One of the things I’ve noticed this past year more than others is how much people have praised the technical or behind-the-scenes triumphs of many of the year’s films. From the practical effects of Mad Max, to the science of The Martian, to the grueling conditions of The Revenant, it’s become almost hard to focus on the humans that inhabit these worlds. So here I am to shine a light on to 50 of the year’s best performances. Today we’ll be covering spots 50-26 and tomorrow we’ll unveil 25-1, just in time for those same people to be made fun of by Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes.
Before I start though, I feel I should explain a few things. I tried to limit myself to one performance per film so that great ensemble films like The Hateful Eight, Straight Outta Compton, or Spotlight wouldn’t overtake the whole list. However I’m only human and a few doubles managed to sneak in there, which means a few favorites you might have been expecting had to get the boot. Sorry, Steve Carell. You would have been 51.
With that said though, there’s one performer who you’ll find is missing from this list that I still feel the need to mention and that’s Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. Personally I had trouble finding any depth or arc in his character for me to latch onto and experience any performance, but with everything he endured behind-the-scenes, I would be amiss to not at least give him a shout-out. Plus I didn’t want people yelling at me in the comments.
So now onto numbers 50-26!
50. Benicio Del Toro – Sicario
Arguably everyone’s favorite part of the movie, Del Toro fills the screen with his intensity. I can’t say that I necessarily loved the rest of the movie, but I became engaged any time he was on screen.
49. Jemaine Clement – What We Do In The Shadows
While the whole cast commits to this mockumentary about a group of vampire flatmates, Clement takes the cake with his overly clichéd, serious vampire amidst all the wacky tomfoolery.
48. Michael Angarano – The Stanford Prison Experiment
Doubly unsettling when you know this was supposedly based on a real person, Angarano cuts to the core of abuse of power and emotional brutality as a guard in this true experiment.
47. Johnny Depp – Black Mass
While still wearing make-up and putting on a crazy voice, Depp at least manages to bring it back to reality in his chilling performance as notorious gangster Whitey Bulger.
46. Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
While the film may not be up to snuff, Lawrence makes up for most shortcomings with her strong, captivating performance as a broke, single mother who fights her way to the top as an industry power player. And special shout-out to her terrific swan song as the immortal Katniss Everdeen.
45. Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
While the cast is filled with actors doing streamlined, subtle work, Ruffalo stands out with his knack for bringing out the humanity in each of his performances and his turn here as a determined journalist is no exception.
44. Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
*insert Breaking Bad reference*
Cranston continues to prove that he can break free of his television fame in his performance as the rebellious blacklisted screenwriter fighting for work and freedom of speech.
43. Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Remember when Charlotte Rampling was in that Vin Diesel movie Babylon A.D.? Not after this movie you won’t. Rampling is the definition of subtlety in this story of a woman who discovers her husband still has feelings for his deceased girlfriend as they reach their anniversary.
42. James Freedson-Jackson & Hays Wellford – Cop Car
I hate when kids in movies don’t sound like real kids. This isn’t the case here. These two bring life to this natural dialogue and make you believe everything that’s happening, making them every bit as captivating as co-star Kevin freaking Bacon.
41. Maika Monroe – It Follows
When most other horror movie leads are nothing but scream machines, it’s easier to stand out. But Monroe goes further by giving a character you can actually care about and fear for.
40. Ian McKellen – Mr. Holmes
In a seemingly rare performance where he isn’t playing Gandalf or Magneto, McKellen brings great gravitas to an older Sherlock Holmes who begins to come to terms with a life spent focusing on logic and facts instead of people and emotion.
39. Jason Statham – Spy
There’s honestly no one else who could have played the part of a Jason Statham spoof then the man himself. But who knew he could be so damn funny?
“I drove a car off a freeway on top of a train while I was on fire. Not the car… I was on fire.”
38. Amy Schumer – Trainwreck
While Schumer’s “shtick” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it pays off hilariously here in this anti-romantic comedy. Plus her horrified reaction to waking up on Staten Island is everyone’s reaction (I wrote while sitting at home on Staten Island)
37. Joel Edgerton – The Gift
Pulling triple duty as also the writer and director in this surprisingly effective thriller, Edgerton continues to flex his talent in his unnerving performance as the intrusive Gordo the weirdo.
36. Seth Rogen – The Night Before
While the film may not be as focused or as funny as it could have been, Rogen comes to the rescue in this relentless tour de force of funny as he tries to make it through the night on an assortment of drugs. The church scene in particular is a standout.
35. Rebecca Ferguson – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
One of this year’s breakout stars, Rebecca Ferguson damn near steals the movie out from under Tom Cruise’s feet as the fierce, complicated “is she or isn’t she” double agent. The only thing missing is a scene where she hangs off the side of a plane.
34. Jennifer Jason Leigh – Anomalisa
As great as she was in this year’s The Hateful Eight, I’m giving the edge here to her vocal performance in this stop-motion film. Her voice gives the film the heart and individuality that it needs.
33. Elizabeth Banks – Love & Mercy
While not a showy performance or a lead role, Banks gives a strong heart and often focus to the Cusack half of the film in what could have been a disposable “girlfriend” role.
32. Taron Egerton – Kingsman: The Secret Service
This kid’s going places. Charming and street at the same time, this breakout performance carries the film so smoothly that he almost pulls focus from that incredible church shootout.
31. Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Focus may have been on Eddie Redmayne walking into the film, but my mind was on Vikander walking out. She plays the role with resolve and eventually understanding when Redmayne’s character becomes literally too weak to carry the film.
30. Michael Peña – Ant-Man
Look, Paul Rudd was as great as we wanted him to be and then some, but you’d be lying if you said your favorite part of the movie wasn’t Peña’s hilariously manic yet somehow still deadpan performance.
29. Will Smith – Concussion
“Tell da troot! That’s all I got. Seriously though, he’s great.
28. Cate Blanchett – Cinderella
While Lily James absolutely shined as Cinderella and Blanchett is getting attention for her other role in Carol, I gave this spot to her for this film for the way she brought depth and even sorrow to a typically two-dimensional villain.
27. Olivia Cooke – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
The film is told through the eyes of Thomas Mann’s character and as such is very funny and creative, but Cooke grounds it with her charming, real performance. Basically one third of this film’s title fails if you don’t care about the dying girl.
26. Ben Mendelsohn – Mississippi Grind
If Charlie Brown grew up and became a self-destructive, compulsive gambler, he would be played by Ben Mendelsohn in Mississippi Grind. This guy can’t catch a break and Mendelsohn plays him with surprising sympathy.
That about does it for Part 1. Would you have made some changes; re-arranged the order? Did you manage to see most if not all of these great performances? The big dance, top 25, will be released tomorrow – make sure you check back — right here on GeekNation.
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