The 10 Best Ralph Fiennes Movie Performances

5. The English Patient (1996)

The English Patient

Fiennes’ appearance as Count Almásy in The English Patient (1996) won him a second Academy Award nomination for the best actor, as well as BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations. This worldwide famous drama (won 9 Academy Awards) was directed by Anthony Minghella from his own script based on an intensely moving novel The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. Each scene is beautifully shot and looks stunning whether the focus is on Italy or Egypt.

His horribly burned (literally and figuratively) Count Almásy is at first a very kind-hearted character, but, as we gradually acquire more knowledge of his past and the quest for his identity, we don’t admire him the way we did at the beginning. Through flashbacks, we witness the causes and effects of an extramarital affair where adulterers face a tragic destiny. The coexistence of passion and tragedy covered with charm and played out by painfully convincing Fiennes makes this film peerlessly beautiful.

Almásy: “Every night I cut out my heart. But in the morning it was full again.” It took five hours to apply a prosthetic make-up every day and Fiennes required that the full body make-up stays on even for the scenes where only his head would be filmed.


4. Quiz Show (1994)

Ralph Fiennes - “Quiz Show”

Quiz Show is a 1994 American historical drama film produced and directed by Robert Redford, based on Richard N. Goodwin’s memoir ‘Remembering America: A Voice From the Sixties’. The film is about the scandal concerning widely popular quiz show ‘Twenty One’ during the 1950s. It is scandalous that there were no laws against rigging a quiz show at that time and that the ones who suffered the cruelest consequences were contestants, not creators.

Fiennes is again perfectly cast, but this time depicting the rise and fall of a widely known contestant Charles Van Doren who became a national celebrity on a successful quiz show. Viewers believed him but they were fooled and after the truth was revealed he was publicly humiliated.

Fiennes did his part in an amazing manner by playing this aristocratic fraud showing how much the real character was tragically flawed and allured by the money and popularity. Fiennes goes through different stages by playing Van Doren and it’s difficult not to feel sorry for the character since in the end he seems like someone who’s been manipulated by others.

In order to perfect Charles’ voice, Fiennes wanted to speak with him, but since the whole family didn’t want to participate in making this film Fiennes went to his hometown, found him sitting in front of the house, and pretended to be lost so he could ask for directions.


3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL - 2014 FILM STILL - Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight

Despite the fact Fiennes is not renowned as a comic performer, in 2014 he made an impression for his amusing turn in The Grand Budapest Hotel and it’s probably the most enjoyable character he’s ever played. His stylized dialogue delivery, sense of humor and cheerful obscenity gained him a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for the best actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the BAFTA Award for the best actor.

Wes Anderson, the director, said that the only actor he wanted to become Gustave was Fiennes. It’s quite logical that Fiennes, one of the leading exemplars of ageless Englishness, could’ve inspired a man like Anderson, whose films are filled with nostalgia for things as they once were.

His Gustave, a hotel concierge, is also the main protagonist and this comedy revolves around his adventures. In this mesmerizing piece of cinema, this theatrical character is also a gigolo who somehow provides the film with its moral backbone.

It is obvious that Fiennes has an innate understanding of a human soul and with a director’s guidance he can slip on a personality like a glove.


2. The Constant Gardener (2005)

The Constant Gardener

The Constant Gardener is a 2005 drama thriller film set in Kenya, directed by Fernando Meirelles, and based on the John le Carré’s novel of the same name. The film is focused on the bleak desolation of Kenya and corporate greed. Fiennes starred opposite Rachel Weisz who won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her performance.

The movie tells the story of Justin Quayle (Fiennes), a British low-level diplomat and a constant gardener, as he investigates the murder of his wife Tessa (Weisz), a political activist. Their passionate love affair is told in flashbacks while Justin dredges up the past.

Fiennes is excellent as a grief-stricken widower and a mild-mannered diplomat who learns how amazing his wife really was. His sorrow forces him into action and becomes an activist himself in order to avenge her death and achieve what she had started. Both conspiracy and support surround him while he constantly switches from ecstasy to sadness. On this journey, starting from a true romance and finishing with a self sacrifice, Fiennes loses himself in each stage carefully developing this complex character.

The cast and crew were so touched by the situation in Kenya slums that they founded the Constant Gardener Trust in order to provide basic education for children living there. Fiennes is a sponsor of the fund.


1. Schindler’s List (1993)


Steven Spielberg’s wrenching drama about the Holocaust, Schindler’s List, cast Fiennes as a psychotic concentration camp commandant Amon Goeth. The film won 7 Oscars and Fiennes himself garnered an Oscar nomination for the best supporting actor and a British Academy Award.

This performance made him internationally famous and also earned him a spot on the American Film Institute’s list of ‘Top 50 Movie Villains’. By playing a Nazi sadist who commands Krakow-Plaszow concentration camp Fiennes proved how much harm one man can inflict.

A diet had made Fiennes a bit flabby (he had gained more than thirty pounds before starting to play), emphasizing Goeth’s lack of self-control and disaffection. His inner void and sadism is shown in a number of scenes, but probably the best one is when he recognizes Jewish girl as a human being and still beats her savagely.

Fiennes described making this film ‘harrowing’ and later stated that playing the role had a profoundly disconcerting effect on him.

Amon Goeth: “I would like so much to reach out to you and touch you in your loneliness. What would it be like, I wonder? What would be wrong with that? I realize that you are not a person in the strictest sense of the word, but maybe you’re right about that too. I mean, when they compare you to vermin, to rodents and to lice. You make a very good point. Is this the face of a rat? Are these the eyes of a rat? “Hath not a Jew eyes?” I feel for you Helen.”


Honorable Mentions:

-Strange Days (1995),
-Onegin (1999),
-Spider (2002),
-Bernard and Doris (2006),
-In Bruges (2008), and
-The Duchess (2008)

Author Bio: Nikola Savić is a major cinephile with main interests in deeply emotional and thought-provoking films. This travel enthusiast also holds a Masters Degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Kragujevac.