WCW: Judi Dench


Like many of our favorites, Dame Judi Dench is a classically trained actor who has honed her skills at the Royal Shakespeare Company before and between being featured in countless costume dramas (and playing “M” in the James Bond films from 1995-2012). Dench has an wicked sense of humor, noted for her cheeky tattoos and her habit of embroidering sayings like “You are a cunt” and “You are a fucking shit” between shoots on film sets. Currently in her 80s, she shows no sign of slowing down, with three historical costume movies out in 2017. She has been and continues to be completely awesome, so let’s revel in our womancrush with some of her fabulous historical roles over the years!


Katherine, Princess of France in An Age of Kings (1960)

Judi Dench, An Age of Kings (1960)

Robert Hardy was her Henry V.



Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968)

Judi Dench, A Midsummer Night's Dream (1968)

This was basically a filmed version of the play, but hellllooo there! How could I not include this? Also, I think she was painted green.


Viola in Twelfth Night (1969)

Judi Dench as Viola in an RSC production of Twelfth Night (1969)

Not a film, just a Royal Shakespeare Company production. But again, required for my satisfaction.


Sadie in Love in a Cold Climate (1980)

Judi Dench, Love in a Cold Climate (1980)

The first TV miniseries adaption of the Nancy Mitford book, set from 1924-1940.


Mme. Ranevsky in The Cherry Orchard (1981)

Judi Dench, The Cherry Orchard (1981)

A TV movie of the Anton Chekhov play about failing Russian aristocracy in the 1900s.


Amy O’Connell in Waste (1985)

Judi Dench, Lyric Theater, Waste (1985)

Yeah, another stage performance — Lyric Theater — and of an obscure Victorian political drama, but it’s a great picture. Enjoy!


Eleanor Lavish in A Room With a View (1985)

Judi Dench, A Room With a View (1985)

Judi Dench plays the novelist who promises to show Lucy and her stuffy companion the ‘true Italy’ and a bit of adventure.


Mrs. Beaver in A Handful of Dust (1988)

Judi Dench, A Handful of Dust (1988)

An award-winning role in this 1930s Evelyn Waugh adaption.


Mistress Nell Quickly in Henry V (1989)

Judi Dench, Henry V (1989)

Taking a dark turn as part of Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearean company.


Hecuba in Hamlet (1996)

Judi Dench, Hamlet (1996)

One of the players, as in, “What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba…”


Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown (1997)

Judi Dench, Mrs. Brown (1997)

This role earned Judi Dench a Best Actress Academy Award nomination.


Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

She won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for this role, saying of the Oscar: “I feel for eight minutes on the screen, I should only get a little bit of him.”


Arabella in Tea With Mussolini (1999)

Judi Dench, Tea With Mussolini (1999)

With director Franco Zeffirelli behind-the-scenes making his semi-autobiographical story set before and during World War II.


Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

2002 The Importance of Being Earnest

This is my everything <3 <3 <3


Countess of Roussillion in All’s Well That Ends Well (2003)

Judi Dench, All's Well That Ends Well (2003)

A small role in this Royal Shakespeare Company production, which Variety said Dench showed an “unflaggingly empathic command of her art.” Of course she did.


Lady Catherine de Bourg in Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

The only redeeming factor in an otherwise pig fiesta.


Mrs. Laura Henderson in Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)

Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)

Fabulous ’40s frocks in this frothy flick!


Miss Matty Jenkyns in Cranford and Return to Cranford (2007-2009)

Judi Dench, Cranford and Return to Cranford (2007-2009)

This seems like it’d be a boring biddy-fest, but it’s SO GOOD. Any time I’m feeling down, I watch this to feel better about humankind.


Madame de Montreuil in Madame de Sade (2009)

Judi Dench, Wyndham Theater, Madame de Sade (2009)

It’s all about the costume in this theatrical production. I need her in the most elaborate historical garb always!


Mrs. Fairfax in Jane Eyre (2011)

Judi Dench, Jane Eyre (2011)

A solid Bronte adaption, enhanced by Judi Dench’s performance.


Society Lady in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Judi Dench, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

This is a pretty funny cameo.


Dame Sybil Thorndike in My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Judi Dench, My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Kind of meta, playing a previous generation of great British actress.


Annie Hoover in J. Edgar (2011)

Judi Dench, J. Edgar (2011)

J. Edgar Hoover’s mother. Apparently, he was nice to her. IDK.


Cecily, Duchess of York in The Hollow Crown – Richard III (2016)

Judi Dench, The Hollow Crown - Richard III (2016)

Judi Dench is always good in Shakespeare!


Abbess in Tulip Fever (2017)

Judi Dench, Tulip Fever (2017)

She’s a key figure in the drama.


Queen Victoria in Victoria and Abdul (2017)

Judi Dench, Victoria and Abdul (2017)

An older and lonelier Victoria. Check out this scene and interview on The Mary Sue.

Judi Dench, Victoria and Abdul (2017)


Princess Dragomiroff in Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

So much bling!

Judi Dench, Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

So much disdain!


And lastly, you simply must appreciate Dame Judy ‘J to the D’ Dench rapping with Lethal Bizzle. STAY DENCH!


What’s your favorite Judi Dench historical costume movie or TV role?

15 Responses

  1. picasso Manu

    I want to be her when I grow up!

    PS: You’re a bit hard on that pig in 2005 P&P. Contrary to some people I could name, he played his part with conviction!

  2. LadySlippers

    You forgot Ladies in Lavender. There we get both Dame Judi AND Dame Maggie! 😍 It’s set post WWI but before WWII although tensions are heating up again. Costumes are good, solid, nothing flashy or out of character.

    Oh gosh, asking me to pick a favourite role is like asking me to pick a favourite dark chocolate — lots of delicious choices. I’m actually going to pick Philomenia which isn’t exactly playing by the rules but who cares? 😉Rules Shmools. LOL She brought an amazing vulnerability and innocence to her character that made the movie work. But that’s what she does, doesn’t she? She’s riveting in almost every performance I’ve seen her in, an absolute treasure.

  3. Susan Pola Staples

    I agree with LadySlippers. Dame Judi brings an élan to her projects. I love them all. But if I’m forced to choose one, I’m choosing three. Queens Elizabeth & Victoria and Lady Bracknell. (Well actually 4). She dominates the stage or film she’s in. All eyes are on her and ears are glued to her utterances.
    I’m told she is fond of corpsing (gag real).

  4. SarahV

    She is so wonderfully still beautiful and preserved. It’s like witchcraft.

    Mrs. Henderson Presents is one of my top ten favorite movies.

    People think I am strange when I say that.

  5. Suzi Clarke

    My favourite is a play, I think done for TV. I ran it as wardrobe mistress at the Other Place – 1977 “Macbeth” – she was, of course, Lady M. I have a photo of her in costume with my then 6 month old son!

  6. Karen K.

    How can I possibly choose? I love her in everything, but especially as Matty Jenkyns in Cranford and as Eleanor Lavish in Room with a View. And she was by far the best part of the 2005 P&P!

  7. Jenny

    Oh, Madame de Sade! Probably the worst play I’ve ever endured (if there’d been an interval we’d have left…) but the costumes were simply gorgeous. It’s impossible to pick a favourite role, she’s always fabulous!

  8. Roxana

    Dame Judi’s range is incredible. Whether she’s playing, sweet, gentle, Miss Matty or ice blooded M she is utterly convincing.


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