Top 15 Memorable Ewan McGregor Roles
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Top 15 Memorable Ewan McGregor Roles

The name Ewan McGregor is one that many people will know, whether it’s because of Star WarsTrainspotting, or Moulin Rouge!. Whatever you know him from, this Scottish actor is one that is widely loved.

On and off screen, he has a charm and smile that wins people’s hearts and forces them to remember him. Having been in films since the early 90s, McGregor has close to 100 credits to his name.

While some of his roles are extremely well-known it is sometimes the smaller, lesser-known roles that really allow his talent to stand out. We could’ve done a list of films he’s done that remind us why we love him, but instead, we felt taking a look at the roles themselves would be more interesting.

Why do we love this actor so much? It’s because he puts his whole heart into a variety of roles, forcing them off the screen and into our hearts and minds.

In no particular order, here are the Top 15 Memorable Ewan McGregor Roles.

1. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars/Obi-Wan Kenobi)
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi on the Obi-Wan Kenobi series for Disney+.
Ewan McGregor – Obi-Wan Kenobi

One of Ewan McGregor’s most widely known roles is hands down Obi-Wan Kenobi. Even if you haven’t seen Star Wars or the accompanying Disney+ series, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you at least know of the character.

It’s a role that he has been playing since the late 90s, and we love him for it. In fact, the sheer number of fans who love his characterization of the iconic Jedi is why the series came to be.

Many fans relate to the logical yet loving nature of Obi-Wan Kenobi and look to him as a source of brotherly/fatherly advice.

2. Mark Renton (Trainspotting/T2 Trainspotting)
Ewan McGregor as Mark Renton in Trainspotting and T2
Ewan McGregor – Trainspotting/T2 Trainspotting

Another role many Ewan McGregor fans know him for is Mark Renton from the Trainspotting series. Whether it is the first film from 1996 or its sequel from 2017, Renton is a character that has remained at the forefront of our minds for decades.

The journey he goes on, from the throws of drug addiction to getting out and making a life for himself, only to get dragged back to his hometown years later, is a beautiful one. What makes this character all the more remarkable is the humanity that McGregor gives him every step of the way.

We want to wring his neck more often than not, but we also understand his struggle because we’ve experienced something similar. And for McGregor to come back to the character 20 years later only to pick up as though he never left is beyond remarkable.

3. Halston (Halston)
Ewan McGregor as Halston for the series Halston on Netflix.
HALSTON (L to R) REBECCA DAYAN as ELSA PERETTI, EWAN MCGREGOR as HALSTON, and DAVID PITTU as JOE EULA in episode 101 of HALSTON Cr. JOJO WHILDEN/NETFLIX © 2021

One of the more unexpected roles in McGregor’s repertoire came to us in 2021. He took on the role of the famous clothing designer Halston for the Netflix series Halston. And while McGregor is no stranger to playing queer roles, see other entries on this list, the role of Halston is of a more serious nature, and the queerness is more subtle.

It is also a role in which McGregor has to preserve the integrity of someone who existed in real life. Halston isn’t just another fictional character, he was a real man who made real decisions and ruffled some real feathers. Halston’s legacy is one that McGregor takes on and successfully brings to the small screen with an emotionally heavy portrayal of a complicated man.

We don’t expect to like this role, but in the end, we learn something about a person we may have never otherwise understood. Halston proves just how far McGregor’s talent can reach.

4. Christian (Moulin Rouge!)
Ewan McGregor as Christian in Moulin Rouge!
Ewan McGregor – Moulin Rouge!

Another way that Ewan McGregor proves he is a man of many talents is through his role as Christian on the film Moulin Rouge!. As Christian, McGregor must not only act, but he has to also sing and move gracefully around in a more choreographed manner.

This role pushed McGregor to his limits early on in his career and allowed him to stand out against the acting talents of Nicole Kidman. Christian’s charming smile and creative writing talents are only half of what makes this story so beautiful. In the end, it’s his heart that allows viewers to feel the full impact of his doomed love story.

If you have never heard this man sing, then you don’t know what you are missing. And if the only instance of his singing talents that you’ve heard is from Beauty and the Beast you are missing so much more of what he can do.

5. Catcher Block (Down With Love)
Ewan McGregor as Catcher Block on Down With Love
Ewan McGregor – Down With Love

When it comes to roles that Ewan McGregor excels at people don’t automatically think Romantic Comedies. However, based on a few entries on this list, I would have to disagree wholeheartedly.

