Helena Bonham Carter: Her 10 best performances, ranked from Harry Potter to Fight Club
Helena Bonham Carter has graced our screens for almost 40 years.
Her often wild, curly hair, thick eyebrows, and loud cackle have become synonymous with a slightly wacky character portrayal.
However, she was first typified as a virgin “English rose” in films such as A room with a view (1985) and helped reinforce the Hollywood stereotype of the English as tea-sipping, hooded toffs.
To be fair to the casting agents, Aristocrat is a role Bonham Carter was born into. Her great-grandfather is HH Asquith, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the first half of the First World War. Her uncle, Mark Bonham Carter, once dated Princess Margaret – a character she would later play The crown.
Even so, the quaint Victorian heroine shtick would never last.
“I drink booze, I smoke, and I’m addicted to caffeine. In fact, I’ve been known to curse and belch at times, and even raise my voice when provoked. And I’m not physically oppressed!” She told a reporter ahead of her role as a chimpanzee in Tim Burton’s planet of monkeys (2001). “[The film] could be my ultimate attempt at bringing the corset to bed.”
planet of monkeys also marked the beginning of a collaboration with Burton that would define Bonham Carter’s career and personal life. The couple fathered two children and eight films before officially splitting in 2014.
Despite her range of characters over the years, Bonham Carter will perhaps always be best known as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series. But is it her best work?
The Independent lists her best performances in film and television below.
10. Lady Tottington in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Hare (2005)
OK, sorry, but this movie deserved credit for the line “Look at my wife’s brassicas trashed in the night!”! Seriously, this is arguably Wallace & Gromit’s finest story, and Bonham Carter is perfect as Lady Tottington, the aristocrat with a carrot crown and plasticine. The Were Rabbit demonstrates Bonham Carter’s ability to bring great humor and excellent voice work to her roles.
9. Joan Potter in toast (2010)
Bonham Carter became Brummy for her role as chef Nigel Slater’s evil stepmother in the 2003 adaptation of his popular memoir toast. She’s deliciously evil as she fights with Nigel (Freddie Highmore) for his father’s attention. Tom Keogh wrote for The Seattle Times: “The film has three things worth adoring: spectacular lemon meringue cakes, the songs of Dusty Springfield and Helena Bonham Carter.”
8. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in The king’s speech (2010)
During The king’s speech was quite a shameless Oscar lure, Bonham Carter rightly earned her Oscar nod. If her performance as Queen Mother wasn’t impressive enough, consider the fact that Bonham Carter was shooting two films at the same time: The king’s speech on the weekends and Harry Potter during the week. She ultimately lost the Oscar to Melissa Leo The fighterbut still secured a Bafta for best supporting actress.
Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a free 30-day trial
7. Madame Thénardier enters Les Miserables (2012)
Bonham Carter played her role as Les Miserables‘ secondary antagonist Madame Thénardier emphatically. She and her domineering husband (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) own a seedy inn where the couple cheat on their guests in plain sight. When Madame Thénardier falls into the unwanted tutelage of young Cosette – whose mother Fantine Thénardier mistakenly thinks is a good woman – Bonham Carter once again deftly plays the role of the evil stepmother.
6. Marla Singer in fight club (1999)
Bonham Carter showed her true colors as an actress for the first time fight club as Tyler Durden’s wacky, chain-smoking love interest, Marla Singer. The wild hair, endless cigarettes and sunglasses have since become a feature of the actor’s work.
5. Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd: Fleet Street’s demonic barber (2007)
The lavish gothic costume and make-up for Bonham Carter’s sinister villain in Sweeney Todd bore an uncanny resemblance to her Harry Potter character, Bellatrix Lestrange. The film is the second of five occasions that Johnny Depp, Bonham Carter and Burton have worked together as a triumvirate — and it’s arguably their best. Bonham Carter took three months of singing lessons for the film, and it shows.
4. Lucy Honeychurch in A room with a view (1985)
Bonham Carter’s breakthrough role as Lucy Honeychurch in James Ivory’s 1908 adaptation of EM Forster’s novel remains one of her best. The film was recently in the news due to the disappearance of Bonham Carter’s co-star Julian Sands, who was last seen hiking in the Mt Baldy region of California. The all-star cast also includes Dame Judie Dench, Dame Maggie Smith and Daniel-Day Lewis. It is thanks to Bonham Carter’s talent that she was able to shine among this plethora of acting royalty at just 19 years old. A room with a view won three Oscars. Unfortunately none in the acting category.
3. Princess Margaret in The crown (2019-2020)
With five seasons under its belt, there have been quite a number of actors portraying Princess Margaret in the hit Netflix series. The youngest is Lesley Manville, who has taken on the role she was first played in The crown by Vanessa Kirby – but Bonham Carter’s work in seasons three and four is the best. The actor brilliantly captured a woman struggling in her sister’s shadow; a woman with a passion for celebration and a sadness that lives beneath the surface. “Helena has the rare combination of wit, intelligence, vulnerability and the vivacious, electric talent required for the role,” creator Peter Morgan said of his star.
2. The wings of the dove (1997)
During The wings of the dove is perhaps one of Bonham Carter’s lesser-known films, her role in the romantic drama as Kate Croy being her first Oscar-nominated role. The film beautifully showcases Bonham Carter’s range as she plays the young Kate, an outwardly charismatic and humble woman who devises a gruesome money-making scheme.
1. Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011)
Bellatrix Lestrange embodies everything you could wish for in a Bonham Carter performance. Bellatrix is, of course, pissed off. She’s perhaps the craziest of all the actor’s characters, which gives the actor ultimate freedom — like the freedom to stride around and sing “I Killed Sirius Black” at the top of his lungs. Dramatic, over-the-top, Bellatrix should go down in history as one of the greatest villains in fantasy of all time. It might not be Bonham Carter’s most serious work, but it somehow manages to pull off Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. That alone means that Bellatrix deserves first place in this ranking.