Updated On: November 06, 2023 by   Yasmin Elwan   Yasmin Elwan  

Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley: the British Queen of Period Dramas

Keira Knightley’s remarkable talent has been captivating audiences for the last two decades, making her one of the most celebrated and recognised actresses in the world of cinema.  Even though Knightley’s repertoire is full of period dramas, it’s not limited to this particular type of role, as she has taken on a diverse range of projects […]



Keira Knightley’s remarkable talent has been captivating audiences for the last two decades, making her one of the most celebrated and recognised actresses in the world of cinema. 

Even though Knightley’s repertoire is full of period dramas, it’s not limited to this particular type of role, as she has taken on a diverse range of projects spanning various genres. 

The role of Elizabeth Swann in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series propelled Keira Knightley to the next level of fame, and ever since, she has solidified her place as one of Hollywood’s top actors. 

Keira Knightley

Knightley’s versatility as an actress is truly remarkable, as she has managed to draw in audiences in billion-dollar blockbusters, heart-wrenching dramas, and beloved adaptations alike. Despite receiving mixed reviews, her performance in those films still managed to garner some well-deserved praise.

What We Know About Keira Knightley’s Early Life

Hollywood’s pretty star, Keira Knightley, was born in Teddington, Middlesex, England, on March 26, 1985. It’s clear that acting runs in her blood since both of her parents are accomplished actors; her mother, Sharman Macdonald, is a Scottish actress and an award-winning playwright, while her father, Will Knightley, is an English theatre and television actor. 

Young Knightley spent a significant portion of her life in the charming town of Richmond upon Thames and even attended Teddington School and Esher College while living there. Despite struggling with dyslexia, Knightley worked hard to excel in school and make her parents proud. Her dedication paid off, as she was able to pursue her dream of becoming an actress with their support.

How Did Keira Knightley Start Her Acting Career?

Keira Knightley

From her humble beginnings as a teenage actress to her current status as a Hollywood icon, Keira Knightley has faced numerous challenges along the way. Since childhood, she has been passionate about acting, which interestingly coincided with her diagnosis of dyslexia. Now, she’s 38 years old, and her passion for acting still burns bright, and she relentlessly pursues it.  

At the young age of 3, Knightley announced her desire to become an actor and asked her parents for an agent, but her parents thought it would be better to wait until she was 7 to start acting and join an agency. That was when she embarked on her journey as an actress, gracing the small screen with her debut in the memorable Royal Celebration (1993). She also made another unforgettable appearance on the popular television series, The Bill (1995). 

In the mid to late 1990s, she was featured in a number of made-for-television films before landing the role of Sabé, Padmé Amidala’s decoy, in the epic science fiction blockbuster Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace. Basically, she was cast in Star Wars Episode I because of her striking resemblance to Natalie Portman. Interestingly, even their mothers had a hard time telling them apart when they were in full makeup for the movie!

With sheer determination and unwavering commitment, Keira Knightley skyrocketed to fame and became a shining star in the glitzy world of entertainment.

Which Keira Knightley Films Should You Watch?

Knightley’s acting career is nothing short of impressive, with remarkable roles that have left a lasting impact. Her talent for period films is particularly noteworthy, showcasing her incredible aptitude for bringing historical characters to life on the big screen. With a plethora of outstanding performances under her belt, it’s no easy feat to single out just one movie as her absolute best. 

So, we have created the ultimate Keira Knightley movie marathon with this list of the top 15 films featuring the talented actress. From period dramas to action-packed films, these films are sure to entertain you.

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

In 2005, Knightley’s acting career took a thrilling turn as she landed her first of many outstanding historical roles. Keira Knightley’s portrayal in Joe Wright’s adaptation of Jane Austen‘s novel has garnered the best reviews out of all the adaptations of the author’s work. Knightley’s portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet is quite admirable, as she manages to capture her strong-willed and sometimes overly confident nature while still making her a very endearing character.

The movie depicts Elizabeth Bennet and her siblings as individuals who must make strategic marriage choices in order to thrive within their societal framework. The sisters hold a strong belief that love should be the foremost consideration in marriage; however, they are willing to seek a proposal from someone who may be above their financial status. 

Elizabeth’s life takes an exciting turn when Mr Darcy enters the picture, bringing together her passions and financial stability. The path to confessing their true feelings is not an easy one, as they must navigate through some rough patches along the way.

Knightley’s performance in Pride and Prejudice is truly exceptional. Her extraordinary work earned her a nomination for the prestigious Academy Award.

Atonement (2007)

In this fascinating film, we follow the story of Robbie Turner (played by James McAvoy), a young and struggling individual who unexpectedly falls in love with Cecilia (played by Keira Knightley), the daughter of a wealthy family. In a fit of envy, Cecilia’s youngest sister, Briony, falsely accuses Robbie of a heinous crime—raping her sister.

Robbie’s heart was shattered when he and his star-crossed lover went their separate ways. Determined to make amends, he enlists in the military, hoping to find a way to heal his broken heart and make a difference in the world. Robbie’s relentless pursuit of Cecilia borders on insanity as he struggles to win her back.

The film delves into the complex and intense emotions of sisterly resentment, unleashing a whirlwind of dramatic theatrics that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Knightley’s portrayal of Cecilia is amazing, showcasing a strong and self-sufficient woman who embodies the alluring and mysterious qualities of a classic femme fatale.

Although not a typical war movie, the backdrop of World War II sets the tone for our characters and adds a powerful layer of emotion to the story. This film was a true award magnet, having been shortlisted for an impressive 148 awards! Among these were 7 coveted Golden Globes, as well as an Academy Award and 50 other prestigious awards.

