Best: The Remains Of The Day (1993)
Nominated for eight Oscars, James Ivory’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s celebrated novel features one of Hopkins’ finest ever performances.
Starring opposite a never-better Emma Thompson, he’s Mr Stevens, a butler at Darlington Hall whose many years of service have meant he’s scarified a chance at leading his own life free of the family. With his master tied to the Nazis, Stevens finds his loyalties well and truly tested. Intelligent, elegant and beautifully acted.
Worst: The Wolfman (2010)
Hopkins boarded this troubled remake of the classic 1941 film quite late in the game. With runaway directors and talk of behind the scenes kerfuffles, it finally headed into production with Joe Johnston directing.
But the mish-mash of classic storytelling, hammy acting and dodgy CG meant it was a critical flop at the box office – despite Hopkins doing his best as a granddaddy gut guzzler.
Best: Shadowlands (1993)
Another stellar 1993 offering from Hopkins, who steals the show with his sensitive portrayal of author C.S. Lewis.
After marrying American poet Joy Gresham so that she can remain in England, Lewis finds his initially apathetic feelings for his new wife growing as the years pass.
Despite the disruption she causes in his life, Lewis discovers a new way of looking at the world thanks to his relationship with Gresham. But tragedy is just around the corner. Stirring, bright-eyed stuff.
Worst: Bad Company (2002)
Hopkins makes a pivotal mistake in agreeing to share screen time with gobby ‘comedian’ Chris Rock, an error in judgement that results in one of the British thesp’s worst ever screen credits.
Sharing a sputtering-at-best chemistry, the pair play a veteran CIA agent and a grating punk (guess who’s who). Together, they must track down the murderer of the latter’s identical twin brother – with just nine days before a vulnerable nuclear weapons deal goes boom. A bit like Rock's acting career.
Best: The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
Hopkins’ most celebrated role, and by far his creepiest, earned him his one and only Oscar. As terrifying serial killer Hannibal Lecter, that Academy win set a record, as Hopkins was only actually on-screen for around 16 minutes.
But his effortlessly chilling portrayal of a former psychiatrist banged up for his crimes is one of the film’s greatest achievements. In one fell swoop, Hopkins set the bar for all future on-screen serial killers. You'd have to be an A-grade athlete to better it.
Worst: All The Kings Men (2006)
Not a patch on the 1949 adaptation of Robert Penn Warren’s novel (which itself won the Best Picture Oscar), this new version from the writer of Clear And Present Danger features a diamond cast list (Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Clarkson), but remains horrible leaden.
Hopkins plays Judge Irwin, the father of news reporter Jack (Law), who gets caught up in a political warfare during the election of a new governor. Painfully muddled and completely devoid of political insight.
Best: Hamlet (1969)
Tony Richardson directs this pared back adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play, based on his own staging of the tale at the Roundhouse in London.
The antithesis of big Hollywood adaps, this Hamlet is sparse and impactful, with Hopkins playing murderous King Claudius, who claims the throne after poisoning his own brother. An early triumph for the burgeoning actor.
Worst: Alexander (2004)
Oliver Stone’s turkey of an epic had a heck of a battle ahead of itself if it wanted to match Academy favourite Gladiator for sword and sand thrills. Sadly, it fails on every level.
Hopkins plays Ptolemy I Soter, the general who narrates Alexander’s daily struggles with his family before he becomes king of Macedonia and Greece. Fleeced by the critics, and barely scraping back its $155m at the box office (it only regained $167m), Alexander was a big, overblown letdown.
Best: The Lion In Winter (1968)
Hopkins’ first big break in the movie world would also become one of his most acclaimed performances. Acting opposite the legendary likes of Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn, the film won three well-deserved Oscars.
Based on James Goldman’s play, the plot follows King Henry II’s struggle to choose who of his three sons will inherit the throne. Whipsmart and sharper than many period films, Hopkins’ debut is a revelation.
