Apart from being absolutely gorgeous, Michael Fassbender is one of the most talented actors of his generation. Born in Heidelberg, Germany, but raised in Killarney, Ireland, he had an early interest in film and acting. At age 19, Fassbender moved to London to study at the Drama Centre London and later dropped out to tour with the Oxford Stage Company to perform the play Three Sisters.
Before he became a world renowned actor he participated in several theatre plays and independent movies, including the stage version of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, which he produced, directed and stared.
His big break came in 2006 when he played the part of a Spartan warrior in Zack Snyder’s blockbuster 300 and stared in Steve McQueen’s independent drama Hunger. The latter earned him the British Independent Film Award for his performance. A year after that, he played a secondary role as a German-British spy in Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards and a handsome Irishman with a secret in Fishtank.
2011 proved to be a great year for Fassbender as he stared in three major productions: A Dangerous Method, X-Men: First Class and Shame, where he pared up again with director Steve McQueen. Rumors say he would have been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in Shame if it wasn’t for all the frontal nudity and explicit sex scenes. He was finally nominated for an Acadamy Award for best supporting actor in 2013 for 12 Years a Slave; another collaboration with Steve McQueen.
Although not all Fassbender’s movies have been an amazing demonstration of his talent as an actor (like The Counselor and Jonah Hex), he’s a chameleon and manages to play tremendously different, challenging and complex characters. As The Guardian says, “He is the actor every project thinks of – good-looking, smart and adventurous”.
10. 300 (2006)
300, directed by Zack Snyder and based on Frank Miller’s comic, is the story of the Battle of Thermopylae that happened in 480 B.C. between a small contingent of 300 Spartan warriors led by King Leonidas of Sparta and the mighty Persian army of over a million soldiers and beasts led by the mortal turned god, Xerxes. It was a battle within the Greco-Persian war that lasted three days and took place in the constricted passage of Thermopylae.
In this movie Fassbender plays the role of Stelios, a Spartan warrior who follows Leonidas (Gerard Butler) to Thermopylae, where they will encounter the powerful Persian army, led by Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). Stelios is portrayed as a brave Spartan warrior who seeks “the beautiful death”, death by a worthy adversary in a glorious war, where the names of the brave soldiers who fought in it would be heard for centuries.
As he and a couple of soldiers sneak up on the Persian army and discover how powerful it actually is, Stelios can’t do anything else but smile, he knows that this is his chance to die a beautiful death. Fassbender’s part in the movie explains perfectly what the Spartan warrior ethics was all about.
The fighting sequences are also amazing and all the guys get a round of applause for their performance and physical skills.
9. Jane Eyre (2011)
Jane Eyre, directed by Cary Fukunaga, is an adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s novel that has the same name. It tells the story of Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska), an orphan girl who was sent away to live in Lowood, a school for girls, at the request of her wretched aunt, Sarah Reed (Sally Hawkins). After several years of strict disciplining Jane leaves Lowood and finds a job as a governess at Thornfield hall with the help of Alice Fairfax (Judy Dench). There, she will have her first encounter and relationship with a man, Mr Edward Rochester, owner of the old (and kind of haunted) manor.
Fassbender plays the role of Edward Rochester; the cold master of the Thornfield mansion where Jane Eyre is governess to Adele Varens (Romy Settbon Moore), a young orphan French girl. Their relationship starts out roughly when Jane startles Mr Rochester’s horse that falls on top of his leg spraining his ankle. But Jane intrigues Mr Rochester, who tries to understand her, asking about her “tale of woe”. The relationship between both characters becomes more intense as both hide secrets from one another which are hard to ignore.
Fassbender shows how his character evolves throughout the movie, peeling away the layers of anger and coldness that hide his insecurities and doubts as his relationship with Jane evolves. By the end of the movie Mr. Rochester is stripped from all his secrets, no longer a harsh master, and totally head over heels for Jane Eyre.
