The 12 Best Tom Hiddleston Movies, Ranked

Tom Hiddleston was an up-and-coming English ginger kid when he auditioned for "Thor" in 2009. He had three things going for him: First, he'd previously worked with director and fellow Royal Academy of Dramatic Art graduate Kenneth Branagh on the UK series "Wallander." Second, he had an outstanding, well-practiced talent for acting. And third, his audition saw him take his shot at being Thor himself, with a desperation that smacked more of the character for which he's now best known.

Hiddleston is so skilled that it might seem improper to focus so much on his world-famous role as the trickster god Loki. Yet, no one cares for the sly god more than him — to which his "Loki" castmates can attest. Tom Hiddleston is more than a god, though. He's a theatre star with a 2020 Tony Award nomination for his role in "Betrayal." He's a romantic leading man on the level of Richard Chamberlain in "The Thorn Birds" as Apple's "The Essex Serpent" proves. And he's Disney's not-so-secret weapon, voicing new promos regularly while seeing friends like Elizabeth Debicki, Benedict Cumberbatch, and his fiancé, Zawe Ashton, join the MCU in his wake. We're going to rank his movies and let me be the first to tell you, no matter how iffy the film is, Tom Hiddleston puts in the work, every time.

12. I Saw the Light

A victim of some weird editing choices that slow the pace and suck the life out of this musical biography of Hank Williams Sr., "I Saw the Light" is bizarre and often disappointing. Yet, there are still some good pieces of work to admire, and one of them is the total dedication an Englishman gives to his central role as one of America's biggest honky-tonk cowboy music legends.

Hiddleston does his own singing in the film, training so hard to match the lungs of that throaty crooner before shooting started that he pulled off a well-received stunt, performing live at a Hank Williams festival in 2014. In addition, he and Elizabeth Olsen as first wife Audrey Shepphard — yes, we know, Scarlet Witch and Loki are macking it up here, enjoy — have enough chemistry to make their relationship do good work. The best recommendation of all? Hank Williams' granddaughter, Holly Williams, appreciates what Hiddleston tries to do.

11. Kong: Skull Island

Speaking as someone whose favorite Toho Monsterverse movie is the not-even-a-Monsterverse-movie, "Shin Godzilla," I have to admit that "Skull Island" didn't do a lot for me. It's a vaguely "Apocalypse Now"-style war movie flavored with giant monsters, whose roles in the exotic island ecosystem beggar belief. There's a titanic deep-sea squid in what's essentially a landlocked mud pond. Please. The plot, too, is a bit messy, although it capably does the job it's here for, which is shucking off people into the jungle to be eaten in grotesquely cool ways.

Yet, the ensemble cast is great enough that I'm annoyed more wasn't done with them. Where's our follow-up film about John C. Reilly's stranded Hank Marlow reconnecting with the world beyond? Meanwhile, Tom Hiddleston is so charismatic as the stoic-but-savvy mercenary type that actors like Michael Douglas used to play in the '80s that I'm still mad that "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" didn't reveal that the equally mercenary Charles Dance was an older version of him. The plot point was right there!

10. Midnight in Paris

The fact that "Midnight in Paris" is a Woody Allen movie may be an understandable downside for some film fans. Despite that, it has a charming early performance by Tom Hiddleston, who plays a fictional version of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. The gadfly hedonism of the 1920s era comes through nicely in Fitzgerald's behavior, making it no surprise to realize that, yes, this really is the guy who created the emblematic — and enigmatic — manic pixie man at the heart of "The Great Gatsby."

"Midnight in Paris" also marks the first time Hiddleston would work with Owen Wilson, who plays the usual Woody Allen self-insert, right down to the self-deprecating anxiety. And, a little like his Agent Mobius in "Loki," Wilson is a time and reality hopper (sort of) holding onto some big questions about what it all means for him. Years before both men achieved greater popularity, the two play off of each other with quick and natural grace. Reality subtext aside, it's one of the nicest Allen movies and the most bittersweet.

9. Thor: The Dark World

Early MCU-era creative committee meddling and the loss of Patty Jenkins made the God of Thunder's solo sophomore outing weaker than it deserved to be. It's not really a bad film, just not the best it could have been. Christopher Eccleston is the dark elf Malekith, a great comic book character reduced to a villain-of-the-week annoyance. On the other hand, Rene Russo's Queen Frigga gets a meaty if tragic role this time out, and it benefits hugely from the work she and Tom Hiddleston did in the first film. Her mannerisms and magic live on in the bedeviled little brother, and her love for both of her sons is strong enough to carry them to an unstable truce.

