Movies & TV Shows

15 Best Benedict Cumberbatch Roles, Ranked

Benedict Cumberbatch has held a variety of roles over the years. Whether audiences know him as Doctor Strange or Sherlock Holmes, chances are you’ve come across his work at some point. There are roles both in the mainstream and beyond that deserve some attention.

Cumberbatch gets around when it comes to snagging roles in a little bit of everywhere, proving himself as a talented and versatile actor. From The Imitation Game to 12 Years a Slave, Benedict pops up in a number of projects with a variety of genres. That said, here are 10 of his best roles, ranked.

Updated on May 5th, 2022, by Shawn S. Lealos: Benedict Cumberbatch returns to theaters in 2022 as Doctor Strange once again, as his sequel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness arrives. This followed up a great 2022 where Cumberbatch returned as Doctor Strange in Spider-Man: No Way Home, the highest-grossing movie of the pandemic era.

However, for Cumberbatch, it was more than that because he also picked up his second Oscar nomination for the Netflix movie The Power of the Dog, a western that picked up more Oscar nominations than any other movie that year. Cumberbatch is back as Doctor Strange in 2022 and based on his movie roles so far, the future looks bright for the actor.

15 Satan (Good Omens)

Satan in Good Omens.

  • Streaming now on Prime Video.

When Neil Gaiman worked to bring his novel Good Omens to Prime Video as a series, he made some inspired casting choices. Moving past putting Michael Sheen and David Tenant in the lead roles, he also brought in two great actors to voice God and Satan – Frances McDormand and Benedict Cumberbatch.

RELATED: 10 Best Benedict Cumberbatch Movies & TV Shows, Ranked (According To Metacritic)

It is a small part, but Gaiman brought in Cumberbatch and he knocked it out of the park in the role of Satan, one that needed some star wattage to really carry the series.

14 Patrick Melrose (Patrick Melrose)

Patrick Melrose standing in an office.

  • Streaming now on Showtime.

In 2018, Benedict Cumberbatch took on the role of Patrick Melrose in the Showtime series of the same name. This was a five-part miniseries based on the autobiographical novels by Edward St. Aubyn where Cumberbatch played an Englishman overcoming his addictions over five decades.

It was a huge role for Cumberbatch and one in which he received great acclaim. Not only does the series sit at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, but Cumberbatch earned Emmy nominations for the performance while winning the top prize at the British Academy Television Awards.

13 Nick Kaufman (The Whistleblower)

  • Streaming now on Prime Video and Fubo.

In The Whistleblower, Cumberbatch drops his English accent and plays an American in law enforcement abroad alongside Rachel Weisz, who plays the protagonist in the film.

Kaufman tries flirting with Weisz’s character but is repeatedly shot down. However, his charms are still on show. The chance to see Weisz and Cumberbatch, two gifted English actors, together on screen is definitely one of the reasons drama movie fans should watch The Whistleblower.

12 Agent Classified (Penguins of Madagascar)

  • Streaming now on Netflix.

Cumberbatch lent his voice to the animated film Penguins of Madagascar in the form of Agent Classified, a British wolf that also happens to be the leader of a team of animals called “The North Wind”, which aims to help all animals in need.

Skipper mistakenly calls the wolf “Classified” throughout the film upon learning the wolf’s real name is actually classified information. Hearing the voice of Doctor Strange in an animated film is a fun experience that is worth watching again and again.

11 Smaug (The Hobbit)

Cumberbatch Motion Capture Smaug The Hobbit

  • Streaming now on HBO Max.

With the clever usage of motion capture and vocal performance, Cumberbatch portrayed the powerful and feared Smaug in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This is a challenging feat for an actor, and audiences were nothing less than impressed.

RELATED: Benedict Cumberbatch’s Best Movies, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes)

He portrayed the frightening and crazed dragon well, inflicting fear on more than just the characters of the story.

10 Paul Marshall (Atonement)

  • Streaming now on HBO Max.

Benedict had a minor role in the 2007 film Atonement as Paul Marshall, a friend of the older brother of the Tallis sisters. Paul is something of a slimy character, assaulting a cousin of the Tallis’s, named Lola, and later marrying her.

After his assault on Lola, young Briony Tallis mistakenly implicates the wrong man in the matter of who assaulted Lola, and thus ruins her older sister’s chance at love by extension, given the man she implicated was her sister’s love interest. The audience knew Paul Marshall was no good from the moment he made the Atonement quote to “bite it,” referring to a chocolate bar.

9 Patrick Watts (Starter for 10)

  • Streaming now on HBO Max.

In Starter for 10, Benedict Cumberbatch portrays snobbish Patrick Watts, the leader of a University Challenge team at his university. He’s not much for pep talks if his speech on Jackson’s (James McAvoy) lack of focus at a match is anything to go by.

It’s ironic, actually, as Jackson is the one to lead them towards victory when Patrick starts failing to answer questions–that is until Jackson screws up himself. Nonetheless, seeing Cumberbatch in this role is an experience that fans of his won’t want to miss.

8 Colonel Mackenzie (1917)

Colonel Mackenzie on a horse in 1917.

  • Available to rent on Spectrum on Demand.

1917 was the Sam Raimi war movie about a soldier sent to pass on a message that his troops are headed into a trap before it is too late. Along the way, he meets up with different groups of soldiers, including one led by Benedict Cumberbatch’s Colonel Mackenzie.

It is Mackenzie who leads the unit that is headed into a certain massacre. His role is small since it is at the end when the soldiers reach him, but he plays an important role since he has to decide whether to listen and stop the attack or risk the lives of over 1,600 soldiers under his command.

7 Peter Guillam (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

Peter Guillam from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

  • Streaming now on Fubo, Showtime, and DirecTV.

Based on the novel by John le Carre, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy tells the story of a mole in the acclaimed Circus. Benedict Cumberbatch played Peter Guillam, a recurring character in the le Carre novels, and the right-hand man of George Smiley.

In the movie, Cumberbatch was one of a huge list of respected actors, including Gary Oldman as Smiley and Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Stephen Graham, John Hurt, Toby Jones, and Mark Strong in supporting roles. Despite this, he held his own in what was an Oscar-nominated movie.

6 David (Wreckers)

In 2011’s Wreckers, Cumberbatch plays David, a man with a troubled past and dysfunctional family. Between dealing with his brother, who struggles with his mental health, and his wife who desperately wants a child (and later cheats on him), David’s plate is full.

RELATED: 10 Best Quotes By Benedict Cumberbatch Characters

Not to mention the disturbing childhood memories that are continually stirred up throughout the film. Cumberbatch’s performance is meaningful, as, despite the chaos in David’s life, he still chooses to forgive and have some version of a happy ending.

5 Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock)

  • Available to buy on Apple TV.

Cumberbatch is well-known for his role in Sherlock playing the titular character, solving crimes in modern-day London. Cumberbatch has played his fair share of odd, quirky characters and Sherlock is no exception.

Benedict plays Sherlock Holmes well, portraying the character’s intelligence and tendency to be cold appropriately. Sherlock is something of a reluctant celebrity thanks to Watson’s blog on him, but fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

4 Doctor Stephen Strange (MCU)

  • Streaming now on Disney+.

When audiences first met Doctor Strange, he was a renowned doctor that had an inflated ego and certainly didn’t treat those around him kindly. All of this changes when a car accident ruins his hands, thus ending his career. Strange sends himself into debt while searching for a cure, and comes to find the Mystic Arts, learning to open up his mind, save the world, and become a better person in the process.

He also later foresees the end of Avengers: Endgame, knowing all along that it would take a final sacrifice from Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) to take out Thanos once and for all.

3 Alan Turing (The Imitation Game)

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game

  • Streaming now on Netflix.

The Imitation Game follows the life of Alan Turing, a brilliant man that worked to decrypt messages from German intelligence on behalf of the British Government during World War 2. Turing is initially difficult to work with. Only with the help of Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) does he begin to get along better with his colleagues, and by extension find success in quickly decrypting coded messages.

Sadly, Turing is convicted of gross indecency due to his homosexuality in the film’s end and undergoes chemical castration instead of jail time, with Clarke reassuring him that despite everything, his work has saved millions of lives.

2 William Ford (12 Years a Slave)

  • Streaming now on HBO Max.

Ford is the plantation owner that purchases the protagonist of 12 Years a Slave, named Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Solomon is a free man, yet he is tricked and subsequently sold as a slave. Ford is kind to Northup, giving him a violin and later saving his life.

However, hoping to help Northup, Ford sells him to another slave trader, lacking the courage to truly help Northup return home despite his confession to Ford that he’s a free man. Despite this mistake, his fear is understandable given the times, and Ford was truly a rare man at the time for all the kindness he showed Northup.

1 Phil Burbank (The Power Of The Dog)

Phil standing outside in Power of the Dog.

  • Streaming now on Netflix.

Benedict Cumberbatch has earned two Oscar nominations and his most recent one came for the Netflix movie The Power of the Dog. The movie was a western where Cumberbatch played a wealthy ranch owner named Phil Burbank.

He was a bad man, someone who bullied a local widowed woman named Rose Gordon, played by Kirsten Dunst, while also dealing with his own brother Geroge and Rose’s son Peter. The movie picked up an impressive 12 Oscar nominations, but it only won for Best Director.

NEXT: The 10 Best Characters In The Power Of The Dog, Ranked

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