Cillian Murphy is one of those actors that is probably not known by the casual moviegoer. Lovers of cinema, film buffs, and those who look underneath the money-making blockbusters know Cillian Murphy. An Irish actor, he’s been a lot of cult classics throughout the years and his talent and presence is so underappreciated that I had to make this article. Especially since Murphy might finally become the household name he deserves to be with the upcoming sequel to A Quiet Place, which he has been cast in.
28 Days Later
For any lover of zombie movies, 28 Days Later is most likely included in the bible for must-watch films in this undead genre. Having come out in 2002, Murphy plays Jim – a cyclist who wakes up 28 days after falling into a coma to find the world went to shit. Sound familiar? The Walking Dead comic came out after this film, just so you know. Either way, the way this movie is filmed with its choice of camera angles, heart pounding daunting music, and forcing the characters to have to make decisions in regards to loved ones makes any viewer anxious and on edge while watching it. Jim gives us a realistic view of someone and how they would react having just been thrown into this new world and we were given an insight into zombies who actually run, which is incredibly terrifying. A must watch for any Cillian Murphy newbie.
The Dark Knight Trilogy
I could go individually into the three movies where Murphy played Dr. Jonathan Crane aka the Scarecrow in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, but I’ll simply round it up here. It was in Batman Begins that I first saw Murphy on screen and seeing the live-action iteration of one of my favorite members of Batman’s rogue gallery from Batman: The Animated Series was fantastic. Murphy played the multiple sides of this villain perfectly – from a monotone, pretentious doctor who looks down on everyone else, to a morbidly curious doctor conducting experiments on people, to an insane nemesis. Scarecrow is not often a villain that gets utilized in the live-action sense and as we move into the era of the DCEU, I would be perfectly fine with them excluding Crane and just letting fans have the Murphy version in the TDK trilogy. It should also be mentioned that at the time he was the only actor to return for a villain three movies in a row.
This dark thriller was brought to us by legendary director Wes Craven, who is best known for the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise; and is one of Murphy’s best movies where he plays the bad guy. At first, his character comes off as a charming stranger to Rachel McAdams’s character, but you soon find out that Murphy’s Jackson does not have good intentions for our protagonist. The rest of the movie primarily takes place on a plane where the cat and mouse game played between the two will result in life or death for other parties in the film. Murphy is absolutely hauntingly enchanting in this movie and really made me want to see him in even more villainous roles.
Breakfast on Pluto
Breakfast on Pluto is probably one of Murphy’s most recognized films, as the actor won the Best Actor in a Lead Role in a Feature Film for the Irish Film and Television Awards. In this film, he plays a transgender woman in Ireland during a time when the IRA was active, and follows her story in discovering herself and trying to survive in a closed-minded world. It is a comedy-drama and Murphy plays the role of Kitten incredibly well; you will laugh, cry, and be shocked by the events of the film, and it is certainly one of Murphy’s best.
Peacock is a film that you probably have never heard of, but it is a psychological thriller that has a lot of twists and turns and really plays with your head. Murphy plays a character with two personalities – John, who is reclusive, nervous, and suffers from the lasting trauma from his abusive childhood and Emma, his alter ego who is confident, but a secret to everyone except John. When an event brings attention to Emma, John has to maintain that Emma is his wife and has to keep up the ruse, despite townspeople growing suspicious that perhaps John is abusive to Emma. Ellen Page is also in this movie and you really discover the backstory of her character and her relation to John, which adds to the reveal of the severity of trauma John’s mother inflicted on him all his life.
Murphy is joined by Sigourney Weaver and Robert De Niro in this thriller, in which Murphy plays a character that you wouldn’t necessarily think is as important to the film until the end. Weaver and Murphy look to debunk those who claim to be psychics and paranormal activity, while De Niro (a renowned psychic) comes out of retirement and it’s the greatest challenge yet for the two to prove he is a fraud. I don’t want to give away the end, but it is really a twist that I hadn’t expected the first time watching the film, and if you’re in for a good brain teaser, Red Lights is perfect for you.
TV Series Honorable Mention: Peaky Blinders
While not a movie, I couldn’t talk about Cillian Murphy without mentioning the series Peaky Blinders. As Tommy Shelby, Murphy plays the head of his family who is still dealing with the trauma he went through during the war, while trying to hold everyone in his family together as they deal with the law, other families, and trying to move his business from illegal to legitimate. There are many different challenges that arise throughout the series, but Tommy is calculating, resilient, and willing to take a gamble when it comes to getting a result that he wants. While everyone in Peaky Blinders does a fantastic job acting, Murphy carries this series, and will continue to do so as we are expecting another season sometime soon. You can catch Peaky Blinders on Netflix where you will find familiar faces such as Tom Hardy and Adrian Brody.
What is your favorite Cillian Murphy movie? Let me know!
A girl with too many fandoms to count.