Friday, January 01, 2010

Top 50 Performances of the Decade (Male)

They aren't ranked. Deal with it. I must thank these 47 actors again (three performers have two entries) one last time for delivering such indelible characterizations these past ten years. Bid them adieu before moving on to a fresh decade, the Teens. You may notice that this list includes no 2009 performances. It's too early! I don't wanna give away my upcoming nominees and I still need time to let the year settle. My dozen favorites are selected rather impulsively in red. And with "best/favorites" it's always subject to change with the passing of time... or moods.
  • Adrien Brody, The Pianist (2002)
  • Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) *
  • Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast (2001)
  • Bill Murray, Lost in Translation (2003)

  • "make it Suntory times"

  • Billy Bob Thornton, The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) *
  • Campbell Scott, Rodger Dodger (2002) *
  • Chris Cooper, Adaptation (2002)
  • Christian Bale, American Psycho (2000) *
  • Clive Owen, Closer (2004)
  • Daniel Craig, Casino Royale (2006) *
  • David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood (2007)
  • Dennis Quaid, Far From Heaven (2002) *
  • Denzel Washington, Training Day (2001)
  • Ed Harris, Pollock (2000)
  • Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge! (2001) *
  • Forrest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland (2006)
  • Gael Garcia Bernal, Bad Education (2004) *

  • Haley Joel Osment, A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) *
  • Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  • Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (2008)
  • Hugh Jackman, The Fountain (2006) *
  • Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  • Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt (2002)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  • Javier Bardem, Before Night Falls (2000)
  • Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men (2007)
  • Jeff Bridges, The Door in the Floor (2004) *

  • "my penis is funny"

  • Jeff Daniels, The Squid and the Whale (2005) *
  • Jim Broadbent, Moulin Rouge! (2001) *
  • Jim Carrey, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) *
  • John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) *
  • Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
  • Jude Law, I Huckabees (2004) *
  • Mark Ruffalo, You Can Count On Me (2000) *
  • Mark Wahlberg, I Huckabees (2004) *
  • Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (2008)
  • Paul Bettany, Dogville (2004) *
  • Paul Giamatti, Sideways (2004) *
  • Peter Sarsgaard, Shattered Glass (2003) *

  • "he handed us fiction after fiction..."

  • Robert Downey Jr, Tropic Thunder (2008)
  • Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson (2006)
  • Sean Penn, Milk (2008)
  • Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow (2005)
  • Thomas Hayden Church, Sideways (2004)
  • Tom Wilkinson, In the Bedroom (2001)
  • Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, In the Mood For Love (2001) *
  • Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises (2007)
  • Viggo Mortensen, A History of Violence (2005) *
  • Willem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Narrowing it down further woulda killed me, I tell you. The things I do for lists...

Update Summer 2010: These 2009 performances, now that they've settled in as "cinema of the past," would have to be included in the list above. Who to drop to make room for them?
  • Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds (2009)
  • Colin Firth, A Single Man (2009)
See also: 50 Female Performances and Top 100 Films

an * indicates a performance that was not recognized by Oscar. 46% of the list as it turns out (I did not look at Oscar nomination charts while composing this but at my own past years of "best" lists).


J.L said...

Great list !

Sebastian Gutierrez said...

Very good! If I had to add to it, I would add Matt Damon for either The Bourne Movies, The Departed, or The Informant... but that's just me.

Pedro said...

I would add Max von Sydow for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Such a small but harrowing performance.

Andrew K. said...

It doesn't surprise me, but it's sad to see no Leo :(
But no Benicio Del Toro?
I am LOVING the double mention of Viggo.

I know it's the wrong post, but HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Christine said...

Yay! Willem Dafoe in Shadow of the Vampire. That movie doesn't get nearly the love it deserves.
"Oh. The script girl. I'll eat her later. "

Robert Hamer said...

Hmm...I would have thought to see Paul Bettany cited for Master & Commander instead of Dogville. Has the former performance lost its power to you?


Robert. i just don't remember it as clearly (Paul Bettany almost had two citations here) but his work in Dogville is so SNEAKY good that nobody notices how brilliant he is in it.

