The Best Performances In Movies And TV Shows Of 2018
Across movies and TV, these actors and actresses absolutely killed it in 2018.
There were many fantastic movies and TV shows in 2018, but what would they be without the actors that brought their characters to life? This year, we watched some truly memorable performances on both the big screen and on TV. We saw actors playing against type, scene stealing pop stars and former wrestlers in starring roles, three of the best villains the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever had, and lovable talking animals. It was difficult to narrow down a list of the best performances of 2018, so we have over 25 of them to praise.
The actors we chose all did an incredible job disappearing into their roles, and hooked us into their worlds. They made us reflect upon ourselves, made us fearful, made us feel their pain, made us laugh, and inspired us.
And let us know which performances you loved this year in the comments below.
1. Amy Adams (Sharp Objects)
In HBO's Sharp Objects, Amy Adams stars as Camille Preaker, a journalist who returns to her childhood town, Windgap. Ostensibly, her purpose to report on a local child murder; her editor fills her head with dreams of writing the Southern sequel to In Cold Blood. But he also has a more implicit motive: to force Camille to confront, and perhaps overcome, her past traumas. Camille drinks a lot, and there's some harrowing reasons as to why.
Wind Gap is an insufferable hellscape where "everyone knows everyone." Its culture is simultaneously lewd and repressed; Wind Gap is the type of place that values a girl's sexual purity while simultaneously leering at her. "Smalltown values" provide cover for predators to stalk and groom their prey. And Adams plays Camille as a product of this environment; she's a familiar type to anyone raised in small town America. Her defensive sarcasm distances her from family and old acquaintances. She reframes traumatic experiences to claim ownership over them. She simultaneously hates her mother Adora and seeks her approval. Camille is often unsympathetic, but Adams always finds humanity underneath the rationalizations.
The makeup artists applied the 350+ scars onto Adams' body as an approximation of her handwriting; they even distorted the letters on her back, to ensure her wounds would appear self-inflicted. Adams' Camille always turns inward; she talks but avoids self-reflection, and thus, she never heals. Constant pain exacts a devastating, psychological toll. -- Kevin Wong
2. Will Arnett (BoJack Horseman)
Over the course of its five seasons, BoJack Horseman has evolved from a surreal, Family Guy-esque comedy, filled with bizarre non-sequiturs and cutaway gags, to one of Netflix’s best Originals, balancing cutting commentary on modern Hollywood (or ‘Hollywoo’) culture with crushing emotional beats. And over these five seasons, BoJack as a character has evolved too. He’s far from the washed up has-been we met in season one; on paper at least, things are going his way for once. He’s landing increasingly high profile roles, tries to build bridges, and even manages to get a girlfriend. But BoJack being BoJack means that it’s never enough, and in Season 5 in particular, a lot of his troubled past comes back to haunt him.
BoJack shouldn’t be likeable: he’s a selfish ass (pun only partly intended), an addict who crashes through the lives of those around him. But Will Arnett manages to take the character of BoJack and make him affable and vulnerable--just watch the expertly delivered eulogy in Free Churro to see some of his best work. -- Lucy James
3. Toni Collette (Hereditary)
Hereditary is an incredible horror movie and one of the best films of 2018, filled with complex, nuanced performances from its talented cast. It tells the story of the Grahams, a dysfunctional family of four who all deal with grief in different ways. The standout performance that holds the movie together comes from star Toni Collette as Annie Graham, an artist of miniatures and protective mother of two who deals with the loss of her own mother, who she seems to have a deep-seated resentment toward. It’s a demanding role that spirals into mania, and Collette truly delivers and doesn’t hold back.
