Still fiercely busy, Lee's next project is a role in the film Hugo Cabret, working with another legendary director - Martin Scorcese. In 2009, he received a knighthood for his services to cinema and charity and, in 2011, was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship.
To celebrate the career of this remarkable actor, The Stu View Movie Heroes takes a look at the 10 greatest performances of Sir Christopher Lee's long and distinguished career.
Top 10 Christopher Lee Performances
Character: Captain Robeles
Year of Release: 1964
Character Best Moment: The climatic fight between Robeles and the young hero aboard the blazing deck of the pirate ship Diablo.
Character Best Line: You sicken me with your pious attitudes. I'm going to strip you of your fancy ideas one by one until you're no better than the rest of us.
Robeles is the captain of the Spanish pirate ship Diablo. Along with his crew, Robeles has been forced to fight alongside the Spanish Armada as a privateer. When their ship runs aground near a small Cornish village, Robeles convinces the locals that the Armada has been victorious and that England is now under Spanish control. Christopher Lee has always possessed a magnetic screen presence and he uses it to full effect here as the charismatic but utterly ruthless Robeles. Lee's performance is most definitely 'full-on' and he looks striking as the dashing but deadly pirate captain.
Year of Release: 1973
Character Best Moment: Rochefort engages in a thrilling sword fight with D'Artagnan in a dark forest.
Character Best Line: Decidedly it is someone riding a buttercup. Unless it is a cheese with legs.
Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers is a deliciously fun romp, mixing swashbuckling action with plenty of laughs. Rochefort is the villainous Cardinal's leading swordsman and bitter enemy of the Musketeers. Whilst he is every bit as deadly as the pirate Robeles in Devil-Ship Pirates, he also possesses a fine line in sardonic wit, deriding D'Artagnan for the appearance of his horse (see Best Line above). Christopher Lee simultaneously makes the audience chuckle at Rochefort's sarcastic, dry humour and hiss at his many villainous deeds. I've always maintained that Lee would have made the perfect Captain Hook and seeing him here makes me wish he had been given the chance to play that part.
Character: Grigori Rasputin
Year of Release: 1966
Character Best Moment: Rasputin greedily gorges on a box of chocolates, unaware that they are poisoned.
Character Best Line: Careful, Peter - there are acids in here.
Undoubtedly this is one of the most striking and intense performances of Christopher Lee's entire career. It's just a pity that the film itself doesn't quite manage to match the tremendously high standards of his blazing, tour-de-force portrayal of the real-life monk who had such influence over the Russian Royal family of the early twentieth century. Lee's Rasputin is greedy, forceful, lustful and hungry for power, whilst also possessing much charisma and presence; much like his real-life counterpart.Truly hypnotic.
Character: Kharis the Mummy
Year of Release: 1959
Best Character Moment: The Mummy's relentless pursuit of archaeologist John Banning (played by Peter Cushing) leads to him crashing through Banning's French windows.
After enjoying massive worldwide success with The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula, Hammer Films turned their attentions to another classic monster - The Mummy. Despite being swathed in bandages from head to toe, Christopher Lee manages to instil real emotions and a certain sense of humanity into the role of The Mummy, Kharis; simply through the use of his eyes and body language. To make an audience feel pity and sorrow for a seemingly remorseless creature is no mean feat but Lee pulls it off beautifully, despite being completely unrecognisable under all that make-up. This should stand as a great lesson for any budding actor on how to act without dialogue and only limited use of your body.
Character: Francisco Scaramanga
Year of Release: 1974
Character Best Moment: The final shoot-out between Bond and Scaramanga in the latter's shooting gallery.
Character Best Line: I like a girl in a bikini; no concealed weapons.
Christopher Lee has the distinction of playing arguably the most memorable James Bond villain in perhaps the least memorable Bond film. Despite having its moments, The Man with the Golden Gun is all a bit too stilted; saved only by the smooth-as-silk performance of Lee as the enigmatic Scaramanga, who sees himself as the anti-Bond as it were. This was the role that started to change people's perceptions of Christopher Lee as an actor, proving that he was much more than just a star of monster movies and was in fact a highly accomplished all-round performer.