Pedro. ARGH. i forgot him. he probably woulda made it actually.

PPO-10 said...

That Sarsgaard Oscar snub still hurts. A lot.

Pierce said...

No to all of these???
Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote
Leonardo Dicaprio for Departed or Blood Diamond
Sean Penn for I Am Sam
Daniel Day Lewis for Gangs of New York

NicksFlickPicks said...

Great idea! Loved reading it.

Ryan said...

YES! now that's a killer list... especially love your highlighted dozen. for me it's Heath Ledger ('Brokeback') and Daniel Day-Lewis ("TWBB") all the way.

Oh Nathaniel... im quite the list whore as well. im D-Y-I-N-G for your official top 10 (films/performances) of the decade entry. Having followed the site and Film Bitch awards for all these years... it will truly be sp fun and fascinating to see who makes the cut!

Jim T said...

Nathaniel you're killing me with ranking-free thing but I'm grateful for everything you give us so I can't complain (then what was that, right? :p )

Ryan Gosling not in red? Weird.


PPO-10 yep. still has best performance, too.

Pierce -- capote almost made the list. but i had to cut something.

Paul Outlaw said...


Howler said...

I'm shocked by some entries. I didn't realise you liked Gyllenhaal better than Hoffman in 2005. As much as I'd love to agree with this, I can't ;)
And I'm surprised there's no Casey Affleck.
It's much easier for me to choose 5 instead of 50, so:
5. Heath Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain"
4. Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood"
3. Johnny Depp in "Pirates of Carribean"
2. Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight"
1. Ian McKellen in "The Fellowship of the Ring"

Anonymous said...

Terrible selection....Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder?? Andy Serkis for Gollum??

I can't believe you're asking for donations to continue producing this rubbish.

Unknown said...

Wow, what a daunting task! My list would include the so-sue-me trio of Douglas in "Wonder Boys," Clooney in "Michael Clayton," and Stiller in "Zoolander"! That's right, it still makes me laugh.

I assume there'll be a female top fifty, which I eagerly await? I guess the only question is whether Meryl or Tilda gets more nods. (FYC: Marsha Mason in "Bride and Prejudice"!)

Debbie M de Rodriguez said...

Excellent list, Nathaniel!!
Especially double Viggo, Sir Ian, Andy's Gollum, Jake and Heath for Brokeback, and the amazing RDJ! (Anonymous is confused I fear. RDJ was nothing short of brilliant in Tropic Thunder, and Andy's mo-capped/CGI Gollum changed filmmaking forever (Avatar anyone?). Happy New Year and all the best Nathaniel!

Jeff said...

nice to see Tony Leung, he wasn't a nominee in FB awards 2000.. he grew on you. I am eager to see the female list, I hope Maggie Cheung also grew on you.

BrianZ said...

So many good memories.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who doesn't complain about RDJ's performance in Tropic Thunder can't complain about Marisa Tomei's performance in My Cousin Vinny.

Just Sayin'....

Anonymous said...

i want to see the top 100 actress please...

NicksFlickPicks said...

@Debbie: You shame me! The rebuttal I was going to write back to Anonymous and his appalling manners was much less good-natured than yours. You're a class act.

@Nathaniel: I think it's fun to see Bardem here as one of the double-citations, since I don't think of him as somebody who ranks as high among your personal faves as do several of the guys who are only on here once. Funny how that stuff happens when you sit down to make a list, and no wonder Javi is smiling up there in your banner.

cal roth said...

Nat, two words for you: Mathieu Amalric. At least 2 performances for the ages this decade: Kings and Queen and Heartbeat Detector.

Anyway, it's a very American-centric list, or at least English-language centric.

I hope your Best Actress list is more diverse, since the best female performances of the decade were given by mostly foreign performers, like Isabelle Huppert (in The Pianist, Time of the Wolf and The Comedy of Power, the best resume of all actors), Emmanuelle Devos, Tang Wei and Jeon Do-yen.

Amir said...

i know it was already mentioned, but max von sydow's performance for me might even make the cut if i make a top ten, let alone a top twenty.
otherwise, fantastic list.

Lucky said...

Personally, I would've added Gordon Pinsent for Away from Her, Peter Sarsgaard in The Dying Gaul and Russell Crowe and Jude Law in something... not sure what (3:10 to Yuma and Closer?).

Great list

Unknown said...

Wow so disappointing to see you left out Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis) of Gangs of New York, I can only forgive you if you haven't seen the movie, but it's a crime for any cinema fans to leave THE BUTCHER out of the top 50 let alone the top 10, he easily tops what Heath Ledger had done in the Dark Knight, and I loved Heath as The Joker.

gbulger1 said...

gladiatior came out in 2000, so Russell Crow for the role of Maximus would be in my top 5, and respectively, I don't see how it can be left out of a top 50.

Also, I think DiCaprio should have gotten a notice for Departed and Damon for Bourne.

But a great list!

Amanda said...


Arkaan said...

Biggest surprise: No Billy Crudup for Jesus' Son

M.V said...

Russell Crowe for Gladiator. I also agree that would be on my top list. But very good list! Also agree about Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis). That was an amazing role.

Clement said...

Great list. Very inciteful reminders.

Benicio Del Toro:
Traffic (come on!)
21 Grams

Andrew...wisely, brought up the name.

Anonymous said...

Jude Law in I heart Huckabees really feels it does not belong.

garsh said...

Aren't you going to make a list for the actresses? I am guessing that there would be multiple entries for Kate Winslet, Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett...the filmography and their performances are awesome.

joseph said...

I know everyone doesn't think that The Lives of Others is one of the best films of the decade (I think it is). Some people don't buy the film's presentation of human transformation via the arts, or grimace at its sentimental, time-jump of an ending...but where is the love for Ulrich Muhe's performance? His portrayl is such a touching and nuanced one...In fact, it reminds me so much of Mickey Rourke's equally brilliant performance in the Wrestler. Both are about men who struggle with loneliness, and desire some sort of redemption.

I also bring up Mickey Rourke because I think those who don't like the Wrestler (for what I believe are somewhat similar reasons to those directed at the Lives of Others) mostly still agree that Rourke was excellent...kind of how I feel the reception was towards Muhe's performance back in early '07. Whether or not a critic liked the film, Muhe's performance was always praised to the skies. Wasn't that how it was, or am I just imagining it? Was it only the film that was getting all of the attention?

Anyway, I'm completely stunned by Muhe's frequent omission in such lists...It's a performance that shouldn't be forgotten. Easily one of my top 5 male performances of the decade!

Anonymous said...

None from 2009?

Anonymous said...

Great list. What about Gordon Pinsent for Away From Her and Ryan Gosling for the Believer?

Evan said...

I actually made a list of the four performances in each of the acting categories which impressed me the most. My males (in no particular order):

Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings
and one you left out,
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild (I've never seen such characterization in 10 minutes)

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Sean Penn, I Am Sam
and Daniel Craig, Casino Royale (not one of the four best performances, but I give him props for reviving a series. He made me like Bond movies, which was quite a big feat)

Glendon said...

I'll be the crazy person and gush about my love for Nicolas Cage in Adaptation, The Weather Man, Bad Lieutenant, and to a lesser extent Matchstick Men and Lord Of War (which admittedly is not a solid movie). His cameo in Grindhouse as Fu Manchu is priceless.


anon -- i wasn't including 2009 purposefully. the performances are still so fresh.

joseph -- i haven't seen the lives of others. big omission on my part i know. but i can't see everything.

clement -- benicio almost had 3 performances on the list actually (i think he's tremendously good in Things We Lost in the Fire too)

gbulger1 -- i'm not into Russell Crowe. Though I do think he's good in Gladiator. I just will never understand the fuss people made about him at the time. Or rather the scale of the fuss. i understand the fuss. i loved him in The Insider.

jonathan -- i liked DDL in Gangs of New York but he wasn't even one of my medalists that year (i think Adrien Brody, Campbell Scott and Jack Nicholson gave more interesting performances) but that said, there's absolutely no questioning his ability to hold teh camera. He's got screen presence for days.

anon 9:11 -- i'm confused about the Marisa Tomei reference. Are you implying that this crowd complains about Marisa? I L-O-V-E Marisa Tomei. She's great in My Cousin Vinny (i wouldn't have handed her the Oscar itself but it's a fun nomination and it's good when Oscar notices people who are doing inspired comedic work)


oh and i'd challenge anyone here to make such a list. You'd be surprised who you have to leave out. These lists are by their nature personal.