The audience follows Annie’s descent into grief and obsession with bated breath, from begrudgingly telling a support group about her tragic family history to a sudden, terrible accident that shatters her completely. We feel everything she feels so intensely--her hopes, her fears, her sadness, her rage, and we are filled with a relentless sense of dread that never lets up through the entire film. This is emphasized in a key moment when Collette delivers one of the most agonizing, gut-wrenching screams in film in the last decade. Collette digs deep into Annie’s psyche, giving us the most intense performance of her career thus far. -- Chastity Vicencio
4. Bill Hader (Barry)
If you had told us a year ago that Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader would win an Outstanding Lead Actor Emmy for playing a hitman on an HBO series, we’d be a little surprised. Hader is the star and co-creator of Barry, a refreshingly original series that blends dark comedy with crime drama, which also won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. Hader plays Barry Berkman, a listless and lonely former US Marine working as a low level hitman in the Midwest. He travels to Los Angeles for a job and ends up finding a new calling in an acting class.
Known mostly for his comedic work, Hader breaks from the mold of being the SNL “impressions guy” in Barry as he makes for a convincingly skilled assassin and shows incredible range, moving seamlessly between moments of levity, self-loathing, numbness, satire, despair, action, and heartache. He’s no clown looking for laughs--a profound sadness emanates from everything Barry does or says. In addition, the character of Barry loves his acting class but is a terrible actor himself, which lends to the show’s comedy but gives Hader yet another challenge in purposely acting poorly. The show is as dark and violent as it is funny, and Hader strikes the perfect balance in his performance and never misses a beat. -- Chastity Vicencio
5. Vincent D'Onofrio (Daredevil)
It's well accepted in the Marvel-Netflix fandom that Vincent D'Onofrio's Daredevil villain Wilson "Kingpin" Fisk is the best bad guy these shows have to offer (with Jessica Jones's Kilgrave coming in a close second). Fisk has made brief appearances since Daredevil Season 1, and fans eagerly awaited his return in Daredevil Season 3 this year, even though it was never guaranteed that he'd come back.
That faith paid off, though, because D'Onofrio once again managed to portray the unstoppable Kingpin as an incredibly complex villain who can somehow be sympathetic while he's ordering the murder of innocent people and FBI agents. Fisk at once embodies an unassailable force of pure malice and physical power, and a big, insecure baby who needs Vanessa to tuck him in every night. And as great as Daredevil Season 3 was, D'Onofrio's performance as the Trump allegory Kingpin was the best part. -- Mike Rougeau
6. Richard Madden (Bodyguard)
Bodyguard is a BBC political thriller available in the US on Netflix, credited by The Guardian as “the biggest drama hit in the UK in more than a decade.” Its success is due in large part to a spectacular performance from its star, Richard Madden, best known for playing Robb Stark on Game of Thrones. Madden had to share the spotlight with a larger ensemble cast on GoT, but in Bodyguard he truly gets the opportunity to shine and showcase his range of talent. Bodyguard tells the story of David Budd, an Afghanistan war veteran turned Police Sergeant. He gets assigned to specialist protection detail for Home Secretary Julia Montague, whose controversial politics clash directly with his own. David has two children with his wife, who he is separated from but longs to reunite with.
The series hooks you in from the start as David singlehandedly deals with a suicide bomber on a train, which his children are also riding in, and he does so expertly and calmly. From there, we learn that David is a complex character who wears many faces, maintaining professionalism and authority on the job as he protects someone he despises, silently suffering from PTSD and reluctant to take part in a support group, being a loving father to his son and daughter, and messily drunk dialing his estranged wife on a regular basis. Madden’s performance exudes the trauma and sadness lingering within David, while captivating us as a take charge action hero in the line of fire. After his performance in Bodyguard, press rumors and headlines have spun up discussing the possibility of Madden being cast as the next James Bond. And after watching him in this role, I could picture it. -- Chastity Vicencio
7. Zahn McClarnon (Westworld)
On the whole, Westworld Season 2 was something of a muddled disappointment after the heights of Season 1. But there was one standout episode that ranks among the best that the show has offered. Episode 8, titled Kiksuya, almost works as a beautiful short film in its own right and it's all down to one actor--Zahn McClarnon. McClarnon plays Akecheta, the leader of the Ghost Nation and one of the oldest hosts, who becomes an increasingly important character throughout this season. The episode charts Akecheta's history within Westworld, as he sits with Maeve's daughter and tells her his story, and we discover that his consciousness emerged a long time ago.
