‘Oppenheimer’ & More: Cillian Murphy’s Top Performances

‘Oppenheimer’ & More: Cillian Murphy’s Top Performances

With Oppenheimer’s blockbuster success, and the nomination for the 2024 Academy Award for Best Actor that came with it, Cillian Murphy is Hollywood’s latest global megastar. His riveting portrayal of J. Robert Oppenheimer has launched him straight into today’s cultural zeitgeist. 

However, his prolific presence and stardom long predates Oppenheimer, with Murphy being considered one of the greatest Irish actors of our time. After starring in blockbusters such as Inception, Batman Begins and Dunkirk, along with critically acclaimed hits such as A Quiet Place Part II, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and 28 Days Later, Cillian Murphy has long been a feature on the list of Hollywood’s greatest actors.  

Whether you’re a new fan, or you’ve been following Cillian Murphy’s career closely, there’s an abundance of movies and shows to dive into. We’ve curated a few of our favorites below, so press play and lose yourself in the magic of Cillian Murphy. 

Cillian Murphy Top Performances 

Let’s look at some of Murphy’s biggest TV and movie roles over the years. 

‘Oppenheimer’ (2023)


Based on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, and his life before and after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer depicts the reality of life for the famed scientist. While lauded as one of the heroes behind ending World War II, Oppenheimer deals must deal with his own fallout, including the guilt, death and damage his invention caused.  

Yet it’s not his personal quandary which brings about his downfall: it’s his enemies in government and academia who paint Oppenheimer as an enemy of the U.S. for his apprehensions around nuclear proliferation and his past political views.  

Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of the scientist lends the role incredible depth, with the quiet moments of reflection standing out even more than the stunning visuals of the bomb. For Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer may go down in history as his magnum opus.  

‘A Quiet Place Part II’ (2020) 


The sequel to A Quiet Place, Cillian Murphy portrays Emmett, an old friend of the Abbott family, who has become hardened to life after the invasion of Earth by extraterrestrial creatures. Emmett has lost his entire family to these creatures and has developed a cynical outlook on life (can you blame him?).

Throughout the movie we see the Emmett’s character arc evolve, from an individual lost and destroyed to a protective family man, putting everything on the line to protect the Abbotts. Cillian Murphy is the perfect casting for Emmett, with the quietness of the movie contributing to his masterful visual imagery and physical acting. 

‘Dunkirk’ (2017) 


Cillian Murphy plays an unnamed soldier in Chris Nolan’s masterpiece, Dunkirk, with the credits labelling him as ‘a shell-shocked soldier.’ Having gone through the atrocities of war and suffering from trauma inflicted upon him by the Nazis, Murphy’s portrayal of the soldier feels incredibly raw and realistic. 

When faced with an enemy that we can’t defeat, our instinct is to protect ourselves and to run as far from the enemy as possible, an emotion relayed perfectly by Murphy. As he tries to steer the Dawson’s boat away from Dunkirk, audiences feel the anguish in Cillian Murphy’s eyes and actions. His acting, along with the music score of Hans Zimmer, adds a sense of trepidation in every scene that Cillian Murphy is in, making Dunkirk an incredibly engrossing viewing. 

‘Peaky Blinders’ (2013 – 2022) 


Set in post-World War I Birmingham, England, Peaky Blinders revolves around an organized crime gang, the Peaky Blinders, headed by Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy). Throughout the series, we are exposed to the genius of Shelby in both safeguarding the power and control that the Peaky Blinders have obtained and ensuring the protection of those who rely on him.  

Incredibly, as the character evolves over the seasons, Shelby goes from being a criminal mastermind to a cult hero for those in Birmingham, almost like a real-life Robin Hood. Through the character’s journey, Cillian Murphy takes the viewer along the highs and lows, from losing his family, to becoming a Member of Parliament for the city his group once used to terrorize. For his role as Shelby, Cillian Murphy received international acclaim and recognition and a boost in his popularity and status among Hollywood’s elite. 

‘Batman Begins’ (2005) 


The first of his movies to become an international blockbuster, Cillian Murphy plays the role of Dr. Jonathan Crane AKA Scarecrow, one of Batman’s greatest rivals and an ally of villain Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson) in Batman Begins. Unlike most supervillains, Scarecrow utilizes the phobias and fears of individuals to drive them to insanity, motivated simply by the sadistic pleasure he derives from the anguish of others.  

Murphy’s portrayal of Scarecrow is incredibly adept and breaks the trope of supervillains being merely physically dominant; his movements and language in the movie are so spine-chilling that one can’t help but feel the fear that he evokes.

‘Small Things like These’ (2024) 

An upcoming historical drama set for release in February 2024, Cillian Murphy plays the role of Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man based in Ireland. Having led a simple and quiet life so far, he unexpectedly discovers a fact that uproots the only life he has known and is forced to confront his past and the complicit silence of a town controlled by a church. One of the first movies where Cillian Murphy is wearing a dual hat as a producer, expect his usual cinematic brilliance again.  

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