The 10 Best Cillian Murphy Movie Performances

6. Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow in “Batman Begins” (Christopher Nolan, 2005)

Batman Begins

Young Bruce Wayne (Gus Lewis) is in the theatre watching a musical with his family. His father is Thomas Wayne (Linus Roache), the famous billionaire who is trying to reconstruct Gotham City. The play reminds him of bats. Bruce had an accident and since he fell down a well, he has developed a phobia of bats. It doesn’t take long before he asks his dad to leave the theatre.

While they are leaving through the back door, a thief tries to mug them and he shoots both his parents. Because he witnessed the murder of his parents, Bruce feels responsible for their death. He swears to take revenge and when he becomes an adult (Christian Bale), he goes to Tibet to train with Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe).

Filled with anger, he tries to balance his rage and guilt so that he becomes “more than just a man, a legend” as Ducard tells him. But after he finishes his training, Ra’s Al Ghul reveals his plans to make him a leader of a group that is going to attack Gotham City. Bruce’s purpose is not to become an executioner and he attacks them and returns to Gotham.

There he fights against organized crime by facing gangsters like the boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson). A psychiatrist named Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) plans to spread to Gotham a gas that makes people psychotic. Only Batman can stop Gotham from its total collapse.

After Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher, director Christopher Nolan creates a much darker and more realistic aspect of the Batman franchise. For the first time we watch Batman vulnerable, being hit by vicious enemies. The film focuses on Bruce Wayne’s transformation into Batman, the formation of his character and the way he develops his sense of justice. The great cinematography by director of photography Wally Pfister creates a Gotham that we have never seen before.

The action scenes are also great and the training of Bruce Wayne seems very realistic. Christian Bale proved to be an excellent choice for the role of Batman, and even though before he starred in “The Machinist” (2004) where he lost almost lost 63 pounds for the role, he regained the weight and even more muscle for “Batman Begins”.

Cillian Murphy was cast in the beginning for the role of Batman but he didn’t get it. Christopher Nolan liked his performance so much that he got the role of Dr. Crane/Scarecrow. Murphy is great as the mad psychiatrist and he created one of the most memorable villains of the Batman franchise. Even without his scary mask, Murphy looks horrifying to the people of Gotham. Nolan was so impressed by the bright color of his eyes that he looked to find ways for him to be in scenes without the glasses.


7. Robert Fischer in “Inception” (Christopher Nolan, 2010)


Domm Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a famous robber, who along with his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), has the ability through technology to penetrate the dreams of their victims. They are extracting valuable information for the interest of big corporate companies. Cobb wants to reunite with his children more than anything in the world, but unfortunately his turbulent past won’t let him.

A new powerful client named Saito (Ken Watanabe) asks Cobb to do the complete opposite from what he had done in the past. Instead of extracting an idea, he is asking him to plant it to Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), the CEO and heir of Fischer Morrow. His father Maurice (Pete Postlethwaite), who owns the company, is slowly dying of illness. Saito wants Robert to split up his father’s company, so that his own dominates over the energy production industry.

Because the relationship between father and son is complicated, they decide to plant a positive idea that will result in a negative one. The idea is: “My father wants me to be my own man”. Cobb knows that it will be very difficult to accomplish it but the rewards are huge: he might see his children again after so many years. Cobb has to deal with numerous obstacles, like his own past and the subconscious thoughts of his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard).

Director Christopher Nolan creates one of the most ambitious films in his career (“Interstellar” in 2014 is another one). The script is carefully written by himself and after so many successes in Hollywood, he has complete freedom over the movie. The result is a mesmerizing project that takes you to ride the unconscious and the dreams like you have never seen before.

Leonardo DiCaprio is again great and his acting is quite like another one of his top-notch performances in “Shutter Island” (2010). The movie is like it was written for him as the main character and Nolan even made him to look like himself. The rest of the cast does also an excellent job. Although Marion Cotillard’s role is not that big, she shows so convincingly what it is like to live a lie. The music by Hans Zimmer is one of the most memorable soundtracks of the last years.

Last but not least, Cillian Murphy’s performance is tremendous and he includes himself in the elite list of actors that Nolan wants to cast often in his filmography (Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard are other examples). To be selected by such a great director, proves that Murphy has matured from an actor who usually took part in local movies into a first class actor with worldwide fans.


8. Mike Kiernan in “Broken” (Rufus Norris, 2012)


Skunk (Eloise Laurence) is a young girl living with her father and brother in North London. Her mother has left them and she moved out with an accountant to start a new life. She has type I diabetes and her father (Tim Roth) is overprotective about her. She has to follow a specific program every day. Skunk sees and feels the violence of society as she grows up.

First, she witnesses a guy named Rick (Robert Emms) being severely beaten up by their violent neighbor Bob (Rory Kinnear), whose wife has died and is raising his three daughters on his own. One of his daughters wrongly accuses Rick of raping her because Bob wants to know with whom she had sex. Rick is the easy scapegoat because he seems weird and he deals with some psychological problems. Skunk can’t avoid violence in her school, as she becomes a victim of bullying.

Again, Bob’s daughters are bullying the kids in school and they are taking money from them. Skunk refuses to give them her pocket money and she is attacked when she returns from school. Luckily, her teacher Mike (Cillian Murphy) intervenes and saves her from a worse beating. She was already in love with him and after his brave action she would do anything for Mike.