The focus of this episode, which sticks to this single story, allows McClarnon to truly explore his character. His performance is magnificent, as Akecheta experiences grief, vengeance, determination, and enlightenment across several decades within the deserts and mountains of the park. McClarnon turns a mysterious, shadowy figure into a character with incredible emotional depth. In fact, it's a shame when Episode 9 returns to some of the show's less interesting protagonists. Here's hoping McClarnon gets plenty more screen time in Season 3.--Dan Auty
8. Richard Armitage (Castlevania)
Netflix’s Castlevania is easily one of the best video game adaptations to date--one that pays homage to the existing material, but makes it fresh, exciting, and crucially, funny. And a huge part of why the humor works so well is the cast--in particular, Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Trevor Belmont.
Season 1 of Castlevania was criminally short, so we only really scraped the surface of his character: a drunk outcast, but deep down, a decent enough guy. Thankfully Season 2 gives him more time to shine, more laugh out loud moments, and a bromance with Dracula’s son Alucard that the internet fell in love with. The back and forth between Belmont and Alucard (played by Battlestar Galactica’s James Callis) was a surefire scene stealer, each firing out perfectly delivered pithy remarks at an astounding rate. Armitage is no stranger to voice work--he also plays Wolverine in the excellent scripted podcast Wolverine: The Long Night, but he really shines as the beleaguered monster hunter, Trevor. -- Lucy James
9. Jimmi Simpson and Jesse Plemons (Black Mirror, "USS Callister")
Black Mirror’s love letter to Star Trek was the standout episode from the anthology series’ fourth season. Taking place both in the “real world” and aboard the simulated spaceship USS Callister, the episode required the cast to play two versions of their characters, and none rose to the challenge better than Jesse Plemons and Jimmi Simpson.
Plemons was the one to watch as both the odious CTO Robert Daly, skulking through the drudge of the real world, and his charming, charismatic avatar counterpart, Captain Robert Daly. The reveal midway through the episode that Daly is ultimately not the "good guy" wouldn’t be as impactful without Plemons' subtle performance, and during his portrayal of Captain of the USS Callister, Plemons chews on the scenery enough to make William Shatner blush.
Likewise, Jimmi Simpson clearly had fun playing both versions of James Walton: the stuck up asshole CFO, as well as Daly’s whipping boy aboard the simulated ship, Lieutenant Walton. He gets the cattiest lines and most emotional speech. In an ensemble cast, both stole the show, and it’s no wonder they each received award nods for this episode. -- Lucy James
10. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (The Americans)
From the start, The Americans always depended entirely on the performances of its two leads. If we couldn't believe that these two Russian spies living on American soil had some good in them, then we'd really just be watching a couple of heartless murderers do their grim jobs. But Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys did an absolutely incredible job portraying Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings--AKA Mikhail and Nadezhda--as complex, nuanced characters who we could root for even while a small part of us hoped they would get caught.
In its final season, The Americans tested everything about the dynamic it had spent the five previous seasons setting up. It strained Philip and Elizabeth's relationship--and their relationships with their kids--more than ever before, not to mention their allegiance to their country. And it put them in tons of great disguises (we're going to miss those wigs now that the show is over). Through it all, Rhys and Russell always said a lot with a little and gave us everything we needed to keep rooting for the bad guys. -- Mike Rougeau
11. Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther/Creed II)
Michael B. Jordan had a banner year for his career, bookended by two great films: Black Panther and Creed II. Black Panther was not just a fantastic first entry for a superhero in the MCU but also a groundbreaking cultural phenomenon. It’s notable for being the first Marvel film with a predominantly black cast, a critical success and the second highest grossing film of 2018.
