12 best Cillian Murphy movies and TV shows, ranked according to Rotten Tomatoes

Charismatic and versatile, Irish actor Cillian Murphy has made his mark with some of the best movies and TV shows in Hollywood. Diversifying his vast body of works are titles such as Peaky Blinders (2013-2022), Inception (2010), A Quiet Place Part II (2021) and Christopher Nolan’s latest cinematic tour de force, Oppenheimer (2023).
24 July 2023

Although Murphy and Nolan have worked previously together on five projects, this is the first time the actor has stepped in as his protagonist. Based on the gripping life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the movie opened to a massive 97 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, according to The Movie Web.

The Tomatometer score not only eclipsed Greta Gerwig’s Barbie (scoring 89 per cent) — the other 2023 blockbuster that was released on the same day as Oppenheimer — but also dethroned many of Murphy’s previous titles. These include Memento (2001), The Dark Knight (2008), Interstellar (2014) and Dunkirk (2017).

While his breakout role in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) established him as a talented actor, his decade-long portrayal of Thomas Shelby in Peaky Blinders made Cillian Murphy a household name. So much so, his final reprisal of the gangster group, Peaky Blinders’ patriarch earned him his first BAFTA TV Awards nod in 2023 — a much-deserved recognition that Cillian Murphy’s fans had long awaited for.

With a repertoire of outstanding movies and TV shows, a peek at the Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the Best Cillian Murphy Performances proves why he is rightfully the star he is.

The best Cillian Murphy movies and shows based on Rotten Tomatoes scores

1/12 - The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 94 per cent

Release date: 2008

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart

Synopsis: A year after the events of Batman Begins (2005), Bruce Wayne (Bale) has held a strict guard over Gotham City along with his trusted allies — Lt. Jim Gordon (Oldman) and DA Harvey Dent (Eckhart). But when a new criminal, who goes by The Joker (Ledger), terrorises the town, Bruce is compelled to question his beliefs and tread the line between heroism and vigilantism.

About Murphy’s role: The movie belongs to Ledger and his spellbinding performance as one of the biggest psychological villains in Batman history. Here, Murphy made a brief appearance as he reprised his role as Scarecrow.

Awards won: Ledger won the 2009 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, while Richard King won the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing. Ledger also took home the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Critics Choice Awards in the same category that year.

Image credit: The Dark Knight/ IMDb


2/12 - Peaky Blinders

Peaky Blinders

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 93 per cent

Release date: 2013-2022

Created by: Steven Knight

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Paul Anderson, Sophie Rundle, Helen McCrory

Synopsis: In post-World War I Britain, Birmingham is the breeding ground of gangster activities, replete with grim hedonism. Ruling the streets is Peaky Blinders, a notorious gang headed by returning war hero Thomas Shelby (Murphy) and his brothers. As Thomas decides to expand the family business beyond Birmingham, he faces innumerable life-altering moments in his pursuit

About the series: Murphy’s splendid performance makes him synonymous with the roaring success of the show. Undoubtedly, one of Netflix’s biggest hits, each of the six seasons has earned high ratings on the Tomatometer. Seasons 2, 3 and 6 achieved a 100 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Although a seventh season 7 is not on the cards, a Peaky Blinders movie is in the talks.

Awards wonPeaky Blinders won Best Drama Series in 2018 and Murphy was nominated for Best Lead Actor in 2023 at the BAFTA Awards. He has also won several Irish Film and Television Awards in the same category.

Image credit: Peaky Blinders/ Photo by Robert Viglasky – © 2014 – BBC/ IMDb


3/12 - Dunkirk


Rotten Tomatoes rating: 92 per cent

Release date: 2017

Created by: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead, Cillian Murphy, James D’Arcy

Synopsis: In 1940, during WWII, Germany invade France and traps troops of the Allied Forces on the beach of Dunkirk. Soon, a heroic evacuation process by British forces gets underway, rescuing nearly 330,000 French, British, Dutch and Belgian soldiers using any naval and civilian vessel available.

About Murphy’s role: This mega-hit film is a departure from Nolan’s characteristic mind-bending storytelling and, instead, depicts a real-life incident. Murphy plays the role of a British soldier suffering from PTSD, who is rescued by a civilian boat. The role may be short in the entire runtime, but the impactful performance is a testament to Murphy’s versatility.

Awards wonDunkirk won three Oscars and one BAFTA Award in 2018.

Image credit: Dunkirk/ IMDb


4/12 - A Quiet Place Part II

A Quiet Place Part II

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 91 per cent

Release date: 2021

Directed by: John Krasinski

Cast: Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds

Synopsis: Emmett (Murphy) is a survivor in a dystopic world where barbaric sound-sensitive creatures reign supreme. After 474 days of the alien attack that unleashed these beasts, Evelyn Abbott (Blunt) and her children leave their burnt farm to find a new shelter. On the way, they meet Emmett, who shares a past connection with them. Together, they must silently strive to survive.

