With no formal acting training before landing her first role, Lena Headey has become one of the most iconic and recognizable faces to grace the big and small screen. Best known for her role in the HBO hit series Game of Thrones, she has quite a long filmography dating all the way back to 1992.
Currently, Headey has two films and three television shows in the works. With movies like The Jungle Book, 300, and The Purge in her repertoire, her acting range knows no bounds. Her presence on-screen is powerful and unyielding as she embodies the true essence of every character she portrays. These are some of her greatest performances.
10 Dr. Kathryn Jennings – The Cave
In the 2005 horror film, The Cave, Headey plays biologist, Dr. Kathryn Jennings. Along with a team of scientists and spelunkers, she sets out to explore an uncharted cave the has been hidden beneath the ruins of an abbey for centuries. What they discover below the surface is the stuff of nightmares, and Headey does a fantastic job of displaying both fear and curiosity.
9 Angelika – The Brothers Grimm
Portraying the huntress, Angelika, in the 2005 adventure fantasy, The Brothers Grimm, Headey gets to show off her archery skills. This movie shows a different side of the famous Grimm brothers, depicting them as con artists who just so happen to fall into a real fairytale. In this telling, Angelika is killed and later resurrected by true love’s kiss, which is a common theme in many Grimm stories.
8 Scarlet – Gunpowder Milkshake
In her most recent film Gunpowder Milkshake, Headey plays a hitwoman/single mother who has to abandon her child to survive. Leaving her daughter (Sam) in the care of Nathan, the head of a hit company, Scarlet returns years later to help Sam fight off henchmen who are sent by Nathan to kill her. This video game-style film is full of action and fighting scenes that allow Headey to showcase her athletic prowess. A sequel is already in the works.
7 Mary Sandlin – The Purge
The role of Mary Sandlin in the 2013 dystopian horror film, The Purge, is a very different character for Headey to portray. A housewife and mother of two, Mary depends heavily on her husband James and the security company he works for. However, she quickly realizes that there isn’t much stopping the masked gang of would-be intruders from entering their home and killing them. She is forced to defend herself and her children in ways that she never imagined, and her horror is evident in Headey’s impeccable performance. The movie sparked a series of sequels with the sixth film currently being underway.
6 Ma-Ma – Dredd
Another surprising role in Headey’s vast repertoire of characters is that of Ma-Ma in the 2012 reboot, Dredd. Starring alongside Karl Urban, she plays a drug lord who is the only supplier of the latest addictive substance known as Slo-Mo. Not only is she cruel beyond measure, but she has absolutely no fear even when the infamous Judge Dredd goes after her.
5 Guinevere – Merlin
Arguably the precursor for her iconic role in Game of Thrones, Headey’s performance as Guinevere in the 1998 miniseries, Merlin, is breathtaking. Wife of King Arthur and Queen of Camelot, Guinevere falls in love with Lancelot while her husband goes off on an extended quest to find the Holy Grail. Nearly burned at the stake upon his return, Guinevere is rescued at the last second by her lover and whisked away.
4 Kitty – The Jungle Book
Based on the book by Ronald Yanover and Mark Geldman, the 1994 adaptation, The Jungle Book, was Headey’s first major motion picture. Portraying Kitty, the daughter of Colonel Geoffrey Brydon, she falls in love with her childhood friend, Mowgli. Meanwhile, Captain William Boone – who is obsessed with the idea of marrying her – attempts to Mowgli at every chance he gets. The pair face off against Boone in a treasure-filled room where the villain is later killed by Kaa – a giant anaconda.
3 Sarah Connor – The Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
As a television spin-off of the Terminator franchise, The Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles depicts the journey of Sarah and her son, John, about four years after the events in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. At this point, Sarah has reprogrammed a terminator, Cameron, to protect John. This storyline sets up the plot for later installments, and it allows Headey to play a tough, gunslinging fighter once again.
2 Queen Gorgo – 300
In the 2006 historical film, 300, Headey plays Queen Gorgo, wife of King Leonidas. When her husband leaves to fight the Persian army of 300,000 soldiers with only 300 warriors, she attempts to get the Spartan Council to send help. Determined to save her husband and his men, she eventually succeeds in her mission after being deceived and publicly humiliated by a corrupt politician. However, it is too late, and every Spartan soldier is killed in battle. This iconic role is yet another precursor to her character in Game of Thrones.
1 Cersei Lannister – Game of Thrones
In her most memorable performance yet, Headey’s portrayal of Queen Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones is one for the books. Nominated numerous times for various awards including the Emmys, the Golden Globes, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, she ran with this character from 2011 until 2019. Staring off in season one as an antagonist, she maintains her villainous role throughout the series. However, this label does not stop her character from enjoying a fantastic story arc. Her goal is to maintain power or die, and she does just that.
Carla Gugino’s style is emboldened and graceful no matter what character she is playing, and her vast filmography showcases her expansive range.
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