Top 25 Acting Performances of 2013

20. Daniel Brühl-Niki Lauda (Rush)

Rush was a fun film and a thrilling one. If something is to be taken away from it, aside from the well directed driving scenes, it’s Daniel Brühl’s mesmerizing take on formula one racer Niki Lauda. Conflicted by jealousy and rage, Brühl makes Lauda a villainous character at first. Like all good villains, Lauda ends up having pathos. We begin to feel sorry for him and understand where he is coming from, and luckily Brühl never took Lauda too far so he is easy to reel back in. When the film progresses and we see what is to come of Lauda, we are then prepared emotionally for the impact to work effectively. We get a good understanding of Niki Lauda as a racer and as a person, and Daniel Brühl’s ability to teeter between likable and deceitful is a very big highlight that makes Rush all the more thrilling.

19. Tom Hanks-Richard Phillips (Captain Philips)

You’d think that Tom Hanks’s best role of 2013 would have been his role as Walt Disney in the Mary Poppins film Saving Mr. Banks. Instead, it’s his role as the commanding officer Richard Philips that blew everyone away the most– and it’s for good reason. To be able to tell when someone is confident and when someone is truly scared simply by their expression and not how they fool people with their words takes talent, and it’s talent that Hanks clearly has. Keep in mind that the very first time Philips sees the Somali pirates, it’s the first time Tom Hanks saw these actors on set. He stayed in character and commanded the scene despite not being fully aware of what he was facing. The bridge of the movie has Hanks taking charge in an extremely small area without moving an inch for most of the time he’s in the capsule. The end of the movie has Philips’s emotional release that he bottled up for the entire movie, and it is this moment that reminds us that Tom Hanks can easily get to our hearts at any second: He’s just the master of knowing when to do so.

18. Hugh Jackman-Keller Dover (Prisoners)

What Keller faces is a nightmare no parent wants to face. Hugh Jackman faces it head on. The stagnant period where he has to wait to know who has kidnapped his daughter has Keller with rage stirring inside of him. As the film goes on and the investigation has a lead and a misfire, Hugh Jackman accurately has Keller turn into a monster. Can you blame him? I certainly sided with him– for the most part. It’s when the film gets into its darker territories that Jackman’s work is at its best– when Keller goes over the line and becomes the very man he was wanting to find. He is on the border of being a villain but it’s the visceral passion of Jackman’s that reminds us why he is doing all of this in the first place. We never forget what is at stake. Thus, Jackman faced not only one of the worst events imaginable but he faced it with a very twisted outcome, and he does all of this with ease. It’s movies like Prisoners that remind me what Hugh Jackman is truly capable of.

17. Luminita Gheorghu-Cornelia Keneres (Child’s Pose)

Gheorghu is a tour de force in this Golden Bear winning film about a man who kills a kid while speeding. She plays his mother Cornelia: A well off, popular and respected woman. You can see she has a sense of power at the start of the film when everything is fine, as people bask in her presence and she welcomes it all in. When the accident happens, her actual control is taken into question. She has no idea how to approach the situation, and the confusion and dread is splattered right across her face. She often stares down because it is one of the few times she has been unable to look people directly in the eyes, and when she does, her vulnerability opens up. Having such a commanding person suffer with such doubts and lack of direction adds a whole new depth to the film, and it makes her reactions, whether sensible or not, make perfect sense.

16.  Bruce Dern-Woody Grant (Nebraska)

It takes a lot of effort to be able to pull off the kind of leading characters Alexander Payne is used to writing. It’s why most of these roles go to acting greats, including Jack Nicholson (About Schmidt), Paul Giamatti (Sideways), George Clooney (The Descendants), and now veteran actor Bruce Dern. Dern plays a man who thinks he has won the lottery and stubbornly refuses to believe otherwise. He is a bit off, but he is never seen as senile. Dern cleverly makes Woody Grant just someone blinded by the American Dream, so his inability to listen to his son’s sensibilities (Will Forte) seem natural. We’ve all been related to that kind of person who just will not listen to you, and it usually is annoying. Dern makes this kind of person sympathetic. He may give ugly stares and he may grunt a lot, but deep down Grant is a softy who just wants to believe that something right is happening for once, and it is Bruce Dern’s acting that makes this dream a reality for us.

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.