The Top 10 Movies of the 2010s Part III – My 15 Favourite Performances

I though about dividing this like Oscar categories but then decided to just a 10-Best list which expanded to 15. The top two really stand out. All of them I will long remember and made their movies better.

Honourable Mention (Voice Over Work)

Scarlett Johanssen as Samantha  in “Her”

Phyllis Smith as Sadness in “Inside Out”

Billy Eichner as Timon in the “The Lion King”

Tony Hale as Forky in “Toy Story 4”

Honourable Mention

Michael Keaton as Riggan in “Birdman”

Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa in “The Irishman”

Brad Pitt as Mr. O’Brien in “Tree of Life”

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game”

Rosamund Pike as Amy Elliot Dunne in “Gone Girl”

John David Washington as Ron Stalworth in “BlacKkKlansman”

Here are my 15 favourite performances of the 2010’s

#15 Jared Leto – “Dallas Buyer’s Club”

Character: Rayon

Jared Leto as Rayon in Jean-Marc Vallée’s fact-based drama, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, a Focus Features release. Photo Credit: Anne Marie Fox / Focus Features

Oscars : Won, Best Supporting Actor


Leto’s supporting role as Rayon, who in the time context of the movie (mid 80s) would have been called a drag queen or transvestite. Rayon meets macho Texan Ron Woodruff when they both find out they have AIDS. It’s a complex role that Leto brings to life and eventually death with amazing poignancy. Leto won his Oscar though for the scene where Rayon dresses male to go meet with his father to ask for money.

#14 – Cate Blanchette – “Blue Jasmine”

Character: Jasmine

Oscars : Won, Best Actress


Blanchet’s Jasmine is a disgraced New York Socialite, whose stock swindler husband end up in prison. She runs to San Francisco to stay with her more down to earth sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Jasmine remains in denial of her change of life while the world closes in around her. Cate brings incredible humanity to the role of a genuinely dis-likable character with one of Woody Allen’s best every scripts.

#13 Leonardo DiCaprio – “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Character: Jordan Belfort

Oscars : Nominated, Best Actor (lost to Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer’s Club)


Leo did some great work this decade. For me, this stands out. This character is not a villain or a hero, just an asshole. Its combination of great dramatic skills, physical humour, wall breaking voice over and scenery chewing monologues.

#12 J.K. Simmons “Whiplash”

Character: Terrance Fletcher

Oscars : Won, Best Supporting Actor


Nearest point of reference is the Drill Sergeant in Full Metal Jacket. An onslaught of profanity that is just as compelling as it is disturbing. Terrance is a tyrant music teacher but do his means justify his ends. Loved this movie and JK is one of my favourite current actors.

#11 David Oyellowo – “Selma”

Character: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Oscars : Not  nominated


One of the main drivers of #OScarSoWhite was Oyellowo getting snubbed for this uncanny performance as MLK. His ability to capture King’s charisma and oratory skill make this perhaps the best performance of Martin Luther King ever. Definitely deserved a nomination, especially in a weaker year for nominees.

#10 Lupita Nyong’o – “Us”

Character: Adelaide / Red

Oscars : Eligible 2020, outside chance of nomination


She won her Oscar for 12 Year’s a Slave but this for me is the stand out. (Mild spoilers). Nyong’o plays Adelaide, a mom on vacation with her family and Red, her creepy, murderous doppelganger from an underground world. The movie does not work without this character and Nyong’os performance is memorizing.

#9  Saorise Ronan – “Brooklyn ”

Character: Ellis Lacey

Oscars : Nominated, Best Actress (lost to Brie Larson, Room)


Ellis is a small-town Irish girl in the 50s who emigrates to Brooklyn to start a new life. She meets a local and falls in love but is forced back to Ireland for a family emergency where she reconnects with an old flame. It’s a simple story, told and acted with sheer elegance. Second of three nominations for Ronan who will likely get one again this year for Little Women.

#8 Denzel Washington – “Fences”

Character: Troy Maxson

Oscars : Nominated, Best Actor (lost to Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea)


I would watch Denzel read a phone book. But in Fences, which he also directed, he plays Troy, a retired, talented ball player from the “Negro League” who aged out before Black players were allowed in the Majors. His life is simple in one way, steady job, loving wife, good friends. But he is a harsh father and husband with a dark secret.

#7 Jaoquin Phoenix – “Joker”

Character: Arthur Fleck

Oscars : Eligible 2020, lock for a nomination, one of three front-runners


Lock for a nominee this win and possible winner. I have a feeling this performance will be talked about for many years. Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck is a loner with mental health issues, with a job, family, city and medical system that causes a horrible downward spiral. It’s a good movie made far better by this all-in performance.

#6 Sandra Bullock – “Gravity”

Character: Dr. Ryan Stone

Oscars : Nominated, Best Actress (Lost to Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine)


Bullock’s performance here is a mixture of comedy, drama, gymnastics and choreography. She in on screen for almost the entire run time of this movie, much of it alone. One of the most physically demanding roles of the decade.

#5 Jessica Chastain – “Zero Dark Thirty”

Character: Maya

Oscars : Nominated, Best Actress (lost to Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook)


Maya does not have an easy job. She is a CIA operative in the middle East on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. She faces incredible obstacles, including sexism, death of colleagues, lack of faith from her co-workers, threats on her own life. Maya is singly focused on her job and her complete faith that she is right.

#4 Colin Firth – “The King’s Speech”

Character: King George, VI

Oscars : Won, Best Actor


Firth makes “Bertie”, the eventual King George VI, both feeble and regal. Both self assured and plagued with crippling self doubt. The Royal with a horrible stammer who was never meant to be in the spotlight. The film’s best scenes are Firth and his “doctor” (Geoffrey Rush) firing dialogue.

#3 Viola Davis – Fences

Character: Rose Maxson

Oscars : Won, Best Supporting Actress


One of my favourite Actresses puts on a clinic, no other way to say it. To watch her and Denzel on screen together in this amazing film is as entertaining as anything you will see from the 2010’s. A character driven by doing what’s right no matter what happens around her. Arguably this was a leading role but a richly deserved Oscar either way.

#2  Daniel Day Lewis – “Lincoln”

Character: Abraham Lincoln

Oscars : Won, Best Actor


A master class in method acting. It was said that Lewis never lost character between takes or even for days at a time. The accent, mannerisms, walk, look – all down pat. Lincoln opposed slavery but also knew that passing the 13th Amendment would cut out the heart of the economy of the Confederates. This movie and Lewis portray not the hero but the crafty politician whose keen sense of human nature helped him win that victory in the end.

Positions #1 and #2 and interchangeable for me but I had to go with ….

#1 Frances McDormand – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Character: Mildred

Oscars : Won, Best Actress


Part grieving mother, part Navy Seal. Its hard to describe the power, subtlety and nuance of this performance. Mildred is angry. Angry that her daughter died so horribly. Angry that a lack-lustre local police force seems to have stopped looking for her killer. She seems determined to stop at nothing but at all times, seems almost ready to collapse in grief and exhaustion. Rarely have we seen such a great character arch performed with such depth. This stands right beside and even exceeds her legendary performance in Fargo. For me, narrowly edges out DDL in Lincoln as the best of the Decade.

Next up, Top 10 Movies.

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