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The 20 Best Acting Performances of 2013

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Most film societies, guilds and associations hand out awards based on sex. Best Actor? Best Actress? That is so last century. So each year, I rate the top 20 acting performances of the year, regardless of sex, sexual orientation and role. After all, there can be only one… best performance of 2013.

20. Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

I never thought I’d say this: Jonah Hill deserves a second Oscar nomination. Hill is comedy gold in the Martin Scorsese drama-comedy epic, playing a buck-toothed idiot/sociopath who keeps pace with Leonardo DiCaprio at every step. That’s not an easy thing to do.

19. Amy Adams, American Hustle

Amy Adams is a terrific actress and she’s at her very best in American Hustle, playing an intelligent con artist and seductress who uses every asset at her disposal (namely cleavage) to get ahead and stay ahead.

18. Robert Redford, All is Lost

Redford is the only actor in All is Lost, and naturally the success or failure of the movie weighs heavily on his shoulders. He utters no more than a few words the entire movie, but that’s more than enough to convey his character’s complex emotions.

Out of the Furnace

17. Christian Bale, Out of the Furnace

Christian Bale is great in American Hustle, but one scene in Out of the Furnace – where he shares a private, emotional moment with his former girlfriend and learns a devastating truth – showcased the actor’s talent and nearly brought tears to my eyes. That scene still haunts me.

16. June Squibb, Nebraska

Bruce Dern has received most of the attention from Alexander Payne’s character comedy, but it’s June Squibb – who plays his energetic, no-nonsense wife – who steals the show, commandeering every scene she’s in with a hilarious onslaught of sharp-tongued dialogue.

15. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

Julia Roberts won an Oscar for Erin Brockovich, but she’s at her very best in August: Osage County delivering her grittiest and most emotional performance to date.

The Spectacular Now

14. Miles Teller, The Spectacular Now

Teller is both funny and tragic in The Spectacular Now, a comedy-drama in which he plays a high school student struggling with daddy issues and alcohol addiction. Teller handles the complexity of his character with incredible ease; it’s a shame he isn’t garnering more attention for the role.

13. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

It’s reported that Jared Leto, who hadn’t acted in a movie in four years, came “out of retirement” for this particular role in Dallas Buyers Club, a drug-addicted transvestite who is dying from AIDS. The character alone screams Oscar, and Leto pulls no punches during his tragic performance.

12. James Franco, Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers is one of the weirdest movies of 2013, and James Franco delivers one of the year’s strangest performances: as a bling-addicted, drug-dealing rap star who corrupts a group of “innocent” teenagers into doing horrendous crimes. Spring break forevvvverrrrrrr.

11. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight

I hate ties, but in the case of Before Midnight, it’s impossible to separate the performances of the two leads, whose realistic and powerful chemistry with each other drives not only the film but the series, which now spans three decades. If you don’t feel gut punched after watching these actors go at it, you must not be able to feel anything.

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By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Comedies, Crime Films, Drama Movies, Featured, Top 10 Movie Lists
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