In 2008, the world of Narnia added a new character when Prince Caspian rode onto the scene and cast a spotlight on the talented newcomer Ben Barnes. Like many viewers this was my first introduction to Barnes as he portrayed Caspian in the sequel to the hit movie The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, fighting alongside the Pevensie siblings for the fate of Narnia against the corrupt King Miraz. A much younger me went to the movies that day for another journey to Narnia with the characters I knew and loved, and I left with a new actor to follow as his career began to grow. With the role of Prince Caspian came a new level of fame for Barnes and another film in the Narnia trilogy, this time it was Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In Dawn Treader we see Caspian grow from a prince into his true role as King of Narnia and the responsibilities that follow. As a fan, it was an amazing experience watching Barnes grow alongside his character into a more established actor bringing new layers and depth to his roles.
Over the years Barnes has built an expansive resume of independent films, television, and huge mainstream movies. With his charm and those deep dark eyes that draw you in, Barnes commands your attention the second he steps onto the screen. With a penchant for choosing to play the “bad guys,” Barnes never fails to humanize them in some way and suddenly you find yourself thinking, well maybe he’s not so bad after all. In recent years, Barnes has really stolen the show in every project he’s been a part of, whether it’s Marvel’s Punisher or HBO’s Westworld, he always leaves you wanting to know more about his characters.
As with many actors, a lot of focus goes toward their more mainstream roles while smaller projects get passed over. I am going to try to remedy this by offering some of my favorite Ben Barnes roles below. Some of these I’m sure you’ve heard of, but hopefully you will find a new movie or show to check out. As a warning there may be some slight spoilers below for the projects.
Shadow and Bone (2021- )
This Netflix television series had to be the first I included on this list! Based on two book series written by Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone is an amazing mix of fantasy and espionage. Barnes plays General Kirigan, also known as the Darkling. With a name like that you can guess what side this character lands on in the dynamics between the Grisha and non-gifted individuals. Grisha are people who can practice the small sciences, powers that are extensions of nature like wind, fire, heart, etc. Kirigan is a very rare shadow summoner that is looking for his equal in a sun summoner that will help vanquish the Fold, a large strip of pure darkness filled with monsters that splits the country in half. Barnes brings a deeply layered performance to the Darkling that will have viewers considering his point of view instead of just writing him off as a textbook villain. Shadow and Bone has been renewed for a Season 2 coming soon to Netflix.
Dorian Gray (2009)
Barnes plays the title character of Dorian Gray in this film adaptation directed by Oliver Parker. Alongside Colin Firth as Lord Henry Wotton, Barnes brings this classic character to life with a new charismatic charm as we follow Gray on his descent into darkness. The movie begins with Wotton taking Gray under his wing to show him the world of Victorian London and a portrait painted to capture the youthful beauty of Gray. When a pledge is made that he would give anything to stay as perfect as he is in the portrait, a soul is traded for eternal youth. Soon, things take a turn as sins are committed and Gray notices they show as physical imperfections on the painting. Lies, seduction, and even murder pave the path to Gray’s inevitable destruction.
Marvel’s The Punisher (2017-2019)
Another Netflix series, this time a Marvel antihero story focused on Frank Castle known as the Punisher. After Castle’s family is murdered, the veteran Marine becomes a vigilante whose only goal is to have revenge on those at fault. Barnes plays Castle’s best friend Billy Russo, having served together for eight years in the Marines, the two men are like brothers. When it is revealed that Russo had betrayed his friend, all bets are off and an all out war breaks out between the two men. Russo could just be another cookie cutter bad guy but Barnes brings a sympathy to the character that is highly unexpected, especially in the second season. This isn’t your normal Marvel series; get ready to experience a gritty, violent, and at times heart-wrenching story. If you have a soft spot in your heart for the villain like I do, you will find watching Russo’s journey very moving.
