The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Ben Kingsley

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

Last week, we took a look at the career of the always controversial Mickey Rourke. This week, we look at someone who's managed to maintain a brilliant career over forty years, defying typecasting after an early career-defining role.

Ben Kingsley


ben kingsley

If Ben Kingsley (or rather “Sir” Ben Kingsley) had only ever done GANDHI, his big-screen immortality would have been assured. When he was plucked from semi-obscurity to play the title role in Richard Attenborough's epic, Kingsley was almost completely unknown in North America. He managed to take home an Oscar for the performance, but nonetheless suffered a bit in the years to follow as he was so good in the part that people saw him as Gandhi, rather than as an actor simply playing a part.

ben kingsley gandhi

Still, his career went on, and he popped up in several popular films (like SPECIES), gave a superb performance in SCHINDLER'S LIST, and even got another Oscar nomination for his role as Meyer Lansky in BUGSY. But his career really turned around in 2000, when he took the image he created with GANDHI and burned it to the ground with an even more iconic performance, this time as psycho gangster Don Logan in Jonathan Glazer's amazing SEXY BEAST. The part gave Kingsley an incredible second-wind, bringing him to new heights of fame. He was nominated for another Oscar, and soon moved into lead roles, including yet another Oscar-nominated part in the amazing HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, and well-received indies like YOU KILL ME, ELEGY and THE WACKNESS.

ben kingsley sexy beast

Given how much the guy works (he has over 100 credits on the IMDB) it's inevitable that he's popped up in his share of turkeys (including BLOODRAYNE for Uwe Boll) but he manages to rise above it all, and often winds up being the best thing in whatever he's in (STONEHEARST ASYLUM being a recent example) and is a consistent favourite of many of the best directors in the world (including Martin Scorsese) who know he's one of the absolute best actors out there.

His Best Film


ben kingsley sexy beast

The sentimental choice here would be GANDHI, considering the subject matter and the fact that Sir Richard Attenborough passed away fairly recently but, yeah, nope. To me, Kingsley's performance in SEXY BEAST is one of the all-time great tough guy performances. A relatively slight fellow, there's never any doubt that Kingsley's Don Logan is the most dangerous man in the movie, a psychotic live wire that's going to explode at the slightest provocation. There are so many great scenes in this, like the kitchen sequence (see below) or the plane bit. Man, what a movie!

His Most Overrated Film


ben kingsley you kill me

Kingsley's made his share of stinkers (I hope he got a big fat check from Uwe Boll), but those were so bad you could never call them “overrated.” Kingsley's a sharp enough guy, I bet he knows when something's bad. As for overrated performances, usually when he's acclaimed it's worth it. Maybe his movie YOU KILL ME was somewhat over-praised in its time. While obscure now, when this was coming off its run at Sundance, many called it a return to form for director John Dahl, comparing it to RED ROCK WEST or THE LAST SEDUCTION. While an OK movie, the screwball gangster vibe never really worked for me, although even still, Kingsley's pretty damn good, even if his chemistry with Tea Leoni was off-key a bit (possibly due to the fact that Kingsley was too old for the part).

His Most Underrated Film


ben kingsley iron man 3

There are a lot of movies of his I'd call underrated. THE WACKNESS, ELEGY, WITHOUT A CLUE, but one performance of his people really never appreciated was in IRON MAN 3. Now I know I'm going to get some hate in the comments section for this, and yes, he's not really playing “The Mandarin” per se, but what you do get here is an amazingly sharp comic performance, and his Trevor Slattery unveiling makes for one of the most unpredictable twists in the Marvel Universe so far. But yeah, it pissed people off big-time. Oh well.

His Most Memorable Scene

It was tough to pick just one scene from SEXY BEAST to call his most memorable, but his kitchen freak-out is exactly what we mean in the column when we say “bad-ass.”

His Top 5 Films


Up Next

As always, Sir Ben is a busy man, with him contributing to Jon Favreau's JUNGLE BOOK, and having a key supporting part in Robert Zemeckis' Oscar hopeful (for next year) THE WALK.


About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.