Keira Knightley's Best Movies And How To Watch Them

Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean.
(Image credit: Disney)

When I think of queens of period dramas, one of the first names that comes to mind is Keira Knightley. From her early times in film to some of her latest ventures, Knightley has consistently proven that she is the ultimate actress when it comes to compelling period pieces that scream emotion and will surely make you cry. 

However, Knightley is known for far more than just her period pieces, as she’s been in fantasy movies, fun teen films, and more that have become classics over her multiple-decade career. Here are some of Keira Knightley’s best movies that you can stream or rent right now, and one you could buy. 

Keira Knightley in Princess of Thieves.

(Image credit: ABC/Granada)

Princess Of Thieves (2001)

While Keira Knightley had made a couple of minor appearances in movies prior to this one, Princess of Thieves was really one of her breakout roles. This fun TV movie tells the untold story of another version of Robin Hood - his daughter. But, when her father is captured by the obtuse rulers of the kingdom, she takes it upon herself, with the help of others, to bring back the rightful ruler, as well as take back her father. 

I always looked at Princess of Thieves as sort of training for Keira’s big role in Pirates of the Caribbean (which we’ll talk about later). What I really love about this is that it shows even when she was younger, Knightley was a badass at acting, delivering excellent scenes and some super fun fight sequences that remind me of old Robin Hood movies, which makes it even more enjoyable to watch. 

Buy the Princess of Thieves DVD on Amazon.

Keira Knightley in Bend It Like Beckham.

(Image credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

Another breakout role for Keira Knightley, Bend it Like Beckham is a fun teen comedy with romance and sports. In this movie, a young Indian woman has grown up with strict parents, and even though she has come of age, they still won’t let her live her life and allow her to do what she loves the most - play soccer. Soon, an ally emerges and convinces her to join a semi-pro team after seeing how good she is at the game - all while keeping it a secret from her family. 

Ever since Ted Lasso released on Apple TV+, I’ve gotten myself into a cycle of watching sports comedies for fun, and Bend it Like Beckham is perfect. I can see why Keira Knightley ended up getting more attention after this role, as her relationship with Jess in the movie feels like a real friendship and it’s all about the two of them trying to support each other despite the consequences. 

Stream Bend It Like Beckham on HBO Max.
Rent Bend It Like Beckham on Amazon.

Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean.

(Image credit: Disney)

The Pirates Of The Caribbean Franchise (2003 - 2017)

Now this is where Keira Knightley exploded onto the scene. Pirates of the Caribbean, loosely based on the theme park ride of the same name, follows pirates as they travel across the Caribbean seas, ravaging, scavenging, and drinking their way to glory, including the famous Jack Sparrow. 

Keira Knightly, for several Pirates of the Caribbean movies, played Elizabeth Swann, a young woman who was fascinated with the idea of pirates since she was a young girl, and she is a badass in these movies. Before many major movies with women as superheroes or action heroes, there was Elizabeth Swann, this amazingly independent and skilled fighter who still finds love, and that's something that I always loved as a child and still do to this day. Only Keira Knightley could play such a fascinating character; one that I’ve truly grown fond of more and more. 

Stream The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise on Disney+.
Rent The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise on Amazon.

Keira Knightley in Love Actually.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Love Actually (2003)

If you want to see a great romantic comedy that’s mixed with some Christmas cheer, check out Love Actually. Here, we follow the lives of several different couples, who are all struggling with their own personal issues as the holidays loom. 

The Love Actually cast has so many stars in it it’s always hard to focus on one specific performance, but truly, it’s one of the best Christmas movies out there, and Keira Knightley’s role is just as iconic as you would expect it to be. That scene with her and Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is probably one of the most recognizable scenes from modern movies. I think all of us sort of dream that our perfect match would stand outside our door and profess their love for us. Ah, guess I’ll have to keep dreaming. 

Stream Love Actually on Amazon.
Rent Love Actually on AppleTV.

Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden in Pride and Prejudice.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Pride And Prejudice (2005)

Pride and Prejudice, based on the novel of the same name, is a classic enemies to lovers story where two very different people must move past their own prides and prejudices in order to realize their true feelings. 

This is what I mean when I say Keira Knightley is a queen of period dramas, because she just acts so well in these movies. Her facial expressions and ability to show emotion makes her perfect for these sorts of movies that are often focused on love or wanting to overcome adversity. I will always love the relationship that she builds with Mr. Darcy and think that it’s one of the best romances out there. 

Stream Pride and Prejudice on HBO Max.
Rent Pride and Prejudice on Amazon.

Keira Knightley in Atonement.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Atonement (2007)

The critically-acclaimed movie, Atonement, is another great drama with a fantastic list of stars, including Keira Knightley. The drama follows what can happen when a crime occurs, and how the effects of that crime can still cause harm even years later, starting all the way back in the 1930s and moving onward. 

