9 Julie Walters films that are simply iconic, from Mamma Mia to The Secret Garden

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From Mamma Mia to Educating Rita, we’re celebrating Julie Walters’ iconic career by looking at her best films.

Dame Julie Walters has said that she has retired from acting, following a battle with stage three bowel cancer. Speaking to The Times last weekend, Walters said the “stress” of acting isn’t good for her health and never really has been. The only reason Walters would come out of retirement is to work on a third Mamma Mia film (but no, that doesn’t mean one is necessarily happening – sorry!). 

It is of course sad news for fans: many people reading this will have grown up watching Walters on their screens. But the good news is that her last film, a reboot or children’s classic tale The Secret Garden, will be available to watch on Sky Cinema and Now TV from 22 October. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the award-winning actor’s iconic career, which has spanned nearly 50 years and seen her win various Bafta, Emmy and Golden Globe awards. 

If you want to go one step further in celebrating Walters’ work, we’ve rounded up the national treasure’s best roles in some of our most favourite films. From Billy Elliot to Calendar Girls, here are nine reasons we absolutely love Walters and will miss her from our screens. 

Billy Elliot (2000)

Billy Elliot tells the beloved tale of an 11-year-old boy growing up in a northern coal mining town under Thatcher’s Britain. He has aspirations of becoming a ballet dancer, which doesn’t go down well with his dad and brother. The woman who helps him realise and reach his potential is chain-smoking, swearing, ballet teacher Sandra, who Walters plays to absolute perfection. 

Julie Walters as Rosie in Mamma Mia
Julie Walters as Rosie in Mamma Mia.

Mamma Mia (2008) & Mamma Mia Here We Go Again (2018)

The film adaptation of ABBA’S stage musical need no introduction. Mamma Mia’s legendary singing group Donna and the Dynamos would not exist without Walters playing fun-loving Rosie. She is comedy gold alongside Christine Baranski and Meryl Streep as on-screen best pals, and they are the ultimate friendship goals for younger generations to take note of. Oh, and her rendition of Take A Chance On Me at the end of the first movie is hilarious.

Julie Walters plays Rita in Educating Rita
Julie Walters plays Rita in Educating Rita.

Educating Rita, 1983

Educating Rita was Walter’s breakout role, which saw her transition from the stage to the big screen and win a Bafta for it. Willy Russell’s story follows Liverpudlian working class hairdresser, Rita, who enrolls at the local college to study English literature under the tutorage of a cynical alcoholic professor (Michael Caine). Although complete opposites, they soon learn unexpected important lessons from each other. 

Julie Walters as Mrs Weasley in Harry Potter.
Julie Walters as Mrs Weasley in Harry Potter.

Harry Potter (2001 - 2011)

No one, and I mean no one, could have played Molly Weasley except Walters. She mastered the perfect blend of  warm and kind but firm and terrifying mum that we all in love with in the Harry Potter books. From sending Ron a furious Howler to delivering the classic line “not my daughter, you bitch!” to Bellatrix Le Strange – she is iconic. 

Julie Walters in Paddington.

Paddington (2014) & Paddington (2017)

I think we can all agree Paddington 2 is one of the best films of all time, right? Walters might have a smaller role in both films as Mrs. Bird, but her charm and warmth fits perfectly with this modern family classic. Let’s be honest, we all cried when she said: “This family needed that wee bear every bit as much as he needed you. There. Said my piece.”

Julie Andrews as Annie in Calendar Girls.
Julie Andrews as Annie in Calendar Girls.

Calendar Girls (2003)

With Dame Helen Mirren and Celia Imrie on board, this retelling of a true story was always set to become a classic. Walters plays Annie, a woman whose husband died of cancer. She decides to help fundraise and raise awareness a for cancer with a group of women who are soon known as the Calendar Girls. It’s uplifting, it’s a tear-jerker, it’s Walters perfection.

Julie Walters as Marion in Wild Rose.
Julie Walters as Marion in Wild Rose.

Wild Rose (2018)

Jessie Buckley won a Bafta for her turn as Rose, a country singer who tries to carve a career for herself after spending time in prison. Walters plays her long-suffering but loving mum who has been looking after Rose’s son while she’s been away. The critics loved it, and so do we.

Julie Walters as Ellen in Mary Poppins Returns.
Julie Walters as Ellen in Mary Poppins Returns.

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

It was only right that Walters played her part in this sequel to one of the most famous children’s stories ever told. She plays Ellen, Michael’s and Jane’s long-time housekeeper, who provides some golden comedy nuggets. 

Julie Walters as Mrs Keogh in Brooklyn.
Julie Walters as Mrs Keogh in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn (2015)

Based on the novel of the same name by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn tells the story of a young Irish girl, Eilis, who lands in 1950s Brooklyn and soon gets used to a freer life. Walters stars as Mrs Keogh, the conservative yet kind-hearted boarding house manager who Eilis stays with. A TV spin-off series starring Walters was announced a few years ago, but it now looks like this won’t be happening. 

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Images: various film distributers 

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…