When I think back on the year's best acting performances in film, the first word that comes to mind is "surprise". Of the 20 performances I most anticipated at the start of the year, only 2 of them ended up on this final list. Instead, a slew of dynamic duos, breakout stars, comedians-gone-serious and A-listers at the top of their game came along and impressed me with their unforgettable turns. But most of all, 2015 was the year of the actress. Indeed, women dominated the top ranks of this Top 20, with a long line of other incredibly worthy performers just missing the cut. Compiling the following names was therefore as difficult as ever, but I'm happy with my choices. Here are the 20 performances that resonated with me the most in 2015:
Honorable Mention: Jason Mitchell in Straight Outta Compton
20. Greta Gerwig in Mistress America
A quintessential Greta Gerwig performance, at once insular and effervescent.
19. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in Tangerine
This raw, raucous performance snatched all the wigs.
18. Jesse Eisenberg in The End of the Tour
Like a slow jam on a Sunday afternoon, this subtle, generous performance found the right groove.
17. David Thewlis in Anomalisa
A marvelous vocal performance as relatable and sympathetic as any I'd seen this year.
16. Jason Segel in The End of the Tour
Who knew he had this in him? - Pt 1
15. Seth Rogen in Steve Jobs
Who knew he had this in him? - Pt 2
14. Tom Hardy in The Revenant
A brooding, brutish performance that fit Hardy like a glove.
13. Jessica Chastain in Crimson Peak
A deliciously diabolical performance to die for.
12. John Cusack in Love and Mercy
A tortured performance conveying such pain and heartache, heart-rending from the very first scene.
11. Johnny Depp in Black Mass
The year's most transformative, unnerving performance.
10. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant
The epitome of "blood, sweat and tears".
9. Elisabeth Moss in Queen of Earth
Forget "The Walk", this fearless performance was the high-wire act of the year.
8. Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina
It should be a crime to be so effortlessly cool.
7. Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn
With this absolutely luminous performance, Ronan confirmed herself as one of her generation's brightest stars.
6. Emory Cohen in Brooklyn
Utterly charming and sincere, a real "Mr. Right".
5. Amy Schumer in Trainwreck
This hilarious, surprisingly nuanced performance was far from a trainwreck.
4. Lily James in Cinderella
A genuine, sweet-natured gem of a performance of the kind that has long been under-appreciated in modern cinema.
3. Cate Blanchett in Truth
In the end, the real truth in this film was Cate Blanchett's tour de force acting.
2. Rebecca Hall in The Gift
The tremendous vulnerability and fragility on display here was like watching Mia Farrow in her prime.
1. Melissa McCarthy in Spy
If you want to know where all the movie stars have gone, look no further than Melissa McCarthy's strong, sweet, awkward, sexy, awesome work in "Spy".