The once-in-a-career, "I can't believe s/he just put all that out there," gut-wrenching performances.
For me, MoNique in "Precious," Ellen Burstyn in "Requiem for a Dream" and Jessica Lange in, of all places, the past two seasons of "American Horror Story."
Maybe Anne Hathaway in "Les Miserables" and Charlize in "Monster."
Michael Fassbender - Hunger, Shame
Leo DiCaprio - What's Eating Gilbert Grape
It wasn't gut wrenching, but I saw David Hyde Pierce in Curtains and thought, "there is a man who LOVES what he does for a living."
Forget the name of the actress - but the women who portrayed "Vera Drake" Flawless performance.
Catherine Burns in "Last Summer." That big monologue of hers pretty much still haunts me.
Mo'Nique's final moments in "Precious" are some of the most powerful pieces of acting I've ever seen. Definitely one of the top ten winners of that category.
Susannah York in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" gutted me at the time, especially her image reflected in the shower head.
Cherry Jones - THE HEIRESS and BALTIMORE WALTZ
Debbie Reynolds - "The Unsinkable Molly Brown"
Jessica Lange in "Frances." Saw it again recently and was struck by how mediocre the script was, and how incredible Lange was throughout -- she was in her thirties and played a 16-year-old girl flawlessly.
[quote]Mo'Nique's final moments in "Precious" are some of the most powerful pieces of acting I've ever seen. Definitely one of the top ten winners of that category.
Agree. The "Who's gonna love me" speech, heart-wrenching.
Sandra Bullock as Nell Harper Lee
r2, DiCaprio was soo good in that. So young and so good.
Wow, we'll actually have two votes for Anne Hathaway.
Her performance in "Brokeback Mountain" where she answers Ennis' call and coldly explains that Jack is dead just blew me away. So many emotions visible beneath the surface: pain, resentment, anger, jealousy, sympathy, sadness, cynicism, exhaustion, but she's just giving the simple run-down of what happened, even though she knows it's not true (that Jack was gay-bashed, and Ennis is a former lover).
Now flame away, DL. Feel your anger.
I guess it would have to be Ellen Burstyn in that drug movie, Requiem for a Dream.
[quote]Catherine Burns in "Last Summer."
Wow! Haven't thought of that movie in a while. Isn't that the one where Barbara Hershey felt the soul of a dead seagull enter her body, hence her renaming herself Barbara Seagull?
Ulrich Mühe in "The Lives of Others"
Daniel Day Lewis in "My Left Foot"
Juliette Binoche in "Three Colours: Blue"
R4, Imelda Staunton
Charlize Theron "Monster"; Michelle Williams "Wendy & Lucy"; Laura Dern "Enlightened"; Melissa Leo "Red State".
Michelle was better than Anne in Brokeback.
Anne's most provocative role is Havoc.
Liam Neeson in Schindler's List
Lana Turner in Madame X at the end when they ask her about her son and the way she says "I wasn't fit!".
Marlon Brando captured the Mafia don, also Sonny, Michael and Tom Hagen.
Jessica Tandy as the southern lady and Morgan Freeman both nailed their genteel roles in "Driving Miss Daisy".
Judy Garland in A Star is Born.
Klaus Kinsky in Aguirre, The Wrath of God.
Emmanuelle Riva - Amour
Morgan Freeman - Lean on Me
Heath Ledger. A master thespian such as he comes along only once every other millenium. We were blessed to see the likes.
Making Fun of the Ledger Troll
Nicole Kidman in "The Hours"
Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren in "The Last Station"
Joseph Gordon Levitt- Mysterious Skin
Coral Browne in "Dreamchild."
Lynn Redgrave in that great small scene with Liam Neeson at the end of "Kinsey."
Julianne Moore in "Safe" (another great final scene--actually, there are two of them: the scene where she's called to make the short speech to everyone, and the scene right after where she stands in front of the mirror and talks to her reflection).
Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln" (it really did blow me away, and was much less over-the-top than his work in "There Will be Blood")
Olivia de Havilland and Ralph Richardson both in "The Heiress"
Vanessa Redgrave, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Zoe Wanamaker, Electra
Mark Rylance, Jerusalem
Christine Ebersole, Grey Gardens
Charlize Theron, Monster
Jessica Lange, Frances
Meryl Streep, A Cry In the Dark
Marlon Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire
Emily Watson, Breaking the Waves
Brenda Blethyn, Secrets and Lies
Peter Finch, Network
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Michael Fassbinder, Shame
I saw Ben Kingsley on stage in Edmund Kean. One man on a stage for 90 minutes and It was the single most amazing performance I have ever seen. It's hard to indulge bad acting after you've experienced something like that.
James Gandolfini in THE SOPRANOS. 100% in control of what he allowed us to see, and he never once gave into the temptation to stand outside and be smarter than the animal he was playing.
OP, I have to agree with Jessica Lange. "The Name Game" in American Horror Story was simply fantastic.
Clip of the title scene.
I forgot Ben Kingsley in "The House of Sand and Fog".
Emma Thompson in Howard's End
A class on acting from beginning to end
Deserved that oscar!!!!
Adrian Brody in The Pianist. A beautiful movie about a horrid time in history. He is just remarkable.
Have to second Laura Dern in "Enlightened" that character just resonates for me and that show is truly underlooked and unappreciated! Genius Mike White!
Bjork in Dancer in the Dark.
Glad to see someone else has Brenda Blethyn's performance from Secrets & Lies on here. She was amazing. Even more amazing considering the film was unscripted.
She was robbed an Academy Award... just another reason to hate Frances McDormand.
Laura Dern in "Inland Empire"
That scene sank or swam entirely with her, r29. That felt like dare-devil acting.
Also, the night of the movie screening at the asylum, when she makes the drunk speech, that was the single most convincing "drunk" portrayal I've ever seen.
She had so little to work with to make that cunty, abusive nun a sympathetic character. With the exception of her blatant feminism, she's a bad guy the first half of the season, right? A self-righteous, judgmental prude and a hypocritical liar who beats the living shit out of people. Then she makes this speech about a squirrel, and the whole character pivots, at least for me. I was amazed when I saw it.
I'm sick of discussing Heath Ledger, but since you asked, OP... Heath in Brokeback now and forever.
Agree about "Wendy and Lucy." That was literally jaw-dropping. I couldn't believe what I was seeing during the final scene. Stayed with me for days.
I'll add: Naomi Watts in "Mulholland Drive" -- holy shit, was she incredible. Best performance in a David Lynch movie ever.
Jane Horrocks in "Little Voice"
Don't laugh but there was a time when Robert Downey Jr was brilliant in everything he did. Even if the movie was mediocre he was still brilliant. I don't know anymore because I haven't seen anything he's done in years.
Diana Ross in Lady Sings The Blues. She played a heroin addict that looked so real.
Jessica Lange in Frances. The bathroom scene was brilliant.
Was blown away with Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. I always thought Heath was just a pretty boy, until I saw him in Monster's Ball.
Jane Fonda in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Still her best performance ever in film.
Leonardo DiCaprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. I was not familiar with Leo, and thought he was really handicapped. Also, the scene in The Basketball Diaries where Leo is begging his mother to come into the house.
Roseanne in the scene where she's reading a note she wrote to her dad when she's by his coffin.
Cher in "Mask" when her parents are coming home and she's just sitting there staring stoned on heroin.
Katharine Hepburn...Long Day's Journey Into Night. Amazing!
I had a whole new appreciation for Jack Lemmon after seeing him in Glengarry Glen Ross.
Albert Finney: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.
Susan Hayward: I Want to Live.
Robert DeNiro: Raging Bull.
George C. Scott as Patton.
agree with r28. great great performance by James G.
I'm shocked nobody has mentioned Hilary Sawnk in Boys Don't Cry.
It is the greatest performance by a female in the history of cinema!
Monique in Precious & Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection (sp?). Both were excellent....especially in the final moments of both films. Chilling....
The Last King of Scotland - Forest Whitaker
Rooney Mara in Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Sean Penn in I am Sam
Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose
Angela Basset in What's Love Got To DO With It
Heath Ledger in Batman
Al Pacino in Scarface
Eastern Promises - Viggo Mortenssen
[quote]Roseanne in the scene where she's reading a note she wrote to her dad when she's by his coffin.
I agree 100%. As crazy and unpleasant as she can be as a celebrity, she's a fantastic actor.
Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter
Russel Crowe as Gladiator
SJP in Sex and the City:
The way she talked, laughed, cried, and moved on two legs like a human..hmm.. I was in awe.
r49, that's a good one.
Would anyone else incude Dancer in the Dark?
A few of my family members had just died when it first came out and I wouldn't see it, because I knew it would just make me lose my shit.
Bo Derek in Tommy Boy. WOW THAT WAS AWESOME.
Mo'Nique is a good choice.
Felicity Huffman in Transamerica
Lee Pace in Soldier's Girl
Charlize Theron in Monster
Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone
Jodie in The Accused, Contact, Silence of the Lambs, and The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.
Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice
A stunning performance.
Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan in The Miracle Worker
Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist
Meryl in Sophie's Choice
[quote]"I can't believe s/he just put all that out there," gut-wrenching performances.
The only performance that fits that description is Dawson's in "Dawson's 50-Load Weekend."
Kristen Stewarat in Panic Room
Kristen Stewart in Adventureland
Kristen Stewart in In the Land of Women
Kristen Stewart in Cold Creek Manor
Kristen Stewart in Twilight
K. Stewart's Mom
R41, when I was a kid, I thought RDJ was brilliant in "Less Than Zero," playing the spoiled, over-privileged junkie. Turns out he wasn't really acting.
Giulietta Masina - "La Strada"
Charlize Theron - "Monster"
F. Murray Abraham in Amadeus
De Niro in Godfather 2 -- the way he created and recreated an entire character we already knew well.
Cate Blanchette in Elizabeth -- she was kind of frightening by the end.
The Experiment - Forest Whitaker
I never understood the big deal with him as an actor until I saw this. In the story this shadowy group sets up a modern day version of the Stanford Prison Experiment. Whitaker's character is a soft-spoken cowed seemingly gentle-hearted soul who signs up for the experiment (he needs the money) and he is assigned to be a prison guard.
As in the real-life experiment, the guards eventually begin to become more and more cruel in their treatment of the prisoners, but this time no one steps in to stop them. The once soft-spoken repressed Whitaker seems to awaken.
He enjoys the cruelty, so much so that he becomes hard once he is alone thinking about the cruelty he administered. He begins relishing in it, becoming the cruelest and most brutal in the group. Whitaker is a revelation. You can literally see him awaking, in this new environment. As if this was who he always was, but he could only become it in this setting.
You will get chills up your spine from his performance.
Tovah Feldshuh in Kissing Jessica Stein. Her three minute, uninterrupted, one-take monologue to her lesbian daughter is a stunningly honest, humorous and heartbreaking acting tour de force.
I just wanted to say that Cam Gigandet is in it, and while he is nothing special generally, I think he gives his best performane in this movie.
He plays a jock type dude who spends the first part of the movie bragging about all the women he's had sex with, obviously overcompensating. We see why later, he gets assigned to be a guard, and goes along with the brutality of the other guards. He's reveled to be a repressed gay man, but it's not the best setting for this to happen because he becomes cruel like some of the other guards and channels his repression in a negative way, eventually trying to rape one of the male volunteers playing a prisoner.
I know she's done a lot of mediocre work in later years (and said stupid things on The View), but Whoopi Goldberg was astonishing in both her one woman Broadway show....
....and especially as Celie in The Color Purple. She managed a balancing act perfectly, making Celie weak, then strong without making her look stupid. Her showdown with Mister, and her scenes with her sister and children, are boldly and nakedly emotional and beautifully done.
Glenda Jackson in "Elizabeth R". Greatest performance of the entire 20th century.
Stanwyck in Double Indemnity
Jim Nabors in Gomer Pyle.
Wendy Hiller in "Pygmalion," showing that you don't have to stab yourself and scream to show character development and transcendent understanding.
River Phoenix in "Running on Empty"
Agree, R69, totally on the Whitaker bandwagon. His performance (although small screen) in The Shield was one of the most infuriatingly vile characters I have ever seen. Incredible depth under those understated facial expressions.
I thought Javier Bardem was nothing short of amazing in Biutiful, and terrifying in No Country for Old Men.
I agree with op except I didn't see Anne Hathaway.
Some of these performances aren't gut-wrenching, just disciplined and controlled.
Another vote for Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive... perfection in every way.
Abigail Breslin - The Call
Abbie Cornish in "Bright Star" and Maggie Smith in "The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne"
Amy Jo Johnson in Killing Mr. Griffin
Nathan Lane was so great on stage as Max Bialystock in THE PRODUCERS as to make you forget all about Zero Mostel's turn in the same role.
R5. Catherine burns!!!!!!!! My goodness a bald from the past. I remember gopher from LOL she was Cathy Craig. I recall seeing her too in red sky at morning.
Isadora Burnwood as Minny in Minny and Miranda.
Mooriah Carey in Glitter
Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves (1996).
Agree with most of these. The Rooney Mara made me groan though.
My votes are:
Clive Owen in Closer. Simply amazing, and I still can't believe Morgan Freeman stole his Oscar.
And since she has so many votes for Monster, I'll say Charlize Theron in Young Adult. The screenplay was not out to make Mavis a martyr, and Charlize still made your heart break for such a terrible person. A great display of skill on her part, and in my opinion, makes up for her lackluster post-Monster career.
Brando in WATERFRONT
In this case, the hype is true: greatest acting performance ever onscreen.
Jane Fonda in KLUTE
Streep in SOPHIE'S CHOICE
I assume by "gut-wrenching" you mean emotionally harrowing.
Liv Ullman in SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE
Imelda Staunton in VERA DRAKE - particularly the moment she realizes she's actually been doing something wrong: that close-up
Cicely Tyson in SOUNDER, especially when she sees her husband coming home
Elaine Stritch in A DELICATE BALANCE. Trust me, it's true. She was awesome: hilarious and tragic at the same time.
Elizabeth Franz in DEATH OF A SALESMAN, the Robert Falls revival with Brian Dennehy and Kevin Anderson. Franz was heartbreaking. A gorgeous performance.
Raul Esparza singing "Marry Me a Little" and "Being Alive" John Doyle's COMPANY; Paulo Szot singing "This Nearly Was Mine" at Lincoln Center's SOUTH PACIFIC; and Patti Lupone doing "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Rose's Turn" in the Laurents GYPSY revival. These musical performances were without question the most moving things I've seen onstage in the past ten years.
Sam Rockwell in Moon, The Winning Season and Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind
Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls, Mondays In The Sun and The Sea Inside
Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master and Boogie Nights
Viola Davis in Doubt and Fences
Judi Dench in Iris and Ms Brown
Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn and Blue Valentine (along with Gosling)
RDJ in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Tropic Thunder and Chaplin (although the movie was boring)
Denis Lavant in Holy Motors
Toni Colette in Emma and The Hours
Gwyneth Paltrow in Hard Eight
Ben Mendelsohn in Animal Kingdom
Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan in Never Let Me Go. Carey was also great in Drive and Shame
DDL and Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood
r92, you have good taste.
Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson, and almost half a dozen other movies, but I would say that's his best.
Brenda Blethyn in "Secrets and Lies"
Charlize Theron in "Monster"
Viola Davis in "Doubt"
Jeez, I need to catch up on my movie watching.
Some of you are listing typical okay performances, OP asks for performances that left you in awe, a la DDL in TWBB.
Seriously Naomi Watts performance in Mulholland Drive left you in awe?!?!
Oh, Thank You :-)
Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn and Blue Valentine (along with Gosling)
r92, Paul Dano is a big nothing.
Ryan Gosling is wonderful in that bad movie he made with Michelle Williams, and for which inexplicably she got all the praise.
I would go with Denis Lavant in HOLY MOTORS. Also Jean-Luis Trintignant in AMOUR, for which she got all the praise he deserved.
But I don't know that you all are playing by the rules: you're supposed to be picking performances that are emotionally devastating, that leave you wrung out and overwhelmed.
Javier Bardem! Yes, okay. My favorite French actor currently is Mathieu Amalric, who is an emotional whirlwind, and who is fearlessly self-exposing, both literally and figuratively.
I have found Isuzu Yamada to be quite devastating in Naruse's FLOWING and Kurosawa's THRONE OF BLOOD.
Julianne Moore in Magnolia.
Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys.
YOUR OPINIONS ARE WRONG AND MINE ARE RIGHT!!!!
Thank you for understanding me, r102.
But surely you agree that people are simply listing performances they thought were impressive, rather than thinking about specific performances that they found emotionally harrowing, devastating, draining, exhilarating - where an actor went way out there, and ripped her and or his and or your guts out. I think that's what "gut-wrenching" means.
Yeah, Ryan Gosling was a revelation in Half Nelson.
Like the Academy, this thread overlooks comedic performances, which many actors believe to be more difficult than dramatic performances. How about Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie? Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot? Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove?
Paul Dano was great in There will be Blood. He survived DDLs crazy method acting, btw! Dano was also great in Little Miss Sunshine.
Blue Valentine was a great movie!
Jean-Luis Trintignant was great in Amour, I agree.
Dawson's volume never ceases to amaze me.
The Thorn Birds circa 1974.
