2010s in Review: The Best Film Performances, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Read Part 1 here


Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Melissa McCarthy & Richard E. Grant
Gay and lesbian friendships are so rarely portrayed on-screen, but McCarthy and Grant gave career-best performances as these partners in crime, driven together by loneliness and driven apart by greed. Separately, they were devastating, as their self-destructive tendencies often got the better of them.

William Shimmel and Juliette Binoche in Certified Copy
Certified Copy – Juliette Binoche & William Shimell
Take one of the most acclaimed actresses in the world and a man who’s never acted on-screen before and you have one of the most magical films of the decade. Perfectly playing off each other, it sells the ambiguity and romance lesser actors would have struggled with.

Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson in Easy A
Easy A – Stanley Tucci & Patricia Clarkson
Separately, they can brighten even the gloomiest projects. Together, they’re an unstoppable charm offensive. As Olive’s concerned but lenient overseers, they’re the best and funniest movie parents of the decade by a country mile.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
The Master – Joaquin Phoenix & Philip Seymour Hoffman
An incredible showdown between two of America’s greatest actors like we’ll never see again. Both volatile characters who are very good at deception, they’re drawn to each other yet can’t be together. They are destined to hurt each other and everyone else.

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys
The Nice Guys – Russell Crowe & Ryan Gosling
A perfect odd couple, with both giving their greatest comedic performances. Crowe’s perfect tough-guy deadpan and Gosling’s alcoholic buffoon are a match made in heaven. Their arguments, their investigation techniques, their verbal expressions. While completely different, they all lead to comic gold.


Cloud Atlas
Part of the inherent flaw and beauty of this incredible film is in the directors’ decision to have each actor play multiple parts. There’s the highly problematic racial component, but it’s also true that not every actor is right for each part they’re required to play. But by and large, what the cast achieves in micro and macro is simply astonishing. Capturing an extreme range of ages and intentions, they come as close to mirroring the vastness of the human experience as any narrative film I’ve ever seen.

The cast of Game Night
Game Night
A hallmark of a great comedy is how successful it is at different types of humor. Game Night has it all, and it’s thanks to a, well, game cast that it’s so much fun to revisit. Every member gets a chance to be hilarious in a variety of different ways.

The cast of Moonlight
With three separate actors playing Chiron at different ages and levels of uncertainty, this would already be a strong contender. Add in the three separate actors playing Kevin, Janelle Monae as Chiron’s surrogate mother, Mahershala Ali as his mentor and Naomie Harris as his drug-addicted mom, and you’ve got a cast for the ages. And considering that, aside from Ali and Harris (and André Holland), much of the cast is new to acting in film, well that just makes it all that much more beautiful.

Bradley Cooper, Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker in Silver Linings Playbook
Silver Linings Playbook
The first film in 30 years to pull off a nomination in each acting category, this close-knit unit captured the love and madness that makes a great family, playing off each other’s rhythms and quirks. Of course they’re all a little messed up, but they’re all fiercely loyal.

The cast of Widows
The women of Widows are prickly, desperate and aren’t exactly #friendshipgoals. But, aside from Viola Davis, they’re all (Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo and Michelle Rodriguez) doing the best work of their careers thus far. The men are no less impressive, with Colin Farrell and Brian Tyree Henry’s alderman candidates mirroring each other, trying to keep their volatile family members (Robert Duvall and Daniel Kaluuya) in check. Widows has been unjustly ignored, but its incredible cast will keep people coming back for years.

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