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Hugh Grant's Best Movies, From Notting Hill to Love Actually

Collider 3/31/2023 Simon Steven
© Provided by Collider

Hugh Grant is best known for playing lovable, bumbling English love interests in the vast majority of his on-screen appearances. To say that he is a one-trick-pony would be unfair to someone who is clearly talented and has appeared in a variety of genres. He’s recently starred in Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, and Guy Ritchie’s Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre.

Let’s take a look at 11 of his best performances — but we do have to include a few romantic comedies, of course.

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

Florence Foster Jenkins is a biographical, light comedy. Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) is a New York heiress known for her generosity. She is also known for her poor singing. Although her husband, St Clair (Hugh Grant) makes it unbeknownst to her how bad she really is by picking the right audience, and bribing them. But when Florence books the biggest gig of her career behind St Clair’s back, she is finally exposed to what her loving husband has shielded her from for so long.

It's a charming and lighthearted tale of a man who is devoted to his wife, and will try his best to give her the dream that she has always wanted. Grant is suave and debonair and plays an intelligent Shakespearian stage actor with relentless sophistication. Streep excels as Jenkins, receiving an Academy nomination for her teeth-grindingly, comical portrayal of the tone-deaf devotee. Funny, yet heartbreaking, Florence Foster Jenkins is an unexpected joy.

RELATED: Hugh Grant on 'The Undoing' & Where His 'Notting Hill' Character Is Today

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Cloud Atlas is a century-spanning, six-story epic that is entwined with recurring characters, themes, and plots. The eras involved are: New Zealand’s Chatham Islands in 1849, England in 1936 and 2012, San Francisco in 1973, a dystopian Neo Seoul in 2144, and finally a post-apocalyptic Hawaii in 2321. Each setting has a unique identity, tone, storyline, and many profound and underlying ethics and morals, which in turn create multiple, central themes that unite the whole movie’s narrative.

Hugh Grant is joined by an ensemble cast, and he plays six different characters and even a different race. The idea being that all life is connected regardless of ethnicity and time. Adapted by the Wachowski sisters from David Mitchell’s novel, it is one of the most audacious adaptations ever made. In essence, it’s a movie that contains six movies, and to some critics’ disgust, is considered confusing. It’s easy to dismiss something we don’t understand or "get," so watch it twice and pay respect to the Wachowskis almost biblical, cinematic spectacle.

Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)

Michael Felgate (Hugh Grant) has fallen in love with Gina Vitale (Jeanne Tripplehorn). When he asks her to marry him, she refuses on the grounds that Michael will get caught up in her family’s business, her family being gangsters. He convinces her that things will be okay, and is immediately caught up in a money laundering scam that gets the FBI's attention. With a contract on his head, the only way to keep the woman of his dreams is to fake his own execution, involving the co-operation of the FBI and mobsters, which is never going to be easy.

Mickey Blues Eyes is a romantic crime comedy that continually pokes fun at the dark and seedy New York Underworld. Grant is hilarious with his attempts at embracing his inner mobster and New York accent as his alter ego, Mickey Blue Eyes. James Caan plays Frank Vitale, Michael's soon-to-be father-in-law, who amplifies the laughs without trashing his legendary mobster role in the Godfather. An all-round silly comedy, a situational farce, and complete enjoyment.

About a Boy (2002)

Devoted to a life of childish, selfish bachelorhood, Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) pretends to be a father so he can join a help group in an attempt to pick up single mums. Instead, he makes an unlikely friend with one mother's (Toni Collette) young son, Marcus Brewer (Nicholas Hoult) who, although a loner, seems to offer an enlightening path to adulthood for Will. Respectfully, Will sees that Marcus needs guidance and help to avoid being such an easy target for bullies. Can they both help each other, or will they both remain on the social fringe?

About a Boy was nominated for 2 Academy Awards and 2 Golden Globes including Best Comedy Actor for Grant. Grant plays a likable cad that reluctantly throws in the towel of self-centered womanizing, finally becoming a father figure and best friend to Marcus. This was Hoult's breakthrough performance, gaining him his first major recognition with the idiosyncratic portrayal of Marcus. The movie marked the transition of Grant’s boyish charm to an older and more mature phase of his life.

The Gentlemen (2019)

Michael "Mickey" Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), the American boss of an English marijuana empire, wants out. He has his eye on a countryside mansion and is looking to sell his business and retire with his wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), but a chain of events is triggered involving MMA fighters, ‘The Toddlers’, triads, Russian oligarchs, and the usual money grabbing lowlifes. Who said retirement would be easy?

If you love Snatch, you’ll love The Gentlemen. It’s a nod to Guy Ritchie’s earlier work of quick-witted and interwoven situational comedy, with a thick layer of dark and satirical violence. McConaughey is faultless as the unwavering and unshakable crime lord trying to quit his day job. Hugh Grant plays one of his most ridiculously brilliant characters to date, Fletcher, a journalist that is as Machiavellian as he is funny, and is also the last person anyone can really trust.

Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually is a romantic comedy that follows 10 intertwining stories of various aspects of love. Set in London during the Christmas holiday season, it stars Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister who falls for a junior member of his staff Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), and Alan Rickman as Harry, a married man that plays a dangerous game with the attractions of his secretary. In all, more than 30 other actors contribute overall to an elaborately rich movie.

Love Actually has, in recent years, become a holiday season must. It’s a homage to love and Grant’s introductory voiceover makes a mood-setting reference to the Twin Towers terrorist attack and explains that, "as far as he knows," the victims' messages were not of hate or revenge, but of love. He expresses that love actually is all around. It’s an attention-grabbing start to a movie that everyone can identify with, and hopefully learn to see the good in each other. It won nine awards, including a British Academy Award for Bill Nighy’s supporting role as the comical crooner who covers a cringe-worthy version of the song "Love Is All Around."

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Serial monogamist Charles (Hugh Grant) struggles to let anyone get close to him. At a wedding he meets the beautiful Carrie (Andie MacDowell) and they spend the night together, before she departs back to America. Through adventures spanning three more weddings and a funeral that all involve Carrie, can Charles convince himself that he can settle down and find true happiness with the one girl he is smitten with?

Director and writer Richard Curtis makes his first of five films with Hugh Grant, and this became Hugh Grant’s breakthrough into mainstream fame. On a tight budget of £3 million, it was shot in only six weeks, and went on to become a financial success and subject of high acclaim. Grant won the Best Actor BAFTA and Golden Globe, and was cemented in the eyes of the public as a leading love interest that was awkwardly English, charmingly intelligent, and had a flair few other English actors had.

Notting Hill (1999)

Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) is the most famous actress in the world. Will (Hugh Grant) is a travel bookshop owner and a world away from fame and fortune. When Anna buys a book from Will’s shop, the journey of mismatched love begins. An accident in the street leads to an accidental kiss. All Anna wants is to have something normal, but can her fame allow Will to be the normality that she most desperately desires?

Rhys Ifans plays Spike, the unmannered and unhygienic Welshman, who shares Will’s flat and brings the comedy relief to Grant’s more serious character. Roberts, as gifted as she is, manages to look even more natural in a British movie than expected. She is convincing and persuades us that the notion of a character who is world-famous could fall in love with a nobody. Grant and Roberts have a bizarrely real on-screen chemistry.

Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

Bridget (Renée Zellweger) is on a mission to find love and avoid all the bad things men have to offer. However, her infatuation with her boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), who happens to embody the things she wishes to avoid, only makes her more infatuated with him, and they start a romance. Morally good, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), who Bridget finds infuriating, starts to regularly appear in her life. With her new realization that Daniel is no good and Mark really is, how will her mission to find love really end?

Based on a novel by Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones's Diary is the life of a thirty-something singleton. It’s a comedic reinterpretation of Jane Austen's 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice. Zellweger is enthusiastic and lovable in the title role, and her English accent isn’t bad either. Hugh plays a complete chauvinist and an alter ego to Firth’s Mr Darcy. It’s harmless fun and Zellweger, Firth, and Grant all gel together in an ironically congruous nature. It takes the best from two books and adapts them into a great romantic comedy

Paddington 2 (2017)

Paddington Bear has found a uniquely wonderful present for his auntie’s 100th birthday, a popup book of London. He tries hard to save the money for the expensive gift, but when it is stolen, Paddington is framed for the theft and sent to prison. There, he must find a way to clear his name and get back, not only his life, but the popup book too.

Paddington 2 is a magical, live-action, animated, comedy movie that can be enjoyed by all ages. It has a seamless story and a seamless CGI star that blends into the live action beautifully. Ben Whishaw provides the voice of Paddington, our lovable hero from deepest, darkest Peru. Hugh Grant plays the hilarious and most dastardly thief Phoenix Buchanan, an actor and former star of London’s West End. Phoenix utilizes his time as an actor, using it to play many disguises throughout the movie, including a nun, tramp, and a bald businessman. Hugh’s talent for comedy and character shines as bright as this wonderful, family, VFX-laden adventure.

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

The Dashwood family are forced into a more modest life after the death of Mr. Dashwood. By the rule of English Law, all inheritance belongs to the firstborn son, and Mrs Dashwood and her three daughters are forsaken help and pushed aside by the heir’s greedy wife. One daughter, Elinor Dashwood (Emma Thompson) is the embodiment of sense, and another, Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet), is the embodiment of sensibility. Both daughters fall in love, but both men involved have secrets. Will the morally opposite ladies prevail, or will their love be as destitute as their wealth?

Adapted by Emma Thompson from the novel by the queen of Regency Romance, Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility took Thompson five years to perfect, and for her hard and diligent work, she was awarded an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Hugh Grant plays the love interest of Elinor. His terribly shy, slightly hunched disposition, is 100 percent vintage Grant. Born to play period drama, but far from limited to it, Grant embodies the reserved characteristics of the English Elite with perfect charm and elegance. An all-round splendid and timeless romance.

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