As the question of whether true movie stars still exist continues to be up for debate, the performances of 2016 showed that the quality of modern acting shows no sign of decreasing. In particular, the year produced terrific ensemble work, whether through sizzling duets or large but cohesive troupes. Indeed, among my Top 20 you'll several double citations for certain films and in one case, an awesome trio. Before I unveil my list however, I'd like to acknowledge a few outstanding young actors with Honorable Mentions. They are...
Honorable Mention: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo & Lucy Boynton in Sing Street, Julian Dennison in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Markees Christmas in Morris from America.
And now without further ado, here are my Top 20 Acting Performances of 2016:
20. Tika Sumpter in Southside with You
Appropriately honoring its real-life inspiration, this performance exuded razor-sharp intelligence and keen wit.
19. Annette Bening in 20th Century Women
At once subtle and profound, this performance proves that sometimes less really is more.
18. Sonia Braga in Aquarius
An indomitable character, an unimprovable performance.
17. Parker Sawyers in Southside with You
Parker Sawyers unleashed a star-making charm offensive with his take on Barack Obama.
16. Adam Driver in Paterson
A perfectly modest performance of rare sincerity.
15. Trevante Rhodes in Moonlight
"Every n****r is a star" indeed, like Trevante Rhodes in this complex deconstruction of black masculinity.
14. Kim Tae-ri in The Handmaiden
A fiendishly brilliant performance encapsulating the film's salacious themes - Pt 1.
13. Emma Stone in La La Land
Take a bow Emma, this was the role you were born to play.
12. Viola Davis in Fences
Viola Davis took us to school with this acting masterclass.
11. Kim Min-hee in The Handmaiden
A fiendishly brilliant performance encapsulating the film's salacious themes - Pt 2.
10. Joel Edgerton in Loving
Edgerton remarkably steals the spotlight as a withdrawn man who actively avoided it.
09. Denzel Washington in Fences
Denzel Washington's towering portrayal of Troy Maxson further secured his place among the legends.
08. Rebecca Hall in Christine
It's almost fitting that Rebecca Hall would be so underappreciated as the abrasive, sympathetic, tragically misunderstood Christine Chubbuck.
7. Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water
This triumph of casting shows that sometimes, the obvious choice is the right one.
6. Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys
To see Gosling at his best, look no further than this giddily self-deprecating performance.
5. Ruth Negga in Loving
Performances rarely get more delicate, intricate and gorgeous than this.
4. Ben Foster in Hell or High Water
The unpredictable spontaneity of this performance thrilled me to no end.
3. Chris Pine in Hell or High Water
A truly eye-opening MOVIE STAR performance.
2. Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 10 Cloverfield Lane
This fearless portrayal deserves consideration among the iconic "genre" performances.
1. Natalie Portman in Jackie
The year's most daring, commanding and unforgettable performance.