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The 10 best films starring Rami Malek

“I used to spend a lot of time alone as a kid, creating characters and doing voices in my room, and I thought to myself, I’m either going to go absolutely nuts, or I’m going to find something to put that energy into.”

Rami Malek is a powerhouse of talent. Although he has been making mainstream appearances quite recently, having only bagged smaller roles in the past, his talent is palpable and undeniable. He has the epic versatility to pay any character on the spectrum and brings in a breath of freshness into the roles he portrays.

Born to Egyptian immigrant parents on May 12, 1981, Malek grew up closely connected to his Egyptian roots and still is “enamoured and intertwined with Egyptian culture”. Although he often spoke about how it was difficult for him to get to grips with his identity as a child, he eventually got around to being proud of his ethnicity. In fact, he even played the role of an Egyptian Pharaon later in the Night at the Museum franchise. 

Malek always had a knack for dramatic interpretation and making up characters in his head. His flair for acting was recognised by his teachers and his parents and soon he went on to study theatre. After graduation, Malek struggled to find work while dallying as food delivery personnel to pay his college debts. After his resume was rejected time and again by production houses, Malek spiralled into depression. He has later reflected on the reason by saying that, “People didn’t know where to place me with my ethnicity, and never was I ever up for leading anything. The fact that Rami Malek got to play the lead character, called Elliot Alderson, in Mr Robot was somewhat of a coup, I think. I never saw that possibility when I was younger.” However, he soon got a casting call for Gilmore Girls, a sitcom where he debuted. Later, he began to reprise as Kenny in the series The War At Home before bagging his feature debut in the 2006 film Night At The Museum alongside Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and others. 

Malek was regularly appearing in small roles before garnering immense recognition by playing Buster in Buster Mal’s heart as the feature lead. He soon became a huge sensation with his role in the series Mr. Robot which made him an instant fan favourite. However, we would consider his 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody as his best film due to his incredible performance as the troubled lead singer Freddie Mercury of the band Queen. Besides an Academy Award, he won a Golden Globe, a SAG as well as a BAFTA.

Preparing intensively for his role as Mercury, Malek had moved to London where he took dialect, movement, piano and singing lessons, besides taking four to five hours per day to study Mercury intently. With a moustache and overbite, his impersonation was so accurate that it often freaked out the director who forgot that he was not Mercury but Malek. “This is a role I don’t think can be outdone. I think we’re always searching for that next great role, and I guess I’m fortunate that I’ve already been met with it,” said Malek. “I’d like to think that there is more out there for me to do, and there is, but I do doubt that there is anything that lives up to how precious this role and this human being have been in my life.” 

An incredible “character actor” with a knack for blending into his roles effortlessly, Malek’s unusual appearance with his oversized, haunting eyes gives him a distinguished, “startlingly handsome” appearance. While Malek will next be seen as the main villain in a James Bond film No Time to Die, it is known that he is in talks of developing a film based on a memoir called American Radical which is about the experiences of an undercover Muslime FBI agent who works there post the September 11 attacks.

As we wait eagerly to watch what magic he has in store for us, on his 40th birthday today, we wish him good health and success by taking a look at the 10 best films he has starred in.

The 10 best Rami Malek films:

10. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (Bill Condon, 2012)

While my pre-teen self would have been shocked at this admission, the Twilight series does not really sit right with me. Bella, a taciturn human girl, falls haplessly and irrevocably in love with a vampire named Edward Cullen who has mind-reading abilities yet cannot do the same for his girlfriend. Over the franchise, the couple manages to stay put despite various obstacles, namely Bella’s over-protective werewolf best friend, Jacob, who is in love with her. 

The final part of the franchise sees Bella and Edward having a child who becomes the source of conflict between the Cullens (and their team) and the Volturi. The film is relatively entertaining, especially the fight sequences that show the grown men and women lunging at each other to rip their respective heads apart. Malek makes an appearance as Benjamin, an Egyptian vampire with the abilities to control nature. Had benjamin not created a huge crack in the glacier-like surface, teenagers would probably be left crying over Edward’s beheaded body.

“She was born, not bitten.”

9. Need For Speed (Scott Waugh, 2014)

Framed by his ex-partner and a wealthy business associate wrongly for committing a murder, Tobey Marshall spends two years in prison thinking of the moment he shall have it all back. Once acquitted, this struggling street racer makes an effort to reacquire the fastest car to enter an infamously popular race known as The DeLeon. He forms a group of street racers and strives hard to achieve his purpose. However, his thirst for revenge and vengeance infuses with his desire to gain recognition in the realm of racing as well as redemption and the film takes momentum when all the elements come rushing in. 