In fact, some of his most memorable acting moments come from those roles in which he bears his heart and his humor in the name of being the romantic male lead. Catcher Block from the sometimes overlooked but still reasonably iconic Down With Love is one such instance.

Block is the atypical male lead who thinks his charm and his financial status are enough to get him the woman he deserves. Only to learn that she is playing him for a fool the whole time, or is she? What’s so great about this role is we never know what to expect from moment to moment, just that we are enjoying every minute of it.

6. Curt Wild (Velvet Goldmine)
Ewan McGregor as Curt Wild on Velvet Goldmine
Ewan McGregor – Velvet Goldmine

An ode to the glam rock days of the 1980s, Velvet Goldmine also dives headfirst into the societal constraints on sexuality and individuality. We see these themes explored through the eyes of Christian Bale’s Arthur Stuart as he recalls his youth listening to the likes of Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ Brian Slade and Ewan McGregor’s Curt Wild.

The beauty of Curt Wild is that he lives his life freely and without fear of being judged or constrained. He loves Slade and builds a career and a life with him despite Slade betraying him in the end.

While Curt is far from perfect (what rock star is really?) he does have a level of authenticity to him that viewers can easily relate to. There is something so raw about how McGregor portrays the roller coaster that is Curt Wild.

7. Ed Bloom (Big Fish)
Ewan McGregor as Ed Bloom on Big Fish.
Ewan McGregor – Big Fish

Out of all Ewan McGregor’s roles, Big Fish has to be the most whimsically absurd. The premise of the whole film is trying to piece together the reality of Ed Bloom’s life from the outlandish tales he spins for everyone around him, especially his children.

McGregor seamlessly puts on the charm to ensure viewers care about Ed Bloom in all stages of his life. We get to see Ed go through many creatively quirky adventures in order to become the man his children know him as.

It’s a journey that is always fun and full of heart. Even if we don’t always believe everything Ed tells us, we still enjoy the ride because he makes it memorable and exciting.

8. Phillip Morris (I Love You Phillip Morris)
Ewan McGregor as Phillip Morris on I Love You Phillip Morris
Ewan McGregor – I Love You Phillip Morris

The dynamic of Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey is what puts I Love You Phillip Morris over the top. It’s not the greatest film of all time, but we still enjoy learning about these characters and their love affair because it’s lighthearted and sweet.

Once again, McGregor shows audiences that he’s not afraid to stretch his talents and take on a role within the queer community. The Southern, hapless, and naive nature of Phillip Morris captures our attention because McGregor has us believe he’s someone we personally know.

Once again, taking on the role of someone who exists in real life, McGregor took a more comedic look at Phillip Morris’ life and love affair with the con man, Steve Russell. The open way in which Phillip expresses his emotions makes this one of the more dynamic roles McGregor has managed to master.

9. Dan Torrance (Doctor Sleep)
Ewan McGregor as Dan Torrance on Doctor Sleep
Ewan McGregor – Doctor Sleep

It’s never easy to take on the role of an established character decades after originally introduced. However, that’s something Ewan McGregor was already adept at by the time Doctor Sleep comes along, considering what he did as a younger version of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The role of Dan Torrance is an interesting one because the last time we saw him he was a very young child at a hotel observing as his father slowly lost his mind. Now, he is a middle-aged man and dealing with his own supernatural abilities.

What makes this role one to remember is the way in which McGregor gives Dan Torrance a naturally parental quality. Dan Torrance is able to be believed and trusted by the young Abra, who also contains his gift of the “shine.” Together, they create a dynamic duo worth rooting for to the end.

10. Oliver (Beginners),
Christopher Plummer as Hal Fields and Ewan McGregor as Oliver on Beginners
Ewan McGregor – Beginners

In the past decade or so, Ewan McGregor’s roles have taken on a more fatherly nature. After all, he is a father himself, and he has that aura about him that allows viewers to believe his characters care about others.

What makes Beginners such a unique role is that McGregor’s Oliver is a son who has lost his way only to be shown another path when his father comes out as gay. The upheaval this revelation brings to Oliver’s life allows him to re-evaluate what he knows to be true.

It’s a middle-aged journey that some people find themselves on when they have to become the caretakers for their aging parents. Oliver’s struggle and ultimate healing are highly relatable emotions, making him a character who sits with us long after the credits roll.

