Our 10 Favourite Colin Farrell Performances

Andrew Buckle,

Inspired by the recent release of Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin, which is drawing critical acclaim for its dark and witty screenplay and powerful performances, we thought we’d shine a spotlight on one of the stars of the film, Irish actor Colin Farrell. A now-veteran performer of over two decades, the likeable and magnetic actor has been quietly building a portfolio of wonderful (and often unsung) performances. We feel Farrell is overdue some official accolades and Banshees, with 9 Academy Awards nominations including a Best Actor nomination for Farrell, looks like it might deliver the goods.

In the third collaboration between Farrell and writer-director McDonagh (the second odd-buddy partnership with Brendan Gleeson, too) Farrell stars as Pádraic, a kind and well-liked man amongst his small Irish Isle town, who is devastated when his buddy Colm (Gleeson) suddenly puts an end to their friendship. With his sister, Siobhán (Kerry Condon), and a troubled young islander (Barry Keoghan) being his only support, Pádraic sets out to repair the damaged relationship by any means necessary, with surprising tragicomic consequences.

Some die hard fans might remember Farrell from the small-town British drama, Ballykissangel (1996-2001), but it was his largely one-man show in the psychological thriller, Phone Booth (2002), and his villainous turn as Bullseye in the lackluster superhero entry, Daredevil (2003), that brought Farrell early-career notoriety.

Since then Farrell has worked with some of the finest filmmakers in the business, including Terrence Malick (The New World), Steven Spielberg (Minority Report), Michael Mann (Miami Vice), Peter Weir (The Way Back), Steve McQueen (Widows), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer), Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths), Sofia Coppola (The Beguiled) and Guy Ritchie (The Gentlemen).

In just the last 12 months Farrell has starred in four films – The Banshees of Inisherin, The Batman, After Yang and Thirteen Lives – and drama miniseries, The North Water, officially making him the man of the moment.

Looking back through his career we were amused to recognise that The Banshees of Inisherin is not the first time that Farrell has played a character that isn’t as well liked as he’d like to be (sometimes through no fault of his own). Inspired by this phenomenon we have put together a fun little video, ‘Everybody Hates Colin Farrell’, featuring some of our favourite Colin Farrell performances. For a more serious analysis read on for some brief commentary on each.

David – The Lobster (2015)

In this absurdist dystopian black comedy from Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), Farrell stars as a newly single bachelor who moves into a hotel where he and the other single guests are obliged to find a romantic partner in 45 days, or else be transformed into an animal of their choosing. This surreal film explores ideas of compatibility, with guests becoming fixated on sharing superficial traits (for example a limp, or a nosebleed) with their potential partner, and can extend their stay by poaching the “loners” hiding in the forest. It is an often-hilarious, but ultimately quite disturbing fable that requires some fortitude from the viewer. It is a showcase for many striking performances, including John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw and Rachel Weisz, but Farrell’s paunchy, mustachioed portrayal was a revelation. In perhaps his plainest but most intricately mannered role – this is certainly no vanity project – Farrell serves as the perfect vessel through this unique study of relationships.

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

Jake Fleming – After Yang (2022)

The latest film from South Korean filmmaker Koganada (Columbus) is a quietly stunning exploration of the make-up of family and how humanity’s reliance on the material can unhinge them from deeper human connections. This low-key sci-fi deals with the complex metaphysics of what makes us human. When his daughter’s android companion, Yang, malfunctions and breaks down Jake Fleming (Farrell) traverses a complicated bureaucratic process of repairing him. The decisions his character is tasked with here as he reckons with his daughter’s reaction to the loss are all beautifully considered by Farrell. On his endeavour he also seeks to sew a fraying connection with his wife Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith), while grappling independently with the implications of a surprising and historically-significant discovery. This is remarkably understated work from the now comfortably mid-life Farrell, whose romantic ideals about tea, free-flowing attire, and funky dance moves in this film feel like they open up further extension of his range.

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

Ray – In Bruges (2008)

Farrell’s first collaboration with Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) earned him his first Golden Globe win, and he is brilliant as Ray, an inexperienced hitman hiding out with his partner, Ken (Brendan Gleeson), after a job gone wrong. Awaiting instructions from their boss, Harry (a legendary villain performance from Ralph Fiennes), the pair are tasked to lie low in the fairytale-esque city of Bruges (it’s in Belgium). As Ray comes to terms with the repercussions of his actions he remains uncharmed by the city and falls into an existential crisis, while Ken finds a sense of tranquility in its beauty. But, this black comedy – and it is very very funny – remains a rewatchable and fresh take on the crime thriller with Farrell transitioning into a bonafide character actor unafraid to expose all sorts of unexpected vulnerability for a hot-shot young star – anguish, embarrassment and outright foolishness to name but a few behaviours.

