MCM: Ralph Fiennes


This was a reader request (before y’all deluge us with ’em, here’s how to properly request things!), so I looked him up because I could only remember one or two frock flicks Ralph Fiennes had been in. And … ew, he’s played a lot of historical bad guys and I’m not sure if it’s in the ‘why are the baddies always hot’ way (he played Voldemort, ferchrissakes, no that’s not historical but it sticks in my memory). But he also played a couple personal faves, so I’m leaving the judgement up to you!


T. E. Lawrence in A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia (1992)

Ralph Fiennes, A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia (1992)

A bit of a good guy? He’s kinda working for the Arab cause in this TV movie.


Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights (1992)

Ralph Fiennes, Wuthering Heights (1992)

My favorite filmed version of the book, & this portrayal of Heathcliff is the most flattering, but honestly the character is a jerk.


The Bishop’s Son in The Baby of Mâcon (1993)

Ralph Fiennes, The Baby of Mâcon (1993)

No clue — some crazy artsy flick!


Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List (1993)

Ralph Fiennes, Schindler's List (1993)

He’s a fucking Nazi, so yeah, BAD GUY.


Charles Van Doren in Quiz Show (1994)

Ralph Fiennes, Quiz Show (1994)

Based on a real case of fraud in the Q&A show Twenty-One, & Fiennes plays the contestant who went along with, so generally a bad guy.


Count László Almásy in The English Patient (1996)

Ralph Fiennes, The English Patient (1996)

Sexy! Not a baddie!


Oscar Hopkins in Oscar and Lucinda (1997)

Ralph Fiennes, Oscar and Lucinda (1997)

Quirky & sad. Not a baddie!


Ignatz Sonnenschein / Adam Sors / Ivan Sors in Sunshine (1999)

Ralph Fiennes, Sunshine (1999)

He plays several members of a Hungarian Jewish family over the course of the early 20th century. Complicated, maybe, but not exactly bad.


Yevgeny Onegin in Onegin (1999)

Ralph Fiennes, Onegin (1999)

The romantic lead from an Alexander Pushkin novel. Like Heathcliff, kind of a jerk.


Maurice Bendrix in The End of the Affair (1999)

Ralph Fiennes, The End of the Affair (1999)

According to one review on IMDB, this character is “a prize prick, unfeeling of others, concentrated on his misery and his work, yet obsessively jealous.” So let’s say bad guy.


Todd Jackson in The White Countess (2005)

Ralph Fiennes, The White Countess (2005)

He plays a blind American former diplomat running a nightclub in this final Merchant-Ivory film. Morally ambiguous maybe, but not bad, IMO.


The Duke of Devonshire in The Duchess (2008)

Ralph Fiennes, The Duchess (2008)

A fabulous rich but very shitty husband. Bad guy!


Magwitch in Great Expectations (2012)

Ralph Fiennes, Great Expectations (2012)

He’s a criminal, but he’s actually Pip’s benefactor. So good guy in disguise?


Charles Dickens in The Invisible Woman (2013)

Ralph Fiennes, The Invisible Woman (2013)

OK, I think Dickens is an ass of a human being, & I feel like watching this movie right now would be a big ol’ #MeToo moment, so I’m not an unbiased judge.


M. Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Funny, weird, conniving — but not the bad guy in this movie, really.


Laurence Laurentz in Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Ralph Fiennes, Hail, Caesar! (2016)

He’s pushy (duh, he’s a movie director!), but not a bad guy.


Alexander Pushkin in The White Crow (2018)

Ralph Fiennes, The White Crow (2018)

Fiennes also directed this film about Soviet ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev’s defection to the west in 1961. Pushkin was Nureyev’s teacher, & I haven’t seen this flick yet to tell how aggressive he’s portrayed as trying to keep the dancer in the USSR.


Professor James Moriarty in Holmes & Watson (2018)

Ralph Fiennes, Holmes & Watson (2018)

Somebody had to be the bad guy in this dorky comedy!


What’s your favorite historical costume role of Ralph Fiennes? Is it one of his baddies?

23 Responses

  1. Kate D

    Ralph Fiennes’ acting is generally great. I like him, but he’s definitely coded as a bad guy in my head. His Nazi and Voldemort left too strong an impression to shake.

    His brother Joseph Fiennes, on the other hand, after Shakespeare in Love, Merchant of Venice, and Elizabeth, is labeled for me as “smoldering love interest” forever.

  2. Author Jennifer Quail

    Goethe was bad BY THE STANDARDS OF OTHER NAZIS, no less. But dammit, Fiennes, stop looking sexy. I mean, not a historical, but he made Francis “The Red Dragon” Dolarhyde look not so bad.

    • Adina

      He did such a great job of bringing the character to life that you could really understand his psychosis (not saying sympathize with, but you got where it came from and what it manifested as). He had such a strange mix of awkwardly polite and then fucking terrifying that it was amazing.

  3. Charity

    He is way too sexy to play so many villains, but I can’t say I mind. Anything that gets him on my screen is fine with me. (I just re-watched his “Great Expectations” over the weekend, actually, and was reminded of how talented he is.”) My favorite of his roles is “Oscar & Lucinda,” opposite my goddess, Cate Blanchett, but I would pay actual money to have them rewrite the ending. That ending sucks, but I have a serious amount of emo in me, so I continue torturing myself with it.

  4. BackwardsChic

    Just a heads-up to anyone on this list: do not see the Baby of Macon. Fiennes’ character is not the bad guy in that film, but that movie is INCREDIBLY fucked up. The movie was at one time available on YouTube and I watched it, and I’m just going to say that if I tried to write out a trigger warning list it would be a long-ass screed.

      • BackwardsChic

        No problem at all! If you or anyone else feels morbidly curious about it, the Wikipedia article sums it up fairly well, but it is not a good idea to thrust it on your eyeballs.

  5. Kaite Fink

    He plays villains so well! I don’t know which of his roles are my favs, but any actor that can make a villain still look like a human being while being an absolute piece of shit, is a great actor.

  6. eldalorien

    I’m still bitter about him not winning the Oscar for his performance in Schindler’s List.

  7. LadySlippers

    The End of the Affair is one of my favourite movies. He’s honestly not a bad guy — just a guy that’s hurt because the love of his life cannot be with him. Maurice is jealous, but he’s also insecure. And Fiennes plays him to perfection, he gives him a humanity that I think others would struggle with.

    I really appreciate his art.

    • Lily Lotus Rose

      Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for this post! Honestly, if Ralph Fiennes had only ever played Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and Almasy in The English Patient, he would have been forever cemented in my heart as an all-time historical hottie. I fell in love with him as M. Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel, not only because of the character he played, but also because of his skill as an actor. I had lamented that perhaps he just didn’t have the chops for chops for comedy. I was overjoyed to be proved wrong. With that role, he proved to me that he can do anything. Now, I really want to see Hail Caesar and the Sherlock Holmes movies; I didn’t know he was in those!

  8. kt

    Will have to look up the Wuthering Heights adaptation which had passed me by. He is also a great villain in The Curse of the Were Rabbit and a cold withholding father in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang – although melts somewhat. Love the long suffering Laurence Laurentz trying to direct Hobie in Hail Caesar.

  9. maddiecaffeinated

    I loved him in A Dangerous Man, even that movie can be weirdly hard to find online. He’s so young and smol and precious as Lawrence. Extra eye candy in that movie is a veerryyy young Alexander Siddig, while he was still billed as Siddig al Fadil!