Sir Ben Kingsley has been one of the most revered and diversely talented actors appearing on the stage and the big screen for over half a century now. He’s done dramatic work in biopics and historical epics, but he’s also done comedic work in screwball crime capers and political satires.
The guy has some serious range. Kingsley has been the recipient of an Academy Award, a Grammy, a BAFTA, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a pair of Golden Globes. It’s not quite an EGOT, but it’s certainly impressive. So, here are Ben Kingsley’s 10 Best Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes.
10 TIE: Sexy Beast (86%)
Blending the grand traditions of the British crime film with a modern sense of humor, Sexy Beast tells the story of a career criminal who has happily retired to Spain when his past begins to catch up with him. Ray Winstone stars as Gary Dove, the retired gangster, while Ben Kingsley plays the unpredictable psychopath who follows him out to Spain.
Kingsley ended up received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the movie, which is hysterically funny as the actor clearly relished the opportunity to do expletive-laden monologues. Sexy Beast is one of the greatest British films of the 21st century.
9 TIE: Betrayal (86%)
This film adaptation of the Harold Pinter play of the same name brilliantly translates the source material’s unique structure for the screen. The play is famously told backwards, with its final scene appearing at the beginning and its opening scene appearing at the end, with Pinter expertly weaving in clues and reverse foreshadowing to piece the plot together.
Ben Kingsley plays Robert in this adaptation, which served as the inspiration for the Seinfeld episode “The Betrayal,” which parodied the backwards structure. Betrayal is one of the most autobiographical of Pinter’s plays, and this movie brings that honesty to the screen.
8 TIE: Maurice (90%)
This romantic drama from the ‘80s might not be particularly well-known, but a lot of the actors from its cast are. Denholm Elliott, better known for playing Marcus Brody, Indy’s friend from the world of academia, in the Indiana Jones movies, is one of the film’s leads. It features one of the earliest lead roles played by Hugh Grant before he became the British romcom’s poster boy.
Simon Callow, who has given memorable turns in such classics as Amadeus, Shakespeare in Love, and Four Weddings and a Funeral, also shows up in the film. There’s an uncredited appearance by Helena Bonham Carter when she was just starting out. And of course, Ben Kingsley appears in a minor supporting role as Lasker-Jones.
7 TIE: Turtle Diary (90%)
This delightful movie doesn’t quite have a genre classification. There are elements of comedy and drama and romance, but all of these contribute to this simply being a movie about human emotions. It’s a story about a group of people who rediscover the joys that life can bring.
Turtle Diary should be required viewing for anyone who’s feeling down, because it’s a celebration of what makes life so great, and we sometimes need to be reminded of exactly what that is. Michael Gambon (who would later play Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies) and Glenda Jackson star alongside Ben Kingsley in the movie.
6 TIE: Transsiberian (93%)
As the title would suggest, this little-seen 2008 thriller is set on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer play an American couple who have just boarded the train in Beijing following a Christian mission and intend to ride it to Moscow.
They share a cabin with another couple, played by Eduardo Noriega and Kate Mara, who put them on edge, slowly turning what should’ve been a culturally enlightening vacation into an outright nightmare. Ben Kingsley plays a supporting role as a drug enforcer who joins them along the way. It’s a tense, well-made thriller that’ll keep you invested.
5 TIE: Hugo (93%)
Martin Scorsese’s first, and so far only, 3D movie, Hugo, was a box office bomb, but the critics adored it. Ben Kingsley played the revolutionary filmmaker Georges Méliès, who changed the face of cinema forever – particularly its use of special effects to convey the fantastical – when he helmed A Trip to the Moon.
Hugo is a light, breezy coming-of-age story set in 1930s Paris for its first half, but when Chloë Grace Moretz’s grandfather turns out to be Méliès, it turns into a documentary about the infancy of the film industry. Scorsese’s love of celluloid is on display here more than ever.
4 TIE: Dave (95%)
This political comedy from Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman stars Kevin Kline in dual roles. He plays the President of the United States, and he also plays a Washington working joe who looks exactly like the President and is hired to be his double.
While Dave is led to believe that he’s impersonating the President for national security reasons, he discovers that he is actually being used to cover up the President’s extramarital affair. Ben Kingsley plays the Vice President, who gets wrapped up in the caper along the way, while Sigourney Weaver gives a hilarious turn as the First Lady.
3 TIE: The Jungle Book (95%)
Of all the live-action remakes that Disney has been incessantly making out of their animated classics, Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book is perhaps the only one that justifies its existence by actually improving upon its source material. It’s not a mere shot-for-shot remake of the original, like 2019’s The Lion King, and it doesn’t make any changes to the original that are detrimental to the plot and the characters, like 2017’s Beauty and the Beast.
Ben Kingsley plays Bagheera, joining a voice cast full of A-listers that also includes Bill Murray as Baloo, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, and Christopher Walken as King Louie.
2 Schindler’s List (97%)
Ben Kingsley doesn’t play the title character in Steven Spielberg’s harrowing Holocaust drama Schindler’s List, but he does play the guy who typed up the list. Liam Neeson stars as Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who turns a blind eye to what the Nazi Party is doing during World War II until he can’t anymore.
He decides to use his resources to save as many Jews as he can by giving them jobs at his factory, thus keeping them out of the concentration camps. In the end, Schindler isn’t satisfied with how many lives he saved; he just regrets not saving more.
1 Searching for Bobby Fischer (100%)
Steven Zaillian had one heck of a 1993. Not only was he showered with awards, including an Oscar, for writing the timeless wartime classic Schindler’s List; he also wrote and directed his critically acclaimed directorial debut, Searching for Bobby Fischer.
It’s a biopic that chronicles the early childhood of Joshua Waitzkin, a wunderkind chess player who wowed the world when he won the U.S. Junior Chess championship in 1993 and 1994 (when he was 17 and 18 years old, respectively). The movie wasn’t a box office success, but it is a heartfelt drama that deserved a lot more attention, as indicated by its rare 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes.