MCM: Bill Nighy


I love Bill Nighy, so it’s high time we’ve featured him on a Man Candy Monday! Let’s take a look at his historical roles!


Hitler’s SS: A Portrait in Evil (1985)


Mack the Knife (1989)


The Phantom of the Opera (1989)


Fairytale: A True Story (1997)


Longitude (2000)


I Capture the Castle (2003)


He Knew He Was Right (2004)


Valkyrie (2008)


Glorious 39 (2009)



Dad’s Army (2016)


The Limehouse Golem (2016)


Their Finest (2016)


The Bookshop (2017)


Ordeal by Innocence (2018)


Emma (2020)


What’s your favorite of Bill Nighy’s historical costume movies or TV shows? Share it with us in the comments!


About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

29 Responses

  1. Caroline

    He was PERFECTION in Emma. He was born to play Mr. Woodhouse.

        • Donnalee of Kingston NY

          Funny, I hated most of the film, and yet loved him in a way–maybe because i first saw it a couple of years ago and am older now than when it came out. Do you hate vampires? In general I really do, but have a real love for Spike from Buffy–he never broke under torture, only under trying to be a person–

                • Donnalee of Kingston NY

                  Agreed–and you can keep Angel, especially in later days. That Angel show seemed so alien to what I liked about them all that I haven’t been able to force myself through any of it including season 5, which is the only one that has Spike in, as far as I know. I’ll give it a try again, but…

                  • thedementedfairy

                    Season 1 was week, but it did grown on me, even though his character was so weedy. I loved it when most of the cast of Firefly got to play villains in the Buffy/Angel universe…mmmm Nathan Fillion

                    • Donnalee of Kingston NY

                      NF did a great job in being an unspeakable piece of smarmy misogynist fake-clergy crap–I just finished rewatching Buffy again this week and had only watched the show for the first time last year. I have to confess to not yet seeing Firefly–

                  • Gill

                    Definitely worth watching AtS S1 “In the Dark”, partner to “Harsh Light of Day”, and “Darla” in S2, partner to the glorious “Fool For Love”. (I know the period costumes are dreadful in that, but … Spike.) And you need to watch S5 because it is just wonderful.

                    • Donnalee of Kingston NY

                      I am getting into season 5 now–it grew on me more since I am not watching Buffy at the same time this time, and so my expectations of characters are different. Plus Fred is a variant of smarter-wimpier-Buffy anyhow, so that fills the need for one female who is not Harmony or Cordelia–thanks for the advice. I did really like the St. Petersburg gorgeous outfits on Anyanka and other demon, and on the strewn bodies–

            • Donnalee of Kingston NY

              I loved the book Sunshine by Robin McKinley, but it seems that you have to have special powers of some sort to play with vampires, or else you’re just snack and done.

  2. Colleen

    I literally cannot remember if I have seen him in anything historical, other than Pirates of the Caribbean. Oh, and Pirate Radio (or whatever the British title was).

  3. Nzie

    Ah, a man whose jaw was designed to look resolute or befuddled. :-) love him. But seen more of his modern stuff. I did like him in Emma—nice balance of taking himself seriously as a character without going overboard (more realistic) or playing him just for laughs.

  4. Susan Pola Staples

    I’m a fan but my favourite role of his are Billy Mack in Love, Actually, Johnny Worriker trilogy and both Marigold Hotels. I know they’re modern. Period film is a bit harder as he is so good in his parts. Longitude definitely and maybe Lost Prince and He Knew He Was Right.

  5. Constance

    I did much like He Knew He was Right…but he was good as the creepy lustful captain.

  6. Dee Rush

    I thought his role in “He Knew He Was Right” was one of his best.

  7. Charity

    I LOVED him in Emma. He was absolutely hysterical and the best bit of casting they had. I enjoy him in a ton of other things too, modern and non. But I literally spit out my drink when I saw him in that first photo — so young!!! And… I dare say, hawt?

  8. ADoyle

    I loved him in Emma, and another favorite was The Lost Prince. It might be considered too modern, but I loved him in Pirate Radio as well.

  9. MoHub

    Longitude doesn’t get nearly the praise it deserves. It had me glued to my TV from start to finish.

  10. lil

    Bill Nighy is an absolute treasure. He elevates any film in which he appears. Of the films listed I’ve seen four. I Capture the Castle is hands-down my favorite of the films listed here. But everything is brilliant about it–the film, the musical score, and the book upon which it is based! The Limehouse Golem is also very good. Dad’s Army is absolute drivel that could not be rescued even by the likes of Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Toby Jones. Apparently it is based on a British TV show from way back when. Fans of the original show might be more inclined to appreciate it than I did. The Bookshop is another movie with a great cast that just didn’t come together at all. I just can’t bring myself to watch the new Emma. It just looks all wrong to me because Gwenyth Paltrow is my Emma, and I don’t have room in my heart for anyone else’s interpretation–yet. But I’m definitely more excited about since learning that Nighy is in it. Some of his other tangential to historical films that I liked are Still Crazy, the Underworld series, and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. (Yes, I know that fantasy films don’t count on FrockFlicks.) Still Crazy takes place in two time periods–60s and 90s–although Nighy BRILLIANTLY plays the older version of the character in the 90s period. (The seeds of his performance in Love Actually were sown in this film.) In Underworld: Rise of the Lycans we see his character back in the Dark Ages. Out of all his parts, I just loved him as the total sweetheart in the contemporary film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I really liked this choice for Man Candy Monday!!

    • Gill

      Nope, fans of the original show were bloody furious about what they did to it. The original, 70s half-hour comedy was excellent, but had wonderful writers and cast, most of whom are now serving in the Home Guard Beyond. The film was an abomination, and it was ridiculous that the talents of Nighy, Jones et al were reduced to impersonating actors of an earlier era. (It’s often repeated on a minor BBC channel here, so even younger folks know it. One reason it flopped.)

      • lil

        Gill, thanks for the heads up about the quality of the original TV show and the reception of the film in the UK. I figured that the original material must have been good and beloved in order to attract such talented actors to the movie. It’s such a shame that the movie turned out to be terrible.

  11. SarahV

    Oh my. He’s quite dishy in that 1985 movie (that I have never seen) – in a fine boned WASP-y sort of way.