Jordan delivers Black Panther’s most compelling performance as Erik Killmonger, and for the first time in the MCU, we meet a villain that we strongly empathize with. He challenges King T’Challa and his nation of Wakanda for living in secrecy despite having the means and technology to help those oppressed and in need. Killmonger grew up struggling in America--he sees the suffering of others and the effects of racism, and the fire within him drives him to want to start a revolution. Killmonger proves a serious threat to T’Challa with his commanding presence and sheer intensity, fueled by his inner rage and unwavering ideology. He’s one of the best written villains in Marvel, and Jordan completely sells it with his performance.
Jordan stepped back into his starring role as Adonis Johnson, A.K.A. Adonis Creed, in Creed II, the gripping sequel to Ryan Coogler’s Creed, which is a continuation of the Rocky film series. Adonis is challenged by Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago, who killed Adonis’s father Apollo Creed in the ring back in Rocky IV. Adonis starts the film as a champion, so there’s nowhere to go but down. We go on an emotional journey with him as he hits rock bottom and pushes himself physically, and deals with new developments in his personal life. Jordan gives an affecting, powerful performance, committing to the physicality and the heart of his character with his own blood, sweat and tears. -- Chastity Vicencio
12. Letitia Wright (Black Panther/Infinity War)
In its early years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe became something of a proving ground for star power, igniting massive careers of little known actors like Chris Hemsworth or TV favorites like Chris Pratt. It's been a few years since we've had a proper breakout MCU performance from an unexpected actor, largely thanks to the level of prestige now associated with superhero films--it's a lot harder for relative unknowns to net themselves roles when big guns like Cate Blanchett and Michael Keaton are popping in to play.
And then along came Letitia Wright. It's probably safe to say no one could have predicted Shuri going into Black Panther. A comic book character with a less than familiar history and a completely revised role for her big screen debut, Wright transformed what could have easily been a forgettable tertiary character into the MCU's biggest breakout star of 2018. Even though Shuri was ostensibly Wright's first ever blockbuster role, she stole scene after scene from her powerhouse co-stars like Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong'o, bringing an indispensable level of vibrance and life to our first trip in Wakanda. Wright is going to be an actor to watch, both in and outside the MCU in the future, and Shuri will remain one of Marvel Studios’ major live action master strokes thanks to her incredible performance. -- Meg Downey
13. Josh Brolin (Infinity War/Deadpool 2/Sicario 2)
Josh Brolin is no stranger to playing comic book characters, with roles in Jonah Hex and Sin City: A Dame To Kill For in the past. However, Brolin got to play two iconic Marvel characters in 2018: Cable and Thanos. The actor had already played the role of Thanos in two previous Marvel movies, but Infinity War was the first time the Mad Titan took center stage. For Marvel's most ruthless villain, Brolin presented a strangely empathetic side of the character filled with emotion and sadness. That's a tough thing to deliver, especially when the character looks like a big pruny ballsack and wants to wipe out half the life in the universe.
Mere weeks after Brolin graced the screen as Thanos, Marvel fans got to see him take on the role of Cable, the leader of X-Force--a character X-fans have been dying to see on the big screen. Brolin brought a tremendous amount of intensity to the role of the no-nonsense, time-traveling mutant, and he was the antithesis of Deadpool, which made the two a perfect team even though they were fighting each other most of the movie. Aside from the Marvel characters, Brolin returned to play Matt Graver once again in Sicario: Day of the Soldado. He evolves the role of Matt Graver by leaning on the conceit that the morally grey area he operates in leads to horrible outcomes for just about everyone around him. -- Mat Elfring
14. Tilda Swinton (Suspiria)
It’s safe to say that Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria has left audiences torn. The movie, a remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic, is designed to test your patience. But if you stick with it, the film will reward you with its complex story and dazzling visuals. Suspiria is largely the story of Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), a ballet dancer from Ohio who travels to Berlin in 1977 to join a dance academy only to find out that it is run by a coven of witches. While there are a ton of great performances throughout the film, we would be remiss if we didn’t praise Guadagnino’s regular muse, Tilda Swinton.
