Great movies don’t come without great performances, and in 2015, these were the crème de la crème of the acting world. So, here are the top 10 best movie performances of 2015.
10. Johnny Depp – Black Mass
Over the past few years, Johnny Depp’s roles in the Pirates Of The Caribbean and Alice In Wonderland series, combined with some weird Tim Burton films, meant he hasn’t really got the opportunity to show off his acting prowess.
That changed, however, in 2015, with his fantastic performance in the crime thriller Black Mass, as notorious gangster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger. Donning prosthetics and make-up that made him almost unrecognisable, Depp gave a chilling performance, and really stood out in what was an otherwise slightly mediocre gangster movie. In my opinion, he deserves an Oscar nomination for this one…
9. Rooney Mara – Carol
Apart from 2011’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Rooney Mara hadn’t really had any big starring roles, until she starred in Carol, alongside Cate Blanchett.
Whilst her more experienced co-star arguably gave an even better show, there’s no doubting that Rooney Mara, in the joint lead role, was still brilliant. Playing a woman who is suffering quite a strong inner conflict after she first meets Carol, a striking older woman, Mara gives a fantastic performance that’s both pleasant and still emotionally powerful. Still early on in her career, I’m sure there’ll be more great performances to come from Rooney Mara, but there’s still no doubt of her excellent turn in Carol.
8. Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
Very few people had heard of Alicia Vikander before 2015, but she’s put in three excellent performances over the course of the last twelve months to become one of the biggest breakout stars of the year.
And her best, by far, was her role as a super AI in the eerie arty sci-fi Ex Machina. I wasn’t a massive fan of the film itself, but Vikander’s performance was undoubtedly outstanding. As a young ballerina, she was always going to bring a strong elegance to the role, but it was the way that that combined with the unnerving atmosphere of the film that made her stand out as a beautiful and simultaneously terrifying presence.
7. Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road was almost universally adored when it was released last May, but one of the surprise takeaways from the fourth instalment in the saga was that Max wasn’t really the main character.
Instead, most of the attention was focussed on Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron. Not only is Furiosa a seriously badass character, but Theron’s performance made her so much more enthralling than anybody else in the movie. Seeing as Tom Hardy was just making grunts for two hours, it was Theron’s strong-willed and battle-hardened Furiosa that we were all fascinated by, and she really made a strong impression in the role.
6. Matt Damon – The Martian
Ridley Scott made an amazing return to form with the brilliant sci-fi The Martian, but he wasn’t the only one to put in his best show in years.
Matt Damon, in the lead role as Mark Watney, an astronaut left alone on Mars for years, was fantastic too. We haven’t really seen an amazing performance from Damon since The Departed, but he showed that he’s still got what it takes to be at the forefront of Hollywood’s best here. Combining his brilliant acting abilities with fantastic wit, Damon made Watney one of the most likeable movie characters of the entire year, and still managed to shine when it came to the film’s more emotional and sombre moments.
5. Brie Larson – Room
Room is a pretty harrowing tale of a mother and her five year old son who attempt to escape from a garden shed where they have been imprisoned for years, and although I didn’t think it was the best film of the year, I have to say that Brie Larson’s performance was pretty spectacular.
Throughout, Larson is so impressive, perfectly emulating her character’s clear feelings of desperation and simple exhaustion. She’s not the most perfect hero of all time, and there are moments where you don’t side with her character, but that’s the beauty of the performance. It’s tough, unrelentingly dark and consistently brilliant, and she will likely take home at least a nomination at the Oscars for the role.
4. Daisy Ridley – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I love Star Wars, but one thing that the saga has never really had is great acting. Even the greatest editions of the saga, A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, weren’t amazing demonstrations of what actors can do at their best.
In 2015, however, the release of The Force Awakens completely changed that, and showed off what is collectively the greatest acting of the entire series. But individually, it’s newcomer Daisy Ridley that really shines. Not only is her ability to take on the lead role in the biggest film of all time from nowhere astonishing, but her performance is simply phenomenal. She’s funny and likeable, fantastic in the action sequences, and just as impressive when it came to the more dramatic parts of the story, and every time I go back to see this movie, this is one thing that I’m consistently impressed by.
3. Cate Blanchett – Carol
As I mentioned earlier, despite the excellent performance given by Rooney Mara in the romantic drama Carol, it was Cate Blanchett that once again showed what a stunning talent she can be.
Playing the older woman in a relationship, Blanchett had such a clear atmosphere of confidence and self-assurance in Carol. I could tell in every scene that she was at the top of her powers, and showing off everything she can do. Her character is a fascinating enigma, and Blanchett’s performance really emphasises that. She’s always striking, no matter how low-key or highly emotional a scene is, and that’s why you can’t deny that this is one of the best movie performances of 2015.
2. Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Here’s yet another young actress stamping her authority on the acting world in 2015, Saoirse Ronan in the wonderful romance film: ‘Brooklyn‘.
Ronan has had the odd big role in movies, including The Grand Budapest Hotel, Hanna and Atonement, but she’s never been the complete centre of attention that she is Brooklyn, and what a job she does. Dealing with a very emotional story, Saoirse Ronan is so impressive, and shows everything that her character is feeling so well, but beyond that, she’s just so likeable. She’s funny, and nice to an almost adorable extent, and so her performance was easily one of the most eye-catching and engrossing ones of the entire year. (I’ll be rooting for her to take the Best Actress Oscar in February!)
1. Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Seriously, this guy has got to win an Oscar now. Leonardo DiCaprio is already a legendary actor, and his performance in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant might just be the one to finally give him that ultimate prize.
But even if he somehow doesn’t, who cares, because he is spectacular in this film. A performance like no other he’s ever done, DiCaprio has minimal dialogue (most of which isn’t even in English), meaning that he has to put in an extremely physical performance.
As a result, we spend most of the two and a half hours watching him drag himself around the forest floor in intense pain and agony, screaming and wheezing as every minute goes by. The performance is the epitome of acting; no frills, just a pure performance that is absolutely mind-blowing from start to finish, and that’s why it’s my pick for the best movie performance of 2015.