It's still Loki's show, though, and it's no surprise the film underwent reshoots to add more of this pained god with the gleeful facade. Loki leaning hard into his "it's not a phase, Dad!" chained goth look in his arguments with Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins), and let's face it, it's a good look. Today, the ending of "The Dark World," with all its sinister implications and shadowed gold, makes Loki's next appearance in the MCU even funnier.

8. High-Rise

The late English author J.G. Ballard may be best known for his 1984 novel "Empire of the Sun," which was adapted for film by Steven Spielberg in 1987. His 1973 story, "Crash," a bizarre tale about people who find sexual gratification in auto accidents, was made into a film by David Cronenberg in 1996. In 2015, director Ben Wheatley adapted Ballard's 1975 novel, "High-Rise," for film. With "High-Rise," Wheatley serves up Cronenbergian social commentary on a gilded platter, putting the initially (somewhat) normal Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) into a self-isolating apartment tower where things go sideways fast.

The visible class divisions of the tall tower and its amenities make it clear we're having an LSD-laced late-night chat about privilege and the effects of technologically-induced isolation. Hiddleston's Laing, who lets us know from his first scene that he didn't come out of this okay at all, is our guide through the "Lord of the Flies"-fueled downfall of an architect's mad dream. He's the anchor of the film, even when he becomes unmoored. Hiddleston never does anything by halves, and he makes Laing's self-destruction both charming and memorable.

7. The Deep Blue Sea

2011's "The Deep Blue Sea" is not the one with the shark. It's a languid period romance with no buck-wild Samuel Jackson monologues. If it helps ease the bite, "The Deep Blue Sea" stars Tom Hiddleston and Rachel Weisz are naked and frisky within the first 10 minutes. Throughout the movie, you will buy that they are mentally naked and frisky with each other at all times. It's better and eventually deadlier than man-eating sharks.

Beyond the sexy cinematography is a brooding character study. Weisz's Hester Collyer isn't in love with her husband. Instead, she's deeply in lust with World War II veteran Freddie (Hiddleston), who's dealing with his PTSD by having an affair with a married woman. That's one way to keep dodging missiles, my guy. Underneath all this sensual risk is some heady, brooding commentary on the inner emotional lives of women. Weisz is the real star, forging Hester's near-fatal despair into something meaningful and empathetic and avoiding out-of-date melodrama. Hiddleston never sets out to upstage her, and his emotional outbursts only make Hester's trauma more poignant.

6. Thor Ragnarok

Loki, in all iterations, is the trickster archetype incarnate. He's capable of being a different person with different goals every time he appears in myth or Marvel, and it's that chimeric trait that makes him a delight every time he turns up. Tom Hiddleston knows that and reshapes his version of Loki to fit with the '80s hair metal wackiness that makes Taika Waititi's "Thor: Ragnarok" so much fun.

"Ragnarok" keeps Loki at just the right pitch to make him as delightful as ever, while letting Chris Hemsworth's Thor shine properly for once. Loki's funny and devious but also surprisingly loyal in certain ways, making the climax of the film as emotional as it is rad. And it's that shape-shifting charm that makes his happy ending hit so much harder in the opening minutes of "Avengers: Infinity War," which was released just a few months later. No wonder the first season of "Loki" tells us He Who Remains demands dead Lokis in all the timelines. A better-adjusted Loki living in New Asgard, as "Ragnarok" made us imagine, would have been just too much chaotic fun to bear. We'd still like to see it, though.

5. Thor

In terms of global mainstream presence, this is where it all starts for Tom Hiddleston. His young Loki is sleek and pretty here, sticking out like a blackened, sore thumb amidst the macho golds of Asgard. His sharp face with its grimacing, fleeting expressions that barely give away what he's thinking, holds more than enough foreshadowing to tell us that the MCU's Loki is going to be just as big of a pain as his comic book counterpart.

