Friday, January 24, 2020

Best of 2019: Top 20 Acting Performances


During the days of classic Hollywood and the peak of the studio system, great acting was often showcased through star vehicles - films crafted around the persona of a single movie star to enhance or build on their popularity. As movie stars have become less of a draw for audiences, ensemble casts have become even more popular, bringing together multiple fan faves. While compiling this list of the Top 20 Performances of 2019, I also found myself drawn to the ensembles, particularly the pairings within them. Indeed, that almost magical alchemy between actors who "click" delivered some of my favorite movie moments of the year. And in the final rundown, this left only 13 films represented in the list below. Here they are:

20. Tommy Lee Jones in Ad Astra
As gruff as it is vulnerable, Tommy Lee Jones nails this depiction of stubborn masculinity.

19. Taika Waititi in Jojo Rabbit
The year's gutsiest performance skewers history with gleeful irreverence.

18. Natalie Portman in Lucy in the Sky
Go big or go home, or go out of this world like this bold Natalie Portman performance

17. Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse
A manic character performed with utmost skill.

16. Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story
Stunning in its vulnerability, this role is a career peak for Scarlett Johansson.

15. Awkwafina in The Farewell
Awkwafina is a revelation in this raw, honest portrayal.

14. Brad Pitt, Ad Astra
Utterly heartfelt and soulful, Brad Pitt's face provided the year's most impactful cinematic imagery.

13. Joaquin Phoenix in Joker
At once grotesque and beguiling, Phoenix delivers a fascinating interpretation of an iconic character.

12. Carice van Houten in Instinct
For better or worse, a singularly provocative performance.

11. Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse
Willem Dafoe evokes Shakespearean eloquence with his acting masterclass.

10. Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit
This extraordinary child performance was an endless delight to watch.

9. Jonathan Majors in The Last Black Man in San Francisco
A performance that surprises with a distinctive persona and striking authenticity.

8. Jimmie Fails in The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Fails poignantly embodies his film's themes with deeply felt melancholy.

7. Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart
One half of 2019's most dynamic duo.

6. Beanie Feldstein in Booksmart
One half of 2019's most dynamic duo.

5. Chris Hemsworth in Avengers: Endgame
Self-deprecating in the best way, a pitch-perfect performance.

4. Florence Pugh in Fighting with my Family
A knockout performance of utmost tenacity.

3. Adam Driver in Marriage Story
This emotional tour de force is absolutely breathtaking.

2. Kelvin Harrison Jr. in Waves
Kelvin Harrison Jr. blew me away with this powerful and unforgettable performance of reckless youth.

1. Sterling K. Brown in Waves
An astonishingly precise depiction of black fatherhood, commanding respect and fear with little more than a glance.

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