Rachel McAdams’ best performances, ranked

Rachel McAdams’ best performances, ranked
(Image: YouTube)

Rachel McAdams is nominated for an Oscar, and if you don’t think we’re taking credit for it as a nation, you have obviously never heard us talk about Drake.

She’s Regina George, she’s Irene Adler, she’s Allie in The Notebook. And even when the films she’s in are bad, shes good. As the jilted wife of a tortured James Franco, her performance compels you to keep watching instead of screaming “NO, WHY?” In Aloha, she somehow makes the banal dialogue sounds natural. And we don’t know who tricked her into doing the second season of True Detective, but how dare they.

In anticipation of this weekend’s Academy Awards, here’s a ranking of every one of her film performances since The Hot Chick (and a couple of TV appearances, too).

The Hot Chick (2002)

25We all had to start somewhere. We all had to work midnight shifts at McDonald’s and endure grease burns to prove ourselves—and The Hot Chick was Rachel’s fry pit. Unlike the rest of us, she managed to survive it with grace and dignity. (Rob Schneider? Not so much.)


Every Thing Will Be Fine (2015)

24Please don’t let the title fool you. There is nothing fine about forcing Rachel McAdams to play the wife of a writer portrayed by a very tortured and very serious James Franco (at his James Franc-iest, seemingly attempting to one-up every other actor around him, or at least the scenery). Rachel does what she can, but it’s still basically the feature film equivalent of this.


Aloha (2015)

23For the six of us who saw this film, let us bow our heads and pray for Rachel, who was forced to deliver Cameron Crowe’s heavy-handed dialogue. Let us remember—or maybe forget—how she compellingly played a two-dimensional woman who, at one point, must choose between “heroes” Bradley Cooper and John Krasinski. And may we then weep for ourselves, for having watched it.



Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

22Guy Ritchie gives Rachel McAdams, like, five minutes of screen time and then has the nerve to rob her of a proper death scene (she dies off-camera, with only the sound of breaking glass and a falling body to signal her demise). Shame on you, Guy Ritchie.


True Detective (2015)

21We love the idea of Rachel McAdams as a heavy-drinking, knife-wielding detective investigating backdoor dealings and murder alongside a mustachioed Colin Farrell. But we loathed the heavy-handed HBO series that, sadly, could not be saved by her dedicated performance. Rachel, in the immortal words of Good Will Hunting: “IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.”


To The Wonder (2012)

20It’s a movie about love, and McAdams convincingly pretends she’s deeply in it (with Ben Affleck, by the way). At one point, she sits on the hood of a car that’s surrounded by bison, which—when you find out it’s another pretentious offering from Terrence Malick—is really all you need to know.


Married Life (2007)

19If anybody ever questions McAdams’ ability to play an unlikeable character, show them this movie. She plays Chris Cooper’s mistress, the “other woman,” and boy is she frosty (It’s no Midnight In Paris, but it’s a damn good preview.)


The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)

18This one’s kind of like The Notebook, except McAdams plays the wife of a time-travelling Eric Bana, there is no Ryan Gosling and there are far fewer quotable moments. Think of it as the shrugging Emoji of the Rachel McAdams oeuvre.



The Notebook (2004)

17“If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.” “It wasn’t over. It still isn’t over.” “I wrote you every day for a year.” What did we say about the quotes? The Notebook isn’t just a movie; it’s The Notebook. It introduced us to Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams: actors, national treasures, onetime power couple. For those of us who were teens in 2004, this movie taught us how to feel.


The Vow (2012)

16Controversy, thy name is The Vow, because how exactly do we convince you it should rank above The Notebook? McAdams’ Paige is spoiled and unlikeable. To watch her play someone you wouldn’t be friends with is both a cinematic treasure and a serious revelation, mainly because we all want to be friends with Rachel McAdams—even (especially?) when she’s Regina George.


Southpaw (2015)

15Rachel’s (far too brief) performance as the generous, unconditionally loving Maureen Hope is so convincing that the rest of this boxing flick is basically just Jake Gyllenhaal’s character grieving over her (and her awesome Jersey accent).