Based on the eponymous video game, this film was not very well received. While it manages to capture the thrill and adrenaline, it does not live up to the expectation. However, the movie has quite a bit of Rami Malek who plays Finn, a member of Marshall’s crew. Finn is a computer prodigy and helps record races by monitoring the cameras.   

“Racers should race, cops should eat donuts.”

8. Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks, 2011)

Middle-aged and divorced Navy veteran Larry Crowne gets fired due to the lack of a college degree despite his amazing work. He enrols himself in a college to take speech and economics classes where he befriends a varied bunch of outcasts who are going through some kind of crises. With them, Larry discovers a new part of himself and continues to grow in abundance while getting romantically interested in his teacher Mercedes. He soon finds himself being able to focus more on himself and his journey is a perfect example of how it is never too late to start over. 

Tom Hanks does a brilliant job as Larry Crowne who does not deem himself worthless and ignores his age to start living life again. The film is quite entertaining but has Rami Malek in a very small role as one of Larry’s classmates, Steve Dibiasi who takes the speech classes as the Dean of Student Services has promised him that the class would allegedly “change my life”. However, the overall feel-good premise and colourful characters make the film quite interesting.  

“They call them smartphones, but only dummies use them in my class.”

7. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (David Lowery, 2013)

Ruth Guthrie reveals to her husband Bob that she is pregnant. After committing a crime, while Bob and his accomplice Freddy try to escape, Ruth accidentally shoots the policeman named Patrick. Bob takes the blame to avoid Ruth from being imprisoned. Years later, this outlaw breaks out of prison yearning to be reunited with his wife and daughter Sylvie whom he has not met. However, traversing the Texas hills seems less difficult than surmounting the various obstacles that lie in his path, including Patrick who seems to have taken an interest in his family, unaware of the fact that it was Ruth who shot at him. 

Rami Malek appears in a small role here as the driver Will, towards the end of the film who gives Bob a ride and wants to seek medical help for Bob but gets refused. Initially, Malek had auditioned for the role of Sweetie but missed out on it. However, the producers were extremely astonished by his audition and liked him so much that they wanted him to appear for a smaller role. Although the film does not have too many Rami Malek scenes, it is a must-watch for his fans due to the incredible cinematography as well as the intimate and tender look at relationships. 

“Every day I wake up thinking today’s the day I’m gonna see you. And one of those days, it will be so. And then we can ride off to somewhere. Somewhere far away.”

6. Night At The Museum franchise (Shawn Levy, 2006, 2009, 2014)

Ben Stiller, an unemployed and divorced New Yorker feels like a complete slacker. He is soon, however, a fresh recruit at the Museum of Natural History as a night watchman replacing three old guards. Soon he realises that the ominous museum is not what it seems as the statues come to life following sunset. All hell breaks loose and there is complete chaos and mayhem in the museum. Larry soon befriends them and enlists their help over the course of three films to embark on various quests and adventures which makes this franchise a fun, family-friendly watch. 

In this extremely delightful and engaging film, Rami Malek reprised the role of an Egyptian Pharaoh, Ahkmenrah, who becomes a good friend of Larry’s and is acquainted with the secret of the tablet. He has a considerably good screen time and adds laughter to the light-hearted films. Amidst rampaging yet amicable dinosaurs, chaotic animals and haughty figurines, Malek’s warm and mellow character is just as good as a cherry on top. Interestingly, the 2006 film in the franchise was a debut film for Malek.  

“I am made of wax, Larry. What are you made of?” 

5. Papillon (Michael Noer, 2017)

Based on the international eponymous bestseller as well as Banco, the film follows the epic journey of a Parisian safecracker Papillon who belongs to the criminal underbelly and gets wrongly accused of murder before being sentenced to life in the freakish penal colony in Devil’s Island. He has nothing to fall back on and his fate is worse than death. However, he forges an unlikely bond with a quirky inmate who is a professional counterfeiter, Louis Dega, with whom he plans to escape, knowing what is at stake. Knowing that no plan can ever be immaculate, Papillon is ready to take the risk as he is desperate for freedom; Dega will comply as he needs protection in exchange for financing Papillon’s escape. 

