- Stand Out Performances of the Decade, Ranked
- 12. Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
- 11. Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
- 10. Andy Serkis – Planet of the Apes Trilogy
- 9. Natalie Portman – Black Swan (2010)
- 8. Hugh Grant – Paddington 2 (2018)
- 7. Tie: Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans – Marvel Cinematic Universe
- 6. Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln (2012)
- 5. Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave (2013)
- 4. Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler (2014)
- 3. Mahershala Ali – Moonlight (2016)
- 2. Cate Blanchett – Carol (2015)
- 1. Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master (2012)
- 19 Excellent TV Performances from 2018
- 1. Sarah Drew on Grey’s Anatomy Season 14 Episode 10, “Personal Jesus” (Aired January 25, 2018)
- 2. Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh, Killing Eve Season 1 Episode 5, “I Have A Thing About Bathrooms” (Aired May 6, 2018)
- 3. Lyric Ross on This Is Us Season 2 Episode 17, “This Big, Amazing Beautiful Life” (Aired March 6, 2018)
- 4. Justina Machado on One Day at a Time Season 2 Episode 9, “Hello, Penelope” (Released January 26, 2018)
- 5. Debra Messing on Will & Grace Season 10 Episode 5, “Grace’s Secret” (Aired November 1, 2018)
- 6. Donald Glover on Atlanta Season 2 Episode 6, “Teddy Perkins” (Aired April 5, 2018)
- The 8 Best Music Performances on TV in 2015
- 8. Sia at the Grammys
- 7. Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift at the VMAs
- 6. Justin Bieber at the VMAs
- 5. Kanye West at SNL 40
- 4. Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake at the CMAs
- 3. Missy Elliott at the Super Bowl
- 2. Adele’s very own special
- 1. Lady Gaga at the Oscars
Stand Out Performances of the Decade, Ranked
As part of Goliath’s look back at the 2010s, today, we’re highlighting some of our favorite movie performances from the past decade. To be clear, this isn’t a list of the outright most exceptional performances of the last ten years (although you will find quite a few of them here). Instead, these are the performances that truly blew us away and left a lasting impact.
That being said, it’s difficult to distill an entire decade’s worth of acting into just 12 individual performances, so there will naturally be a ton that we missed. Is there a performance from the 2010s that has stuck with you? Let us know which ones we missed by leaving a comment below!
12. Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The 2010s will go down as the decade in which Leo finally won his Oscar … but for the wrong movie. DiCaprio undoubtedly suffered for his art in the making of The Revenant.
Still, he gave a superior performance a couple of years earlier in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
Playing real-life stockbroker Jordan Belfort, DiCaprio gets to unleash the full fury of his natural charisma and slick-talking energy.
It’s the kind of over-the-top performance that stands on a knife’s edge and could have quickly devolved into absurdity in a lesser performer’s hands.
That isn’t to say DiCaprio doesn’t go to some ridiculous places here — the famous Quaaludes scene is a hilarious bit of physical comedy — but much the film itself, he finds the right balance between portraying Belfort as a soulless huckster and a surprisingly sympathetic man who falls to the temptation of capitalist greed.
Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures
11. Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Although it’s still a rarity to find a franchise tentpole that passes the Bechdel Test, female action stars have thankfully become a more common sight on the big screen. It fits then that arguably the best action film of the last decade introduced audiences to one of the greatest female warriors to ever grace the silver screen.
Charlize Theron’s Furiosa is a force of nature so powerful she steals Mad Max: Fury Road right out from under its titular hero. All apologies to Tom Hardy, but this is Theron’s film, as her character’s emotional journey helps ground director George Miller’s heavy metal cacophony of V8 engines and explosions. Here’s hoping we see Theron reprise her role in a standalone Furiosa movie someday.
Source: Screenshot via Warner Bros. Pictures
10. Andy Serkis – Planet of the Apes Trilogy
Ever since his breakthrough role as Gollum in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Andy Serkis has been at the forefront of motion capture acting.
While Gollum will ly always remain Serkis’s defining role, the actor arguably topped himself this decade with his work as Caesar, the chimpanzee in the critically-acclaimed Planet of the Apes trilogy.
Throughout three films, Serkis portrayed Caesar as he evolved from a laboratory chimp to a hardened revolutionary leader, producing one of the deepest and most sympathetic protagonists in modern blockbuster filmmaking.
While there is debate over whether Serkis or the WETA animators who helped bring Caesar to life deserve more credit, Caesar wouldn’t have worked half as well as he did if it wasn’t for Serkis and his outstanding physicality and emotional depth.
