A few years ago, acclaimed writer Aaron Sorkin argued in a leaked email to the New York Times that female roles in film lack the degree of difficulty of their male counterparts. But as I look back on the year's most compelling performances of 2018, the strength and complexity showcased by actresses resoundingly refuted that specious claim. From major blockbusters to small indies, there were dozens of challenging and daring performances which explored what it means to be a woman. Some of the most memorable characters included flailing mothers and mighty warriors, while a trio of teenage girls kept me rapt in their fraught coming of age journeys.
At the end of the year, it came as no surprise to me that my Top 20 Performances of the Year was dominated by women, as 14 actresses claimed spots on the list. While my #1 pick went to a male actor, there was no denying that 2018 was yet another amazing year for female performers. So without further ado, I proudly present my Top 20 Acting Performances of 2018:
20. Russell Hornsby in The Hate U Give
Instantly grabbing the audience with his cautionary words of wisdom, Hornsby embodies the weary resilience of being black in America.
19. Kiersey Clemons in Hearts Beat Loud
A truly revelatory performance, this gifted singer-actress surprised me over and over again with her talents.
18. Nick Offerman in Hearts Beat Loud
A trademark Nick Offerman performance that's unpretentious and uniquely charming.
17. Thomasin McKenzie in Leave No Trace
As tender as an injured little bird, this performance brought new poignancy to the challenges of coming of age.
16. Helena Howard in Madeline's Madeline
Wild, dynamic and thoroughly enthralling, you've never seen anything like this performance.
15. Michael B. Jordan in Creed II
An impressive performance of Herculean physicality and heart-stirring emotional depth.
14. Blake Lively in A Simple Favor
Stylish and seductive, Lively was the most irresistible femme fatale since Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl.
13. Anna Kendrick in A Simple Favor
Few other actresses could pull off the tenacity and girlish innocence of this delightful performance.
12. Danai Gurira in Black Panther
This scene-stealing performance snatched our collective wigs with every withering glance, sardonic quip and badass warrior move.
11. Amandla Stenberg in The Hate U Give
Skillfully charting an emotional journey from deep pain to galvanizing passion, Stenberg delivered one of the year's most powerful performances.
10. Molly Parker in Madeline's Madeline
A rich, precise expression of art as love, obsession, oppression and inspiration.
9. Dominique Fishback in Night Comes On
With her natural screen presence, Fishback conveys a lifetime of internalized conflict with impressive subtlety.
8. Kiki Layne in If Beale Street Could Talk
This fresh-faced, endearing performance showed that Kiki Layne definitely has "it."
7. Olivia Colman in The Favourite
A royal masterclass in comedy, drama and the madness in between.
6. Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade
Perfectly capturing the awkwardness and insecurities of adolescence, Fisher gives the year's most precious performance.
5. Alex Wolff in Hereditary
A terrific horror performance, portraying torment and fear from head to toe.
4. Charlize Theron in Tully
A stunning portrait of motherhood, Theron finds the humanity in all of her character's imperfections.
3. Daveed Diggs in Blindspotting
This raw, tour-de-force performance hits you right in the gut.
2. Toni Collette in Hereditary
Going for broke with remarkable success, Collette gives an unforgettable, sensational performance.
1. Rafael Casal in Blindspotting
Tackling a deceptively tricky role, Rafael Casal emerges with an eye-opening and captivating personification of white privilege and toxic masculinity.