Maggie Smith’s 10 Most Badass Characters, Ranked

Dame Maggie Smith is one of the most respected and talented actors of a generation. These are some of her most amazing (and badass) roles!

Maggie Smith is one of the most renowned and respected actresses of all time. Her career has been long and lustrous, she continues to regale with complicated female characters and astonishing performances. Over the many decades she has starred in film, television, and theater, Smith has commanded the attention of audiences around the world and garnered many awards.

She shows no signs of stopping any time soon either. She is perhaps best known to modern day audiences for her role as Minerva McGonagall in all eight of the Harry Potter films and on the acclaimed British television series Downton Abbey, but Smith has many more badass roles than just those.

10Diana Barrie

This role was an iconic one both for Maggie’s portrayal and because of its real-life mirror counterpart. In the movie, California Suite, Maggie Smith plays the role of Diana Barrie in one of the film’s segments. She is an actress aspiring to win the Academy Award for Best Actress while also dealing with the ramifications of her marriage falling apart due to her husband’s straying eye.

It’s ironic that Smith’s character sought to receive this prestigious award when in real life, Smith won that very same award at the Oscars for her portrayal of Diana Barrie in the film, one of many awards she has received in her long career.

9Judith Hearne

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne was an iconic role for Maggie Smith. She played the title role of Judith Hearne, a woman who feels sexually deprived by her Catholic upbringing. The exploration of women empowerment and growth within her own sexuality is a promising theme and it garnered Smith plenty of awards recognition.

It’s badass because of its real-life parables. This was a time period where women were still working out how to express themselves sexually without being judged, a shame that carries on to the modern era. She explores both her innocence and her natural sensuality as a woman making waves in society.

8Mrs. Mabel Pettigrew

Maggie Smith’s characters have varied widely from hero to villain and every shade of grey in between. Perhaps a great example of her playing an antagonistic presence is the role of Mabel Pettigrew in the television film, Memento Mori. Her character was a master manipulator and especially gifted in the art of blackmail.

As the villain in this film, Maggie Smith is spectacular. She is sly, mischevious, and downright frightening. Given the premise of this film is death haunting the elderly, it isn’t surprising that Smith could be so absurdly sinister. Her acting career has lasted as long as it has due to her immeasurable talent.

7Lady Myra Naylor

The Last September is a well-crafted ensemble dramatic film with Maggie Smith playing one half of the owner of an Irish country estate. Her character, Lady Myra, is a spirited woman who helps preside over the many guests in the home. The film was directed by an accomplished theater director and as such the movie has the distinctive quality of a stage play.

Smith has always excelled both on stage and screen so she is perfectly adept in her role as Lady Myra. The movie also starred notable British actors like David Tennant and Keeley Hawes. Smith is resplendent and powerful as the domineering Lady Myra.

6Reverend Mother

Sister Act is a beloved 1990s film starring Whoopi Goldberg. The movie is a musical-comedy that went on to spawn a sequel, Maggie Smith played a key role in both movies as the rather stoic Reverend Mother. Initially, Smith’s character is something of an antagonist but she undergoes tremendous growth over the course of the movie and given her burgeoning respect for Goldberg’s character, Sister Mary Clarence.

By the end of the film, Reverend Mother has decided she will remain at the convent after initially handing in her resignation. Mary and Reverend Mother are reunited in the sequel film when the nuns become teachers.

5Constance Trentham

Gosford Park is an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery film that starred Maggie Smith as the intimidating Lady Trentham. The film was praised heavily by critics and audiences alike who were absorbed in the complicated and engaging mystery.

The cast is wide and varied, featuring many acclaimed and accomplished actors and actresses but out of them all, Smith’s character, Constance Trentham rises to the top of the pack as one of the most fearsome and incredible performances in the movie. The television series, Downton Abbey, was initially going to be a spin-off of Gosford Park due to the film’s popularity but eventually morphed into its own project that Smith went on to star in.

4Muriel Donnelly

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was released in 2011. The comedy-drama exceeded all expectations with its box office gross. The movie follows the lives of the elderly in the hotel. Maggie Smith plays Muriel Donnelly, a once-housekeeper who has come to the hotel in order to get a hip operation that would be much cheaper than anything offered in the states.

Her character undergoes serious character development over the course of the film and she is pivotal in keeping the hotel from closing. Muriel partners with Sonny to keep the hotel’s doors open. Smith returned for the sequel film as well due to the popularity of both the movie and her character.

3Jean Brodie

Another role for which Maggie Smith won an Academy Award, she played Jean Brodie, a hard-nosed teacher with fascist tendencies,  in the movie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Her character was a cruel teacher who prided herself on nurturing the best of the best in terms of the girls she taught on a regular basis.

She idolized leaders like Benito Mussolini. She has committed numerous crimes and manipulated several young girls. She believes once she can mold a young girl they are hers for life. Smith’s portrayal is perhaps one of her most famous of all time and proved her varied range as an actress.

2Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess Of Grantham

Downton Abbey is an enormously popular British drama series broadcasted on PBS and ITV. It aired for 52 episodes and has received numerous awards and accolades during its tenure. It was so popular that even after it ended the production company decided to make a Downton Abbey film which is due out later this year.

Smith’s character, Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, is one of the shows most popular characters. She is known for acidic tongue and her difficulty adjusted to change and modern civilities. She has been the antagonist force on the show more than once but is a well-rounded character. Smith has received unanimous praise for her iconic portrayal.

1Minerva McGonagall

It doesn’t get much more badass than Minerva McGonagall, the Transfiguration professor at Hogwarts and a loyal compatriot of Albus Dumbledore. Despite her sternness, McGonagall always had her students best interests at heart and she was a big part of the Battle of Hogwarts, in addition to always looking out for the golden trio.

Her legacy is unforgettable, even now. McGonagall was a gifted witch and animagus with the ability to turn into a tabby cat at will. She was also extraordinarily sharp and intelligent and even though she was a rule-follower, McGonagall knew as well as anyone that sometimes the rules had to be broken to save a life. She even dueled the Dark Lord herself.

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