Source: Screenshot via 20th Century Fox
9. Natalie Portman – Black Swan (2010)
It took some time, but Natalie Portman finally got out from under the shadow of the Star Wars prequels this past decade thanks to several career-defining performances. However, as great as Portman was in films Annihilation and Jackie, her leading role as a tortured ballerina in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is arguably her best.
In addition to the harsh physical demands of the role, Portman’s turn as ballerina Nina Sayers thoroughly captures the psychological toll artists will endure in the pursuit of perfection. A mesmerizing performance from start to finish, Portman deserved her Academy Award win and firmly left Padme behind with Black Swan.
Source: Screenshot via Fox Searchlight Pictures
8. Hugh Grant – Paddington 2 (2018)
Best known as the film with a perfect Rotten Tomatoes score, Paddington 2 is simply a joy from start to finish and one of the best family films of the decade. A big part of the reason why this film works as well as it does is Hugh Grant, who essentially turns in several of the best performances of his career as Paddington 2’s villain Phoenix Buchanan.
Grant devours the role of Buchanan, a washed-up actor who goes to increasingly ridiculous lengths to foil poor Paddington throughout the film.
It helps that Grant is channeling his own experiences as a past his prime rom-com star in portraying Buchanan’s obsession with returning to the limelight, adding up to a performance that hints that Grant’s best work may still lie ahead rather than in his ‘90s heyday.
Source: Screenshot via StudioCanal
7. Tie: Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans – Marvel Cinematic Universe
There was no bigger cinematic spectacle this decade than Marvel’s unprecedented shared universe experiment, so it makes sense to highlight the franchise’s two biggest stars. Robert Downey Jr. truly needs no introduction, as his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man is arguably the defining superhero performance of its era.
Anchored by a biting wit, Downey’s performance reached new emotional depths as he and the franchise around him evolved. And while his work was never as showy as his co-star’s, Chris Evans deserves similar recognition for taking a character as earnest as Captain America and turning him into the franchise’s beating heart.
It’s fitting that both actors decided to part ways with Marvel in Avengers: Endgame, a film that not only close out both of their characters’ stories beautifully but wrapped up (at least symbolically) an entire decade of franchise-building. While the MCU has no shortage of stars waiting in the wings to take the reins, they’ll have a hard time living up to Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans’ legacy.
Source: Screenshot via Marvel Studios
6. Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln (2012)
Thanks in part to the much-publicized on-set antics of Jared Leto in Suicide Squad, method acting is now primarily viewed as shorthand for being an abusive co-worker. However, even though it’s fallen favor in Hollywood, the so-called method acting has produced some truly incredible performances over the years; many of which have come from Daniel Day-Lewis.
Day-Lewis has built a career of disappearing into his characters, and that distinction holds for his lead performance in Steven Spielberg’s 2012 biopic Lincoln.
From his dramatic use of voice (Lincoln reportedly had a “reedy, high-pitched voice”) to his understated body language, Day-Lewis brings the 16th President of the United States to life in stunning detail.
Justifiably, playing Abraham Lincoln earned Day-Lewis a third Oscar and stands as one of the all-time great biopic performances.
Source: Screenshot via Walt Disney Studios
5. Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Steve McQueen’s Best Picture-winning epic 12 Years a Slave has no shortage of standout performances from its ensemble cast. Chiwetel Ejiofor has never been better as the heroic Solomon Northup, while Michael Fassbender explodes off the screen as sadistic slave owner Edwin Epps. But it’s Lupita Nyong’o’s harrowing performance as lifelong slave Patsey that steals the show.
In her breakout role, Nyong’o goes to emotional and physical extremes to portray a character who must endure unimaginable horror every day of their life. Nyong’o won a Best Supporting Actress award for her work and went on to star in some of the decade’s biggest films, including Black Panther and the new Star Wars trilogy.
Source: Screenshot via Fox Searchlight Pictures
4. Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler (2014)
Jake Gyllenhaal began the decade on a down note, thanks to his ill-advised starring role in Disney’s whitewashed Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Thankfully, the affable star would go on to select bolder and more challenging parts throughout the 2010s and, in 2014, teamed up with first-time director Dan Gilroy to give the performance of his career.
Visibly gaunt and wide-eyed, Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom is a reprehensible opportunist who establishes his sociopathic tendencies right off the jump when he attacks a security guard and steals his watch.
Showcasing the worst aspects of hustle culture, Nightcrawler is one of the decade’s best pieces of pulp cinema, and it only wouldn’t be half as good without Gyllenhaal’s manic lead performance, which somehow didn’t earn an Oscar nomination.