Richard Chamberlain as Father Ralph de Bricassart when he learns Dane is his son.
r106, I'm missing the enzyme that allows me to process Paul Dano. Did you see that dreadful film where he played the guy who wrote himself a girlfriend? Ugh. The horror.
r105, yes! Forgive my lapse. Peter Sellers's performance in DR. STRANGELOVE is one of the most amazing of all time. He is strangely deeply moving as Strangelove, in particular. But also hilarious.
And Marilyn Monroe is brilliant in THE MISFITS. She was so under-rated while she was alive. She's also really touching in SOME LIKE IT HOT. And of course Jack Lemmon's performance in that film should go on any list of gut-wrenching greats. Laughter can be gut-wrenching!
Jane Fonda in Klute--she was the real heiress to the legacy of Davis, Stanwyck, and Hepburn.
r101, I love Julianne Moore, but she's terrible in MAGNOLIA. It's not her fault - the film doesn't work, and she has clearly been directed to start at full steam and never stop. She has reached her peak at the beginning of her performance, and she has nowhere to go.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is a gut-wrenching actor when he's not playing mute-and-depressed. That movie where he huffs gasoline because his wife killed herself! Help me. But he's sublime in both BOOGIE NIGHTS ("I'm an idiot, I'm a fucking idiot") and THE MASTER.
[quote]Paul Dano was great in There will be Blood. He survived DDLs crazy method acting, btw! Dano was also great in Little Miss Sunshine.
They say that their is a madness to Daniel Day Lewis' method acting.
Marilyn Monroe in Bus Stop..her best performance ever!
Rebecca De Mornay in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. She changed her expressions in a second to go from sweet nanny to merciless avenger. Stunning acting. I loudly cheered every time she got more revenge on the wife shrew who had destroyed Rebecca's life.
[quote] I love Julianne Moore, but she's terrible in MAGNOLIA.
For me her masterpiece is Far from Heaven, but it's not a big, showy performance.
The devastation is in her discipline, and the very small amount that she shows....and that the genie has to go back into the bottle. The simple act of showing the scarf at the end was utterly devastating.
I also agree with Brenda Blethyn in Secrets and Lies. She can chew scenery and has in other movies, but she was exquisite in S&L.
Although I don't remember her name, the lead in Almodovar's All About My Mother also stayed with me for days after. Hell, everyone in that movie did.
Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves.
Julianne Moore was great in Boogie Nights!
Will someone be such a kind person to tally up the submissions and come out with a Top 3??
R111: You and I seem to have similar taste, but I respectfully disagree about Moore's performance in Magnolia. The pharmacy scene gets me every time.
Rosie Perez - Fearless
Sigourney Weaver - Death and the Maiden, Aliens
Michelle Pfieffer - Batman Returns
Jack Nicholson - Five Easy Pieces
Mia Farrow - Rosemary's Baby, The Purple Rose of Cairo
Kinuyo Tanaka - The Life of Oharu
Toshiro Mifune - The Seven Samurai
Victor Sjöström - Wild Strawberries
Tommy Wiseau in The Room.
Giovanni Ribisi - The Gift
Reese Witherspoon - Freeway
Jake Lloyd in Star Wars The Phantom Menace.
Jessica Lange - "Frances"
r120, Nicholson in 5 EASY PIECES, yes, is really moving - especially the scene with his dad, where he takes the guy out into a field in his wheel chair and tried to talk to him.
Mifune and Tanaka: great choices, brilliant, human, profound performances.
Ingmar Bergman kind of always got beautiful, layered, honest, deep performances from his actors, and you'd have to list Ingrid Thulin, Max Von Sydow, Ullman, and Bibi Anderrson in nearly all the work they did for Bergman.
And speaking of Bergmans, Ingrid Bergman is gorgeous and sexy and somnambulistically delicious in NOTORIOUS.
r119, I should see MAGNOLIA again, because I do NOT remember the pharmacy scene all that clearly, sorry. I agree that Moore's best work is in FAR FROM HEAVEN, which includes also a brilliant performance by Dennis Quaid, and who'd've ever thought that you could put the words "brilliant performance" and "Dennis Quaid" together in a sentence?
Paul Scofield in "Quiz Show"
Ruth Gordon in "Rosemary's Baby"
Linda Hamilton in "The Year of Living Dangerously" was completely amazing.
Linda Hunt, oops, r126. Weird typo?
Samantha Morton in "Morvern Callar"
Julie Christie in "Away From Her"
Mia Farrow in "Rosemary's Baby"
Marlon Brando in "The Godfather"
Liz Taylor in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wollf?"
Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung in "In the Mood for Love"
Darren Criss 'Teenage Dream' Performance
Kevin Bacon in "Murder in the First"
r90, right on about Charlize in Young Adult.
r100 / r103, that's exactly the idea.
Joaquin Phoenix in WALK THE LINE
Joaquin Phoenix in THE MASTER
Batshit crazy maybe, but one hell of an actor.
And Philip Seymour Hoffman in anything: CAPOTE, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD, A LATE QUARTET.
Many will "Mary!" me but I don't care:
Liza Minnelli in Cabaret back in 1972.
And, I forgot another one, another Mary!
Streisand in Funny Girl especially at the end of the movie.
Andrew Garfield in "The Social Network", Cary Grant "Arsenic and Old Lace", Ryan Gosling in "Fracture", Naomi Watts in "The Impossible"
Emily Watson and Rachel Griffiths both nailed it in Hillary and Jackie, but Emily especially.
Mark Taylor / Flashpoint -- When his character Louis "Lou" Young sacrificed himself by triggering the landmine he stepped on because he knew a rescue attempt would be futile and would end in the death of one or more of his colleagues.
I saw this movie when I was a kid and I remember being absolutely blown away by Elijah Wood's performance in "The War". I haven't seen it for decades. I wonder if it holds up...
r144, decades? ...really?
Jan Lapotaire in Piaf
Kate Nelligan in Plenty
Elijah Wood has only been alive for a little more than three decades. Was his ultrasound in some movie?
These are random but :Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice, Ethan Hawke in Dead Poets Society, Anne H . in Les Mis, Diana Ross in Lady Sings The Blues (should've won that Oscar!), Jessica Lange in Frances.
r118, I'll give you a little rough estimate so far of the names/performances mentioned the most:
– Jessica Lange, Frances (also mentioned for American Horror Story)
- Hillary Swank, Boys Don't Cry
- Emily Watson, Breaking the Waves (also mentioned for Hillary and Jackie)
- Charlize, Monster (also mentioned for Young Adult)
- Meryl, Sophie's Choice
- Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream (also mentioned for Resurrection)
- Mo'Nique, Precious
- Daniel Day Lewis, There Will Be Blood (also mentioned for Lincoln, but was that really gut-wrenching?)
- Leo DiCaprio, What's Eating Gilbert Grape
- Anne Hathway, Les Mis (also mentioned for Brokeback and Havoc)
- Naomi Watts, Mulholland Drive (also mentioned for The Impossible)
- Jack Nicholson, Five Easy Pieces
- Kinuyo Tanaka, The Life of Oharu
- Mia Farrow, Rosemary's Baby (Also mentioned for the Purple Rose of Cairo)
- Toshiro Mifune, The Seven Samurai
- Michelle Williams, My Blue Valentine (also mentioned for My Week with Marilyn, Brokeback, Wendy and Lucy)
- Brenda Blethyn, Secrets and Lies
- Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master and Boogie Nights (also mentioned for others)
- Viola Davis, Doubt (also mentioned for Fences)
- Jane Fonda, Klute (also mentioned for They Shoot Horses ...)
- Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine (also mentioned for Half Nelson and Fracture)
- Michael Fassbender, Shame (also mentioned for Hunger)
- Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
- Javier Bardem (mentioned once for every movie he's done, except Bond)
- Morgan Freeman mentioned for Driving Miss Daisy/Lean on Me (one vote each)
- Michelle Pfeiffer, Fabulous Baker Boys/Batman Returns (one vote each, have to agree with that last one -- she was unexpectedly heartbreaking as Catwoman)
- Brando, Waterfront/Streetcar (one vote each)
- Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland/The Experiment/other
- Julianne Moore also mentioned for Safe/Magnolia/Far From Heaven/Boogie Nights (one vote each)
Forgive me if I missed any.
Gosling was also great in Lars and the real Girl, Fracture - he was a bit meh in that one IMHO. He is very hit and miss.
Javier, JAVIER, yes. He is hilarious and out of his mind brilliant in Perdita Durango. He should do comedies more often. Agree with you he was just not that great in that Bond movie.
Philip Seymour Hoffman also gave a great cameo in Hard Eight (PTAs first movie and hidden gem!)
Tom Hiddleston was great as Loki!