The Imitation Game (2014)

The Imitation Game is a thrilling historical epic that will hold you spellbound. The filmmaker and writing team truly deserve a standing ovation for crafting such a well-rounded and enthralling movie. The exceptional talent of the actors cannot be overlooked, particularly Keira Knightley, who delivered a stunning performance in the lead role, earning her a well-deserved second Oscar nomination.

The historical epic centres around the brilliant mathematician Alan Turing, whose extraordinary intellect was in high demand for deciphering Nazi codes during World War II. In the film, Knightley portrays the character of Alan Turing’s partner, Joan Clarke, who is unaware of his true sexual identity. Despite the heartbreaking revelation, she couldn’t bring herself to stop caring for her partner even as she made the difficult decision to separate from him.

The Duchess (2008)

The Duchess showcases Keira Knightley’s portrayal of the glowing and youthful Georgiana, who finds herself betrothed to the shrewd and chilly Duke of Devonshire, played by William Cavendish. They are on a rollercoaster of a relationship, full of disloyalty, shady affairs, and criminal behaviour. After some time, both parties decide to pursue new relationships and come to terms with the significant disagreement between them.

The lead character ties the knot at the tender age of 17, and the plot takes us on a thrilling journey of her growth and transformation over the next decade. This presents a rare chance for the film to demonstrate the evolution of a character through various life stages. 

Knightley’s performance was praised by critics for its subtle and intricate portrayal. Georgiana’s character in the movie is a delightful blend of femininity, wit, and discreet feminism, which is conveyed brilliantly by the highly skilled Keira Knightley.

Begin Again (2013)

Keira Knightley’s filmography boasts a number of fantastic indie films, including Begin Again, where she shares the screen with Hailee Steinfeld and Mark Ruffalo, revealing their top-notch acting skills. In this musical masterpiece, Knightley takes on the role of the talented singer, Gretta, while Ruffalo plays the savvy executive, Dan. But watch out because Steinfeld’s portrayal of Dan’s daughter, Violet, is so enticing that she almost steals the spotlight! 

Amidst the bustling streets and vibrant energy of New York City, they collaborate to create a mesmerising album that captures the city’s essence. Knightley’s singing voice received high acclaim from critics, and to top it off, the song she performed was nominated for an Academy Award! Looking for a refreshing change from Knightley’s classic period dramas? Look no further than this film!

Anna Karenina (2012)

Keira Knightley delivers yet another stunning performance in the period drama Anna Karenina, which tells the story of a high-society socialite and the wife of a powerful statesman. Her life takes a dramatic turn when she crosses paths with Count Vronsky, leading her down a path of passion and scandal that will alter her destiny forever.

Knightley’s portrayal of Anna in this film is simply mesmerising. Alongside her co-star Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Knightley delivers a performance that is both powerful and poignant, making this film an absolute must-see for any fan of romantic dramas. The costume design in this film is absolutely brilliant; it adds an extra layer of awesomeness to it. 

Pirates Of The Caribbean (2003-2006-2007)

Keira Knightley has played many iconic roles throughout her career, but none quite as grand as that of Elizabeth Swann. In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, we are introduced to the charming Elizabeth Swann, who teams up with her love interest Will Turner and the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow to take on a crew of cursed pirates.

The movie’s unexpected success at the box office turned it into a cultural phenomenon, captivating audiences and sparking a franchise that took the world by storm. Knightley’s career boasts several remarkable performances, but her portrayal of Elizabeth Swann in this film and two other sequels of it is truly unforgettable. 

Knightley’s second attempt in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest proved to be a rare opportunity that she seized deftly, showing her impressive development and maturity. With her excellent performance, she breathed new life into the movie by portraying her character with a sense of autonomy and effortless grace. Watching her evolve into a fierce warrior in the sequel of the trilogy is truly captivating.

Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually is the perfect movie to watch if you’re in the mood for a heartwarming rom-com with a festive twist. In this film, you will dive into the lives of multiple couples as they navigate through their own unique challenges during the holiday season. 

The Love Actually movie features an impressive cast of stars that can leave you dazzled and unable to pick a favourite. However, it’s undeniably one of the best Christmas films ever produced, and Keira Knightley gives an absolutely great performance. 

The unforgettable moment between her and Mark (Andrew Lincoln) has become an iconic scene in contemporary cinema. It’s a common fantasy to imagine your soulmate showing up at your doorstep, declaring their love for you.

Colette (2018)

The exquisite cinematography by Giles Nuttgens in Colette transports us to the candlelit world of early 20th-century France, with its contrast between the dense foliage of the countryside and the elaborately furnished rooms of Paris.

Through this film, we follow the intriguing story of Colette, a French novelist whose initial literary works were published under her husband’s name, Henry Gauthier-Villars, portrayed by the talented Dominic West in the film. Colette’s journey in the film is a captivating exploration of her personal and professional growth as a woman. We witness her evolution as she discovers her true desires and ambitions, making for a compelling and inspiring story.

At the end of the film, Knightley delivers a powerful monologue that is truly deserving of an Oscar. It’s one of the most gripping parts of the movie, as Knightley skillfully unravels Colette’s intricate character development, highlighting her defiance of gender norms and power imbalances with ease and nuance.

Keira Knightley’s impressive filmography has left us all eagerly anticipating her next move. What cinematic masterpiece will she grace us with next? The possibilities are endless, and the excitement is palpable. 

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