Source: Screenshot via Open Road Films
3. Mahershala Ali – Moonlight (2016)
2016’s Best Picture winner Moonlight (not La La Land!) is a film dominated by riveting performances, including those of its three co-leads — Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes — who all play protagonist Chiron at different stages of his life. However, much the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awarded him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, we have to give special attention to Mahershala Ali’s performance.
Playing a drug dealer who takes a young, fatherless Chiron under his wing, Ali brings an indescribable tenderness to his role. Alongside his role as the villainous Cottonmouth in the first season of Luke Cage that same year, Moonlight helped put Mahershala Ali’s name on the map, and he has since emerged as one of the decade’s most exciting breakout stars.
Source: Screenshot via A24
2. Cate Blanchett – Carol (2015)
When it comes to consistency, few actors can rival Cate Blanchett, who seems to turn in near-perfect work no matter the role. Yet, Blanchett arguably reached another level this decade thanks to two exquisite performances in particular: the title roles in Blue Jasmine and Carol, the latter of which may be her best to date.
Playing a wealthy 1950s housewife who falls for a Manhattan shopgirl (Rooney Mara, also outstanding), Blanchett’s performance is one defined by the moments between words, in her furtive glances and strained silences. It’s an exhaustive portrait of quiet suffering and truly one of the finest performances of the decade.
Source: Screenshot via StudioCanal/The Weinstein Company
1. Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master (2012)
One of the greatest actors of his generation, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death in 2014, was a significant loss for both the film and stage. Although it wasn’t his final performance, Hoffman’s role as enigmatic cult leader Lancaster Dodd in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master may well be the late actor’s crowning achievement.
As Dodd, Hoffman casts a spell over Joaquin Phoenix’s impressionable Freddie Quell and viewers a, as his performance so elegantly captures the strange pull charismatic men can have on the lost and vulnerable. Pardon the pun, but it’s truly a masterful performance, and one can only imagine what other cinematic feats Hoffman could have accomplished had his life not been so tragically cut short.
Source: Screenshot via The Weinstein Company
19 Excellent TV Performances from 2018
They say it’s the “Golden Age of TV,” and if 2018 is any indication, “they” are right. There may not be enough awards in Hollywood for everyone who deserves them, but there’s definitely enough space on the internet to recognize them.
We’ve compiled our 19 favorite TV performances of 2018, a mix of lesser-acknowledged fan favorites and those that were widely critically acclaimed. After all, we can’t begin to enjoy 2019’s TV offerings before we pay respects to the best of 2018!
Here (in no particular order) are 19 excellent TV performances from 2018. Expect spoilers below.
1. Sarah Drew on Grey’s Anatomy Season 14 Episode 10, “Personal Jesus” (Aired January 25, 2018)
Sarah Drew & Jesse Williams on Grey’s Anatomy Season 14 Episode 10, “Personal Jesus
On Grey’s Anatomy Season 14 Episode 10, “Personal Jesus,” Dr. April Kepner has a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
But our consensus is that Sarah Drew gives an absolutely breathtaking performance throughout. For most of this list, we’ll be discussing individual scenes.
But our team couldn’t pinpoint a standout moment from this episode — all of Drew’s scenes stand out.
Never have eyes seemed more dead on an uninjured person than April’s in her shower scenes at the end of the day. But as a viewer, your heart probably breaks for her way before that.
Perhaps when her ex-fiancé is talking about the perfect life she’s meant to have, but it’s clear all she’s thinking of is her dead child and failed marriage. Or maybe you feel a sting for her when he leaves the chapel after she walks in, disgusted by the sight of her, though she’s desperately trying to cling on to hope for his child.
Is it as you watch her stare helplessly at her colleagues in ORs, trying to do her job but realizing she’s not needed? Or as you watch her realize there’s nothing she can do to comfort Jackson while he treats a young black boy, Eric Sterling, who was shot by cops for forgetting the keys to his own home and trying to enter through a window?
Does your heart break for her then? Because even though she’s just on the edges of those scenes, Drew makes April’s desperation is palpable. Racial bias affects her daughter and the man she loves, after all.
Whenever your heart breaks for her on this episode, one thing is for sure — it’s going to break. Perhaps, some of us, you’ll never be able to watch it without crying. That’s all because of Drew’s dedication to her craft.
2. Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh, Killing Eve Season 1 Episode 5, “I Have A Thing About Bathrooms” (Aired May 6, 2018)
Jodie Comer in Season 1 Episode 5 of Killing Eve
Preparing dinner with the assassin you are meant to be hunting certainly is…. erm, shall we say, risky? But on Killing Eve Season 1 Episode 5, “I Have A Thing About Bathrooms,” it’s a thing that happens.
From the moment Villanelle helps Eve her soaking wet dress to the moment she cheerfully exits the apartment, this writer feels chills down her arms. Why? It’s the sexual tension between the two women that makes this whole chase so complex — and of course, the anticipation of the confrontation that comes when Villanelle literally pins Eve against the fridge, knife to her chest.
Also, the slight panic that grows from watching them do something as ordinary as eat Shepherd’s pie at the same table, trading conversational jabs before Villanelle makes the final move of the scene. It’s all chilling.
In the story, Comer’s Villanelle wins this particular battle. But we refuse to name a victor in the acting ring. Oh and Comer don’t battle here, after all. They dance a perfect Paso Doble.
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3. Lyric Ross on This Is Us Season 2 Episode 17, “This Big, Amazing Beautiful Life” (Aired March 6, 2018)
THIS IS US — “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life” Episode 217 — Pictured: Lyric Ross as Déjà — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)
It took some time for most viewers to warm up to Randall and Beth’s foster daughter Déjà Andrews. But thanks to careful storytelling and wonderful work by actress Lyric Ross, it’s almost impossible not to root for her by This Is Us Season 2 Episode 17, “This Big, Amazing Beautiful Life.”
Moving from bed-to-bed is exhausting. But Déjà doesn’t even get a break when she’s back home with her mom, Shauna (Joy Brunson.) By the end of the episode, when she collapses in Randall’s arms, we’re all tired for her. Ross shines through the whole episode, but the scenes set after her first stay with Randall and Beth stand out.
Déjà has gotten a taste of what it’s to feel safe in a bed. While her love for her mom wins, in these scenes you can see her struggling to balance her urge to be a kid with the responsibilities she’s always taken on for her mother.
When Déjà learns that her mom used the money they had saved up to pay bills on her no-good boyfriend Lanzo’s bail, our hearts break with hers.
4. Justina Machado on One Day at a Time Season 2 Episode 9, “Hello, Penelope” (Released January 26, 2018)
The brilliance of One Day at a Time is how effortlessly they address important issues while staying securely in the sitcom genre (as opposed to sliding over to dramedy).
On no episode is this more apparent than One Day at a Time Season 2 Episode 9, “Hello Penelope.” Justina Machado stands out for perfectly portraying the gradual slide that occurs when someone goes off their medication without the proper guidance. Her co-stars provide strong support, but we have to give her the credit here.
The sequence where she apologizes for yelling at Schneider that flashes back to her recording the voice note to herself stands out. Sure, recording one’s thoughts while suffering is hard. But the extra level of depth here comes from the vulnerability to share those thoughts with a friend.
Even though she admits that the woman she hears in the recording is “not okay,” she gets defensive when Schneider mentions that she needs her medication.
“I shouldn’t have to need it,” she frustratedly says, physically moving herself off the couch and away from him. It’s a push and pull that many people on medication for mental illness experience. Once we overcome the stigma of actually needing the medication and going on it, we still must overcome society’s belief that we should only need it for a short amount of time to be “normal.”
The nuances of Penelope’s feelings are hard to nail, but Machado does. The best part is, the scene ends with a joke that feels completely in character and true to life. There are shades of gray within darkness, even when you can’t quite see light.
5. Debra Messing on Will & Grace Season 10 Episode 5, “Grace’s Secret” (Aired November 1, 2018)
WILL & GRACE — “Grace’s Secret” Episode 208 — Pictured: (l-r) Robert Klein as Martin Adler, Martha Kelly as Patty, Debra Messing as Grace Adler — (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)
Debra Messing gives one of the most important performances of the year on Will & Grace Season 10 Episode 5, “Grace’s Secret.” It’s so important that it made two of our lists this year — and rightfully so.
Grace’s confession to her father that his friend Harry sexually assaulted her is uncomfortable. Not just because her dad thinks so — it’s uncomfortable for the viewer, and that’s great work.
Will & Grace goes deeper into the topic of sexual assault than most other shows have in a few ways. Grace’s father at first represents all of the men who want to look away and excuse sexual attacks. But he’s not the stereotypical jerk that is usually “taken down” in this plot.
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That’s probably because he is Grace’s father. But he still gives her plenty of resistance, and she pushes back every step of the way. In these scenes, Messing is representing every woman who pushes through these conversations, every woman who is so numb she doesn’t cry. It’s a responsibility she nobly bears.
