- Rachel McAdams turns 42 on November 17.
- In honour of her birthday, Insider ranked every single movie she’s appeared in, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
- Unsurprisingly, her best-reviewed movie is also the one she was nominated for an Oscar for: “Spotlight.”
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
From “Mean Girls” to “The Notebook” to “Spotlight” to “Wedding Crashers,” Rachel McAdams has given us no shortage of iconic roles in her almost two decades in Hollywood.
In honour of her 42nd birthday on November 17, we’ve ranked every movie she’s been in from worst to best, according to critics’ scores on Rotten Tomatoes. The scores were accurate as of November 2020.
Keep scrolling to see where your favourites land, from “Aloha” to “Spotlight.”
McAdams’ lowest-rated movie is 2015’s “Aloha.”
Synopsis: “Aloha,” written and directed by Cameron Crowe, follows a former US Air Force officer, played by Bradley Cooper, as he returns to Hawaii to oversee the launch of a new weapons satellite. McAdams plays the ex-girlfriend of Cooper’s character, who is now married to another Air Force pilot, played by John Krasinski.
“It’s not bad so much as alien, like a romantic comedy made by someone who’s researched human behaviour but had very few brushes with it in person,” wrote Buzzfeed’s Alison Willmore.
In “The Hot Chick,” McAdams plays the titular hot chick.
Synopsis: McAdams and Rob Schneider co-star in this broad body-switch comedy, as Jessica (McAdams), a stereotypical cheerleader, and Clive (Schneider), a small-time criminal, switch bodies by each wearing a cursed earring that Jessica stole. Typical hijinks ensue, they both evolve as people, and they switch back.
“I didn’t expect a masterpiece, but it’s basic Rob Schneider at his worst,” wrote Cinema Crazed’s Felix Vasquez Jr.
In the German film “Every Thing Will Be Fine,” McAdams plays Sara, the main character’s girlfriend.
Synopsis: McAdams plays Sara, the girlfriend of James Franco’s character Tomas Elden, a novelist who doesn’t want to commit to marriage and kids – after he accidentally kills a child, his life begins to spiral out of control.
“‘Every Thing Will Be Fine’ is downright strange. Some of the visual choices really feel like conscious decisions to do something interesting with the format, but the strain is palpable and the subject matter is handled embarrassingly,” wrote Cinema Scope’s Adam Cook.
“The Vow” attempted to recreate the magic of “The Notebook” and “Dear John” with little success.
Synopsis: McAdams and Channing Tatum star as Paige and Leo Collins, a very happily married couple – that is, until Paige is involved in a horrible car accident and loses all memories of her husband. Paige’s quest to regain her memories and understand her life is interwoven with memories of the beginning of their love story. It’s all very cheesy.
“The two stars look dewy and glossy and unexceptional, bound together less by chemistry than by the ministrations of a hard-working costume designer,” wrote Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly.
McAdams plays Christine in Brian de Palma’s erotic thriller “Passion.”
Synopsis: Christine, a successful advertising executive living in Germany, has a troubled relationship with her protégé Isabelle. As the tension grows, Christine turns up dead, and Isabelle is forced to try and prove her innocence.
“Filled with dumb plot twists, schemes and hammy performances from Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace, ‘Passion’ is De Palma gleefully making a mess and daring the audience to keep watching,” Way Too Indie’s CJ Prince wrote.
In “The Lucky Ones,” McAdams plays a US Army soldier named Colee.
Synopsis: When three soldiers, Colee (McAdams), Fred (Tim Robbins), and T.K. (Michael Peña) are stranded at JFK Airport while on 30-day leave, the three strangers decide to rent a van to drive out west, as each has their own task to complete. Predictably, they bond.
“As they hit the road, the scenes play out like TV sitcom vignettes with little holding the centre together. We find out details about the characters lives, but never feel we know them,”wrote Linda Barnard of the Toronto Star.
“The Time Traveller’s Wife” is the lesser of the time travel romances that McAdams stars in.
Synopsis: Based on the 2003 best-selling novel of the same name, McAdams plays Clare, the titular time traveller’s wife. Her husband, Henry (Eric Bana), is born with a rare condition that makes him spontaneously travel through time. The film follows their love story, complicated by all the time travel.
“Buy the book,” Richard Roeper simply stated.
McAdams plays the secondary love interest (again) in Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder.”
Synopsis: After Neil (Ben Affleck) has an emotional break-up with Marina (Olga Kurylenko), he reconnects with his childhood friend Jane (McAdams). However, the real love story is between Neil and Marina, and Jane is left broken-hearted by Neil’s inability to commit.
“Love is a many-splendored thing, except when it isn’t in ‘To the Wonder,’ a wispy romantic movie about the death of a romance,” wrote the Orange County Register’s Michael Sragow.
In “The Family Stone,” a Christmas family rom-com, McAdams plays Amy, the youngest Stone who doesn’t hold anything back.
Synopsis: When the eldest Stone, Everett (Dermot Mulroney), brings home his girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) for Christmas, clashing personalities, holiday stress, and two sibling love interest switches cause tension. McAdams plays Amy, the youngest Stone sibling, who refuses to sugarcoat her opinion of Meredith.