Then, he gets his big scene with Odin on the steps of the royal vault, and we realize, "Oh, so the dude can act, too." It's not like Hiddleston was phoning it in up to this point, but to watch him go up against Sir Anthony Hopkins and play off him like a Shakespearean orchestra was the moment we knew we had something special. "The Avengers" doesn't have a separate place on this list because Loki's growth as a genuine threat builds naturally from his last minutes in this film. He's tortured enough that he wants to die, and the stinger shows that he's now maddened enough to live. Our fancy emo kid is all grown up, and he's ready to play with the big toys.

4. The Hollow Crown

Released as a series of BBC television films, "The Hollow Crown" is a collection of Shakespeare adaptations so lusciously presented that we're putting them on par with theatrical releases. The Henriad, as Bill Shakes nerds know it, collects four (or eight, if we're being maximalist and want to get into the War of the Roses stuff) historical plays that chronicle the fall of King Richard II and the rise of King Henry V, the warrior-king of the Hundred Years' War. "The Hollow Crown" adapts nearly all of it, with stars including Jeremy Irons, Sir Patrick Stewart, Tom Sturridge, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Throw a rock at a line-up of great English actors. They're in this. 

Tom Hiddleston gets the nice, meaty centerpiece of all this. He begins as the rakish Prince Hal, a vibrant young man who's years away from being the leader of England, much to the chagrin of his kingly father, who's not above smacking him around for his nonsense. We get to watch as he grows into the clever and ruthless King Henry V, who will invade France and eke out a history-altering win.

3. War Horse

When it comes to Steven Spielberg movies, there's a handful of titles that slip through the cracks. "War Horse," a 2011 drama based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo that had already done well for itself as a play a few years earlier, is one of those. It's not Spielberg's typical imaginative fare, it's another one of his thoughtful war dramas, with a character-rich story that gets the audience invested before launching tragedy after tragedy.

Aside from casting a real horse for the central role of Joey (the stage productions use fantastic models), he also drew from the best of the rising English crop. There are oodles of recognizable faces, but the first emotional arc comes when the stoic Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston) buys Joey to use as his titular war horse in the early years of World War I. Nicholls loses his life during a mad charge toward a line of newly invented machine guns. The last glimpse of his face shows the terrified boy he is. It's only one of the harrowing stories Joey the horse will guide us through, but here's a comforting spoiler for curious Hiddleston fans with tender hearts: The horse lives.

2. Only Lovers Left Alive

Jim Jarmusch isn't a director for everyone, and that's how he likes it. His films are eccentric, contemplative, and often painfully human. That introspection made "Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai" beautiful, and "Only Lovers Left Alive" is the only other film to carry that same perfect energy. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are our core vampire couple, lovers clinging to everything that gives them comfort while they deal with the complexities of what they are.

It's a film as tired and emotional as a Black Friday lunch break in the backroom of a slammed Hot Topic, but it doesn't treat these feelings like a joke. Even though the world loves to mock emo kids, Jarmusch gives Hiddleston's Adam dignity. Adam incarnates the consuming, creative drive of writers and artists the world over, and he's also locked in with his own despair. Swinton's Eve is the necessary counterweight, the thoughtful optimist who loves Adam strongly enough to push him to live. There's a metaphor here that critics love: The good blood these vampires prefer is analogous to drug addiction, but it's more than that. It's about everything that comes with that curse: the creativity, the comedy, the fear, and eventually, how we choose to lose pieces of ourselves to survive.

1. Crimson Peak

Tom Hiddleston was born to look beautiful in sorrowful or tragic situations, which is wild when you see him acting like a puppy in interviews just minutes later. The character he's best known for started as the finest "sad pretty baby boy" bait anyone could've asked for. Making him the sharp-faced Byronic honeypot of "Crimson Peak" is the rich buttercream icing on God's perfect cake.

The seductive Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) is as much a victim as his target, Edith (Mia Wasikowska), with his childish inner self only sneaking out after Edith is ensnared in the ruined home he and his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), are trying to revive. Hiddleston portrays these two faces of the younger Sharpe sibling excellently, helping director Guillermo del Toro twist up the tropes of classical gothic horror into something fresh, empowering, and humane. In 20 more years, people will finally realize that "Crimson Peak" is Guillermo Del Toro at his best as he shows his empathy for the monsters of romance in a way that's even richer and more complicated — and certainly more luxurious — than his also excellent "The Shape of Water."