Wanted's James McAvoy: His Best-Reviewed Films

We run through the finest work -- so far -- of this rising star.

by | June 25, 2008 | Comments

The action-thriller Wanted hits theaters this week, and though it’s toplined by one of the biggest stars in the world (Angelina Jolie), it also features a young Scotsman who’s making a name for himself as well: James McAvoy.

On these shores, McAvoy first earned notice for his work in HBO’s Band of Brothers and the Sci-Fi Channel’s Children of Dune. Since then, his star has risen, and it’s not hard to see why; McAvoy plays characters of fundamental decency and charm, and has become something of a heartthrob with bookish ladies. Here’s a rundown of McAvoy’s best-reviewed work to date.

Bright Young Things (2004, 65 percent)

After years of acclaimed theatrical and television performances in the UK, McAvoy crossed the pond to US cinemas — albeit joined by a formidable collection of Brit acting talent — in Bright Young Things. Stephen Fry‘s directorial debut wryly follows the social goings-on of young upper-crust Britons in the 1930s, complete with scandal, romantic triangles, and generational conflict. It would seem difficult to stand out in a cast that features Richard E. Grant, Emily Mortimer, Simon Callow, Jim Broadbent, and Peter O’Toole, but McAvoy holds his own, playing a needy, manipulative scandal-sheet writer who still inspires empathy. “Newcomer James McAvoy [is] very good,” wrote Derek Elley of Variety.






The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005, 75 percent)

It’s not easy for an actor to establish a memorable screen persona when surrounded by acting heavyweights in the midst of a fantasy world while wearing a funny costume. But as Mr. Tumnus, a faun who acts as the welcome wagon for the Pevensie children in Narnia, McAvoy still managed to create an indelible impression — again playing a morally-conflicted character who ultimately does the right thing. “Mr. Tumnus is simply one of the most jaw-dropping cinematic creatures invented yet, a stunning mix of filmmaking wizardry and McAvoy’s soulful and physical thesping,” wrote Laura Clifford of Reeling.

Atonement (2007, 83 percent)

Though he’d turned in some outstanding performances before, it was Atonement that provided McAvoy with his first big break. In a Golden Globe-nominated performance, McAvoy plays Robbie, the decent, hard-working son of a housekeeper on a posh estate with dreams of becoming a doctor. He’s carried a torch for Cecilia (Keira Knightly), the eldest daughter of the upper-class Tallis clan. After tip-toeing around each other for years, the pair finally acknowledge a mutual attraction — but their nascent romance is thwarted when Cecelia’s younger sister (perhaps intentionally) misinterprets the nature of a late-night meeting — and lands Robbie in the slammer. The rest of Atonement deals with the ramifications of that night, and it’s a devastating portrait of star-crossed love. “Most people will recognize Knightley, but it’s McAvoy who will have you talking after the credits roll,” wrote Willie Waffle of WaffleMovies.com.

The Last King of Scotland (2006, 87 percent)

It’s no insult to McAvoy to say he doesn’t give the best performance in The Last King of Scotland. He’s merely excellent, while Forest Whittaker, playing Ugandan strongman Idi Amin, is borderline possessed. But McAvoy’s role is just as important; playing Garrigan, Amin’s (fictional) personal doctor, he helps the audience understand the magnetic pull of evil, especially when it’s veiled (initially, at least) in magnanimity. Garrigan begins his journey to Uganda as a naïve liberal, gets in Amin’s good graces after a chance meeting, rationalizes the leader’s methods even as evidence mounts of genocide, and ultimately finds himself in over his head. It’s a tricky balancing act, but McAvoy pulls it off. “Whitaker and McAvoy inhabit their roles so fully that the film around them transforms into a major document of 1970s cultural myopia,” wrote Gabriel Shanks of Modern Fabulosity.

Starter for 10 (2007, 89 percent)

McAvoy excelled as an awkward, trivia-obsessed working-class collegian in this coming-of-age romantic comedy. McAvoy won high praise for his performance as Brian Jackson, an ambitious student who dreams of impressing the lads in his hometown by participating on a televised quiz show — and overcoming his ineptitude with the ladies. Set in the 1980s, Starter for 10 examines the era’s class politics without shorting on laughs, and McAvoy — portraying a flawed but earnest character — helped to elevate it above mere formula. “James McAvoy may be the most likable British newcomer since Ewan McGregor,” wrote Desson Thomson of the Washington Post. “His glistening eyes can seduce audiences with their ability to show conflicting emotions.”

And, finally, here’s a musical interlude from the 2005 made-for-TV movie ShakespeaRe-Told:

