The English Patient (1996): One of Fiennes most famous film roles, it is considered by some to be the consummate tale of passionate love, revenge and healing. Fiennes plays Count Laszlo Almasy, a geographer on a 1939 Royal Society expedition to uncover a cave in the Sahara. Almasy becomes involved with Katharine (Kristen Scott-Thomas), the wife of expedition colleague Clifton (Colin Firth). Their affair indirectly leads to eventual tragedy as events unfold over the early days of World War II. The story is revealed in a series of flashbacks as the badly-burned Almasy (covered head-to-toe in bandages) tells his story to Hana (Juliette Binoche), the young French-Canadian nurse who cares for him in a bombed-out Italian home. The movie is a major tear-jerker, so bring the Kleenex.
Oscar and Lucinda (1997): Interestingly, this was the first Fiennes film I saw that really grabbed my attention and made me a devoted Fiennes fan. I’d already seen Schindler, Quiz Show—and The English Patient—by the time I caught this quirky Australian movie by Gillian Armstrong on cable. I tend to gravitate towards romantic misfits, and Fiennes’ portrayal of the sweet, shy, awkward Anglican priest with a penchant for gambling got to me. He meets Lucinda (Cate Blanchett), a young heiress and businesswoman, equally a misfit in 19th Century society, when Oscar leaves England to take a posting in Australia. Although they seem destined for each other and become great friends, they are indeed star-crossed as lovers, and never more so than when Oscar makes a grand, insane—and heroic (in its own way) attempt to win Lucinda. Oscar is a universe (or 10) away from Voldemort.
Sunshine (1999): A historical drama, Sunshine portrays three generations of a Hungarian Jewish family living through good times, persecution, trauma and drama from the early 20th Century through the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, including the family’s horrific experiences during World War II. Fiennes is the protagonist in each generation father, son, and grandson. It’s a fabulous cast, including Jennifer Ehle (The King’s Speech), Rachel Weisz (who appears with Fiennes again in The Constant Gardner), William Hurt, and Rosemary Harris (Spiderman).
End of the Affair (1999): A love affair in the midst of World War II England between novelist Maurice Bendix (Fiennes) and Sarah (Julianne Moore), the wife of a bland English diplomat Henry (Stephen Rea, The Crying Game) frames this story of love, friendship and belief based on Graham Greene’s novel. Although it’s moves slowly at times, and the soundtrack is occasionally intrusive, Fiennes, Moore and Rea are excellent together in this film by Neil Jordan (The Borgias). Fiennes, in particular, is at his brooding best as the cynical Bendix.