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In her new film The Children Act (Rel: September 14), Emma Thompson plays a high court judge who tries to do the right thing by a young man who’s refusing a blood transfusion on religious grounds. But the right thing isn’t always clear-cut…

This isn’t the first time Thompson (who we love as a person as well as an actress) has played a character whose goal is to help people. Here are nine of her standout “do-gooder” roles:

1. In the Name of the Father (1993) 

In 1993, Daniel Day-Lewis took on the role of Gerry Conlon, a man accused of carrying out a terrorist act for the IRA, in the biopic In the Name of the Father. It was based on Conlon’s memoir, and recalls how Conlon and three other men were unjustly convicted for a 1974 IRA bombing that killed five people. In a performance that would win her an Oscar nomination, Thompson portrays Gareth Peirce, the lawyer who took on their case.

2. Sense and Sensibility (1995) 

Jane Austen‘s Sense and Sensibility was brought to the big screen in 1995, starring an ensemble cast made up of Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant and Tom Wilkinson. Set in 18th century England, the story revolves around a recently widowed woman and her three daughters. Thompson takes on the role of the eldest daughter, Elinor, who puts everyone else first.

3. Love Actually (2003)

This much-loved romcom from 2003 follows multiple storylines, but one of the more memorable is the broken connection between married couple and parents, Karen (Thompson) and Harry (Alan Rickman). Harry catches the attention of a young woman in the office and pursues an affair. When Karen discovers what’s going on, she confronts the situation but also works to keep her family together.

4. Nanny McPhee (2005)

Colin Firth takes on the role of Mr. Brown in 2005’s Nanny McPhee. He’s the single father to seven children, who’s lost complete control of the house since his wife’s death. Thompson plays a magical governess, Nanny McPhee, who arrives in the nick of time. She helps set everything straight, including Mr. Brown’s love life.

5. Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

In 2006’s Stranger Than Fiction, Thompson plays thriller author Karen Eiffel. She’s working on a new novel, but can’t figure out how to kill off her lead character. What she doesn’t realize is that her protagonist, Harold Crick (Will Ferrell), is… real. He becomes aware of her narrating and she finds herself facing a conundrum: Does she do right by her readers and give the book a proper ending? Or, save her hero?

6. Last Chance Harvey (2008) 

Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) is having a bad run of it in Last Chance Harvey (2008). He’s just lost his job and right after that, learns his daughter wants another man to give her away at her wedding. He goes to have a drink to avoid his problems and ends up befriending a woman (Thompson) who’s also on her own. She offers him some comfort with conversation and companionship.

7. Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

In 2013’s Saving Mr. Banks, Thompson portrays real-life author P.L. Travers. She comes across as a bit curmudgeonly and not really into Walt Disney‘s plan to adapt her book Mary Poppins into a movie. But we’ll forgive some of her grumpiness because after all, she DID bring us the magical flying governess who, we learn, was created by Travers as a way to cope with her father’s destitution. Eventually, she eased up and was okay with the singing penguins in the finished film.

8. Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016) 

Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) finds herself expecting in the third installment of the Bridget Jones’s Diary film series, Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016). She’s been seeing two men at the same time, when she learns she’s pregnant. Thompson takes on the role of her understanding gynecologist, Dr. Rawlings. She helps Bridget stall, until the mother-to-be figures out how to deliver the news.

9. Beauty and the Beast (2017) 

And, finally, Thompson plays Mrs. Potts in the start of the live-action Beauty and the Beast (2017), and later an animated teapot. She is one of the few who knew the Beast (Dan Stevens) as a young boy. Knowing he wasn’t always so pained and mean, she has a soft spot for him. She cheers for him and even helps Belle (Emma Watson) see the prince she knows is buried under all that beastly angst.

What’s your favorite Emma Thompson role? 

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Filed Under: Emma Thompson
By Brigid Brown