The 10 best Ralph Fiennes movies and TV shows, ranked

Images via Searchlight Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures

There are not many British actors as seasoned and talented as Ralph Fiennes. The iconic veteran made his debut decades ago, playing Heathcliff, a tortured antihero, in Peter Kosminsky’s Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Since then, he’s starred in numerous classics, and is widely hailed for his mesmerizing performance as Lord Voldemort, the main antagonist in the popular Harry Potter film series. Fiennes has also earned prestigious awards from the British Academy Film Award, and a Tony Award, as well as nominations for two Academy Awards and an Emmy Award.

He kickstarted his career in the theater, becoming an excellent Shakespeare interpreter. He then took his skills to the big screen, and that’s what ultimately earned him his big break. Fast forward several years and Ralph Fiennes is one of the most respected and decorated actors, boasting a stellar filmography. 

Here’s a list of ten of his best movies and shows, ranked from least to best. 

10. The Reader

This 2008 Stephen Daldry romantic drama is based on Bernhard Schlink’s German novel of the same name. It stars Fiennes alongside names like Kate Winslet, David Kross, Bruno Ganz, Lena Olin, Karoline Herfurth, and Alexandra Maria Lara. The story focuses on Michael Burg, a German lawyer who, as a 15-year-old boy, engaged in a sexual relationship with a woman named Hanna Schmitz. Hanna resurfaces when Michael is much older and she’s standing trial for some of her actions as a guard at a Nazi concentration camp. While this movie received mixed reviews from critics, a couple of individual performances were lauded, and the movie received a nomination for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

9. The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker is a 2008 American war thriller that was written by Mark Boal and directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The movie is based on Boal’s real life experience as a journalist in 2004 and it focuses on an Iraq War Explosive Ordnance Disposal team who are targeted by insurgents. Fiennes here brilliantly plays the leader of a Private Military Company unit and alongside him, other notable acts like Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Guy Pearce also put on a masterful showing.

8. The Constant Gardener

In this 2005 drama thriller, Fiennes is Justin Quayle, a British diplomat and avid horticulturist who tries to solve his wife’s murder. He met his wife, Tessa, an Amnesty International activist during a lecture in London and they struck up a romance. They both travel to Kenya where he unfortunately becomes a widower and he must get to the bottom of a potentially explosive secret involving his wife’s murder, big business, and corporate corruption. 

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1

In the sequel to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and the first of two cinematic parts, Fiennes brilliantly reprises his role as Lord Voldemart. Here, Harry Potter has been asked by Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, to find and destroy the Horcruxes, Lord Voldemort’s secret to immortality. However, as Harry, Ron, and Hermione race against time and evil to destroy the Horcruxes, they uncover the existence of the three most powerful objects in the wizarding world: the Deathly Hallows.

6. The English Patient

Based on the 1992 novel of the same name, The English Patient is a 1996 epic romantic war drama film directed by Anthony Minghella. Fiennes plays the titular role here, a seemingly unknown man who is burned beyond recognition and speaks with an English accent. His true identity is revealed in a series of flashbacks while in the care of a French-Canadian combat nurse named Hanna after he’d been pulled from a plane wreckage and rescued by a group of Bedouin. The film was highly praised upon its release, and it earned 12 nominations at the 69th Academy Awards, winning nine, including Best Picture, and  Best Director for Minghella.

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel

This award-winning 2014 comedy-drama was written and directed by the brilliant Wes Anderson. It follows Fiennes’ character Monsieur Gustave H, a famed concierge of a twentieth-century mountainside resort in the fictional Eastern European country of Zubrowka. After Gustave is accused of the murder of a rich widower, he embarks on a thrilling quest for fortune and a highly esteemed renaissance painting. The film remains Anderson’s highest grossing movie till date and one of his most celebrated. 

4. In Bruges

In Martin McDonagh’s feature film debut, the British-Irish playwright cast Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two London-based Irish hitmen in hiding, with Ralph Fiennes as their boss. It’s hilarious and entertaining, and while Farrell and Gleeson put up a masterful showing Fiennes also did a brilliant job, perfectly complementing the duo. The film won the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay, and it also bagged a nomination at the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2

While the first part was really good — besting most other films in the Harry Potter series — the second part of this classic manages to be even better. As always, Fiennes is the chief antagonist, the one who shall not be named, Lord Voldemart. Here,  Harry, Ron, and Hermione conclude their search for Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes in their effort to destroy the Dark Lord as the final battle rages on at Hogwarts. The film ended as the highest grossing movie of 2011 and it also received numerous nominations and accolades like the Academy Award for Best Art Direction, Best Makeup and Best Visual Effects.

2. The Menu

One of Fiennes more recent works, he plays celebrity chef Julian Slowik, who owns an exclusive restaurant on a private island. The black comedy horror film is mildly terrifying and funny at the same time, due to Fiennes’ performance alongside an ensemble cast of  Hong Chau, Slowik’s assistant, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Janet McTeer, Reed Birney, Judith Light, and John Leguizamo.

1. Schneider’s List

Even though Fiennes has amassed a good number of high profile roles and movies under his belt over the course of his illustrious career, the movie that earned him international renown remains arguably his best till date. Here, he plays the brutal Nazi concentration camp commandant Amon Göth. While the movie has received high praises over the years, Fiennes’ performance has also attracted lots of praise. As Speilberg, the movie director, rightly describes: “ there were moments of kindness that move across his eyes and then instantly run cold.” For his role in this classic, he won the Best Supporting Actor BAFTA, and also bagged a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

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The 10 best Ralph Fiennes movies and TV shows, ranked

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