The 25 Best Movie Performances of 2010

Movies Lists

Oscar nominations won’t be announced until Jan. 25 and the awards ceremony is still two months away, but we thought we’d go ahead and make our picks for the best actors and actresses of 2010, a year which saw some tremendous performances by newcomers and veterans alike.


25. Casey Affleck (The Killer Inside Me)
Character: Lou Ford
Affleck continues to cement his status as one of our most indispensable young actors with one of the most chilling performances of the year. His turn as an amoral sheriff’s deputy is hard to watch, but impossible not to admire.—Michael Dunaway


24. Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
Character: Cindy
Williams continues her transformation from Dawson’s dream into heavyweight actress. Her chemistry with Gosling—in happy times and bad—is palpable, and her sensitive, textured portrayal lives on far beyond the two hours of the film.—MD


23. Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Character: Nic
Bening plays a tightly-wound doctor and mother whose carefully-constructed world unravels when her children meet their biological father—and her wife does as well. Her performance is raw, visceral, and utterly luminous.—Alissa Wilkenson


22. Jim Carey (I Love You Phillip Morris)
Character: Steven Russell
It’s easy to forget how good an actor Carey really is, but on the occasions when he does display it he’s always memorable. I Love You Phillip Morris gave him the rare opportunity to take up a more sophisticated role that plays to his wacky strengths, and the resulting performance transformed the film from just a quirky romp into something with real heart.—Sean Gandert


21. Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Character: Mattie Ross
Every decade or so a youngster crashes the Oscar party (Patty Duke, The Miracle Worker; Tatum O’Neal, Paper Moon; Anna Paquin, The Piano). Will Steinfeld’s dead-on portrayal of the hard-headed Mattie Ross lead to a statue of her own?—Tim Basham


20. Hye-ja Kim (Mother)
Character: Mother
As a the title character in Bong Joon-ho’s follow up to The Host, Hye-ja Kim plays a desperate woman on a quest to prove the innocence of her limited son after he’s accused of a grisly murder. Kim’s transformation from domestic sweetheart to bitter vigilante is a morally jarring journey that earned her Best Actress at the 4th Asian Film Awards.—Sean Edgar


19. Andrew Garfield (The Social Network)
Character: Eduardo Saverin
While Jesse Eisenberg’s role defined The Social Network, it was Garfield’s performance as Mark Zuckerberg’s betrayed best friend Eduardo that offered the most memorable moments. It may be fraternal, but Garfield gave us the most real portrayal of heartbreak this year.—SG


18. Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
Character: Rooster Cogburn
Jeff Bridges’ second straight year of playing a washed up, alcoholic icon may just earn him another Oscar. If so, it’ll be for the same role in which John Wayne received his in 1969.—TB


17. Mila Kunis (Black Swan)
Character: Lily
Kunis was overshadowed by Natalie Portman, but her performance had a level of nuance missing from the film’s lead. While Portman was constrained by the picture’s thematic material, Kunis was free to portray a real person—perhaps the only one in the entire movie.—SG


16. Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
Character: Paul
One of the year’s best dramedies was full of excellent performances, but even the twin towers of Bening and Moore can’t overshadow the gem turned in by Ruffalo, whose character is impossible to dislike—but whose actions are impossible to endorse.—MD

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