In going over the best movies of the past ten years, I could not help but be amazed by the great performances that many actors have demonstrated. While thinking of this I decided to create another list citing the best individual performances of this decade. The list was supposed to be only 50 performances but an error in math on my end left me with 60 and to cut out another ten would have proved much too difficult. The main rule for the list was that each performer's name could appear only once.
Upon further review, there were three other performances that I felt it would be a crime to not at least mention. So, here are three "honorable mentions" which really means that I was too conflicted and cowardly to eliminate three other performances from this list:
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Martin Sheen, The Departed
Lisa Kudrow, Happy Endings
So, without further explanation, here's the list.
60. Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
With a dark and menacing attitude, Depp was the perfect choice to bring this icon of musical theater to the big screen. The way Depp portrays Todd as a man solely focused on seeking revenge is so haunting that it's hard not imagine Depp as someone who would carry those same emotions in real life. Depp received his third Oscar nomination for channeling the murderous barber.
59. Charlotte Rampling, Swimming Pool
Rampling is sensational in this mystery thriller as a writer who's secluded vacation takes an abrupt detour. No matter what happens with her we can be assured that with her we will always be in trusted hands.
58. Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind
While the really showy performance went to Crowe, it would not have been much without Connelly's amazing job as John Nash's rock who helped him become the functioning man he is today. Connelly captures the sensitivity of her character with near perfection, which is probably why she won an Oscar for this.
57. Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
Clint's depiction of a boxing trainer who reluctantly takes a southern woman under his belt is at times funny, at times heartbreaking and at times touching but Clint always makes it gripping and compelling. Clint's talent knows no end and we're all lucky that he just won't stop. Eastwood would be nominated for Best Actor for his role.
56. Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire
An actress with no formal training is tasked with bringing to life a character who is obese, living with an abusive mother, illiterate and pregnant with her second child from her father's sexual abuse. This may seem like formula for disaster but Gabourey bring's Precious to screen with such gravitas and conviction, that you think she may have been trained at a royal academy in England. Sidibe enjoyed her first Oscar nomination for this role.
55. Joan Allen, The Upside of Anger
Allen brilliantly brings to life a woman with four daughters whose husband has abandoned her. Her attitude towards her kids and a retired baseball player are ones of fantastic caring, humor and bitterness towards the one who abandoned her.
54. Alan Alda, The Aviator
While Leonardo DiCaprio wonderfully portrayed Howard Hughes, it was Alda who really stole the show in my opinion. While we're so used to seeing Alda play really nice guys, Alda is completely convincing as Hughes's rival Sen. Owen Brewster. The way he handles Hughes during their first lunch meeting is delightfully menacing. Alda's acting lead him to his first Oscar nomination in 2005.
53. Brad Pitt, Babel
Pitt has had plenty of opportunities to show he's more than just a pretty face and he never did a better job of that than in this ensemble traged of worldwide proportions. As a man whose wife has been injured from point blank gunfire, Pitt brings a wonderful desperation that audiences can't help but relate to.
52. Gary Oldman, The Contender
Oldman has always had a way of losing himself in a role but it's hard to ever think of him as being this unrecognizable. As a powerful Republican House member trying to block the nomination of the first female Vice President, Oldman is wonderfully evil in his attempts to block her confirmation.
51. Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Kate may have won her Oscar for The Reader (undeservedly), but her best performance by far was as the free-spirited Clementine in this film about erasing bad relationships from your memory. She may not have won for this role, but at least she was nominated in 2005.
50. Jamie Foxx, Ray
While some may have been skeptical of the comedian's acting ability, Foxx silenced all doubters with his incredible ability to not only look or sound like Ray Charles, but also in his ability to embody his spirit and complete musical brilliance. Combined with the film's amazing tone and Charles's death prior to the film's release, Foxx's performance ended up being the most touching tribute to the genius that we could have ever wanted. Foxx swept all the critical laurels and ended up taking home the 2005 Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.
49. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Capote was such a larger than life character in every way and to portray him as a charicature would be very easy. But Hoffman finally broke through into all mainstream conciousness by showing Capote as the very selfish man he was but at other times conflicted because of the choices he made and the way he abused the relationships with those he cared about. Hoffman took home a well deserved Oscar for Best Actor for this in 2006.
48. Sook-Yin Lee, Shortbus
Lee was primarily known in Canada as a VJ for the music channel MuchMusic when she took on the role as a sex therapist who had never actually achieved orgasm in John Cameron Mitchell's 2006 sex comedy. But the realness and desperation and sometimes insane humor that Lee uses to portray the character make you wonder if her actual sexual past played a part in her portrayal. Lee is another example that one does not need to have the intensity of Daniel Day-Lewis to pull off an amazing performance.
47. Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog
Before playing a terrorist sympathizer on 24 or winning an Emmy for playing Saddam Hussein's first wife, the Iranian actress burst into Hollywood's vision as the wife of an Iranian former general trying to establish a home in America. As someone who exuded kindness and warmth next to Kingsley's brashness and emotional coldness, Aghdashloo earned an Oscar nomination and the sympathies of every movie patron lucky enough to see her performance.
46. Albert Finney, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Finney is in my opinion, one of the finest actor's to have ever graced the Earth, but unfortunately his mantle is short of the awards that he is deserving of (except an Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing Churchill in The Gathering Storm). But his amazing skill is shown to perfection in this Sidney Lumet family drama as the father of two men who have staged a robbery of his and his wife's jewelry store. His intensity in this role is one that most people probably couldn't even imagine.
45. Dennis Quaid, Far From Heaven
One of the biggest shocks of the 2003 Oscars was Quaid's lack of a nomination for his role in this ode to Douglas Sirk's films of the 1950's. As a man with the perfect job and the perfect family but hiding his closet homosexuality, Quaid is never afraid to show the pain that he forces his character to be in because of his inner demons and the culture that surrounds him.
44. Jim Broadbent, Iris
While many thought Sir Ian McKellen deserved to take home the 2002 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the first Lord of the Rings film, but the Academy decided to award the more deserving performance over who was popular. As writer John Bailey, Broadbent brought an amazing charm and warmth to his character, the sometimes clumsy husband to brilliant writer Iris Murdoch who is suffering from the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. His devotion to his wife to the very end is the kind of performance that will bring tears to your eyes as it did to mine.
43. Paul Dano, L.I.E.
Before obtaining breakout roles in Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood, Dano bust out into the indie scene as Howie, a 14-year-old whose mother has just died in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway. His dad's a total corporate sleaze and he hangs out with a crowd that's less than desirable and he has become platonically close with a known pedophile. But the conviction and intelligence that Dano brings to this character is one that stands out and keeps him from fading into the background. Judging by the roles he has been cast in since his debut, he certainly didn't fade from anyone's minds after they saw this movie.
42. Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
While watching "Family Guy", Stewie used the phrase "deliciously evil" which has quickly become one of my favorites and Christoph Waltz's character is one that definitely embodies that trait. As Col. Hans Landa, the "Jew-Hunter" who finds fugitive Jews in Nazi-occupied France, Waltz brings not just an evil as someone who is willing to lend their skills to the Nazis, but also quite a bit of humor and a sense of him being at ease with what he does. The chillingness with which he conveys this is what makes him so great in this role.
41. Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Jenkins had been known as a character actor who everyone recognized but could never remember the name of, but at the young age of 61, he finally broke into a leading performance with this Thomas McCarthy gem. Jenkins plays a recent widower who is striving to find a connection in his life and does find it in the form of an immigrant couple who are squatting in his New York apartment. Through Jenkins, we see this character begin to open up and enjoy himself in a way that's delightful but we also see a man who feels something for the first time in quite a while. Jenkins first lead role also lead him to his first Oscar nomination in 2009 for Best Actor.