Emma Thompson Filmography

A recurring theme in Emma Thompson’s filmography is period pieces. She won both an Oscar and a BAFTA for her turn as a pragmatic bohemian in a screen adaptation of E.M. Forster’s Howards End in 1992, and appeared in Merchant Ivory’s The Remains of the Day two years later as a repressed housekeeper to Anthony Hopkins’s barrister.

Howards End (1992)

Emma Thompson shot to fame on the London stage and in film and television, but her screen career really took off with the Merchant Ivory production Howards End. This adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel centers on two independent, self-sufficient sisters and the men they attract.

Roger Ebert called her performance “one of the finest of her career”. In the film, she portrays Margaret Schlegel, who falls for conservative heir Henry Wilcox. Thompson received an Academy Award nomination. She next starred with Kenneth Branagh in Shakespeare’s witty Much Ado About Nothing.

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Following the success of Howards End, Thompson starred alongside Kenneth Branagh in a comedy adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. She earned acclaim for her droll performance as Shakespeare’s frivolous aristocrat and also wrote the film’s screenplay.

Thompson starred in Richard Curtis’ multi-story romantic comedy Love Actually (2003) before earning praise for her work in the HBO miniseries Angels in America as a college professor, nurse, and homeless woman. She later voiced a Scottish queen in the animated film Brave (2012) and portrayed author Bill Bryson’s wife Catherine in the 2015 screen adaptation A Walk in the Woods.

Carrington (1995)

In Carrington, Thompson shows her effervescent talents as the tomboyish Carrington, one of the Bloomsbury Group artists. Her relationship with Lytton, while platonic, is deeper than their mutual sexual neuroses suggest.

One of the earliest of her films, it is still considered one of her finest performances. A scene where she gazes through lighted windows as her friends go through coupling after coupling is a stunning moment of what-ifs and might-have-beens. It also paved the way for her role as a self-sufficient professor in Mike Nichols’s Wit (2001). Thompson earned an Emmy nomination for both.

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

After working on stage and television, Thompson found her niche in period dramas. She starred in the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility with co-star Greg Wise. The film won widespread acclaim and was a box-office hit.

In the same year, she starred alongside Branagh in Much Ado About Nothing and took on a 1930s housekeeper in another Merchant Ivory production, The Remains of the Day. She won praise for her work in both roles. In addition, she nailed the role of a no-nonsense barrister in the HBO miniseries Angels in America.

Love Actually (2003)

Emma Thompson rose from the London stage to international film acclaim alongside her then-husband, revered Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh. Their Merchant Ivory productions Howards End (1992) and Much Ado About Nothing (1993) proved early successes.

In 1995, she starred in and wrote the screenplay for Sense and Sensibility, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel that won critical praise and a BAFTA Award nomination.

Ang Lee’s period drama Carrington (1995) showcased Thompson’s talent in a leading role, while Mike Nichols’ made-for-television AIDS drama Wit (2001) earned her an Emmy nomination. She continued to earn critical and commercial acclaim in films like Love Actually, Stranger Than Fiction, and Men in Black 3.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

In the 2006 comedy-drama Stranger Than Fiction, Thompson co-starred with Will Ferrell in a film about an IRS agent who discovers his life is being narrated by the book he’s working on. It was a critically acclaimed performance that won her several awards and nominations.

She also appeared in period drama Effie Gray and as the wife of Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) in A Walk in the Woods. Thompson rounded out the decade with two more 1960s-set British films, Brideshead Revisited and Last Chance Harvey. She continued to narrate and co-write films as well as appear onscreen.

Brideshead Revisited (2008)

She wrote and starred in period drama Effie Gray (2014) before playing Catherine Bryson, the wife of real-life American humorist Bill Bryson (Robert Redford), in a comedy adaptation of his book A Walk in the Woods (2015).

This version of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel features Charles Ryder becoming entranced with a noble family, first through his friendship with the charming and provocative Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw) and later with his sister Julia (Hayley Atwell). The film is directed by Julian Jarrold. Thompson resumed screenwriting with the family film Nanny McPhee (2005).

Last Chance Harvey (2008)

Taking on a difficult subject, Thompson delivers an emotionally raw performance as a middle-aged woman struggling to regain her dignity in this film. She and co-star Dustin Hoffman are “like two puzzle pieces meant to fit perfectly together”, wrote Roger Ebert in his review of the movie.

Adapting Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play Wit (2001), Thompson starred as a self-sufficient Harvard University professor diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She later starred in Angels in America (2003) and the Nanny McPhee films (2005) and Men in Black 3 (2012).

An Education (2009)

After a droll turn as a frivolous aristocrat in Carrington, Thompson adapted and starred in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. She also paired with Branagh again in the Shakespearean comedy Much Ado About Nothing.

An Education follows Jenny Mellor, a straight-A schoolgirl whose focus on further studies is disrupted when she meets suave thirtysomething David (Peter Sarsgaard). He introduces her to a more pleasurable side of life through music and culture. Thompson rounded out her decade with roles in the HBO miniseries Angels in America and the acclaimed drama Wit. She also appeared in Nanny McPhee, Stranger than Fiction and the animated hit movie Cruella (2021).

Men in Black 3 (2012)

With a father who was a stage director and mother who was a Scottish actress, Thompson’s upbringing was suited for creative expression. She made her film debut in the 1989 historical drama Henry V, directed by Kenneth Branagh — who would become her first husband.

She later starred in Richard Curtis’s multi-story romantic comedy Love Actually, as well as the acclaimed HBO miniseries Angels in America. She also co-wrote Nanny McPhee and provided the voice of a Scottish queen in Pixar’s animated Brave. Men in Black 3 marks her return to the franchise.

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