Shifting away from the films themselves, this list is dedicated to the actors who gave the strongest emotion, comedy, heart, and ability to their characters in 2017. This was a very diverse year for performances, with my list spanning from actors that are 60 years old all the way down to seven, and ranging from comedies to romance, drama, and horror. Now, here are my 10 favorite performances from this past year.
Adam Driver – “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
Saoirse Ronan – “Lady Bird”
Adam Sandler – “The Meyerowitz Stories”
Barry Keoghan – “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Will Poulter – “Detroit”
Ansel Elgort – “Baby Driver”
Hugh Jackman – “Logan”
10.) Daniel Kaluuya – “Get Out”
Starting off the list is one of 2017’s biggest sensations and for good reason. Daniel Kaluuya’s performance as Chris was full of raw emotion and fear, and Kaluuya used Jordan Peele’s strong script to really shine in every single scene. Of course, the sunken place is a standout moment, but Kaluuya consistently keeps up the tension and the unknown with a ton of ability, and he was a huge part in making this horror-thriller as successful as it was.
9.) Frances McDormand – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Legendary actress Frances McDormand may have somehow given the best performance of her career in “Three Billboards,” as she is able to combine vulgar comedy with an incredible amount of heart and power, which is a combination that is rarely done this well. McDormand nails the bitter mother role to a tee, but it is those few moments of her breaking out of her shell that stuck with me. You can feel how much McDormand cared for her daughter, but also how mad she is at the police, and the amount that she is able to accomplish in this movie is remarkable.
8.) Andy Serkis – “War for the Planet of the Apes”
Since the Academy won’t give this man his proper credit, I will. The motion-capture god needs to be properly respected because no one in the business can do what Andy Serkis has done with the character of Caesar. This absolutely phenomenal trilogy has been full of stunning visuals and a powerful story, but it is always Serkis’ stunning work in the lead role that shines through all of it. Serkis makes Caesar the most human character every single time, and this movie shows just how much impact Serkis can make, even with CGI involved.
7.) Timothée Chalamet – “Call Me by Your Name”
Get ready to see Mr. Chalamet everywhere in the coming years, because this man can really act. Chalamet gives one of the riskiest, most challenging performances of the year, and he absolutely nails it. The lead character of Elio is often quiet and restrained, but Chalamet uses these qualities as strengths and shows everything you would need to know about his character from minuscule details like the way he walks or what he is looking at. This is an impressive performance, to say the least, and the chemistry that he shares with Armie Hammer is undeniable and incredible to see.
6.) Brooklynn Prince – The Florida Project
I have never seen a seven-year-old light up the screen as much as Brooklynn Prince electrifies “The Florida Project”. Sean Baker’s very original project could not have worked without a young actress like Prince, and her childish charm mixed with an attitude and leadership that I never expected was truly something to behold. There is so much to love about Prince’s character, and it is all because of her ability to capture emotions and what it is like to be a child in a bad situation, and to do all of this at such a young age was remarkable to watch.
5.) Kumail Nanjiani – “The Big Sick”
I don’t care if he was playing himself, Kumail played himself in an absolutely superb way. The amount of comedy that Kumail is able to work in successfully, especially the 9/11 joke, is tremendous, and the chemistry he shares with not only Zoe Kazan, but also with Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, is exceptional, and there is no way anyone could have played himself better than himself. Kumail is hysterical in one scene and tear-inducing in the next, and the range he puts on display really proved to me that he can bring much more than comedy to a role.
4.) James McAvoy – “Split”
It’s still insane to me that we got one of the year’s best performances all the way back in January, but here we are. McAvoy carries this movie all the way to the finish line with his performance of multiple personalities, and while Shyamalan has gotten some of his mojo back, we wouldn’t be saying that without McAvoy. McAvoy completely sells each of the various personalities and brings the correct amount of insanity to make the movie feel real and impactful. There were very few performances that lit up the screen more than McAvoy’s, so while this movie feels like forever ago, McAvoy’s turn still holds a lasting memory in my head.
3.) Sally Hawkins – “The Shape of Water”
From one of the loudest and in-your-face performances to a woman who is mute, Hawkins says just as much as anyone on this list, but she does it without nearly ever using words. Hawkins’ performance is raw and beautiful, and she uses very subtle facial emotions and hand signals to show how she feels and what she is thinking at all times. This performance was absolutely haunting to watch, and one that I have so much respect for, and the way Hawkins worked with both Richard Jenkins and the creature gave me chills at countless times.
2.) Margot Robbie – “I, Tonya”
Margot Robbie needs an Oscar nomination, she absolutely needs one. Robbie takes Tonya Harding and makes her a person that is funny, brutal, cruel, emotional, and relatable all at once. The frantic style of the movie fits Harding’s personality, and Robbie sells it every step of the way. From the gorgeous figure skating scenes, which often rely on having Robbie know what she’s doing, to her up-and-down relationships with family and friends to her essence as a human being, Robbie nails all of it and totally transforms into the role. There is so much to love about this film, but Robbie is a large chunk of the reason why, and she made an iconic real-life villain into something beautiful, and that deserves all the credit in the world.
1.) James Franco – “The Disaster Artist”
It seems silly to pick a man who is portraying one of the worst performances in the history of film, but nobody could have played Tommy Wiseau the way James Franco pulls it off. There was simply not a performance this year that I enjoyed watching more than Franco as the mysterious man from who knows where, and that is due to Franco’s pure commitment and respect for the craft. As Wiseau, Franco nails the mannerisms, the weird accent, and the look, but more than that, Franco captures the heart and strive that Wiseau had for his vision, and that is what made this performance, and this entire movie, work so well. “The Disaster Artist” could have been a spoof, but instead it is so much more, and Franco’s capability to make my sides hurt from laughter, while also making Tommy Wiseau feel genuine and understandable, is why this was my favorite performance of 2017.
What was your favorite performance of 2017? Comment below with your thoughts.