Helena Bonham Carter is one of those unconventional talents that no one forgets. Here are her 10 most iconic and eccentric performances.
Launched on her path to fame after the 1985 period drama, A Room With A View, where she portrayed Lucy Honeychurch, Helena Bonham Carter has since taken her career to the greatest heights and quirkiest depths of Hollywood. Known for her often unusual performances and outright strange characters, she's become an icon recognized far and wide and beloved everywhere. Together with her ex-husband, Tim Burton, she's left a gothic mark in the film industry that's sure to last for generations to come, so it's only fair to commemorate the most defining roles of her career at this point. Here are her 10 most iconic and eccentric performances.
Bonham Carter's earlier career consisted mostly of period dramas and adaptations, which made her perfect for a role in Franco Zeffirelli's take on one of Shakespeare's most famous works, Hamlet.
The films stars Mel Gibson as Hamlet himself, and features Glenn Close, Alan Bates, Paul Scofield, Ian Holm, Stephen Dillane, and Nathaniel Parker alongside Bonham Character, who plays young, love-stricken Ophelia.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)
Character: Elizabeth Frankenstein
Combining the characteristic period adaptations of her early career with the signature gothic style of her later roles, Kenneth Branagh's 1994 film served as a transitional piece for Helena Bonham Carter, which helped her turn her eye to an ever-expanding array of interesting characters from then on.
The film stars Robert De Niro, and apart from Bonham Carter, includes the talent of Kenneth Branagh himself (who was also the director), Tom Hulce, Ian Holm, John Cleese, and Aidan Quinn.
Fight Club (1999)
Character: Marla Singer
Perhaps one of Bonham Carter's most stunning breakthroughs into the fascinating corners of cult films was the fan favorite Fight Club. We can't talk about it, though…
We'll just say this: the film was based on Chuck Palahniuk's 1996 novel, and directed by David Fincher. It stars Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden and Edward Norton as the unnamed narrator, alongside Helena Bonham Carter herself, who plays their quirky love-interest, Marla Singer.
Planet of the Apes (2001)
On her first collaboration with director Tim Burton, Bonham Carter delved into the surreal world of Planet of the Apes in this reimagining of the 1968 classic of the same name, based on Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel.
Burton's adaptation was panned by critics, which led 20th Century Fox to decide not to produce a sequel (rebooting the whole franchise in 2011 instead). Regardless, this marked an important step for Bonham Carter's career and personal life, who would go on to marry Tim Burton and collaborate with him in many subsequent projects. The two, together with Johnny Depp, made up one of the most endearing teams in Hollywood for years.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Character: Mrs. Bucket
Not long after Planet of the Apes, Bonham Carter appeared in another Tim Burton film, Big Fish. Right after that, the couple worked on the unusual remake of the beloved Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), which follows Charlie Bucket as he tours Willy Wonka's chocolate factory after winning a contest.
Burton's version stars Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka and Freddie Highmore as Charlie Bucket, featuring David Kelly, Noah Taylor, Missi Pyle, James Fox, Deep Roy and Christopher Lee. Helena Bonham Carter charmingly plays Charlie's mother in a heartwarming performance.
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Corpse Bride (2005)
Character: Emily, the Corpse Bride
In yet another collaboration with Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter gives life to an undead bride in this animated dark comedy. It has since become a stop-motion classic with plenty of charisma and great humor.
The film also stars Johnny Depp in the role of Victor, a shy, unassuming groom who's accidentally taken to the Land of the Dead shortly before his wedding. Emily Watson, Danny Elfman, Paul Whitehouse, Albert Finney, Richard E. Grant, and Christopher Lee are also included in the stellar cast.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Character: Bellatrix Lestrange
Bonham Carter reached a whole new generation with her role as the villainous Bellatrix Lestrange in the final four Harry Potter films, starting with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Her performance received widespread critical acclaim, and opened the doors to new frontiers while cementing her reputation of a fantastic gothic-style actress, well suited for unusual and complex roles.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Character: Red Queen / Iracebeth of Crims
Speaking of unusual, this is arguably one of the strangest and quirkiest roles Bonham Carter has ever played. Widely distorted with the magic of CGI to become a big-headed evil Queen, Bonham Carter delved into the surreal world of Alice in Wonderland in this Tim Burton adaptation of Lewis Carrol's classic story.
The all-star cast of this production also includes Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Mia Wasikowska, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, and Timothy Spall.
The King's Speech (2010)
Character: Elizabeth, The Queen Mother
In a refreshing return to less bizarre period dramas, Bonham Carter stars alongside Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in a wonderful historical film about the friendship between King George VI and Lionel Logue, as the latter helps the former with the challenges of stammering and leading a kingdom on the verge of World War II.
The film is fantastically acted, and Bonham Carter's role as Elizabeth, the future Queen Mother, is memorable to say the least. Truly worth a watch.
Les Misérables (2012)
Character: Mme. Thénardier
Victor Hugo's 1862 larger-than-life historical epic has been adapted time and time again into countless movies, retellings, and a world-famous musical. Filled with an amazing score and unforgettable numbers, the musical has grown as one of the most successful productions in history—so it's no surprise Hollywood decided to adapt it into a film.
It's an interesting attempt with great production value and acting, though some of the singing is dubiously out of tune—to say the least. Still, Helena Bonham Carter's performance as the wicked Mademoiselle Thénardier is great, and together with Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays her evil and greedy husband, Monsieur Thénardier, give us one of the most memorable portrayals of the infamous couple.
The film's cast also includes Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, and Amanda Seyfried. This was Bonham Carter's second collaboration with Tim Hooper following The King's Speech.
There are plenty more amazing performances and characters by Helena Bonham Carter, too many to include in this list. After many decades in the industry and a lot of hard work, she has cemented her reputation as both an unconventional and talented actress whose eccentric characterizations will surely be remembered for years to come.