1. The Notebook (2004)

IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 53%

Storyline:
In “The Notebook”, Rachel McAdams plays the character Allie Hamilton, a girl from a wealthy family who falls in love with Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling), a boy from the other side of the tracks in 1940s South Carolina. The two meet one fateful summer and despite their differences, find a love that transcends class and circumstance. Through a series of events that test their bond, they navigate the societal pressures that threaten to pull them apart.

Why it’s a major performance:
“The Notebook” is arguably one of McAdams’ most iconic roles. She beautifully portrays the character Allie with depth and a range of emotions that captivate the audience. Despite her fledgling career, her performance is exceptional, showcasing her abilities to portray a love-stricken woman who is torn between her love for Noah and her duties to her family.

Why it’s a memorable performance:
Many fans and critics alike remember “The Notebook” for McAdams’ tear-jerking performance. Her emotive portrayal of Allie made her a household name, further placing her among the ranks of respected Hollywood actresses. The chemistry between McAdams and Gosling also contributed to the movie’s success, with their intense love story capturing the hearts of viewers worldwide.

2. Spotlight (2015)

IMDB Rating: 8.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97%

Storyline:
In “Spotlight”, McAdams plays Sacha Pfeiffer, a journalist working for The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team as they uncover a massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. The team’s investigation shakes the city to its core, leading to a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions.

Why it’s a major performance:
McAdams’ portrayal of Sacha Pfeiffer is notably commendable. It showcases her versatility as an actress, proving she can tackle serious roles with the same finesse as her romantic ones. Her performance earned her critical acclaim, leading to a nomination for the Best Supporting Actress at the 88th Academy Awards.

Why it’s a memorable performance:
In “Spotlight”, McAdams perfectly captured the essence of an investigative journalist. She was adept at portraying the tenacious and unyielding spirit of Pfeiffer while also maintaining the character’s humility and empathy. The movie’s success and the various accolades it received are testaments to the impact of her performance.

3. Mean Girls (2004)

IMDB Rating: 7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 84%

Storyline:
McAdams portrays Regina George, the queen bee of a popular clique at North Shore High School, in “Mean Girls”. Written by Tina Fey, the film satirically explores the social cliques of high school and the damaging effects they can have on girls.

Why it’s a major performance:
“Mean Girls” may have been a comedy, but McAdams’ portrayal of Regina George was nothing short of exceptional. Her performance as the manipulative and vindictive queen bee showcased her ability to embody the persona of her character fully.

Why it’s a memorable performance:
The success and cult following of “Mean Girls” can be largely attributed to McAdams’ performance. She effortlessly made Regina George one of the most memorable high school antagonists in film history. Critics and audiences applauded her sharp comedic timing and ability to make an unlikeable character so compelling.

4. Midnight In Paris (2011)

IMDB Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%

Storyline:
McAdams plays Inez in “Midnight in Paris”, a demanding, materialistic fiancée to Owen Wilson’s character, Gil, a struggling writer. The story unfolds as they vacation in Paris and Gil begins experiencing some magical events during his midnight excursions.

Why it’s a major performance:
Though not the lead role in this Woody Allen film, McAdams’ portrayal of Inez shines. She evolves from a seemingly loving partner into an unsympathetic and exasperating character, who brilliantly contrasts with Wilson’s more whimsical role, making her performance noteworthy.

Why it’s a memorable performance:
McAdams’ impressive performance in “Midnight in Paris” reinforced her skills to take on complex characters. She perfectly depicted Inez as the antithesis to Gil’s dreamy persona, thus highlighting the tensions within their relationship. Her dynamic with Wilson and her portrayal of a character that exacerbates his dissatisfaction makes this role memorable.

5. Red Eye (2005)

IMDB Rating: 6.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 79%

Storyline:
In “Red Eye”, McAdams plays Lisa, a manager of a luxury hotel who becomes entangled in a plot to assassinate a government official. She gets trapped in this terrifying situation during a flight home, finding herself seated next to a man involved in the plot.

Why it’s a major performance:
In “Red Eye”, McAdams showcases her ability to carry an intense, suspense-filled movie. Her portrayal of Lisa transitioning from a regular woman into a brave heroine as she resists the villainous plan is commendable.

Why it’s a memorable performance:
This role allowed McAdams to demonstrate that she’s not just a romantic or comedy actress–she can excel in the thriller genre as well. Her intense yet nuanced performance in “Red Eye” underscores her versatility as an actress and reinforces her position as one of Hollywood’s leading ladies.

6. The Vow (2012)

IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 31%

Storyline:
“The Vow” showcases McAdams as Paige, a woman who suffers from memory loss due to a car accident. She forgets years of her life, including her marriage to Leo (Channing Tatum), who tries to make her fall in love with him again.

Why it’s a major performance:
McAdams delves deeply into her character, thoughtfully playing a woman confusingly rebuilding her life while everyone else remembers it. Her heartfelt performance illuminates the strains and hardships that come with memory loss.

Why it’s a memorable performance:
The sensitivity and depth of McAdams’ performance in “The Vow” are remarkable. Her chemistry with Tatum creates a compelling love story that engages the audience. Despite mixed critical reception, her dénouement showcased her unmatched knack for dramatic roles.

7. Doctor Strange (2016)

IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89%

Storyline:
McAdams plays Dr. Christine Palmer in “Doctor Strange”, a successful surgeon who shares a complicated romantic past with Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). When Strange embarks on a journey of healing, Christine becomes his tether to his old life.

Why it’s a major performance:
In “Doctor Strange”, McAdams proves that she can hold her own in action-packed films. Although her screen time was limited, she portrayed Christine Palmer with a grace and fierceness that made her a standout character.

Why it’s a memorable performance:
The contrast between Christine’s life-saving, pragmatic approach and Strange’s mystical pursuits makes their dynamic compelling. Despite their estrangement, McAdams projects Christine’s care for Strange subtly, making this a memorable role.

8. Wedding Crashers (2005)

IMDB Rating: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 75%

Storyline:
In “Wedding Crashers”, McAdams plays Claire, the daughter of an influential politician who crosses paths with John (Owen Wilson), a perennial wedding guest. Despite being engaged to another man, Claire finds herself drawn to John.

Why it’s a major performance:
This film allows McAdams to demonstrate her comedic prowess, which is often overshadowed by her dramatic roles. Her portrayal of Claire, a woman caught between her obligations and her growing affections for John, is captivating.

Why it’s a memorable performance:
McAdams is a standout in this ensemble cast, bringing to life a character that could easily have been one-dimensional. Her chemistry with Wilson is palpable, making “Wedding Crashers” a memorable performance in her varied career.

9. About Time (2013)

IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 68%

Storyline:
“About Time” introduces McAdams as Mary, a woman who endears a time-traveling man named Tim (Domhnall Gleeson). As Tim uses his special ability to woo Mary and navigate their relationship, questions about destiny and choice are explored.

Why it’s a major performance:
McAdams exhibits a charming and smart woman whose love story involves time travel. Mastering British accent, she brilliantly brings Mary to life and personifies a lovable character enduring extraordinary relationship circumstances.

Why it’s a memorable performance:
McAdams’ performance in “About Time” is heart-warming and relatable. Her undeniable acting prowess and the chemistry with Gleeson makes it a distinctly enjoyable film. Her portrayal of Mary’s resilience and charm makes it a truly memorable performance.

10. Game Night (2018)

IMDB Rating: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85%

Storyline:
In “Game Night”, a couple’s game night turns into a real-life mystery. McAdams plays Annie, the wife of a highly-competitive Max (Jason Bateman). When Max’s brother is kidnapped, their fun evening escalates into a wild, night-long adventure.

Why it’s a major performance:
McAdams proves her comedic chops once more in “Game Night”. Her portrayal of Annie, a quirky and competitive character, is not only engaging but also adds depth to the comedy-thriller narrative.

Why it’s a memorable performance:
McAdams received widespread praise for her comedy timing and natural fit into the ensemble in the film. Her delivery in high-octane comedic situations and effective use of physical comedy make her role in “Game Night” exceptional and memorable.