MCM: Sam Neill


I don’t know if I find Sam Neill HOT per se, but I do find him attractive and talented and the guy’s been in a zillion historically-set movies. Let’s run down this New Zealander’s CV, shall we?


The Sullivans (1976-83)

An Australian TV series that focused on a family during World War II. Neill plays the love interest of Kitty Sullivan.

1976-83 The Sullivans


My Brilliant Career (1979)

He plays Harry Beecham, a well-to-do Australian at the turn of the century who becomes involved with Judy Davis‘ writer character. ONE OF MY TOP FIVE MOVIES OF ALL TIME GO WATCH IT YOU HEATHENS.

My Brilliant Career (1979)


Lucinda Brayford (1980)

A TV miniseries about multiple generations of an English family who move to Australia and then back to England. Neill plays the suitor of the main character.

1980 Lucinda Brayford


Ivanhoe (1982)

Romanticized medieval England. Neill plays Brian de Bois-Guilbert, a Templar knight who tries to seduce Rebecca.

1982 Ivanhoe


Reilly: Ace of Spies (1983)

A TV miniseries about Sidney Reilly, a World War I-era British spy.

1983 Reilly- Ace of Spies


The Blood of Others (1984)

During World War II, in German-occupied Paris, Jodie Foster’s character is torn between a German administrator (Neill) and a French resistance fighter.

1984 The Blood of Others


Kane & Abel (1985)

Neill is a wealthy Bostonian whose life intersects with a poor Polish man. Set in the 1920s and beyond.

1985 Kane & Abel


Plenty (1985)

Neill plays a British spy in occupied France during World War II. His brief meeting with Meryl Streep‘s character becomes key to her post-War regrets.

1985 Plenty


The Good Wife (1987)

“In pre-WWII Australia, a love triangle develops between a man, his wife, and the man’s brother,” says IMDB.

1987 The Good Wife


La révolution française (1989)

Neill plays the marquis de Lafayette, French military leader in the early days of the French revolution.

1989 La révolution française 1989 La révolution française


One Against the Wind (1991)

Judy Davis (again) is a Red Cross worker in occupied France during World War II, Neill is the British fighter pilot she helps escape.

1991 One Against the Wind


The Piano (1991)

A mute woman moves to 1850s New Zealand to marry a wealthy man (Sam Neill), sight unseen. A beautiful, poetic, sad movie.

1991 The Piano


Sirens (1994)

This movie isn’t totally sure what it wants to do. Neill is a bohemian artist living in rural Australia; Hugh Grant and Tara Fitzgerald are a minister and his wife who visit.

1994 Sirens 1993 Sirens


The Jungle Book (1994)

An adaptation of the classic Rudyard Kipling novel; Neill plays British colonel Geoffrey Brydon.

1994 The Jungle Book


Country Life (1994)

Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, but set in 1920s Australia. With Greta Scacchi.

1994 Country Life


Restoration (1995)

Neill is King Charles II, who plays an important role in a dissolute nobleman’s (Robert Downey Jr.) life.

Restoration (1995)


Victory (1996)

1913, Dutch East Indies, Neill plays a baddie, otherwise the plot description is giving me a headache.

Victory (1996)


Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)

An attempt to make the fairy tale into a historical story, Neill plays Snow’s dad with unfortunate hair.

1997 Snow White- A Tale of Terror


Molokai (1999)

A 19th-century priest wants to help at a leper colony, Neill is a government minister in Hawaii.

1999 Molokai


Sally Hemings: An American Scandal (2000)

Thomas Jefferson’s affair with enslaved woman Sally Hemmings.

2007 Sally Hemings- An American Scandal


The Zookeeper (2001)

Civil war in a fictional eastern European country. Neill takes care of the zoo’s animals.

2001 The Zookeeper


Doctor Zhivago (2002)

Russian Revolution, famous novel adaptation, Neill plays the skeezy older rich guy Victor Komarovsky to Keira Knightley‘s Lara.

2002 Doctor Zhivago


The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant (2005)

Neill is the first governor of New South Wales, while Romola Garai‘s convict character tries to escape.

The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant (2005)


To the Ends of the Earth (2005)

1812, boys travel to Australia, Neill has the small part of Mr. Prettiman.

2005 To the Ends of the Earth


Angel (2007)

A very, very strange movie. Again with Romola Garai.

2007 Angel


The Tudors (2007-10)

Neill plays Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to Jonathan Rhys Meyers‘ skeezy fratboy Henry VIII.