Anna Magnani, in Rome, Open City
Lisa Kudrow in The Opposite of Sex
Burl Ives in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
R57, I saw Dancer in the Dark many years ago and have never cried so much about a movie in my entire life, I completely lost it. Bjork was heartbreaking. Melissa Yeo also gave a heartbreaking performance in Frozen River, as did whoever played Muriel's mother in Muriel's Wedding.
R33, I would like to bestow a citizen Emmy Award on Mike White for writing the "Enlightened" episode where he's finally loved. In voice-over he says:
"Some pearls are never found. They hide under the sand on the ocean floor. No one knows they're there. But the pearl knows."
R145, he was a very young kid in it. I just checked. It came out in 1994. So, in one year, it will have been decades. As in two decades.
Some great choices here! I would like to agree with r70, regarding Tovah Feldshuh, in "Kissing Jessica Stein." What a touching scene. Also, r150 who nominated Ryan Gosling for, "Lars and the Real Girl." Ryan also delivered a fantastic performance in that film about white supremacists.
Stephen Graham in "This is England"
But then again pretty much everyone is brilliant in that movie.
Michelle Pfeiffer - Batman Returns (should have won an Oscar)
Meryl Streep -Sophie's Choice
Shirley Maclaine and Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment
Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider
Theresa Russell, Wild Things
Sissy Spacek/Shelly Duvall - 3 Women
Gena Rowland's - A Woman Under The Influence
Jane Alexander - Testament
Two from the fabulous Jeff Bridges, Starman and Fearless.
Garland's A STAR IS BORN is unwatchable, but her rendition of "The Man That Got Away" is one of the few authentically spine-tingling, exhilarating onscreen vignettes. In a very similar way, FUNNY GIRL is exhausting, but Streisznd's "My Man" is a beautiful work of art. So there.
Another vote for Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns, that movie would have been nothing without her.
[quote]Seriously Naomi Watts performance in Mulholland Drive left you in awe?!?!
Not my choice, but I get it. It was a very troubled, visceral performance.
Andy Griffith in A FACE IN THE CROWD and River Phoenix in MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO.
A lot of these performances are loud, over-acted and gimmicky, especially Helen Mirren in 'Last Station', Kidman in 'The Hours', and Hathaway in 'Les Miz'.
They're like Disneyland awe-inspiring, clubbing you over the head with their tricks.
Lange in 'AHS' in entertaining to watch, but again, it's all gimmicks to rope in the masses.
My top five awe-inspiring performances, not by Meryl Streep, are:
Naomi Watts, Mulholland Drive
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Juliette Binoche, Blue
Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
Sigourney Weaver, The Ice Storm
Top five awe-inspiring Meryl performances:
Meryl in Kramer vs. Kramer
Meryl in Sophie's Choice
Meryl in A Cry in the Dark
Meryl in Bridges of Madison County
Meryl in The Devil Wears Prada
But her entire filmography is awe-inspiring, obviously.
And I cannot stand Ann, but she was great in BBM. The girl from Dawson's Creek stole her nomination that year.
Jack Lemmon as salesman Shelley Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross.
Being left in awe doesn't happen to me often at all
Simone Signoret in Madame Rosa
Jessica Lange in Frances
Emanuelle Riva in Amour
Jeanne Moreau in Cet Amour là
R167 - your cane is showing
Sissy Spacek in Carrie
Leonardo Di Caprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape
Renee Falconetti for The Passion of Joan of Arc
John Benjamin Hickey in The Normal Heart...
Gene Hackman, "Night Moves"
Bruno Ganz in "Downfall"
Capturing the "nice" Hitler - all the while being as sadistic a loony as all get out...
Great choice, r169: Signoret in Madame Rosa (La Vie Devant Soi).
She really gets under your skin, not unlike Riva in Amour.
Benedict Cumberbatch in his dual role as Frankenstein and his Creature in the National Theatre broadcast of "Frankenstein" was the most impressive acting tour de force I've ever witnessed. People like to slam Benedict for being full of himself but the fact that he shared the Olivier Award with Jonny Lee Miller for sharing those roles was itself impressive in its graciousness. This was 100% Benedict's show. Jonny was basically just there to spell him off.
Pfeiffer should have won an Oscar for Batman Returns.
Marisa Tomei won that year instead.
I know Riva gets all the attention in Amour but I think Trintignant was sorely overlooked. He made the film for me.
Absolutely agree on this with you. He was amazing!
Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung in "Happy Together"
Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner in IMITATION OF LIFE
Jean Pierre Leaud in THE 400 BLOWS
Burt Lancaster in ELMER GANTRY
Ingrid Thulin in CRIES AND WHISPERS
James Cagney in ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES
Paul Newman in NOBODY's FOOL
An eclectic mix, to be sure, but every one of thse performances is gangbusters!
Michael Shannon - Take Shelter
Viola Davis - Doubt
Bette Davis - Now Voyager
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
Bjork - Dancer in the Dark
Angela Lansbury, The Manchurian Candidate.
I've seen many great performances but the only one that truly left me in awe was Maria Falconetti in "The Passion of Joan of Arc". I saw it in film class and immediately afterwards was nearly hit by a bus when I didn't see a stop light.
James Holmes in Dark Knight Rises
Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu.
Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers - amazingly creepy
Diane Keaton in Looking For Mr. Goodbar
Diane Lane in Unfaithful
Lots of young people posting.
Shirley Booth in Come Back, Little Sheba.
Sharon Warren in RAY. Who? She played Ray Charles' mother when he was a child. Her few scenes had me sobbing. According to IMDB she's only done one other film in 2006.
Mo'Nique is a great one. Honestly is there a better performance in that category?
[quote] Mo'Nique is a great one. Honestly is there a better performance in that category?
Yes. Hillary Swank
What I meant by that R196 was supporting actress which Mo won for. I can't think of any but then I aren't as familiar with supporting.
[R160] I'm watching (well, mostly my sister) right now and I don't know how the hell she got so much acclaim...anyone could've played this role. That one good crying scene doesn't justify a whole movie's worth of wooden acting. Throughout the whole film her expression never changes. Even during the scene where her Grandfather said "she has no use to me", she ran out the door (presumably to cry) but as she ran out her expression didn't change...
I understand that people saw potential (well, if you go by that one good crying scene) but really? Nominations for the top prizes in acting seemed way too much IMO.
Sorry, not blasting you for finding her awesome in this movie, just giving my 2c ;).
I simply cannot bear it when pretentious queens proclaim that Maria Falconetti's Joan of Arc was some kind of masterpiece. To view it now is to see how laughable and histrionic that foreign nobody actress' performance really was.
Patty Duke Anne Bancroft in the Miracle Worker.
Paul Newman - The Verdict
Gena Rowlands in "Woman Under the Influence" and "Gloria", Fassbender in "Shame", John Wayne in "The Searchers", Robert Duval in "The Great Santini", James Mason in "Odd Man Out", Alida Valli and Georges Wilson in "Une aussi longue absence"
Excuse me if I missed an earlier post on this (because it is so obvious): Heath Ledger in "Brokeback."
Kevin Spacey in American Beauty and Seven.
Jesse Spencer speaking American on "Chicago Fire." It makes me want him more every week.
So many have already been mentioned but I'll have to mention some of them again because they are my faves. In no particular order:
Marlon Brando - On the Waterfront
Meryl Streep - Sophie's Choice
Bette Davis - All About Eve and Now, Voyager
Denzel Washington - Malcom X and The Hurricane
Angela Bassett - What's Love Got to Do With It
Dorothy Dandridge - Carmen Jones
Anna Magnani - Rome, Open City
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Vivian Leigh - Gone With the Wind
Judy Garland - A Star Is Born and The Clock
Katherine Hepburn - A Lion in Winter
Gena Rowlands - A Woman Under the Influence
Halle Berry - Monster's Ball
Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain
Henry Fonda - The Grapes or Wrath
Dustin Hoffman - Tootsie
Paul Newman - The Verdict
Javier Bardem - Before Night Falls
Adrien Brody - The Pianist
Elizabeth Taylor - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Ben Kingsley - Sexy Beast; Emma Thompson - Wit
Barbara Stanwyck in "The Lady Eve" and "Stella Dallas"
Gene Hackman completely blew me away in THE CONVERSATION, the first time I saw it. One of those moments where I left the theater in a daze. His isolation, his solitude, his insistent loneliness, his self-sufficiency despite his quiet desparation. . .
Another performance that feels more and more emotionally risky to me every time I see it is Malcolm McDowell in CLOCKWORK ORANGE. His ability to get you to care about him despite the ruinous violence he inflicts on other people; the way he's able to show you how out-of-control he feels once he's been re-programmed to be sickened by violence: a really moving performance.
