6. 12 Years a Slave, dir. Steve McQueen (2013)
With Fassbender and Steve McQueen’s third collaboration came nine Academy Award nominations, three of which resulting in a win. Edwin Epps, a plantation owner who is as brutal as he is religious, stands out as the epitome of evil in a film which is already surrounded by injustice and pain. He shows absolutely no remorse for his actions, even when those in similar positions express concern with the way he conducts business.
Fassbender is relentless, as he stands unflinching in his belief that he is able to abuse the liberties granted to him by God and the government as he sees fit. No one was surprised when Fassbender received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance.
Memorable Quote: “No sin! There is no sin! A man does how he pleases with his property. At the moment, Platt, I am of great pleasure. You be goddamn careful I don’t come to wantin’ to lightenin’ my mood no further.”
7. Frank, dir. Lenny Abrahamson (2014)
Not everyone could create a compelling performance with the face covered for nearly the entire run time of their film, but Fassbender is able to do so beautifully in Frank. This film allowed Fassbender to play against type, giving way to a whimsical portrayal unlike anything we have seen before or since from the actor.
This dark comedy poked fun at both sides of the “Art vs. Commercialisation” argument, with the titular character caught in the middle as he aims to create a masterpiece which is also appealing on a wide scale. Chasing his ambitions take a toll on both the man and his creation.
Memorable Quote: “Lips pursed together as if to say “Enough frivolity” – today, we begin work on the album in earnest.”
8. Slow West, dir. John Maclean (2015)
Branching out in the industry, Fassbender starred in this indie western, was well as producing it. As a mercenary and an outcast, Silas Selleck lives by his own code of honor. When he happens upon a struggling Scottish boy searching for his lost love, Silas feels an obligation to protect him.
While Fassbender has been intimidating before, the rugged callousness which he was able to bring to this role meshed perfectly along the backdrop of the unforgiving American West. Like most roles on this list, it seemed to be tailored to Fassbender’s strengths while giving him an opportunity to display new talents which we had not seen from the rest of his body of work.
Memorable Quote: “That kid was a wonder. He saw things differently. To him, we were in a land of hope and good will.”
9. Steve Jobs, dir. Danny Boyle (2015)
There is an vibrant energy driving this movie, much of which seems to be hinged on Fassbender’s shoulders. He paints Jobs as a visionary, but also as a meticulous control freak who isn’t understanding of reality failing to meet his impossible expectations.
At no point in the film does Fassbender make the case that we should empathize with Jobs. He simply allows the audience to see a snapshot of a character as he deals with obstacles both real and perceived. Fassbender effortlessly moves through Aaron Sorkin’s fast dialogue and creates an atmosphere which is mesmerizing.
Memorable Quote: “Musicians play their instruments. I play the orchestra.”
10. Macbeth, dir. Justin Kurzel (2015)
Macbeth is simultaneously one of the more desired roles and one of the most difficult to do justice. As he is drawn between his desire for power and his guilt for his pursuit of that power, Macbeth’s conflict sees his descent into inescapable insanity.
Fassbender is able to show this beautifully, with every line delivered as if for the first time. That is terribly difficult to do when approaching the works of Shakespeare. His approach to the classic tale is one that is both intricately conceived and elementally carnal.
Memorable Quote: “O full of scorpions is my mind.”
Author Bio: Brian Thompson currently resides in Chicago, where you can find him watching a matinee at Music Box or enjoying a book in the park. He also enjoys talking about movies on his blog: https://southernfilmcritic.wordpress.com/.