British actor Rory Kinnear is a versatile performer capable of playing both dramatic and comedic roles. On stage, he has worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theater. During his time with the Royal National Theater, he won the Olivier Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the villainous Iago in William Shakespeare’s Othello.
On screen, he has played many characters, from pirates to detectives and even the famous Frankenstein’smonster. While he has yet to be nominated for a prestigious Academy Award, it’s probably only a matter of time, as his skills as an actor has earned him the spotlight in England and on this side of the pond in America. With the release of recent films and TV shows this year, and other projects still in the works, we can continue to expect big things from Rory Kinnear. Here are some of his best performances so far, ranked.
6 Penny Dreadful
Mary Shelley’s classic story, Frankenstein, has been told dozens of ways throughout the years. In the psychological horror thriller, Penny Dreadful, an underrated Showtime television series, her well-known character like Dr. Frankenstein are explored (along with other classic characters from Gothic horror fiction, like Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde and Van Helsing from Bram Stoker) through their origin stories. Rory Kinnear plays the creature, otherwise known as Frankenstein’s monster, or by his aliases Caliban and John Clare. For his role as the creature, Kinnear gives a multifaceted performance that displays a new layer and fresh take on the classic monster.
5 The Imitation Game
In the 2014 war / drama film The Imitation Game, Rory Kinnear steps in as Detective Robert Nock, the man tasked with the job of interrogating real-life mathematician Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Based on true events, The Imitation Game tells the story of how the brilliant Alan Turing cracked the code of a legendarily impenetrable German war cryptographic machine called an Enigma during World War Two. While this role may not be overly challenging for Kinnear, he does an excellent job of bringing a humanity that is often left out by many actors and actresses portraying detectives or law enforcement officials.
4 James Bond Films
Perhaps one of Rory Kinnear’s best-known roles is Bill Tanner, M’s chief of staff in the Daniel Craig James Bond films. Bill Tanner is a character that Rory Kinnear is well acquainted with, playing him in four different films: Quantum of Solace (2008), Skyfall (2012), Specter (2015), and No Time To The (2021). In these films, Kinnear gives a cool and collected performance, one befitting of the chief of staff in the British Secret Intelligence Service. Despite this part being a smaller, supporting role, Kinnear holds his own against the legendary Judi Dench, as well as Daniel Craig’s James Bond, the protagonist of the movie.
3 Our Flag Means Death
Rory Kinnear excels at both dramatic and comedic roles, and in the American period comedy series Our Flag Means Death, he plays not one but two bumbling buffoons: Captain Nigel Badminton and Admiral Chauncey Badminton. These characters are twins and have some similarities but also distinct characteristics that show off Kinnear’s skills as an actor. In this comedy series, Kinnear gives seriousness to his characters but also adds a layer of stupidity to them. They take themselves too seriously while Kinnear does not and pokes fun at his roles. The end result is a hilarious and entertaining performance by the British actor.
It’s difficult enough to play one character in a film or two twins as in Our Flag Means Deathbut in Men, the newest film from director and writer Alex Garland, Rory Kinnear plays several. In this 2022 folk horror film, Harper Marlowe (Jessie Buckley) seeks to start a new life in the small village of Cotson after her abusive husband James took his own life. However, Harper’s holiday soon turns into a nightmare when she finds herself stalked by Cotson’s inhabitants, all of whom are played by Rory Kinnear. Each character has a different personality, yet there is an unsettled creepiness about each one as they eventually all come together to terrorize Harper.
1 Black Mirror
How far would you go to save a beloved public figure? In Black Mirror‘s pilot episode, National Anthem, Princess Susannah is a beloved member of the Royal British Family. However, she is captured and will be murdered unless the Prime Minister, Michael Callow, (Rory Kinnear) performs an explicit act on live television by having sexual relations with a pig. Despite all efforts to locate Princess Susannah and track her abductor, the Prime Minister’s team fails and Michael must go through with his act for the entirety of the world to see.
Unlike the viewers in the show who watch their TV screens aghast in horror, we as an audience know that the act is fake. However, Rory Kinnear gives a realistic and layered performance that is both heartbreaking and disturbing to watch. Even though we do not see the act explicitly taking place, we see the horror, shame, and disgust on his face, as well as the aftermath of the trauma and distance that it puts between him and his wife.