She was nominated for the 1993 Olivier Award for Best Actress for the title role in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, and received Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominations when she reprised the role in the 1998 film Little Voice. Her other film roles include The Witches (1990), Life Is Sweet (1990), Corpse Bride (2005) and Sunshine on Leith (2013).
She attended Balladen County Primary School and later trained at Oldham College and subsequently at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art with Imogen Stubbs and Ralph Fiennes, and began her career with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She drew critical notice for her performance in the film Life Is Sweet (1991), followed by her award-winning performance in the West End play The Rise and Fall of Little Voice in which she sang all the songs. Horrocks became a name with the role of Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous (1992–2016).
While working on Road, a play directed by Jim Cartwright, Horrocks warmed up by doing singing impressions of Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey and Ethel Merman. Cartwright was so impressed with her mimicry he wrote The Rise and Fall of Little Voice for her. She was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress for her performance in the 1992 West End production, directed by her boyfriend Sam Mendes.
She reprised her role in the 1998 screen adaptation, Little Voice, which earned nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, the Satellite Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role - Motion Picture, and the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress.
In 2000, Horrocks made the CD Further Adventures of Little Voice, again singing in the style of favourite divas. The recording includes duets with Ewan McGregor, Robbie Williams and Dean Martin. Horrocks collaborated once more with Robbie Williams the following year, for a cover of the Bobby Darin song "Things" on Williams's album Swing When You're Winning.
Horrocks has appeared on stage in Ask for the Moon (Hampstead, 1986), A Collier's Friday Night (Greenwich, 1987), Valued Friends (Hampstead, 1989), and The Debutante Ball (Hampstead, 1989). She appeared in Catherine Cookson's The Fifteen Streets, alongside Sean Bean and Owen Teale in 1989; Our Own Kind (Bush, 1991); Deadly Advice (Fletcher, 1993); Cabaret (Donmar Warehouse 1994); [Macbeth]] (Greenwich Theatre, 1995); and Absurd Person Singular (Garrick Theatre, 2007).
Her last West End appearance was in Sweet Panic, the 2003 Stephen Poliakoff drama in which she portrayed a neurotic mother locked in a battle of wills with her disturbed son's psychologist. She starred in Richard Jones's critically acclaimed production of The Good Soul of Szechuan at the Young Vic in 2008. She was reunited with Jones in a new musical production of Annie Get Your Gun, which opened at the Young Vic in October 2009. At London’s Young Vic, in 2016's If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Horrocks revisited the songs of her youth to sing versions of tracks by the likes of Joy Division, The Smiths, Buzzcocks, and The Human League.
Horrocks's voiceovers have been used on Chicken Run (2000); Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001); Corpse Bride (2005); Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (2006); and Tinker Bell (2008) as Fairy Mary, which she reprised in the Tinker Bell sequels. She did the voiceover Fenchurch on radio and in the audio adaptation of Douglas Adams' science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for BBC Radio 4. She has voiced Donner in all three Robbie the Reindeer films in aid of Comic Relief.
Other television credits include Absolutely Fabulous, Victoria Wood - We'd Quite Like To Apologise, Bad Girl, Boon, Heartland, Hunting Venus, La Nonna, Leaving Home, Never Mind the Horrocks, Nightlife, Wyrd Sisters, Foxbusters, Jericho, Red Dwarf, Some Kind of Life, Suffer the Little Children, The Storyteller, The Garden, Fifi & the Flowertots, Little Princess (the voice of the princess) and Welcome to the Times.
She was the subject of an episode of the genealogy documentary series Who Do You Think You Are? in 2006. That year she played the title role in The Amazing Mrs Pritchard, a drama about a woman elected prime minister.
In 2009, Horrocks took the lead in the BBC TV production Gracie!, a drama portraying the life of Gracie Fields during World War II and her relationship with the Italian-born director Monty Banks (played by Tom Hollander).
On Tuesday 14 January 2014, Horrocks appeared as a contestant on The Great Sport Relief Bake Off on BBC Two— the celebrity version of The Great British Bake Off—hosted by Jo Brand and broadcast to help raise money for the charity Sport Relief. The other contestants were TV and radio presenter Kirsty Young, choreographer Jason Gardiner, and Olympic athlete Greg Rutherford.
In 2015 she supplied the voice of the Tubby Phone in the reboot of the popular British children's television series Teletubbies.