A lot of your are simply listing performances you like. But I think the OP's question is: performances where they actor took huge emotional risks that really knocked you out. Or actors who were willing to go way way out there - either in comedy or drama - to the point where you yourself felt at risk.
Sean Penn in SWEET AND LOWDOWN (though not in MILK, which is, in my opinion, a gay minstrel show and a very bad film).
Lily Tomlin in NASHVILLE.
Bette Davis and Jimmy Cagney, early in their careers.
Hattie McDaniel in ALICE ADAMS. McDaniel doesn't get the props she deserves for her genius comic timing and her razor sharp irony.
Thanks r209 for a very intelligent post.
Bette Davis in MR. SKEFFINGTON. She ages herself like 30 years in the movie. It was eerie how she managed to speak in the "old" voice she would eventually have later in her life.
Terry Kiser in Weekend at Bernie's.
F. Murray Abraham in Amadeus.
Danny Bolye's Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch
The Clown in Poltergeist
Kevin Costner in The Big Chill.
Tracy Letts and Amy Morton
WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRIGNIA WOOLF?
Part 1 of overlong list
Sophia Loren - Two Women
Giulietta Masina - La Strada
Emily Watson - Breaking the Waves
Gena Rowlands - A Woman Under the Influence
Liv Ullmann - Face To Face
Jessica Lange - Frances
Kathy Bates - Misery
Isabelle Huppert - The Piano Teacher
Charlize Theron - Monster
Marion Cotillard - La vie en rose
Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Mo’Nique - Precious
Robert De Niro - Raging Bull
Robert De Niro - Taxi Driver
Peter Finch - Network
Daniel Day-Lewis - My Left Foot
John Hurt - The Elephant Man
Sean Penn - Dead Man Walking
Bruno Ganz - Downfall
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Capote
Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain
Ulrich Mühe - The Lives of Others
Emile Hirsch - Into the Wild
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler
Colin Firth - A Single Man
I was struggling to think of male ones and I'm certainly not one of those gays who just like actresses and female entertainers cliche, something I never understood. Of course
at their best they're equal.
The men seem more consistent, but then they get the best roles. The women don't tend to in Hollywood and get generic ones. Villain roles are fun, so it's great when a female gets one.
You're more likely though to see all the suffering, pain, breakdowns and crying in female roles and emotion which gays identify with. I think that was the explanation for why the gays go for women anyway.
Kim Hye-ja - Mother
Ronee Blakley - Nashville
Angelica Houston - The Grifters
David Ruger - Teenage Angst (2008)
How can a performance be a huge emotional risk?
R220 Mother is one I need to see. I made a major mistake when I chose going to see the dull as ditchwater The Maid over that.
Nashville remains stubbornly region 1, but I need to get it. Heard so much about Blakley.
Here's one that hasn't been mentioned and also Altman: Shelley Duvall in 3 Women. And also her or at least Nicholson in The Shining.
r211, may I just say that I find Bette Davis's performance in MR. SKEFFINGTON deeply unwatchable? OMGawd!, her fake little-girl voice. It's the voice she uses for Baby Jane 20 years later, except SKEFFINGTON is not a fright film! I maintain that she gives the same performance in SKEFFINGTON and BABY JANE, and it only works in one of them. In one of them, in fact, it's genius. But in SKEFFINGTON, it's agony. In any case, Davis had just killed her second husband, I believe - Farny, Arthur Farnsworth, whom she brained in their New England home or maybe it was on the railroad platform in New Mexico. . . I love Bette Davis, she is one of the great artists of the 20th century, in my small opinion, but SKEFFINGTON is a disaster.
(By the way, I also think that she gives the same performance in ALL ABOUT EVE that she gave the year before in BEYOND THE FOREST. Again, it's genius in one and appalling in the other. Proof that an artist needs the right frame for her work.)
r222, watch Jack Lemmon in almost anything - he goes way out there, tries every comic and dramatic extreme, risks failure, sometimes in fact fails, isn't ashamed of what comes out of him or how he comes across. . . Watch Glenda Jackson in THE MUSIC LOVERS, an irresistibly appalling Ken Russell film, get a load of her scene on the train after she and Richard Chamberlain gets married and she tries to seduce him and fails, imagine Jackson's audacity in allowing herself to look so needy and repulsive. . . Watch, for that matter, Streisand singing "My Man" at the end of FUNNY GIRL, and awful film, but Streisand rips the skin off that song and shows its veins, you can feel her talking straight to her awful step-dad, her dead biological dad, her withholding mom, all the men who made her feel ugly and yet whose love she desperately wanted when she was a kid. . .
Did anyone already mention Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People?
[quote]How can a performance be a huge emotional risk?
It can't. That's just actor-y bullshit that comes from the likes of Paltrow and Hathaway and now the general public believes.
Timothy Spall in the Stephen Poliakoff 2001 TV production, "Perfect Strangers." Spall plays an almost relentlessly ebullient character who, in one scene, reveals that his image is pure fabrication. He's scene-stealing as the too jolly fat man, but brilliant when he sheds the act.
It's a short scene, but beautifully done, and it always stick with me as an example of acting that's arrestingly good.
Someone said this earlier, but Lynn Redgrave's short monologue at the end of "Kinsey" (which makes up her entire performance) is heartbreaking and beautifully wrought. I always thought she should've gotten a Beatrice Straight-style nomination for it. I'll never forget it.
Bruno Ganz in "Wings of Desire" and "Marquise d'O"
[quote]Muriel's mother in Muriel's Wedding.
[quote]Ronee Blakley - Nashville
[quote]Angelica Houston - The Grifters
Jeanie Drynan is the actress that played Betty Heslop in Muriel's Wedding, and yes this was one of the most heartbreaking performances ever put on film. Muriels Wedding flirts with perfection and Jeanie Drynan hit a home run. Thanks for bringing up this AH-Mazing performance
r227, did you not read my post?
Paltrow has never given a "risky" performance, if you ask me. Though I liked her in that movie that JJL and Alan Cumming made, with all those actors: Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, Phoebe Cates (her one really good performance), Jane Adams, Dennis O'Hare, John Benjamin Hickey. . . Right, *The Anniversary Party*. Forgot the name. Paltrow was fun in that. Not "risky," though.
I wish that Warners had stuck to the original premise of the novel "Mr. Skeffington" was based on, in which Mrs. Skeffington, on the advice of a therapist, comes to terms with losing her beauty by visiting all her old lovers in order to see in their faces how she's changed. Bette Davis might have had fun with that. Instead they made it all about what an idiot she is and how her husband (who barely appears in the novel) is a saint to put up with her. I usually love Bette Davis-Claude Rains films because they're such a couple of little spitfires but this one is no fun at all.
Goop was great in Hard Eight, very much cast against type.
[quote]It can't. That's just actor-y bullshit that comes from the likes of Paltrow and Hathaway and now the general public believes.
Thank you for posting this, R227. I'm sick of the crap actors feed the public about their "work."
Shawn Hatosy - Soldier's Girl
[quote]I usually love Bette Davis-Claude Rains films because they're such a couple of little spitfires but this one is no fun at all.
Vincent Sherman said that Bette was incredibly difficult on the set, arguing about everything. Rains told Sherman that he didn't have any idea what was the matter with her--he had never known her to be this temperamental.
r239 - Didn't her husband die, either while filming or shortly before filming started.
I should have looked on wiki before posting..
[quote]In August 1943, Davis's husband, Arthur Farnsworth, collapsed while walking along a Hollywood street and died two days later. An autopsy revealed that his fall had been caused by a skull fracture he had suffered two weeks earlier. Davis testified before an inquest that she knew of no event that might have caused the injury. A finding of accidental death was reached. Highly distraught, Davis attempted to withdraw from her next film Mr. Skeffington (1944); but Jack Warner, who had halted production following Farnsworth's death, convinced her to continue. Although she had gained a reputation for being forthright and demanding, her behavior during filming of Mr. Skeffington was erratic and out of character.
I've watched a lot of movies and I have a lot of favorite performances, but left me in awe? I can think of a handful.
One that no one has mentioned yet--
David Thewlis in Mike Leigh's 'Naked'. Fucking amazing. My jaw was literally hanging open when the film finished. One of the most desperate, thrilling, and soul-crushing performances I've seen in the last 20 years.
I'll also throw in my vote for Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves. But then von Trier seems to create these roles for women where they have to just rip themselves open emotionally. I thought Kirsten Dunst was pretty brilliant in 'Melancholia', too.
Christopher Walken in 'The Deer Hunter'--His Nick still rips my heart out every time I watch him break down in the hospital.
Giulietta Masina in Nights of Cabiria (still haven't seen La Strada, though).
Robert De Niro in Raging Bull--always loved him, ever since I watched Taxi Driver as a teenager..but for some reason, I avoided watching Raging Bull for the longest time.
