British star Judi Dench got her start in theater doing Shakespearean plays back in the late '50s. But she became more well-known on this side of the pond in the '90s with her recurring role as M in the James Bond films. The seven-time Oscar nominee (and one-time Academy Award winner) has since built up an impressive Hollywood resume with a flair for period pieces, action and serious drama as well as movies that incorporate her theatrical roots. Since her latest flick, "Victoria & Abdul," is set for release on Sept. 22, 2017, we've ranked some of her major roles over the years from worst to very best.
No. 20: Aereon in "The Chronicles of Riddick"
Judi Dench stepped into the sci-fi world in 2004's "The Chronicles of Riddick" in which she played Aereon, leader of the Elementals living on planet Helion. Vin Diesel swoops in to assist them in defeating the bad-guy Necromongers, who had ruthlessly taken over. But despite some pretty mind-blowing action scenes, the film was a flop with only 29 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, we must admit that Judi's costume was quite memorable — she looked ethereally stunning draped in white for the part.
No. 19: Lilli in "Nine"
Despite a roaring cast — Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson and Penelope Cruz — 2009's big-screen musical "Nine" wasn't much of a critic or fan favorite, scoring about a 38 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes in both categories. Even so, many of its stars were nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes, while Judi Dench's costume designer character, Lilli, was totally overlooked. The supporting role was simply not one of her stand-out performances.
No. 18: Annie Hoover in "J. Edgar"
In 2011, Judi Dench told the BBC how honored and "thrilled" she was when she received a casual phone call from Clint Eastwood asking her to be in the next film he was directing, "J. Edgar." She starred as the fearful, overbearing mother to Leonardo DiCaprio's J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI. But the project wasn't as thrilling to critics, who gave it pretty mixed reviews and an overall 43 percent rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
No. 17: M in "The World is Not Enough"
Judi Dench won over American fans when she took on the role of M in the James Bond franchise, starting with 1995's "GoldenEye" with Pierce Brosnan in the lead. She was the first woman to portray the suave operative's head honcho in the series, telling the BBC, "If you get to boss James Bond, it's pretty cool." But her third run in the role of M is ranked lowest out of her eight appearances: 1999's "The World is Not Enough" only received 51 percent positive reviews from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
No. 16: Ursula in "Ladies In Lavender"
Judi Dench teamed up with Maggie Smith to play sisters in 2005's "Ladies in Lavender." Set in 1930s Cornwall, the siblings find an attractive, much younger injured stranger washed ashore and decide to nurse him back to health. The Polish Jew, who turns out to be a talented violinist trying to get to America, stirs up quite the controversy in their small town. While the period piece was met with so-so reviews with a mere 63 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Judi's performance itself was praised by critics.
No. 15: Arabella in "Tea With Mussolini"
Judi Dench had worked with actress Maggie Smith before: The talented duo starred together in 1998's semi-autobiographical film "Tea with Mussolini," which told the story of Italian filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli's early life in the late '30s. The abandoned boy was raised by a group of cultured women including the likes of Judi's aspiring artist Arabella, who gathered for tea every afternoon. The eccentric role was unique for Judi, but the movie wasn't met with much acclaim and ended up with 65 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
No. 14: Armande Voizin in "Chocolat"
Judi Dench finally began to get some recognition on the awards circuit when she starred in the 2000 romantic drama "Chocolat." Juliette Binoche's Vianne Rocher causes quite the stir when she opens a mystical chocolate shop in a small French town. Her landlord, Judi's Armande Voizin, is the first to experience the magic that ensues after indulging in Vianne's spellbound treats. Despite the film's average fresh rating of 63 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, Judi's work in her supporting role earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award along with an Oscar nod and a Golden Globe nomination.
No. 13: Laura Henderson in "Mrs. Henderson Presents"
Judi Dench had an epic acting moment as the lead in 2005's "Mrs. Henderson Presents." Her recently widowed socialite, Laura Henderson, opts to buy the Windmill Theater in London and give it a provocative overhaul in the midst of World War II. Based on a true story, the flick portrays the controversy surrounding the theater as it introduces Moulin Rouge-style performances (there was nudity!) into the city. Judi was nominated in best actress categories at the Oscars, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
No. 12: Evelyn Greenslade in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
Judi Dench's colorful and culturally rich performance in 2012's "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" — which earned a 78 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes — earned her another Golden Globe nod. She played the role of recently widowed Evelyn Greenslade, who escapes the worries of the debt her husband left her to vacation in India. Initially disappointed by the accommodations, she ends up making life-changing connections with a group of guests and employees at the hotel. Deciding to stay long-term helped set the scene for a sequel, "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," in 2015.
