With the recent passing of the great Irish actor Michael Gambon, it’s only right that we look back on his epic filmography and highlight some of his best work as well as some films you may not have realized starred our beloved Dumbledore—and no, this isn’t just a list of the last six Harry Potter films.
If you only knew Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, it might be worth it to check out a few of the entries on this list, especially the ones where he’s given a lead role. Here are eight of the best Michael Gambon performances that you need to see.
Starting the list off with his big screen debut is the 1965 film Othello, based on Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Michael had a small part in the film as a Senator but was still memorable on screen in his few scenes with Lawrence Oliver. It’s an older film, but if you’re a fan of Shakespeare and interested in the best films with Michael Gambon, definitely give it a watch.
The Book of Eli (2010)
Michael Gambon has a smaller role in one of the best sci-fi films, The Book of Eli, alongside Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis. If you’ve seen the film before, you might remember the elderly couple in the final act who take in Eli (Washington) and Solara (Kunis). You might not realize it, but Gambon plays the elderly man, George.
You’d also never know they were cannibals until you see just how shaky their hands are. Note to self: the sweet elderly couple still alive in the wasteland is probably up to no good. However, they will help you fight against the big bad guy (it’s not like they had a choice by that point though).
Churchill’s Secret (2016)
This British drama made for television stars Gambon in the titular role of Winston Churchill. If you’re unaware, Churchill was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II and again afterward between 1951 and 1955 after a small hiatus.
This film focuses on his second term as PM when he suffered a stroke. The film follows the political back-and-forth as allies and enemies try to figure out who will succeed him. Churchill’s Secret is a great historical drama that puts Gambon in the lead role where he can really shine.
The King’s Speech (2010)
While the film mainly focuses on King George the Sixth, played by Colin Firth, Michael Gambon plays his father, King George the Fifth. The film itself is an exceptional drama as we see King George VI overcome his stutter in order to reach the masses. It’s a great look at overcoming a speech impairment, but it can also remind people how to deal with issues regarding confidence and how to build it.
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
If you’ve only ever seen Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, this film might be a shock. Gambon plays the role of Albert Spica, a thief (the same one referenced in the title). Spica is a brutal, violent gangster who has taken over a high-class restaurant. Unfortunately for the staff, his attitude and personality constantly lead to confrontations—even with the customers.
As the title might imply, the thief has a wife, and the wife has a lover. When the thief eventually learns about the lover, all hell breaks loose, and the viewer is taken on a wild run through pain and misery, culminating in a final scene that you would have never considered as a possible conclusion.
The Singing Detective (1986)
This BBC television drama is a six-episode limited run that centers on Phillip E. Marlow, a mystery writer suffering from both writer’s block and psoriatic arthropathy, a chronic disease that affects the skin and joints. The series begins with Marlow in the hospital, getting treated for the disease.
As a result of the constant pain and fever, Marlow begins to hallucinate and finds himself fading in and out of three worlds—his fantasy world, the real world, and his life as a child in wartime London. As the three begin to merge, strange things begin happening to Marlow as he recounts different parts of his life and his novels.
Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol (2010)
His only appearance on the famed British sci-fi series Doctor Who was a slam dunk. Gambon played Kazran Sardick in the 2010 episode “A Christmas Carol.” Sardick is essentially Ebeneezer Scrooge and has the power to control the clouds that a space liner with 4,000 people is stuck in—but he doesn’t want to.
This leads to the Doctor taking Sardick on a time-traveling adventure in hopes of softening his tough exterior to save the trapped souls. The episode was well-received and is arguably one of the better Doctor Who Christmas specials.
Harry Potter (2004 – 2011)
It’s not a list of Gambon’s best performances if it doesn’t include Harry Potter. While Gambon had quite the resume under his belt by the time Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban rolled around, it definitely put him in a new spotlight.
While the previous Dumbledore, played by Richard Harris, was great, Gambon transformed the professor into one who oozed an air of mysticism, raw power, and pure wisdom. His death in the 6th film was an extremely emotional moment, even for those who knew it was coming. It’s hard to imagine what the series would have turned out like if Gambon hadn’t stepped in after Harris’s passing; all we can say is—thank god for Gambon.