Keira Knightley’s performance is one of the many reasons to watch Atonement, as she again brings her all to the performance and shows just how great of an actress she really is. Her scenes with Saorise Ronan, in particular, are some of the standouts. The score is also fantastic - and if you don’t believe me, believe that it won the Academy Award for Best Original Score. 

Rent Atonement on Amazon.

Keira Knightley in The Duchess.

(Image credit: Paramount Vantage)

The Duchess (2008)

If you’re looking for another great Keira Knightley period piece, check out The Duchess. Based on a real-life Duchess, Georgiana Cavendish, the film examines her life from when she was a young woman, to her marriages, and to the rest of her life, which ended in tragedy. 

Fun fact - Georgiana was actually the great-great-great-great aunt of Princess Diana, and Keira Knightley does a fantastic job portraying a young woman whose life was turned upside down. Something else that I love about this movie is the costume design, which was phenomenally done and really added to every scene that Knightley was in, further making her portrayal that much more realistic. 

Stream The Duchess on Paramount Plus.
Rent The Duchess on Amazon.

Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures/Focus Features)

Anna Karenina (2012)

Another excellent period piece performance from Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina follows the titular character, who is a socialite and the wife of a senior statesman. Everything changes when she meets Count Vronksy, and heads into an affair that will change her life forever.

This is one of my personal favorite Keira Knightley performances, as she skillfully performs as Anna while also crafting a beautifully tragic love story that will make anyone’s heart clench, alongside her on-screen love interest, Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Like the last entry, the costume design in this movie is also brilliant as hell, and makes the movie that much better. 

Stream Anna Karenina on HBO Max.
Rent Anna Karenina on Amazon.

Keira Knightley in Begin Again.

(Image credit: The Weinstein Company)

Begin Again (2014)

As someone who adores some of the best movie musicals, Begin Again is such an underrated one. Keira Knightley stars as an undiscovered singer / songwriter who has been with her partner for some time. When he finds success, which leads to infidelity, she tries to begin her life again without him - and starts by meeting a record producer who's looking for a new singer. 

I love Begin Again. Both Knightley and Mark Ruffalo (who plays her love interest) have such amazing chemistry and really help create a meaningful love story, not only about romantic love but familial love, as well. Something I also adore about this film is that it’s about finding that feeling of belonging. Anyone at any point in their life can begin again, and that’s exactly what her character eventually does. 

Stream Begin Again on Netflix.
Rent Begin Again on Amazon.

Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game.

(Image credit: The Weinstein Company)

The Imitation Game (2014)

The Imitation Game is a war drama that tells the story of Alan Turing, one of the grandfathers of the computer, and how he and his team of brilliant minds worked together to crack codes and reveal messages that could be used to aid the Allies during World War II. 

Keira Knightley portrayed Joan Clarke, a real life cryptanalyst who aided Alan Turing and was actually his partner for a time before they separated after he revealed he was homosexual. While many would probably think that Pride & Prejudice is Knightley’s best role, I will always think The Imitation Game is where she truly brought her acting skills to the table. There’s something so compelling about her performance as Joan that gets me every time I watch the movie, and her interactions with Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Alan, are some of the best in the film and make it that much more entertaining to watch. 

Stream The Imitation Game on Amazon.
Rent The Imitation Game on Apple TV.

Keira Knightley in Colette.

(Image credit: Bleecker Street)

Colette (2018)

Last, but not least, let’s take a look at Colette, one of Knightley’s latest entries. Colette documents the life of real French novelist, Colette, otherwise known as Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, following how her rise to fame as a writer started with her husband, and she later created her own success. 

As someone who hadn’t heard of the author prior to the movie, I quite enjoyed Colette and all of the drama it had to offer, and Keira Knightley once again rocked it in a period piece where she was able to display a full range of emotions. Even if the film didn’t break the bank at the box office, it was still a great movie that showcases the power of Knightley’s acting skills. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check it out. 

Stream Colette on Hulu.
Rent Colette on Amazon.

With so many amazing movies under her belt, one can only wonder what Keira Knightley is going to do next. Until we find out, I think I’ll just re-watch Pirates of the Caribbean for the umpteenth time. Anyone want to join me?  

Alexandra Ramos
Content Producer

A self-proclaimed nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, Alexandra Ramos is a Content Producer at CinemaBlend. She first started off working in December 2020 as a Freelance Writer after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. She primarily works in features for movies, TV, and sometimes video games. (Please don't debate her on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!) She is also the main person who runs both our daily newsletter, The CinemaBlend Daily, and our ReelBlend newsletter.