Rebecca said...

Wow, this is impressive! I have seen 42 of these performances, and almost all would be up there if I made a similar list.
I like that you don't have the usual awards folks bias against comedic performances, and include things like RDJ in Tropic Thunder. I also like the Willem Defoe mention. I feel that he is pretty perpetually underused, and he always does great things when he's given something good to work with.

My favorite 10 or so would probably break down pretty similarly, with double Viggo, Daniel Day-Lewis, Rourke, Cooper, Penn, and Ledger in Brokeback, and I would probably put Ruffalo and Gosling in there too.

Looking forward to your 2009 awards!

Bryan said...

You don't have any Leo! What would you say is his best performance, Nate?

Anonymous said...

how bout russel crowe in gladiator. damon, nicholson, or leo in the departed. or leo or ddl in gangs of new york. liam neeson in taken. tom hanks in cast away. jamie foxx in either ray or the soloist. eastwood in gran torino. you missed alot

Terry said...

Nice list… I’d imagine this is very difficult. My only question is there seems to be only a couple non-English performances.

Edward L. said...

Thanks for an interesting list.

My favourite male performances of the decade are:

Olivier Gourmet in Le Fils
Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys

and also include:

Maurice Benichou in Cache
Chris Cooper in Adaptation.
Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace (I thought he had a shaky start in Casino Royale but had eased into the role by the second film.)
Russell Crowe in Gladiator
Morgan Marinne in Le Fils
Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises
Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Match Point
Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds (I know you said you weren't doing any from 2009, so I'll be interested to see which performances turn up in your awards.)

Faux said...

I woud add some of DiCaprio work. Also, Benicio del Toro in Traffic or Javier Bardem in The Sea Inside or Tim Robbins in Mystic River.

By the way, my tope six:


1. Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
2. Adrien Brody, The Pianist
3. Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
4. Javier Bardem, Before Night Falls
5. Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
6. Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler


1. Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
2. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
3. Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
4. Thomas Hayden Church, Sideways
5. Jim Broadbent, Iris
6. Max von Sydow, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Daryl Zer0 said...

'Lars and the Real Girl' deserved to be chosen for Ryan Gosling too.

This performance displays the most subtle character arc I can remember being captured on film.

This film was a overlooked masterpiece.

Libriscrowe said...

No top 50 performances of this decade can be complete without Russell Crowe. Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Master & Commander, Cinderella Man, 3:10 To Yuma, American Gangster, State of Play. The man has churned out exceptional performances one right after the other!

Unknown said...

Russell Crowe is the most accomplished actor of the decade. To not have him on here seems like a personal slight or a complete and irresponsible oversight.


layne -- you'd really give one actor six spots in a top 50 from thousands of films? My god... the people you'd have to leave out!

Unknown said...

Furthermore, I absolutely would have had these over some of yours:

Ben Kinglsey- House of Sand and Fog
Dijmon Honsou- Blood Diamond and/or In America
Ben Foster-The Messenger
Jeremy Renner-The Hurt Locker
Frank Langella- Frost Nixon
George Clooney- Up In the Air
Christian Bale- 3:10 to Yuma
Benicio Del Toro- Che
Guy Pearce-Memento
Jamie Foxx-Ray
Leonardo Dicaprio- Several films
Joaquin Phoenix- Walk the Line
Val Kilmer- The Salton Sea


Spencer -- it's a matter of opinion (i think Crowe is talented but I've never responded to him as much as other moviegoers have... and i certainly wouldn't call his filmography this decade the most accomplished. I don't think anything he did this decade was as good as his work in LA Confidential and The Insider. If i wasn't true to my own opinion I'd have no business writing abotu the movies.

and no matter who would make such a list i GUARANTEE they would leave off somebody that everyone else thinks is marvelous. If you made a list i might be horrified at one of my favorites you shunned :)

there are 100s of performances to consider every year and this is from 9 years of cinema.

and the 2009 performances you listed. I love some of them, too. But i was purposefully ignoring 2009 for now since i still have a couple more movies to see and awards to give out.

