The Decade in Review: Top 50 Performances, Part Two

Before I go on with the rest of my top 50 performances of the decade, I would like to take some time to mention some of those performances that I loved but could not make room for in the top 50. The most recent one is Christoph Waltz’s haunting but entertaining performance as Col. Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece Inglourious Basterds. Also from that film there are Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger, who continue the tradition of actresses giving great performances as strong female characters written by Tarantino.

Keira Knightley showed the world that she could act in Pride & Prejudice, and then went on to turn in fine work in Atonement and The Duchess. Kate Winslet is on this list for her work in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind, but she was also brilliant in Little Children and Revolutionary Road. The entire cast of Little Miss Sunshine turned in great performances, as well as the rest of Gosford Park’s cast, but Maggie smith was the best, as I mentioned in part one of the list. And although there are more great performances out there that did not make the top 50, I will end this write up by singling out Catinca Untaru and Lee Pace for The Fall. Along with the cinematography, art direction, and direction, the both of them made the movie rise above it’s average script.

Anyways, here are now the to 25 performances of the decade:

25. Imelda Staunton as Vera Drake in Vera Drake

Mike Leigh is great at getting amazing performances from his actors, and this is no different. As Vera Drake, a woman who helps girls “in trouble” during a time when that was even more controversial than today, Staunton brings a grace to the character that is required to understand that she is doing what she is doing for the good of the girls she helps. It is a subtle yet commanding performance.

24. Audrey Tautou as Amelie Poulin in Amelie

The movie is very stylish and fast, and Tautou not only keeps up with the world created by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, but she elevates it to the level of cinematic bliss.

23. David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow in Good Night and Good Luck

Simply put, his famous speech gave me chills. He owns the movie and no one ele in the production comes close to matching his greatness

22. Keri Russell as Jenna Huntington in Waitress

If her performance were a pie, it’d be a peach pie (my favorite); somewhat bitter, and somewhat sweet but oh so delicious and enjoyable.

21. Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell in Moon

I’ve always appreciated the performances given in movies where there is one actor on screen pretty much all the time. Rockwell pretty much just acts with him self and a box throughout the movie and he draws you in from the very beginning and makes you feel for him, no matter which Sam Bell we are seeing.

20. Amy Adams as Giselle in Enchanted

This performance made me feel, if only for a moment, that everything was alright with the world. Only #6 on the list made me feel better

19. Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Wheeler in Revolutionary Road

His best performance so far. Many say his “baby face” prevent them from taking him seriously, but that only helped him here.

18. Bill Murray as Bob Harris in Lost in Translation

Murray as we have never seen him before. He is his charming self, but with a darkness inside him that seems to be eating him up, and only Scarlett Johnasson gets the best out of him

17. Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo A.K.A The Bride in Kill Bill

Tarantino always seems to get the best out of her. This time, she is front and center as the left-for-dead bride seeking revenge and there is no stopping her. She deserved some serious award attention for both parts, but she was victim to the bias against genre films

16. Ken Watanabe as Gen. Kuribayashi in Letters from Iwo Jima

One of the best examples of leadership I’ve seen on film.

15. Peter O’Toole as Anton Ego in Ratatouille

Watch his final speech to  understand why he is ranked so high up on my list.

14. Julianne Moore as Cathy Whitaker in Far From Heaven

In 2002, Moore was nominated for two Oscars for pretty much the same role, but she lost both. However, she should have won for this one, where she stars as a suburban wife in the 50s who finds out her husband is gay and falls for his black gardener. She is great as a restrained woman who knows both topics are taboo, but you can see the desperation in her eyes.

13. Meryl  Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada

The greatest actress of all time takes on the role as the villain, and she is as scary as you might imagine. In would not have wanted to be Andrea during the run through.

12. Kate Winslet as Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Winslet always does her best work in lighter role, and this is one of those. She is funny but also rather depressing, and the role just fit her like a glove. She should have won her Oscar for this (or Little Children) but not for the freaking The Reader.

11. Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler in Downfall

He managed to make a human out of the monster that was Hitler, and I bet that was not easy feat.

