2019 has been a great year for film. With these great movies have come a handful of memorable performances. Here are 10 of the best ones.
With 2019 coming to a close, I’ve already discussed a handle of some of my favorite movies. I’ve even gone in depth about some of the best of the decade. But, some movies wouldn’t be what they are without the actors/actresses performing in those roles.
This list will be ranking the best performances I’ve seen this year. Keep in mind, I haven’t seen some movies just yet and I know most people have raved about certain portrayals in those films. I do plan on seeing them eventually, but this list will only contain performances based on the films I have seen. There are a number of performances as well that I did enjoy, but didn’t make the list. I will have them in the honorable mentions list, though. Let’s begin!
10. Zac Efron as Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Zac Efron has come a long way since his High School Musical days. People don’t really give him the credit he deserves. I mean, he has been in some dumpster fire films, but the good films he has made, he has delivered a great performance. None comes close to his portrayal as Ted Bundy in the Netflix movie, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, though. This is a career-defining performance for Efron and hopefully, he gets more roles like this in the future. What impressed me the most is how how much he studied Ted Bendy as a character. He really did his homework. The chances of him getting any awards recognition are pretty slim, especially this year since it’s a pretty stacked year. But, despite that, it shouldn’t be forgotten.
9. Jennifer Lopez as Romana Vega in Hustlers
Hustlers was everything I didn’t expect. Seeing all the trailers prior to its release, it seemed like just another film about strippers, but it’s much more complex than that. Specifically speaking, a lot of the credit has to be given to Jennifer Lopez, who gives the best performance of her career, at least in my opinion (others includes Selena, Out of Sight, and Angel Eyes). I also believe there’s a chance she can get nominated for it. Again, this year is stacked, but like Efron, her performance should be considered as one of the best of the year.
8. Eddie Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore in Dolemite Is My Name
It’s safe to say Eddie Murphy is officially back. He’s definitely not done either with a standup special in the works and Coming 2 America releasing next year. But, speaking about Dolemite Is My Name, Murphy’s performance is absolutely electric. The way he lost himself in this role to become this character is truly a joy to watch. What’s best about this performance is how he sells Moore’s determination and drive to never give up and go after what he wants, regardless of all the naysayers and doubters. It’s definitely one of the best feel-good films of the year and Murphy’s performance is a big reason why it’s so entertaining to watch.
7. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame
Regardless of what Martin Scorsese has said about these movies, these films are extremely layered in terms of emotion, stakes, and outstanding performances. It’s time to start treating them as such. I think last year’s awards season turned the tide a bit with Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse getting a ton of love. As for this upcoming season, Robert Downey Jr. has to be considered. This is, by far, his greatest portrayal of the character in the 11 years he’s been playing him. His commitment to the role is a joy to watch, while also being a bit unsettling, especially at the beginning when he’s arguing with Steve. It’s one of the best performances of the year and it would be a shame that they brush it off just because it happens to be in a Marvel movie.
6. Scarlett Johansson as Nicole Barber in Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson has been one of the greatest actresses working today and she further proves it with her amazing work in Marriage Story. At this point, I think she’s a lock for a nomination for “Best Actress” at the Oscars and she has a high chance of taking home the award as well. As for her performance, I believe she perfectly captures the highs and lows of her relationship in the film and how tough it can be to go through a divorce. The movie is on Netflix as well, so you can’t miss it.
5. Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Tom Hanks, in my opinion, is the best actor of all time. His track record speaks for itself and his legend status is already secured. At this point, he’s just adding more impressive roles to his resume and his most recent effort, Mister Rogers, is the best he’s done in awhile. Watching the movie, I almost forgot it was an actor portraying the him. Although the physical appearance is different, Hanks perfectly captures his mannerisms, his gentle tone, and the way he interacts with people. His nomination for “Best Supporting Actor” is a lock.
4. Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide Wilson/Red in Us
I think it’s a shame Lupita Nyong’o isn’t being talked about enough in terms of her performance in Jordan Peele’s sophomore effort, Us. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read up on a lot of other people’s thoughts lately, but I believe recency bias has a lot to do with it since Us did release in April. However, she’s fantastic in the movie and needs to be recognized for her greatness. Specifically speaking, her portrayal of Red is downright chilling and uncomfortable at times. She’s also great as Adelaide.
3. Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner in Uncut Gems
If there’s anyone who has been extremely critical of Adam Sandler’s career, it’s me. I mean, I do enjoy some of his classic films, such as The Waterboy, Billy Madison, and Big Daddy. But, for the last decade or so, he has been pretty awful. It’s sad because he has shown signs of greatness time and time again, specifically in Punch-Drunk Love and The Meyerowitz Stories. He’s also pretty underrated in Funny People and Reign Over Me. Nothing compares to his outright insane performance in Uncut Gems. There are only a few films in 2019 where I felt extremely anxious and sometimes uncomfortable while watching and this is one of them. Sandler is a huge reason why with his portrayal of Howard Ratner and all the crazy decisions he makes. I hope it’s a sign of more potential greatness coming from him in the future. He should definitely be considered come awards time.
2. Christian Bale as Ken Miles in FORD V FERRARI
Christian Bale is another one of my favorite actors working today. He’s one of the few method actors who completely loses himself in his roles. Whether it’s the physical changes, such as fluctuating between losing a ton of weight or gaining weight (fat and muscle mass), or the mental, psychological ways he portrays these characters, he always delivers. In FORD V FERRARI, he’s the best he’s been since The Fighter. He’s very convincing in this role and he delivers an extremely nuanced performance. Without a doubt, he’s getting a nomination.
1. Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in Joker
Not only is this the best performance of the year, it might be the performance of the decade. It’s a bold claim, sure, but I can only think of a few other performances where an actor/actress completely submerges themselves in a role and becomes that character they’re portraying. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck is an absolute masterpiece. This was the most uncomfortable moviegoing experience for me this year. I haven’t felt this bothered watching certain movie scenes in a very long time. It’s kind of bizarre since you would think the most uncomfortable aspects are him doing Joker things, such as killing people and wreaking havoc. But, it’s seeing him in his loneliness and dealing with his mental illness that impacted me the most. He’s the frontrunner to win “Best Actor” and any other choice is simply a robbery.
- Song Kang-Ho as Kim Ki-taek in Parasite
- Adam Driver as Charlie Barber in Marriage Story
- Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil in Bombshell
- Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly in Bombshell
- Mark Ruffalo as Robert Bilott in Dark Waters
- Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino in The Irishman
- Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa in The Irishman
What are some of your favorite performances of the year? Feel free to discuss down below!