Top 10 Most Underrated Cillian Murphy Movie Roles

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By Wanda

Cillian Murphy, a renowned Irish actor, has forged a distinctive career in both film and television. His unique appearance, compelling presence, and wide-ranging roles have garnered acclaim for his captivating acting. Despite his exceptional talent, he often maintains an air of mystery, consistently delivering impactful performances that resonate with viewers.

Cillian Murphy‘s career began on the stage and smoothly transitioned to the screen, highlighting his versatility. From his early theater performances to iconic roles in movies like 28 Days Later and Inception, he has consistently showcased his remarkable acting abilities. Alongside these well-known roles, Murphy has delivered equally outstanding but unpopular performances, such as his characters in Disco Pigs, Breakfast on Pluto, and The Wind That Shakes the Barley. These roles serve as a testament to his skill and underappreciated talent. Here, we’ve come up with a list of such 10 movies, that are a must-watch, especially if you love Murphy.

1. The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a 2006 release

The Wind That Shakes the Barley is a historical drama directed by Ken Loach, taking place during the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War. The story revolves around two brothers, Damien played by Cillian Murphy, and Teddy played by Pádraic Delaney, who initially join the Irish Republican Army to resist British rule but eventually find themselves on opposing sides during the Civil War. The film is acclaimed for its compelling narrative and examination of a tumultuous period in Irish history. However, it has also sparked controversy and debates regarding its historical accuracy in depicting these events.

The movie received widespread critical acclaim and even won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. However, Cillian Murphy‘s performance in the movie often remains somewhat overlooked in discussions about his career. This could be attributed to the film’s larger ensemble cast and its primary focus on the broader historical narrative, occasionally overshadowing individual performances. Nevertheless, Murphy’s portrayal in the film plays a pivotal role in anchoring the emotional journey, adding depth and impact to the overall storytelling.

2. Breakfast on Pluto, a 2005 release

In Breakfast on Pluto, Cillian Murphy takes on the role of Patrick “Kitten” Braden, a transgender woman on a quest to find her estranged mother in the turbulent setting of 1970s Ireland. The film garnered mostly favorable reviews for its distinctive narrative, Murphy’s exceptional performance, and its sensitive examination of LGBTQ+ themes.

Cillian Murphy‘s portrayal of a transgender character in the movie may be considered controversial, given the sensitive nature of the subject matter. This can spark discussions about representation and the appropriateness of casting a cisgender actor in a transgender role. The film bravely addresses challenging issues such as transphobia, violence, prostitution, and sectarianism. Despite these debates, it is undeniable that Murphy’s exceptional performance effectively conveyed the essence of Kitten’s resilience and unwavering spirit as she confronted a world that frequently misunderstood and mistreated her.

3. Sunshine, a 2007 release

Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle and set in a future setting, is a science fiction thriller that centers on a team of astronauts tasked with a perilous mission: reigniting a dying sun through the use of a massive stellar bomb. As they approach the sun, they encounter technical difficulties, grapple with psychological stress, and come to terms with the harrowing fact that a previous mission had failed. With rising temperatures and their own fears to confront, the crew’s mission transforms into an intense battle for survival.

Cillian Murphy takes on the role of physicist Robert Capa, tasked with delivering the bomb to reignite the dying sun. Murphy’s portrayal is marked by its subtlety and introspection, effectively conveying the immense burden of the mission on Capa’s shoulders. Despite his central role, the movie’s thematic complexity and visually stunning sequences occasionally divert attention from the nuances of Murphy’s performance. This renders Murphy’s acting in Sunshine, an often underrated gem in his career. The film also boasts an ensemble cast featuring notable stars like Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Benedict Wong, and more.

4. Broken, a 2012 release

Broken centers on the story of an 11-year-old girl named Emily “Skunk” Cunningham, portrayed by Eloise Laurence. Skunk bears witness to a violent incident involving her neighbor, Mr. Oswald, played by Rory Kinnear. As she grapples with her innocence and the complexities of the adult world, this incident triggers a series of events that unveil the underlying tensions and interconnected lives within her suburban community.

Skunk’s relationships with her family, friends, and the people around her are profoundly impacted by the incident, setting the stage for a cascade of revelations and emotional transformations.

In the movie, Cillian Murphy takes on the role of Mike Kiernan, a high school teacher and single father who becomes the love interest of the protagonist’s mother. While not the central character, Murphy’s portrayal of Mike resonates with a poignant presence, effectively conveying the character’s kindness, complexity, and the challenges of single parenthood. Despite being overshadowed by more prominent roles in his career, Murphy’s understated yet compelling performance in Broken exemplifies his versatility and significantly adds to the film’s emotional depth.

5. In the Heart of the Sea, a 2015 release

In the Heart of the Sea is a film based on real events that served as the inspiration for Herman Melville’s classic novel, “Moby-Dick.” The story delves into the ill-fated whaling expedition of the American ship Essex in 1820. Under the command of Captain George Pollard, Jr. played by Benjamin Walker, the crew encounters a massive and vengeful sperm whale that launches a devastating attack on their ship, leaving them stranded thousands of miles from land.

As they grapple with the challenges of survival, including starvation, dehydration, and desperation, the crew not only contends with the harsh elements of the open ocean but also faces internal conflicts and fears.

In the movie, Cillian Murphy takes on the role of Matthew Joy, an experienced sailor aboard the whaling ship Essex. Matthew quickly forms a close bond with the ship’s first mate, Owen Chase played by Chris Hemsworth. As the second mate, Matthew is a loyal and capable crew member who maintains a calm demeanor in the face of adversity.

