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Sir Ian Holm was known by the later generations as bringing to life the lovable hobbit Bilbo Baggins. Here are his greatest roles.

More than just Bilbo Baggins: All of Ian Holm’s greatest roles

Sir Ian Holm was known by the later generations as bringing to life the lovable hobbit Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Yet the actor had been in the movie game for decades and played in roles that are firmly cemented in cinema history. 

Ian Holm passed away on June 19th from complications of Parkinson’s disease. While Holm was unable to attend the virtual reunion of the Lord of the Rings cast earlier this month, he sent his love, stating he was in lockdown in his own “hobbit home”. Before transitioning to film work, Ian Holm was a renowned theater actor but a severe case of stage fright left him unable to tread the boards. 

Holm found his way back to acting with on-screen roles and eventually established himself as a household name with parts in films like Alien, Chariots of Fire, and The Fifth Element. To celebrate the career of the prolific British actor as he goes on his last adventure, here are Ian Holm’s greatest roles. 

The Bofors Gun 

Holm made his debut on the silver screen in his role of Gunner Flynn in The Bofors Gun. The film’s story covers a tense night of guard duty as a group of soldiers’ guard over an obsolete gun quickly devolves into violence. Ian Holm made a brilliant first impression in the industry, so brilliant that he won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor. 


In the role that brought Holm mainstream attention, Holm played the medical officer Ash alongside Sigourney Weaver’s character Ripley. Ash is later revealed to have closer ties to the alien monster attacking the crew. Holm imbued Ash’s character with a disturbing lack of empathy that left an impression more even more frightening than the killer alien. 

Chariots of Fire

Perhaps the role that Holm is most remembered for is his portrayal of Sam Mussabini, the professional trainer who coaches Harold Abrahams. Holm was nominated for an Oscar and won another BAFTA for his part in Chariots of Fire.

Time Bandits

Holm made a small but memorable appearance in Terry Gilliam’s fantasy adventure film, Time Bandits. Holm played the part of Napoleon Bonaparte, a historical figure the actor portrayed three times in his life. In Time Bandits though, Holm was allowed to bring some humor to the role. 


Brazil was another surreal Terry Gilliam production and Ian Holm got to once more bring out his comedic side by playing a middle management boss in the film’s convoluted, bureaucratic fantasy world. Brazil didn’t receive any acclaim on its release but has since risen to a cult status. 

The Madness of King George

In this film based on a play, Holm gave a masterful portrayal of an ex-minister turned physician, Francis Willis, whose task is to treat the mental health of King George III of England. The Madness of King George was recognized at both the Oscars & the Cannes Film Festival and even secured Holm another BAFTA nomination. 

The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element is a Luc Besson classic that sees Holm in the role of the priest Vito Cornelius, tasked with keeping the fifth element safe and acting as a human contact for the Mondoshawans. Holm worked well in the surreal world of The Fifth Element having already performed in the strange stories of Time Bandits & Brazil

From Hell

From Hell sees Holm in the role of Sir William Gull, a physician to Queen Victoria. The story follows a young officer attempting to apprehend the deranged criminal, Jack the Ripper. Holm gives an understated performance as a man who appears far too gentlemanly to be involved in the crimes, but is he really? 

The Lord of The Rings

Ian Holm’s greatest roles would not be complete without a look at his iconic portrayal of Bilbo Baggins. Holm plays the elderly hobbit as he once more goes off on an adventure to see the elves before he dies. Holm brought warmth & cheer to the role while subtly depicting the complexity of desire brought on by the effects of the ring of power.

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