Ranking the big- and small-screen Winston Churchills

Photo credit: Rex Shutterstock/Lionsgate/Focus Features / HBO
Photo credit: Rex Shutterstock/Lionsgate/Focus Features / HBO

From Digital Spy

Few British Prime Ministers have been portrayed in fiction as often as Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill. The UK's PM from 1940 to 1945 and then again from 1951 to 1955, he was, in 2002, voted the nation's favourite Briton in a BBC poll (beating out Charles Darwin, William Shakespeare and Princess Di).

With Gary Oldman the latest actor to don the fat suit in Darkest Hour (out today), we thought we'd take a look back at some of the best on-screen Churchills...

10. Christian Slater, Churchill: The Hollywood Years, 2004

Photo credit: Rex Shutterstock
Photo credit: Rex Shutterstock

Not your typical big-screen Churchill maybe, but Churchill: The Hollywood Years ain't your usual biopic. This comedy from the Comic Strip Presents stable has it that the roly-poly, statesmanlike Churchill we know from history was actually a hired thesp named Roy Bubbles, with the real Churchill being a gung-ho American GI with a neat line in wisecracks (Christian Slater).

Historians are generally agreed on the fact that This Didn't Happen.

9. Simon Ward, Young Winston, 1972

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Before the podginess, before the cigars, before those rousing wartime speeches, Winston Churchill was a fat-free cavalry officer, stationed first in India and then in Sudan. A slimline Simon Ward plays the eager young soldier in this rip-roaring drama based on Churchill's own memoir, My Early Life: A Roving Commission.

8. Albert Finney, The Gathering Storm, 2002

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

If you've ever wanted to see Winston Churchill's bare buttocks, this is the movie for you. Or rather, it's Albert Finney's naked bum-cheeks on show, as, in the film's opening scene, a clothes-free Churchill ambles over to the loo for an early morning pee. Trouble is, it only shows up how much slimmer Finney is than the wartime-era Churchill.

7. David Ryall, Two Men Went to War, 2002

Photo credit: Rex Shutterstock
Photo credit: Rex Shutterstock

In the '90s David Ryall was the pub landlord in the World War Two sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart, but by 2002 he'd graduated to playing the era's most famous political leader. It's not a massive part and the movie is fairly obscure, but he looks the part and totally nails Churchill's grouchiness.

6. Ian McNeice, Doctor Who, 2010

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Possibly the only actor to have played WC who's actually larger than the real man, Ian McNeice's Winston is a cuddler, less waspish figure than most portrayals. Still, his turn in Doctor Who as the WW2 leader in 'Victory Of The Daleks' and 'The Wedding Of River Song' proved so popular that audio company Big Finish cast him in a series of spin-off sci-fi dramas titled Doctor Who: The Churchill Years.

5. Rod Taylor, Inglourious Basterds, 2009

Photo credit: Universal
Photo credit: Universal

Rod Taylor came out of retirement for what turned out to be his final film role, as Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino's blood-soaked war epic. It's a long way from his most famous role, as the beefcake lead in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

4. Brendan Gleeson, Into the Storm, 2008

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

A rare non-Irish role for Brendan Gleeson this one. He goes light on the vocal tics, but looks so much like Winston that you totally believe in him.

3. Timothy Spall, The King's Speech, 2010

Photo credit: Rex Shutterstock
Photo credit: Rex Shutterstock

Before his dramatic weight loss, the one-time Auf Wiedersehen, Pet star made an impressive Churchill in this Oscar-guzzling drama about King George VI's efforts to rid himself of his stammer in the months before his first wartime radio broadcast.

2. John Lithgow, The Crown, 2016

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

There have been plenty of Brits who've played American politicians (Anthony Hopkins as Richard Nixon, Tom Wilkinson as Lyndon Johnson…) over the years, so we shouldn't get too precious about an American actor playing one of ours. He doesn't look much like Winston, but there's something about the way Lithgow scrunches up his body that absolutely convinces.

1. Brian Cox, Churchill, 2017

Photo credit: Lionsgate
Photo credit: Lionsgate

The movie itself may not have been much cop (Rotten Tomatoes has it at 49%), but all the reviews were agreed on the brilliance of Brian Cox, who played the great man in this historically shaky D-Day drama.

Bonus ball: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour, 2018

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

We're not going to jinx any Oscar chances by judging the masterly Gary Oldman before the movie's officially out, but he is one of the nation's greatest screen actors, and going by the trailer alone, he really convinces as Churchill at the wartime height of his Churchilliness.

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