I feel like the world sometimes forgets about Scotland when it comes to the big screen. This surprises me given the wide range of A-list actors who frequently appear in top films. As an ode to Scottish actors, I’ve decided to compile a list of my top 10 favourite Scottish actors. I’ll count down from 10 to 1, tell you some of the films they’ve been in and highlight my favourites. This is just my opinion. You might not agree, which is completely fine, but understand that this is an entirely subjective topic.
Before we dive straight into the top 10, I feel like it’s necessary to acknowledge those who didn’t make it onto the list. A top 20 list may have been more appropriate but “top 10” has more of a ring to it. I’ll just mention the actor and my favourite role they played.
Richard Madden: Robb Stark in 'Game of Thrones'
John Hannah: Holden Radcliffe in 'Agent’s of Shield'
Peter Capaldi: The Doctor in 'Doctor Who' (although his storylines sucked ass)
Laura Fraser: Lydia in 'Breaking Bad'
Alan Cumming: Floop in 'Spy Kids'
Henry Ian Cusick: Desmond in 'Lost'
Iain De Caestecker: Fitz in 'Agents of Shield'
Now onto the Top 10!
I have to admit that when I first watched 'Game of Thrones' years ago, I had absolutely no idea that Rose Leslie was Scottish, and from Aberdeen no less! She was initially number 9 on my list because I loved her character in Game of Thrones and Rose Leslie did an excellent job both with the accent and just the role in general.
I then realised I’ve only seen her in one other thing: 'The Last Witch Hunter' which was a below-average magic/monster film that barely held my attention. She’s in 'Morgan' though which I do plan on watching at some stage but hopefully she’ll make an appearance in some more films in the coming years.
Favourite Role: Ygritte in Game of Thrones
From 'Still Game' and 'Blackadder' to 'Ocean’s Twelve' and 'James Bond', you’re probably most familiar with Robbie Coltrane as the “I shouldn’t have said that" groundskeeper himself: Rubeus Hagrid.
Robbie Coltrane has played a vast number of roles in his life, most before my lifetime and yet he is still a major player in the world of cinema. One of his more recent appearances was in the Scottish tale by Pixar: 'Brave' as the voice of Lord Dingwall.
Favourite Role: Hagrid (Harry Potter series)
Not to be confused with the keyboard playing physicist of the same name, Brian Cox has been involved in a wide range of movies: 'Super Troopers', 'RED', 'Troy', 'X-Men 2', 'The Bourne Identity', 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes', and of course, 'Braveheart'. He was also in 'Morgan' alongside Rose Leslie. Brian Cox has even made appearances on popular TV shows such as 'Doctor Who' and 'Frasier'.
I became to truly admire this man when he returned to Scotland during the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2015 to show his support. With people like J.K. Rowling as opposing celebrity forces (why celebrities involve themselves in the first place is beyond me), someone had to appear at debates to highlight why independence is the right way to go, but let's not let politics ruin movies (lookin at you, 'Captain Marvel').
Favourite Role: Ward Abbott in 'The Bourne Identity' and 'The Bourne Supremacy'.
Granted, Billy Connolly is more well-known as a stand-up comedian than an actor, but that’s not to say he isn’t capable. He’s appeared in films such as 'Muppet Treasure Island', 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' and 'Garfield 2'. As well as 'The X-Files: I Want to Believe', and even 'The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies'. He’s also voiced hilarious characters such as Fergus in 'Brave' and McSquizzy in 'Open Season'. Not to mention his brief appearance in 'House' as Thomas Bell, one of the potential fathers of the diagnosis genius!
For me, Billy Connolly will always be the man who was not afraid to shout and swear at his audience. He would scream at everyone to hilarious comedic effect. If there is ever a man who says what’s on his mind (whether it be on stage or in interviews) it’s Billy Connolly. I could watch the man talk for days and still find him incredibly entertaining. I find that he often brings this same sort of humour to the big screen in whatever role he takes on.
Favourite Role: Fergus in 'Brave' (not including his stand-up comedy, of course).
Gerard Butler may not be the best actor in the world, but he is far from the worst. Certainly he appears in many, many great movies. It’s hard to say what role you may know him from: Perhaps as a dragon tamer or alternatively, a dragon fighter? Perhaps you remember him as a simple law-abiding citizen? We all know the tale of the Spartan army and its 300 soldiers, right? Maybe you know him as the slick One Two?