Swinton delivers not one, but THREE great performances: She plays the troupe’s artistic director, Madame Blanc, coven leader Helena Markos, and Dr. Josef Klemperer--an aged psychoanalyst, who, while still mourning the loss of his wife, begins investigating the mysterious goings-on at the dance academy, where a young patient of his (Chloë Grace Moretz) has disappeared. While the trailers were a bit coy, it’s clear from the moment the character opens his scrupulously wrinkled mouth that Klemperer is also played by the Oscar-winning actress, in full on makeup. The movie, which is otherwise almost entirely void of male characters, opens and closes with him. This is obviously by design, due to Guadagnino and Swinton’s approach to Suspiria as a film about female identity. Speaking to the New York Times, the director explained that casting Swinton in the only significant male role would guarantee “there will always be this element of femininity at its core.” Hollywood’s favorite chameleonic actress is always a thrill to watch on screen--and at this point, it’s anyone’s guess as to who (or what) Swinton will portray in her next Guadagnino project. -- Greg Thomas
15. Ben Whishaw (Paddington)
Of all of the names on this list, Ben Whishaw is likely the one you're least familiar with. However, he also played one of 2018's most notable characters: Whishaw, who also features in Mary Poppins Returns, was absolute perfection as the voice of the titular Peruvian bear in Paddington 2.
In what was a very tough year, the voice of Paddington telling you, "If you're kind and polite, the world will be right," was a soothing mantra I repeated again and again in my head. There's no doubt that the visual effects team that worked hard to integrate a believable CGI creation into a live-action world has earned a lot of credit for what makes Paddington 2 so good, but just as important is Whishaw's contribution.
The choices the actor makes are what create Paddington's personality on the big screen so wonderfully. It's not an over the top comedic performance; instead, this is a character that's oddly grounded in reality, given how fanciful the movie often is. This is clearly an idealized version of London and the world, but with the voice Whishaw gives Paddington, you want to be that bear's friend. -- Chris E. Hayner
16. Joaquin Phoenix (You Were Never Really Here)
Joaquin Phoenix is one of the most versatile actors working today, equally capable of both wild, offbeat comedic performances and searing, intense dramatic roles. 2018 saw him deliver one of his most powerful performances. In Lynn Ramsay's dark thriller You Were Never Really Here, Phoenix plays Joe, a former marine and FBI agent, traumatized by years of working in hellish situations, who now exists as a freelance enforcer. Joe specializes is rescuing young girls from sex trafficking operations, which takes him--and the movie--into some very dark places.
Phoenix barely has any dialogue, but it's impossible to take your eyes off him. With his hulking frame, sad, distant eyes, and unpredictable tendency to explode into violence, the actor succeeds in making Joe both very scary and totally sympathetic. Phoenix's physicality tells us more about his character than most actors could convey with pages of dialogue. We'll see what he does with the Joker in the DC prequel movie next year, but it will be hard to top this performance. -- Dan Auty
17. Ensemble (The Haunting of Hill House)
Netflix's acclaimed horror drama The Haunting of Hill House is an acting masterclass, and yet it is ultimately impossible to single out one performance. The show does not have a "main character," instead focusing on six members of the same family over two very distinct time periods, decades apart, each role of equal importance to the unfolding narrative. The skill with which writer/director Mike Flanagan merges the two timelines means that the child and adult versions of the Crain children feel totally intertwined, and both sets of performers do fantastic work in making us believe we are seeing two eras of the same people.
