Chances are if you don’t recognize Ralph Fiennes' name, you have likely seen at least one of his movies. The acclaimed British Actor has 90 acting credits to his name, and he has worked across all genres. Now, he’s taking on his creepiest role since Voldemort in the thriller The Menu, adding another unique entry to his long list of incredible work.
The actor has worked on legendary franchises, fantasy films, mystery movies, critically acclaimed dramas, Shakespeare projects, and animated movies over the course of his career. So, for the actor who has seemingly done it all, we’ve compiled a list of his best films.
The Harry Potter Movies (2005 - 2011)
Ralph Fiennes almost turned down the role of Voldemort, and thank goodness he didn’t, because he went on to bring one of the most infamous villains in history to life. From 2005 to 2011, the actor portrayed Lord Voldemort in four of the Harry Potter movies (Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows Parts One and Two), with a sinister and snake-like quality. He was truly terrifying and unrecognizable in the role, and to this day I’m still terrified of Voldemort because of the actor’s haunting performance.
The Harry Potter series remains one of the most beloved and formative stories of modern times with one of the greatest casts, and Fiennes helped shape that by playing he-who-shall-not-be-named.
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The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of Wes Anderson’s best movies, and at the center of this candy-colored symmetrical world is Fiennes's charismatic M. Gustave, the concierge of the hotel. The film follows Gustave and his lobby boy Zero as they embark on an epic, hilarious and beautiful adventure because of a painting called “Boy with Apple.”
In true Wes Anderson fashion, Fiennes is joined by an epic ensemble cast that includes Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson and more. It’s truly a lovely movie with a stellar cast that is led by Fiennes’ unforgettable performance.
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Schindler’s List (1993)
This film followers Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) a businessman who runs a factory that is staffed by Jews. When World War II begins, and the Nazis begin exterminating Jewish people, he starts protecting them, and ends up saving the lives of many. Fiennes plays Amon Goeth in the film, a Nazi work camp commandant. This film was one of the actor’s first roles, and it’s still remembered as one of his best films to this day.
In 1993, Schindler’s List won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Steven Spielberg, it was also nominated for 12 Oscars total. These nominations included nods in the acting categories for both Fiennes and Neeson. Fiennes also won a BAFTA for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his work in this extremely impactful film.
Fiennes made his directorial debut and starred in the modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play Coriolanus. The story is based on the Roman leader Caius Marcius Coriolanus, who is banished from Rome and teams up with his enemy to plot revenge on the city. Gerard Butler and Brian Cox also joined Fiennes in the film playing Tullus Aufidius and Menenius, respectively.
The director and star of this film also has a rich history with Shakespeare. On Broadway, he starred in Hamlet and Faith Healer. He’s also been in productions of The Tempest, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Richard II, and Julius Caesar, among others.
After directing Coriolanus Fiennes went on to direct two other films. In 2013 he released The Invisible Woman, and in 2018 he directed The White Crow.
The English Patient (1996)
The English Patient is a sweeping story told between two times connected by Fiennes' character Almásy. We meet his character toward the end of World War II, however, he’s almost unrecognizable because he was badly burned in a plane crash. The story then flashes back to before the crash, and we see Almásy in an intense affair with Katharine Clifton. Starring alongside Fiennes is Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche and Colin Firth.
The film won Best Picture along with nine other Academy Awards in 1997. Fiennes was also nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role. The English Patient is definitely a big sweeping epic, and it makes sense why it’s one of the roles Fiennes is well-known for.
In Bruges (2008)
Fiennes joins Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy about two hitmen who are stuck in Bruges. Farrell and Gleeson play the two hitmen. Fiennes plays Harry, their very, very angry boss who ends up going to meet the two because they aren’t listening to his directions. This film marked McDonagh’s first feature film as a writer and director. He has since gone on to make the critically acclaimed films Seven Psychopaths, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and The Banshees of Inisherin.
In Bruges is simultaneously hilarious and bleak, a signature tone for McDonagh films, with quippy fast dialogue and epic action, and it’s all held together by outstanding performances from Fiennes, Farrell and Gleeson.
The End Of The Affair (1999)
This film tells the story of a long affair and the mystery as to why Sarah Miles suddenly ended it. The story is told from the perspective of her lover Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes), and he begins the film saying “This is a diary of hate,” which I think sets the scene appropriately. Throughout the film, Bendrix works to solve the mystery of why Sarah left him.
Joining Fiennes is Julianne Moore as Sarah and Stephen Rea as her husband Henry Miles. The story is based on the 1951 novel of the same name by Graham Greene and was praised for its performances, specifically by Moore and Fiennes.
The Constant Gardener (2005)
Following the murder of Tessa Quayle, her husband Justin Quayle goes on an odyssey to figure out who did it. The story takes Justin across three continents and reveals many secrets, and he’ll do everything he can to uncover what happened to his wife.
The film was directed by Fernando Meirelles and starred Fiennes as Justin, and Rachel Weisz as Tessa. The Constant Gardener was also critically acclaimed earning three Academy Award nominations, and an Oscar for Rachel Weisz.
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James Bond Movies: Skyfall, Spectre, And No Time To Die (2012-2021)
Ralph Fiennes took over the moniker of M from Judi Dench in Skyfall, and ran MI6 through the end of Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007 in the James Bond movies. The actor behind M saw Craig’s Bond all the way to the end, and said he thought the No Time To Die ending was a “bold and strong decision.”
Much like 007, there have been many actors to play M, including Bernard Lee, Robert Brown and Dame Judi Dench. A fun fact about this character: Fiennes' M is the first head of MI6 whom we also know the name of, Gareth Mallory.
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Red Dragon (2002)
Fiennes took on a darker role as the serial killer Francis Dolarhyde in the prequel to the critically acclaimed film The Silence of the Lambs. The story follows Will Graham as he tries to solve a murder by going to the notorious serial killer Hannibal Lecter for help.
Along with Fiennes as the terrifying Tooth Fairy, Anthony Hopkins returned as Hannibal Lecter, and the two were joined by Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Mary-Louise Parker, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Although Voldemort is in The Lego Batman Movie, Ralph Fiennes does not reprise his role as the dark lord, he instead plays Batman’s butler and right-hand man, Alfred Pennyworth. He brings his suave voice to the iconic character that helps Batman get over his teenage angst, and makes sure he gets some sun every now and again. This movie is a hilarious and heartfelt take on the character of Batman, and tells the story of Bruce Wayne on a journey to find friends.
Joining Fiennes is an epic ensemble cast that includes Will Arnett as Batman, Michael Cera as Robin, Rosario Dawson as Batgirl, Zach Galifianakis as the Joker, and a slew of other famous funny people making up the massive group of villains trying to defeat Batman.
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Quiz Show (1994)
Directed and produced by Robert Redford, Quiz Show tells the story of the Twenty-One quiz show scandals from the 1950s. The film follows Fiennes’ character Charles Van Doren, a contestant on the show who fell from grace after fixing a loss.
The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including best supporting actor for Paul Scofield. Along with Fiennes and Scofield, John Turturro, Rob Morrow and Hank Azaria also starred in the film.
As you can see Fiennes has had a long and extremely successful career, and he’s not slowing down anytime soon. Along with The Menu, which hits theaters on November 18, he also has four projects in the works, including The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, which is on the 2023 movie schedule. So, on top of checking out the British actor’s diverse body of work, there are also quite a few exciting projects to look forward to from Fiennes.