Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Top 100 Performances of All Time (Updated)

Just over a year ago, I posted my updated top 100 performances list, so I've put together the latest version. Surprisingly, I have three new CinSpec winners (Marlon Brando in '51, Jane Wyman in '55, and Diane Keaton in '82) based on my new rankings. Check out my picks below.

Note: I limited myself to two performances per actor.

Performances that fell out of my top 100:
Tony Curtis, Sweet Smell of Success, Gloria Swanson, Sunset Blvd., Anthony Perkins, Psycho, Nicole Kidman, To Die For, Gary Oldman, State of Grace, Kirk Douglas, Ace in the Hole, Ethan Hawke, Before Sunset, Julie Delpy, Before Sunset, Jack Nicholson, Easy Rider, Natalie Portman, Closer, Roy Scheider, All That Jazz, Shelley Winters, A Place in the Sun, Meryl Streep, Sophie's Choice, Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca, Giulietta Masina, Nights of Cabiria, and Bruce Willis, Die Hard

Performances that just missed the new list:
Martin Compston, Sweet Sixteen, Léa Seydoux, Sister, Henrik Malberg, Ordet, Irène Jacob, The Double Life of Veronique, Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland, Anna Magnani, Mamma Roma, Alan Bates, The Return of the Soldier, Faye Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde, Juliette Binoche, The Lovers on the Bridge, Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Georgia, James Cagney, Man of a Thousand Faces, Grazyna Szapolowska, No End, Jean Gabin, La Bete Humaine, Charles Laughton, Sidewalks of London, Emmanuelle Béart, Un Coeur en Hiver, Mads Mikkelsen, The Hunt, Takashi Shimura, Ikiru, Ava Gardner, The Night of the Iguana, Michael Fassbender, Shame, Joaquin Phoenix, The Master, and Gene Hackman, The Conversation