Whatever you know him from; the man has covered a wide range of roles: 'Reign of Fire', 'How to Train Your Dragon', '300', 'Law Abiding Cirtizen', 'Rock n Rolla', or 'Gamer'. Granted, I still hear his Scottish accent whenever he shouts “This is SPARTA!” But if we ever get a better William Wallace movie than that 'Braveheart' garbage, then I’d vote for him to play the Scottish hero!
Favourite Role: Clyde Shelton in 'Law Abiding Citizen'.
It’s impossible to discuss Scottish actors without mentioning the red-headed Karen Gillan. I first witnessed Karen Gillan on-screen as Amy Pond, the bold and brave Scottish sidekick to Matt Smith’s Doctor. She’s without a doubt my favourite 'Doctor Who' companion and her storylines covered some of the darker aspects of the series.
Of course, she’s now up in the big leagues, appearing in 'The Guardians of the Galaxy' as Nebula. She's also running through the jungle with The Rock and Jack Black in 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle'. I think this is an actor we should all keep an eye on.
Favourite Role: Amy Pond in 'Doctor Who'.
The man, the myth, the legend: Sean Connery. This man is a globally recognised success who will definitely go down in the history books. He’s been a double-O agent, a Crusader, a dragon, and an author. He’s been in romances, action films, and comedies.
Sean Connery appeared as the first James Bond in 'Dr. No' in 1962, but he's also appeared in 'The Rock', 'Finding Forrester', 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade', 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen', 'Dragonheart', and more.
Favourite Role: Professor Henry Jones in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'.
When it comes to notable Scottish actors, I think we can all agree that David Tennent is pretty fucking awesome. I think I probably first became aware of who he was in 'Doctor Who' when he replaced Christopher Eccleston as the time lord. Of course since then he has appeared in 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' as Barty Crouch Junior and voiced Spiteloud in 'How to Train Your Dragon', among other appearances such as 'Broadchurch', 'Jessica Jones', 'Final Space', 'Good Omen', and 'Bad Samaritan'.
Part of me really wants to rant about his appearance as 'John Knox in the 'Mary Queen of Scots' movie. Not because of his performance, but because of what a pile of shit the movie was. What could have been a truly interesting tale of a true historical story, became an inaccurate mandering to the SJW mindset. Sad times for all!
Favourite Role: The Doctor in 'Doctor Who'.
I think I first noticed James McAvoy in as Mr. Tumnus in 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', but he’s come a long way since then. Having starred alongside names such as Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Daniel Radcliffe his career is still on the up and up. He's been in 'Filth', 'X-Men: First Class' (and its sequels), 'Split', 'Glass', 'The Last King of Scotland', and 'Wanted'.
For me, Split was a true reflection of this man's acting ability. Seeing him portray multiple personalities within one movie was awesome and chilling. He did an excellent job of making me believe that the character legitimately had several personalities within one body.
Favourite Role: Kevin in 'Split'.
When it comes to my number one favourite Scottish actor, there really is no competition (that's a lie, I struggled to choose from the top three). I definitely have a strong bias though, given that Ewan McGregor has been playing major roles in movies throughout my entire life. From Jedi to clone to heroin addict to robot to a Vatican priest to tsunami survivor and even a sentient candlestick. Ewan McGregor is truly a Scottish icon and a talented actor.
He's appeared in the Star Wars prequels (which weren't great but his character was one of the few redeeming aspects), 'The Men Who Stare at Goats', 'Impossible', 'The Island', 'Trainspotting' (1 and 2), 'Big Fish', 'Robots', 'Fargo', 'Angels & Demons', and much more.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for his re-appearance as Obi-Wan Kenobi in coming years in a Kenobi stand-alone movie. Unless of course Rian Johnson is set to direct it in which case I never ever, ever want that movie to be created! He's appearing in the upcoming 'Doctor Sleep', which I'm certainly looking forward to seeing.
Favourite Roles: Obi-Wan Kenobi in the 'Star Wars' saga and Bob Wilton in 'The Men Who Stare at Goats'.