In the last fifteen years, Idris Elba has been building a brilliant acting career in Hollywood at a steady pace.
He has worked with several Hollywood stars becoming a star himself, and his name alone is enough to sell a movie and guarantee success.
This London born actor has approached a wide range of roles and genres, making his filmography rich and varied.
Besides his roles in films, he has worked in TV series such as the six-part BBC television series Luther. He also has created two comedy series starring himself as well: Turn Up Charlie and In The Long Run, this last one based on his autobiography.
But let’s focus on his movies for now. Here, I’ve made an account of Idris Elba’s most relevant films since the beginning of his career.
Grab your popcorn and get ready to enjoy Idris Elba’s top movies!
One Love (2003)
Drama, Music, Romance – 100 min.
This Jamaican film is one of his early roles where Elba plays a Pentecostal preacher, Aaron, whose daughter falls for a young Rasta musician.
Aaron’s daughter, Serena, is a gospel singer and meets Kassa in a music contest. Aaron is against their relationship because he wants her to marry a member of his church. The couple must overcome Aaron’s disapproval while fighting a corrupt recorder producer.
Idris Elba is supported by Cherine Anderson as Serena, and Ky-Mani Marley, Bob Marley’s son, as Kassa.
Sometimes in April (2005)
Drama, History, War – 160 min.
This telefilm written and directed by the Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck, shows Idris Elba playing Augustin Muganza, a Hutu man who becomes witness of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, where over one million people died.
The story goes back and forward between 1994 and 2004, showing the atrocious events of the massacre and the trial that took place ten years later, with Muganza as the center of the story.
The Gospel (2005)
Adventure, Drama, Family – 105 min.
This film is a Christian drama that retells the Parable of the Prodigal Son in a modern setting. Idris Elba plays Reverend Charles Frank, who becomes the Bishop’s successor after he’s declared sick.
The Bishop’s son, David, is a showbiz R&B singer performing in nightclubs. When he learns his father is sick, he decides to go back home to stay with him.
Finding Frank as his father’s second, makes David gradually abandon his old life and gains an important position in the Church, sparking a rivalry with Frank.
Daddy’s Little Girls (2007)
Drama, Romance – 100 min.
Monty (Elba) is a mechanic with three daughters. The girls are in charge of their maternal grandmother, Kat. When Kat is severely ill, she asks Monty to take custody of his daughters because his ex-wife, Jennifer, is a mean person.
After Kat’s death, Jennifer tries to take the girls by force threatening him that she will get custody of the girls. To make extra money, Monty accepts a job as the driver of Julia Rossmore, an attorney.
Although, at the beginning their relationship is strictly professional, Julia ends up falling for Monty. Would Monty get his daughters’ custody and start a new life with Julia? Well, you have to see this charming movie about romance and above about family.
The Reaping (2007)
Horror, Suspense – 99 min.
Ben (Idris Elba) along with his colleague Katherine (Hilary Swank) investigate claimed miracles around the world. Most of their cases end up being fake miracles. When they’re called from a small town, Haven, where it seems to be suffering the 10 Biblical Plagues.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Action, Adventure, Horror – 100 min.
Idris Elba’s character, Stone, is a US general overseeing District One, a safe zone in London created by NATO so surviving people from the events of the previous movie, 28 Days Later, can start over again.
But, things got complicated when two young siblings in an attempt to find their infected mother, break the protocol and bring the virus back into the safe zone.
The movie is full of what made the previous one famous: suspense, horror, zombies, and the desperation for surviving in a world that has turned into a hell on earth.
Philip French from The Guardian put it bluntly in his review “If the zombies don’t get you, the snipers will. And since this is not faraway LA, but familiar London, 28 Weeks Later will leave your heart pounding”.
The cast is led by Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Harold Perrineau, and Catherine McCormack.
This Christmas (2007)
Comedy, Drama, Romance – 119 min.