The film showcases the struggle of two prisoners as they try to evade the brutalities and corruption they have to endure amidst the inhumane conditions of the prison they are confined in. Rami Malek plays the meek yet quirky fancier Louis Dega and delivers an arresting performance in his geeky glasses and mellow demeanour. The film focuses less on the action and more on the unlikely relationship that evolves between the two as well as how far someone is willing to go for their independence.   

“What animal but a man keeps his only means of survival up his ass?”

4. Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton, 2013)

This emotionally stirring indie film is set in a group institution for troubled teenagers named Short Term 12 where a therapist, Grace Howard and her boyfriend, Mason, reside and take care of the inmates. She is very attached to the teenagers and continuously worries for them, especially Jayden, who, she suspects, has been abused by her father. As she tries to help these teenagers shed off the dark thoughts, her turbulent past comes back to her, overwhelming her. 

Rami Malek plays Nate, a college student, who becomes a resident supervisor besides Brie Larson’s Grace. Belonging to an upper-middle-class family, Nate is understanding and cooperative and wants to help the teenagers residing in a safe home. Malek did a great job even in the short limited screen time. 

“Oh, these? Flowers. They represent the peculiar thoughts that grow out of your gorgeous mind.” 

3. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2013) 

Joaquin Phoenix’s Freddie Quell is a war veteran who struggles to adapt to the new post-war society. He finds ultimate solace in ‘The Cause’, a philosophical movement that marks the rise of the Church of Scientology, which is led by Lancaster Dodd. In accordance with Paul Thomas Anderson’s film, Jonny Greenwood’s composition comprises a rich soundtrack accompanied by ragged and frenzied classical pieces which harvest a sense of paranoia, ambiguity and moral degradation of the society as well as Phoenix’s character. 

Amidst a stellar cast comprising Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and more, Malek does not have a starring role and simply makes an appearance as a part of the group. The film itself is a mystery to the viewers who possibly cannot comprehend the amount of darkness the director shields from them. The characters are rich and lush and almost sinister. According to Peter Travers, the film is “nirvana for movie lovers”.   

“If you leave me now, in the next life you will be my sworn enemy.”

2. Buster’s Mal Heart (Sarah Adina Smith, 2016)

Jonah is a doting husband and father whose marriage undergoes sudden decay due to his job as a night-shift concierge. He encounters a conspiracy theorist one day and begins to have a different approach towards life. He is on the run, taking shelter in vacation homes, trying to live the solitary life to figure out his purpose. He earns the nickname Buster when he regularly calls radio channels to discuss his Y2K theories. He survives harsh winters and evades authorities while having recurrent nightmares of being lost at sea, haunted by his life as a settled domesticated man in the past, giving the viewers a deeper insight into his psyche. 

The film is shot in a non-linear motion, oscillating between his dreams, the past and the present. It emphasises Male’s incredible talent and versatility to play any role as he showcases the different stages of Buster’s life and his gradual descent into disillusionment with ease. His identical twin served as his body double in the film and he had to speak Spanish in several scenes as well. Being Malek’s first feature lead, the depth of the character helped him explore the charming yet eeriness of a madman all at once.   

“It was a cosmic mistake that we got this far.”

1. Bohemian Rhapsody (Bryan Singer, 2018)

Do you love grooving to the heavenly music that the famous band Queen has produced? To know more about this band’s extraordinary journey, tune in to watch the film as it traces the journey of their lead singer, Freddie Mercury, as he struggles to rise against conventional stereotypes to cement his legacy as one of the most endearing singers in the history of music. The film takes a closer look into the band’s revolutionary journey and rises to fame at a break-neck speed due to their sheer talent and groundbreaking music in the 1970s. However, Freddie is influenced by certain dark forces that lead him to quit the band to pursue his solo career yet reunites to deliver a historic rock n roll performance, while courageously battling AIDS. 

While Sacha Baron Cohen was initially roped in to play Mercury, he quit, stalling production. Impressed by his work in Mr. Robot, the producers decided to cast rami Malek and it was probably the best decision ever made. Due to his commanding and heartfelt presence, Malek won his first-ever Academy Award with his stellar performance as the legendary singer, portraying his meteoric success with poise and ease. With Freddie’s quintessential moustache and buck teeth, Malek exceptionally conveyed the tumultuous journey of the outcast immigrant who tempestuously battles rejection to become a beloved global sensation.

“Roger, there’s only room in this band for one hysterical queen.”

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