best film:   Michael Fassbender’s three (3) Steve McQueen collaborations between 2008 and 2013 (Hunger, Shame, 12 Years a Slave) is where this category starts – and the middle film, the one most centrically featuring Fassbender, Shame, is the answer – though they are very close in artistic quality. Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) deserves a long, hard look as well.


best performance:  Shame again triumphs in this category and this is a strength for Fassbender. There are not many films of this quality in general in cinema history, but far fewer that are unflinching character studies – usually a character study (here it is Fassbender’s Brandon) is not directed with this kind of stylistic bravado.  There is a surprising bit of depth to this category for Fassbender. There is a solid case to include his work in Fish Tank in the his list of best performances,  he garnered an Oscar nomination for Steve Jobs, and there is a per-minute average argument for his part in Inglourious Basterds which somehow falls to the final spot on the top five below.


Fassbender as Brandon in Steve McQueen’s Shame (2011) – a harrowing tale of addiction. Dogged, painful and real – the entire first date with Nicole Beharie’s Marianne character is another long take piece of filmmaking and acting genius – six (6) minutes long with the waiter coming in and out. The best of neo Neorealism is on display with clear improvisation and the duration of the shot working on the viewer.  Shame also features plenty of viciousness in the dialogue –  a fight between the two siblings (Fassbender as Brandon and Carey Mulligan of course as Sissy – his sister) shot in one take from behind their heads on the couch – a clear Ingmar Bergman-like punch in the dialogue – he eviscerates her like a similar scene in Winter’s Light (1963).


stylistic innovations/traits:  Michael Fassbender was born in Germany, raised in Ireland, and is not only the youngest actor to be this highly rated on the list, but he did not start out as a child actor like Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, or Joaquin Phoenix. Fassbender’s first archiveable films are from 2008 – and it was that year when Fassbender hooked up with burgeoning genius auteur Steve McQueen. Fassbender’s career took off like a rocket from there (artistically, if not commercially) making twelve (12) archiveable films from 2008-2016 (a span of just nine years) producing one of the best performances of the year in three (3) of those years.  For at least a brief moment of time – it is fair to ask if Michael Fassbender is the best actor on the planet. The lack of archiveable films from 2017 to 2022 is concerning for sure – and the remedy of going back to working with Steve McQueen (if possible) seems painfully obvious. Fassbender excels in intense, serious roles and films – again, a great marriage with McQueen.  Fassbender’s gifts are often best on display when he is playing supreme intelligence and genius as well – he has played both Steve Jobs and Carl Jung (A Dangerous Method) to great success.


Fassbender’s breakout year and role – Hunger (2008). He plays Bobby Sands and does not show up until the 26-minute mark – an unconventional structure that absolutely works here. Fassbender also shines in the 17-minute long unbroken shot dialogue sequence with his Sands character and the priest. The foal story (also a long-ish shot) comes directly after this with Fassbender more squarely captured by the camera in this scene. Fassbender transforms physically for the role with the weight loss – much more than a gimmick.


directors worked with: Steve McQueen (3), Quentin Tarantino (1), David Cronenberg (1), Steven Soderbergh (1), Ridley Scott (1), Danny Boyle (1), Derek Cianfrance (1)


from Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (2013) – the characters are so well constructed – Benedict Cumberbatch’s character continually looks the other way and Michael Fassbender is horrifying –  akin to Ralph Fiennes portrayal and impact in Schindler’s List


top five performances:

  1. Shame
  2. Hunger
  3. 12 Years a Slave
  4. A Dangerous Method
  5. Inglourious Basterds


archiveable films

2008- Eden Lake
2008- Hunger
2009- Fish Tank
2009- Inglourious Basterds
2011- A Dangerous Method
2011- Haywire
2011- Jane Eyre
2011- Shame
2012- Prometheus
2013- 12 Years a Slave
2015- Steve Jobs
2016- The Light Between Oceans