If you’re looking for a good Christmas movie, then this one’s for you. The story centers on the Whitfield family, who are together for the holidays for the first time in four years.
The family reunion gets the agreement of the eldest son, Quentin, Jr. (Idris Elba), who is back after four years of absence due to his life as a musician always going on a gig.
Of course, as with any family meeting, you may expect some conflicts, arguments, but above all the feeling of being together for one of the most important dates in the year; the holidays.
Idris Elba is supported by Columbus Short, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, Loretta Devine, among others.
Action, Crime, Suspense – 114 min.
Here comes one of my favorite movies of all time, RocknRolla was written and directed by the genius Guy Ritchie, and with a solid ensemble cast composed of Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Idris Elba, Thandiwe Newton, Mark Strong, and Tom Hardy.
When a real estate scam leaves a sum of money available for the first one who takes it, all the London criminal world will kill each other to grab it first and become rich quickly.
The Human Contract (2008)
Drama – 103 min.
This drama was written and directed by Jada Pinkett Smith. Idris Elba plays Larry, Julian’s best friend. Julian (Jason Clarke) is a successful businessman yet he’s unhappy with his life.
When he meets Michael (Paz Vega), a seductive strange woman, Julian is tempted to explore sex, desire, and love recklessly.
Just like Duane Byrge said in his review at The Hollywood Reporter, “‘Contract’ delves deep into the psyches of our two lovers but also escalates into a probing examination of contemporary relationships.”
“Overall, Pinkett Smith’s narrative posits that the legal contracts and societal mores that shape and define our personal worlds can be not only confining but also deadening.”
The Unborn (2009)
Horror, Suspense, Mystery – 88 min.
Directed by David S. Goyer, whose career is more related to writing films based on comic books, since among his credits are Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Blade trilogy, Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
This time, with the Unborn, he explores the horror genre. Casey Beldon is a young woman hunted by nightmarish hallucinations. She soon discovers that she had a twin brother who died in the womb, strangled by her umbilical cord.
Now his ghost is haunting her for revenge. The cast is composed of Odette Annable, Gary Oldman, and Idris Elba.
Drama, Romance, Suspense – 108 min.
This psychological thriller film starring Idris Elba, Beyoncé, and Ali Larter tells the story of Lisa (Larter) an office temporary employee who develops feelings for her boss Derek (Elba).
He’s a married man who stops her advances, but she insists with her seduction. Sharon (Beyoncé), Derek’s wife, finds out about Lisa’s obsession and begins suspecting an affair.
Suspense – 93 min.
The whole movie is set in a motel room in Brooklyn where Malcolm Gray (Elba), an AWOL Black Ops soldier has taken sanctuary. Holed up there, he starts dealing with the demons from his past.
Michael Dequina from The Movie Report said about this film, “Legacy ultimately works in fairly simple and most traditional terms: it’s a complex character study brought to absorbing, haunting life through the fierce commitment of its acting and filmmaking.”
The Losers (2010)
Action, Adventure, Comedy – 97 min.
Based on the Vertigo Comic series of the same name by Andy Diggle and Jock, the film was directed by French director Sylvain White and has an ensemble cast featuring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, and Chris Evans.
The Losers are an elite black-ops team of United States Special Forces operatives that after deviating in a mission for a good cause, they are almost killed by their bosses, so they fake their deaths.
A couple of months after this incident, they’re approached by a mysterious woman who offers to kill their boss.
Peter Debruge from Variety described the plot as “It’s the bad guys vs. the worse guys in ‘The Losers,’ director Sylvain White’s slick throwback to ’80s-style action movies, delivering elaborate setpieces, big explosions and larger-than-life characters in service of a stock betrayed-by-the-Man plot.”
Action, Crime, Drama – 107 min.
Takers is a heist action thriller film directed by John Luessenhop with an ensemble cast featuring Matt Dillon, Paul Walker, Idris Elba, Jay Hernandez, Michael Ealy, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen and Zoe Saldana.
