Lena Headey's Best Movies

In this week's Total Recall, we count down the best-reviewed work of the Mortal Instruments: City of Bones star.

by Jeff Giles | Thursday, Aug. 22 2013


5. Mrs. Dalloway

It may not have technically been a Merchant Ivory movie, but 1997's Mrs. Dalloway -- a lovingly faithful adaptation of the Virginia Woolf novel, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Mrs. Dalloway and featuring a well-rounded cast of talented English actors that included Headey and Rupert Graves -- fit squarely into the beautifully filmed run of classic British arthouse romances that the studio released during the '90s. Warning that the book's "complex story structure is virtually impossible to reproduce on the screen," Jeff Vice of the Salt Lake City Deseret News countered, "but thanks to Redgrave's dazzling turn and some other fine performances, director Marleen Gorris and screenwriter Eileen Atkins come reasonably close."


4. Dredd

Following Sylvester Stallone's clumsily cartoonish 1995 adaptation of the property, Hollywood avoided the idea of a Judge Dredd movie for a solid decade -- but by the middle aughts, with everything old starting to feel new again in studio boardrooms, development slowly ground into gear on what would become 2012's Dredd. Starring Karl Urban as the distinctively helmeted law enforcer and Headey as a drug dealer who's plaguing his city with a dangerous new substance nicknamed "Slo-Mo," this grittily faithful (and ultra-violent) take on the popular comic repented for most of the original movie's sins -- and although it failed to score with audiences, it proved a surprising favorite with critics like Tim Grierson of Deadspin, who beseeched, "If Hollywood is going to be indicted for making mindlessly violent action films, let them at least be as good as this one."


3. Aberdeen

After paying her dues with a number of smaller supporting roles, Heady started coming into her own in the late '90s -- and she graduated into the leading-lady ranks with 2000's Aberdeen, a road trip drama about an emotionally stunted young woman (Headey) whose life is turned upside down when she gets a call from her mother (Charlotte Rampling) informing her that she needs to bring her dying father (Stellan Skarsgard) to the hospital. Do they meet unusual people and have unforgettable adventures? Do they learn a little something about themselves and each other? You bet they do, but Aberdeen's relatively predictable narrative arc was offset by the talent assembled on both sides of the camera; as Stanley Kauffman wrote for the New Republic, "I cannot think of another film that treats so heatedly the range of emotional possibilities between a young woman and her father."


2. Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book

Headey continued her streak of supporting roles in handsomely mounted early '90s productions with Disney's Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, a fresh adaptation of the classic story starring Jason Scott Lee as Mowgli, Headey as his love interest Kitty Brydon, and rounded out by an eclectic supporting cast that included John Cleese, Sam Neill, and Cary Elwes. With a marginally more realistic presentation and a rip-roaring, serial-inspired tone established by director Stephen Sommers, this Book reminded a lot of critics more of Raiders of the Lost Ark than anything Kipling ever wrote -- but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, as David Ansen argued for Newsweek. "Kipling purists may not cotton to Disney's new live-action version of The Jungle Book," Ansen admitted, "but it's hard to think of anyone else who won't be enchanted."


1. The Remains of the Day

Shortly after landing her breakout role in Waterland, Headey found herself acting among giants on the set of The Remains of the Day, a Merchant Ivory drama adapted from the Kazuo Ishiguro novel about an implacable butler (Anthony Hopkins) and the comparatively hot-tempered housekeeper who grows to love him (Emma Thompson) during their years together in a pre-World War II British estate. Not the stuff of blockbuster epics, obviously, but it picked up eight Academy Award nominations and offered Headey an early (albeit extremely limited) opportunity to share screen time with a gaudy list of co-stars that included Hugh Grant and Christopher Reeve. Among Remains' many appreciative critics was Variety's Todd McCarthy, who wrote, "All the meticulousness, intelligence, taste and superior acting that one expects from Merchant Ivory productions have been brought to bear."

In case you were wondering, here are Headey's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:

1. 300 -- 88%
2. The Remains of the Day -- 85%
3. Aberdeen -- 76%
4. Dredd -- 73%
5. Face -- 69%
6. Imagine Me & You -- 67%
7. Onegin -- 67%
8. The Summer House (Clothes in the Wardrobe) -- 63%
9. St. Trinian's -- 57%
10. Possession -- 57%

Take a look through Headey's complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don't forget to check out the reviews for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

Finally, here's the music video for Ilya's "Bellissimo," which features Lena Headey and Martin Freeman: