11 Best Movies to Watch by Bill Nighy

Staff & contributors

, 2022

Adapted from the Japanese film Ikiru, which in turn was adapted from the Russian story The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Living is a parable about, well, living. Specifically, it's about the importance of wonder and the magic of the mundane. It's also about legacy and the stories we leave in our wake, which live on long after we're gone. This familiar premise could have very easily been turned into another trite and cheesy movie that warns you to make the most out of your life, but thanks to a lean script, assured camerawork, and powerfully restrained performances, Living is elevated into something more special than that. It’s a technically beautiful, well told, and profoundly moving film, with Bill Nighy giving a career-best turn as a repressed man aching for meaning in his twilight years. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adrian Rawlins, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Barney Fishwick, Bill Nighy, Celeste Dodwell, David Summer, Edward Wolstenholme, Eunice Roberts, Ffion Jolly, Grant Gillespie, Hubert Burton, Jamie Wilkes, John MacKay, Jonathan Keeble, Lia Williams, Mark James, Matilda Ziegler, Michael Cochrane, Michael James, Nichola McAuliffe, Nicky Goldie, Oliver Chris, Patsy Ferran, Richard Cunningham, Robin Sebastian, Rosie Sansom, Thomas Coombes, Tom Burke, Zoe Boyle

Director: Oliver Hermanus

, 2014

It’s 1984 and miners in England are on strike against Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s plans to close pits. Their cause has unlikely appeal for Mark Ashton, a human rights activists who decides to take a group of people who had joined an early Gay Pride parade in London to rural England to show support for the (often socially-conservative) miners.

You can see how things might go wrong, but in this case they didn’t. This heartwarming tale is based on a true story. An easy, funny, and relevant movie about the bond that oppression brings to the oppressed. Super earnest, too.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Abram Rooney, Adam Ewan, Alexander Perkins, Andrew Scott, Ben Schnetzer, Bill Nighy, Bryan Parry, Chris Overton, Christian Patterson, Dean Ashton, Deddie Davies, Derek Barr, Dominic West, Dyfan Dwyfor, Ed Coleman, Faye Marsay, Freddie Fox, George MacKay, Giles Cooper, Henry Garrett, Imelda Staunton, Jack Baggs, Jaimi Barbakoff, James McGregor, Jâms Thomas, Jessica Gunning, Jessie Cave, Jim McManus, Johnny Gibbon, Jordan Metcalfe, Joseph Gilgun, Joseph Wilkins, Joshua Hill, Julie Barclay, Karina Fernandez, Kyle Rees, Lauren Johns, Lee Shepherd, Lisa Palfrey, Liz White, Matthew Flynn, Matthew Seadon-Young, Matthew Tennyson, Menna Trussler, Monica Dolan, Neal Barry, Nia Gwynne, Olwen Medi, Paddy Considine, Rhodri Meilir, Richard Shanks, Roger Morlidge, Ross Waiton, Russell Tovey, Sean Hart, Sophie Evans, Tomos Eames, Will Haddington

Director: Matthew Warchus

Rating: R

A recent holiday classic you likely haven't seen, Arthur Christmas uses its premise of the North Pole as a massive spy organization to touch on how commercialization tears people apart. It's a surprisingly smart film with a fascinating dynamic among its family of Santas, with an incredibly funny script full of dry, British wit. And while the animation may already look dated at first glance, Arthur Christmas more than makes up for its looks with truly imaginative art direction and director Sarah Smith's fast-paced set pieces. This is that rare Chirstmas movie that doesn't just surrender to schmaltz; the lessons learned by the characters here are unique, complex, and timeless.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Kids

Actor: Adam Tandy, Alistair McGowan, Andy Serkis, Ashley Jensen, Bill Nighy, Brian Cummings, Bronagh Gallagher, Clint Dyer, Cody Cameron, Danny John-Jules, David Menkin, David Schneider, Deborah Findlay, Dominic West, Donnie Long, Emma Kennedy, Eva Longoria, Hugh Laurie, Iain McKee, Ian Ashpitel, Imelda Staunton, James McAvoy, Jane Horrocks, Jerry Lambert, Jim Broadbent, Joan Cusack, Julia Davis, Kerry Shale, Kevin Cecil, Kevin Eldon, Kris Pearn, Laura Linney, Marc Wootton, Michael Palin, Peter Baynham, Ramona Marquez, Rhys Darby, Rich Fulcher, Rich Hall, Robbie Coltrane, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Sarah Smith, Seamus Malone, Seeta Indrani, Stewart Lee, Tamsin Greig

Director: Barry Cook, Sarah Smith

Rating: PG

Ralph Fiennes plays a mild-mannered British diplomat in Kenya who is stunned by the news of his wife Tessa’s (Rachel Weisz) sudden death while in the company of another man. He sets off to investigate the suspicious death––and secret life–-of his late wife, within a tangle of personal betrayals, political threats, and corporate conspiracies. This film presents an exquisite contrast between Justin’s (Fiennes) gentle, contemplative demeanor and the progressively gripping details he uncovers; between rapturous romanticism and darkly corrupting interests. It’s a touching, smart, and suspenseful feast of a movie.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Anneke Kim Sarnau, Archie Panjabi, Bill Nighy, Danny Huston, Donald Apiyo, Donald Sumpter, Gerard McSorley, Hubert Koundé, Jeffrey Caine, John Keogh, Juliet Aubrey, Nick Reding, Pete Postlethwaite, Peter King Nzioki, Rachel Weisz, Ralph Fiennes, Richard McCabe, Rupert Simonian, Sidede Onyulo, Teresa Harder, Thomas Chemnitz

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Rating: R

Acerbic diary excerpts provide the narration for this taut psychological thriller, but don’t be fooled: as Notes on a Scandal teases, single schoolteacher Barbara (Judi Dench) might not be filling these pages with the truth — at least, not intentionally. There are early tells that she might not be as reliable a narrator as we expect, given her reputation as a no-nonsense battleaxe: for one, her characteristic surliness dissolves alarmingly quickly upon meeting Sheba (Cate Blanchett), an idealistic young art teacher. Notes on a Scandal doesn’t overplay this hand, though: until its explosive climax, the psychological drama is mostly read between the lines, as we watch Barbara enthusiastically pursue a “friendship” with her younger colleague. 

What makes Notes doubly gripping is that Barbara isn’t the only one hiding dark secrets: as she soon discovers, the married Sheba has begun a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student. That disturbing revelation gives Barbara an upper hand, a means of manipulating Sheba into validating her delusions about their relationship. What follows is a gripping twin character study, one that plays out in the heightened realm of a melodrama as their sordid secrets become entwined. Darkly camp and spanning just 92 perfectly paced minutes, this is an intense immersion into two very ugly psyches.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adrian Scarborough, Andrew Simpson, Anne-Marie Duff, Barry McCarthy, Benedict Taylor, Bill Nighy, Cate Blanchett, Debra Gillett, Derbhle Crotty, Emma Kennedy, Gabrielle Brooks, Jill Baker, Joanna Scanlan, Judi Dench, Julia McKenzie, Juno Temple, Kevin Hudson, Michael Maloney, Miranda Pleasence, Phil Davis, Shaun Parkes, Stephen Kennedy, Tameka Empson, Tom Georgeson, Wendy Nottingham

Director: Richard Eyre

One of the many good movies from director Edgar Wright - if you loved Shaun of the Dead, then this Buddy-Cop Homage will make you double over (and question humanity – or lack, thereof) just as much. Sandford is a small English village with the lowest crime and murder rates, so when overachieving police Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) gets sent there because he was so good he intimidated those around him, he just about loses it. From car-chasing, bone-thrilling, head-blowing action, he graduates to swan-calling, thrill-seeking, sleep-inducing madness. But all that’s about to change – for the worse? For the better? You decide. An obscenely funny flick that has an intriguing plot and an even greater set of characters, Hot Fuzz wasn’t named the best film of the Cornetto trilogy for nothing, clearly cementing Pegg and Nick Frost as the ultimate action duo of the genre.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Mystery

Actor: Adam Buxton, Alice Lowe, Anne Reid, Ben McKay, Bill Bailey, Bill Nighy, Billie Whitelaw, Cate Blanchett, Chris Waitt, Colin Michael Carmichael, David Bradley, David Threlfall, Edgar Wright, Edward Woodward, Eric Mason, Garth Jennings, Graham Low, Jim Broadbent, Joe Cornish, Julia Deakin, Karl Johnson, Kenneth Cranham, Kevin Eldon, Lorraine Hilton, Lucy Punch, Maria Charles, Martin Freeman, Nick Frost, Olivia Colman, Paddy Considine, Patricia Franklin, Paul Freeman, Peter Jackson, Peter Wight, Rafe Spall, Robert Popper, Ron Cook, Rory McCann, Simon Pegg, Stephen Merchant, Steve Coogan, Stuart Wilson, Tim Barlow, Timothy Dalton

Director: Edgar Wright

Rating: R

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel invites us to an earnest meditation on old age and change. The film centers on a group of British retirees traveling to the titular hotel in India, in hopes of a good retirement. The group cast is an excellent choice: prominent names from British movies and television line the cast, and it’s a pleasure to see them act alongside each other with equal screen time and their own detailed plotlines. Their plotlines inspire empathy towards different struggles that the elderly face: finding love again, dealing with accumulated debt, and handling loss. All of these are tough, but especially when you feel your time has run out. The best of these plotlines are the ones that acknowledge loss but still persist through accepting changing circumstances and actively going for one's desires.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Dev Patel, Diana Hardcastle, Glen Davies, Honey Chhaya, Jay Villiers, Judi Dench, Lillete Dubey, Liza Tarbuck, Louise Brealey, Lucy Robinson, Maggie Smith, Nina Kulkarni, Patrick Pearson, Paul Bentall, Paul Bhattacharjee, Penelope Wilton, Rajendra Gupta, Ramona Marquez, Richard Cubison, Ronald Pickup, Sara Stewart, Siddharth Makkar, Simon Wilson, Tina Desai, Tom Wilkinson, Vishnu Sharma

Director: John Madden

Rating: PG-13

One of those movies that even if you know all the jokes by heart, you'll still laugh at them whenever you see the movie. The chemistry between Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright is exceptional, and the jokes are spot-on.  The movie starts with Shaun character trying to turn his life around by winning back his ex and reconnect with his mother. Only problem? Oh yeah, everyone is coming back from the dead.  

Genre: Comedy, Horror

Actor: Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Bill Nighy, Carol Barnes, Chris Martin, David Walliams, Dylan Moran, Edgar Wright, Finola Geraghty, Garth Jennings, Jeremy Thompson, Jessica Hynes, Joe Cornish, Jon Buckland, Jonny Buckland, Julia Davis, Julia Deakin, Kate Ashfield, Keir Mills, Keith Chegwin, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Lauren Laverne, Lucy Akhurst, Lucy Davis, Mark Donovan, Mark Gatiss, Martin Freeman, Matt Lucas, Michael Smiley, Nick Frost, Nicola Cunningham, Patricia Franklin, Paul Kaye, Paul Putner, Penelope Wilton, Peter Baynham, Peter Serafinowicz, Phyllis MacMahon, Rafe Spall, Reece Shearsmith, Rob Brydon, Robert Popper, Simon Pegg, Sonnell Dadral, Steve Emerson, Tamsin Greig, Tim Baggaley, Trisha Goddard, Vernon Kay

Director: Edgar Wright

Rating: R

Set in the 1930's English Countryside, the story of the eccentric Mortmain family is told from the daughter Cassandra's point of view. Her father, a once acclaimed and famous writer has written nothing in years, leading the family into bankruptcy. Themes such as first love and financial troubles are explored from Cassandra's comic and intelligent point of view. A classic and a must-see.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alice Marie Crowe, Anna Paquin, Bijou Phillips, Bill Nighy, Billy Crudup, Christopher Ettridge, David Bamber, Dolly Wells, Eion Bailey, Eric Stonestreet, Fairuza Balk, Frances McDormand, Helena Little, Henry Cavill, Henry Thomas, James Faulkner, James Warrior, Jason Lee, Jay Baruchel, Jean Warren, Jimmy Fallon, Joe Sowerbutts, John Patrick Amedori, Kate Hudson, Kevin Sussman, Marc Blucas, Marc Maron, Michael Angarano, Noah Taylor, Patrick Fugit, Pauley Perrette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rainn Wilson, Ray Porter, Romola Garai, Rose Byrne, Sarah Woodward, Sinead Cusack, Sophie Stuckey, Tara Fitzgerald, Terry Chen, Zack Ward, Zooey Deschanel

Director: Cameron Crowe, Tim Fywell

Rating: R

The Beautiful Game starts off with a hilarious, brilliantly written opening sequence that should have set the tone for the film. Then almost immediately, we're met with some shoddy writing, and in a strange way, that is what sets the tone for the film, instead. This film presents the story of the Homeless World Cup and how it empowers those who feel they have no direction, and so naturally we want to feel their triumph. But the film seems to want to cross over the jovial and wholesome line and deeper into the characters' struggles, and while some characters only need a glimpse of it, it generally comes across like a jarring lack of commitment. The film isn't carrying home any writing gold, but it's not really about winning, is it?

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anna Maria Everett, Aoi Okuyama, Bill Nighy, Callum Scott Howells, Colin Azzopardi, Cristina Rodlo, Daniel Attwell, Gabriel Akuwudike, James McNicholas, Jessye Romeo, Kazuhiro Muroyama, Kit Young, Layo-Christina Akinlude, Massimo Scola, Micheal Ward, Robin Nazari, Shane Casey, Sheyi Cole, Sian Reese-Williams, Susan Wokoma, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Valeria Golino

Director: Thea Sharrock

Rating: PG-13

After a strong first act that has lots of fun playing with fake identities donned by its characters (and with a particularly entertaining supporting turn from Bill Nighy), Role Play slows down significantly and only ends up spinning its wheels. In its attempt to inject some more drama into the central relationship between Anna (who goes by Emma with her family) and Dave, the film articulates itself awkwardly, overemphasizes the obvious, and loses precious time for the plot develop in interesting ways. By the third act, Role Play practically teleports itself into entirely new circumstances, where the emotional stakes are neither high enough or clear enough to begin with.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Romance

Actor: Angus McGruther, Bill Nighy, Connie Nielsen, Cornell Adams, David Oyelowo, Dominic Holmes, Jade-Eleena Dregorius, Jonathan Failla, Julia Schunevitsch, Kaley Cuoco, Lucia Aliu, Moritz Berg, Reagan Bryan-Gudgeon, Rudi Dharmalingam, Simon Delaney, Sonita Henry, Stacy Thunes, Steffen Jung, Stephanie Levi-John

Director: Thomas Vincent

Rating: R