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

Sonny Crockett – Miami Vice (2006)

This performance is almost solely worthy of this list because of Farrell’s exquisite hair and mo combo, but Michael Mann’s slick and clinically efficient update to the ’80s hit TV action/drama is also grossly underrated. The film focuses on vice detectives Crockett (Farrell) and Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) as their respective personal and professional lives become dangerously intertwined. What I have always admired about this film is that Tubbs and Crocket are 100% locked in to their jobs throughout this story, and they have an unspoken loyalty to one another. Both Farrell and Fox have the convincing physicality required, but you also believe they have the intellectual fortitude and intelligence – despite almost losing themselves in the mission (“I’m a fiend for mojitos”) – due to their unwavering trust. There are very few instances where we don’t see them ‘on’ and this film captures a commitment to law enforcement like few others.

Buy or rent on Prime Video.

Captain John Smith – The New World (2005)

Terence Malick’s epic historical drama, a depiction of the founding of the Jamestown, Virginia settlement that is inspired by the historical figures Captain John Smith (Farrell), Pocahantas of the Powhatan Tribe (Q’orianka Kilcher) and Englishman John Rolfe (Christian Bale), has found greater appreciation with age. Working with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (who has also worked on Tree of Life, The Revenant and many other stunning films), this gorgeous film evokes a feeling of being transported to an untainted place in the past and watching history unfold. There is a majestic quality to Malick’s films, and acting in them offers unique challenges to the cast. Farrell’s maturity as an actor was likely elevated by this experience and he is captivating as the man who comes to respect the misunderstood way of life of the Native Americans and his character is instrumental in easing the tensions that lead to a formation of Jamestown.

Buy or rent on Prime Video.

Travers Goff – Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

In Saving Mr Banks, Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks headline the cast as P.L Travers and Walt Disney respectively, but it’s Farrell’s complex and memorable performance as Travers Goff, who served as the inspiration for the character of Mr. Banks in Travers’ classic tale of ‘Mary Poppins’, that remains a standout for us. The film details Travers’ childhood in Queensland in 1906 and her meetings in Los Angeles with Disney in 1961 as he attempts to obtain the film rights to her novels. This was the first time that the baby-faced star was thoroughly convincing as a father – a warm-hearted, charming and imaginative man, but whose debilitating personal demons ultimately caused a strain on her parents’ marriage and resulted in his passing when Travers was just seven years old.

Buy in the Movie Store.

Detective Ray Velcoro – True Detective Season 2 (2015)

The second season of True Detective is widely-maligned and it is rather unfortunate that it will forever be in the shadow of that groundbreaking first season. We still believe this was an excellent season of television with all the ingredients of binge-worthy, prestige TV with a strong story, a fantastic cast (including Rachel McAdams, Kelly Reilly, Vince Vaughn and Taylor Kitsch) and one of the great shootouts. Farrell’s Ray Velcoro is a burnt-out Vinci Police Department detective who is struggling with his allegiance to corrupt superiors and the mobster, Frank Semyon (Vaughn), who owns him. Velcoro is a vulgar, aggressive and unhinged man who has come to accept his life of regret – trapped in a degenerative cycle of love and hate with his family and an immoral approach to law enforcement. This is Farrell at his fiercest and most disquieting, and he is absolutely riveting.

Buy episodes or the season in the TV Store.

Stu Shepard – Phone Booth (2002)

This box office hit from the late Joel Schumacher (Tigerland) takes place in real time and is set largely within the confines of a single phone booth and the surrounding street. Principal photography was completed in just 10 days and it marks the first true leading man role for Farrell. His protagonist, Stu, is an arrogant NYC publicist who finds himself in the crossfire of a sniper (Kiefer Sutherland), who threatens to reveal his infidelity to his wife unless he remains on the line and obeys his every instruction. This popcorn movie might have lost a bit of shine now, but it remains an iconic and impressive feat of filmmaking.

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

Danny Witwer – Minority Report (2002)

I have always admired this role from Farrell, a mature early role that positions him toe-to-toe with an inimitable A-lister in Tom Cruise and a legend in Max Von Sydow, while working with the legendary Steven Spielberg. Minority Report is an incredible sci-fi film, and Farrell (just 26 at the time) holds his own as a smug but ambitious Department of Justice Agent who leads a manhunt to track down Cruise’s John Anderton, a Precrime cop forced to go on the run after he is implicated in a yet-to-be-completed murder.

Stream now on Netflix.

Pádraic Súilleabháin – The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

Here it is. Farrell’s potential Oscar-winning role feels like the perfect one to transition him into the second half of his career. This is a wonderful performance, and Oscar acknowledgement would buck the recent trend of performances inspired by historical figures and true stories being recognised. Farrell, through Martin McDonagh’s writing, has created a unique, tragic, sympathetic and full-bodied character. While he has had a prolific year, Farrell can pretty much take on any role he likes now. A comic book movie villain? Sure. A sensitive father in an indie? Yep. The nicest man you’ll ever meet coming to grips with a life-altering development in one of the darkest comedies in recent memory? Okay, it is unlikely we’ll see something like this again and that is why it should be cherished.

Coming soon to the Movie Store.

Honourable mentions include: Roman J. Israel Esq, The Batman and The Beguiled.

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