Like most English actors, Albert Finney began his career in theater before transitioning to television and film. Finney was noted as one of the most successful English actors, with his impeccable versatility in stage, film, and television. In theater, he debuted playing the titular character King Henry in Henry V (1956) at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
Finney had a reputation for playing titular characters in most of his plays. Some include Coriolanus in Coriolanus (1959), Martin Luther in Martin Luther (1961, 1963), Prince Hamlet in Hamlet (1976), and Tamburlaine in Tamburlaine (1976). Finney’s final role on television was portraying Winston Churchill in the TV movie The Gathering Storm (2002). After that, he focused on starring in film. In 2011, Finney revealed he had kidney cancer and was undergoing treatment. Finney died on February 7, 2019, from a chest infection and was aged 82. Remembering Albert Finney, here are his top ten films.
1. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) was Albert Finney’s breakthrough role. Coincidentally, it was released in the same year he made his film debut with The Entertainer (1960). Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is a British kitchen sink drama that starred Finney as its protagonist, Arthur Seaton. Finney’s performance earned him a BAFTA nomination for Best British Actor and a win for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning placed 14th in the 1999 British Film Institute’s Top 100 British Films list. A critical and commercial success, the movie became the third highest-grossing British film of the year. Surprisingly, Finney wasn’t producer Harry Saltzman’s first choice to play Arthur Seaton. Peter O’Toole was first considered for the role.
2. Tom Jones (1963)
Albert Finney was cast as the titular character in Tony Richardson‘s Tom Jones (1963). The film follows the mystery birth of Tom Jones, his love life, loss of fortune, and near-execution experience. The movie was a critical and commercial success, grossing $17.07 million. Finney’s contract also saw him receive 10% of the film’s earnings, together with his salary.
British exhibitors voted Finney the ninth most popular star at the 1963 box office. The film is ranked 51st on the British Film Institute’s Greatest British Film of the 20th Century. It received 10 Academy Awards nominations, winning four, including Best Picture.
3. Scrooge (1970)
The actor portrayed the titular character Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens‘ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol‘s musical adaptation Scrooge (1970). The movie retells Dickens’ famous Christmas tale about Scrooge. The movie, as well as Finney’s masterful performance, received commendations from critics. Scrooge received four Academy Awards nominations and five Golden Globes Awards nominations. Finneys’ Golden Globes Award nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy was its only win.
4. Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
He once again led the star-studded ensemble cast of Murder on the Orient Express (1974) with his portrayal of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Based on Agatha Christie‘s 1934 novel of the same name, Finney’s Murder on the Orient Express rode its way to success. Despite starring alongside big names like Ingrid Bergman and Sean Connery, Finney easily delivered a standout performance. Murder on the Orient Express was nominated six times at the Academy Awards, including Finney’s Best Actor nomination. Finney also received a nomination for Best Actor at the BAFTA, where the movie received ten nominations.
5. Annie (1982)
No stranger to musicals, Albert Finney played the role of Oliver Warbucks in John Huston‘s musical comedy-drama Annie (1982). Warbucks is the billionaire businessman who later adopts Annie Bennett. Finney beat Sean Connery and Cary Grant to play the role, as both actors were initially considered. Finney’s performance was less received than his other movies, but the movie was still a commercial success. It grossed $57.1 million on a $35 million budget. Although Finney did not receive any nominations for his performance, Annie was nominated twice at the Oscars and a single nomination at BAFTA and the Golden Globes Award, respectively.
6. Erin Brockovich (2000)
After a few years without numerous major award nominations, Albert Finney made his comeback with Steven Soderbergh‘s biographical legal drama Erin Brockovich (2000). While starring alongside Julia Roberts, Finney portrayed American lawyer Edward L. Masry. The movie takes audiences on an emotional rollercoaster as Brockovich and Masry try to take a large American corporation, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), to court.
Erin Brockovich received five Academy Awards nominations, with Finney nominated for Best Supporting Actor. The movie received six nominations at the BAFTA, alongside Finney’s Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The movie also received four Golden Globes Award nominations, including Finney’s Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture nomination.
7. Big Fish (2003)
Tim Burton‘s fantasy comedy-drama Big Fish (2003) stars Albert Finney as the older Edward Bloom. The movie follows the story of a frustrated son who goes to great lengths to verify the truth behind his father’s tall tales. Big Fish also stars Ewan McGregor, Jessica Lange, and Helena Bonham Carter. Steven Spielberg was first brought on board to direct the film but chose to direct Catch Me If You Can (2002). Spielberg had proposed to cast Jack Nicholson as the older Edward Bloom.
Big Fish received mostly positive reviews and performed modestly at the Box Office. It earned $123.2 million on a $70 million budget. Big Fish received a nomination at the Academy Awards, seven nominations at BAFTA, and four Golden Globes Awards nominations. Finney was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role at BAFTA and Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes Awards.
8. A Good Year (2006)
Albert Finney was cast alongside Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott‘s romantic comedy-drama A Good Year (2006). Finney plays a minor supporting role as Uncle Henry, Max Skinner’s (Russell Crowe) uncle. Max grew up with Henry after his parents died in an accident. When Uncle Henry dies twenty-five years later, a now successful Max hopes to sell off Henry’s vineyard estate. Although the least-performing film on the list (in terms of reviews and box office earnings), it’s yet another masterpiece of Finney’s performance.
9. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Albert Finney joined the cast of the Jason Bourne film series in its third installment, The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). The movie starred Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, and Paddy Considine. Finney played the psychologist Dr. Albert Hirsch. Dr. Hirsch was the operation head of Treadstone’s behavioral modification program. The movie won all of its three nominations at the 80th Academy Awards. Finney reprised his role as Dr. Hirsch in its sequel, The Bourne Legacy (2012).
10. Skyfall (2012)
Skyfall (2012) was Albert Finney’s final role before he died in 2019. As Finney grew older, he was only cast in supporting roles. In the movie, he played Skyfall estate’s gamekeeper, Kincard. Skyfall became Finney’s highest-grossing movie, earning $1.109 billion on a $150–200 million budget. Although Albert Finney didn’t receive any nominations, Skyfall became the highest-grossing James Bond film and received five nominations at the 85th Academy Awards, winning two.