Almost a hundred years since the character of Hercule Poirot made his debut, one mystery remains…
Which actor’s portrayal is the best?
Created by English crime writer Agatha Christie, the fictional Belgian detective was first introduced in 1920’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
Poirot went on to appear in another 32 novels, a play and more than 50 short stories before Christie’s death in 1976.
The moustached sleuth and Christie’s other crime-busting creations remain hugely popular to this day, with Agatha Christie Hour airing weekdays at 4pm on True Entertainment and an Agatha Christie Weekend coming up on 20th-21st October.
Over the past century, the character of Poirot has been played by more than 20 different actors in various TV, radio and film adaptations.
We recently asked fans to vote for their favourite interpretation of the character in our exclusive poll.
Now that we’ve counted up all the responses, we can reveal the Top 5!
There was one clear winner, however, taking over 86% of the votes – can you guess whose Hercule Poirot performance is the most popular?
5. Alfred Molina
Alfred Molina starred as Poirot in this American-made adaptation in 2001.
The TV movie saw the Spider-Man 2 actor play the detective in the present day, even using a laptop and DNA evidence to aid his investigation.
Despite these modern updates, critics were surprisingly kind, with New York magazine praising Molina as “a fine Poirot – more melancholy than foolish or foppish, shadowed by an unhappy love affair, taller than usual, and much less given to excessive fidgets than a Finney or a Ustinov.”
4. Albert Finney
Skyfall actor Albert Finney only played Poirot once, but is still the only actor ever to get an Oscar nomination for the role.
The Lancashire-born star appeared in Sidney Lumet’s big screen version of Murder on the Orient Express in 1974.
Agatha Christie had just one complaint to make: “It was well made except for one mistake. It was Albert Finney, as my detective Hercule Poirot. I wrote that he had the finest moustache in England — and he didn’t in the film. I thought that a pity — why shouldn’t he?”
The film’s all-star cast included Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, Jacqueline Bisset and Anthony Perkins.
Despite the movie’s box office success, Finney never returned to the character as he felt it left him typecast for years afterwards. “People really do think I am 300 pounds with a French accent,” he revealed.
3. Kenneth Branagh
Famous for his many William Shakespeare adaptations, Kenneth Branagh turned his hand to directing and starring in a new version of Murder on the Orient Express in 2017.
Branagh bagged a starry cast to rival the previous 1974 line-up, with the likes of Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer and Daisy Ridley amongst the cast.
Despite mixed reviews, the movie grossed over $351 million worldwide and Branagh’s Poirot will return in a sequel, adapting Death on the Nile, in December 2019.
Much attention upon release was directed at a certain moustache, with Branagh defending his choice: “Poirot can hide behind the moustache. But also, when people mock it or ridicule it or dismiss it, they underestimate him and therefore his job as a detective becomes simpler.”
2. Peter Ustinov
Peter Ustinov played Poirot a total of six times, in three movies (Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun and Appointment with Death) between 1978 and 1988 and three made-for-TV films (Thirteen at Dinner, Dead Man’s Folly and Murder in Three Acts) in the mid-1980s.
Bizarrely the setting of his entertainingly high camp Poirot mysteries varied between the original period setting of the novels and contemporary times.
1985’s Thirteen at Dinner featured a familiar face to Agatha Christie fans in the role of Chief Inspector Japp – none other than future Poirot star David Suchet!
1. David Suchet
And, of course, David Suchet topped our poll to discover who is the best ever Poirot!
Appearing in a staggering 70 episodes of ITV’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot series, Suchet is the quintessential Hercule Poirot and will likely remain so for many decades to come (sorry, John Malkovich!).
Running for thirteen seasons, the long-running series adapted all of Agatha Christie’s novels and short stories featuring Poirot between 1989 and 2013.
Suchet had been recommended by Christie’s family following his performance in Blott on the Landscape.
The renowned method actor prepared for the role by reading every Poirot story and making notes before filming began: “I wrote down characteristics until I had a file full of documentation of the character.
“And then it was my business not only to know what he was like, but to gradually become him. I had to become him before we started shooting.”
The research paid off, as Agatha Christie’s grandson Mathew Prichard commented: “Personally, I regret very much that she never saw David Suchet.
“I think that visually he is much the most convincing and perhaps he manages to convey to the viewer just enough of the irritation that we always associate with the perfectionist, to be convincing!”
Poirot: The Complete Cases Collection box set is available now on Amazon here.
You can catch Agatha Christie Hour weekdays at 4pm on True Entertainment and look out for their Agatha Christie Weekend on 20th-21st October.
True Entertainment is available on Freeview 61, Sky 179, Freesat 142 and Virgin 189.