James McAvoy’s most famous roles, ranked


James McAvoy is one of Scotland’s greatest actors and is capable of playing a diverse range of roles.

The highly versatile actor’s newest film My Son was filmed in the Highlands, and McAvoy’s part was entirely improvised. He’s due to promote the film on the Graham Norton Show tonight.

To mark the release of the movie, here are the Scotsman’s most iconic roles ranked.

14. Wanted

In Wanted, McAvoy stars as Wesley Gibson, an account manager turned assassin. He pairs up with Fox (Angelina Jolie), who helps mold him into a professional killer who finds great success in his new occupation, but not everything is as it seems. Wanted isn’t the greatest example of McAvoy’s talent, but it at least gave him a chance to perfect his cold face while looking down the barrel of a gun.

13. Gnomeo and Juliet


Nothing to see here, let’s move on.


James McAvoy plays a posh rebel diving into the world of the working class. McAvoy pulls off the edgy Englishman, but the show never managed to capture the imagination of the public quite like the US version. Still, no shame to be found in this performance.

11. Arthur Christmas

We do love an underdog story. One of the highest-rated films of the year, Arthur Christmas is straightforward Christmas cheer. McAvoy’s voice blends smoothly into the protagonist and guides the audience along neatly to the film’s conclusion. If this was a live action role, it’s place on this list would hold more weight.

10.Children of Dune

One of McAvoy’s earliest roles became one of the highest rated shows to come out of the Sci Fi Channel. Leto II Atreides is a central character in the mini-series and McAvoy was hailed for bringing charisma to the role. No faults in acting were on display, but the films just kept getting bigger.

9. IT: Chapter Two


The remake based off of Stephen King’s classic novel sees McAvoy portray the older version of Losers Club leader Bill Denbrough. Bill killed ‘it’ 27 years earlier and as the killer clown returns, he is once again forced to take on the task of facing pennywise. One of the most highly anticipated films of the year, IT: Chapter Two became a huge commercial success.

8. The Chronicles of Narnia


Who doesn’t love Mr Tumnus? The flute-wielding faun refuses to bow down to the evil witch and risks his own life to protect others. The character was actually the inspiration for the book that the film was based on. McAvoy flourishes in this small role and adds real color to the already bright environment of Narnia.

7. Atomic Blonde


McAvoy teams up with Charlize Theron as British Intelligence scramble to locate a list documenting all active agents in Berlin. In a thrilling flick that’s loaded with action, the chemistry of Theron and McAvoy make for one of the Scotsman’s most exciting roles.

6. Split


For ambitious actors, taking on the role of a murderous maniac with a split-personality is music to their years. McAvoy takes on the role of Kevin, who has 23 alter-egos, as he kidnaps three teenagers. What follows is a battle between the personalities to take control and McAvoy embraces each one. As the film reaches its conclusion an additional personality is revealed and the teens in captivity face imminent danger.

5. Starter for 10


Throughout his career, McAvoy has been seen portraying himself many masters of seduction. Most of his characters from him are masters of the silver tongue, but in Starter for 10, he’s quite the opposite. The film follows his character Brian and his journey to try and become university challenge champion. Through a series of romantic blunders that turn his life upside down, McAvoy is allowed to show a different side to his acting, and he seamlessly becomes Brian Jackson.

4. Atonement


McAvoy plays the son of the Tallis’ housekeeper Robbie Turner, who begins seducing Cecilia (Kiera Knightley). Unbeknownst to him, Cecilia’s younger sister is in love with Robbie and is left heartbroken. In a stunning twist, Robbie is accused of rape by the younger sister and is sent to prison and then war. What follows is Robbie’s stunning personal journey which shows someone experiencing the horrors that come with a false-rape accusation as well as the terrifying reality present in war. McAvoy exhibits a diverse talent to embrace a variety of roles in this never-before-seen side of him, and he earns a golden globe and BAFTA nomination for his efforts.

3. Filth

Scotland loves a baddie, and none are more repulsive than Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson. Filth explores a character who immerses himself in a world of alcohol, drugs and sex, all the while maintaining the power of a man with authority. This is McAvoy at his most rugged about him, and we love it.

2. X-Men prequel films

McAvoy treats the world to Charles Xavier’s origin story. Professor X is synonymous with Patrick Stewart in popular culture, but McAvoy’s take on the leader of the X-men almost creates a new character entirely. The younger man is more emotional and hastier in his decision making than him, but even in his younger years, the professor shows that he’s always two steps ahead. Across the prequels, McAvoy makes his own role and puts in one of his career best performances.

1. The Last King of Scotland


McAvoy’s dynamic performance in The Last King of Scotland leads the charge in exhibiting his acting skills. An actor who’s portrayed a split-personality disorder as well as a telekinetic mutant finds his greatest role closer to home. Set during the Ugandan dictatorship of Idi Amen, Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) leaves Edinburgh to work as a missionary in Uganda. During his time there he becomes Amen’s personal physician. Forest Whittaker’s portrayal of the dictator won him an Oscar with McAvoy earning a BAFTA nomination, making for a fantastic film.

What did you think of our list? Let us know in the comments


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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