From The Lobster to The Batman to Ondine, we’ve gathered the best and worst Colin Farrell movies for your next binge-watching (or cringe-watching) movie night
Now firmly established as the most famous Irish actor of his generation, the Dubliner picked up only the second major award of his career earlier this week, bagging a Golden Globe for his role in The Banshees of Inisherin (his first was a Golden Globe for In Bruges in 2009). The film has also secured him the unofficial title of Most Famous Eyebrows in Film (how did he get them to do that thing? Answers on a postcard.)
It’s been a hell of a journey for the Castleknock native, from humble beginnings in a schmaltzy smalltown Ireland soap to starring opposite some of the biggest movie stars on the planet.
Still, since making his Hollywood debut in Joel Schumacher’s 2000 war dramaTigerland, the 46-year-old has held his own in a variety of roles across multiple genres. From superhero villains to action blockbusters, and quirky indie flicks to family-friendly Disney films, Farrell has proven his versatility as well as some serious acting chops.
However, like any established actor worth their salt, there are probably a few roles he’d like to forget among the critically acclaimed ones, too. Below, we take a look at the Farrell’s best and worst roles.
Minority Report (2002)
Having impressed audiences (and apparently, studio head honchos, too) with roles in the likes of Tigerland and Hart’s War, this was the film where Colin Farrell became a bona fide movie star. Playing opposite Tom Cruise and directed by Steven Spielberg, Farrell thrived in the big budget sci-fi thriller, playing a government agent who becomes embroiled in a futuristic plot involving ‘precogs’ - clairvoyant humans - and a potentially nefarious cover-up. He aced it, too.
This crime caper has gone down in Irish film lore as a bit of a classic, and was probably the first opportunity for Farrell to display his comedy prowess. He plays hapless small-time criminal Lehiff in the Mark O’Rowe-penned film: a constant thorn in the side of Colm Meaney’s Garda Detective, who becomes involved in a bungled kidnap plot. He portrayed Lehiff with both an amusing crudeness and a pleasing sense of naivety - perhaps most memorably in that scene with the tea and the brown sauce. F**kin’ delish, man.
In Bruges (2008)
There’s a lot to be said about the screenplay for In Bruges, but when you can’t possibly imagine anyone else but Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in the main roles, you know it’s their performances that really elevated Martin McDonagh’s debut film. It was also the beginning of a beautiful friendship and creative alliance between the trio, Farrell playing the ‘Dougal’ to Gleeson’s straight man with just the right amount of half-witted sincerity. Two Irish hitmen laying low in the ‘boring’ Belgian city after a botched job: what could possibly go wrong?
The Lobster (2015)
By 2015, he had proven that he could pull off the big blockbuster roles with aplomb – Phone Booth, Miami Vice and S.W.A.T. to name a few – but it seems that Farrell is drawn to offbeat characters and stories. The Lobster was his first collaboration with Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (swiftly followed by the also excellent The Killing of a Sacred Deerin 2017), playing David: a man who must find a partner and fall in love within 45 days, or else he will be turned into a lobster. Farrell excels in these black comedy roles and this is undoubtedly one of his finest.
The North Water (2021)
There have been very few TV roles on Farrell’s CV since Ballykissangel; aside from cameos on the likes ofScrubs and an appearance on Sesame Street, his first major foray into TV was on the second season of True Detective opposite Vince Vaughn. But forget about that: although it may not have been as high-profile as the HBO show, one of his most powerful roles to date has been on BBC period miniseries The North Water. It’s not often that you see Farrell playing such a comprehensively dislikeable character, but he was genuinely superb as villainous thug Henry Drax, a member of a 19th century Arctic whaling expedition that goes awry.
The Batman (2022)
Robert Pattinson may have generated most of the buzz about The Batman as he assumed the role of the Caped Crusader, but to overlook Farrell’s contribution to Matt Reeves’ superhero reboot would be… well, criminal. Not only was Farrell physically unrecognisable as one of the movie world’s most memorable villains – Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin – but he made the character his own; it’s no mean feat to follow in the footsteps of Danny DeVito. Farrell’s Penguin was played with a subtlety, a wacky sense of humour and an undercurrent of menace that saw him steal every scene he was in.
Look, you can’t really blame him for taking on a role like Alexander at that point of his career. On paper, there was plenty going for Oliver Stone’s historical epic about Alexander the Great – not least the opportunity to work with the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Plummer and Angelina Jolie. What could possibly go wrong, he might have asked himself? Apart from the bad dye job (never go blonde again, Colin), a bloated script and a ridiculously overlong running time, that is. The film was a certified flop and it’s safe to say that it’s not one of Farrell’s finest moments.
Total Recall (2012)
Having made a fair fist of 1980s remakes in Miami Vice and horror comedy Fright Night, you can see why a reboot of Total Recallmight have appealed to Farrell.
Unfortunately for him, the film – loosely based on the 1990 original, with some tweaks to the setting and storyline – had neither the charm nor the swagger of its predecessor.
Admittedly, Farrell had big boots to fill, taking on the role of Douglas Quaid (a man plagued by ominous dreams about being a spy in a futuristic world) from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Still, coupled with a turgid screenplay, it failed to wow either the critics or the public.
Let’s chalk this one down to experience, shall we? To be fair, Farrell’s turn in Daredevil preceded the MCU’s renaissance by a good five years, although it came off the back of Tobey Maguire’s massive success in Marvel’s first Spider-Man reboot: even back in 2003, there was a clear appeal for big movie stars to dip their toes into comic book adaptations.
The Dubliner played Bullseye, one of several ‘baddies’ in the sights of masked vigilante Daredevil, aka Ben Affleck. Despite triumphing at the box office, the film was roundly panned by critics - which hopefully means we never have to see Colin Farrell in one of those beanie hats ever again.
There was a lot to like about Neil Jordan’s atmospheric modern-day fairytale about a fisherman (Farrell) who one day catches what may or may not be a mythological selkie (Polish actress Alicja Bachleda-Curuś) in his net – not least the charming fact that the two co-stars fell in love in real life and went on to have a child, Henry.
The most memorable thing about Ondine, however, wasn’t Farrell’s luscious locks, his ‘handsome rogue’ trope or even the sheer Oirishness of it all; it was Farrell’s excruciating take on a Cork accent that we can’t forget.