8. X Men: First Class (2011)
This blockbuster, directed by Matthew Vaughn, is the fifth movie of the X-Men saga and serves as a prequel to the franchise. It tells the story of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) before they come to be Professor X and Magneto, respectively. Set in the middle of the Cuban missile crisis, Erik, a Jewish mutant who can manipulate and generate electromagnetic fields, seeks to avenge his mother’s assassination and goes after the man who murdered her, Dr. Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon), a German SS scientist.
Dr. Schmidt, a mutant himself, is on a mission to destroy humankind and Charles Xavier, with the help of the CIA, is determined to stop him. Xavier and Erik meet in a failed attempt to stop Schmidt and become friends. They start recruiting a group of teenage mutants to help them in the mission to stop Schmidt but the philosophical differences between Xavier and Erik grow to be too big and once Dr. Schmidt is out of the picture, Erik, now as Magneto, will take his place.
Fassbender and McAvoy deliver an amazing performance as they portray Professor X and the vengeful young Magneto. The relationship between Professor X and Magneto gives the movie a dynamic tension and constantly makes us question human nature.
Where Professor X sees goodness in humans, Magneto sees fear and destruction and Fassbender’s performance reminds us that this sentiment is rooted deeply in the life of Magneto; not only mutant but also a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. As we are reminded of this we see in Magneto not only anger, but pain, which makes him a relatable and multidimensional character. This movie gives a fresh perspective on one of the most influential characters of the X-men franchise. Thanks to Fassbender’s performance we get to know a side of Magneto never seen before.
7. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is a twisted tale set in a fictional Nazi Germany that tells the story of two plots to assassinate Hitler and his followers, including “The Jew Hunter” SD Standartenführer Hans Landa (played by Chistoph Waltz). One plot is planned by a young French Jewish cinema proprietor (played by Melanie Laurent), and the other by a team of Jewish-American soldiers led by First Lieutenant Aldo Raine (played by Brad Pitt). Both plans involve locking the Nazi’s up in a cinema while their watching a German war movie and killing them.
Fassbender plays the part of a British spy and film critic, Lt Archie Hicox, who is recruited by the Basterds to help them carry out “Operation Kino”. When planning the heist in a bar full of German Nazi soldiers, he ends up giving himself away, causing a huge shoot out that leaves everybody dead but Miss Bridget von Hammersmark (played by Diane Kruger), a German movie star that was also recruited for the operation. Luckily Aldo and Bridget manage to get away. In the end, the “good guys” win and history is rewritten by Tarantino and his amazing cast of actors.
Even though Fassbender’s participation in the movie is brief, his performance is memorable. From the minute he appears in the movie to the minute he’s killed off, he keeps it cool. The rendez-vous scene is probably one of the tensest and dramatic scenes of the movie, when an SS Officer surprises the crew and Archie blows their cover. Archie and the Officer sustain a long conversation that feels more like a pistol duel. Fassbender’s smooth performance really maintains the atmosphere of suspense and excitement and his poker face makes the audience hope that he and the others get out of there alive.
6. Prometheus (2012)
In Ridley Scott’s prequel to Alien, Prometheus, Fassbender plays the role of David, an android that travels with a space crew to an unknown planet to “meet their makers” only to discover a threat that could cause the extinction of the human race.
Although the movie leaves much to be desired, there is no doubt that Fassbender’s participation in it is not only amazing but probably one of the best elements in the movie; he definitely steals the show.
Out of all the characters the one with most depth and complexity is clearly David, an android that looks exactly like a human being (so he doesn’t freak out the crew) and has a tremendous awareness of himself and his functions on board the spaceship. David, a dark and undecipherable character from the beginning, starts showing his true intentions when they reach their destiny, where he seeks a way to use the planet’s threats to exterminate the crew.
David’s robotic personality and later take of consciousness of himself is portrayed perfectly by Fassbender. Only Fassbender, with his unique charisma and over the top acting skills, is able to act as a soulless android with a huge ego.