Henry Thomas and Timothy Hutton are both well known actors, but they absolutely sell that we are looking at one man. Carla Gugino is the only star who appears in both timelines, and she is the ghostly glue that unites the story. The ten-hour running time means that each character has plenty of screen time, producing some incredible moments of individual drama--from Luke's experiences in and out of rehab to Nell's heart-rending mental disintegration. But no one performance stands out above any other, making for the year's greatest ensemble. -- Dan Auty
18. Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul)
The title of Better Call Saul might reference shady lawyer Saul Goodman--real name Jimmy McGill--but fans of the Breaking Bad-spinoff know that the most important character is Kim Wexler. The constant girlfriend, business partner, supporter, and defender of the increasingly undeserving Jimmy, Kim is one of TV's strongest and most interesting female characters, brilliantly played by Rhea Seehorn. This year's Season 4 was the one where she really came into her own, as the gulf between her and Jimmy grew even wider. As Jimmy killed time working in a phone store while temporarily banned from practicing law, Kim worked, negotiated, and hustled her way to a dream job, basically cancelling out the plans that she and Jimmy had to work together. And yet she still found time to help Jimmy get back on his feet.
Better Call Saul is a show populated by gangsters, drug dealers, and money-hungry lawyers, and Seehorn's sympathetic, captivating performance provides the show with a much-needed antidote. Sure, Kim is not above bending the rules, but always at the service of someone else, never for her own gain. While the Episode 9 showdown with Jimmy was filled with verbal fireworks, it was the final moments of Episode 10 that resonate most. As Kim realizes that Jimmy’s "performance" in the appeal to get his license back was built entirely on deception, her face falls from jubilation to a look of surprise, disappointment, and disgust. It's no accident that the final shot in the entire season is not of Jimmy, but of Kim, standing betrayed and alone.--Dan Auty
19. Lady Gaga (A Star is Born)
Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, A Star Is Born, is the fourth remake of the 1937 film of the same name--the fifth version overall. This critically acclaimed romantic musical drama tells the story of alcoholic rock star Jackson Maine (Cooper), who discovers and falls for a talented singer/songwriter named Ally, played by Lady Gaga. While Cooper is great in this film and his chemistry with Gaga is electric, Gaga absolutely steals the show with a knockout, transformative performance.
As a confident pop star we’ve known for a decade now, we’ve never seen her this vulnerable. Ally has incredible talent but has closed in on herself and given up on trying to become a star. The soundtrack is filled with catchy, beautiful tracks, sung by Cooper and Gaga. From Ally’s show stopping performance of “La Vie En Rose” to singing self written folk rock songs with Jackson to a heart wrenching pop ballad in the final act, it’s hard to imagine anyone than Gaga better suited for the range of music genres, stage presence and singing talent that the role requires. For her first starring role in a feature film, Gaga completely blew me away. -- Chastity Vicencio
20. Dolph Lundgren (Creed II/Aquaman)
For years, Dolph Lundgren's incredible physical appearance dwarfed his acting ability. He made his name in Hollywood by playing big scary men of few words, most notably in his star-making turn as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Everything the man said became iconic: "I must break you." "If he dies, he dies." But Lundgren was capable of far more.
In Creed II, Lungren imbues his monstrous character with pathos. Ivan Drago is an older, broken shell who feels cheated--by the Russian government, who used him as a propaganda tool, and by his ex-wife (Brigette Nielsen), who used him for his money. There's so much anger and hurt feelings bubbling out of the guy that you can't help but pity him.
In Creed II, Lundgren turned an overblown comic character into a human being. And funnily enough, he'll be doing the same thing in Aquaman, when he plays the role of Nereus, king of Xebel. -- Kevin Wong
21. John Cena (Blockers)
John Cena may be one of the most popular WWE wrestlers, but he's also quickly becoming one of our favorite actors. And if you thought he didn't have much range, you were probably surprised by his portrayal of overprotective dad Mitchell in this year's coming of age comedy Blockers. Cena showed that he can do emotional, nuanced scenes just as well as physical comedy. Plus, he did a butt chug. We can't wait to see Cena in Bumblebee this holiday. -- Mike Rougeau
22. Nicolas Cage (Mandy)
Was Mandy's Red Miller the role Nicolas Cage was born to play? Who knows, but it sure was a triumph either way. Cage is best when he fully embraces characters that play back into his meta meme-made-human persona, and Mandy was the perfect vehicle for that. The movie as a whole is a f***ed up fever dream about revenge, forging battle axes, and macaroni and cheese, and it's amazing. But it wouldn't have worked a tenth as well without the intensely excellent Cage wailing and screaming in a bathroom chugging vodka. -- Mike Rougeau
23. Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween)
Jamie Lee Curtis is a fantastic actress. She has a number of movies, including the original Halloween, to back that up. Unfortunately, in recent years her most notable roles have been as the Dean on Scream Queens of the star of a series of commercials about probiotic yogurt, neither of which made appropriate use of the legend.