Despite the harsh reality, Skunk is always happy and energized, making other people feeling better, too. But every family has its problems. Everything at the end seems broken but unfortunately some things cannot be repaired again.

The story of the film is based on the book “Broken” by Daniel Clay. It is an important achievement for director Rufus Norris, taken into consideration that this is his directorial debut. He did not make a single fault with the casting and all the people in the movie are great. Eloise Laurence is impressive in her acting debut. She is like a professional actress that has been in the movie industry for a long time.

Tim Roth is the star of “Broken” and he shows another dimension, slightly different from his previous roles, to the idea of the broken father who has to raise his children without their physical mother. Cillian Murphy is superb as the love interest of Skunk and his girlfriend Kasia (Zana Marjanovic). He proves that he can easily handle difficult roles in such intense dramas like “Broken”.


9. Patrick “Kitten” Braden in “Breakfast on Pluto” (Neil Jordan, 2005)

Breakfast on Pluto

A woman leaves a baby on the doorsteps of a priest’s house. As the boy (Conor McEvoy) is growing up, he gets curious about his real parents. Why did they leave him? Where can he find them now? Patrick (Cillian Murphy) is different than the rest of his classmates. He doesn’t like sports and he is fond of wearing women’s clothes. He hangs out with the “weirdos”, like a young boy with Down syndrome and a couple that fights all the time.

His feminine characteristics infuriate the teachers in the Catholic and Puritan school and it doesn’t take long before he is kicked out. Patrick is suffocating in the little village in Ireland and he makes the big decision to leave his foster family and look for his mother in London, where he believes she went to live after she left him.

There he could also be like he always wanted: a trans woman and his name will be Patrick “Kitten”. He starts a relationship with Billy Hatchett (Gavin Friday), a singer of a famous band. They sing together for a short time but the experiment fails and Billy takes Patrick to a remote trailer, where he could continue his life and also be with him. But the era is turbulent and Patrick finds out that there are connections between Billy and the IRA.

His self-destructive trip becomes very dangerous but Patrick always seems like he does not take anything seriously. He is not even afraid to die. All he wanted was to find his “Phantom Lady”, as he calls his mom, pretending that all these troubles are not happening to him and he is just a viewer of a fairy tale.

Director Neil Jordan doesn’t need any special recommendations. He has created some of the most iconic films about the IRA like “The Crying Game” (1992) and “Michael Collins” (1996). The film is smartly separated into little chapters and as the story goes on, we see the innocence of the first and funny chapters give their place to a drama that is more about the exploration of a lost soul during the 1970s and 1980s.

Cillian Murphy, in a groundbreaking performance, depicts the life of a trans woman without exaggerations and without succumbing to any clichés. It is completely different from the idea that most people had about trans people and Murphy is not afraid to show a different aspect of it.

His previous roles showed that he is an actor with promising potential, but with this role he is established as one of the most upcoming actors in the European and American film industries. He deals with the trans subject with magnificent composure and talent. Not often have we come across such deep and multilayered acting.


10. John in “Intermission” (John Crowley, 2003)


Lehiff (Colin Farrell), a petty thief, talks to a cashier about the possibilities of life and how random things are. “You never know what is going to happen”, he says and then she is caught by surprise. John (Cillian Murphy) is an insecure guy who cannot easily articulate what he really wants from a relationship. He asks his girlfriend Deirdre (Kelly Macdonald) for a break, an intermission as he says to test her.

But his plan backfires because she starts a relationship with a married man named Sam (Michael McElhatton). Sam is much older than him; he has a steady job as a bank manager and he could provide her with more than John could ever imagine. He is bored with his wife and soon he moves in with Deirdre. Oscar (David Wilmot), John’s best pal, warned him that his plan would not be effective and in the end he is right. Oscar is desperate for sex or just a little intimacy in his life.

He feels so lonely that he cries at night while he pleasures himself; he can’t understand why John doesn’t appreciate what he has. Will he find love in the face of the also insecure Sally (Shirley Henderson)? Finally, Jerry Lynch (Colm Meaney), a tough cop who uses unconventional methods to catch criminals, has his car stolen. He convinces a reporter to follow him as he catches criminals and make a show of his everyday life.

Maybe all these stories seem completely random, but they are all interconnected. Although it is his directorial debut, director John Crowley creates a movie that deals with many characters and subjects. His directing is commendable as he joins all the dots masterfully. Violence, crime, love, loneliness, loss, and an unhealthy working environment are just some of the things that Crowley shows the audience.

It is also praiseworthy that both Crowley and screenwriter Mark O’Rowe had only a theatrical background before “Intermission”. The actors and actresses of the movie are Irish and they give their best performances to show the everyday life in Dublin. Colin Farrell is convincing as the small time crook who wants to make some easy money, and Colm Meaney is enjoyable as the ultimate cop who wants to fight evil.

Cillian Murphy is also great at depicting the insecurities of the contemporary man in the 21st century; he is unsure about his relationship and what he wants from it. He doesn’t have any financial security and he has to face the threats of his boss everyday in an environment where the words “good and stable working conditions” are simply unknown.

Murphy convinces as a simple guy that has to make a difficult choice to make ends meet. His talents are not limited only to big roles such the ones in “Inception” and “Batman Begins”, but also to smaller budgets with a local crew.

Author Bio: Kostas Kapantais is a 28-year-old psychologist and he has been watching movies for a long time. He likes noticing details in movies that haven’t been spotted by a wider audience.