Few actors have as varied a body of work as Tilda Swinton. She's as comfortable (and believable) as a crass, off-brand Anna Wintour in her handful of scenes in Trainwreck as she is as the regret-filled and haunted mother at the center of We Need to Talk About Kevin - and those are just two of her more than 80 credited roles.
That amount of range and that steady of a career for any actor is, of course, rare, and it's frankly rarer still for a woman in her 50s, given the more common steady drop-off in Hollywood offers for many women at a certain point in their career. However, Swinton belongs to that rare class who not only books, but books often, and her sheer gameness surely helps explain why. There's no one quite like her, and filmmakers as disparate as Judd Apatow and Joanna Hogg obviously see the appeal. Here's a brief rundown of 16 of her roles - all of which, it's worth noting, could easily be substituted for a different 16 to make an equally strong case for her being one of the most versatile actors working. She's even made a habit of playing dual roles in the same movie.
Vote up your favorite roles from Tilda Swinton's strange and incredible career.
‘Constantine’ - As A Half-Human, Half-AngelPhoto: Warner Bros.
Francis Lawrence’s 2005 comic book adaptation Constantine tracks the title undead angel/demon hunter's work assisting a detective uncover the truth of her sister's demise while fighting to redeem his immortal soul. Swinton plays the Archangel Gabriel, a sort of world-straddling figure whose non-humanity is reflected in their decidedly androgynous self-presentation.
Swinton imbues the character with a sort of distant disdain for humanity's privileged position in the everlasting-life sweepstakes the movie explores. Gabriel resents the cosmic favoritism God dotes upon man, and Swinton plays the sort of existential stakes of that dynamic quite well.1205Great performance?
‘Doctor Strange’ - As The All-Powerful Ancient One
Scott Derickson’s 2016 MCU film Doctor Strange tracks Benedict Cumberbatch's title hero/neurosurgeon as he attempts to rebuild his life following a career-derailing injury to his hands. His journey, as with many entries in the franchise boasting over 20 films, finds him developing elaborate and otherworldly powers, jumping from exotic foreign location to exotic foreign location, and fighting Mads Mikkelsen.
Swinton stars as the Ancient One, a sort of otherworldly guru figure who guides Strange as he develops his supernatural abilities. She sports a shaved head and a knowing air throughout, always maintaining confidence and a high status. When Swinton was announced for the role, she and Marvel initially garnered a good deal of positive buzz, as the Ancient One of the comics was male. However, her incarnation of the traditionally Asian character certainly skirted offense, which both the studio and the film's writer offered some complicated, if semi-convincing, coverage for.1044Great performance?
The ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ Franchise - As The Sinister White WitchPhoto: Buena Vista Pictures
The abandoned C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia franchise remains a fairly fascinating late-2000s object. It essentially coasted off of post-Lord of the Rings hype, only to actually see three of the famed Christian author's seven Chronicles books - The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - adapted. Each met with steadily decreasing box office returns before stopping altogether.
As of 2020, additional Chronicles films have been scheduled for production with Netflix, but given that a decade has passed since the last entry, whether or not The Silver Chair or The Horse and His Boy will ever make it to screens in live action seems increasingly difficult to say for certain. If it does, some version of the White Witch will quite probably return, but whether Swinton will play her is not clear. The character is the closest thing the franchise has to a Saruman-type figure and the fact that she appeared in both Caspian and Dawn Treader certainly makes the odds likely. Swinton is quite solid in the role, which isn't a surprise - it essentially calls for equal parts charming manipulation and icy aggression, both of which she's played all over her career.821Great performance?
‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ - As An Ageless Hipster VampirePhoto: Sony Pictures Classics
Jim Jarmusch’s 2013 deadpan vampire romance Only Lovers Left Alive tracks Tom Hiddleston's Adam, a depressed musician/vampire whose half-dormant centuries-long romance with Swinton's Eve comes back to life over the course of the film, only to be threatened by Eve's sister's sudden and disastrous intrusion in their lives.
Swinton grounds the fundamentally high-concept character with her fundamentally otherworldly nature, making her arch, ancient vampire a believable, lived-in figure. The film's reputation is a bit all over the place today, as some critics hailed it as one of the best of its decade while it falls squarely in the middle of other rankings of Jarmusch's body of work.482Great performance?