Anonymous said...

Nicolas Cage in Adaptation, Ryan Gosling in Lars and the Real Girl and Tim Robbins in Mystic River are three of the best performances I've ever seen.

adri said...

Such a satisfying list. It engenders a great feeling of contentment to remember just how much wonderful work was done. I loved the double Viggo mention!

For me also, Russell Crowe was the outstanding actor of the decade. I can understand that he's not for everybody (and I don't want him to make any more movies with Ridley Scott OR gain weight for a part, any part - or hear anything about his personal life). When I watch him though, I'm reminded of the craft, commitment, and belief in acting that makes storytelling worthwhile.

Sid said...

My favorite lead performances

1. Haley Joel Osment, AI: Artificial Intelligence
2. Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
3. Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
4. Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
5. Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Neil F Manning said...

While I agree with most on your list, Johnny Depp & Robert Downey Jr's performances were over-rated.

Tom Steele said...

I totally agree with your entire list, and I'm glad you left off Phillip Seymour Hoffman for CAPOTE, because he gave EXACTLY--but EXACTLY--the same performance in the dreadful FLAWLESS. Add to that the appalling fact that Hoffman in CAPOTE "beat" Heath Ledger's astonishing turn in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN for an Oscar, and I almost hope Hoffman never works again. I've certainly seen enough of him. He'll never top his work for Paul Thomas Anderson. Never.

Tom Steele said...

P.S. Sid--I'm so glad someone else loved Haley Joel Osment in ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE! Not enough people love that movie.

Caden said...

Both this and your actress list are awesome, Nathaniel. I think for me I'd have to add:

Ed Norton, 25th Hour
Frank Langella, Starting Out in the Evening
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Nicholas Cage, Adaptation
Peter Dinklage, The Station Agent
Philip Seymour Hoffman (what?), Synecdoche
Presley Chweneyagae, Tsotsi
Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat
Victor Rasuk, Raising Victor Vargas

Anonymous said...

Where's Casey Affleck and Sam Rockwell for Jesse James?

Affleck's performance might be my #1 of the decade.


anon -- ERRrrr. Casey Affleck's probably shoulda been here. Oops.

No Bad Movies said...

It's funny ( ironic ) that Sean Penn is praised for his role in Mystic River ( winning the Oscar ) but as for pure acting goes, his best is in The Assassination Of Richard Nixon. That's a harrowing performance and I'm not a Penn fanboy either. But halfway through watching that movie I forgot I was seeing Sean Penn, the actor. He sells it so compltetely as a guy that can't catch a break in life and the wheels are slowly coming off the tracks into madness. Underrated perfomance of the decade.
The I'd also have to add DDL as Bill The Butcher. He IS that movie and carries the whole thing mightlly on his shoulders.


Caden -- thank you. and i'm always pleased to hear from other fans of "Raising Victor Vargas" i've been telling people to see that movie for years and it still strikes me as egregiously undervalued. And isn't home viewing supposed to solve that type of problem of budget and limited release.

everyone should (theoretically) have access. and the movie is SO good.

Unknown said...

Leo for the Departed and Blood Diamond for sure

Anonymous said...

Nice to see some recognition for Hugh Jackman's amazing yet underrated performance in The Fountain. I'd also add his work as Wolverine. He became an icon thanks to that one.

Steolicious said...