|1988||The Dressmaker||Rita||Jim O'Brien|
|1989||Getting It Right||Jenny||Randal Kleiser|
|The Wolves of Willoughby Chase||Pattern||Stuart Orme|
|1990||The Witches||Miss Susan Irvine||Nicolas Roeg|
|Memphis Belle||Faith||Michael Caton-Jones|
|Life Is Sweet||Nicola||Mike Leigh|
|1993||Second Best||Debbie||Chris Menges|
|1994||Deadly Advice||Jodie Greenwood||Mandie Fletcher|
|1997||Bring Me the Head of Mavis Davis||Mavis Davis / Marla Dorland||John Henderson|
|1998||Little Voice||LV||Mark Herman|
|1999||Faeries||Huccaby (voice)||Gary Hurst|
|1999||Hooves of Fire||Donner (voice)|
|2000||Chicken Run||Babs (voice)||Peter Lord & Nick Park|
|Born Romantic||Mo||David Kane|
|Lion of Oz||Wimsik (voice)||Tim Deacon|
|2001||Christmas Carol: The Movie||Ghost of Christmas Past (voice)||Jimmy T. Murakami|
|2002||Legend of the Lost Tribe||Donner (voice)|
|2005||Corpse Bride||The Black Widow / Mrs. Plum (voice)||Tim Burton|
|Brothers of the Head||Roberta Howe||Keith Fulton & Louis Pepe|
|2006||Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties||Meenie (voice)||Tim Hill|
|2007||Close Encounters of the Herd Kind||Donner (voice)|
|2008||Tinker Bell||Fairy Mary (voice)||Bradley Raymond|
|2009||Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure||Fairy Mary (voice)||Klay Hall|
|2010||No One Gets Off in This Town|
|2011||Arthur Christmas||Lead Elf (voice)||Sarah Smith|
|2012||Secret of the Wings||Fairy Mary (voice)||Bobs Gannaway & Peggy Holmes|
|2013||Sunshine on Leith||Jean||Dexter Fletcher|
|2014||The Pirate Fairy||Fairy Mary||Peggy Holmes|
|2016||Ab Fab: The Movie||Bubble/Shirley Bassey impersonator||Mandie Fletcher|
|1987||First Sight||Natalie||Episode: "Leaving Home" (1.3)|
|Screenplay||Louise||Episode: "The Road" (2.13)|
|1988||The Storyteller||Anja||Episode: "The True Bride" (1.9)|
|The Ruth Rendell Mysteries||Pippa Bond||Episode: "No Crying He Makes" (2.7)|
|1989||The Jim Henson Hour||Anja||Episode: "Musicians" (1.8)|
|Victoria Wood||Cathy Warburton||Episode: "We'd Quite Like to Apologise" (1.4)|
|Smith & Jones||Episode: "The Unprepared Version" (5.6)|
|1990||Boon||Trisha Downey||Episode: "Best Left Buried" (5.11)|
|1991||Screen One||Gail||Episode: "Alive and Kicking" (3.7)|
|Performance||Episode: "Nona" (1.2)|
|1992||Red Dwarf||Nirvanah Crane||Episode: "Holoship" (5.1)|
|Screenplay||Maggie Hunt||Episode: "Bad Girl" (7.3)|
|Performance||Episode: "Roots" (2.3)|
|1995||Performance||Doll Tearsheet||Episode: "Henry IV" (5.5)|
|1996||Tales from the Crypt||Cammy||Episode: "Cold War" (7.6)|
|Never Mind the Horrocks||Various roles|
|1997||Wyrd Sisters||Magrat Garlick (voice)||Television mini-series|
|The Blobs||Various (voice)||26 Episodes (all episodes)|
|1995–1998||Crapston Villas||Flossie||20 episodes (all episodes)|
|1998-2000||PB&J Otter||Pinch Raccoon (Voice)||UK Version|
|1999–2000||Watership Down||Hannah||14 episodes|
|2000||Mirrorball||Yitta Hilberstam||Television pilot|
|2000||Spot the Dog||Narrator||26 Episodes were re-narrated over the originals that were done by Peter Hawkins.|
|2001||Little Big Mouth||Krystan (voice)|
|2002||Linda Green||Teresa Franklin||Episode: "Teresa" (2.2)|
|2003 to present||Wide-Eye||Flea (voice)
Baby Komodo (voice)
Natterjack Toads (voices)
|26 episodes (All episodes)|
|2004||Monkey Trousers||Various roles|
|2005||Jericho||Sadie Swettenham||Episode: "To Murder and Create" (1.3)|
|2006||The Street||Angela Quinn||Episodes: "The Accident" (1.1)
|2005–2005||Fifi and the Flowertots||Fifi Forget-Me-Not (voice)||40 episodes|
|2006||The Amazing Mrs Pritchard||Ros Pritchard||6 episodes (all episodes)|
|2006–2007||Little Princess||Little Princess (voice)|
|2011||Coming Up||Felicity||Episode: "Magic" (6.5)|
|Phineas and Ferb||Eliza||Episode: "My Fair Goalie" (3.11)|
|This is Jinsy||Mrs. Stenton||Episode: "Vel" (1.6)|
|Little Crackers||Hairdresser||Episode: "Jane Horrocks' Little Cracker: Barbara" (2.3)|
|Pixie Hollow Games||Fairy Mary (voice)||Television special|
|2012||Get Your House in Order||Narrator (voice)||Episode: "Stuart" (1.3)|
|True Love||Sandra||Episode: "Sandra" (1.4)|
(also played Katy Grin, Lola and radio voice)
|2011–2013, 2015||Trollied||Julie Cook||37 episodes|
|2014||Lily's Driftwood Bay||Wee Rabbit|
|2015||Inside No. 9||Liz||"Cold Comfort" (2.4)|
|2015||Teletubbies||Tubby Phone (voice)|
|2015||Long Live the Royals||Queen Elenor (voice)||UK version only|
|1989||The Fifteen Streets||Christine Bracken|
|1991||Came Out, It Rained, Went Back in Again||Learner Lesbian|
|Suffer the Little Children||Deborah Hayes|
|1995||Some Kind of Life||Alison|
|The Flint Street Nativity||Zoe|
|2010||The Road to Coronation Street||Margaret Morris|
|1995||Combination Skin||(voice)||Short film|
|1999||Hooves of Fire||Donner (voice)||Television|
|2002||Legend of the Lost Tribe||Donner / Arctic Fox (voice)||Television|
|2002||Last Rumba in Rochdale||Gran (voice)||Short film|
|2004||Wheeling Dealing||Authentic Newsreader||Short film|
|2006||Voices from the Underworld||Herself (voice)||Video Short|
|2007||Robbie the Reindeer in Close Encounters of the Herd Kind||Donner (voice)||Television|
|2011||The Itch of the Golden Nit||(voice)||Short film|