The 5 best James McAvoy films currently available on Netflix
(Credit: Netflix)

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The 5 best James McAvoy films currently available on Netflix

“I take a lot of pride in being myself. I’m comfortable with who I am.” 

James McAvoy, the versatile Scottish actor who took Hollywood by storm with his extraordinary talent to fit into any character, is best known for his reprising role as Charles Xavier or Professor X in the X-Men series. However, if one takes a deeper look into the actor’s life, they shall indeed be surprised by the varied roles he has played. Born in Glasgow on April 21, 1979, to a working-class family, McAvoy was devastated by his parents’ early split which left a long-lasting impact on him, affecting his relationship with his father in the long run. Raised primarily by his grandparents, he initially wanted to become a priest as he wanted to travel the world and engage in charity. He later spoke of how he almost joined the Navy as he wanted to quench his thirst of getting “some perspective on the world and explore”. However, an acceptance into the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama altered his plans. 

McAvoy had discovered the world of acting at the age of 15 in a film named The Near Room. Although he was never invested in this profession, a tiny crush of his motivated bim to study acting. He gradually became a member of a theatre troupe before getting accepted to study at RSAMD and, after graduating, he made various appearances in TV shows. Joe Wright, who had recognised his talents early on, tried serenading him for collaborations but McAvoy kept rejecting it until 2008 when he got his breakthrough role in a book adaptation by Wright named Atonement. McAvoy, who previously gained recognition due to his small-time role of Mr Tumnus, was deeply invested in his role and considered it an uplifting experience despite the “incredibly sad” premise of the harrowing film. 

After being recognised, he appeared in various films, garnering critical acclaim and praise. He has admitted that Charles Xavier has been one of his most challenging and favourite roles. “For me, Charles Xavier is a monk. He’s like a selfless, egoless almost sexless force for the betterment of humanity and mortality.”

Celebrated for his versatility as an actor, James McAvoy turns 42 today. We take a look at some of his best films streaming on Netflix:   

James McAvoy’s 5 best films on Netflix:

5. Wanted (Timur Bekmambetov, 2008)

Wesley Gibson leads an uneventful and borderline boring and mundane life in Chicago as a desk job employee with a tyrannical boss, scheming best friend and cheating girlfriend. One evening, he suddenly discovers that he is the son of a first-class assassin and is now being pursued by his deceased father’s enemy. He is soon roped in by an elite group called the Fraternity where he undergoes training under the cold yet kind Fox to prepare himself for a showdown with their enemies. However, he soon stumbles upon the truth that makes him question the side he is fighting for. 

With a talented ensemble delivering brilliant performances, especially James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, the film never slacks and presents the audience with a new twist at every juncture. McAvoy was initially rejected from the screen-test for Wesley Gibson as the studio did not feel that the role was in tune with his physical appearance and wanted someone with conventional leading man features. However, he was soon recalled and as McAvoy says, they ultimately “wanted someone geeky”. McAvoy did absolute justice to his role, mastering the  American accent, working out relentlessly as well as injuring his ankle and knee during some of the intense shooting sequences. 

“This is me taking control. From Sloan, from the Fraternity, from Janice, from billing reports, from ergonomic keyboards, from cheating girlfriends and sack of shit best friends. This is me taking back control of my life. What the fuck have you done lately?”

4. It: Chapter Two (Andy Muschietti, 2019) 

After the events of 1989, the losers promise to reunite if the evil clown named Pennywise returns. However, in 2016, it returns to Derry and starts killing children. Mike calls the other members Bill, Ben, Beverley, Ruchie, Eddie and Stanly; the latter, however, commits suicide. The Losers decide to reunite and ward the town against the evil clown. This will, however, lead them to perilous waters as it is more powerful and terrifying than ever. 

James McAvoy played the adult version of Bill who, in 1989, had vowed to seek revenge on it after he killed his younger brother. Bill grows up to become an author based in Los Angeles who plays a key role in helping the Losers defeat the sinister clown. While It has triggered coulrophobia in many with its terrifying Pennywise and his ominous smile robbing many of their goodnight’s sleep, the second film was probably not that scary. However, great effects and an ensemble of great actors with wonderful chemistry makes it equally riveting. 

“There aren’t any such things as good friends or bad friends. Maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you’re hurt and who help you not feel so lonely.”

3. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Andrew Adamson, 2005) 

Based on C.S. Lewis’s second novel in the fantasy chronology, the film follows the journey of the four Pevensie children, namely Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, as they are sent to Professor Kirke’s countryside home, away from London during the Second World War. they discover a magical wardrobe that transports them to the fantasy realm of Narnia that abounds in talking beavers, foxes, centaurs, other magical creatures as well as the glorious and kind-hearted lion named Aslan. Narnia is currently under the siege of the evil and scheming White Witch as her curse will bring eternal winter to Narnia. It is upon the children to lead the innocent Narnians to victory where good shall triumph over evil. 

A wholesome family film dealing with elements like ego, pride, rivalry, greed and love, as the plot moves forward, the siblings let go of their differences and unite against all offs, James McAvoy as Lucy’s favourite faun, Mr. Tumnus is a treat to the audiences. He is indeed her first Narnian friend and besides brilliant visuals and wonderful acting from the children, McAvoy stands out in his small role.  

“For Narnia, and for Aslan!”

2. Split (M. Night Shyamalan, 2016)

Casey attends her friend Claire’s birthday party and while they are coming home, they get attacked by a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder who takes them captive. The man manifests various personalities and the one taking over right now makes him hold young girls hostage and prepare them for sacrifice to his 24th persona by the name of The Beast. When Casey realises that her companions have been slaughtered and comes across the note written by the man’s therapist minutes before she was killed, she realises that she must fight for her survival against the dangerous and varied personas of the man. 

James McAvoy played Kevin, the man with DID who has 24 different personas. A supervillain with a compelling origin story, Kevin and his personas are dangerous and horrifying. Although the film received flak from mental health advocates for promoting stigma against people suffering from DID, it was considered a great comeback for Shyamalan as well as an amazing platform for McAvoy to demonstrate his nuanced acting skills and ability to play numerous characters with ease. He is bold, fearless and uninhibited in his role and goes all guns blazing to present a terrifying portrait of his character(s). 

“You are different from the rest. Your heart is pure! Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.”

1. Atonement (Joe Wright, 2008)

Adapted from Ian McEwan’s eponymous book, the film is based on the doomed romance of two hapless lovers Cecilia Tallis and Robbie Turner who never reunite due to the miserable circumstances they are a part of. Torn apart due to a well-constructed lie by Cecilia’s envious younger sister Briony, Robbie is falsely convicted of rape and suffers immensely due to his economically disadvantageous position. After he is sent to prison, Cecilia laments and goes on to enrol as a nurse. Years later, they allegedly cross paths during the Second World War, finally giving Briony the chance to redeem herself by confessing the deceit and lies. 

The film is emotionally ravaging as it portrays how lies and envy can cause irreparable damages to relationships. James McAvoy had previously turned down various offers to work with Wright yet remained the director’s first choice as Robbie Turner. Wright felt that McAvoy had the ability to make the audience embark “with him on his personal and physical journey”. McAvoy has admitted that playing Robbie Turner was one of the most demanding things in his career. Aided by the experiences derived from his “working-class roots”, McAvoy had undeniable chemistry with his co-actress Keira Knightley and left an indelible imprint on the minds of the audience with his characterisation of Robbie Turner.

“My story will resume. The one I had been planning on that evening walk. I can become again the man who once crossed the Surrey Park at dusk in my best suit, swaggering on the promise of life … I will return, find you, love you, marry you, and live without shame.”