Despite the film’s mixed reviews, Cillian Murphy and the rest of the cast’s commitment to their roles, including undergoing significant weight loss for authenticity, draws viewers into the gripping narrative of survival and the psychological toll it exacts on the crew as they contend with both nature and their own inner demons.

6. Girl with a Pearl Earring, a 2003 release

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a historical drama that offers a fictionalized account of the creation of Johannes Vermeer’s iconic painting bearing the same name. The story revolves around the life of Griet, portrayed by Scarlett Johansson, a young woman with a modest background who assumes the role of a maid in Vermeer’s household. As Griet navigates the intricacies of her new surroundings, she captures the attention of the artist himself, Vermeer, played by Colin Firth. Griet evolves into Vermeer’s muse, and her presence, along with the enigmatic portrait she inspires, becomes a central focus for the interplay of art, class, desire, and self-expression.

In the movie, Cillian Murphy plays Pieter, a skilled local butcher who becomes a potential love interest for Griet. He portrays Pieter as a charming and enigmatic figure genuinely drawn to Griet while also embodying the constraints and societal expectations of his social class. Despite the presence of other prominent cast members, Murphy’s performance often goes under the radar, even though he adeptly captures the subtleties of a character essential to the complex dynamics of the story.

7. Anthropoid, a 2016 release

Anthropoid, released in 2016, is a historical thriller rooted in true events from World War II. The story unfolds in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and centers on the audacious mission of two Czech operatives, Josef Gabčík played by Cillian Murphy and Jan Kubiš played by Jamie Dornan. These agents are airdropped into their homeland with a critical mission: to assassinate SS officer Reinhard Heydrich portrayed by Detlef Bothe, one of the key figures behind the Holocaust.

The film meticulously portrays the planning and execution of this daring operation, delving into the tense and far-reaching challenges faced by Gabčík and Kubiš, their connections with local resistance fighters, and the profound moral dilemmas they confront in carrying out their mission.

While a central character in the movie, Cillian Murphy‘s performance is sometimes left unnoticed in discussions about the film, given the prominence of the broader narrative. However, Murphy’s skill in conveying emotion through subtlety and his portrayal of Gabčík’s inner conflicts are vital contributors to the film’s emotional impact. Together with Jamie Dornan’s performance, Murphy’s portrayal serves as a reminder of the intricacies of historical figures and the sacrifices they endured, even in the midst of adversity and perilous circumstances.

8. The Party, a 2017 release

The Party, a black comedy directed by Sally Potter, centers around a celebratory gathering that descends into chaos. The story focuses on Janet, portrayed by Kristin Scott Thomas, a politician who hosts a small dinner party to mark her recent promotion. However, as the evening progresses, deeply buried secrets and personal conflicts emerge, sparking a series of confrontations and revelations among the guests.

The characters, each harboring their own agendas and concealed motives, engage in witty and sharp dialogue that unveils their vulnerabilities and imperfections. The film explores the intricate dynamics among these individuals as they clash during the event.

In the movie, Cillian Murphy portrays Tom, one of the guests at the dinner party. Tom is a financier who arrives with a mysterious package, and as the film unfolds, his initially charismatic and enigmatic persona gradually reveals his true intentions. Murphy’s performance effectively captures Tom’s charm while also delving into the darker and more intricate facets of his character.

His portrayal adds a layer of tension to the film’s dynamics, creating an intriguing contrast with the other characters and contributing to the overall complexity of the narrative.

9. On the Edge, a 2001 release

In the film, Cillian Murphy takes on the role of Jonathan Breech, a troubled young man grappling with emotional turmoil and mental health challenges. Following a failed suicide attempt, Jonathan is admitted to a mental institution for treatment. It’s at the institution that he encounters Dr. Figure, portrayed by Stephen Rea, a psychiatrist who endeavors to assist Jonathan in confronting his inner demons.

As Jonathan embarks on his therapeutic journey and forges connections with other patients, the movie explores profound themes of redemption, self-discovery, and the profound impact of human connection on one’s healing process.

Despite its focus on mental health and the depth of Cillian Murphy’s performance, On the Edge tends to remain underrated. The film’s limited release and the fact that it was one of Murphy’s early roles before he gained widespread recognition might contribute to the underappreciation of his performance in it. Nevertheless, Murphy’s portrayal in the movie effectively demonstrates his capacity to convey intense emotions and delve into intricate psychological states, foreshadowing his future accomplishments as an actor.

10. Disco Pigs, a 2001 release

Disco Pigs, adapted from a play by Enda Walsh, explores the intense friendship between Runt played by Elaine Cassidy, and Pig portrayed by Cillian Murphy. Born on the same day in the same hospital, their connection is extraordinarily close and isolates them from the outside world. They create a unique universe filled with rituals and a language that only they comprehend. However, as they transition into adulthood, their relationship evolves, becoming progressively complex and volatile.

In the movie, Cillian Murphy‘s portrayal of Pig is a tour de force, oscillating from childlike innocence to an unsettling obsession with Runt. Murphy’s performance is marked by its raw intensity and emotional charge, adding depth to the character. Despite the film’s unique narrative and Murphy’s compelling acting, it garnered mixed reviews upon its release, likely owing to its challenging and unconventional nature. As Murphy’s career advanced and he gained acclaim for other roles, his performance in Disco Pigs may not have received the recognition it genuinely deserves.