Adrian Brody - Der Pianist
Albert Finney - Erin Brockovich
Ben Kingsley - House of Sand and Fog
Benicio Del Toro - 21 Grams
Chris Cooper - Adaptation
Christian Bale - The Machinist
Christoph Waltz - Inglorious Basterds
Cilian Murphy - Breakfast on Pluto
Clive Owen - Closer
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Don Chedle - Hotel Rwanda
Dustin Huffman - Das Parfum
Eddie Marsan - Happy-Go-Lucky
Forest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland
Geoffrey Rush - Quills
Hal Holbrook - Into The Wild
Heath Ledger - Monster's Ball
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Ian McKellen - The Lord of the Rings I
Jack Nicholson - About Schmidt
Jackie Earle Haley - Little Children
Jake Gyllenhaal - Brokeback Mountain
Jarvier Bardem - Before Night Falls
Jarvier Bardem - No Country For Old Men
Jason Schwartzman - Marie Antoinette
Jim Broadbent - Iris
Jim Carrey - Lemony Snicket
Joaquin Pheonix - Walk the Line
Johnny Depp - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Aviator
Michael Caine - Children of Men
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler
Paul Giamatti - Sideways
Peter Sarsgaard - Jarhead
Phillip Seymoure Hoffman - Capote
Phillip Seymoure Hoffman - Charlie Wilson's War
Phillip Seymoure Hoffman - Doubt
Ralph Fiennes - In Bruges
Ralph Fiennes - The Duchess
Robert Stadlober - Sommersturm
Russel Crow - A Beautiful Mind
Sacha Baron Coen - Sweeney Todd
Sean Penn - Milk
Sean Penn - Mystic River
Thomas Haden Church - Sideways
Tim Robbins - Mystic River
Toby Jones - Infamous
Viggo Mortensen - Eastern Promises
Vincent Cassel - Eastern Promises

Anonymous said...

finally some love for the fountain. jackmans best role. although i enjoy christian bale alot more in The Prestige then American Psycho

Unknown said...

And if you'd included 2009, I feel sure Viggo would have shown up three times! (The Road)

Unknown said...

Making a list like this must be impossible... I've seen two films this weekend, and I think they both deserve a nod:

Remy Girard, The Barbarian Invasions

David Carradine, Kill Bill v.2 (RIP)

Unknown said...

In addition to other actors mentioned I'd add Sharlto Copley as Wickus in District 9, Anthony Hopkins in Fracture (far more chilling than his performance as Hannibal Lector) and Tom Wilkinson as the bipolar Arthur in Michael Clayton.

Anonymous said...

Jude Law?! You GOTTA be kidding ;)

Don't agree on the males much. Surprisingly, if I compare it to the female list.


miss topanga and anon somewhere up above -- i am starting to think that jude law is suffering from a minor case of what nicole kidman suffers from. so much public hate /ridiculse / unfriendly press that people put blinders on to how talented the person actually is.

Jude Law is G-R-E-A-T. i could fill a top ten performances by him easy!

but i do realize people have never really understood my passion for his work in I HEART HUCKABEES. at least a lot of people understand that it's Mark Wahlberg's best (or thereabouts give or take Boogie Nights/The Departed). Too bad that Wahlberg is so often straight up inadequate though.

Rick said...

As perfect a list as one can get....

Anonymous said...

Russell Crowe's performance in Gladiator is under appreciated (despite the oscar). It is infinitely harder for an actor to portray a leader that men would follow to there peril without question, then to play someone who is all fire and passion, someone who is mentally-challenged or who is wild and wacky. He made it look easy, but that is why it is masterful.
pardon the anonymity btw...

Peggy Sue said...

Well, I'm actually more into your actresses list but I love to see the great Tom Wilkinson mentioned. My Oscar winner that year for sure.

I really, really believe Hoffman's performance in Capote is brilliant.
In my list, he would be first tied with Bardem in Before Night Falls and also Mar adentro.

I also miss Penn and Robbins in Mystic River but since I totally love Jude Law, that's forgiven!!!
How good is he as Hamlet? Please tell!!!

Gourmet and Douglas are also very good choices Edward L.

Unknown said...

