1. The Theory of Everything (2014)

IMDB rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 79%

Storyline: The Theory of Everything recounts the life of physicist Stephen Hawking, from his early academic years at Cambridge to his world-renowned success in scientific research despite being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. The film explores the passionate, yet complex and challenging relationship between Hawking and his first wife, Jane. It presents an intimate portrayal of resilience, love, and curiosity in the face of adversity.

Why it’s a major performance: As Stephen Hawking, Eddie Redmayne gave an absolute powerhouse performance. He completely transformed himself both physically and emotionally to bring out the unique nuances and challenges that Hawking faced. From altering his posture to mimic Hawking’s physical degeneration to masterfully capturing the famous scientist’s wit and spirit, Redmayne’s performance was stunning. His compelling depiction garnered international admiration and acclaim.

Why it’s a major performance: The depth of Redmayne’s acting is evident in the way he presented Hawking’s struggle with his disease, but perhaps even more so in the subtler moments of human connection and vulnerability. Despite playing a character with increasingly limited physical capabilities, Redmayne’s performance was vibrant and full of life. His impressive culmination of dedicated research and talent resulted in an Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor – firmly establishing this role as a major milestone in his career.

2. The Danish Girl (2015)

IMDB rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 68%

Storyline: The Danish Girl tells the poignant story of Lili Elbe, one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery, and her wife Gerda. Starting as a portrait sitting, where Einar, played by Redmayne, stands in for a female model, both realize that Einar’s feminine side, who they later name Lili, is much stronger than they initially thought.

Why it’s a major performance: Committing to a complete physical and emotional transformation, Redmayne embodied Lili Elbe with respect, tenderness, and sincerity. Portraying a transgender woman during the early 20th century, Redmayne captivates with his nuanced performance, effortlessly shifting between Einar and Lili to grasp the intricate details of their identities. Critics and viewers alike applauded his sensitive and brave portrayal of the struggle, confusion, and acceptance associated with gender identity.

Why it’s a major performance: In representing the subjective human experience at its most complex, Redmayne’s portrayal of Lili Elbe was a testament to his phenomenal acting prowess. The character’s journey from Einar to Lili presented a challenging task for any actor, yet Redmayne convincingly and empathetically embodied the character’s transition. His dedicated and heartfelt performance earned him a second consecutive Best Actor Oscar nomination.

3. Les Misérables (2012)

IMDB rating: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 69%

Storyline: Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Misérables is a sweeping tale of love, morality, and redemption set against the backdrop of 19th-century France. Redmayne plays Marius, a passionate student revolutionary who falls for Cosette, the adopted daughter of ex-convict Jean Valjean.

Why it’s a major performance: Marius differs markedly from Redmayne’s regular choice of serious, dramatic roles. As Marius, he showcased his incredible singing talent and his versatility as an actor, handling the character’s amorous and revolutionary scenes with equal adeptness. His heartfelt rendition of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” solidified his place as a key player in this star-studded musical adaptation.

Why it’s a major performance: Redmayne’s multi-layered performance in Les Misérables offered the actor a chance to showcase his talents in a new genre. His ability to pull off the romantic lead while singing live on camera was an impressive undertaking, demonstrating his abilities as a well-rounded entertainer. His potent combination of youthful innocence and grave wisdom added depth to the role of Marius, ensuring his lasting impression in the hearts of audiences.

4. The Aeronauts (2019)

IMDB rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 72%

Storyline: In The Aeronauts, Eddie Redmayne plays James Glaisher, a Victorian meteorologist with dreams of advancing human knowledge about the weather. To do so, he must team up with fearless balloon pilot Amelia Wren, to embark on a perilous journey into the sky.

Why it’s a major performance: Once again, Redmayne proves his capability to fully immerse himself into the characters he portrays. As James Glaisher, Redmayne instills a sense of charm, displaying Glaisher’s unwavering perseverance in an adventure that is simultaneously terrifying and awe-inspiring. His ability to portray a protagonist radiating a quiet intensity bolsters the film and showcases Redmayne’s versatility as an actor.

Why it’s a major performance: Redmayne’s portrayal of Glaisher’s cautious and calculated demeanor provides a much-needed balance to his co-star’s flamboyant and audacious character, creating a compelling dynamic. Demonstrating excellent chemistry with his co-stars, he provides an undercurrent of strength and resilience throughout the film. His performance earned widespread acclaim, with critics acknowledging his impressive ability to portray complex characters with both sensitivity and veracity.

5. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

IMDB rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 74%

Storyline: As part of the magical world of Harry Potter, Redmayne plays Newt Scamander, an eccentric magizoologist who embarks on an adventure in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards. Newt’s suitcase of magical creatures leads to mayhem in the city, threatening to expose the wizarding world.

Why it’s a major performance: For audiences used to seeing Redmayne in intense, dramatic roles, his portrayal of Newt Scamander was a delightful anomaly. Adopting an idiosyncratic physicality, he skillfully balanced the character’s quirks with his inherent love for magical creatures and his strong sense of justice. His engaging presence brought to life a beloved character from J.K. Rowling’s universe, showcasing another layer of Redmayne’s talent.

