In a year where Blockbusters took back the box office, there is no telling how award season will truly pan out. With Oscar-worthy films and performances coming out of the spring and summer seasons just as much as the fall and winter, there is a wide variety of films, actors, and filmmakers that deserve recognition in 2018. Below are some of our favorite performances from this year, ranging from superheroes to villains and horror stars, as well as some beautifully captured indie showstoppers.
Mahershala Ali/Brian Tyree Henry, SPIDER-MAN INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
The best performances I’ve seen this year are Mahershala Ali as Uncle Aaron and Brian Tyree Henry as Jefferson Davis. Despite this film only really having their voice showcased, both actors do an incredible job giving their acting talent to these characters. There is so much genuine emotion being heard from these actors and with the help of the animation being so expressive and subtle, these characters feel like they’re real. A good voice acting performance can come a long way and this film really had some incredible acting to it even despite all of it being voice work from the actors.
Yalitza Aparicio, ROMA
I doubt anyone would have guessed that Roma was Yalitza Aparcio’s first acting role. Or maybe they would, given how her performance as Cleo isn’t so much character-driven as it is a product of Alfonso Cuarón’s memories for his childhood housekeeper Liboria. Despite her timid persona, Cleo’s silence provides a variety of emotions reminiscent of the world she inhabits, juxtaposing the love for her employer’s children with the pain she receives from men symbolic of the unspoken gender hierarchy. There’s a poetic intimacy to this performance, one that definitely accommodates the autobiographical depiction of everyday life, both happy and tragic.
Christian Bale, VICE
Somehow Christian Bale is able to pull off an excellent Dick Cheney impression. He looks and sounds like Cheney. Bale, an actor notable for being a good looking movie star transforms into Cheney’s menacing appearance. He also nails Cheney’s mannerisms, without going full super villain. It’s pretty impressive that Bale can make a man like Cheney sympathetic, and Bale is able to give the character of Cheney a heart.
Toni Collette, HEREDITARY
In one of the best horror movies of the year, Colette does on a more familial level what Essie Davis did for the Babadook, and made the horror intertwine with the drama of reality. Living in the scary situation of a family falling apart, Colette in her amazing american accent confuses and scares the audience with her fear and anger.
Toni Collette’s performance in Hereditary is revelatory. It’s in turn masterfully subtle and off-the-walls bonkers. Collette’s performances is a deep dive into malevolent sorrow. It simply needs to be seen.
James Jude Courtney, HALLOWEEN
You probably don’t know who this actor is, but he’s the actor behind Michael Myer’s mask in the 2018 Halloween, and he, without a doubt, is what makes the film work. There have been a dozen Halloween films and nearly that many actors have worn the mask. Courtney’s Meyer’s feels heavy, menacing, and powerfully dangerous. David Gordon Green’s Halloween is the best since the original and Courtney is the best Michael Meyers, period.
Jamie Lee Curtis, HALLOWEEN
We’ve waited forty years for a worthy sequel to be released and will Halloween it paid off. Seeing Jamie Lee Curtis back on the big screen squaring off against Michael Myers was more than enough for fans of the franchise to rush to the theater. Seeing a broken, damaged and paranoid Laurie Strode was a realistic decision and seeing Curtis deliver was a highlight of the movie. The final battle between her and Michael was the build-up we’ve been wanting and my what a show it was!
Willem Dafoe, AT ETERNITY’S GATE
Willem Dafoe was perfectly cast as Vincent Van Gogh, as he captures the emotional turbulence of the renowned artist who struggled for recognition and happiness his entire life. With intense close ups that accentuate his masterful acting, Dafoe brings us into the mind of the artist and humanizes the often misunderstood Van Gogh.
Clint Eastwood, THE MULE
Say what you will about Clint Eastwood, he still has fire left in him. With a character similar to Walt Kowalski, The Mule is a film that shows Clint Eastwood isn’t slowing down. Well-acted and quite believable, his character in The Mule takes us on journey that no one his age could’ve expected and is proof that Eastwood can still deliver an exceptional experience at the movies and that age is just a number.
Elsie Fisher, EIGHTH GRADE
Sure, Fisher was playing a character written by a man (Bo Burnham) in Eighth Grade, but she was also tasked with playing a version of herself, a thirteen-or-so year old girl facing awkwardness, insecurities, social anxiety, and a room full of her peers with their eyes on her. Fisher faces every skin crawling scene in this film with such grace and poise and manages to portray a nostalgic version of a childhood that she herself is living, not an easy feat.
Elsie Fisher plays Kayla, an awkward girl in middle school. Fisher’s performance is great not just for a child actor, but it is great in general. She manages to sincerely capture the awkwardness and uncertainty of a tween introvert. All her emotions and manners feel realistic. Even when she acts bratty she manages to be sympathetic.
Lady Gaga, A STAR IS BORN
Lady Gaga wowed in A Star is Born with her poignant portrayal of Ally, a rising star who became a pop sensation, much like herself. Despite the similarities, she embodies the character and you forget that she’s Lady Gaga as you get swept up in the emotion of the film.
Hugh Grant, PADDINGTON 2
Playing a devilishly sly actor with narcissistic tendencies, Grant slides into this role like butter and it seems tailored for his charm. One of my favorite performances to my favorite movie of the year, he helps to make it a delightful film.
Michael B. Jordan, BLACK PANTHER
In many respects, Killmonger is a more interesting character than the titular Black Panther. He’s easily the most dynamic supervillain since Heath Ledger’s Joker, a militant revolutionary whose actions stem from a place of empathetic victimization. No one can say he’s going about this crusade morally, but it’s hard not to agree with some of the points Jordan’s character making, much like the X-Men did with Magneto. In a franchise where the villains are usually a weak point, Killmonger stands out as one of the MCU’s best.
Jordan has gone on to be one of the most praised Marvel villains of all time. Jordan (Killmonger in the film) is the turning point for Wakanda, as he shows the people of the rich nation the oppression that exists around the world. Jordan played the character with a raspy tone and for lack of a better word, swagger, that at times made him stand out in front of the lead.
Viggo Mortensen, GREEN BOOK
We’ve come to expect brilliant performances from Viggo Mortensen, so it’s no surprise that both not enough attention is being paid to his performance in Green Book but also just how immediately grabbing his rendering is. From the first few minutes we are introduced to the character he is simultaneously likable but also recognizably under-a-cloud. Ever moment after that is a joy to watch.
Lupita Nyong’o, BLACK PANTHER
Nyong’o was fierce and inspiring in role as a Wakandan spy. She also rejected the close-mindedness of Wakanda’s long-running secrecy about tools that could lift civilizations out of impoverished conditions. Nyong’o played the part so effortlessly and was endearing throughout.
Zoe Saldana, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
Nobody’s talking about it, but Zoe Saldana’s turn as Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War may just have been the anchor for the entire movie. A deft and careful portrayal, it manages to render the tortured heart of a long-abused character, forever twisted between the family she lost and the father she loathed yet admired.
Steven Yeun, BURNING
Chang-dong Lee’s film is a quiet explosion throughout, and Steven Yeun is the eerie calm in the center of it. He portrays one of the best villains in recent memory with such precision and insidious charm. Pulling everyone around him into his gravity, his character, as well as performance, is masterful in its slipperiness.