Year of Release: 2001
Character Best Moment: The terrific duel of magic between wizards Saruman and Gandalf.
Character Best Line: I gave you the chance of aiding me willingly but you have elected the way of pain.
The start of the 21st century saw Christopher Lee not only enter his seventh decade as an actor but also gain a whole new legion of fans too young to remember him from his Hammer horror days, courtesy of his roles in the new Star Wars trilogy and the hugely successful Lord of the Rings series. His portrayal of Saruman the White is, once again, one of immense power and intensity; in particular, the scene where he turns on his friend Gandalf is truly awe-inspiring with Lee's distinctive bass voice reverberating menacingly. Always a fan of Tolkien's work, Lee had long harboured an ambition to play the role of Gandalf but, instead, was perfectly cast here as the corrupted Saruman.
Character: Duc de Richleau
Year of Release: 1967
Character Best Moment: With the sound of thundering hooves in the background drawing ever closer, De Richleau gravely announces the impending arrival of the Angel of Death.
Character Best Line: The Goat of Mendes! The Devil himself!
An adaptation of the Dennis Wheatley novel, The Devil Rides Out is not only on of Hammer's finest ever productions, it is stands as one of the greatest horror pictures ever made. Christopher Lee is pleasingly cast on the side of good this time, as the noble and heroic Duc de Richleau, aiding one of his friends in escaping the clutches of the evil Satanist Mocata. Lee is utterly compelling as the unflappable and eloquent Duc, bravely facing off against all manner of apparitions and occult-induced dangers, even at one point facing off against the Devil himself. Today's audiences may possibly find the film a little tame in comparison to modern offerings but, for me, the thrilling suspense, period setting and marvellous lead performance all combine to keep The Devil Rides Out high on the all-time classic list.
Character: Lord Summerisle
Year of Release: 1973
Best Character Moment: Adorned in a colourful dress, with trainers on his feet and adorned in a long, black wig, Summerisle dances and swirls at the head of a May Day procession.
Best Character Line: Do sit down Sergeant. Shocks are so much better absorbed with the knees bent.
One of the strangest, most compelling and unique British films ever made, The Wicker Man has long been one of Christopher Lee's personal favourites and the character of Lord Summerisle is certainly one of the most complex he has played in his long career. Instead of the powerful, intense performance audiences had become used to up to this point, Lee is softer and more delicate here as the enigmatic Summerisle, leaving viewers never quite sure as to the character's true intentions. This is a fine, laid back, intelligent performance from Sir Christopher, in what has become one of the most highly regarded films of the last 40 years.
Character: Count Dracula
Year of Release: 1958
Best Character Moment: The Count and his nemesis Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) fight to the death in a rip-roaring climax
Best Character Line: I am Dracula and I welcome you to my house.
Over fifty years after this initial portrayal, the character of Dracula is still the one most associated with the career of Christopher Lee; such was the impact he made as Bram Stoker's vampire Count. After Bela Lugosi's overly theatrical performance in 1931, Lee imbued his Dracula with a rich vein of sexuality and raw power, just barely suppressed beneath the surface of the Count's noble facade. This is demonstrated perfectly when Dracula, after greeting his guest Jonathan Harker with charm and warmth, switches instantly to a raging, snarling, blazing-eyed beast on finding his vampire bride asking Harker for help. The impact of this moment on screen can still be felt today and had cinema audiences jumping out of their seats on first release. Undoubtedly, one of the great performances of horror cinema.
Character: Mohammed Ali Jinnah
Year of Release: 1998
Character Best Line: It would be equally insane to leave a Muslim minority at the mercy of a Hindu majority.
The finest ever performance by Sir Christopher Lee came in one of his least well-known films. Jinnah, the true story of the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, never got the worldwide release it deserved due to distribution problems and controversy over its subject matter. It's probably fair to say that Christopher Lee was never seen as a dramatic actor up until this point, so his utterly outstanding portrayal of Jinnah was a true revelation. Indeed, the great man himself still regards this as the greatest performance of his entire career and who could argue with that?