The 20 Best Performances of 2015

Another year, another batch of great performances to unfairly rank, compare and contrast. Unlike most websites or award shows, we look at performances as a whole—rather than separate them by gender or size of role—to spell out the top 20 performances of the year.

This year proved to be a strange one, as this list ignores several heavyweight contenders—such as Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Lawrence—in favor of more offbeat, arguably more mainstream turns that resonated with me and will, over time, likely prove to be more memorable.

Without further ado, here are the top 20 acting performances of 2015:

20. Rinko Kikuchi, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Rinko Kikuchi delivers an absolutely incredible performance as the tragic title character, though she rarely speaks and when she does it’s in a near-silent whisper.

19. Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies was just OK, but Tom Hanks is terrific in the lead, bringing that rare mix of gravitas and charisma that Hanks delivers so easily.

18. Lily Tomlin, Grandma

Lily Tomlin has rarely been this good (as a foul-mouthed lesbian grandmother) and is highly deserving of any award love that comes her way.

17. Johnny Depp, Black Mass

Depp chews scenery like he hasn’t eaten in years as he delivers one of the finer, and certainly one of the creepiest, performances of the year.

16. Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Any performance that immediately wins over 50 million people over the span of a single weekend deserves some recognition, no?


15. Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

The second female action lead on this list, Theron and her one arm steal the show from the title character.

14. Benicio Del Toro, Sicario

Benicio Del Toro delivers his finest performance in years as a nebulous killer-for-hire, bringing impressive nuance to a role that usually wouldn’t be nuanced.

13. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Tangerine is a hoot, in large part thanks to trans actresses Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, who delivers her snappy dialogue with with passion and gusto.

12. Taika Waititi, What We Do in the Shadows

Waititi nails his role as an awkward vampire with precision (it helps that he also wrote the movie), and evokes laughter without even opening his mouth.

11. Sylvestor Stallone, Creed

Rocky may have hung up his gloves, but Sylvestor Stallone still has a few punches yet, delivering one of the finer performances of the year by returning to one of his most famous roles.

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