heart. Sure, she’s silly and rather daft at times, but there are times where Anne opens up and it become a completely different movie. How Colman bounces between the two is fascinating and deserving of the Oscar she received here.
The Father (2020)
Florian Zeller’s moving family drama, The Father, centers on the strained relationship shared by Anne (Olivia Colman) and her father Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), who is failing to come to terms with his deteriorating mental state.
Anyone who has spent time with a family member suffering from dementia knows the pain Olivia Colman’s character wears throughout The Father, and that is thanks to her understanding and commitment to the role. The way she goes from an understanding daughter to overburdened caretaker is upsetting, yet realistic, as she deals with the stresses that have come into her life.
Fleabag (2016 - 2019)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s critically acclaimed dramedy series, Fleabag, follows the titular character as she attempts to make sense of modern life and its trappings in London, all while getting over her past and current relationships. At times hilarious, and others emotionally raw, this unique series runs the whole gamut of emotion.
There are multiple memorable characters on Fleabag, but one of the strangest and most fun to watch is Olivia Colman’s Godmother, who seems to take pleasure in making Fleabag’s life as miserable as humanly possible. Even though she has an unmatched sense of callousness and the innate ability to be a downright awful person, you can’t help but watch whenever Godmother waltzes into the frame.
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Hot Fuzz (2007)
After being transferred to the quaint and boring rural town of Sanford, Gloucestershire, hot-shot police officer Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) fins himself in the middle of a mysterious episode in which residents begin dying in mysterious and incredibly violent fashion.
Just about everything about Hot Fuzz is amazing, including its story, cast, callbacks to buddy cop movies of the past, and so much violence. And, sure, Nick Frost and Jim Broadbent’s characters get a lot of attention (for good reason), but Olivia Colman’s Doris Thatcher, the sole female on Sanford’s police force, is absolutely brilliant. With some of the best-timed jokes in the movie and some amazing action sequences, Colman is amazing here.
Hyde Park On Hudson (2012)
Roger Michell’s 2012 historical comedy Hyde Park on Hudson serves as a fictionalized account of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (Bill Murray) affair with Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (Laura Linney). Set two years before the United States entered World War II, the movie spends a great deal of time focusing on the budding partnership between Roosevelt and King George VI (Samuel West) who personally asks the president to help with Britain’s war efforts.
Nearly a decade before she would play Queen Elizabeth II, Olivia Colman played her mother in Hyde Park on Hudson. Somewhere in the middle of royal performances in The Crown and The Favourite, Colman does a fantastic job of portraying a member of the monarchy who doesn’t really seem to understand American sensibilities (or hot dogs), creating some comedic moments.
Broadchurch (2013 - 2017)
The fictional seaside town of Broadchurch is a quiet and relatively peaceful one in southwest England, until it becomes the epicenter of a media frenzy and far-reaching police investigation after a young boy is brutally murdered. Brought in to investigate the case and track down the sadistic murderer are detectives Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), who will be tested in multiple ways before the crime is solved.
A lot of Broadchurch’s best moments arise from the partnership shared by the two investigators, with Olivia Colman’s character being at the center of several of the most traumatic scenes. After watching her dynamic performance, it’s easy to see why she received so much praise throughout the show’s three-season run.
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The Lobster (2015)
When his marriage comes to an abrupt end, David (Collin Farrell) is whisked away to a hotel and given an ultimatum: find a new partner in 45 days or transform into an animal of his choosing (a lobster, in this case). With the threat of turning into a crustacean looming over him, David gives love once last shot in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster.
This surrealist black comedy is truly bizarre, but Olivia Colman’s cool-headed portrayal of the hotel manager who lays out the story’s rules somehow makes the whole affair seem less strange. Still, Colman’s presence is unsettling, nevertheless.
The Night Manager (2016)
Based on John le Carré’s spy novel of the same name, the 2016 series, The Night Manager, follows Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), the manager of a luxury hotel in Cairo who is recruited to infiltrate and bring down international arms dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie).
Though there has only been one season to date, The Night Manager remains one of the best modern spy thriller series, thanks in part to its truly outstanding cast that also includes Tom Hollander, Elizabeth Debicki, and Olivia Colman as Angela Burr, who spearheads the covert operation. There is something special about the complex nature of her performance, which earned her a Golden Globe.
Over the course of two seasons, the anthology series Accused told 10 stories about people all charged with various crimes with the events that led to the accusations being told in graphic detail. One of those episodes, “Mo’s Story,” centers on two friends, Mo Murray (Anne-Marie Duff) and Sue Brown (Olivia Colman), whose relationship is tested following a devastating murder.
Olivia Colman’s portrayal of a woman experiencing extreme grief throughout the single episode is something to behold, and feels like a genuine reaction opposed to acting. It’s difficult to watch, but something any fan of hers must experience.
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Paddy Considine’s 2011 drama, Tyrannosaur, centers on Joseph (Peter Mullan), a widower with a violent temper, and Hannah (Olivia Colman) a compassionate woman who works at a second-hand charity shop. Over the course of the movie, the two form a strong bond and have an influence on one another’s life, for better or worse.
Olivia Colman won a whole slew of awards for her performance in Tyrannosaur, and for good reason. Her depiction of a woman rising up and taking a stand for herself for the first time in her life is empowering, moving, and terribly tragic.
Les Misérables (2018)
There have been dozens of adaptations of Les Misérables since Victor Hugo's novel was first published in 1862, and the 2018 BBC/PBS co-production is one the most epic and enjoyable of the bunch. The timeless story is made all the better with the remarkable cast that includes Dominic West as Jean Valjean, David Oyelowo as Javert, Lily Collins as Fantine Thibault, and Olivia Colman as Madame Rosalie Thénardier.
Although her character is one of the main antagonists in the epic six-episode story, Olivia Colman is one of the best things about the adaptation and really drives home the despicable nature of the self-serving woman.
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These are just some of the best Olivia Colman movies and TV shows that have come out over the years, as there are dozens of worthy performances from the acclaimed actress that are worth exploring.
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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.
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