To many people, the name Michael Fassbender may sound unfamiliar. Then, upon seeing a picture of the Irish actor most would be prone to exclaiming ‘Oh it’s that guy!’. From the depths of acclaimed indie films to the heights of international blockbusters, Fassbender has gained the respect of film buffs and casual cinema-goers alike. One of the most prolific actors of the last 10 years it is highly likely that you have seen at least one Fassbender film. And if you haven’t, fear not, here are five good films to get you started.
If you haven’t seen a Fassbender film before then X-Men: First Class is the best place to start. The Irishman was faced with the daunting task of taking over from Ian Mckellan as magnetic mutant Magneto in a new take on Marvels much-maligned superheroes. This Matthew Vaughn comic book flick takes the X-Men back to their roots and repositions the franchise in the 1960s. This proved to be a stroke of genius offering a clean slate and a fresh start for one of the most successful box office franchises of the 21st century. Fassbender is joined by an enviable cast including James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult, all of whom turn in stellar performances as a new generation of X-Men. One of the most underrated superhero movies in recent memory X-Men: First Class is the perfect place to get your first Fassbender fix.
From superhero to super genius Fassbender’s most critically acclaimed role to date was that of tech giant and Apple founder Steve Jobs. Danny Boyle provided Fassbender with a vehicle to demonstrate just how talented he really is in this Oscar-nominated performance. Boiling down Jobs illustrious career into three key moments proved to be a masterstroke from writer Aaron Sorkin allowing the film to get to the meat of Jobs character with no unnecessary fat whatsoever. Kate Winslet bounces of Fassbender brilliantly in her own Oscar-nominated performance as marketing executive Joanna Hoffman in one of the best-acted films of the last few years.
Frank is an exceptionally odd film. It is also one of the most unique films of the last decade. Fassbender plays the titular Frank, the frontman of an obscure rock band who wears a papier-mâché head at all times. Still with me? It takes a special actor to firstly agree to spend an entire film with his face obscured, and secondly to take the role seriously enough to pull it off so convincingly. Lenny Abrahamson directs this very lose adaption of the Frank Sidebottom character with aplomb and a wonderfully intelligent sense of melancholy. Whilst all this is going on Frank proves to be a phenomenally fun film with the likes of Domhnall Gleeson and Maggie Gyllenhaal revelling in the absurdity of the story they find themselves in. If anyone were ever foolish enough to doubt Fassbender’s versatility as an actor, I would happily point them in the direction of Frank.
One of Fassbender’s lesser-known performances is also one of his best. This time playing an outlaw living on the outskirts of Gloucestershire with his largely criminal family. The story is one of fathers and sons and the desperation of trying to outrun your parents’ shadow. The central relationship of this crime drama is between Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson (father to Domhnall who Fassbender stars alongside in Frank) as they wrestle with a dire situation and a deeply complicated family history. Rory Kinnear is ever present as a policeman with a bone to pick in one of the least glamorous, yet most interesting films of Fassbender’s career. Adam Smith’s direction puts an emphasis on inescapable familial patterns in this thought-provoking, utterly fascinating indie drama.
Stepping into darker roles has never phased Fassbender and it is in this field where, for many, he has delivered his best work. The second of Fassbender’s collaborations with director Steve McQueen, Shame is a no holds barred take on sex addiction in the 21st century. The film is brutally honest whilst maintaining a tangible sense of humanity throughout its 1h40m runtime. It’s a testament to McQueen that whilst you will no doubt despise Fassbender’s Brandon Sullivan at points, you almost always understand his pain, doubt and of course his shame. Carey Mulligan offers an equally impressive performance drawing the viewer into a complicated and disturbing subject matter with an unprecedented sense of class. A truly sensational piece of filmmaking and one that utilises the skills of Fassbender to their absolute best.
Another McQueen collaboration that needs no introduction. Fassbender plays the despicable slave owner Edwin Epps in this harrowing historical epic.
A film often unfairly criticised in my opinion. One element of the Ridley Scott sci-fi Alien prequel that is universally praised however is Fassbender’s scene-stealing performance as David 8. ‘Big things have small beginnings.’
Check out all these films on IMDB.