By the time I finally saw it some twenty years after its release, it pretty much devastated me for weeks. That scene in the jail cell was like watching my father. Completely crushed me.
As for Meryl--well, I've been in awe of her since I was a fifteen year old drama student. All of her early stuff just amazed me.
And this was mentioned way back at the beginning of the thread, but
[quote]Julianne Moore in "Safe" (another great final scene--the scene right after where she stands in front of the mirror and talks to her reflection)
I can't watch that and not break down into sobs. So real and so honest a moment.
Lisa Kudrow in The Comeback. I am not sure if it has been mentioned or not. I wasn't a huge fan of hers on Friends and it wasn't until I saw her in this show and specifically this scene, that I realized that wow, she is a serious actress.
Just prior to this, she has been stopped by the security guards because she set off the metal detector when entering the studio.
Emma Thompson and Justin Kirk in Angels in America. Everyone in the film is amazing but those two really stand out.
Eamon Walker in Oz.
I agree with many that have already been listed but I won't rehash them. A few more:
Kate Nelligan in Without a Trace. A very carefully modulated performance that avoids the expected schmaltz.
Tony Leung in Lust, Caution. Probably his finest performance to date, and that's really saying something.
Eddie Redmayne and (especially) Julianne Moore in Savage Grace.
Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Liaisons.
Paul Muni in I Am a Fugitive From Chain Gang. Muni doesn't seem to be well - remembered today, but he was one of the best actors of his day, right up there with March and Cagney. His last line is haunting.
"Angela Basset in What's Love Got To DO With It"
I lose it every time she walks in to the hotel, covered in blood, and the hotel clerk is all "Of course, Miss Turner"
She escaped - and the message was, without any racial overtones, that YOU CAN ESCAPE because, no matter how beaten down, how alone you think you are, there are decent, nice people out there...
I can't believe how many of my favorite movies have been mentioned in this thread. Bravo, boys!
That said, don't forget Jennifer Connelly in Requiem for a Dream, and for House of Sand and Fog, along with Shohreh Aghdashloo. Almost everyone in that movie left me devastated; I was really surprised that it was not nominated for more awards.
And I want to add Vanessa Redgrave in Playing for Time. The commercial I linked is cheesy, but the movie -- and her performance -- was incredible.
Patti LuPone in Gypsy. Whatever her baggage, big star, big voice, big part, big show. It was fantastic, if not perfect.
I also have a lasting impression of Tracie Bennett in Over the Rainbow. I still recall the phenomenal energy coming out of the woman during her performances (saw it in London and New York.)
Deon Lotz in the South African film "Beauty". A MUST SEE for all the elder gays out there. It is streaming on Netflix and this guy gives one of the most shocking, powerful performances I have ever seen. DO NOT read the reviews on Netflix as they contain spoilers. It is a tough film but totally worth it. Amazing!
This is a great thread. So many reminders of performances that I also appreciate.
A few that I don't but nice to see that it's OK to be passionate about things on DL other than red weirdos and Bomer's ass.
All my favourites have been listed, but I will add one.
Sandy Dennis left me in some kind of fascinated awe in Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.
Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence.
The scene at the dinner table when she tries in vain to get her father to acknowledge her is heartbreaking.
I suck at these kinds of questions as I have just a terrible memory for movies. All I can do is name favorite films and say why I enjoyed them.
Emma Thompson in "Wit." What a performance. It ripped me apart.
"Last of the Mohicans," one of my all-time favorite movies, specifically for the scene where Magua kills Uncas and Cora jumps off the cliff. The scene was so taut and riveting. Danriel Day Lewis is in that movie, btw. It's hard to credit any one actor in that climactic scene; the editing and the music has a lot to do with the scene's success. But it is one of my favorite movie moments. You really can't go wrong with a DDL movie.
I thought Mary Stuart Masterson was awesome in "Fried Green Tomatoes." The movie had issues but she was perfect in that role and the whole reason for watching that movie.
Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men".
Diane Lane in "Unfaithful." Also in "Under a Tuscan Sun." I hated her and thought "Tuscan Sun" would be this treacly schmaltz fest. Then I accidentally watched it and it made me a Diane Lane fan. Who knew?
There are many others, of course...
Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained
Steve Zahn in Rescue Dawn
Adam Goldberg in Saving Private Ryan
Meryl Streep in The Hiding Place
Denzel Washington in Glory
Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Kevin Costner in A Perfect World
Anne Bancroft in 'Night Mother
Jane Fonda in The Doll Maker
Vanessa Redgrave in Julia
I did not mean Meryl Streep in The Hiding Place; I was thinking of her in The Holocaust
Jessica Lange as Frances Farmer. Brilliant.
Since this thread was bumped, does anyone want to do this...
Have any performances left anyone in awe, because of how bad they were? If so, what are they?
Great choice, R243. That show was brilliant and that moment was beautiful. Shocking to see that it's only a minute and a half long . Never watched FRIENDS and hated ROMY AND MICHELLE'S REUNION but I became a big Kudrow fan after this show.
Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.
A couple of other performances that blow my mind
Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station
Sissy Spacek in Coal Miners' Daughter
Cathy Burns in "Last Summer" (1969).
Miranda Richardson in Damage
Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront
Deborah Kerr in Edward, My Son
Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection
Emma Thompson in Remains of the Day
Paul Newman in The Verdict
Dirk Bogarde in The Servant
Laurence Olivier in Sister Carrie
Liv Ullmann in Autumn Sonata
Cate Blanchett in Notes on a Scandal
Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal
Katharine Hepburn in Lion in Winter
r265 Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection. YES. One of those performances that really does blow you away. Sam Shepard was also great in that film.
R5, I agree. The showerhead should have gotten an Oscar that year.
The girl who was in Glitter.
Kathy Bates and Judy Parfitt in "Dolores Claiborne"
Both should have one the Oscar for their respective performance.
Oh my God! Did I just type "one" instead of "won"?!
Please, I beg your indulgence.
Leonardo Di Caprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
Jose Ferrer as Barney Greenwald in the Caine Mutiny.
Barney Fife in The Incredible Mr. Limpid (he IS the fish!)
Jeremy Piven in Old School. His portrayal of the principal just keep me on the edge of my seat.
I can't remember his name, but he did a great job playing a real flaming queer in Hairspray.
I haven't read the whole thread but I hope someone has mentioned Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive.
Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Master
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Boogie Nights
Denis Lavant - Holy Motors
Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins - Proof
Gwyneth Paltrow - Sylvia
Michelle Williams - My Week with Marylin
Javier Bardem - Perdita Durango
Robert Downey Jr - Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Robert Downey Jr - Tropic Thunder
Marisa Thomei - The Wrestler
Sam Rockwell - Moon
Sam Rockwell - Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
r186 A hat tip to you for mentioning Angela Lansbury in "The Manchurian Candidate." Cold, calculating and relentless. Her speech to Laurence Harvey revealing what a manipulative bitch she is, was absolutely draining. Philip Seymour Hoffman is a great actor, but I haven't seen many of his films.His scene in "Flawless" (don't throw things) when he's trying to get away from his would-be killers was amazing, and left me exhausted. THAT, my friends, was awe.
Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. I can see why they thought he was ruining the movie during production. The whole first time watching it I was laughing so hard but at the same time blown away and confused by the whole thing.
Sal Mineo and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Christopher Waltz in Inglorious Basterds.
Judi Dench in "Amy's View" onstage - amazing
Judi Dench on film in "Iris" and "Notes on a Scandal"
Maggie Smith in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie."
Jessica Lange in "Frances"
Vanessa Redgrave in "Julia."
Emma Thompson, "Howard's End"
Liam Neeson "Schindler's List"
Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo in Hotel Rwanda
Ralph Fiennes "The English Patient"
Julianne Moore in "The End of the Affair"
Juliette Binoche in "Blue" "The English Patient" and "Chocolat"
Denzel W in Glory and Flight
Vivien Leigh in Streetcar
Viola Davis in The Help
Anthony Hopkins in Equus on stage
Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs
Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce in LA Confidential
Michelle Yeoh in Crouching Tiger and Memoirs of a Geisha
R281, you have too much free time on your hands.
Meredith Baxter in A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story. Parts One and Two. Seriously, she was SPECTACULAR.
When I need motivation at work, I watch his ABC speech, r262.
281 Nailed it for the Women:
Vanessa Redgrave Julia
Jessica Lange Frances
Maggie Smith Prime of Miss Jean Brody
Angela Bassett Whats Love Got to do with IT ---ROBBED
Glenda Jackson Elizabeth
Judy Davis Judy Garland Bio Pic
Jane Fonda Klute
I will add Quevenzahne Wallis because she CARRIED that film.
A lot of performances that ripped me apart have been mentioned.
Recently, Fassbender in "Shame" and "Hunger", Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain" and "Monster's Ball".
No one has mentioned Raul Julia and William Hurt in "Kiss of the Spider Woman" which wrecked me at the time.
Ralph Fiennes in "Sunshine".
Clive Owen in "Bent".
Tilda Swinton in "Orlando".
Valérie Quennessen in "Summer Lovers" She simply mesmerized me.
The actor who played the father in Beasts of the Southern Wild. He's not even an actor, he prefers cooking.
Sheryl Lee in Fire Walk With Me,
Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive,
Al Pacino in The Godfather 2,
Robert De Niro in Godfather 2 and Taxi Driver,
Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire
A lot of you in awe of some random ass shit
Vanessa Redgrave/Glenda Jackson scene in "Mary, Queen of Scots"
Patty Duke as Helen Keller in the Miracle Worker
After Saturday, I can now add this name to my list:
Lupita Nyong'o in [italic]12 Years a Slave[/italic]
Truly one of the best screen performances I've ever seen.
Samantha Morton in Morvern Callar
Naomi Watts in "Funny Games".
Did I miss it, or did no one mention the kid in My Left Foot? Sure DDL was great in that, but the kid who played the younger version of him was amazing!
I think Jake in Brokeback Mountain was better in every scene than Heath with one exception: Heath finding the shirts. Don't agree? Who's line is the most quoted? Jake's: I don't know how to quit you.
Liza Minelli in "Cabaret". Those final moments in the title song where her dancing gets choppy and you can see the sadness and resignation in her face even though she's smiling. Brilliant.
Monroe in "Bus Stop" and "The Misfits".
Just about everyone in "Gosford Park" but especially Eileen Atkins, Maggie Smith, Scott Thomas and Tom Hollander.
Eileen Atkins in anything, really.
Mo'Nique in "Precious"
Meryl, Amy Adams and Viola in "Doubt"
Brando in "Streetcar"
Nancy Marchand in "The Sopranos"
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "Mysterious Skin"
Viola Davis in "Doubt"
Kathy Bates in "Misery"
Kevin Spacey in "Seven"
Denzel Washington in "Glory"
Joaquin Phoenix in "Two Lovers"
Susan Sarandon in "Dead Man Walking"
Lupita Nyong'o in "12 Years A Slave"
Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.
I agree with Anthony Hopkins. The acting in Breaking Bad is probably the best acting ever, especially when you consider they had to keep those performances fresh for so many years.
Bryan Cranston as Tim Whatley, the regifting Jewish joke-telling dentist.
Rosie Perez in Fearless. A full throttle dramatic role where she drops all of her tired mannerisms. One of the best performances ever filmed.
Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie in Carrie. My jaw never left the floor.
Years ago, American Playhouse (I believe it was) produced a production of "The Old Settler" starring Phyllicia Rashad and Debbie Allen. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G performances!
Emily Blunt was the standout performance in Devil wears Prada!
RDJ in Chaplin, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Tropic Thunder
Beatrice Strait in NETWORK. One scene and I think she won the Oscar.
Any other once scene knock out performances out there?
Meryl Streep in [italic]Angels in America[/italic]
R305 this is a joke, right?
Rod Steiger in every movie I've seen him in.
Eleanor Parker in all of her films I've seen. She is a chameleon like Steiger.
Jessica Lange in Frances and American Horror Story (I also love her in King Kong :D "You goddamn chauvinist pig ape!") She has always done fury so well.
Betty White in Lake Placid.
R312, Rosie received an Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actress for that performance. That fact alone doesn't mean hers one of the best performances of all time but obviously R305 isn't the only one who appreciated it.
Well pardon me. But it was a great performance. Maybe here's one people can agree on. EVERYONE in Passion Fish. God I love that movie.
Here's another one that will piss you off. Mae Whitman as Sandra Bullock's daughter in Hope Floats.
Brando's Stanley Kowalski so gets to me I can watch ASND only once every 5 or so years because it drains me for days.
I don't see Brando. I see, hear and feel Kowalski; the subhuman who seems as though 10,000 years just passed him by.
I'll echo R295 to cite Lupita Nyong'o's performance in "12 Years A Slave." Simply an astounding piece of acting.
I know the show is kinda shit but James Spader did an amazing thing in last week's episode of Blacklist.
The "Parable of the Farmer" will be one of the most overlooked, unrecognized television performances of this year.
I hope there are more moments like this.
Geraldine Page in Interiors. Raw. Toxic. Memorable.
Sandy Dennis kind of left me stupefied in Come Back to The Five and Dime...
(If her performance IS all ticks and tricks - still she is more fascinating than Streep has ever been.)
I think she reveals something mysterious and ordinary and hysterically human. It is a stagey film, but she is as real as dirt in the wind. It's all fake. High wire stuff.
julie christie in anything she has ever done.
Janet Jackson in all her movies.
Another vote for Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland , where he apparently captured Idi Amin so completely that the Ugandan crew got freaked out every time he came on set. But Whitaker is one of those true actors who simply inhabits his roles -- I think that's why he was overlooked so long at awards time: watching him, you forget he's acting.
Another one like that is Jeff Bridges, whose performance in a small film called American Heart really impressed me. He must have filmed that one right after Lebowski, and did a complete 180: not only a physical transformation from flabby toker to ripped ex-con, but also an emotional turnaround from laid-back to raw. (Edward Furlong is in that movie too; it must have been right before he went off the rails.)
And although Liam Neeson was very good in Schindler's List, the breakout performance from that movie was surely Ralph Fiennes, as the psychopathic concentration camp overseer. He was absolutely riveting, and stole the movie IMO.
I'm shocked by the levels of poor taste here. Gwyneth in Sylvia? My God
She's quite gauche, but Swank in Boys Don't Cry...
Nicole Kidman in Moulin rouge!! ... no I'm just fucking kidding. How about Renee zellweger in Chicago??!!
Brando in WATERFRONT.
Fonda in KLUTE.
Jessica Hecht in that Richard Greenberg play.
Zach Quinto in GLASS MENAGERIE
LuPone & Esparza & Szot & Norbert Butz in recent musicals.
Bette Davis, always & forever
R324 that's amazing about Whitaker as Idi Amin. Are there any articles or accounts of that, the Ugandan crew being terrified of him? I want to read about it
Im sure someone mentioned it above (I was too friggin' lazy to read the whole thread) but De Havilland in THE HEIRESS.
Sigourney Weaver in Death and the Maiden, disturbing movie, be in a good mood if you want to watch it. Ben Kingsley co-stars.
Ewen MacGregor in Moulin Rouge
Toni Colette in Muriel's Wedding: First she put on something like 50 pounds to prepare for the role. And then this 3 minutes scene, uncut, unedited, where she starts stone cold serious, then has a huge fit of giggles and end up in tears, wailing like a baby. Oh wow!
I ab-so-freaking-lutely HATED "Muriel's Wedding" who most other fagz adore!
Muriels's Wedding is one small scene short of being the perfect motion picture.
Donna Pesco in anything
Another vote for andrew garfield in never let me go truly heartbreaking and also javier bardem in no country for old men he was perfectly psychotic.
Eddie Murphy in Pluto Nash
Rosie Perez in Peter Weir's film, Fearless. Never would have guessed that she had that in her! Breathtakingly moving. Unlike anything I've seen her in, bod ore or since!
Christian Bale, American Psycho
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Holly Hunter, The Piano
Gérard Depardieu, Cyrano
Most things with Patrick Dewaere
Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
Most things with DDL but Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father
The actor who played the devastated husband of Julie Christie's Alzheimer's plagued character in "Away From Her."
Michael Fassbender's penis in "Shame"
Jill Clayburgh in AN UNMARRIED WOMAN.
Heath Ledger in Brokeback Moutain
Dirk Bogarde, "Death in Venice."
The entire cast of the original "Lord of the Flies."
Ivan Jandl, the little boy in Montgomery Clift's "The Search."
Susan Hayward, "I Want to Live."
Sorry 319, James Spader in that BLACKOUT monologue delivers a performance that any one of a thousand reasonably trained actor could do in acting class. He's James Spader so, of course, it must be considered brilliant when it is, in fact, quite pedestrian. This thread is for awe-inspiring performances, not audition monologues competently delivered.
Leonardo DiCaprio was stunning in "Blood Diamonds"; lost "Best Actor" to Forrest Whitaker.
Kerry Fox and Mark Rylance (whom you might know from his stage work: he's won two leading actor Tonys since this performance) in "Intimacy". This film also is one of the few non-porn works in which the lead actress is shown taking the lead actor's penis into her mouth.
The two leads in "Blue is the Warmest Color". The sex scenes are the worst thing in it, but I could watch those two actresses (with their clothes on!)do scenes together for another three hours.
Carmen Maura in Almodóvar's "Law of Desire". For those who are familiar mainly with his later work she also played the mother in "Volver".
Can anyone explain Halle Berry in 'Monster's Ball'? I thought she was camptastic - especially when she raged on her little fat son for stashing the candy bars.
It's like watching Mink Stole in 'Desperate Living' without the benefits of Edie Massey and John Waters.
Frances McDormand in [italic]Fargo[/italic].
Tim Curry in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.
Everyone in "Wendy and Lucy" including the dog.
Everyone in "Take Shelter" including the extras.
Kylie Minogue in "Holy Motors"--small part but total amazing revelation which eliminates any memory of her earlier acting attempts over the years.
Ann Dowd and Dreama Walker in "Compliance". It was good to see a young ingenue like Dreama keep pace with a seasoned pro like Ann.
Barbara Stanwyck in ALL I DESIRE
Watch this scene with Sandra Bullock and Elizabeth Perkins (who is wonderful in just about everything) in 28 DAYS.
Bullock is an alcoholic in rehab who is estranged from her older sister (Perkins). Perkins has left a rehab-mandated intervention in disgust. Their mother, an alcoholic, died when they were both small children.
I'd always enjoyed Bullock but thought she was pretty lightweight until this movie.
Anne Hathaway deserves her spot.
I decided to watch that clip, and cried like a baby at the end. Heath Ledger was amazing too.
I agree with so many of these posts. .. Just reading some of them brings tears to my eyes.
Dianne Weisst sp? in INDEPENDENCE DAY, not to be confused with that alient feature.
Kim Stanley in THE GODDESS and SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON
Jane Fonda in THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY? and THE DOLL MAKER
ANN-MARGRET in CARNAL KNOWLEDGE
LIZA MINNELLI in THE STERILE CUCKOO
CLORIS LEACHMAN in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW
MARION COTILLARD in PIAF
GREGORY PECK,ROBERT DUVALL and MARY BADFORD in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
ANNE BANCROFT and PATTY DUKE in THE MIRACLE WORKER
PETER O'TOOLE in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
MONTGOMERY CLIFT in A PLACE IN THE SUN
EVERYONE in Robert Altman's NASHVILLE
MIA FARROW and RUTH GORDON in ROSEMARY'S BABY
and finally.... FABIAN, not for his performance but for his body and shirtless scenes in any of his movies ;)
I KNOW, R359-
I have read the first 100...and just CAN'T!
When these people do this, open themselves up like this, show human pain like this...that is one of the beauties of human freedom (capitalism)- the ability to expose ourselves without worrying about the consequences.
Another vote for Charlize Theron "Monster". The scene where she kills the guy after finding the picture of him and his wheelchair bound wife tore me apart. You could tell the character hated what she was doing, but still could not stop herself. To this day when I think of that scene I get goosebumps.
Lili Taylor in I Shot Andy Warhol. With in the first two minutes she was on the screen, I remember thinking, "I've met people like this. People like this are dangerous." She had that character so down, it was really amazing to watch.
Derek Jacobi-"I Claudius"
Sian Phillips-"I Claudius"
Bette Davis-" Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?"
Humphrey Bogart- "The Caine Mutiny" "The Harder They Fall"
Natasha Richardson in the 1998 Sam Mendes/ Rob Marshall revival of CABARET @Roundabout Theatre Company.
She was brilliant,devastating,sad... a total nervous breakdown on stage.
Richard Burton, "Night of the Iguana."
Paul Scofield, "A Man For All Seasons."
Audie Murphy, "The Red Badge of Courage."
The entire cast of "A Streetcar Named Desire."
And for damn sheer beauty, Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, "Romeo and Juliet."
R363: "I, Claudius" was porn for people with a brain.
That's how it should be done. Not a show about pretty music, Richardson was fantastic.
I adore Marion Cotillard's Edith Piaf in La Vi'en Rose. I was speechless. Awestruck. She just rips your heart out. "Marcel!!!"
Barbara Stanwyck in The Thorn Birds. The whole project was perfect but this three minute scene is about as good as an actress can get.
Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls.
Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.
Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf.
Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List.
Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln.
Halle Berry, Heath Ledger in Monster's Ball.
Charlize Theron owns this thread.
HM: Halle Berry in Monsters Ball
Kelly Preston in her marriage to John Travolta.
Julianne Moore in "Magnolia"
Bette Davis: "Jezebel"
James Cagney: "Angels with Dirty Faces"
Marlon Brando: "On the Waterfront"
Hugh Dancy in the play, "Journey's End"
There's many more, but these popped up first in my mind.
Vanessa Redgrave in "Loves of Isadora." Damn, but she was magnificent.
I try to discount great writing/directing, whch can make a good actor appear better than they are. I watch soaps a lot, and sometimes you get to see future stars in the "minor leagues," and it's always fun to see them when they're giving their all to move ehad in their career, for so many minutes each day, knowing that they often have only a day to rehearse, and one take to film.
Recently, I thought Sonjia Kinsski turned "Diamond On Vinyl" into a classic indie film. Without her I'd have been bored in seconds. The film has done well at festivals and Sonjia seems to have the talent everyone kept trying to pin on her mother.
On the soaps, I remember disliking Demi Moore's work on GH as much as I would dislike her films, yet wonder how she ever made it to films. Generally on soaps, I'm most impressed when an actor delivers a mistake-free, nuanced performance of material that most of his or her peers would have butchered. It's not dazzling acting to the untrained eye, but any producer or director can see the talent that will carry the actor to the next level.
Sometimes an over-the-top performance, like Craig T. Nelson in "The Skulls," or Denzel Washington in "Training Day," can be awe-inspiring. Sharon Stone in "Casino" is an example of what I consider someone performing way above their norm; her only really great work, just like Kim Basinger in LA Confidential.
On television, Stana Katic ran for a touchdown with "Mistress" Kate Beckett, while Emma Bell was so strong on Dallas she's become one of the leads or near-leads; I'd give a slight nod to Bell here due to her having less to work with, i.e., not a great character.
Sometimes I respect an actor who does more with a script than the writing warrants. Watch Kristin Davis in "Blacktop" against Meat Loaf for someone giving her all when she had every reason not to. For a more famous actor and performance, Burgess Meredith's Mickey in Rocky was phenomenal. From the same year, it's difficult to imagine Network without Peter Finch. Peter Falk's turn in The In-Laws in 1979 made that film as well.
For "awe," I think the soaps are the place to go, because it's shocking when soeone doesn't totally fuck up. Below is a link to a scene from GH where sixteen year-old Lexi Ainsworth, a rookie, takes over an emotionally charged scene with Maurice Benard. The scene wasn't a writing standout, but everything from her body language, to voice tone, to timing, were all stellar, when most soapies would have waved their armsw like traffic cops and screamed like the female victim in a Lifetime Movie. Not surprsingly, Lexi is now making films and has done a pilot for ABC. Right now on GH I'd say Bryan Craig (Morgan), Perry Shen (Brad), and Kristen Alderson (Kiki) are most likely to graduate to prime time.
It's hard to define what makes a great performance, or a performance which signals a great actor. That's my concept, and I'm sure many won't agree with it, but it works for me.
Lol@376, are you for real? Stana katic, meat loaf, Kristen Davis, Burgess Meredith? I'm pissing my fucking pants over here!!
glenn close in fatal attraction. i was left speechless as a teen.
R376, um, what?
That entire post seemed like it was copied and pasted from a soap opera message board.
I forgot all about Peter O' Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. He was Lawrence.
David Thewlis in Naked. Incredible.
Richard Grant and Richard Griffiths in Withnail & I.
Plus the incredible juxtaposition of Daniel Day Lewis in My Beautiful Laundrette contrasted with A Room With a View.
Dustin Hoffman in Death of a Salesman (1985)
Glenda Jackson in ELIZABETH R
Kathleen Turner in WAR OF THE ROSES
Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy.
Pacino and Cazale in Dog Day Afternoon
Laurie Metcalf in Making Mr. Right. Comedic roles often get over looked but this performance should not be missed.
I scanned this thread. I think only 1 or 2 mentions of Cate Blanchett - for shame !
Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, The Shipping News and a zillion other films.
Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain and Monsters Ball.
Ralph Fiennes from Schlindler's List.
Something more recent: Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad. So good.
Philip Seymour Hoffman in anything.
Meryl Streep in Doubt and some other things (sometimes she has been too mannered though).
R243 Great scene, Lisa Kudrow was fantastic on that show.
More votes here for Brenda Blethyn (Secrets and Lies), Ulrich Muhe (The Lifes of Others), Toni Collette (Muriel's Wedding), Meryl Streep (A Cry in the Dark, Sophie's Choice) and Forest Whitaker (Last King of Scotland)
I'll add Delphine Seyrig in "Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles"