It is a phrase that is thrown around far too often, but the sad passing of Robbie Coltrane at the age of just 72 really was the loss of a true British national treasure.
Coltrane’s former co-stars have been queuing up to lavish tributes on the man, her character, and his performances, and rightly so.
From comedy to drama, from fantasy to farce, Coltrane was the consummate performer and a superb character actor.
Former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan said of him, “I cannot think of a finer actor and man of humanity and humour to share the world stage with.”
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who wrote the character of Hagrid with him in mind long before he was cast in the movies, called him “an incredible talent, a complete one-off, and I was beyond fortunate to know him, work with him and laugh my head off with him.”
If there is a silver lining to this very sad cloud, it is that the passing of Robbie Coltrane gives us an opportunity to revisit some of his best work. Which is why we have compiled this rundown of the top 15 Robbie Coltrane Movies & TV Shows in no particular order.
The role of Hagrid the Giant was written in the novels with Robbie Coltrane in mind, so it was perhaps inevitable that he would be cast in the role for the eight-movie series, which has proved to be one of the most popular movie franchises of all time.
He brought all the warmth and charm that you would expect to this seminal role and became one of the defining images of the Harry Potter world.
The connection that Coltrane had with his fellow cast members, particularly the children, is clearly visible on screen, which is a testament to his character as well as his acting ability.
It can be debated whether Harry Potter was Coltrane’s best performance as an actor, but it is undoubtedly the role for which he will be best remembered.
Cracker is a Jimmy McGovern (The Lakes, Hillsborough) penned crime drama that set the model from which so many detective dramas have followed.
Coltrane plays the lead role of Dr Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald, a criminal psychologist (or cracker) helping Greater Manchester Police solve various crimes. Fitz is a chain-smoking, hard-drinking, obese, foul-mothed character, hard to like but brilliant at his job and superbly portrayed by Coltrane.
The show dealt with cases over multiple episodes with complex plotlines and crimes that impacted the officers that were investigating.
There were only 25 episodes made, but Cracker is the type of series that the term genre-defining was made for, and this was one show that was made by its leading man.
Coltrane was by no means the star of Blackadder, but as with so many of his cameo appearances, he succeeded in stealing the show from the main cast.
In Blackadder the Third, Coltrane played Samuel Johnson in the episode Ink and Incapability. He wants the Prince Regent’s patronage for his book, but Blackadder holds a grudge because Johnson didn’t respond to his own book manuscript.
Coltrane is, as ever a larger-than-life and overly dramatic presence on screen as his dictionary is burnt, then recovered, then lost again.
He had another cameo in Blackadder’s Christmas Carol as The Spirit of Christmas, a more reserved role. But it is as Samuel Johnson that Blackadder fans will always remember him.
The Comic Strip Presents… Five Go Mad in Dorset
Coltrane appeared in a number of Comic Strip Presents episodes, but it is his tiny role as shopkeeper / gypsy in Five Go Mad in Dorset, a parody of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, in which he made the biggest impact.
He is on screen for mere moments, but his hammed-up shopkeeper (for which he dressed as an old woman) and his perverted gypsy traveller leering over the young girls arguably stole the show.
Both roles might be questionable in this day and age in another pair of hands. But somehow, Coltrane’s performance makes them so ludicrous their un-PC nature becomes the joke rather than being a cause for offence.
It’s another cameo role but another show-stealing performance from a true master of the craft.
So many actors have passed through the James Bond franchise that it can be hard to keep track of them all. But Coltrane’s role of Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky in not one but two Bond movies was notable.
The character first appears in Goldeneye, where he is a Russian gangster and ex-KGB officer through whom Pierce Brosnan’s Bond arranges a meeting with the Janus crime syndicate.
He reappears in The World is Not Enough with Bond again, seeking information from him, but later getting more assistance when Zukovsky’s nephew is captured by the villain.
Coltrane comes across as the archetypal Russian gangster, no mean feat for an actor as Scottish as the day is long.
Nuns on the Run
Arguably, Coltrane’s breakthrough movie performance. He stars as Charlie McManus, a London gangster who, along with his colleague Brian Hope, played by the wonderful Eric Idle (Monty Python), decides to flee for Brazil after their boss is killed in a bank robbery.
During a robbery of some Triads, they double-cross their fellow robbers and flee with the loot. They hide out in a nunnery, but with two sets of criminals after them and Brian now falling in love, will they make it to Brazil?
This is high farce on the big screen, and Coltrane is perfectly suited to the format. He and Idle steal the show, of course, but there is a terrific turn from Janet Suzman and some excellent ensemble performances too.
The Pope Must Die
Hot on the heels of Nuns on the Run came The Pope Must Die, another religion-themed farce from the team behind Comic Strip Presents.
Coltrane plays a low-ranking Catholic priest who is made Pope David I by accident and then finds that he has to avoid being assassinated by the Italian Mafia. He is an unconventional Pope with a liking for cars, women, and rock n’ roll and inevitable farce and plenty of blackmail ensures.
It has a great comedy cast, with the likes of Adrian Edmondson, Peter Richardson, Alex Rocco, Annette Crosbie, and John Sessions putting in turns. But it is a Coltrane vehicle, and he drives it superbly.