Image credit: A Quiet Place Part II/ IMDb


5/12 - The Wind That Shakes The Barley

The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 90 per cent

Release date: 2006

Directed by: Ken Loach

Cast: Liam Cunningham, Cillian Murphy, Pádraic Delaney, Orla Fitzgerald

Synopsis: Damien D’Onovan (Murphy) is a young medical graduate in 1920s Ireland where the Irish War of Independence is waging. Amid clashes between the Irish Republican Army and the British forces, Damien decides to leave for London to work at a hospital. However, merciless killings and cruelty against civilians change his mind. Soon, Damien finds himself standing against his own brother Teddy (Delaney) on opposite camps of the bloody war.

Awards won: Considered one of Cillian Murphy’s best movies, Loach’s passionate historical storytelling earned The Wind That Shakes The Barley Palme d’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.

Image credit: The Wind That Shakes The Barley/ IMDb


6/12 - Inception


Rotten Tomatoes rating: 87 per cent

Release date: 2010

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy

Synopsis: A genius in the field of extraction, Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) can probe deep into the subconscious during its dream state and perform corporate espionage. But, when Saito (Watanabe), offers him a chance at redemption, Dom has to pull off the reverse. Instead of stealing data, he needs to plant an idea in the mind of Robert Fischer (Murphy), the son of Saito’s rival.

Awards wonInception won four Oscars and three BAFTA Awards in 2011.

Image credit: Inception/ Photo by Stephen Vaughan – © 2010 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc./ IMDb


7/12 - 28 Days Later

28 Days Later

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 87 per cent

Release date: 2003

Directed by: Danny Boyle

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Alex Palmer

Synopsis: When a group of animal activists inadvertently unleashes a chimp infected with the ‘Rage’ virus, it turns the entire city into a zombie breeding ground. Jim (Murphy), a bicycle courier, wakes up from a long coma and is startled to find London deserted as people have turned into monsters. Teamed up with a couple of survivors, Jim witnesses the lowest point of humanity while trying to escape the containment zone.

Image credit: 28 Days Later/ Photo by Peter Mountain – © 2003 – Fox Searchlight – All Rights Reserved/ IMDb

8/12 - The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 87 per cent

Release date: 2012

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman

Synopsis: Eight years have passed since Batman (Bale) went into exile after the events of The Dark Knight (2008). However, when a notorious raider named Selina Kyle (Hathaway) and a dreaded criminal called Bane (Hardy) wreak havoc on Gotham City, the caped crusader is compelled to face the nemeses.

About Murphy’s role: Cillian Murphy plays the role of the vicious Scarecrow to a tee; the complex character is a well-appreciated nod to the Batman comics.

Image credit: The Dark Knight Rises/ IMDb


9/12 - Batman Begins

Batman Begins

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 84 per cent

Release date: 2005

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson

Synopsis: Before the birth of Batman, Henri Ducard, later Ras al-Gul (Neeson), a member of a secret society called League of Shadows, trains a young Bruce Wayne (Bale) in martial arts. But when the League’s ulterior motive is revealed, Batman must safeguard Gotham City’s security.

About Murphy’s role: Cillian Murphy brought out the evil in Scarecrow, one of Batman’s dreaded villains. Although the movie centres around Ras al-Gul, his portrayal of the secondary antagonist left a mark on viewers and cemented Murphy’s position in the film industry.

Image credit: Batman Begins/ IMDb


10/12 - The Party

The Party

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 82 per cent

Release date: 2017

Directed by: Sally Potter

Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Cillian Murphy, Bruno Ganz, Emily Mortimer, Cherry Jones, Timothy Spall

Synopsis: Janet (Thomas) is hosting a party to celebrate her being appointed as the new Shadow Minister for Health. The lively congregation has a bevvy of hand-picked elite guests which include April (Clarkson), Gottfried (Ganz), Jinny (Mortimer), Martha (Jones) and Tom (Murphy). While Tom seems to have something suspicious going on about him, Janet’s husband Bill (Spall) harbours some secrets that can potentially dampen the gathering and her career.

About the filmThe Party is Murphy’s attempt at comedy and he fits into the character mould with ease. Through its witty humour and elaborate banters, the film is a biting social commentary on politics and the upper class.

Image credit: The Party/ IMDb


11/12 - Red Eye

Red Eye

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 79 per cent

Release date: 2005

Directed by: Wes Craven

Cast: Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox, Jayma Mays

Synopsis: Lisa Reisert (McAdams) is on a red-eye flight home after her grandmother passes away. Here she meets the handsome Jackson Rippner (Murphy), who is seated next to her. Initially charming her with his suave attitude, Jackson’s true identity as an assassin is soon revealed. Now, Lisa must comply with his plans of killing a diplomat to save her father’s (Cox) life.

Image credit: Red Eye/ IMDb


12/12 - Sunshine


Rotten Tomatoes rating: 76 per cent

Release date: 2007

Directed by: Danny Boyle

Cast: Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne

Synopsis: In 2057, planet Earth’s dismal future seems bleak as the sun is slowly dying. A crew of eight astronauts, including the quiet Robert Capa (Murphy), are sent aboard the Icarus II spaceship to reignite the star. However, the mission is wrought with obstacles as the scientists encounter Icarus I, which was sent on similar mission years back.

Image credit: Sunshine/ © 2007 Twentieth Century Fox/ IMDb


(Hero and feature image credit: Peaky Blinders/ Photo by Robert Viglasky – © Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd. 2019/ IMDb)

This article was first published on Lifestyle Asia

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