If you are including foreign films, such as In the Mood For Love, you should certainly include Min Sik Choi, from OLDBOY, a Korean film to remember in this decade and beyond!

LeMae said...

I have to admit, I am a tad disappointed that Viggo was not listed for his role as Aragorn (although I applaud the others), as he took that role more seriously than anything he had done to date. He carried his sword around with him off set, for goodness sake! Also, if he had not decided to take the role last minute, The Lord of the Rings would be very different movies.

Anonymous said...

You miss Alan Rickman too...

Rebecca said...

One performance that has not been mentioned that I love is Gene Hackman in 'The Royal Tenenbaums' - although the overly descriptive narration does sometimes undermine his great performance.

Bill_the_Bear said...

Three which I would definitely add would be Ulrich Mühe in "The Lives of Others" (one of the ten best films of the decade!), George Clooney in "Michael Clayton" and Mathieu Amalric in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."

What would I drop? Definitely Thomas Haden Church in "Sideways"...and Hugh Jackman in "The Fountain."

Thanks for not forgetting Ryan Gosling in "Half-Nelson."

Brian said...

In general, I support the choices, BUT....

to cite Jim Broadbent's relatively minor work in Moulin Rouge! over his absolutely magnificent central performance in Topsy-Turvy?? His portrait of W.S. Gilbert is one of the great screen performances of an artist, I think....

T-T is one of the best films of the Aughts, especially for anyone who's ever been involved in the theater.

Brian said...

In general, I support the choices, BUT....

to cite Jim Broadbent's relatively minor work in Moulin Rouge! over his absolutely magnificent central performance in Topsy-Turvy?? His portrait of W.S. Gilbert is one of the great screen performances of an artist, I think....

T-T is one of the best films of the Aughts, especially for anyone who's ever been involved in the theater.

Christian said...

I love your list, especially for including Bale's astonishing performance in American Psycho and Murray's in Lost in Translation.

BUT I would've definitely left out Thomas Hayden Church and Mark Wahlberg, and instead add:

Philip Seymour Hoffmann, he delivered stellar performances in Capote, Charlie Wilson's War and, to a lesser extent, Doubt.

Bruno Ganz for Downfall

Anonymous said...

This is a very fine list, but it is missing a few key names:

Max Von Sydow (already mentioned) for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but also Mathieu Amalric for the same film;

Paddy Considine for In America;

Kevin Bacon for The Woodsman;

both Anders Danielsen Lie and Espen Klouman Hoiner for Reprise;

and Vincent D'Onofrio for Happy Accidents.

And I hope that Sam Rockwell's dual role in Moon would have made the list if you had included films from 2009. This seems to me to be the finest male performance of the year by some distance, and I'm surprised more people aren't proposing his name for a best actor Oscar.


Brian -- i agree that TOPSY TURVY is great stuff (and Broadbent more than deserved an Oscar nomination for it) but it's a 1999 film for NYC purposes thus a part of the 90s countdown (if there had been one)

Anon -- i think people aren't mentioning Sam Rockwell for two reasons: one sci-fi bias (and Sharlito Copley's performance is also good and probably splitting attention for those who don't have a bias against sci-fi) and two, it turned out to be a good year for best actor after all (despite a very thin pool of Oscar candidates)

Anonymous said...

i can't believe no one is watching Bronson. Tom Hardy is mesmerizing.

Anonymous said...

no Sean Penn in Mystic River???
the list is terrific, only that mistake in my opinion
great blog by the way!

Jamie said...

Good List But I Cant Believe Theres No Guy Pierce In Memento Or Sharlto Copley In District 9

Anonymous said...

No Russell Crowe? Are you retarded? He'd be #1!

"I'm not into Russell Crowe."

Then why fuck are you trying to be a critic, you hack?

Anonymous said...

Viggo's The Man literally and figuratively. I just saw The Road and I have not seen a more powerful gut wrenching performance from an actor for long, long time, for me that ranks as tour de force Performance of the decade. This guy continues to impress me with his uncanny ability to disappear into any role, it's like I don't even know who the real Viggo is in real life, Seen him in multiple interviews but can never really figure him out, this guys is a truly great great chameleon of an actor.

