The Five Best Screen Butlers, at your Service

A good butler is a priceless addition to a household, as many TV shows and movies have shown. From Jeeves to Batman, Downtown Abbey to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The Butler movie, these five screen butlers have served their families well as butlers, valets and right-hand men.

Reginald Jeeves, Jeeves and Wooster

Played by: Stephen Fry
Best quote: “I endeavour to give satisfaction, sir.”

Reginald Jeeves was actually a valet, to Bertie Wooster, in PG Wodehouse’s novels, most memorably played by Mr Fry in the Nineties TV series. In smaller households, the butler might have to double as his employer’s valet or manservant. In the TV series, the Brylcreemed Jeeves is hired after giving a hungover Wooster a secret hair of the dog concoction.

Charles Carson, Downtown Abbey

Played by: Jim Carter
Best quote: “But why would we ever want a telephone at Downton, my lord?”

Charles Ernest Carson, he of the baritone voice and expressive eyebrows, began working at Downton Abbey as a second footman at the age of 19 and is fond of offering advice, often heeded by his master Lord Grantham and daughter Mary, who is exceedingly fond of the straight-laced fatherly figure. Carson got his happy ending when he married head housekeeper Elsie Hughes.

Alfred Pennyworth, Batman Trilogy

Played by: Michael Caine
Best quote: “Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Batman’s batman, also played by Michael Gough, Jeremy Irons, Ian Abercrombie and Sean Pertwee. is Bruce Wayne’s closest confidant and his legal guardian after his parents were murdered. His father was butler to the Wayne family before him but, as Alfred also served in the British Special Air Service (SAS), we see him down in the Batcave as often as we do polishing the silverware.

Geoffrey the butler, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Played by: Joseph Marcell
Best quote: “Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Who would have expected a suburban LA family, however rich, to hire a British butler? Yet it is in this home that the impeccably dressed Geoffrey serves the Banks family – and Will Smith. This man of many talents turned out during the show’s six years on air to be an Oxford graduate, an Olympian and former employee to Led Zeppelin and Chuck Norris – but while his scorn and pithy comebacks are what made him made him memorable to viewers, his time in the kitchen in a striped pinny make him indispensable to the family.

Cecil Gaines, Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Played by: Forest Whitaker
Best quote: “I could see the two faces the butlers wore to serve and I knew I lived my life by those two faces.”

This 2013 movie is loosely based on the real life of the late Eugene Allen, an African-American who served eight US presidents, from Truman to Reagan, during his 34-year tenure as a White House butler and was witness to some of the biggest events of the 20th century. He is eventually invited by Nancy Reagan to dine as a state guest – the first black butler to receive such an invitation.

Honourable screen butler mentions

  • Max (Lionel Stander) in Hart To Hart
  • Benson DuBois (Robert Guillaume) in Benson
  • Wadsworth (Tim Curry) in Clue
  • Jarvis, Ironman
  • Hobson (John Gielgud) in Arthur
  • James Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), The Remains of the Day
  • Winston Smith, Tomb Raider
Who is your favourite screen butler and why? Please let us know in the comments below.

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