Today, musician and award-winning actor Idris Elba celebrates his 51st birthday. Throughout his almost 30 year career in the entertainment industry, this London-born star has delivered some powerful performances in both film and television.
From his many appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to his earlier work in The Wire and Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls, here are 10 roles that have defined the career of Idris Elba.
Elba played Russell “Stringer” Bell, Avon Barksdale’s second-in-command in the critically acclaimed HBO drama series, The Wire. Known as his breakout role, Elba appeared in the show’s first three seasons.
Elba stars alongside Gabrielle Union, Louis Gossett Jr., and Tracee Ellis Ross as Monty, a mechanic in a legal battle against his mean-spirited ex-wife over who will get custody of their daughters.
Starring Idris Elba and Beyoncé, the film tells the story of Lisa, an office temp who develops unrequited feelings for her boss, Derek Charles (played by Elba), and repeatedly attempts to seduce him. Derek’s wife learns of Lisa’s obsessive behavior, and suspects an affair.
For over 10 years, Elba has played DCI John Luther, a legendary figure in the Metropolitan Police Service both for his dedication and his ingenious approaches to solving cases. He last appeared in Luther: The Fallen Sun earlier this year.
In 2015, Elba played the fierce and troubled warlord in Beasts of No Nation. His performance earned him a Golden Globe and SAG nomination.
Elba is also a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As Heimdall, the sole protector of the Bifröst in Asgard, Elba made appearances in 6 MCUs to date.
Based on the 1994 autobiographical book Long Walk to Freedom by anti-apartheid revolutionary and former South African President Nelson Mandela, Elba portrayed the titular character.
Elba starred as then ruthless gang leader Rufus Buck in the ensemble western film The Harder They Fall.
In addition to acting, Elba also has dabbled in voiceover roles. In 2022 and 2024 he was the voice of Knuckles the Echidna in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise.
In this film, Elba plays Sam, a talented business negotiator who must use his skills to broker a peaceful end to a hijacking of a seven-hour flight from Dubai to London.