In Spotlight: Idris Elba’s best movies and TV roles - from Luther to In The Long Run and The Wire

Idris Elba is currently one of Britain's most in-demand actors, well known for his roles in Luther, Sky One’s In The Long Run, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and more…

By Sophia Moir Published: 14 July 2021 - 11.40am
Sky UK Idris Elba In The Long Run

In The Long Run season 3 is available to watch on Sky One with NOW

He was named in the Time 100 list of the Most Influential People in the World, and is one of the top 20 highest-grossing actors in North America.

Indeed, Hackney-born actor, writer and producer Idris Elba - who also DJs under the moniker DJ Big Driis - is one of England's most successful exports.

Elba, 47, has been nominated four times for a Golden Globe award, winning one, along with five Primetime Emmy Award nominations and two Bafta noms.

He’s appeared in top TV shows such as Luther and The Wire, as well as movies and films including Thor and Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Beasts of No Nation. He’s back on our screens in Sky One’s In The Long Run.

We round up some of Idris Elba’s best TV shows and film roles below.

In The Long Run - Walter

Since 2018, Elba has starred as Walter in the semi-autobiographical Sky One sitcom In The Long Run, which he also created.

Walter is the dad of the Easmon family (loosely based on Elba's late father, Winston). Walter arrived in the UK with his wife Agnes seeking a better life, and works in a local factory providing car parts for a larger car factory nearby.

Series 3 of In The Long Run sees the welcome arrival of Walter’s mum from Sierra Leone, with Walter desperate to impress.

In The Long Run season 1-3 box sets are available to watch on Sky One with NOW Entertainment Membership.

Luther - DCI John Luther

Elba has played DCI John Luther in the dark BBC One crime drama of the same name since 2010, and has received critical acclaim for his portrayal of the flawed detective.

Luther is right at the heart of this gripping series, with the British actor’s performance as the dedicated yet troubled police officer earning him both Golden Globe and SAG awards.

Speaking to and other journalists recently, Elba admitted that he's 'made it clear' that he'd like Luther - which aired its fifth season in 2019 - to come back as a film.

Luther seasons 1-5 are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe - Heimdall

Elba has played Heimdall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2011, starring in the films Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: Ragnarok, and Avengers: Infinity War.

Heimdall is the all-seeing and all-hearing Asgardian, and former guard of Asgard's Bifrost Bridge, so the actor largely shares screentime with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who plays the King of Asgard. 

The Wire - Russell 'Stringer' Bell

Elba played Russell 'Stringer' Bell from 2002 to 2004 in HBO drama series The Wire - perhaps his best-known role in the United States.

Business-minded Stringer serves as drug kingpin Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris)'s second-in-command and assumes direct control of the Barksdale Organization - the show's fictional drug-dealing gang - during Avon's imprisonment. 

The Wire season 1-5 box set is available to watch on Sky Atlantic with NOW Entertainment Membership.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela

In 2013, Elba portrayed anti-apartheid revolutionary and former South African President Nelson Mandela in the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, based on the 1995 autobiographical book of the same name.

Elba's performance in the movie, which chronicled Mandela's early life and 27 years in prison before his Presidency, earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama.

The Office (US) - Charles Miner

Elba appeared in the American adaptation of workplace sitcom The Office in 2009, playing Charles Miner in seven episodes during season 5. 

Miner was a new rival to Dunder Mifflin regional manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell), who implements a rigid managerial style over the branch that causes Michael to resign in protest.

His performance led to his character's memorable quote "I am aware of the effect I have on women", after both Angela and Kelly developed an immediate attraction to him.

The Office season 1-9 box set is available to watch on Sky Comedy with NOW Entertainment Membership.

Beasts of No Nation - Commandant

One of Elba's most famous roles is that of the Commandant in the 2015 war drama film Beasts of No Nation, about a young boy named Agu who becomes a child soldier as his country goes through a horrific war. 

The Commandant is the leader of a Native Defense Force rebel battalion in an unnamed West African country, who recruits Agu, the 14-year-old boy whose life is turned upside down.

Elba won the SAG award for his supporting performance, becoming the first movie actor to win a SAG award without being nominated for an Oscar.

Beasts of No Nation is available to watch on Netflix.