The scene is brilliant because it is layered. Not only does Grace have to confront her father, she has to forgive him for not protecting her. The notion that men have a responsibility to protect (through not feigning ignorance) is a detail that’s hardly explored.
Bravo, Ms. Messing. Thank you.
6. Donald Glover on Atlanta Season 2 Episode 6, “Teddy Perkins” (Aired April 5, 2018)
The 8 Best Music Performances on TV in 2015
Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber
These days, TV is just as important to a music artist as the radio is—if not more so. An innovative, shocking or just really well-done performance can catapult a song to the top of the charts. So let’s take a look back at the biggest music performances that aired on the small screen in 2015.
8. Sia at the Grammys
By the time the Grammys rolled around in February, we had all heard the chanteuse’s “Chandelier” approximately 857 million times and seen the music video (and its countless parodies) nearly as much.
Knowing that, Sia switched things up for the biggest night in music, enlisting Kristen Wiig to carry out the video’s bizarre choreography alongside its star Maddie Ziegler.
Oh, and Shia LaBeouf was there too, because of course.
7. Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift at the VMAs
In the lead-up to the MTV Video Music Awards, all anyone was talking about was the “beef” between Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift, which Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus also got in on. It was almost a given then that something would come of it at the actual ceremony.
Sure enough, after Minaj opened the show with her song “Trini Dem Girls,” Swift joined her on stage and the pair together performed one another’s songs, “The Night Is Still Young” and “Bad Blood.” We say “performed” rather than “sang” since it was painfully obvious they were lip sync-ing.
Still, the surprise squashing of their beef was a stand the night.
RELATED: The Good, The Bad and The Kanye of the 2015 MTV VMAs
6. Justin Bieber at the VMAs
The other buzzy moment of the night arrived via the apology tour of Justin Bieber, who performed his massive 2015 dance hits “Where Are U Now” and “What Do You Mean?” It would’ve been a big deal to begin with, but he made sure tongues were wagging by capping them off with a good ol’ fashioned emotional breakdown at the end.
5. Kanye West at SNL 40
The sketch show invited the controversial rapper to its fortieth anniversary celebration hoping he’d make some noise, and boy, did he deliver.
We never got that new Kanye album this year, but this unforgettable eccentric medley of “Jesus Walks,” “Only One” and “Wolves” almost makes up for it.
Passionate in delivery, West’s off-the-wall performance included him laying on his back and bringing out Vic Mensa and Sia to perform in a claustrophobic set with a low ceiling.
4. Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake at the CMAs
If you didn’t know who Chris Stapleton was before the Country Music Association Awards, you did after they were over.
Not only did the accomplished songwriter shock everyone with a win for album of the year, he had the performance of the night.
How’d he do it? Oh, just by bringing out pal Justin Timberlake for a can’t-miss duet of Timberlake’s “Drink You Away” and the George Jones classic “Tennessee Whiskey.”
3. Missy Elliott at the Super Bowl
Okay, technically, it was Katy Perry’s halftime show at Super Bowl XLIX. And the pop tart did just fine, presenting a crowd-pleasing roundup of her greatest hits—“Roar,” “Dark Horse,” “Teenage Dream,” “I Kissed a Girl,” “California Gurls” and “Firework.
” She was even responsible for a you-can’t-buy-this-attention meme in the form of “left shark.
” But when we look back at this show years from now, we’re going to remember the random and wonderful return of Missy E, who popped by to steal the show with her hits, “Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It” and “Lose Control” as Perry bopped along as excitedly as the rest of us.
2. Adele’s very own special
No artist owned any part of the year quite the way Adele did this fall. After capturing the world’s attention with her inescapable lead single, “Hello,” the songstress released the album 25 to record-breaking numbers.
But before anyone could buy that album, she performed a concert for the first time in four years at Radio City Music Hall. NBC was there to tape it, and went they debuted the concert special, Adele Live in New York City, it brought in 11.3 million viewers.
That made it the most-watched concert special on TV in a decade.
1. Lady Gaga at the Oscars
For the telecast of the 87th annual Academy Awards, big names performed each of the tracks nominated for best original song, including Adam Levine, Tim McGraw, Rita Ora and Common and John Legend.
But it was Lady Gaga who stole the night with a tribute to The Sound of Music, featuring a medley of “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.
” Not only was it one of the most talked-about moments of the night, but it marked a turning point in Gaga’s career as many seemed to realize for the first time, “Dang, that girl can actually sang.”