Derek said...

Ulrich Mühe, The Lives of Others.

That is all. :)

Christofer Johansson said...

What is wrong with the world?

Leonardo DiCaprio 2000-2010.

Revolutionary Road (2008)
Body of Lies (2008)
Blood Diamond (2006)
The Departed (2006)
The Aviator (2004)
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Gangs of New York (2002)
The Beach (2000)

I suggest you watch a few of those again and make a new list. I suggest The aviator, Blood diamond and Gangs of New York.

Also i would have like to see Matt Damon on that list.


Cristopher -- like i said on the best actress post the weird thing about "best performances" list is that it doesn't always align with how you feel about the actors in general.

Matt Damon, I think, is one of the best actors working. period. But any one specific performance being among the 50 best this decade? I think not. Though I love his work and I'll always see his movies.

Leonardo DiCaprio I think is less consistent but when he's on, he's on. I did want to include his work in The Departed or The Aviator here. But there wasn't quite room.

Christofer Johansson said...

Regarding what you wrote in the top 50 actress article. I take it that the list are based on what you enjoy on the screen. Than I see this list as a Top 50 enjoyable characters and not a top 50 performances.

That Johnny Depps performance in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is one of the top 10 this decade is a proof of that. Surely he does a good performance but its not great, his character on the other hand is very enjoyable on the screen. In my mind he has done severely better performance this decade than that.

Although I fully understand how we all have different opinions I cannot take that none of Leo's performance could place in the top 50 while Johnny Depp places top 10 with an above average performance in an overrated movie.

This is just a minor complaint and in general I like this list and I look forward to the rest of the top 100 movies list.


we agree to disagree but i'm glad you're reading!

I know a lot of people have turned on Johnny Depp's Pirates work since it's now a "brand" and it feels like shtick given the sequels. But AT THE TIME it was a shock. I think it's easily one of the most daring, creative and smart performances of the decade. It's not just that I 'enjoyed' it. I genuinely think it's a superb piece of acting. I don't care a whit about the sequels though.

Rebecka said...

Good list, as usual! I love to read your lists, they’re always fun and refreshingly personal. These would be my (quickly put together and highly personal) top 20, alphabetically:

Andy Lau in Infernal Affairs
Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James
Chow Yun-Fat in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain
Hugh Jackman in The Fountain
Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain
Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line
Leonardo Dicaprio in The Departed
Melvil Poupaud in Le temps qui reste
Min Sik Choi in Oldboy
Romain Duris in De batter mon coeur s’est arrêté
Sean Penn in Milk
Stephen Chow in Shaolin Soccer
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in In the Mood for Love
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in 2046
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in Lust Caution (I could list most of his movies from the 00’, with notable exceptions, but I’m restraining myself!)
Ulrich Mühe in The Lives of Others
Viggo Mortensen in The Lord of the Rings
Willem Dafoe in Shadow of the Vampire
Zhang Zhen in Parking

Scott Molling said...

Peter Sarsgaard in SHATTERED GLASS! I can't believe you included this, such an underrated film and in my top 10 of the decade. I love Sarsgaard in every second of this.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Spacey - American Beauty?

Nathan HaleStorm said...

Haley Joel, AI
Both Ledger performances
Andy Serkis' brave green screen performance
Roger Dodger? Are you just trying to be different?
Bale. Generic and overhyped.
A Bond movie? Seriously?
Broadbent's good, but not really in that role.

Jeff Bridges in Door. Under-rated.
Strathairn. Brilliant.
Bardem rules.
Sarsgaard is the best young actor in America and that was the best performance.
Good call on Bettany.
Jude Law is great, but i wouldn't use huckabees. Actually, maybe AI.
And same with Wahlberg. Departed, not Huckabees.


Liam... regarding ROGER DODGER. not at all. I l-o-v-e that performance. Campbell Scott has never been that good ever. before or after. he just has complete command of that when it could have felt like one note posing. he's so textured in it. anyway... nothing on this list is to get attention - i list from my heart ;)