If we’re talking about some of the best actors of the last couple of decades, one I want to point out is James McAvoy. From starring in an M. Night Shyamalan hit to having roles in big-time TV shows, McAvoy has continued to prove that he can do anything from play crazy killers to kind love interests.
These are some of the best James McAvoy movies and TV shows that are streaming right now, or are available to rent.
First up, we have Split. This horror/thriller released in 2016 tells the story of Kevin Crumb, someone who has twenty-six different personalities and ends up locking a trio of teenage girls in his basement. Now, these girls must try and find a way out to save themselves before he ends up harming them even more.
Not only is this film one of Anya Taylor-Joy’s best movies, but it’s certainly one of James McAvoy’s best films. To be honest, I never thought I could ever be afraid of McAvoy, because before this, he never really played a role that was truly terrifying. But, him as Kevin Crumb genuinely haunts me and I feel that he was the perfect choice, showing just how horrifying he can be, with a classic M. Night Shyamalan twist in there as well.
If you want an action thriller, check out James McAvoy in Wanted. This movie follows the story of an accountant who finds out an intense secret about his father - that he was an assassin. Soon after, he decides to join the same secret society that his father was a part of and work the same job.
James McAvoy is a badass in this role. There's nothing quite like McAvoy in an action movie where he gets to show off his skills not only as an actor, but as a fighter as well, and it's great introduction to how he is as an action star prior to his role in X-Men: First Class in 2011. The story is a ton of fun, and McAvoy really brings in a lot of joy through his part.
His Dark Materials (2019 - Present)
In this fantasy series from HBO, His Dark Materials tells the story of Lyra, a normal girl living as an orphan who goes on a crazy adventure in order to find her missing friend, discovering secrets about the world along the way.
As a part of the His Dark Materials cast, James McAvoy plays Lord Asriel Belacqua, who is actually Lyra’s father, and he was, honestly, the best person to cast in this role. Lord Asriel is fierce and a leader, but also smart in so many ways, and I feel that only McAvoy could portray that combination so well within this complicated fantasy world. I especially enjoy his scenes alongside lead Dafne Keen. They have such great chemistry together.
Arthur Christmas (2011)
In this fun holiday adventure, Arthur Christmas tells the story of the titular character, Arthur Christmas, a descendant of the Claus line who has to take it upon himself, with the help of others, to save Christmas for a little girl when she doesn’t get her present delivered one year.
Thinking about this movie always makes me upset because it deserved so much more praise than it got. James McAvoy was literally the perfect casting for Arthur, as his calm and soothing voice was the right choice for someone as good-natured as Arthur and makes him such an easy protagonist to follow. Arthur Christmas is also one of the best movies about Santa Claus, because it gives a new twist to the age-old tale that we’ve never quite seen before. If you’ve never seen it, be sure to check it out.
X-Men Films (2011 - 2019)
I already mentioned this role earlier, but for some time James McAvoy played the younger version of Professor X, starting in X-Men: First Class and holding onto that role until X-Men: Dark Phoenix, covering the character’s younger years.
For many, I’m sure this is probably where you first saw James McAvoy, as this was the case for me, and I can see why he was picked for this role. He’s able to capture that mysteriousness that Professor X always carries around him, that air of ambiguity, while still remaining one of the most powerful mutants. If you’ve never seen any of the these films, be sure to watch the X-Men movies in order.
Starter For 10 (2006)
If you’re looking for a great comedy-drama, check out Starter for 10, starring James McAvoy. This British film follows an incredibly smart young man in his first year at Bristol University, but his world changes when he wins a spot on the University Challenge quiz team, having the chance to show just how smart he is.
In my eyes, Starter for 10 has always been a more under-the-radar college film, but I personally enjoy the heck out of it, and that’s mainly due to the charming charisma that James McAvoy brings to the screen. I mean, he is so perfect for this coming-of-age role, even when the film starts to turn a little darker towards the end, and makes you want to root for him to succeed. It’s definitely a fun one that I’m sure you would enjoy.
The Last King Of Scotland (2006)
Starring Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy, The Last King of Scotland follows the real-life story of the Ugandan President, Idi Amin, who ruled as a dictator, through the eyes of a young doctor who begins to get closer to him and realizes just how dark and brutal the leader is.
Forest Whitaker actually won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Idi Amin, but James McAvoy was also fantastic in his role as Dr. Nicholas Garrigan. I personally believe he should have gotten even more awards recognition because he was absolutely amazing in this film, and I loved every single scene he was in alongside Whitaker. Not only is it an intense story that will captivate you from the very beginning, it’s beautifully performed by both leads.
In this drama-filled film with plenty of stars, Atonement stars both Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy in this tragic romance when the daughter of an upper-class family ends up falling in love with the housekeeper’s son, causing their lives to turn upside down.
Not only is Atonement one of Kiera Knightley’s best movies, but it’s also one of James McAvoy’s best acting performances to date. His role in the film earned him his first Golden Globe nomination, as well as his second BAFTA nomination for his performance as Robbie Turner. He and Kiera Knightley are literally the best in this film, and their tragic romance tugs at my heart so much. I wish they were in more movies together because their chemistry was off the charts.
Shameless (2004 - 2005)
Before one of Showtime’s best shows, Shameless, was remade for the U.S., the first version was actually done in the United Kingdom. This show is what you would expect it to be if you’re familiar with the American version - following the Gallagher family and all of their crazy and dysfunctional adventures, except this time it's set in Manchester, England.
James McAvoy actually portrayed Steve McBride, Fiona’s boyfriend and later husband in the show, and while there is a Steve in Showtime's version of Shameless, McAvoy’s character is much better, in my opinion. He was sweet with the Gallagher family, a great boyfriend to Fiona, and an all-around good guy. James McAvoy proved just how great he was in a comedic role and made me not only laugh, but cry at certain moments. It was a shame he was only in the show for two seasons.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
Next up, we have Atomic Blonde, which stars Charlize Theron. This action thriller tells the story of a spy who is working to find several double agents, written on a highly secretive list, who are actively being smuggled into West Berlin before the wall collapses.
James McAvoy portrays David Percival, an MI6 Berlin station chief who has a couple of twists of his own, and let me say to Hollywood - please put McAvoy in more action roles like this. He’s just so freaking good as an agent and as a potential villain. His screen presence is perfect, and everything about him is just ugh in the best way possible. While I don’t think he’s going to be showing up in any Atomic Blonde sequel, I can still hope he’ll be in something similar in the future.
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe (2005)
Last but not least, we have the fun fantasy movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. This first installment in the Narnia series follows the story of a group of siblings who discover the world of Narnia, a place that is hidden within their wardrobe, and are thrown into a war between good and evil.
You want to know how I know this is one of James McAvoy’s best films? As a child, I had never read the Narnia series, but I did see the movie. You want to know what I remembered all those years later? Not the plot of the film - James McAvoy’s portrayal of Mr. Tumnus.
Obviously, as an adult I know what the heck is going on in the series, but as a kid I was in love with Mr. Tumnus and his warm heart, and I know it was because McAvoy was the perfect choice. His smile, interactions, and everything else always defined the Narnia series for me as a kid, and to this day, I still think he’s one of the best parts of the first film.
I’m sure we’re only going to see more and more of James McAvoy, but until then, we at least have some awesome movies and TV shows to check out before his next big hit. Now, I’ll go and re-watch Split for the millionth time.
Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!
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