2007-10 The Tudors


My Talks with Dean Spanley (2008)

Jeremy Northam, turn-of-the-century England, boys with stiff upper lips.

2008 My Talks with Dean Spanley


Crusoe (2008-09)

18th-century shipwreck! Neill plays a friend of Crusoe’s family.

2008-9 Crusoe


Iron Road (2009)

“A poor but feisty Chinese woman, disguised as a boy, joins the railroad crew in the Rocky Mountains to search for her long-lost father, and falls in love with the son of the railroad tycoon,” says IMDB.

2009 Iron Road


The Adventurer: the Curse of the Midas Box (2013)

Technically fantasy, but the costumes are very 1870s-inspired.

2013 The Adventurer- the Curse of the Midas Box


Peaky Blinders (2013-14)

1920s English gangsters; Neill plays the detective trying to take them down.

Peaky Blinders (2013-14) 2013- Peaky Blinders


And Then There Were None (2015)

A 1930s-set Agatha Christie adaptation; Neill plays an army general.

And Then There Were None (2015)


The Dovekeepers (2015)

A fictionalized story of the Siege of Masada, which took place during the First Jewish–Roman War (73 to 74 CE).

2015 The Dovekeepers


Tommy’s Honour (2016)

Something historical about golf. I’m out!

2016 Tommy's Honour


Tutankhamun (2016)

Neill plays an English lord willing to fund the archaeologist who finds King Tut’s tomb in 1920s Egypt.

2016 Tutankhamun


Sweet Country (2017)

An Australian western set in the 1920s. Noping out again!

2017 Sweet Country


Coming Up

The Guinea Pig Club

“Surgeon Archie McIndoe risks his life and career to save injured British pilots during World War II,” says IMDB. Neill plays “Charles Overton.”


What’s your favorite Sam Neill historical costume film or TV show?


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

13 Responses

    • angharad

      I loved that one! I have the DVD. I’d call it vaguely historically-inspired fantasy with some awesome women’s costumes that manage to look Byzantine AND pre-Raphaelite.

  1. Nzie

    I hadn’t realized Sam Neill was in so many frock flicks. He’s totally why I gave the new Zhivago a chance, but I’ll admit I wasn’t into it and moved on (also, I love SN as an actor, but replacing Rod Steiger is a tall order).

    For me, Sam Neill will always be Capt. Ramius’ first mate—who never got to go to Montana with any wives. Not a Frock Flick, but a) his accent was creditable; b) he took a secondary role and just made him so wonderful that literally everyone is upset at his demise.

    • Lynelle

      “I should have liked to have seen Montana…” Gets me everytime!

  2. Susan Pola Staples

    Besides one of the best movies ever made (My Brilliant Career), My favourites are One Against the Wind and The Piano. I really enjoyed his chemistry with the brilliant Judy Davis.

  3. Charity

    Between Jurassic Park and The Jungle Book, he pretty much defined my childhood. I luv him. I wish now that he’s older, he’d stop playing skeezy dues and/or rapists tho. Ugh. (I cried over his downfall in The Tudors, tho.)

  4. mishkagora

    Showing my age: Reilly. Don’t think anyone else could play him. Though Ivanhoe and My Brilliant Career are old faves too.

  5. Cheryl Washer

    Reilly. OMG. Bought a CD with the Shostakovich composition used as the theme song. And while The Tudors stank, Neil was so great at Wolsey. Wolsey held Henry and the realm together for close to 20 years, only Neil portrays him as a heroic and tragic character.

  6. Karin

    Fantastic actor – and for me he just has that “something”. Don’t ask me what, he’s just got it. I’ve seen quite a few of the films listed here, from Ivanhoe and Reilly to Tutankhamun, and with some he was the only reason I watched, I admit!

    Love him in Ivanhoe actually, even though he plays the baddie and the costumes are… well…
    But yes, his most heartbreaking bit will always be “I should have liked to have seen Montana…”! Another vote for Red October here. There’s also The Dish, which is a great little movie and he was great in it, but it’s just off the radar here I guess as it’s set in 1969. Definitely worth watching.

    If you really want to laugh and get a good dose of Kiwi humour, check out Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Nothing historical, but so much fun!

  7. Emily

    The 1994 Jungle Book is GOOD! I don’t know why it’s never been re-released on DVD/blu-ray. It’s quality.

  8. Lily Lotus Rose

    OMG…Kendra! HOT or attractive or whatever other “good” adjective you want to use = YES when applied to Sam Neill!! And why am I only just now seeing a picture of this man in a toga??!!! Gotta find “The Dovekeepers” now!