The story focuses on a group of professional bank robbers who love to make spectacular robberies. They are hired for a grand last job when a detective and his partner interrupt their heist.
Action, Adventure, Fantasy – 115 min.
Idris Elba made his entrance to the MCU in the first installment of Thor movies. His character Heimdall, although a secondary one, plays a key role when it comes to Asgardians coming to Earth.
Heimdall is the all-seeing, all-hearing Asgardian sentry of the bifröst bridge. Elba admitted in an interview that he accepted the role because Kenneth Brannagh, the film director, asked him personally to do it.
Thor follows the titular character, a Nordic God son of Odin, who is expelled from Asgard and sent to live in Midgard (the Earth) to live among the humans as punishment. He eventually becomes one of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)
Action, Adventure, Fantasy – 96 min.
Before the MCU were an unified series of movies, Marvel’s licenses were scattered among a bunch of studios. Some of these licenses expired and returned back to Marvel, others took longer.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is the sequel to the Ghost Rider film from 2007, and right after this movie, the character’s rights went back to Marvel. Idris Elba plays Moreau, an original character created for the movie.
Moreau is the French member of a secret religious organization who becomes an ally to Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider (Nicholas Cage) to find Danny, a young boy who is in the care of Johnny.
The boy happens to be Mephisto’s son, the same demon who transformed Johnny into Ghost Rider and now he has plans for his son.
Adventure, Mystery, Sci-Fi – 124 min.
Prometheus belongs to the Alien franchise movies and works as a prequel to the 1979 sci-fi horror film Alien.
The film is set at the end of the 21st century and follows a crew of the spaceship Prometheus as they embark on a journey following a star map that was found among the artefacts of several ancient Earth cultures.
After the clues, they arrive in a remote world and discover an alien species that could mean the extinction of humankind.
Idris Elba plays Janek, the Prometheus captain. Edra is part of an ensemble crew composed of Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, and Benedict Wong.
Pacific Rim (2012)
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi – 131 min.
This movie blew me away when I saw it in 3D in the cinema. Idris Elba leads the cast along with Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi in this kaiju film directed by Guillermo del Toro.
In the future, humankind fights to survive in a war with the kaiju, colossal sea monsters coming from an interdimensional portal on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
To fight this war, humans have created the Jaegers, giant mechas piloted by two people that share a mental link so their minds can be synchronized.
Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) is a seasoned pilot called for retirement who is recruited by Marshal Stacker Pentecost, an ex-Jaeger pilot dying of radiation, to pilot a Jaeger along with his adoptive daughter Mako.
Raleigh and Mako must synchronize their minds to pilot the Jaeger and together must face several adversities.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)
Biography, Drama, History – 141 min.
In one of the greatest roles in his whole career, Idris Elba put on the shoes of the iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela.
The film is based on Mandela’s autobiography: Long Walk to Freedom, where he covered his early years, coming of age, and the 27 years in prison before becoming the president of South Africa. Naomi Harris (Moonlight) plays Winnie Madikizela, Mandela’s second wife.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Action, Adventure, Fantasy – 112 min.
Idris Elba reprises his role as Heimdall in the second film of the Thor saga. Thor embarks on a dangerous journey to fight a powerful enemy, meanwhile he again meets with Jane Foster, and faces betrayals and loses.
Second Coming (2014)
Drama – 105 min.
Second Coming is a British drama film directed by debbie tucker green, who deliberately writes her name in lower-case, and she’s mostly famous as a playwright.
This film stars Idris Elba and Nadine Marshall, and the story is told in the style of magical realism with ambiguous dialogues and a lot of symbolism.
Jacqueline Trent (Marshall) is a social worker who finds she’s pregnant under unusual circumstances causing a lot of drama and struggles inside her family.
No Good Deed (2014)
Crime, Horror, Suspense – 84 min.
