As a longtime admirer of Lily James, I honestly believe that she has never been better than in the Pam & Tommy cast as Pamela Anderson. She not only gives a convincing portrayal of the former model, star of the original Baywatch TV show, and social activist, but completely embodies her with a spot-on vocal impersonation and uncanny makeup and prosthetics that make it nearly impossible to tell the difference between the two.
Admittedly, though, the otherwise stunning and transformative performance is not the only one I would recommend to audiences who want to be properly acquainted with the British actress. So, for any fans of the fact-based Hulu exclusive miniseries who want to get to know the “real” her, I put together a list of some of the best Lily James movies, along with a tip for where to find them on streaming or available to rent. Our first recommendation, however, is actually a hit TV show on which James first broke out into the mainstream.
Downton Abbey (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Peacock)
A chronicle of the lives of a wealthy, extensive family and their relationships with their loyal servants at their lavish estate in early 20th-Century England.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Lily James: In Season 3 of creator Julian Fellowes’ blockbuster British series, Lily James joined the Downton Abbey cast as the charmingly rebellious Lady Rose MacClare - which, essentially, saw the beginning of the actress' long and successful streak of roles in Victorian costume dramas.
A meek young woman (Lily James), cruelly neglected by her stepmother (Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett) and her daughters, goes to the local ball and captures the heart of a prince (Richard Madden) with help from her fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Lily James: In one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) period drama role of her career so far, Lily James absolutely soars as the titular lead of 2015’s Cinderella - director Kenneth Branagh’s surprisingly captivating live-action update of Disney’s animated classic based on the quintessential fairy tale.
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies (Tubi)
Five sisters from an aristocratic family struggle with the expectation of their male suitors and spar with flesh-eating corpses in an alternate 19th Century England overrun with the undead.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Lily James: A year after leading Cinderella, Lily James began to show her worth as an action star, while still honing her penchant for period dramas, in a film that inventively combines both genres: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s thrilling, Romero-inspired reinterpretation of Jane Austen’s classic romantic satire.
Baby Driver (Amazon Rental)
A young man (Ansel Elgort) with an incredible talent for making a clean getaway and a passion for hip tunes is torn between his reluctant position as a mobster’s wheelman and his desire for a normal life with the woman he's come to love (Lily James).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Lily James: While not quite an action star role, Lily James made an undeniably lasting impression as the beautiful waitress, Debora, in 2017’s action-packed Baby Driver - a high-octane and highly unique heist thriller set to music, from writer and director Edgar Wright.
Fast Girls (Tubi, IMDb TV)
A talented, yet rebellious, track runner (Lenora Chrichlow, star of one of the best Black Mirror episodes, “White Bear”) finds her aspirations to compete in the World Championships interrupted when she develops an intense rivalry with her equally ambitious teammate (Lily James).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Lily James: Years before capturing the heart of a fast boy in Baby Driver, Lily James landed her first starring role in a feature film with the 2012 sports drama, Fast Girls, as the extremely competitive track runner, Lisa Temple.
Little Woods (Hulu)
A young drug dealer (Tessa Thompson) struggling to go legit is forced back into the game due to her own financial situations and a desperate plea from her estranged sister (Lily James).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Lily James: Before sharing the screen with Bucky Barnes actor Sebastian Stan in Pam & Tommy, James starred alongside fellow Marvel movie star Thompson, and was directed by future Marvel movie helmer, Nia DaCosta, in 2018’s Little Woods - a riveting, brutally realistic modern-day take on a Western outlaw stories.
Yesterday (Amazon Rental)
A young, British musician (Himesh Patel) struggling to make something of himself finds success beyond his wildest dreams after he suddenly becomes one of less than a handful people in the world familiar with the Beatles' music, and begins passing the Fab Four’s greatest hits off as his own creations.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Lily James: In 2019, Lily James would star alongside future Marvel TV show star Sophia Di Martino in Yesterday - a clever “what if?” story for Beatles fans from Oscar-nominated screenwriter Richard Curtis and Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Amazon Rental)
As she is about become a mother herself, Sophie (Academy Award nominee Amanda Seyfried) learns more about her mother (Academy Award winner Meryl Streep), specifically what happened when she first met the three men that Sophie now calls her dads.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Lily James: A year before playing the female lead in Yesterday, Lily James made her cinematic musical debut (unless you count Baby Driver) as a younger version of Meryl Streep’s character, Donna, in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again - a fun sequel to the cinematic adaptation of the hit musical featuring the songs of Abba.
Darkest Hour (Netflix)
In 1940, Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) is torn by a situation that may determine the fate of the British Empire: deciding on an attempt to make a peaceful negotiation with Adolf Hitler or enter his nation’s Army into the second World War.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Lily James: A year before sharing the screen with several Oscar darlings in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Lily James starred opposite a man about to win his long-awaited first Oscar (Oldman) for his own transformative performance in Darkest Hour - director Joe Wright’s intense World War II-era biopic in which James plays the famed British Prime Minister’s personal secretary.
The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society (Netflix)
A British woman (Lily James) struggling to see her writing career really begin to take off finds inspiration in a book club whose members bond over their experiences living on a formerly Nazi-occupied island.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Lily James: A year after starring in a World War II-era drama, Lily James led the cast of the post-World War II drama The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - a powerful, romantic Netflix exclusive drama based on the novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
A young woman (Lily James) is brought by her new husband (Armie Hammer) to live on his luxurious estate in the English countryside, where she soon learns that the memory of his late former wife lingers heavily, especially through the intimidating head maid (Kristin Scott Thomas).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Lily James: Lily James’ next Netflix exclusive romantic period drama was director Ben Wheatley’s 2020 adaptation of Rebecca - author Daphne Du Maurier’s seminal thriller that director Alfred Hitchcock had previously adapted into a Best Picture Oscar winner in 1940.
The Dig (Netflix)
A wealthy, widowed woman (Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan) enlists an archeologist (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) to dig up what lies beneath the burial mounds on her British estate, which leads to a discovery of historical proportions.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Lily James: Less than a year after starring in Rebecca, Lily James starred as real-life English archeologist Peggy Piggot (otherwise known Margaret Guido) in yet another Netflix exclusive, romantic period drama called The Dig - director Simon Stone’s beautifully shot, beautifully told, and beautifully acted adaptation of John Preston’s fact-based novel.
Next up, Lily James stars in the upcoming romantic-comedy What’s Love Got to Do with It?, which is now in post-production. In pre-production currently is her international thriller, The Paris Trap, in which she plays a woman whose European vacation is jeopardized by a case of mistaken identity.
While you wait for those new Lily James films to debut, however, you can take your pick of her previous hits to keep you entertained, or take a look at the 2022 movie releases to see what else you can watch in the coming weeks.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.