100. Audrey Hepburn, Love in the Afternoon

99. Kate Winslet, Sense and Sensibility

98. Jude Law, Gattaca

97. Barbara Stanwyck, The Lady Eve

96. Denzel Washington, Malcolm X

95. Meryl Streep, The Deer Hunter

94. James Dean, Rebel Without a Cause

93. Philip Seymour Hoffman, A Most Wanted Man

92. Mia Farrow, Rosemary's Baby

91. Renato Salvatori, Rocco and His Brothers

90. Montgomery Clift, A Place in the Sun

89. Catherine Deneuve, Belle de Jour

88. Lara Belmont, The War Zone

87. Steve McQueen, The Great Escape

86. Richard Attenborough, 10 Rillington Place

85. Marcello Mastroianni, 8 1/2

84. Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

83. Michael Redgrave, The Browning Version

82. Robert Mitchum, The Night of the Hunter

81. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

80. Ana Torrent, The Spirit of the Beehive

79. Claude Rains, Notorious

78. Naomi Watts, Mulholland Drive

77. Celia Johnson, Brief Encounter

76. Marlon Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire

75. Peter Lorre, M

74. Irene Dunne, The Awful Truth

73. Brenda Blethyn, Secrets & Lies

72. Russell Crowe, Romper Stomper

71. Rod Steiger, Across the Bridge

70. Anne Dorval, Mommy

69. Zbigniew Zamachowski, Three Colors: White

68. Holly Hunter, The Piano

67. Diane Keaton, Shoot the Moon

66. Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange

65. Ralph Fiennes, Schindler's List

64. Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color

63. Ray Milland, Dial M for Murder

62. Helena Bonham Carter, The Wings of the Dove

61. Richard Burton, The Night of the Iguana

60. Anthony Hopkins, The Remains of the Day

59. David Thewlis, Naked

58. Gene Hackman, The French Connection

57. Rachel Weisz, The Deep Blue Sea

56. Peter O'Toole, Lawrence of Arabia

55. Vivien Leigh, A Streetcar Named Desire

54. Rutger Hauer, Blade Runner

53. Christopher Walken, The Deer Hunter

52. Ingrid Bergman, Autumn Sonata

51. Ray Winstone, The War Zone

50. Dustin Hoffman, Midnight Cowboy

49. Bette Davis, Now, Voyager

48. Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

47. Max von Sydow, The Seventh Seal

46. Jane Wyman, All That Heaven Allows

45. Albert Finney, Shoot the Moon

44. Gunnar Björnstrand, The Seventh Seal

43. Anna Karina, Vivre Sa Vie

42. Orson Welles, The Third Man

41. Bob Hoskins, Mona Lisa

40. James Stewart, It's a Wonderful Life

39. Katharine Hepburn, Bringing Up Baby

38. Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver

37. Gary Oldman, Sid & Nancy

36. Laura Dern, Wild at Heart

35. Nastassja Kinski, Paris, Texas

34. Cary Grant, His Girl Friday

33. Juliette Binoche, Certified Copy

32. Ruth Hussey, The Philadelphia Story

31. Mathieu Amalric, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

30. Charles Chaplin, City Lights

29. Jeanne Moreau, La Notte

28. Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda

27. Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

26. Ingrid Thulin, The Silence

25. Humphrey Bogart, The Maltese Falcon

24. Ingrid Bergman, Notorious

23. Jack Lemmon, The Apartment

22. Liv Ullman, Scenes from a Marriage

21. Harriet Andersson, Through a Glass Darkly

20. Russell Crowe, L.A. Confidential

19. Nicole Kidman, Eyes Wide Shut

18. Maria Falconetti, The Passion of Joan of Arc

17. Jack Nicholson, The Shining

16. Vivien Leigh, Waterloo Bridge

15. Robert De Niro, The Deer Hunter

14. Irène Jacob, Three Colors: Red

13. Isabelle Adjani, Possession

12. Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon

11. Elizabeth Taylor, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

10. Gena Rowlands, A Woman Under the Influence

9. Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront

8. Denis Lavant, Holy Motors

7. Liv Ullmann, Face to Face

6. James Stewart, Vertigo

5. Emily Watson, Breaking the Waves

4. Gunnar Björnstrand, Winter Light

3. Richard Burton, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

2. Bibi Andersson, Persona

1. Juliette Binoche, Three Colors: Blue


  1. Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence was a performance for the ages, great to see it in your top 10!

    I wish I knew why you loved these performances, I guess that's for another day, and another post :)

    1. Yay! LOVE that performance!

      Ha, I should do something more complete, but that'll take longer. Maybe on the next update. :)

  2. Great choices here. I really need to see some more of these Bergman (Ingmar and Ingrid) films.

  3. Of the ones I have seen, I mostly agree on their excellence. The few I didn't think belonged were because I thought there was a better performance by the same actor in a different film. The biggest for me being I like Bogart in The Treasure of Sierra Madre much more than The Maltese Falcon. Great job, overall.

    1. Thanks. Bogart is great in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but I'll always have a soft spot for his work in The Maltese Falcon. The role of Sam Spade just fits him like a glove.

  4. I've seen about 75% of these and there are so many beautiful pieces of work included.

    Some that I'm particularly happy to see on the list:

    Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve-So often Stanwyck is thought of as the hard tough dame, often heartless, of her later years and this is a wonderful reminder of her ability to be soft, feminine, bewitching and funny.

    Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter-Perhaps the most criminally undervalued actor of his generation when he was living he explores so many parts of his talent in this dark unsettling film.

    The double tip to Notorious of Ingrid Bergman & Claude Rains and their brilliance both together and separately in the film. Also Ingrid’s magnificent cinematic swan song in Autumn Sonata where she never cheated the character by trying to make her more sympathetic to the audience but showing her just as she was thereby actually garnering a true understanding of a flawed woman.

    Speaking of acting duets Albert Finney and Diane Keaton’s complex work in the underseen Shoot the Moon is like Bergman and Rains greatly complimentary to each other whether together or apart.

    The consistently brilliant Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea.

    Very glad to see Bette Davis’s soul searching Charlotte Vale singled out. Looked at superficially the film could be taken for just another weepie but there is always so much going on beneath Davis fragile veneer of new found assurance. In a film with a similar vibe Jane Wyman is doing much the same, though approaching the role from a different angle, in All That Heaven Allows.

    Yea to the acknowledgment of Ruth Hussey’s stealth stealing of The Philadelphia Story as the sly Liz Imbrie.

    But I think the one that tickles me the most is Vivien Leigh in Waterloo Bridge. I know it was the actress’s favorite film of all she made and I would assume that applied to the performance as well. It’s so delicate and exposed, it just tears at your heart.

    Also among the performances that almost made the list it was great to see Alan Bates’s amazing work in Return of the Soldier. Everybody in that film is so great, I would have included Glenda Jackson, that nursery scene! and Julie Christie watching from the window and Ann-Margret trying so hard to hide her love for her cousin. I guess I would have had a group spot for them all on my list! That’s why I’m in awe that you’re able to do this, I have so many.

    1. So glad you love these mentions! Many of these performances (Leigh, Bergman, Wyman, Weisz, Finney, Keaton, Davis, Bates) are staggering in their honesty. The emotions are so real in them.

      And Hussey gives one of my favorite supporting performances of all time. That's how you steal a movie - from three icons, no less.

      Stanwyck is a delight in The Lady Eve. I can't complain about her Oscar nom for Ball of Fire that year, though. What a year she had!

      Mitchum's performance is amazing. His voice, particularly his singing, makes that portrayal even more effective.

      I can't wait to discover more performances to add to the list.

  5. Wow! Spectacular list. I haven't seen any of your top 5 :\

    1. Thanks! Hope you get a chance to check them out.

  6. OMG, this is a great idea for a list AND an amazing list, Josh! I don't think I could even do this as I haven't even seen any on your top 5 (shame on me!)

    My goodness Marlon Brando was soooo hot in A Streetcar Named Desire, my French crush Stanley Weber reminds me of him in this particular role, except that he's much taller ;-)

    1. Thanks so much, Ruth! Ha, I'd love to see your list! ;)