No. 11: M in "Goldeneye"
1995's "GoldenEye" served as Judi Dench's major introduction to the U.S. film market and was the first landmark installment of her character, M, in the James Bond films. The spy-action movie, with Pierce Brosnan taking over as the lead, was praised for bringing the franchise up to date. With Judi at the helm giving orders to James, the film scored a 78 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
No. 10: Iris Murdoch in "Iris"
Judi Dench displayed her wide range as she dug down deep to portray Irish novelist Iris Murdoch in the 2001 biopic "Iris." The film takes viewers on an emotional journey through her deterioration from Alzheimer's disease and showcases the struggles her husband endures as caregiver to the love of his life. Judi earned another Oscar nomination for her performance, which was met with much critical acclaim.
No. 9: Mrs. Fairfax in "Jane Eyre"
Judi Dench took on the role of Mrs. Fairfax in the 2011 British period piece "Jane Eyre," based on the classic 1847 novel by Charlotte Bronte. The film was hailed for its accurate depiction of the book's tale, with a whopping 84 percent positive rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Though the film wasn't a stand-out leading role for Judi, her collaboration with the likes of Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska made for a memorable ensemble performance in one of her seasoned genres.
No. 8: Lady Catherine de Bourgh in "Pride & Prejudice"
Some time before "Jane Eyre," Judi Dench had already tried her hand at a British period film based on a classic novel when she starred in 2005's "Pride & Prejudice," which was modeled after Jane Austen's 1813 romantic work. Judi's Lady Catherine de Bourgh introduces her handsome nephews to some of the Bennet sisters, laying the foundation for the love spirals to follow. The film has an 85 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
No. 7: Barbara Covett in "Notes on a Scandal"
Judi Dench was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her psychologically twisted role in 2006's "Notes on a Scandal." She played Barbara Covett, a stringent history teacher who becomes entangled in a web of drama when she discovers that the school's new art instructor, Cate Blanchett's Sheba Hart, is having an affair with a young student. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave the drama an 87 percent fresh rating for its deceptive, seductive entertainment.
No. 6: Eleanor Lavish in "A Room with a View" tied with Nora Doel in "84 Charing Cross Road"
It's a tie! Judi Dench didn't become a big name in the States until the mid-'90s, but some of her best work took place before then. In 1985, she had a supporting role in "A Room With a View," which boasts a 100 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes to this day. Shortly after, she starred as the wife of Anthony Hopkins' character in the 1987 romance "84 Charing Cross Road" (pictured), which has an 87 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Judi earned BAFTA Film award nominations for her work in both movies (and won a best supporting actress prize for her work in "Room").
No. 5: Queen Elizabeth I in "Shakespeare in Love"
With the entire start of Judi Dench's career entrenched in Shakespearean theater work, it was no surprise that she excelled in the 1998 historically based period piece "Shakespeare in Love." The film, which has a 92 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is a fictional tale of the legendary playwright falling in love while he wrote "Romeo and Juliet." Judi's grand depiction of Queen Elizabeth I was superb: She won an Oscar for the performance and was nominated for a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award.
No. 4: Philomena Lee in "Philomena"
Based on a true story, 2013's "Philomena" depicts the struggle of Judi Dench's Philomena Lee to find her long-lost son who was born out of wedlock almost 50 years earlier and given up for adoption under pressure from her religious Irish Catholic community. Thanks to her performance in the film, which has a 92 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Judi earned herself Oscar, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.
No. 3: M in "Skyfall"
Judi Dench reprised her role as James Bond's boss, M, in 2012's "Skyfall" with Daniel Craig. Though the film marked the end of M's reign, as she tragically died in James's arms, it's also the most screen time Judi's character has seen in the franchise. The plot revolves around an enemy from M's past seeking revenge with an attack on MI6's hard drives. "Skyfall" not only has a 92 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes but was the first of the Bond films to gross more than $1 billion.
No. 2: Mistress Quickly in "Henry V"
Leave it to Shakespearean expert Judi Dench to have one of her best performances occur in a film derived from an actual Shakespeare play. She starred as Mistress Quickly, a local innkeeper, in 1989's British film adaption of "Henry V." While Judi herself wasn't nominated for any awards for the movie, it's hard to deny the drama's high ranking on her list: It has a 100 percent positive rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Plus she's proven time and time again that period pieces are her true niche.
No. 1: Queen Victoria in "Mrs Brown"
Judi Dench truly is the queen of playing queens! She took on the role of Queen Victoria in 1997's "Mrs Brown." The British drama, which has a 94 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, portrays the scandal surrounding the widowed queen's questionable relationship with an Irish servant, Billy Connolly's John Brown, following the death of her husband. Judi won her first best actress Golden Globe Award and earned yet another Oscar nomination for her performance in the film. We can't wait to see how she puts a new spin on Queen Victoria in the upcoming flick "Victoria & Abdul," this time when Victoria has an unexpected connection with a young Indian clerk.