The 20 Best Acting Performances of 2013

Captain Phillips

10. Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips

It’s been a while since Tom Hanks, or a Tom Hanks movie, has been in the conversation for any kind of awards, but Hanks’ performance as the real-life Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somali pirates a few years ago, is powerful stuff. You may not realize how good he is… at least until the film’s final, tear-jerking scene.

9. Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color

I wasn’t a big fan of Blue is the Warmest Color, but there is no denying that the beautiful young lead has incredible talent. The movie dives deeper into its protagonist than almost any other film – ever – and Exarchopoulos proves she is up to the task.

8. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

In Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Cate Blanchett plays a socialite who has lost her husband, fortune and stature, but she is so psychologically fractured she doesn’t realize she has nothing less. Blanchett’s performance is simultaneously funny and painful to watch.

7. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Jennifer Lawrence isn’t given much to do in the first half of American Hustle, but she more than makes up for it in the latter half, when she unleashes an emotional fiery that will make boyfriends and husbands everywhere thankful for the “normal crazy” they have to deal with. It’s incredible that she is only 23 years old.

6. Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender are the most obvious recipients of praise for the harsh drama 12 Years a Slave, but little known Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o delivers the film’s most emotional performance – as a tortured slave who has no happy ending in her future.

Joaquin Phoenix in Her

5. Joaquin Phoenix, Her

In Her, Joaquin Phoenix’s character develops a romantic relationship with his operating system. It sounds silly, but thanks to Phoenix’s masterful, nuanced and beautifully awkward performance, there’s not even a second where what’s happening seems beyond the realm of believability.

4. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the best actors working today (though he still has no Oscars to show for it), and he gives another explosive (and surprisingly funny) performance in the Martin Scorsese comedy-drama. It’s not his best performance (The Aviator) – and not even his best performance in a Scorsese film (The Aviator) – but that only speaks to the man’s unrivaled talent.

 3. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Unfortunately for Leonardo DiCaprio, there is another man more worthy of Best Actor this year. You probably don’t know how to pronounce his name, but you now know who he is; Ejiofor got his chance and ran with it, delivering one of the most powerful performances of the year.

2. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

However, and unfortunately for Chiwetel Ejiofor, the best male performance of 2013 belongs to Matthew McConaughey. After nearly two decades of not acting up to his full potential, McConaughey finally came into his own, giving audiences a great performance in the overlooked Mud and a small but memorable turn in The Wolf of Wall Street. But it’s his role in Dallas Buyers Club that will earn him his long overdue Oscar.

August: Osage County

1. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Not everyone will like August: Osage County. Some will find it too depressing; others might consider the stage adaptation just that – a stage adaptation. I expect similar divisiveness surrounding Meryl Streep, but make no mistake: the record-breaking actress sizzles as the cancer-riddled, drug-addicted, hatred-spewing matriarch of the Weston family. Never has she been so evil, or so good.

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