“Some will find it touching, some will be too weary of the plot contrivances and the smug Stone family to care,” Moira MacDonald of the Seattle Times wrote.
McAdams and Ryan Gosling star in the romantic classic “The Notebook.”
Synopsis: An older man, played by James Garner, tells his friend in a nursing home the love story of Noah (Gosling) and Allie (McAdams), who overcome class differences, stolen letters, another man, and a World War to create a life for themselves. It’s based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name.
Leslie Felperin of the Times wrote, “A honey-dipped love story with a surprisingly tart aftertaste, ‘The Notebook’ is a better-than-you’d-expect adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’s bestselling novel of the same name.”
In “Married Life,” McAdams plays a war widow, Kay Nesbitt.
Synopsis: “Married Life” follows Richard, played by Pierce Brosnan, who convinces his friend Harry, played by Chris Cooper, to stop cheating on his wife with Kay – but only so Richard and Kay can start their own relationship. Harry, however, is determined to be with Kay, and rather than divorce his wife, he decides to poison her.
“This darkly comic dramatic thriller, which is set just after World War II, is more than merely watchable. It’s very smart and is old-fashioned in several respects,” wrote the Deseret News’ Jeff Vice.
McAdams returned to the rom-com space with “Morning Glory.”
Synopsis: McAdams plays Becky, a TV producer who gets called in to save “Daybreak,” a failing morning news show. She calls in legendary journalist Mike Pomeroy, played by a very curmudgeonly Harrison Ford, to co-host. While juggling the two hosts’ personalities, she also falls in love with Patrick Wilson’s Adam Bennett, a fellow producer.
Tim Robey of the Daily Telegraph wrote, “‘Morning Glory’ stays firmly on the launchpad, doing increasingly desperate run-ups, but collapsing in a gawky heap whenever it tries to take off.”
McAdams briefly reprised her role as Irene Adler in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.”
Synopsis: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and McAdams all return for the 2011 “Sherlock Holmes” sequel, but McAdams’ appearance is just a cameo before she’s seemingly murdered by legendary “Sherlock” nemesis Moriarty. The rest of the film is a battle between Holmes and Moriarty.
“It’s complete trash and makes a mockery of Holmes’s vaunted deductive reasoning,” wrote Bruce Diones of the New Yorker.
In “Southpaw,” McAdams plays Maureen, the wife of the main character.
Synopsis: Jake Gyllenhaal plays Billy, a successful boxer, who is married to Maureen (McAdams). After Billy takes a few too many hard hits, Maureen begs him to quit, however Billy refuses – this inadvertently leads to Maureen getting shot by one of Billy’s rivals. The movie then follows Billy’s spiral into addiction and eventual triumph.
“The modicum of pleasure delivered by ‘Southpaw’ arrives thanks to its cast, who struggle bravely and energetically with the hopelessly bland text and the invisible, impersonal direction,” wrote the New Yorker’s Richard Brody.
McAdams and Will Ferrell co-star as the Icelandic Eurovision contestants in Netflix’s “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.”
Synopsis: Ferrell and McAdams play Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdóttir, long-time best friends who compete in Eurovision, the European singing competition, as underdogs who are only Iceland’s entrants because all the other contestants died in a boat explosion – we promise, it’s a comedy. Along the way, they meet the other eccentric Eurovision performers and, of course, fall in love.
Brad Newsome of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote, “Will Ferrell is his goofy, outsized self but Rachel McAdams brings a charming sweetness to this delightfully silly comedy.”
The superior Rachel McAdams time travel romance is “About Time.”
Synopsis: McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson star in “About Time” as Mary and Tim, the latter of whom can time travel by hiding inside any dark space, like a closet, just like every male member of his family before him. Tim uses his time-travelling abilities to get his first date with Mary perfectly, in one of the more memorable scenes from the film.
“Even if the film is guilty of sometimes getting too sweet for its own good, a genuinely moving closing act excuses the excess sugar,” wrote Leigh Paatsch of the Herald Sun.
The first “Sherlock Holmes” was better received than its sequel.
Synopsis: Holmes and Watson, brought to life by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, are enlisted by Irene Adler, played by McAdams, to help solve the case of Lord Henry Blackwood, who is plotting to take over the world.
“It’s all knotted together, then unravelled with brio, by Holmes and Watson. There are fisticuffs galore, fiery combustion aplenty, and, yes, my dear reader, clever deduction,” wrote the Denver Post’s Lisa Kennedy.
McAdams plays one of the romantic leads and adds a bit of sweetness to the raunchy “Wedding Crashers.”
Synopsis: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson star as two divorce mediators who crash weddings in order to sleep with women with no strings attached. However, they meet their match with the Cleary sisters, played by Isla Fisher and McAdams.
“The perfect example of a flawed but ultimately entertaining film,” wrote Richard Propes of The Independent Critic.
That same year, she starred in Wes Craven’s airborne thriller “Red Eye.”
Synopsis: McAdams plays Lisa Reisert, a seemingly mild-mannered hotel manager who actually proves to be a stone cold bada– when she goes up against Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy), a domestic terrorist who has chosen Lisa to help with his attempt to assassinate the United States deputy secretary of Homeland Security.
“If constructing a thriller could be likened to building a house, then Wes Craven’s ‘Red Eye’ is a perfect piece of architecture: It’s clean-lined and soundly structured, without a foot of wasted space or any materials left unused,” wrote the AV Club’s Scott Tobias.
McAdams and Rachel Weisz co-star in “Disobedience,” a forbidden love story.
Synopsis: Based on the novel of the same name by Naomi Alderman, the two actresses play Esti and Ronit, respectively – two women in the Orthodox Jewish community who have taken two paths. Ronit (Weisz) has been excommunicated from her family for leaving, while Esti (McAdams) has married one of her father’s students, and their mutual childhood friend. However, Esti and Ronit have been in love since they were kids, and Esti is faced with a choice between love or tradition.
Cinema Sentries’ Matthew St. Clair wrote, “A portrait of forbidden love that is transfixing and anchored by three flawless leading performances.”
McAdams’ first breakout role was, of course, the absolutely evil Regina George in “Mean Girls.”
Synopsis: New student Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) is sucked into North Shore High’s popular group, the Plastics, led by queen bee Regina George, who rules the school with an iron fist (and impeccable outfits). She’s not afraid to lie, scheme, insult, and manipulate to keep her status, and she’s hilarious the entire time.
“Scene by scene you can’t help being impressed by ‘Mean Girls,'” wrote Elvis Mitchell of the New York Times.
In “State of Play,” McAdams plays Della, a determined DC blogger who gets involved in a high-level conspiracy.
Synopsis: When the mistress of a US senator turns up dead, two journalists, played by Russell Crowe and McAdams, slowly unfurl a conspiracy involving privatizing homeland security.
“This is exhilarating, compulsive storytelling and looks likely to be one of the year’s cinematic highlights,” wrote Wendy Ide of the Times.
McAdams and Jason Bateman play a mega-competitive couple who get in way over their head in “Game Night.”
Synopsis: Married couple Max and Annie’s (Bateman and McAdams) normal game night turns into a high-stakes scavenger hunt when Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) reveals he makes his living selling high-value items on the black market, and has gotten into trouble with “The Bulgarian,” a very dangerous man.
“The back and forth between McAdams and Bateman is what makes ‘Game Night’ sing (which is not to slight Horgan’s dry wit or Magnussen’s elegant idiocy or Morris’ magnificent Denzel Washington impression),” wrote Sam Adams of Slate.
In “A Most Wanted Man,” the last film of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s career, McAdams plays immigration lawyer Annabel Richter.
Synopsis: When a Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Germany, he gets caught in the international war on terror, while Günther Bachmann (Hoffman) attempts to secure local informants with ties to terrorist groups.
“‘A Most Wanted Man’ allows Hoffman to go out with not only one of his best performances, but one that epitomizes his strengths,” wrote Eric Kohn of Indiewire.
McAdams joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in “Doctor Strange.”
Synopsis: When arrogant surgeon Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) loses the ability to operate, he turns to the mystical arts to try and fix his hands. Instead, he becomes a superhero. McAdams appears as Christine, Strange’s ex-girlfriend and fellow surgeon, who becomes a tie to his former life in New York City.
Brent McKnight of The Last Thing wrote, “Despite a rote, familiar superhero origin story, Doctor Strange delivers a dazzling mystical blast.”
McAdams and Owen Wilson reunite in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”
Synopsis: Engaged couple Gil and Inez (Wilson and McAdams) are vacationing in Paris when Gil realises he can travel back in time if he waits until midnight and hops into a 1920s car. He comes into contact with Picasso, Hemingway, and the Fitzgeralds before learning to embrace the present.
“‘Midnight in Paris’ contains sequences happier than can be described,” wrote Antonia Quirke of the Financial Times.
McAdams lent her voice to the 2015 remake of “The Little Prince.”
Synopsis: A reimagining of the 1943 novella of the same name, “The Little Prince” focuses on a little girl who hears the story of the Little Prince from her neighbour, instead of doing homework that her mother, played by McAdams, wants her to do.
“No child, or adult, for that matter, will be able to resist the considerable charm of ‘The Little Prince,'” the San Francisco Chronicle’s David Wiegand wrote.
The best-reviewed film of McAdams’ career is the Academy Award-winning “Spotlight.” She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance.
Synopsis: “Spotlight,” which won Best Picture at the 2015 Oscars, tells the real story of the Boston Globe uncovering the decades of sexual abuse that has been covered up by the Catholic Church and the Boston Archdiocese. McAdams, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, plays Sacha Pfeiffer, one of the reporters who helps break the story.
“‘Spotlight’ manages the seemingly impossible task of wooing journalists with authenticity while still elevating reporters to hero status, as they battle a formidable and corrupt institution with righteous determination,” wrote Zach Schonfeld of Newsweek.
- Read more:
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