Worst: The Human Stain (2003)
An underwhelming attempt to bring Philip Roth’s romantic thriller novel to life on the big screen, Stain suffers from bad casting decisions that undermine the film as a whole, despite Hopkins and Nicole Kidman turning in decent performances.
Set in the late 1990s, Coleman Silk (Hopkins) is an ex-professor who was fired after making supposedly racist comments in class.
Best: The Elephant Man (1980)
Though the showy title role went to fellow Brit John Hurt, Hopkins’ turn in this ‘based on a true story’ heart-tugger from David Lynch was just as impactful.
He plays London surgeon Frederick Treves, who discovers ‘elephant man’ John Merrick in a Victorian freak show and takes him in for medical study. After realising Merrick has been exploited his entire life, he pities on the unfortunate man and attempts to teach him how to be a gentleman.
Sadly, the immortal line “I am not an animal!” also went to Hurt.
Worst: Meet Joe Black (1998)
Loosely based on 1934’s Death Takes A Holiday , Meet Joe Black pairs Hopkins with Brad Pitt for the second time, four years after they made Legends Of The Fall together.
This re-team, though, fails to capture the magic of that earlier effort. Hopkins is Bill Parish, who’s visited by visions of Death. The latter asks Bill to be his guide in the world, but things start to go wrong when Death starts to fall for Bill’s daughter.
Accused of possessing a glacial pace, Meet Joe Black is languid and rambling, and would have benefitted from a hefty edit job.
Best: Howards End (1992)
Another literary adaptation directed by James Ivory, this one based on E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel of the same name, and co-starring Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Vanessa Redgrave.
Charting class tensions in British society, Hopkins plays Wilcox patriarch Henry, who lives for money and won’t have it any other way. When his brood encounters a family of workers and a family of enlightened bourgeois, their view of life is challenged. Ironically, Howards End just reeks of class.
Worst: Hearts In Atlantis (2001)
Some Stephen King adaptations are better than others. Sadly, Hopkins’ attempt at wrangling King’s unique tone into a movie fell flat on its face with Hearts In Atlantis.
Based on King’s short story Low Men In Yellow Coats , Hopkins plays elderly drifter Ted, whose telekinetic powers rub off onto young Robert (Anton Yelchin). Soon, Robert learns that Ted is running from the mysterious ‘Low Men’, who will doing anything to capture him.
Though gorgeous to look at, Hearts suffers from a maudlin mood and a snail-like pace.
Best: Magic (1978)
Richard Attenborough helmed this unconventional drama, which pitched Hopkins as Charles Witchers, a wannabe magician. After a year of intense training, he comes up with a new ventriloquist act, brandishing a potty-mouthed dummy named Fats.
Hopkins voiced the dummy himself, which was created specifically for the film in his visage. The actor was apparently so unnerved by the creation that he couldn’t bear to have it in his house. Still, fantastic performance.
Worst: Hannibal (2001)
Sequel to Silence Of The Lambs , Hannibal is often unfairly lambasted. But despite some stand-out moments, there’s no denying that it’s not a patch on the original.
Hopkins was one of the only holdovers from Silence , with Ridley Scott replacing director Jonathan Demme and Julianne Moore stepping into the shoes of Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling.
The result is a rich visual experience, but an unwieldy tale that turns Hannibal into Clarice’s potential love interest. An honourable failure.
Best: Legends Of The Fall (1994)
This big budget production starts to lose its way slightly as the running time slips by, but as an examination of character backed up by great performances, it’s hard to beat.
Hopkins is a military veteran whose son Tristan (Brad Pitt) is always butting heads with his older brother (Aidan Quinn). We track his life from the battlefields of World War I to his ever-tormented personal life. Daft if persistently entertaining.
Worst: Freejack (1992)
Adapted from Robert Sheckley 1959 novel Immortality, Inc. , Freejack is a sci-fi action flick that completely wastes the talents of Hopkins and Rene Russo.
