Welcome back to our countdown of the year’s 50 best performances in movies. In case you missed it, you can go check out Part 1 here before reading the top 25.
But in case you’ve already read it or don’t care, let’s move right along to the top 25!
25. Marion Cotillard – Allied
The character is meant to be equal parts mysterious and alluring, and Cotillard plays that to a tee, creating a character you and Pitt’s character both suspect and care for.
24. Sarah Paulson – Blue Jay
Sarah Paulson has a great smile, and any performance that lets her smile this much deserves praise, as does the depth and longing she puts behind those smiles.
23. Anya Taylor-Joy – The Witch
The film may be “love it or hate it” (I loved it), but there’s no denying the talent of the film’s young lead who has to endure so much and come out the other side.
22. Imogen Poots – Green Room
For a film that’s aggressively in your face with how violent it and its characters are, Poots stands out as a character who seems too emotionally exhausted to be at the same heightened level as everyone else. And there’s something captivating about that.
21. Ralph Fiennes – A Bigger Splash
The energy alone that Fiennes doles out as a music producer and ex of Tilda Swinton’s lead character would be enough to secure him a spot. But the bitterness he hides under it takes it higher.
20. Chris Pine – Hell or High Water
Attention this awards season has been on Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster with their scene-stealing performances, but I give credit to Pine whose straight and subtle performance anchors the film.
19. Ellen DeGeneres – Finding Dory
Ellen DeGeneres as Dory has to be one of the perfect casting choices of our time. She was great in Finding Nemo, and she still comes to play as the oblivious but pure-hearted Dory.
18. Emma Stone – La La Land
We all know Emma Stone is delightful and talented, and now we get to see that in musical form for added pizzazz.
17. Kate Beckinsale – Love & Friendship
Unfortunately Kate Beckinsale doesn’t shoot any werewolves in this movie, but she does manage to be funny, commanding, and believably manipulative in this Jane Austen adaptation.
16. Jake Gyllenhaal – Demolition
I just as easily could have gone with his intense, emotional performance in Nocturnal Animals, but I went with the antithetical version of that with his performance as a man dismantling his life in an attempt to feel something after the loss of his wife.
15. Taraji P. Henson – Hidden Figures
This is the type of movie where you know exactly what you’re getting when you walk in. But the acting still needs to be good, and Henson steps up with her strong, sympathetic performance.
14. Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Despite the title, Viggo Mortensen does not play a superhero in this film. Instead he gives an unfiltered, even convincing performance as a man raising his kids off the grid who must return to society in the wake of his wife’s suicide.
13. Jesse Eisenberg – Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
I personally loved his eccentric performance as an angry young man abusing his many forms of power to compensate for his insecurities and justify his extreme convictions.
12. Helen Mirren – Eye in the Sky
Though largely an ensemble piece, Mirren emerges as the captivating focus as a British colonel willing to do anything – even compromise her own orders and ethics despite complications and collateral damage – to take out an elusive enemy in a violent drone strike.
11. Alex R. Hibbert/ Ashton Sanders/ Trevante Rhodes – Moonlight
To pick one and not the other two would be a disservice as they all add up to create the complicated, introverted lead character in this stunning saga of a young black man’s search for identity.
10. Lewis MacDougall – A Monster Calls
This young man has to carry the heavy emotional burden of this film, and he does so with heartbreaking conviction. Try not to cry at the end.
9. Annette Bening – 20th Century Women
Is it a cliché to say that Annette Bening continues to be one of the best actresses working today? I guess not after her natural, moving performance as a mother struggling to raise and connect with her teenage son.
8. Madison Wolfe – The Conjuring 2
Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. Madison Wolfe in The Conjuring 2. Handling some heavy emotional material and enduring some intense horror and physical elements, she manages to steal the show from the adult leads.
7. Hailee Steinfeld – The Edge of Seventeen
In a year full of great performances from young actors, Steinfeld stands tall with a performance both honestly funny and brutally relatable in this underrated coming-of-age film.
6. Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals
Are movies even worth it if we don’t get to see Michael Shannon knock it out of the park as often as he does? You can add this and Elvis & Nixon to his long list of interesting performances.
5. Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Another actor could have played the part of this religious man who refuses to use a gun in war as too stubborn or too cheesy, but Garfield strikes a commendable and emotional balance to his performance as this real life hero.
4. Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool
Fight me again. There was perhaps no marriage between actor and character this year better than Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson/Deadpool. For a character that’s essentially a non-stop joke machine fond of ’90s references, Reynolds manages to find necessary depth … and even heart.
3. Natalie Portman – Jackie
Oscar Bait? Perhaps. But it’s hard to root against her chances when she gives a performance about a woman giving a public performance during such a tumultuous time with both grace and pain.
2. Amy Adams – Arrival
At first, I found the first act of the film to be heavily rooted in set up and information, but then that emotional ending hits you like a ton of bricks. At the center of that is Amy Adams offering a human element with intelligence, resolve and necessary sentimentality.
1. Ryan Gosling – The Nice Guys
I know what you’re thinking, but Gosling does play the part with a surprising amount of self-destructive behavior, regret and tenderness. But even without any of that, Gosling’s performance is a tour de force of comic brilliance.
From perfect line delivery to good old-fashioned physical comedy to even fleeting facial expressions, not a moment is wasted in this relentlessly entertaining and captivating performance.
So there you have it, 50 of the best film performances from 2016. There were several other performances I admired from last year that didn’t make the cut, so I’m sure I missed some of your favorites as well.
You can let me know what I missed or just let me know which of my picks you were glad to see recognition. Either one, it’s up to you.
And be sure to check back as we discuss more of the best film had to offer in 2016.
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