This American psychological thriller film starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson follows Colin Evans (Elba), a convict sentenced to 15 years for committing manslaughter, who escapes after his denied parole hearing, kills the correctional officers and takes their van.
Now on the road, he’s looking for a place to hide and starts terrorizing a single mother with two children.
The Gunman (2015)
Action, Adventure, Crime – 115 min.
Based on the novel The Prone Gunman (French title: La position du tireur couché) by Jean-Patrick Manchette, the film stars Sean Penn and Idris Elba.
The story follows Jim Terrier (Penn), a mercenary who kills the Minister of Mining of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006 by following the orders from several mining companies. Eight years later, he’s now a retired mercenary whose family and close ones are the targets of hit squads hired by a multinational firm.
The Jungle Book (2016)
Adventure, Drama, Family – 106 min.
This reimagined version of Walt Disney’s animated classic from 1967 was brought to the screen by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef, The Lion King).
With an insane 3D animation that you can barely tell from live action, the classic story of Mowgli, the boy who is raised in the jungle by animals, have an ensemble cast featuring the voices of Bill Murray as Baloo, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, and Idris Elba as Shere Khan.
They’re supported by Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito and Christopher Walken. I remember being amazed at every frame of this movie when I saw it in 3D on an extra large screen.
If you love The Jungle Book, you’re going to love this version. And if Shere Khan was scary in his cartoon version, wait to see him in a realistic way with Idris Elba’s voice.
Bastille Day (2016)
Action, Crime, Drama – 92 min.
Also known as The Take in the US and some international markets, Bastille Day is an action-thriller film set in Paris on Bastille Day eve.
Idris Elba plays CIA agent Sean Briar, who captures Michael Mason, an American drifter and pickpocket suspected of terrorism after he’s seen discarding a handbag with explosives that ends up killing four people.
Mason has robbed the handbag from a woman, and now, to prove his innocence, he must join forces with Briar as they start unveiling a terrorist plot that include corrupts police officers.
100 Streets (2016)
Drama – 93 min.
This British drama stars Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton, and Tom Cullen. The film follows three different stories that occur at the same time within 100 streets.
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
This third installment of the reboot of the famous TV series Star Trek has an ensemble cast featuring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, and Idris Elba.
The USS Enterprise crew is exploring an uncharted planet when they meet a new and cruel enemy. Idris Elba plays Captain Balthazar Edison / Krall, the former commander of the USS Frank, who ends up transforming into a powerful mutated alien creature.
The Dark Tower (2017)
Action, Adventure, Fantasy – 95 min.
Based on the novel series of the same name written by Stephen King, Idris Elba plays Roland Deschain, a gunslinger whose mission is to protect the Dark Tower, a structure both mythical and physical which is believed to support all realities.
Roland is in an eternal fight with his nemesis Walter Padick (The Man in Black), played by Matthew McConaughey. The movie mixes elements from all the 8 novels and it also works as a sequel to the books.
Originally, it was conceived as the first installment of a multimedia franchise, but sadly at the moment, there is no intention for a sequel since this film was a failure.
King’s books are difficult to adapt to the big screen, and only a few have good redemptions in films. The Dark Tower is a very complex story involving other King’s stories, so a single movie can hardly catch everything.
However, The Dark Tower is a good adventure movie to enjoy if you don’t think so much about the source material or if you don’t have any idea about it.
Molly’s Game (2017)
Biography, Crime, Drama – 140 min.
Starring Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba, Molly’s game tells the true story of Molly Bloom, a professional mogul skier who retires after a severe injury.
She later enters the underground poker games world and ends up running a poker empire that will lead her to be the target of the FBI after Hollywood celebrities, athletes, business tycoons, and the Russian mob get exposed as part of this underworld. Idris Elba portrays Charlie Jaffey, Molly’s lawyer.
The Mountain Between Us (2017)
Drama, Suspense – 112 min.
