Here I am going discuss the ten actors who really moved me this year, regardless of the quality of the movies they were in. These performances cover the dramatic, the horror, and even some comedy, but no matter what it was, I loved them all. It was incredibly tough to just pick ten, so here we go, with my favorite performances of 2016.
I have five performances I want to quickly mention here, as they were all terrific in their own right, but somehow I couldn’t make room for them on my list. Alicia Vikander gave a heartbreaking performance in “The Light Between Oceans”, and was the highlight of an otherwise simply okay film. Michael Shannon was great as a cop with nothing to lose in “Nocturnal Animals”. Tom Hanks is as good as always in Clint Eastwood’s “Sully”, and Colin Farrell brought a fantastic quirky performance to “The Lobster”. Finally, somehow missing this list is Anya Taylor-Joy and her brutal, demanding performance in “The Witch”.
Top 10 Performances
10.) John Goodman, “10 Cloverfield Lane”
Goodman’s performance as a man who saves the life of Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, is a performance that often had me switching my opinions on him. Goodman is sometimes funny, but often times awkward or even terrifying depending on the situation, and I think that Goodman played his role perfectly, and will probably be robbed of a Supporting Actor nomination that he deserves.
9.) Hailee Steinfeld, “The Edge of Seventeen”
Steinfeld’s performance is certainly the one that I am most surprised about because I really didn’t think she had this in her. Yes, I know she was nominated for an Oscar for “True Grit”, but that was six years ago, and she hasn’t really impressed since then. However, Steinfeld is both hilarious and compelling in the lead role in this lovely film, and she stole my heart from start to finish. While her highlights were definitely when she went back and forth with Woody Harrelson, who was also great, Steinfeld dominates this movie, and she does great work throughout the movie.
8.) Denzel Washington, “Fences”
While I may not have been a fan of Mr. Washington’s directorial efforts in this adaptation of the award-winning play, his lead performance here is undeniable. Washington is incredibly good here, bringing some brutal scenes together and being a truly despicable, yet understandable character, and he often stole scenes based on his performance alone.
7.) Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Each and every performance from this beautiful film is beyond amazing, and while I was close to giving this to Mahershala Ali, I felt that Harris as Shairon’s mother brought a little more to the table. Harris goes through so much with her character, and her performance can be both visceral and hard to watch at one point, and heartfelt and tragic in the next. Harris shows the changes that happen to her character with this phenomenal performance, and all while shooting all of her scenes in three days, which is beyond insane.
6.) Viola Davis, “Fences”
Washington may be the lead, but that does not mean he overshadows Davis, not by any means. In fact, I found Davis’ portrayal of a mother and wife going through loads of emotional turmoil to be the best performance in a movie filled with standout performances, as Davis brings the most emotion and the most power in each scene she is in. Davis is one of the best we have working today, and her performance here just adds on to that.
5.) Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Once again, this is a film that has three or four terrific performances in it, but I have to give this spot to Bridges for giving a perfect rendition of a retiring sheriff on the hunt for a couple bank robbers. Each and every time this man is on screen, I became excited, as he just perfectly nails the role he is given. He has subtleties that can draw emotion, and the back and forths he has with his partner, played by Gil Birmingham, are hysterical and also reveal a lot about their characters. It’s hard to pin down exactly what Bridges does that makes his performance so great here, it’s simply everything about it.
4.) Amy Adams, “Arrival”
Amy Adams might just be my favorite actress in the business, and she is phenomenal in this Denis Villeneuve-directed thriller. While the aliens who arrive could have easily overshadowed her, Adams is always the focus and always the most intriguing part of every scene, and that is due to her riveting performance as a linguist reeling for answers. Adams is extremely believable in every scene and also brings the heart and the feels when needed, and is the standout part of a movie that is filled with brilliant components.
3.) Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Ryan Gosling is terrific alongside Stone, but it is Stone who completely blew me away. First of all, the performance itself is heartfelt, funny, and beautifully done, so when you add the tremendous dancing and singing on top of that you get a truly exceptional piece of work. Stone sings beautifully, especially in an “audition” scene, and while Gosling gives her a run for her money, I have to give it to Stone for really bringing it to this beautiful film.
2.) Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
While I may not have been alive during the events that take place in this Pablo Larraín film, Portman really makes me feel like I was. Portman is absolutely spot-on as Mrs. Jackie Kennedy from start to finish, as her mannerisms, her voice work, and her persona is done to perfection. For Portman to completely transform into this role as such a well-known actress is mind-boggling to me, as it truly felt I was watching the former First Lady go through the horrific events that took place. Portman is moving, powerful, and impactful in this movie, and had a performance that I will not soon forget.
1.) Casey Affleck, “Manchester By The Sea”
Performances like these, they don’t come very often. Performances like these, some may say, are ones that could belong with the all-time greats. Casey Affleck as the main character, Lee, in “Manchester By The Sea” is by far and away the best performance I saw in 2016, and one of the best performances I have ever seen, period. Affleck so subtly brings true, real life emotion into scenes, and he does it in such a subdued way that it feels completely genuine. Affleck can often be frustrating because of his lack of emotion, but he plays it in such a perfect way that you completely understand him through his facial expressions and occasional lash outs. The dialogue he is given is perfectly delivered, and the way Affleck acts out the most pivotal scene in the film, one that I will most certainly be talking about in my Best Moments of 2016 list, had me feeling more emotion than I even knew was possible. Casey Affleck may have been under the radar back in 2015, but 2016 should go down as the year Casey Affleck became one of the greatest actors working today solely based on this performance, my pick for the performance of the year.
Do you agree? Disagree? What was the best performance you saw in 2016? Comment below with your thoughts.