Tribute – The Best Ian Holm Roles

On the 19th June acting legend Ian Holm passed away at age 88. Ian Holm was a true professional, managing to stand-out among an ensemble cast without feeling like he was hogging the spotlight. Holm’s came from a Shakespearean training and background, which is clear from his performances but not from his selection of roles. When we conjure up our mental image of Ian Holm he’s starring in some key movies from geek culture. When I think of Ian Holm, I think of these roles.


From Hell

This is certainly not the first movie that anyone is going to immediately leap to because…well…it’s not a great movie. I’m pretty sure Holm was the only one to read the source material, Alan Moore’s graphic novel, which is a complex and fascinating amalgamation of different Ripper theories. This is brought out in Holm’s performance as Jack the Ripper, as he manages to add a quiet complexity to the part. It’s a pity this didn’t catch on with his costars.



Brazil is what the dystopian future will look like if we allow the bureaucrats to take control. A cartoonish, but bleak, world where typos can be deadly and unregulated contractors operate as part of the underground. Ian Holm plays the fascist boss to our hero, Sam, and is an ill-respected little middle manager archetype who we love to hate.


The Fifth Element

I bet you wouldn’t even remember this character if he wasn’t played by such a brilliant actor. You don’t remember his sidekick, do you? Vito Cornelius is a character who is both nervous in company and assured in his beliefs, providing much needed exposition in an engaging manner. This is a barmy movie and we’re glad Holm was part of it.



Alien has one of the best ensemble cast in science fiction history, setting up some complex characters with interesting relationships played largely with a subtle tone. It’s a long time before we get the titular monster on the prowl, so it’s great seeing these actors play off each other. Ian Holm is Ash, the off-putting science officer who argues for procedure and puts their employers wants above all else. Ash feels creepy, but harmless, right up until he very suddenly isn’t. He’s one of the scariest things in Alien, and that’s saying something. This would absolutely be the top of the list if it wasn’t for…


Lord of the Rings

Much of the success found in the Lord of the Rings comes from the amazing casting. Whether they’re fresh-faced newcomers like Orlando Bloom or long established experts of the craft such as Sir Ian McKellen, they were the perfect people for every role. Ian Holm essentially opens the movie as the beloved Bilbo Baggins, and no-one was complaining about Holm’s depiction of the famous Hobbit. Although Martin Freeman was an excellent younger version of the character, Ian Holm will always be Bilbo.

Rest in Peace, Ian Holm.