Colin Farrell, now a Golden Globe winner, is also now an Oscar nominee for his heartfelt performance in The Banshees of Inisherin. Last year, Farrell revealed a new side to his range as an actor as The Penguin in The Batman: his unique and silly approach to the role was a breath of fresh air in the otherwise incredibly dark and bleak crime movie. Farrell first came to prominence in the early 2000s with his roles in the thriller Phone Booth and Minority Report. Due to his devastatingly good looks, charisma, and talent, he became a go-to leading man of the early aughts, but the movies he starred in including Daredevil, Alexander, and Miami Vice weren’t the best fit. But when he started working on smaller films with directors who understood his style and edge and challenged his comfort zone, he became a better, more interesting actor, and quite possibly an Oscar-winning one.
Here are all of the essential Colin Farrell performances to catch up on leading up to the Oscars, from Minority Report to Widows, minus the sex tape.
Phone Booth (2002), available to rent on Amazon Prime
Joel Schumacher knew Colin Farrell was a star. In the late filmmaker’s thriller Phone Booth, Farrell plays Stu Shephard, an arrogant young publicist who is cheating on his wife. When he enters a phone booth (hey that’s the name of the movie) in Times Square (one of his many mistakes) to call his mistress, he’s held hostage by a mysterious caller with a sniper. The narrative relies heavily on Farrell’s charm: he’s playing a little prick, but once he’s in danger of losing his life, the audience is on Stu’s side despite his dishonesty and flaws. Farrell is expressive as ever and his eyes and eyebrows somehow make a gritty phone booth — in Times Square of all places — appealing (sexy, even).
Minority Report (2002), streaming on Paramount+
Stephen Spielberg makes Colin Farrell the hottest person who has ever worked for the Department of Justice. In Spielberg’s underappreciated sci-fi masterpiece, Farrell plays agent Danny Witwer, who has come to audit the pre-crime department at the worst possible time: just as Tom Cruise is accused of a future murder. Farrell’s tiny glasses and suspenders help sell the government agent in a sci-fi movie look, but he also transforms into a sincere government agent with good hair on his own: his body language is stiffer, and he captures the enthusiasm that only a young government employee in the past, present, or future could have with a glimmer in his dark eyes. Farrell’s role also requires a lot of exposition, but you might not even notice because he’s so smooth.
In Bruges (2008), available to rent on Amazon Prime
After several years starring in critical flops including Daredevil and Alexander, Farrell finally found his calling in his first collaboration with writer/director Martin Mcdonagh in In Bruges, and found his ideal scene partner in co-star Brendan Gleeson. McDonagh’s quick-witted, violent, and slightly cynical In Bruges is well suited for Farrell’s edge. In the film, Farrell plays Ray, a new assassin in trouble for killing a child on the job. His boss sends him to Bruges, Belgium without a clear mission. He hates Bruges at first. Farrell’s intense look, vigor, and sincerity complement Mcdonagh’s fast, curse-ridden screenplay. Farrell is so good that it feels like he’s just made all of his lines up on the spot. And even when you don’t understand what Farrell is saying his face says it all.
Fright Night (2011), available to rent on Amazon Prime
Some might say that this remake of the 1985 horror classic was unnecessary. But the very fact that it contains a Colin Farrell performance – and a terrific one, at that – makes it more necessary than most films. Farrell’s performance as Jerry the teen-eating vampire is equally terrifying, amusing, and charismatic. His committed performance as Jerry is a precursor to the lengths he would go years later as The Penguin in 2022’s The Batman. Farrell has always had a goof in him, it just took some time to cook.
The Lobster (2015), streaming on HBO Max
As David in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, Farrell is both funny and heartbreaking as a lonely man who must find love in 45 days, or he will turn into an animal of his choice (a lobster). The film and Farrell’s performance are at times laugh-out-loud funny but at others so raw and disturbing that it’s hard to stomach. The role tests new emotional depths for Farrell and required him to play a bit of a dork. Even though Farrell had been established as a hot heartthrob or bad boy for over a decade, he proved he has the range. But it’s his chemistry with co-star Rachel Weisz that makes the film so special and so personal: they have a rhythm you can feel.
Widows (2018), streaming free with ads on Amazon Prime
Colin Farrell supports women in this heist movie written by gone Girl Girl writer Gillan Flynn and directed by Steve McQueen. Farrell plays Jack Mulligan, a Chicago politician amidst a campaign. Jack comes from a political family and doesn’t necessarily like the job, but he enjoys the benefits: he serves a poor district consisting of minorities but is so rich that the titular widows rob him. Farrell’s biggest strength here is an understated mockery of the insincerity of politicians on the job, and an overall subtlety to his performance that lets his co-stars including Viola Davis shine.
After Yang (2022), streaming on Paramount+
2022 was quite the year for Farrell. Between The Batman and The Banshees of Inisherin, he starred in A24’s sci-fi drama After Yang. Farrell plays Jake, a father to two children, one of which is a robot. When the robot child becomes unresponsive, Jake attempts to fix him. Farrell continues his streak of playings rather ordinary but interesting men, and he tests his emotional depths even further by playing a grieving father coming to terms with a reliance on technology in his most personal performance.