In a cinematic landscape filled with talent, certain performances stand out. From the quiet intensity of Greta Lee in Past Lives to the commanding presence of Taraji P. Henson in The Color Purple, this collection of actors make up some of my favorite performances of the year of films I saw. Each actor brings a unique energy and emotional depth to their roles to not only define their characters but elevate them.

These are not in any particular order.

Greta Lee & Teo Yoo, Past Lives

Lee beautifully navigates the delicate emotional journey put forth in Celine Song’s script. She embodies Nora’s quiet longing with a subtlety, her expressive eyes and gentle smile hinting at the depths of unsaid feelings. When faced with the ghosts of the yesterday, Lee unleashes a rawness that both devastates and resonates, reminding us of the vulnerability it takes to confront the paths not taken. Yoo delivers a nuanced, emotional performance as Hae Sung, convincingly conveying the character’s connection with a long-lost soulmate. His sensitive acting really taps into universal romantic longing.

Teyana Taylor, A Thousand and One

Teyana Taylor gives a passionate performance in A.V. Rockwell’s A Thousand and One. As Inez, a mother trying to create a stable home for her son while battling gentrification in Harlem, she brings a sense of strength, and resilience to the character, and portrays Inez’s fierce love and loyalty with dedication and care.

Dwayne Perkins, The Blackening

Perkins’ level of physical comedy and dialogue delivery in Tim Story’s horror comedy is sharp and perfectly timed to the on-screen chaos. He fully commits to the absurdity, reacting with side-splitting fright and comical confusion to each twist. 

Lily Gladstone and Isabel Deroy-Olson, Fancy Dance

I know people are talking about Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon — which is also a fantastic performance — but Gladstone and Isabel Deroy-Olson deliver deeply nuanced performances in Erica Tremblay and Miciana Alise’s drama. Both actresses inhabit their roles with such truth — from playful teasing to painful trauma — that their relationship becomes profoundly real. The duo find the gentle heart of the film together through their compassionate portrayals.

Emily Bader, Jennifer Esposito and Odessa A’zion, Fresh Kills

Bader, Esposito and A’zion turn in powerful performances in Esposito’s directorial debut Fresh Kills. As three generations of women grappling with the lingering effects of organized crime in Staten Island, their acting conveys both the close bonds and painful secrets within this family. The film is still waiting for distribution, but when audiences finally see Fresh Kills they will see these performances and talent are undeniable. 

Ann Hathaway, Eileen

Hathaway smolders in William Oldroyd’s noir thriller. I’ve always thought she had captivating screen presence, but this is on another level. The actress mesmerizes as she reveals Rebecca’s sinister ambitions with complexity as she commands in every scene.

Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Origin

Ellis-Taylor delivers a stirring and nuanced performance in Ava DuVernay’s latest drama. Showcasing unlimited range, she captures the real-life aspects of Isabel Wilkerson’s life with intellect and perseverance, coupled with emotional depth and candor. Ellis-Taylor is one of Hollywood’s most consistent and underrated talents who brings a level of sincerity and vibrancy to every role.

Robert Pattinson, The Boy and the Heron

Pattison lends his voice talent to the English-language dub of Hayao Miyazaki’s latest Studio Ghibli animated film. His intuitive connection to the character of the Heron is fun, yet attuned to the nuances of the story. The actor’s surprising performance captures the magical link between the Boy, Heron and the overall message of Miyazaki’s vision.

Known for her role as Maxine on the 1990s television show Living Single, American Fiction brings an exciting new dramatic chapter for this talented actress. With emotional generosity and honesty, Alexander breathes defiant life into this role. Jeffrey Wright and Alexander share a sharp chemistry that dominates every scene they share together.

Hunter Schafer, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

As Tigris Snow, the enigmatic cousin of Coriolanus, Schafer brings an otherworldly presence to the shadowy role. With only a handful of scenes, Schafer leaves a mark by delivering the dialogue with urgency and purpose. The “Imagine it was your name that they pulled” speech really did it for me.

Taraji P Henson, The Color Purple

I love Danielle Brooks’ and Fantasia Barrino’s work in this film, but this is a career-best for Henson. She gives a powerhouse performance as Shug Avery in Blitz Bazawule’s exhilarating musical adaptation, bringing show-stopping vocals, magnetism and softness to the role. Henson reaffirms her status as one of the most gifted actors working today, and her turn here will definitely linger as a career highlight.

Jamie Bell, All of Us Strangers

Putting his dramatic foot forward, Bell delivers a strong performance that showcases his emotional range and versatility. Bell’s portrayal is intense and captures the emotional landscape of his character.

Giamatti’s performance in Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers is a masterclass. He breathes life into Paul Hunham, the crotchety English Classics professor, with layers of rough charm, hidden vulnerability and surprising bursts of humor. It is by far my favorite Giamatti performance.

Trace Lysette, Monica

In Monica, Lysette embodies the tapestry of resilience, grief, and longing with a quiet intensity that pulls you into her orbit. Her face speaks volumes, as each emotion is a testament to the unspoken trauma and yearning beneath the surface for the character. Lysette here is able to put the full spectrum of her acting talents on display.

Cara Jade Myers, Killers of the Flower Moon

Myers explodes onto the screen in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon with a haunting performance as Anna Burkhart. In a film filled with seasoned giants, Myers’ fresh presence is palpable. She imbues Anna with a crackling rawness that flickers between vulnerability and gut-wrenching grief. 

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Source: DLine

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