Tag Cloud

Mindy Kaling posters wonder woman political drama dramedy zombie nbcuniversal remakes cancelled TV shows Amazon Studios Nominations Columbia Pictures australia television DGA El Rey Fall TV 71st Emmy Awards Winter TV japan elevated horror italian ID Ellie Kemper Horror 20th Century Fox ViacomCBS The Walt Disney Company psycho rotten movies we love 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Ghostbusters 2015 1990s 73rd Emmy Awards Warner Bros. Action mcc diversity rt labs critics edition Universal Pictures latino Infographic National Geographic AMC Schedule DC streaming service Paramount trailers singing competition AMC Plus Legendary Grammys rt labs Set visit Comedy Central hidden camera romance 2018 Crunchyroll Paramount Plus The Academy TV One game show Pop Comic-Con@Home 2021 Extras Esquire true crime all-time south america OneApp rotten ghosts Endgame scary movies Trophy Talk Neflix Image Comics Quiz concert movies Mary Tyler Moore comic The CW Alien Trivia royal family Arrowverse telelvision movie Musicals composers ratings indiana jones Nat Geo dc lord of the rings spain Pop TV worst Star Trek TNT strong female leads Calendar police drama sports Music french comic book movies 2016 Biopics Britbox spider-man universal monsters docuseries pirates of the caribbean The Purge quibi DirecTV cartoon cooking 24 frames Interview PlayStation zero dark thirty Opinion Star Wars 007 crime finale space Stephen King Watching Series young adult crime thriller Hallmark Christmas movies Emmy Nominations Tokyo Olympics werewolf Rocky Disney Plus Syfy Brie Larson toy story CW Seed The Witch kaiju dark Food Network Epix Superheroe dragons Hulu period drama criterion Funimation WGN legend Superheroes Marvel thriller debate Television Academy renewed TV shows mob supernatural live action cancelled Pixar cults 72 Emmy Awards Western Mary Poppins Returns PaleyFest hispanic Bravo comedies what to watch Countdown Elton John parents Showtime king arthur boxoffice Starz TV renewals fast and furious name the review adaptation historical drama Mudbound dogs documentary Disney Channel book MSNBC Television Critics Association CBS Spectrum Originals trophy YouTube Red king kong GLAAD Pet Sematary Super Bowl RT History Cosplay cancelled television Avengers VOD TV monster movies teaser History E3 sequels laika HBO Emmys children's TV USA Network indie Reality Competition series chucky Sundance TV Drama heist movie feel good natural history adventure superman satire YouTube Discovery Channel Shondaland franchise Amazon Prime Sundance TCA Masterpiece Disney+ Disney Plus Fargo BET rom-coms SDCC MCU Hear Us Out Martial Arts TCA 2017 dexter die hard doctor who Animation Film Sneak Peek mutant cinemax VH1 football streaming movies Ovation joker prank award winner Musical science fiction sequel Classic Film reviews serial killer basketball IMDb TV anime streaming VICE new york technology spinoff 2021 crossover Creative Arts Emmys Chilling Adventures of Sabrina BBC spider-verse screen actors guild popular kids politics Apple olympics Marathons live event NBC Tomatazos ABC Signature CMT A&E war Turner cats Amazon asian-american Pirates Hallmark medical drama 45 2020 SundanceTV Walt Disney Pictures Netflix Best and Worst obituary scary scene in color black screenings documentaries romantic comedy aapi X-Men Pride Month BBC One Podcast transformers hollywood American Society of Cinematographers Comic Book comiccon TCM Shudder Spring TV TV movies casting video on demand Sony Pictures ESPN a nightmare on elm street Holiday Adult Swim Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt hist harry potter YouTube Premium Lifetime Christmas movies Pacific Islander witnail scorecard 2019 stoner Summer psychological thriller President Kids & Family worst movies Teen sag awards justice league TIFF japanese venice biography dceu Vudu video NYCC BAFTA 93rd Oscars TV Land LGBT animated Fantasy FX blockbuster First Reviews GoT archives 21st Century Fox Christmas DC Universe Disney Rocketman Writers Guild of America discovery DC Comics comics New York Comic Con women marvel cinematic universe Box Office Mystery batman critic resources spy thriller Heroines halloween tv cancelled TV series based on movie golden globes IFC Films leaderboard Year in Review Tubi biopic halloween Family target dreamworks Lionsgate anthology Lucasfilm independent USA Red Carpet Black Mirror spanish language Peacock OWN suspense emmy awards theme song Polls and Games christmas movies CBS All Access Amazon Prime Video Oscars robots Cartoon Network talk show book adaptation sopranos Trailer ABC Family First Look facebook ITV Cannes mission: impossible zombies Paramount Network GIFs nature rt archives Disney streaming service Captain marvel Women's History Month BET Awards superhero CNN films gangster razzies Awards TCA Awards slasher Fox News YA tv talk Sci-Fi IFC APB canceled high school RT21 Winners golden globe awards sitcom child's play james bond social media saw breaking bad comic books Character Guide Reality directors blaxploitation Video Games HBO Max Baby Yoda TruTV fresh Nickelodeon Holidays international Universal 4/20 cars docudrama MTV festival Photos Toys travel Dark Horse Comics black comedy binge Country twilight hispanic heritage month genre 99% Chernobyl A24 unscripted slashers Sundance Now festivals jamie lee curtis know your critic aliens godzilla jurassic park reboot green book new star wars movies Instagram Live Travel Channel comic book movie Acorn TV Exclusive Video kong 90s Logo Spike Freeform Apple TV Plus Wes Anderson ABC new zealand Comedy miniseries revenge boxing versus Awards Tour Binge Guide Apple TV+ Rock Marvel Television San Diego Comic-Con SXSW action-comedy Certified Fresh toronto The Walking Dead Fox Searchlight Turner Classic Movies Comics on TV 2017 richard e. Grant FX on Hulu Thanksgiving LGBTQ The Arrangement Black History Month stop motion adenture spanish disaster nfl Anna Paquin See It Skip It TBS Song of Ice and Fire Premiere Dates TCA Winter 2020 E! FXX NBA Tarantino Broadway blockbusters best Election FOX vampires stand-up comedy game of thrones foreign Mary poppins TLC art house Marvel Studios WarnerMedia cops PBS crime drama news Netflix Christmas movies Crackle deadpool free movies BBC America vs. marvel comics HBO Go mockumentary critics Film Festival Tumblr classics Valentine's Day Academy Awards canceled TV shows Rom-Com Lifetime