Based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Charles Martin and directed by Palestinian-Dutch director Hany Abu-Assad, the film starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet follows neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Bass (Elba) and photojournalist Alex Martin (Winslet) as they survive a plane crash with a dog and get stranded in the High Uintas Wilderness injured and fighting against harsh weather.
Both strangers must stay united to survive. When they realize there is no help on the way, they decide to start a dangerous journey across the mountain.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Action, Adventure, Comedy- 130 min.
Idris Elba is back as Heimdall in the third Thor movie. Thor is captive on planet Sakaar and must return to Asgard no matter what to stop Hella from starting the Ragnarok, the end of the world.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
Action, Adventure, Suspense – 137 min.
This Fast and Furious spin-off starring Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham), shows Idris Elba in the skin of a villain, Brixton.
The unlikely duo of Hobbs and Shaw must stop him from spreading a programmable supervirus known as “Snowflake” and put in danger the whole humankind.
Comedy, Drama, Family – 110 min.
This Hollywood oxymoron, based on one of the most successful Broadway musicals and with an amazing ensemble cast, is considered one of the worst movies of all time.
This film also was a bomb at box-office generating a great loss of money for Universal. The musical is based on T.S. Eliot’s 1939 poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and it follows a tribe of cats called the Jellicles during the night they make the “Jellicle choice” in which they decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside layer and come back to a new life.
The cast features big Hollywood names such as James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, and Rebel Wilson. If you’re curious to watch what some people consider torture, and want to see how Idris Elba looks in a bad furry CGI, go ahead, I won’t judge you.
Concrete Cowboy (2020)
Drama, Western – 111 min.
This western drama is based on the novel Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri, which is inspired by real life Philadelphia’s urban African-American horse riding culture. Idris Elba stars in this film with Caleb McLaughlin (Stranger Things).
They play a father and a son with a problematic relationship. Cole (McLaughlin) is a fifteen-year-old boy living in Detroit with his mother. He’s always getting in trouble at school, so, one day, his mother drives him to Philadelphia to live with his estranged father Harp (Elba).
At the beginning, Cole is reluctant to stay there, but little by little he starts to forge a bond with his father by discovering the urban horse riding world. The film premiered at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, and it was internationally released on Netflix in April 2021.
The Suicide Squad (2021)
Action, Adventure, Comedy – 132 min.
This stand-alone sequel, following Suicide Squad from 2016, was written and directed by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy).
The film has an ensemble cast with Idris Elba in the head and supported by Margot Robbie, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Michael Rooker, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, Alice Braga, and Pete Davidson.
A group of convicts are part of a task force known as Suicide Squad. They accept likely suicidal missions for exchange of lighter sentences.
This time, the team is sent to South America, to the island nation Corto Maltese. They must destroy the giant alien starfish Starro the Conqueror before it falls into the hands of the corrupt local government.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022)
Action, Adventure, Comedy – 122 min.
This sequel of the famous blue hedgehog finds Sonic and Tails facing a new adversary when crazy Dr Robotnik comes back to earth and brings Knuckles the Echidna with him. Yes, Idris Elba provides his voice to Knuckles.
Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)
Drama, Fantasy, Romance – 108 min.
I just saw this movie at the cinema, and I was swept away by its eye-catching visuals and captivating story. Idris Elba plays a Djinn, a genie who has been trapped in a bottle for 3,000 years waiting for someone who makes three wishes and sets him free.
The film was written and directed by George Miller (Mad Max saga), and it’s based on The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye short story by British novelist A. S. Byatt.
The story is a modern adult fairy tale about a solitary narratologist, Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton), who is happy with her lonely life.
During a trip to Istanbul, she buys a tiny bottle as a souvenir, and when she’s cleaning it up, a Djinn comes out. Skeptical at the beginning, Alithea decides to listen to the Djinn as he tells her the story of how he ends up in a bottle through three tales of love, treason, and solitude.