The plot is set in a ‘futuristic’ 2009, where ‘bonejacker’ mercenaries travel through time to snatch people from the split second before their death in order to use them as substitute bodies. Hopkins plays a man who needs a new body after having died on a business trip. Yeah, it’s all incomprehensible tosh.
Best: Amistad (1997)
Hopkins shaves his head and gets added liver spots in order to play US President John Quincy Adams, a role that earned him an Academy nomination. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film’s been criticised for its historical inaccuracy, but there’s no denying the stunning performances it contains.
Set in 1839, the plot follows mutiny that breaks out aboard a slave ship that’s sailing around the northeast coast of America, and the ensuing court room drama.
Worst: August (1996)
Adapted from Russian play Uncle Vanya , Hopkins’ sophomore directing effort saw him transport that film’s plot to Wales. There, he focuses on the destitution of industrial life in the slate quarries. When an English professor pitches up at his vacation home in a Welsh estate, he upsets everybody around him.
Hopkins directs with a sure hand, though the tone of his film sways wildly between melodramatic and nutty farce. By the time the pivotal climax arrives, you’ll probably have gone out and started mowing the lawn instead.
Best: Nixon (1995)
Hopkins tackles another historical US figure in the form of shamed US President Richard Nixon. Working with another directorial bigwig (Oliver Stone), Hopkins delivers another assured performance as he gets under the skin of one of America’s most hated men.
Ambitious and gorgeous to look at, Nixon tracks the titular titan's growth from a child all the way up to the scandal that would eventually become the legacy he left behind.
Worst: Slipstream (2007)
Hopkins’ most recent occasion in the director’s chair, Slipstream is one of the multi-hyphenate’s most disappointing and critically savaged films.
He plays aging screen scribe Felix Bonhoeffer, whose life is split in two: reality, and his own far more colourful interior world. When the characters of a murder mystery he’s writing start appearing in his waking life, Felix doesn’t realise that his brain is at the point of implosion.
Considered unruly and confusing, Slipstream is ultimately an honourable experiment gone horribly wrong.
Best: The Bounty (1984)
Hopkins’ love affair with historical drama continues with this film based on the mutiny on the Bounty when, in 1789, Fletcher Christian led the crew of the Bounty against their oppressive captain William Bligh.
In this, the fifth film version of the story, Hopkins played Bligh, while Mel Gibson played Christian. A replica of the Bounty was built at a cost of $4m before the film’s script was even completed. Roger Ebert commended the movie as “wonderful… high-spirited and intelligent”.
Worst: Instinct (1999)
The performances – from Hopkins, Cuba Gooding Jr and Donald Sutherland – are all but obliterated in the face of Instinct ’s unsurprising, long-winded plotting.
Released Stateside as Ishmael , it finds Hopkins’ anthropologist living in the jungle with gorillas, and convicted of killing several African rangers. When Gooding’s psychiatrist attempts to find out what really happened, he’s pulled into a journey of human self-discovery. Or something.
Despite winning a Genesis Award, Instinct has been maligned as a wordy, inscrutable mess.
Best: 84 Charing Cross Road (1986)
As with many of Hopkins’ finest films, this one’s also based on a book – and a play – penned by Helene Hanff. Hopkins plays Frank Doel, who works at an antique booksellers in London.
When he’s contacted by Helene (Anne Bancroft), who’s hunting some obscure British literature, the two strike up a long-distance liaison.
Worst: Surviving Picasso (1996)
A portrait of the famous artist, Hopkins plays Picasso, whose 10 year relationship with aspiring painter Francoise spans the German occupation of Paris. He’s in his 60s, and wildly passionate, but Francoise struggles to accept all the women in his life – including his Russian wife Olga.
Splitting itself between too many characters and subsequently turning into a confused muddle, Surviving Picasso features a great performance by Hopkins, but is too bloated and sprawling for its own good.