Why it’s a major performance: Successfully transitioning from the independent film industry to a major blockbuster franchise, Redmayne displayed his innate star power in this high-profile role. By injecting depth and relatability into Newt’s character, he was able to resonate with audiences worldwide. His excellent portrayal ensured that he would return in subsequent sequels, solidifying this role as a significant milestone in Redmayne’s career.

6. The Pillars of the Earth (2010)

IMDB rating: 8.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 81%

Storyline: The Pillars of the Earth is a critically-acclaimed miniseries based on the best-selling novel by Ken Follett. Set in the 12th century, the story revolves around the construction of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England. Redmayne stars as Jack, an adventurous and passionate builder.

Why it’s a major performance: Redmayne’s portrayal of Jack was one of balance and depth. From the innocent wonderment of the young builder to the passion and resilience of a man overcoming adversity, his performance was skillfully nuanced and compelling. This role allowed him the freedom to evolve with the character, demonstrating his talent for multi-faceted performances and character development.

Why it’s a major performance: His portrayal of Jack in The Pillars of the Earth marks one of Redmayne’s most significant early roles. Delivering a performance that was both emotionally charged and subtly compelling, he showcased his potential and range to carry major roles. His performance in this series drew the attention of critics, leading to a much-deserved recognition in the industry.

7. Savage Grace (2007)

IMDB rating: 5.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 38%

Storyline: Based on a true story, Savage Grace details the life of the troubled Baekeland family, the inventors of Bakelite plastic. Redmayne plays Antony Baekeland, the son of socialite Barbara Baekeland, whose privileged life is marred by a series of disturbing events leading to a tragic conclusion.

Why it’s a major performance: Redmayne delivers a nuanced performance in this controversial film, providing depth and complexity to a deeply flawed and vulnerable character. He confidently rises to the challenge of such a demanding role, accentuating Antony’s struggle with his troubled family life, identity, and emotional turmoil. It’s a performance that exhibits Redmayne’s versatility and courage as an actor.

Why it’s a major performance: Savage Grace showcases a young Eddie Redmayne working alongside academy award-nominated actress Julianne Moore, in a drama with heartbreaking undertones. By taking up roles like this that demand emotional depth and personal exploration, Redmayne has consistently proven his commitment to his craft and willingness to push boundaries.

8. My Week with Marilyn (2011)

IMDB rating: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 83%

Storyline: My Week with Marilyn provides a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the 1957 film “The Prince and the Showgirl,” during which a young assistant director named Colin Clark befriends Marilyn Monroe. Redmayne plays the role of Clark, who documents his brief, enchanted interlude with one of Hollywood’s most iconic stars.

Why it’s a major performance: Redmayne presented a heartfelt and innocent portrayal of Colin Clark, appreciating the wonder and awe of a young man bewildered by Marilyn Monroe’s charm. His performance embraced gentle nuances and subtleties, effectively capturing Clark’s transformation from a star-struck rookie to a mature, understanding friend.

Why it’s a major performance: My Week with Marilyn allowed Redmayne to share the screen with renowned performers like Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh. His performance in this film not only demonstrated his potential but also his ability to captivate the audience in the presence of seasoned actors. It was a noteworthy moment in his career, establishing him as a promising actor in the international film circle.

9. Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

IMDB rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 35%

Storyline: In the sequel to the acclaimed film “Elizabeth,” Redmayne plays Thomas Babington, a young nobleman involved in a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. The film explores the latter years of the queen’s rule, tackling themes of political intrigue, romance, and religious conflict.

Why it’s a major performance: Redmayne presented a chilling portrayal of Babington, a character marked by blind ambition and twisted loyalty. Despite having a supporting role, he managed to add depth to his character, leaving a memorable impression with a performance that was layered with menace and misguided devotion.

Why it’s a major performance: In Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Redmayne showed his potential as a versatile actor through his performance as the treasonous Babington. The film offers a glimpse into the quality of performances that Redmayne was capable of delivering. His portrayal in the film, alongside heavyweights like Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen, asserts his ability to hold his ground amongst skilled actors.

10. Birdsong (2012)

IMDB rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: N/A

Storyline: Birdsong, a two-part television drama, is based on the novel by Sebastian Faulks set during World War I. Redmayne plays Stephen Wraysford, a British soldier traumatized by the horrors of war, while harbouring a passionate but doomed pre-war affair with the wife of a French businessman.

Why it’s a major performance: Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Wraysford was deeply moving. He adeptly captured the complexity of a man torn between a devastating past love affair and the gruesome realities of war. Redmayne’s ability to portray Wraysford’s internal conflict and emotional torment was praised by critics and audiences alike.

Why it’s a major performance: Birdsong allowed Redmayne to explore a character who wrestles with raw emotional distress and mental trauma, skills that he would later use to great effect in his Oscar-winning performance as Stephen Hawking. His ability to evoke deep empathy in his audience through a heart-rending performance established him as an actor of considerable depth and skill. This role further solidified Redmayne’s skill in exquisitely showcasing emotional vulnerability, thus making it a key element of his acting arsenal.