The Lucky Ones (2008)

14Note: this is not The Lucky One, starring Zac Efron as a soldier returning from Iraq. No, this is The Lucky Ones, starring Rachel McAdams as a soldier returning from Iraq. (Seriously? Someone missed a memo.) The movie is okay, but her turn as a complicated, messy, Southern-accented young woman will make you stand up and ask why she’s not cast against type more often. (And then you will be asked to sit down or take your laptop and go because you’re in an Arby’s, for heaven’s sake.)


Sherlock Holmes (2009)

13Her Irene Adler was terrific, crafty and manipulative, and let us never forget it.



Wedding Crashers (2005)

12She’s the straight man to literally every other character in the movie, and she still nails it. And then, as a bonus, she convinces us she actually feels something for Bradley Cooper’s character, her fiancé, despite him being the literal anti-Christ. Please, grab that net and catch that beautiful butterfly.


The Family Stone (2005)

11In the most underrated Christmas movie of all time, Rachel comes as close as she ever will to playing one of us: a 20-something teacher struggling with her mother’s cancer diagnosis and eccentric family. And then she pours eggs all over Sarah Jessica Parker, which is something we’d totally do.


Passion (2012)

10A lot happens in this movie: affairs, drugs, revenge, nervous breakdowns. The cold Rachel McAdams we met in Married Life is about 1,000 times more powerful here.



Morning Glory (2010)
We know what you’re going to say, rom-com naysayers. But here’s why this performance ranks so high: not only does McAdams hold her own alongside Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton, she compliments them. Harrison Ford reels her in, and Keaton—like in The Family Stone—brings out her ability to boss-up with speeches, impromptu firings and a near-terrifying determination to succeed. Thus, she proves she belongs onscreen with the greats, which is basically the definition of being a great.  
Slings and Arrows (2003-2005)
8Drake is to Degrassi as Rachel is to Slings and Arrows, a precious little Canadian gem set at a fictional Shakespearean festival. They’re both homegrown TV classics, and they’re both where we proved that Canada can recognize fresh, unpolished talent first. Suck it, America.  
State of Play (2009)
7Let’s call this one the prequel to Spotlight. Not because they’re anything alike, but because in this 2009 journo-political thriller, we caught a glimpse of the bossed up, no-nonsense McAdams who’d go on to perfectly portray Sacha Pfeiffer of the Boston Globe.  
Midnight In Paris (2011)
6We know she’s pegged as the villain (it’s a film by Woody Allen, so of course you’re supposed to cheer for the male protagonist), but even as a relatively safe, predictable character, she outperforms everybody around her, dismissing and rejecting everything her fiancé (Owen Wilson) says or does. Plus, she eyerolls way better than you—yes, you, person who disagrees with this ranking.  
Red Eye (2005)
5She beats the shit out of Cillian Murphy with a field hockey stick and that’s not even the half of it.  
A Most Wanted Man (2014)
4It stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, it’s about asylum and human rights, and Rachel McAdams (complete with a German accent) is a badass lawyer who helps house and hide a refugee. Which is to say: it’s the best, and we totally forgot she wasn’t German in two minutes flat.  
About Time (2013)
3Okay, this is another one about time travel. But, look, it’s about missed opportunity and regret and a whole family of time travellers, not just Eric Bana. And no matter which year her suitor decides to show up in, Rachel is graceful and perfect.  
Spotlight (2015)
2She is nominated for an Oscar for this role, and rightfully so. If you didn’t cry during her first interview with an abuse victim, then you cried during the second. Otherwise, you are cold and heartless and it’s best we never speak.  
Mean Girls (2004)
1Rachel McAdams? Rachel McAdams is flawless. We heard she does car commercials in Japan. One time John Stamos saw her on a plane and he told her she was pretty. We heard she has two Fendi purses and a Prada backpack. And she’s totally fetch (which she will never let us make happen).


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