2018 was full of terrific performances from across cinema, but this year really felt like the year for performances that broke genre boundaries, truly paving new ground for future movies to follow.
As with the movie moments list, there were a lot more than 10 performances worth mentioning from last year. Here are just some of those:
Nicolas Cage, “Mandy”
Josh Brolin, “Avengers: Infinity War”
Carey Mulligan, “Wildlife”
Joaquin Phoenix, “You Were Never Really Here”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
All of these performances are outstanding in their own right, but here are the 10 I enjoyed just a little bit more.
10.) Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Every Forgive Me?”
Starting off the list is Melissa McCarthy’s greatest performance to date, and one that proved she is much more than a comedic actress. In “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” McCarthy transforms into her character, and manages to pull off being both a terrible human being and someone you want to root for at the same time. Her moments with Richard E. Grant, who is also terrific, are some of my favorite bits of dialogue in any movie this year, and McCarthy certainly deserves the nomination she received at the Oscars.
9.) Hugh Grant, “Paddington 2”
There is no doubt “Paddington 2” didn’t get the recognition it clearly deserves, but I won’t let that happen on this list. Hugh Grant gives a career-highlight performance as the villain in this wonderful children’s film, and he does so by having the time of his life on camera. Grant’s charisma and energy is as infectious as the rest of the movie he’s in, and he fits like a glove next to the lovable CGI bear better than nearly anyone could have.
8.) Olivia Cooke, “Thoroughbreds”
Anya Taylor-Joy was great as well, but it is Olivia Cooke who manages to electrify without showing any emotion at all. Playing a character who literally lacks the ability to feel can make a performance feel dull, but Cooke handles the role with such an excellent subtlety that it goes over smoothly, and actually makes her the most interesting character in the film. “Thoroughbreds” was an absolute delight for many reasons, but Cooke is one of the biggest pieces as to why.
7.) Ethan Hawke, “First Reformed”
While it took me some time to fully get behind Paul Schrader’s entire vision of “First Reformed,” Ethan Hawke’s performance was undeniable from the minute I left the theater. Hawke demands your attention as the alcohol-addicted priest, and doing it with loads of restraint and subdued acting that completely blew me away from start to finish.
6.) Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Lady Gaga is outstanding in this film, don’t get me wrong, but I found Bradley Cooper’s turn as a rock star addict the more challenging turn, and the slightly more rewarding one. Gaga deserves all the credit in the world, but Cooper proved to me his ability to not only sing, but to dominate a drama, and pull off someone struggling with inner demons that he can’t escape. This is a spot that is a little bit for both actors, but if I’m picking one, Cooper gets the nod.
5.) Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Another movie that is difficult to pick one individual performance because of the immense talent on the table. And yet, though Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are terrific, neither captured my attention and earned it more than Olivia Colman. The chemistry the three actresses share is superb, and Colman’s interactions toward them as the Queen gives many layers, and shows just how tormented she can be at times. Colman can be both hysterical and heartbreaking, and her standout role was one of the best surprises 2018 had to offer.
4.) Toni Collette, “Hereditary”
Toni Collette, on behalf of everyone, I am so sorry for the appalling lack of talks you received for an Oscar nomination. In “Hereditary,” which is one of the finest horror films in a decade, Collette is superb, finding ways to scare the shit out of you and make you feel bad for her at the same time. There are moments in Collette’s performance that truly make you say “wow,” whether it’s her taking about her family at a meeting or her scene with Nat Wolff at the dinner table, Collette shines bright throughout this brutally dark film.
3.) Christian Bale – “Vice”
“Vice,” overall, was a slight letdown. But the performances absolutely were not, and Christian Bale’s rendition of Vice President Dick Cheney will go down as one of his best roles yet. Bale is almost unrecognizable as Cheney, and completely transforms into the right persona even without the weight gain and makeup. There are other great performances here, but this is the Bale show from start to finish, and his work here, even with too much Adam McKay flair, is perfectly subtle and executed to a tee.
2.) Timothee Chalamet, “Beautiful Boy”
The biggest Oscars snub of 2018 came here, because I have never seen a more accurate portrayal of an addict than what Timothee Chalamet pulls off in “Beautiful Boy.” For all the flaws the movie may have had, Chalamet climbs miles above them, continuing to prove why he is one of the best actors — not young actors — but actors working in Hollywood today. Everything from the mannerisms to the lashing out to the charisma Chalamet portrays, it is true perfection, and I just cannot wait to see what this magnificent talent does from here.
1.) Elsie Fisher, “Eighth Grade”
No major celebrity, no big name, no well-experienced actor felt more real, felt more perfectly executed than 15-year-old Elsie Fisher in Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade.” Fisher is spectacular, and masterfully brings out an awkward, totally relatable Kayla that everyone in the audience can somewhat feel deep in their souls. There are so many scenes to name where Fisher just acts the living hell out of them, and every single time, it is just more and more impressive how brilliant she is at such a young age. There is never a time at any point in the film that feels out of place, and that has a ton to do with how strong Fisher’s performance is. There were plenty of great turns from actors, but I would bask in the glory of Fisher’s before any of them in a heartbeat.