Winston Churchill was a major political figure during the first half of the 20th century. The writer, military leader and twice-elected prime minister of the United Kingdom was instrumental in forming the alliance that ultimately brought World War II to an end. Over the years, Winston has also become an enduring character in Hollywood. On Nov. 22, 2017, he'll come back to life on the big screen thanks to Gary Oldman, who stars in the biographical drama "Darkest Hour," which explores the days before World War II and the newly elected prime minister's difficult decision to either find common ground with Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler or join Britain's allies and wage war. In honor of the film, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at all the actors who've played the political icon. Keep reading for more…
In 2016, John Lithgow took on the role of Winston Churchill on several episodes of the Netflix original series "The Crown," which explores Queen Elizabeth II's reign. John's performance was so powerful, he won both a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Emmy for his work.
In 2010, English actor Timothy Spall took on the role of Winston Churchill in the Academy Award-winning biographical drama "The King's Speech," which starred Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist. In the film, Winston expresses concern over George's brother, Edward VIII, after Edward abdicates so he can marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Historians took this small but important detail to task, as in real life Winston was an ardent supporter of King Edward and never would have spoken against him.
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In 2002, English actor Albert Finney starred as Winston Churchill in the HBO remake of the movie "The Gathering Storm." The film explores a time in Winston's life that few knew about — when finances were tight after he lost money in the stock market crash of 1929 and hadn't yet returned to the British political sphere. The only person he had on his side (as a second war loomed) was his loving wife, Clemmie Churchill (played by Vanessa Redgrave).
In 2016, comedian and actor Louie Anderson appeared on the hilarious Comedy Central series "Drunk History" as Winston Churchill. The episode featured Theodore Roosevelt's contributions to the game of football and how Winston came to visit Franklin D. Roosevelt during Christmas.
In 1981, British actor Robert Hardy (who passed away at the age of 91 on Aug. 3, 2017) took on the first of what would be many projects that saw him playing Winston Churchill. In this particular instance, it was for the TV miniseries "Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years" co-starring Siân Phillips. Robert went on to play the politician an incredible five more times. His last portrayal was in 2015's TV movie "Churchill: 100 Days that Saved Britain."
In 2009, Emmy-winning Irish actor Brendan Gleeson starred as Winston Churchill in the HBO TV movie "Into the Storm." The film was a sequel to 2002's "The Gathering Storm" and focused on Winston's life and future in politics as WWII came to an end.
Back in 1943 (when Winston Churchill was still alive), Dudley Field Malone (right) had the enormous challenge of playing him on-screen in the war drama "Mission to Moscow," which co-starred Manart Kippen (left). The film is a fictionalized account of Winston's actual trip to Moscow in 1942 to meet with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
In 2010, Canadian actor A.C. Peterson starred in the sci-fi thriller "Paradox" as Winston Churchill, a 130-year-old sorcerer practicing a strange form of science-magic on a parallel Earth that could destroy everyone.
In 1972, Simon Ward starred as a youthful Winston Churchill in the biographical war drama "Young Winston." The film explored the politician's childhood and early days as a war correspondent during the Second Boer War in South Africa. The movie ended at the time when Winston became an elected member of Britain's Parliament.
In 2004, Golden Globe-winning actor Christian Slater starred as Winston Churchill in the war comedy "Churchill: The Hollywood Years." As the title indicates, this film wasn't a biography, but rather an off-the-wall parody that involved a machine gun-slinging Winston (who happened to be a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps) as he tries to save the queen.
In 2016, Screen Actors Guild Award-winning actor Michael Gambon (who you probably remember best as Albus Dumbledore from the "Harry Potter" film franchise) starred as Winston Churchill in the made-for-TV biographical drama "Churchill's Secret." The movie explores the stroke Winston quietly suffered in 1953 and how his family, fellow politicians and even newspapers all conspired to help him keep it a secret from the world.
In 2010 and 2011, British actor Ian McNeice starred as Winston Churchill on four episodes of the world's longest running sci-fi series, "Dr. Who." In his first appearance (Season 5, Episode 2), Winston reaches out to Dr. Who for help, sending him and his companion, Amy, on a mission to rescue the prime minister.
Rod Taylor played British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the 2009 war drama "Inglourious Basterds." The Quentin Tarantino film was a masterful re-imagining of history in which a group of Jewish-American soldiers band together to take down the Third Reich.
There was another Winston Churchill-inspired movie in 2017: Emmy-winning Scottish actor Brian Cox took on the iconic role in the biographical drama "Churchill." The film centers on the four days in 1944 before the British invaded Normandy (known as Operation Overlord) and Winston's hesitations about the mission amid his struggle to maintain influence as the war lingered.
In 2005, British comedian, actor and writer Mel Smith starred as Winston Churchill in the U.K. film and theater production "Allegiance." The story was about the improbable friendship between Winston and Ireland's political leader Michael Collins (after their angry first introduction) and how the two were able to put their differences aside to hash out a plan for unification.
In 1994, Oscar-nominated actor Bob Hoskins starred as Winston Churchill in the made-for-TV drama "World War II: When Lions Roared." The film explored the strategy meeting between America's Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin at the USSR embassy in Tehran, Iran, at the end of WWII.
In 2002, English actor David Ryall took on the role of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the TV movie "Bertie and Elizabeth." ("Bertie" was the nickname of King George VI, whose given first name was Albert.) The movie explored King George's surprising ascension to the throne after brother Edward VIII abdicated to marry an American divorcee as well as his relationship with his wife, the mother of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.
In 2015, British film and theater actor David Calder (right) took to the stage to play Winston Churchill in the West End theater production "The Audience." The play starred actress Kristin Scott Thomas (left) as Queen Elizabeth II and was based on the weekly meetings she was known to have with her prime ministers.
In 1974, Oscar-nominated actor (and Elizabeth Taylor's two-time husband) Richard Burton starred as Winston Churchill in the movie "The Gathering Storm." The film (which was remade by HBO in 2002) explored Winston's role in the British government before the start of World War II.