best film:  Two polar opposite films dominate both this category for Ralph Fiennes – and the best performance category below. On one hand, Fiennes plays Amon Goeth, commandant of the Kraków concentration camp in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993). Far to the other side in genre and tone – and over two decades later – Fiennes would find another once in a lifetime role as M. Gustave, the concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) in Wes Anderson’s colorful, symmetrical world.


from Schindler’s List in 1993 – this was Ralph Fiennes’ coming out party – a haunting portrayal. Fiennes’ monster – an angel of death – Amon Goeth belongs on the all-time list of movie villain performances along with Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lector and Robert Mitchum’s dueling work in Cape Fear and Night of the Hunter.


best performance:  The Grand Budapest Hotel edges out his work in Schindler’s List but they are both excellent options and there is no wrong answer between the two. The Grand Budapest is a dominant comedic lead performance in a visually spectacular auteur driven masterpiece – this achievement is incredibly rare. Fiennes is just in total command – exacting, funny, the dictation, the body language, the walk – it is all so accomplished.


Fiennes in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel – certainly a prime candidate for the best performance in a Wes Anderson film – one of the most important auteurs in the world of cinema since 1996.


stylistic innovations/traits: Ralph Fiennes’ third overall performances in his film career is the scene stealing personification of horror in Spielberg’s 1993 film. Quiz Show in 1994 is a nearly 180 degree turn and a solid entry to back that breakthrough up and show off some versatility. Of course, The English Patient came along not long after in 1996 and gave Fiennes a second high quality performances in one of the year’s best films. There are often little quiet stretches in his career since, but every few years there is a Spider, In Bruges, Deathly Hallows – maybe even 2022’s The Menu belongs here in that second or third tier, that acts as reminder of Fiennes’ abilities. He is unhinged in A Bigger Splash – so verbal – he never shuts up. Yet if one looks back, Fiennes can turn around and put together a disturbing portrayal like Spider with David Cronenberg where he hardly talks at all – just mumbles and facial tics. This, combined with the samples above from his best two films and performances, is acting range. Fiennes can clearly play villains (Schindler, In Bruges, and Harry Potter), bastards (Coriolanus, A Bigger Splash), and complex (also a bit bastardly), ultimately sympathetic figures (Quiz Show, The English Patient, Constant Gardener). Fiennes is the consummate pro – and this list is not about forecasting the future, but with three archiveable films in the 2020s (giving him a very respectable twenty (20) archiveable films overall) and his skill level – he shows no signs of slowing down.


Fiennes in the now underrated best picture Oscar winner from 1996 – The English Patient


directors worked with:  Kathryn Bigelow (2), Peter Greenaway (1), Steven Spielberg (1), Anthony Minghella (1), David Cronenberg (1), Fernando Meirelles (1), Sam Mendes (1), Wes Anderson (1), Luca Guadagnino (1), The Coen Brothers (1)


Fiennes in David Cronenberg’s 2002 effort Spider (a low key sublime film in the oeuvre of both Fiennes and Cronenberg). Spider is so far removed from Fiennes character in 2015’s A Bigger Splash, Harry Hawkes – it is hard to believe it is the same actor


top five performances:

  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  2. Schindler’s List
  3. The English Patient
  4. Spider
  5. A Bigger Splash


archiveable films

1993- The Baby of Macon
1993- Schindler’s List
1994- Quiz Show
1995- Strange Days
1996- The English Patient
1999- The End of the Affair
2002- Spider
2005- The Constant Gardener
2008- In Bruges
2008- The Hurt Locker
2008- The Reader
2011- Coriolanus
2011- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
2012- Skyfall
2014- The Grand Budapest Hotel
2015- A Bigger Splash
2016- Hail, Caesar!
2021- The Dig
2021- No Time to Die
2022- The Menu