MCM: Tom Wilkinson


I was watching Belgravia, and remembered just how much I always enjoy watching Tom Wilkinson — he’s just so damn GOOD in everything! He’s been in a ton of frock flicks, and he’s distinguished and talented, and I thought we should give him some love.

Wilkinson has been in a bunch of frock flicks for which I can’t find pics, so to be the completionist I am, here they are:

  • Crime and Punishment (1979)
  • Strangers and Brothers (1984)
  • The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank (1988)
  • The Ruth Rendell Mysteries (1988)
  • Parnell & the Englishwoman (1991)
  • Oscar and Lucinda (1997)
  • Molokai (1999)
  • Narrator for David Copperfield (1999)
  • Another Life (2001)
  • The Catcher Was a Spy (2018)
  • The Happy Prince (2018)

Now, on to the ones for which we have visuals!


Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple: “A Pocket Full of Rye” (1985)

The 1930s-set murder mystery series.

1985 Agatha Christie's Miss Marple- A Pocket Full of Rye

Aw, so comparatively young!


Sylvia (1985)

A biography of Sylvia Ashton-Warner, who taught Maori children in mid-century New Zealand.

1985 Sylvia


The Woman He Loved (1988)

As Ernest Simpson, the man from whom Wallis Simpson (Jane Seymour) was famously divorced before marrying the former King Edward VIII.

1988 The Woman He Loved

Both are wearing great suits!


Ride With the Devil (1999)

A small part in this Civil War-set film.

1991 Ride with the Devil


Martin Chuzzlewit (1994)

As “hypocritical, dishonest architect” Seth Pecksniff in this BBC TV adaptation.

1994 Martin Chuzzlewit

Rocking the big mid-19th century hair!


Royal Deceit (1994)

An adaptation of the Danish legend of prince Amleth, which was the inspiration for Hamlet.

1994 Royal Deceit

Chunky medieval grey formless blobs!


Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Only briefly on-screen as Mr. Dashwood, father of Elinor and Marianne, who dies at the beginning of the film, setting things in motion.

1995 Sense and Sensibility


The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)

A fictionalized take on the real-life story of two man-eating lions in 1890s Kenya. Wilkinson plays “Sir Robert Beaumont.”

1996 The Ghost and the Darkness


Wilde (1997)

As John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry, whose son was involved with Oscar Wilde and who played a key role in the legal case against Wilde.

1997 Wilde

Anyone with those sideburns is Not a Nice Guy.


Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Hilarious as Hugh Fennyman, moneylender to whom the theater owner is in debt, in this fictionalized Shakespeare story.

Shakespeare in Love (1998) 1998 Shakespeare in Love


The Governess (1998)

As a mid-19th century photographer for whose Minnie Driver‘s character becomes governess, and who ends up having an affair with her. I remember being actively irritated by his character, but then many things irritated me about this film (LEATHER DRESSES).

1998 The Governess

I’m hoping those leather straps relate to some kind of photography equipment? Please?


The Patriot (2000)

As British military leader Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis, 2nd Earl Cornwallis.

2000 The Patriot

Rocking a nice wig!

2000 The Patriot

Who doesn’t like a historically accurate shaving scene?


Black Knight (2001)

A Martin Lawrence comedy, in which a modern-day theme park employee who is transported through time to medieval England. I might actually watch this just to see how bad it is, but I can’t stand Martin Lawrence.

2001 Black Knight

I THINK that’s Wilkinson? With a wig and beard??


The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

As the reverend Dr Chasuble in this Oscar Wilde adaptation.

2002 The Importance of Being Earnest

Getting ecclesiastical!

2002 The Importance of Being Earnest



Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)

As Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven, Vermeer’s patron who commissions the titular portrait.

Girl With a Pearl Earring (2003)

Wilkinson’s ensemble is quite well done; Vermeer’s is too toned down.

2003 Girl with a Pearl Earring

I love this shot, it’s straight out of a 17th c. Dutch painting!


Piccadilly Jim (2004)

A romantic comedy based on a 1917 Wodehouse novel.

2004 Piccadilly Jim

White tie, ladies!


Stage Beauty (2004)

As Thomas Betterton, leading male actor and theatre manager during Restoration England.

2004 Stage Beauty

I’m not sure if that’s an indoor cap or part of a stage costume, but I like it!


John Adams (2008)

As Benjamin Franklin in this biopic that Sarah is conveniently currently reviewing!

Benjamin Franklin in John Adams (2008)

That’s pretty spot on Ben Franklin!

I’m guessing we’re in the optimistic early days of the French Revolution here?


Valkyrie (2008)

As Colonel General Friedrich Fromm in this German World War II film.

2008 Valkyrie

Looking good in uniform!


Burke and Hare (2010)

As anatomist Robert Knox, key buyer of Burke and Hare’s suspiciously-obtained corpses.

2010 Burke and Hare

Aw, I love the curls!

2010 Burke and Hare

Beautiful waistcoat.


The Conspirator (2010)

As Reverdy Johnson, a former attorney general and current U.S. Senator in this Abraham Lincoln assassination story.

2010 The Conspirator

Sideburns seem to be becoming Wilkinson’s specialty.


The Kennedys (2011)

As Kennedy family patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.

2011 The Kennedys


Belle (2013)

As William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice of England and guardian of great-nieces Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray.

Emily Watson, Belle (2013)

I will never complain about men’s 18th-century wear … unless it’s done badly. Which it is not here.

2013 Belle

Wigs! Embroidery!


Selma (2014)

As American president Lyndon B. Johnson in this civil rights story.

2014 Selma


The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

As the Author of the story within a story.

2014 The Grand Budapest Hotel

1970s, I believe? (That’s director Wes Anderson on the left).


Little Boy (2015)

As a reverend in this World War II-set story.

2015 Little Boy


Belgravia (2020)

As the fictional Peregrine, Earl of Brockenhurst in this 1840s-set miniseries.

2020 Belgravia

Great cravat!

2020 Belgravia

Looking sharp!


Which is your favorite of Tom Wilkinson’s historical roles?

24 Responses


    He’s excellent in everything! I love him in Shakespeare in Love the best, though, as he gets to be funny. And he’s marvelous as an earthy Ben Franklin.
    But can we just focus for a minute in Judi Dench’s GLORIOUS hat, coat, and furs in that screencap from The Importance of Being Ernest? squeeee

    • Aleko

      He was absolutely marvellous in SiL! Every line and every expression is memorably cherishable.

      • Karen K.

        Shakespeare in Love is brilliant. It got a lot of backlash for winning the Best Picture Oscar over Saving Private Ryan, but it really has held up. I saw it again a couple of years ago on the big screen and it really is wonderful, the script is amazing.

  2. Susan Pola Staples

    If I had to choose a favourite or favourites, it would be Belle, John Adam’s and Shakespeare in Love. Closely followed by Wilde and the Importance of Being Earnest.

  3. Kelly

    His Pecksniff (Martin Chuzzlewit) was the first thing I ever saw him in, and he’s outrageous and perfect. The late 1830s/early 1840s costumes are lovely, too: frothy caps, cotton calicos, and big collars for the ladies, and lovely waistcoats and cravats on the gents.
    But Shakespeare in Love is hard to beat–so let’s call it a tie.

  4. Tez

    Not a frock flick but to me he’ll always be Gerald in The Full Monty. I’ve seen so many of these movies but I never realised he was in them!

    • M.E. Lawrence

      The man is a bloody chameleon. Again, not a frock flick, but “In the Bedroom” (2001) is full of stellar performances, and Wilkinson’s is one. (Not a cheery film, though; good for a bleak January afternoon.)

  5. Constance

    I am enjoying him in Belgravia, though somehow, halfway through, it is disappointing me in a way I can’t explain yet. I know the story from the book. I think the horribleness of Oliver and those leeches after the Earl’s money are just turning me off so much…am rooting for the worst to happen to that despicable vicar. Anyway…I love TW in many of the above roles, but always prefer the 18/19th century roles.

  6. Author Jennifer Quail

    His Franklin’s a stitch. And that scene is “Adams and Franklin drum up support for the American Revolution at a party. John is less enthused than Franklin, especially when the sing-along starts.” (Once the FRENCH Revolution gets going, it’s Jefferson v Adams and a lot of the French at this party probably wound up short a head or running for their lives. Adams also was not a fan of that.)

  7. Damnitz

    He is one of my favourite actors and his performance certainly was one of the best aspects of “Mel Gibson – The Patriot”.
    I could not tell which role of him I prefer. He is just such a great actor and even in a very small role like in “Sense and Sensibility” he can have a very impressive way to do his job.

    He would have been somebody perfectly for the role of Mr. Bennet. Unfortunately he is too old now.
    Besides I would be exited to see a post about Benjamin Withrow.

  8. Kate D

    Tom Wilkinson is a delight to watch! My favorites of his roles are in Shakespeare in Love, The Importance of Being Earnest and John Adams.

    I just finished Belgravia and he was great in it!

    Belle has been on my list forever, I’ll have to watch it one of these days.

    • Nzie

      I quite liked it. They definitely gave it a bit of a fairytale gloss here and there (she married someone of a lower rank after her guardian’s death), but otherwise I think it does a pretty good job capturing the peculiar and challenging position she must’ve been in as a woman of color being raised by white family members with significant social status and wealth.

  9. Nzie

    A number of these I didn’t realize he was in! He really is an exceptional actor. I had no idea he was in John Adams… it’s been a while but still. I think probably Belle is my favorite of the ones I’ve seen and remember well.

    In Little Boy he’s a pre-Vatican II priest so… somewhat more interesting than the average black suit/white collar thing today, with cassocks and more hats, but not that much. It’s a fairly sentimental and not especially subtle film, and if you look too hard at the plot it doesn’t make tons of sense, but it’s one of the only films I’ve seen geared at general faith-based audiences to make racism’s wrongness a central theme, so it’s kind of interesting from that perspective.

  10. Sharon in Scotland

    I really liked The Governess, not sure why, it was quite strange

  11. Saraquill

    The Ghost and the Darkness. I have happy memories of watching it with Dad.

  12. André

    I have a suggestion for a text, a film with a historically accurate figurine for every decade of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century

  13. Lily Lotus Rose

    My favorite of his costume roles is his character from Shakespeare in Love. His character in Belle got on my nerves because I felt he was being naive about Belle’s situation. Re: Royal Deceit–Christian Bale looks like he’s wearing a grey sweat shirt from Wal-Mart and like he just got home from track practice. I’m not saying that he looks bad, but…he definitely doesn’t look like the 1300s. As has been said here numerous times, Tom Wilkinson is good in every role!

    Question re Girl with a Pearl Earring: You mentioned that Vermeer’s costume was too “toned down.” Wasn’t Vermeer cash poor his whole adult life? Is Colin Firth’s costume too toned down even for a poor person?

  14. LondonKdS

    Ruth Rendell Mysteries is contemporary, not historical .

  15. Heather

    But wait, you forgot Belle. I’m watching it now, great frocks too.

  16. Karen K.

    My favorites are Shakespeare in Love, Belle, and The Importance of Being Earnest — that cast is amazing! I still haven’t watched John Adams but I guess I have plenty of time now. Still haven’t watched Belgravia. I read the book and was underwhelmed, but maybe it’s worth watching for the costumes if nothing else.

    And he was so good in The Full Monty!