The 50 Best Performances Of 2016 – Part 1

By January 7, 2017

Hi, there. How was your 2016? That bad, huh?

Well why don’t we try to turn things around and focus on some of the good stuff from last year by taking a look at 50 of the best performances from the films of 2016?

First we’ll cover spots 50 through 26, and Sunday we’ll unveil the top 25.

Before we get started, though, I’d like to explain a few things. I tried to limit the list to one performance per actor (so for actors who had multiple notable performances last year, I picked the performance I liked best, or in some cases the performance from a film that wasn’t covered yet) and one performance per film (so for ensemble films with multiple notable performances I picked the one I liked best or the one that represented the film best).

And of course, these are my own opinions, so you may see a few fan favorites or even a few Oscar hopefuls missing from the list. Translation: Manchester By The Sea didn’t make the list but Suicide Squad did. Mad yet?

Let’s get to it!

50. Daniel RadcliffeSwiss Army Man

Daniel Radcliffe has had quite the eclectic career since the end of Harry Potter, and his performance in this film as a farting corpse who teaches a suicidal man the meaning of life is one hell of an addition to that résumé.

49. Kate SiegelHush­

As a deaf woman being stalked by a masked killer in her remote home, Siegel holds your attention and ramps up the tension by playing a person worth rooting for.

48. Julianne MooreMaggie’s Plan

Demanding attention as Ethan Hawke’s difficult, scholarly, foreign ex-wife, Moore plays the character with humor, intensity, and even depth.

47. Jane LevyDon’t Breathe

It’s interesting that this is a role that would go to a “scream queen” considering the whole point is that she must remain quiet. But in that silence she emotes with fear, intensity and determination.

46. Alan TudykRogue One

One of the standouts in an ensemble filled with characters given standout moments, Tudyk brings humor and heart to his second performance a robot with personality due to reprogramming (typecast much?).

45. Mark WahlbergPatriots Day/ Deepwater Horizon

OK, so I’m already sort of breaking my own rules, but as the lead who anchors two true story disaster films about hope and perseverance directed by Peter Berg, it’s basically a two-for-one anyway.

44. Ginnifer GoodwinZootopia

Using only her voice, she fills this small character with spunk, heartbreak, determination and wonder.

43. Alden EhrenreichHail, Caesar!

A star is born. As one of the only principal characters who isn’t played by an A-lister, Ehrenreich still manages to steal the show with charm and comic chops.

42. Chris PrattThe Magnificent Seven

Chris Pratt should only be allowed to wear cowboy hats in his movies from now on. And so it is decreed.

It was actually hard to pick one of the seven, especially with Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke crushing it, but damn if Pratt is charming as hell in this.

41. Kate McKinnonGhostbusters

Kate McKinnon is a treasure and must be protected at all costs. It’s no surprise that the other three ladies who fill out the ghostbusting quartet deliver the funny as well, but this was a no-brainer.

40. Colin FarrellThe Lobster

Colin Farrell is so in-sync with the odd, dark tone of this surreal comedy that it makes you look at his whole filmography in a new light.

39. Julian DennisonHunt for the Wilderpeople

While of course Sam Neill is great as well, it’s this new kid who steals the show with some of the funniest lines in the film.

38. Jack ReynorSing Street

All the kids in the film are great, but much of the film’s heart and wisdom comes from Reynor’s surprising turn as the lead’s older brother.

37. Charlie PlummerKing Jack

This film plays closer to real life than Hollywood formula, and much of that realism relies on Plummer’s authentic performance.

36. Idris ElbaThe Jungle Book

Elba took a classically sly and debonair villain and turned him into something frightening and downright vicious.

35. Michael FassbenderX-Men: Apocalypse

Fassbender and James McAvoy as Magneto and Professor X are so good at playing these characters, at this point we take them for granted. But Fassbender reminds us once again with this heartbreaking performance.

34. Logan LermanIndignation

Lerman impresses once again as a student in the 1950s who feels that his difference in principles is being challenged at his more traditional university.

33. Glen PowellEverybody Wants Some!!

OK, so there’s like 53 characters in this movie and they all come to play, but Powell stands out above the rest due to his effortless charm and bitchin’ mustache.

32. Sunny Pawar/ Dev PatelLion

Each actor demands attention in their respective halves of this film as a lost Indian boy who, after growing up in a foster home, tries to find his way back home.

31. Art ParkinsonKubo and the Two Strings

You remember him in Game of Thrones? Not really? Well you’ll remember at least his voice after you see him as the terrific titular character in this animated masterpiece.

30. Logan Marshall-GreenThe Invitation

The whole “is something strange really going on or is it all the main character’s head” device generally relies on the actor playing the character in question and Marshall-Green delivers in the best performance I’ve seen from him as the film’s distraught lead.

29. Sally FieldHello, My Names Is Doris

Sally Field continues to deliver some of her best work with humor and pain in this delightful comedy about an older woman who finally gets to start acting young.

28. Mary Elizabeth Winstead10 Cloverfield Lane

The mystery of the film can only hold your attention for so long without a lead character to care for, and Winstead avoids that problem with one of her best performances to date.

27. Margot RobbieSuicide Squad

Say what you want about the admittedly shaky film, but a lot of the cast came to play. I almost went with Will Smith, but I had to go with Robbie’s pitch-perfect portrayal of the Maid of Mischief to the Joker’s Clown Prince of Crime.

26. Blake LivelyThe Shallows

In a film with a cast of one, that one actor has to show up, and Blake Lively does that with a performance of pain and listlessness that develops into something stronger.

Well that about does it for Part 1. How am I doing so far? Have you seen most of these performances?

Let me know if you feel so inclined and be sure to check out part two of this list for the top 25.

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Matt Brown

Matt Brown

Contributing Writer at GeekNation
Matt is a writer of all sorts and a film addict who's still waiting for his Hogwarts acceptance letter. If you find him at a party, he's probably talking about Xena or doing a Nicolas Cage impression.