Pierce Brosnan: His 10 best movie roles

Pierce Brosnan's best movie roles. (Everett Collection)
Pierce Brosnan's best movie roles. (Everett Collection)

In 1980, a 27-year-old by the name of Pierce Brosnan made his big screen debut as ‘Irishman #1’ in the Brit gangster flick The Long Good Friday.

In the years since, Ireland’s finest has established himself as one of our most treasured actors, taking on roles as diverse as an IRA soldier-turned-politician, a hitman with a mid-life crisis, a billionaire playboy thief and a sorcerous superhero, not to mention a certain vodka-martini-swigging secret agent.

Read more: GoldenEye was Bond's most important reboot

As the silver fox turns 70, we’re looking back over his 43-year movie career to remember some of his very best roles…

And no, Mamma Mia! — and his singing — didn’t quite make it, sorry.

10) Black Adam | 2022

(L-r) PIERCE BROSNAN as Dr. Fate and DWAYNE JOHNSON as Black Adam in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “BLACK ADAM,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Pierce Brosnan as Dr Fate with Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam. (Warner Bros.)

Okay, so Dwayne Johnson’s ill-fated stab at superhero glory may not have tickled moviegoers or critics, but most reviews agreed that Pierce Brosnan’s Dr Fate – a Justice Society member with the power to manipulate reality – was one of the film’s saving graces.

A pity then that the movie was such a box office dud we’re unlikely to see the character again.

Black Adam is available to rent or buy on VOD.

9) Mars Attacks! | 1996

Irish actor Pierce Brosnan on the set of Mars Attacks!, directed by Tim Burton. (Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Pierce Brosnan on the set of Mars Attacks!, directed by Tim Burton. (Warner Bros. Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Pierce Brosnan was just one name among a constellation of star turns in this gonzo sci-fi spectacular from Tim Burton. Alongside such luminaries as Jack Black, Glenn Close, Danny DeVito, Natalie Portman, Michael J Fox, Rod Steiger and, er, Tom Jones, he stars as a professor assigned by Jack Nicolson’s US President to negotiate with the invading aliens.

Sadly, Brosnan doesn’t share a scene with Jones, denying James Bond fans a juicy team-up of 007 icons.

Mars Attacks! is available to rent or buy on VOD.

8) Mrs Doubtfire | 1993

Sally Field and Pierce Brosnan in 1993's Mrs. Doubtfire. (20th Century Fox)
Sally Field and Pierce Brosnan in 1993's Mrs. Doubtfire. (20th Century Fox)

Robin Williams may have the showiest role in this cross-dressing family favourite, but PB gives solid support as Williams’ ex-wife’s slick new squeeze. In most other actors’ hands, the character of Stu Dunmeyer might have come across as a hissable slimeball, but Brosnan’s innate likeability makes him so much more than a cartoon villain.

7) The World’s End | 2013

After including Timothy Dalton in the pair’s previous Cornetto flick, Hot Fuzz, now it was time for Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright to call on his successor as Bond for their trilogy closer, The World’s End. Centred around a bunch of mates reuniting for a pub crawl in their hometown while an alien invasion is kicking off, Brosnan pops up as the boys’ old teacher, who, they soon discover, has struck a deal with the extra-terrestrials.

Read more: Pierce Brosnan has no regrets over James Bond: 'It's the gift that keeps on giving'

“They’re here to help us, to straighten us out, to prepare us for the big league,” he tells his former pupils.

The World's End is streaming on Prime Video.

6) The Ghost | 2010

Ewan McGregor gets top billing as the ghost writer assigned to pen a biography of a former British Prime Minister, only to dig up some shocking secrets.

Brosnan is pitch-perfect casting as former PM Adam Lang, a performance he based, he claims, on Tony Blair. Despite not being a straight impersonation, PB absolutely nails the one-time Labour leader’s oily charm.

The Ghost is streaming on Netflix and ITVX.

5) The Matador | 2005

Pierce Brosnan in THE MATADOR. 2005
Pierce Brosnan in 2005's The Matador. (Alamy)

In this criminally underseen black comedy from writer-director Richard Shepard, Brosnan is Julian, a hard-drinking, chain-smoking professional hitman navigating a mid-life crisis.

The film’s full of cracking lines (on being told he's looking well, Julian replies: "Oh please, I look like a Bangkok hooker on a Sunday morning after the navy left town"), which no doubt helped Brosnan secure a nomination for Best Actor In A Musical Or Comedy at the 63rd Golden Globe awards.

The Matador is currently only available on DVD.

4) The Foreigner | 2017

Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan in 2017's The Foreigner. (Alamy)

Brosnan found himself reunited with his GoldenEye director Martin Campbell for this taut and twisty action-thriller from 2017. Jackie Chan stars as a former Vietnam special ops soldier whose daughter is killed in a terrorist attack, while Brosnan plays an IRA member-turned Irish government official who Chan believes was involved in her murder.

The Foreigner is streaming on Netflix.

3) The Long Good Friday | 1980

Brosnan isn’t in this film – his feature debut – much, but he leaves a lasting impression as the Irish hitman with matinee idol looks.

He only really appears in the film in the opening moments (flirting with, and then stabbing Paul Freeman’s Colin at a swimming pool) and again in the movie’s iconic closing scene, pointing a gun at Bob Hoskins’ London gangster Harold Shand as the IRA speed their intended victim away.

Read more: Why 007 has endured as a movie mainstay and will again

The Long Good Friday is available to rent or buy on VOD.

2) The Thomas Crown Affair | 1999

Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo sitting in a car together in a scene from the film 'The Thomas Crown Affair', 1999. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)
Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo in a scene from the film The Thomas Crown Affair, 1999. (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

For most actors, stepping into the shoes of the mighty Steve McQueen would have been a daunting task, but after inheriting James Bond from Sean Connery and Roger Moore, taking on the role of the billionaire criminal Thomas Crown probably didn’t seem such a big deal.

John McTiernan’s snazzy remake of Norman Jewison’s 1968 original isn’t quite in the same league, but Brosnan is in fine form, oozing effortless, high society cool.

The Thomas Crown is available to rent or buy on VOD or stream via MGM on Prime Video.

1) GoldenEye | 1995

Irish actor Pierce Brosnan poses in the hatch of a Russian T55 Main Battle Tank holding a Kalashnikov automatic rifle, in a publicity still for the James Bond film 'GoldenEye', 1995. (Photo by Keith Hamshere/Getty Images)
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 1995's GoldenEye. (Keith Hamshere/Getty Images)

That Brosnan had been dreaming of this role for eight years (he was originally approached for 1987’s The Living Daylights, but was contracted to the TV series Remington Steele) means that he hit the ground running for his first Bond feature.

Read more: Pierce Brosnan's long wait to play 007

Not even Connery or Moore looked as right in a tux as Brosnan (it’s like he was poured into it) and when he utters those immortal words (“The name’s Bond, James Bond”) it’s clear that he owned that role just as much as his illustrious predecessors.

PB would go on to headline another three 007 movies, but it’s his Martin Campbell-directed debut that most fans agree is his chefs d'oeuvre.

GoldenEye is available to rent or buy on VOD.