The sweater-clad sweetheart Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary, the English writer with foot-in-mouth syndrome named Jamie in Love, Actually; the unassuming and unlucky-in-love Harry in Mamma Mia!—these are all quintessential Colin Firth roles. But you can only get so much mileage out of that charming, bumbling, Nice Guy™️ persona. But in Mary Poppins Returns, the sequel to the 1964 Disney classic, Firth has been cast as the musical’s villain.
And Firth soars as an evil, mustachioed, pinstriped banker (he also lends his voice to an villainous animated wolf in the same film). It’s not the first time the actor has played against type, though. There are at least a handful of occasions where Firth has broken bad, and maybe you forgot about them because in your mind it is canon that Firth only play handsome nice men. But don’t forget that he’s got the range.
Mary Poppins Returns
When the Banks family cannot pay off their loan from Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, the institution run by Firth’s William Weatherall Wilkins (say that five times fast), a pinstripe-suit wearing, pocket-watch swinging baddie with a dashing mustache, they risk losing their home. When the children get stuck inside of a chipped bowl, a snarling wolf (voiced by Firth) kidnaps the youngest of the brood. Wilkins almost ruins the lives of the three Banks children, their father Michael, and their aunt Jane, but this is a movie distributed by Disney so, predictably, things end up alright.
The English Patient
Some might see Firth’s portrayal of Geoffrey Clifton as sympathetic (his wife Katharine is cheating on him after all, with Ralph Fiennes’s Count László de Almásy), but the character is a controlling and jealous figure, who does attempt murder. Sounds like an antagonist.
Before I Go to Sleep
This psychological thriller stars Firth and Nicole Kidman as a married couple who must relive the trauma of her memory-wiping car accident every morning. Firth plays Ben, who has to regularly remind Christine (Kidman) that she has lost her memory and suffered brain damage—but can he be trusted to tell her the truth every day? The short answer: not really.
As Lord Henry Wotton, Firth is the one who introduces Dorian Gray to all of the bacchanalia that eventually blinds him to the truth of life (which is that we all must age and eventually die). Yes, this is the same man who danced around a room in skintight leather trousers in an Amanda Bynes movie.
Shakespeare in Love
In Shakespeare in Love, also known as the movie your high school English lit teacher plays for the class right before the holidays, Firth plays Lord Wessex, and is supposed to marry Gwyneth Paltrow’s Viola. Listen, Lord Wessex literally bets against love, and also thinks he’s seeing ghosts after he maybe orchestrates a murder. Villainous.
Valmont, yet another period piece starring Firth, places him as the titular villain. This movie is a riff on Les Liaisons Dangereuses and no, it is not better than Cruel Intentions. But it does star Firth as a bad guy (the Vicomte de Valmont) who is asked by his former lover, the Marquise de Merteuil (played by Annette Bening), to seduce a young girl who is engaged to Merteuil’s secret lover. He may look sweet, but Valmont—a grown man—is asked to seduce a teen and he complies. That’s dastardly enough to make this particular list.
Where the Truth Lies
Did Firth’s Vince Collins murder a Miami college student or was it Kevin Bacon’s Lanny Morris? In Where the Truth Lies, the mystery of the murdered girl is unraveled by a journalist played by Alison Lohman, 15 years after the crime was committed. Who would have thought that Firth would excel at playing a (possibly) homicidal comedian?