10. Joan Allen as Terry Ann Wolfmeyer in The Upside of Anger

Say anything you want about the movie and its ending, but you can’t deny her work here is flawless. She does all that the character requires her to do and takes it to the level where everything she does feel real.

9. Cate Blanchett as Jude in I’m Not There

Had I not known it was Cate Blanchett, I would have sworn it was a man in the role, and he would have been doing a hell of a job.

8. Mickey Rourke as Randy “The Ram” Robinson in The Wrestler

One could say that Rourke found inspiration in the events of his life that helped him with this performance. Whatever he did, it is one of the best combinations of mind, body, and soul that I’ve seen go into a performance

7. Casey Affleck as Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Very creepy since the beginning. There is not a trace of self awareness in this performance, and that only increases the creepyness.

6. Sally Hawkins as Poppy in Happy-Go-Lucky

Some find Poppy annoying, others love her. If you feel any of those two, then you know Hawkins did her job right.

5. Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean

He created an icon out of nothing, and that is not something many actors are able to do.

4. Nicole Kidman as Satine in Moulin Rouge!

As I’ve said, Kidman in the greatest actress of her generation, and this performance shows that. She shows that she has the ability to carry a tune and at the same time gives everything to the dramatic moments without a hint of self awareness.

3. Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight

Everything that I wanted to say about this performance has  been said before, so I will only repeat that Ledger was taken away too soon.

2. Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview in There Will be Blood

In 2007 this was my second favorite performance of the year. However, upon repeat viewings, the power of Day-Lewis won me over. It may, overtime, become my favorite performance of all time, along with the next entry.

1. Ellen Burstyn as Sarah Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream

Much like what Day-Lewis does for every performance, Burstyn gave everything she had to this role of a drug addict. One of the most graceful-looking women became a monster and we believed she was, and felt for her, every moment she was on screen. This is the boldest and most intense performance I’ve seen this decade. Props to Ms. Burstyn for taking on a role that required her to do something she had never done before and that no other woman her age would have taken

What do you think I about my choices? Were some of them too low? Too high? Post your thoughts in the comments section


3 thoughts on “The Decade in Review: Top 50 Performances, Part Two

  1. Fantastic conclusion to your performances of the decade. I am ashamed to say that I have still yet to see “Requiem for a Dream” it is right near the top of my must see list, but I have not spotted the DVD in the shop to buy it. I want to see it even more now after Ellen Burstyn took your top spot.

    Glad to see Mickey Rourke really high up in your list too, as that performance really got to me a lot.

    Seeing Imelda Stauton on your list had made me go looking for my Vera Drake DVD and watching that again, as I found her heartbreaking in such an intense film.

  2. Great top3. and i am happy to see Mickey Rourke in top 10, as he deserved.
    there were some great performances i kind of thought would appear here, but didn’t.

    1. what about Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive? (forgive her for ‘Ring’ and ‘King Kong’, it’s not her fault those movies are so terrible).
    2. don’t tell me Christoph Waltz’s performance in ‘inglorious Basterds’ is not amazing.
    3. Ulrich Mühe’s performance in The Lives of Others is great. but maybe you mean on Hollywood performances. wait, no, you have Amelie, in Bruges, and other stuff. so I am confused, why almost only hollywood here?
    4. Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men
    5. Konstantin Lavronenko makes one of the most brilliant performances in The Return
    6. Daniel Auteuil in Hidden (Cache) was great.
    7. and no Christian Bale at all? what about his American Psycho? as entertaining as Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge.

    • 1. I liked Watts in Mulholland Dr. but I liked her performance in King Kong much more. I’d say both were just outside the top 50

      2. I loved The Lives of Others and the performance, but I forgot about when I was making the list. And where I live there isn’t much access to non-Hollywood films. Independent movies and popular foreign films rarely come to theaters or are available for renting. So, my only option would be buying every movie that I’m interested in watching, and I just won’t do that.

      3. Waltz was indeed amazing but even last year he was topped, in my oppinion, by Woody Harrelson in The Messenger

      4. Didn’t care for the performance

      5. Never head of it

      6. I rented Caché once, but never got around to watching it.

      7. He almost made it for The Prestige, but I did not like anything about American Psycho

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