Jackie and Ryan (2014)
This film is one of my personal favorites on this list. Jackie and Ryan is a story about the lives of two people struggling through life in their own ways who cross paths in an unexpected way. Barnes plays Ryan, a nomadic train hopper who is working hard to become a professional bluegrass musician. Jackie is played by Katherine Heigl, recently separated from her husband and battling for custody of their daughter. Jackie is struggling while coming to terms with her past fame as a musician. Fate brings them together by chance and leads to a life changing connection. Jackie challenges Ryan to let his own voice be heard, while Ryan in turn helps give Jackie the confidence she needs to take control of her life. This heart-warming story is filled with many amazing bluegrass songs that will leave you asking, when will Ben Barnes be releasing his own album? (We’re waiting, Ben.)
Westworld is a series that takes viewers to an amusement park that’s beyond your wildest dreams. This futuristic park takes visitors back to the times of the wild west by using artificial intelligence known as hosts to help visitors live out their greatest fantasies along with their deepest and darkest desires. Barnes plays Logan Delos, who leads his father’s company to invest in Westworld. His story begins with bringing his future brother-in-law to the park for a bachelor party which soon turns into much more than they bargained for. Again we find Barnes playing a deliciously flawed character that just loves to cause trouble and could be a simple trust fund playboy, but in the hands of Barnes, Logan becomes more.
Easy Virtue (2008)
This movie is considered a hidden gem that isn’t known by many people. Easy Virtue has a surprisingly stacked cast with Jessica Biel, Kristin Scott Thomas, and again we see Colin Firth and Barnes together in a film. This comedy centers around American widow Larita, played by Biel, and Barnes’ character John Whittaker and their whirlwind romance. When the newlyweds return to England and the Whittaker family estate they are not met with open arms, John’s mother takes a rather immediate dislike to her new daughter in law. While trying to win over her new family comedy ensues and family tensions rise. This film was relatively early in Barnes’s career and showcases his ease with comedy.
Seventh Son (2014)
This film brings Barnes back to his fantasy roots as Tom Ward who is, as the title states, a seventh son of a seventh son and this makes him the new apprentice of a witch hunter. Barnes is again surrounded by an impressive cast with Jeff Bridges, Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, and Julianne Moore. Gregory, played by Bridges, plays the last of his kind of witch hunters that must find a new apprentice, which brings him to Ward. Together they must locate and eliminate a group of witches that had nefarious plans that will change the fate of the world as they know it. Along the way, Ward meets a young woman named Alice, played by Vikander, who is half witch and soon falls for her, much to the dismay of Gregory. This film is a rollercoaster of a journey through a rich world full of creatures, characters, and choices that will have major consequences. Barnes shows the full journey from naive young man to a fully developed witch hunter ready to step up to his destiny.
Killing Bono (2011)
In this film, we see Barnes fully use his comedic talents beside Robert Sheehan in a very loosely based on a true story. The band that almost was: imagine being friends with U2 in their early days before the fame and watching them skyrocket while you’re always coming in second. That was what happened to the McCormick brothers. Barnes gets to show off skills with an Irish accent in this film while playing Neil McCormick. Again, his talented vocals are on display as the lead man in the band. If you’re looking for a dark comedy to check out, this movie is for you.
These are just a few of the many projects in Ben Barnes’ filmography that are worthy of checking out. The amount of dedication and care Barnes puts into every character he portrays is clearly evident on the screen. He always shows such excitement and enthusiasm for his projects and tends to share special behind the scenes moments on his social media. Just taking a peek at his Instagram you can easily see his love for music and his close relationships with his co-stars, the way they speak of him in interviews shows what a kind, giving, and mentoring heart he has. Barnes has said that it took him a while to figure out his place in the Hollywood limelight and to do things that he himself would want to watch. The respect he has for his work and for every person involved in getting it to the finish line is evident. I have been proud to call myself a fan of Barnes from all the way back in 2008 to the present day, and I can not wait to see what season 2 of Shadow and Bone will hold! In the final moments of season 1, the Darkling turns to look at the camera and says, “Follow,” and that is what I plan to do. The future for Ben Barnes is bright, and I plan on being there to see what it holds.