Michael Fassbender’s Birthday: His 15 Best Movies Ranked

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Newsweek

Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender, who turns 42 today, is best known for his appearances in movies like Hunger, Fish Tank, Inglourious Basterds and Steve Jobs.

Born in Heidelberg, Germany, on April 2, 1977, Fassbender’s breakthrough as an actor came in 2008, when he played the Irish Republican hunger striker Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen’s award-winning historical drama Hunger. Fassbender picked up the gong for best actor at the British Independent Film Awards—and began a fruitful working relationship with McQueen.

The following year saw Fassbender star in two acclaimed movies: Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, playing a suave and savage British lieutenant, and Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, where he played the new boyfriend of the main character’s mother. “Andrea Arnold's film served as a perfect calling card for how simultaneously charming and frighteningly intense he could be,” David Sims wrote in The Atlantic in 2014.

In 2011, Fassbender was cast as Magneto in the superhero blockbuster X-Men: First Class—a role he has reprised twice more, with a third installment, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, on its way later this year.

His stock rose again later that year, as he reunited with McQueen to star as a troubled sex-addict in Shame. He won best actor again at the British Independent Film Awards and was nominated for a BAFTA—but was controversially overlooked by the Academy.

In 2012, he drew praise for his performance in Ridley Scott’s popular sci-fi film Prometheus and then collaborated with McQueen again in 2013, in the searing, award-winning drama 12 Years a Slave. This time the Academy was paying attention and Fassbender was nominated for best supporting actor.

Fassbender played the lead in Lenny Abrahamson’s unconventional comedy Frank (2014), and received praise for his nuanced portrayal of a struggling musician, despite wearing an oversized papier-mâché head throughout.

In 2015, Fassbender delivered one of his most iconic performances—as the late Apple founder and CEO in Danny Boyle’s biopic Steve Jobs. While he only acquired the role after Christian Bale dropped out, Fassbender made it his own, picking up a nomination for best actor at the Academy Awards.

Since then, Fassbender has remained one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actors, starring in Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth, Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant and Tomas Alfredson’s The Snowman. To celebrate his birthday, Newsweek has analyzed data from review aggregation websites Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and IMDb to rank Fassbender’s 15 best movies.

01 Alien- Covenant
Twentieth Century Fox

15. Alien: Covenant (2017). Total score: 64.29%. 
Directed by: Ridley Scott. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Jussie Smollett. 
Plot summary: The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.
What the critics said: "For reasons too spoilery to give away, Fassbender is electric, giving a spectacularly skin-crawling performance." Cath Clarke, Time Out

02 Prometheus
Twentieth Century Fox

14. Prometheus (2012). Total score: 67.81%. 
Directed by: Ridley Scott. Starring: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce. 
Plot summary: Following clues to the origin of mankind, a team finds a structure on a distant moon, but they soon realize they are not alone.
What the critics said: "Much like Rutger Hauer's turn as a replicant in Scott's Blade Runner, Fassbender's performance may launch Prometheus into the cult stratosphere." Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post

03 A Dangerous Method
Sony Pictures Classics

13. A Dangerous Method (2011). Total score: 70.23%. 
Directed by: David Cronenberg. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel, Sarah Gadon. 
Plot summary: A look at how the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.
What the critics said: "Whatever the elements, Cronenberg has made a good movie from them, with outstanding performances by Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen." Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

04 Macbeth
The Weinstein Company

12. Macbeth (2015). Total score: 70.7%. 
Directed by: Justin Kurzel. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, David Thewlis, Elizabeth Debicki, Paddy Considine. 
Plot summary: Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.
What the critics said: "Why do we need another Macbeth? There's a two-part answer: A) Michael Fassbender. B) Marion Cotillard." Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

05 X-Men- First Class
Twentieth Century Fox

11. X-Men: First Class (2011). Total score: 71.64%. 
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn. Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byre, Nichols Hoult. 
Plot summary: In the 1960s, superpowered humans Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr work together to find others like them, but Erik's vengeful pursuit of an ambitious mutant who ruined his life causes a schism to divide them.
What the critics said: "Erik/Magneto, as played by Michael Fassbender, is, well, magnetic." Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

06 Slow West
A24

10. Slow West (2015). Total score: 72.89%. 
Directed by: John Maclean. Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Caren Pistorius, Aorere Paki, Michael Fassbender. 
Plot summary: A young Scottish man travels across America in pursuit of the woman he loves, attracting the attention of an outlaw who is willing to serve as a guide.
What the critics said: "An absurdist, melancholy coming-of-age tale that jumps from odd comedy to striking violence to stirring reflection." Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine/Vulture

07 Shame
Fox Searchlight Pictures

9. Shame (2011). Total score: 73.15%. 
Directed by: Steve McQueen. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale. 
Plot summary: A man's carefully cultivated private life is disrupted when his sister arrives for an indefinite stay.
What the critics said: "With tremendous performances from Fassbender and Mulligan, and such superb technique from McQueen, this is a horrible inferno." Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

08 Frank
Magnolia Pictures

8. Frank (2014). Total score: 74.06%. 
Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal. 
Plot summary: Jon, a young wanna-be musician, discovers he's bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank.
What the critics said: "Michael Fassbender spends the majority of Lenny Abrahamson's irreverent comedy buried underneath a giant plastic head, but the honesty of his performance is on full display." Eric Kohn, indieWire. 

09 Jane Eyre
Focus Features 

7. Jane Eyre (2011). Total score: 74.78%. 
Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga. Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Holliday Grainger, Sally Hawkins. 
Plot summary: A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he's hiding a terrible secret.
What the critics said: "The film builds to a shattering climax that works precisely because all involved fully embrace the melodrama. Be sure to bring Kleenex." Keith Uhlich, Time Out

10 Inglourious Basterds
The Weinstein Company

6. Inglourious Basterds (2009). Total score: 75.46%. 
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth. Starring: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Mélanie Laurent. 
Plot summary: In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner's vengeful plans for the same.
What the critics said: "With Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino has made his best movie since Pulp Fiction. He has also made what could arguably be considered the most audacious World War II movie of all-time." James Berardinelli, ReelViews. 

11 X-Men- Days of Future Past
Twentieth Century Fox

5. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). Total score: 77.04%. 
Directed by: Bryan Singer. Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Evan Peters. 
Plot summary: The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.
What the critics said: "Singer's return in the pretzel-logic pop fantasia X-Men: Days of Future Past is so triumphant because of how effortless he makes connecting the dots seem. It's an epic that couldn't be more Byzantine on paper but scans with ease on screen." Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly