2020 was not short of incredible actors, which is what made making this list so hard. Seasoned vets, relative newcomers, undervalued stars, and comedic geniuses all got their moment to shine this year. This list will be compiled of Lead and Supporting performances to put together my top 10 actors of the year.
P.S. Since Mads Mikkelsen was such a late addition I decided I wouldn’t push anyone out, and would instead just have 11 performances.
T-10. Jesse Plemmons – i’m thinking of ending things
- They say acting is reacting, and Jesse Plemmons might be one of the beast reacters there is. This entire film was a reaction to his “other” self in various different forms. He was demanding on-screen and showed how much talent he really has. The entire end of the film is all Jesse and it works so well. His Beautiful Mind speech was perfect, and then the transition into “Lonely Room” was seamless. He has been a great character actor since his time on Friday Night Lights and Breaking Bad, but I really think now is time for him to step into the spotlight.
T-10. Gary Oldman – Mank
- Oldman is at his best throughout the entire film, but there is a specific scene during the final act that really pushed this over the top. Watching Oldman parade drunkenly around the dining table was mesmerizing. Amanda Seyfried’s reaction to this was just as good, but that is another article. He absolutely owns the room and no one will tell him any different. Reminding me a lot of Adam Sandler’s “This is how I win” moment, you have Oldman completely in demand of absolutely everything, not allowing anyone to say a word. It is one of the best character moments of the entire year, and one of the most well-acted scenes as well.
9. Andy Samberg – Palm Springs
- With Popstar: Never Stop, Never Stopping, I think Samberg proved he had what it took to carry a film. Before then he had been stuck in low-budget comedies or side characters in bigger films. With Popstar he took that step and nailed it. With Palm Springs he takes another step in his acting career and proves that not only can he carry a film, but he can also deliver a truly well-rounded performance as well. Samberg made Nyles believable, and you could see the changes that came from him throughout this film. His comedic timing was perfect, which you might have expected, but the emotion he brought to the film is what really gave it the extra kick it needed to be something truly special.
8. Paul Raci – Sound of Metal
- Riz Ahmed is beautiful in this film and delivers a wonderful performance, but Paul Raci was the standout for me. He quietly was a beautiful force and helped all he could, leading up to one of the toughest moments of the entire year when it comes to film. Raci and Ahmed’s conversation at the end of the second act was heartbreaking and Raci played it so well.
7. Anthony Hopkins – The Father
- Anthony Hopkins did something unreal here. At his age, he was still able to pull off one of the best performances of the entire year. Every second on-screen he owned it and was the star. Always felt to be in control even though he wasn’t. This was a fast-moving and confusing film and Hopkins played it as best as anyone could. Also, his monologue to end the film is truly one of the most heartbreaking moments of the entire year, no question.
6. Mads Mikkelsen – Another Round
- The one word that I have continued to use for this film is “intoxicating”. This movie overall is just a pure intoxication of reclamation of youth and also the wonders and dangers of alcohol. Mads Mikkelsen is brilliant, and this is the second straight year he has given a performance worthy of being in the top 5 for me for the year. He is amazing as he begins to rediscover himself, and the way he attacks the screen is amazing to watch. Throughout the movie, he brings absolutely everything, and the end… that end… man it was just awesome.
5. Steven Yeun – Minari
- Steven Yeun delivered one of the most spectacular, moving, emotional, powerful, and American performances of the entire year. You could feel his passion and his drive to make something for himself and his family. The wins, the losses, and everything in between. I am glad Yeun is finally getting the recognition he has always deserved because this was seriously one of the most moving and inspirational performances of the entire year.
4. Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods
- Delroy Lindo was the first actor this year that absolutely floored me with his performance. I mean, watching him in that movie and his spiral into a PTSD trap was difficult to watch. He played everything so well and I am glad he is still receiving recognition for giving what is truthfully one of the best performances of the entire year.
3. Leslie Odom Jr. – One Night in Miami…
- Leslie Odom Jr. absolutely blew me away as Sam Cooke. Truthfully, the entire quartet was incredible, but there was something about Odom Jr. that stood out above the rest. He really became lost in the character and was the one true opposition to Malcolm X. Watching those two go at it was mesmerizing, and then seeing Cooke’s realization of what he hasn’t been doing was heartbreaking. The final scene of this film was so powerful, and Odom Jr. absolutely deserves the praise he is going to be receiving. He also does all of his own singing which is an easy added bonus.
2. Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7
- I have a real soft spot for when comedic actors attempt dramatic roles. Sacha Baron Cohen has already proved himself as one of the best comedic actors working, but not until recently did his dramatic work really start to come forward. I think this film might be a turning point in his career, because he proved himself to be one of the best working actors today. In Chicago 7 he was absolutely brilliant. Bringing in the comedy as well as the emotion, SBC was in a role fit for him with Abbie Hoffman. His control over the film and over every situation was mesmerizing. He was the smartest man in the room and only he, and maybe Jerry Rubin, knew that. Watching him absolutely take down Tom Hayden was just some of the most comfortable and controlled acting I have seen all year.
1. Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
- Him taking my #1 spot has nothing to do with the fact that he passed away, but I feel like his performance has everything to do with the fact he passed away. Chadwick Boseman was truthfully one of the best actors working on the planet. No matter what he was doing, he was completely owning it and did so without ever getting the recognition he deserved. Did he complain? No, he kept going to work to try to deliver the best he absolutely could. Ma Rainey was no different, but one can only assume that since his death wasn’t a random occurrence, and instead was one he could sadly see coming, he put absolutely everything he could into this performance. Whether Boseman had passed or not, I can confidently say this is my favorite performance of the year. I was absolutely enthralled with him every moment he was on screen, and he gave two of the best monologues I have probably ever seen. The emotion, the heart, the desire, the passion, it all came out in such a miraculous way. The monologues were the standouts, but the mistakes, and the realization of the mistakes, and the fact he had to sit in that certain moment and live with what he did. It shook me to my core, and the phrase “don’t look at me like that” still haunts me when thinking about it. A darkly moving performance that should go down as one of the best, and certainly one I will never forget.