Coltrane put in a pitch-perfect cameo in one of the events of US TV history. He appeared in the final episode of the sitcom Frasier.
Entitled Goodnight, Seattle, Coltrane is one of three actors cameoing as siblings of Daphne Moon, Frasier’s housekeeper and his brother Niles’ wife.
Frasier was gently maligned over the years for its portrayal of British characters with dodgy accents and typical stereotypes. So inevitably, when Coltrane, Richard E. Grant, and Anthony LaPaglia arrive, they play on this massively.
The result is a hilarious cameo that punctuates a classic episode that sees the show sign off in style and with huge audiences. Frasier is still much watched to this day, and Coltrane’s cameo is definitely one of the best it had.
In another breakout performance, Coltrane played the role of Danny McGlone / Big Jazza in this BBC Scotland series about a legendary rock n’ roll band on the eve of their silver jubilee.
Coltrane’s character dies in a car crash but punctuates the series as the band tries to continue without him, with his younger brother roped in to replace him.
They wind up touring some of Scotland’s less high-profile venues, and their farewell tour is scarred by drinking, violence, and plenty of other mishaps.
The show became something of a cult classic, and many of the cast went on to successful careers, including Emma Thompson and Richard Wilson.
Cracker wasn’t Coltrane’s only foray into crime drama. He also played DI Douglas Hain in Murderland, a three-part ITV crime drama.
It tells the story of the impact of a murder from three different perspectives; Hain as the investigating officer, Carrie, played by Bel Powley (Benidorm, The Morning Show), who was the victim’s daughter, and Sally, played by Lucy Cohu (Forgiven, Torchwood: Children of Earth) who was the victim.
Carrie’s determination to solve the case brings her close to Coltrane’s character and is the trigger for some powerful emotional characterisation the lead actors and an excellent all-star cast.
This is very much Coltrane playing against type, but it is a testament to his acting talent that he pulls it off so effortlessly.
The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child
The annual adaptations of Julia Donaldson’s classic children’s books have been a fixture of most family’s festive viewing schedules, and Coltrane had a key role in perhaps her best-known story of all.
He voiced The Gruffalo in the adaptations of both the original story and its follow-up, The Gruffalo’s Child. He brings his usual charm to the role and stands out among an all-star cast for the depth of his performance.
Helena Bonham-Carter, Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, Rob Bryden, and even James Corden lend their voices to this adaptation. But it is Coltrane who really steals the show.
In the wake of his passing, it is this four-part TV drama that many have put forward as Coltrane’s best-ever performance.
He plays Paul Finchley, a successful comedian in the 1980s and early 1990s and now a TV quiz host. But his world is turned upside down when he is accused of raping several young women.
In a show inspired by the Operation Yewtree investigations in the wake of the Jimmy Saville scandal, National Treasure looks at the impact this type of investigation has on the individual concerned and their family.
The peerless Julie Walters (Billy Elliot, Dinnerladies) plays his wife while Andrea Risborough (Made in Dagenham, The Death of Stalin) plays his daughter, both giving standout performances.
There are great turns from the likes of Tim McInerney (Blackadder), Babou Ceesay (Rogue One), and Nadine Marshall (The Smoking Room) too. But it is Coltrane in the lead role, who delivers the performance of a lifetime.
The remake of Ocean’s Eleven proved a big hit, so how to improve it for the sequel? Get Robbie Coltrane to cameo, that’s how.
Sadly, he isn’t part of the ‘Twelve’ but instead plays the role of Matsui, an informant with connections with George Clooney’s character, Danny.
It’s not the biggest role of his career, but it is yet another example of Coltrane putting his unique stamp on a big Hollywood movie with a small yet perfectly formed cameo performance.
Most movies are better off for Coltrane putting in an appearance, and that is certainly the case for Ocean’s Twelve.
Gothic horror is yet another genre that you wouldn’t automatically associate Robbie Coltrane with.
Yet here he is, providing the voice of Mr Hyde alongside an impressive cast in this horror genre mash-up that brings Jekyll and Hyde together with Dracula and Frankenstein, to name but a couple.
Hugh Jackman has the lead role of Van Helsing alongside Kate Beckinsale, Alun Armstrong, Samuel West, Richard Roxburgh and a strong ensemble.
Coltrane’s best performance it is not, but it is fascinating to see him turn his hand to yet another genre so effortlessly.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts
The reunion of the Harry Potter alumni is fascinating on many levels, particularly for fans of the franchise.
But this HBO special makes it onto this list because it was Coltrane’s final onscreen appearance before his sad passing.
He is interviewed, giving us an opportunity to see him in person, speaking from the heart about a body of work about which he clearly has great pride and affection for.
So, he should have too. And the response from the Harry Potter community to his death illustrates all too clearly how important his role in the franchise was too.
It is sad to see Coltrane on screen for the final time. But, at the same time, it is reassuring to him happy, smiling, and clearly being held in such affection by those around him.
It is how Robbie Coltrane should be remembered and a fitting tribute to a fine actor, a fine comedian, and a fine human being.