11. Henry (The Impossible)
Ewan McGregor as Henry on The Impossible
Ewan McGregor – The Impossible

One of the most emotionally heavy roles Ewan McGregor has ever performed, Henry pulls at our heartstrings and breaks our hearts over and over again. He is a man desperate to find his family from which he was separated when a tsunami hit their vacation resort on The Impossible.

Once he locates his two youngest children, Henry must choose between keeping them safe and continuing the search for his oldest son and wife. That impossible decision is evident on his face every moment of the film and makes us want to give him a helping hand.

In the end, Henry’s determination to do both, as a father and husband, helps him to successfully locate the rest of his family. And McGregor’s performance leaves us breathless and hoping that if we are ever in a natural disaster our own parents or partners would stop at nothing like Henry did.

12. Christopher Robin (Christopher Robin)
Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin on Christopher Robin
Ewan McGregor – Christopher Robin

Despite being a live-action Disney film, Christopher Robin deserves to be watched by everyone who is a fan of Ewan McGregor. Once again, taking on a grown-up version of a previously established child character, he shows us that Christopher Robin can be more than his initial two-dimensional take.

As an adult, Christopher Robin has forgotten what it means to be a kid and to have an imagination, which has, in turn, killed his own daughter’s ability to play. However, when Pooh crosses over from the Hundred Acre Wood into the present-day world, Robin is reminded that you never grow out of childlike fantasies and beliefs.

Christopher Robin’s journey from a disbelieving, uninspired adult to a grown-up version of the child we’ve always known and loved is one that McGregor handles with care and respect. This proves further that Ewan McGregor is a natural at playing father characters and has the ability to make us believe in the impossible.

This version of Christopher Robin is a nice dose of nostalgia for those of us who grew up in the Hundred Acre Wood.

13. Swede Levov (American Pastoral)
Ewan McGregor as Swede Levov and Jennifer Connelly as Dawn on American Pastoral
Ewan McGregor – American Pastoral

To this day, American Pastoral remains a hidden gem within film history. It’s not a film that turned too many heads upon its release. However, the story it tells is worth revisiting — especially in today’s climate.

While the character of Seymour “Swede” Levov isn’t that remarkable, his journey to save his family and discover himself is. McGregor nails the many nuances that complicate who Levov seems upon first appearance.

By the end of the film, we no longer see a simple businessman father. Instead, we see a man who loves his family and just wants to keep things from falling apart. It’s a journey well worth experiencing and remembering, and McGregor’s performance takes Levov over the top.

14. Michael (Perfect Sense)
Ewan McGregor as Michael on Perfect Sense
Ewan McGregor – Perfect Sense

One of Ewan McGregor’s lesser-known films, Perfect Sense, tells a love story of relevance even more so in a post-COVID world. Focusing on two people experiencing the changing world around them, this film shows how a viral epidemic can make more complicated matters seem irrelevant.

Michael is a chef whose whole livelihood falls apart when the viral epidemic starts to take away people’s ability to taste anything. No one cares what they eat anymore if they can’t even taste it. This puts him in the direct path of the scientist trying to find a cure for this latest disease.

The two fall in love just as quickly as they both catch the disease and start to lose their senses, too. It’s a complicated love story that is made all the more resonant by McGregor’s slow descent into madness and frustration as Michael loses all that he knows.

15. Dr. Sam Foster (Stay)
Ewan McGregor as Dr. Sam Foster and Ryan Gosling as Henry Letham on Stay
Ewan McGregor – Stay

While not the only thriller Ewan McGregor has done in his career, in fact, it’s only one of many; Stay stands out as one of his strongest performances. The character of Dr. Sam Foster seems to be completely put together and all-together lucid for the majority of the film.

Only to find out later on that, nothing is quite what it seems. The story of Dr. Sam Foster and his patient, Henry Letham, becomes more and more complicated as more information is revealed. What makes these characters isn’t just the performances by Ewan McGregor and Ryan Gosling but their chemistry as well.

By the time the story concludes, audiences are blown away by just how messed up their psyche is by this seemingly innocuous tale of heartbreak, mental illness, and devastation. We, too, stand on that bridge with Sam and Henry, wondering what is reality and what isn’t, which is the beauty of both McGregor and Gosling’s performances.

What Ewan McGregor roles have resonated with you? Did we miss any on our list? Let us know in the comments!

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Mads is a part-time entertainment journalist and full-time marketing content creator. They love reading the latest in Queer novels -- especially romance ones and watching the latest dramas, sci-fi/fantasy, Star Wars, and romcom films/TV shows. You can join the conversation by following them on Twitter: @dorothynyc89.

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