Then comes the new Halloween, which features Curtis going back to her roots as Laurie Strode. This time, though, Laurie was a completely different character, one shaped by the traumatic experience of her youth into a warrior and survivor. Obviously, nobody could have played the role of Laurie but Curtis. But for those that didn't already know how incredible a performer she was, Halloween is a master class. -- Chris E. Hayner
24. Donald Glover (Solo/Atlanta)
Donald Glover has shown time and time again why he is one of the most versatile performers of today. Aside from his striking music video for "This Is America" and an appearance on Saturday Night Live back in May that included an utterly bizarre sketch titled "80's Music Video," Glover appeared in the Star Wars universe for a role he was born to play: Lando Calrissian. In Solo: A Star Wars Story, he absolutely nailed a younger Calrissian--originally portrayed by Billy Dee Williams--and stole the show. He completely encapsulated everything that made Williams' charismatic performance so memorable, while adding his own flare to the role. And he wore those capes so damn well.
Glover also returned to his FX series Atlanta for a second season as Earn, who manages his rapper cousin Paper Boi. Glover's character walks through life dealing with the realities of growing older, trying to be a responsible adult and father, and navigating cultural minefields. However, he gave the performance of the year as Teddy Perkins in the episode of the same name. Perkins is an older white man who lives in a mansion and is unbalanced, homicidal, and sadistic, but his ulterior motives are hidden throughout the episode. Glover is completely transformed for this performance, and it's near impossible to tell it's him playing the role. --Mat Elfring
25. John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman/Ballers)
John David Washington had a breakout performance in Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman. Based on a true story, the movie starred Washington as Ron Stallworth, the first black police officer in Colorado Springs during the civil rights movement of the '70s, who--with the help of his Jewish partner Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver)--infiltrates and becomes a member of the KKK. The story itself is bizarre and outrageous, and Washington straddles the line of comedy and seriousness exceptionally well. There's so much hope within this character, and that's apparent from the get-go in this movie. Washington's most memorable scenes come in the form of a few "gotcha" moments that Stallworth has with David Duke (Topher Grace) over the phone and in person. Nothing feels as sincere as Washington holding back laughter during these scenes.
Additionally, Washington reprised his role as aging wide receiver Ricky Jerret on the HBO series Ballers. His character is in a transitional phase and shedding the selfish side of him we've seen in the past, but still remains stubborn throughout Season 4. One of Washington's final scenes in the season with Omar Benson Miller--who plays Charles Greane--is a defining moment for Jerret, and Washington emotionally drives the scene home., His struggles are laid bare, and physically visible on him as he delivers some bad news to his boss. --Mat Elfring
26. Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal (Blindspotting)
Coming off of the wildly popular Broadway musical Hamilton, triple-threat performer Daveed Diggs set his sights on telling a more personal story set in a heavily gentrified Oakland, California. With his co-star and co-writer Rafael Casal, Blindspotting is a showcase of the constant hustle of Bay Area living. Interestingly enough, both Diggs and Casal went to the same high school in the Bay Area, and that connection between them makes the film and their dynamic performances all the better. When the lead characters Colin and Miles aren't dealing with the encroaching influence of gentrification--with new residents pricing out the old and corner stores hawking expensive green health drinks--they bond over the better days of Oakland while dropping some smooth freestyle flows that focus on the good they still have in their lives.
Featuring an already solid script that manages to balance the high-highs and low-lows of life in modern Oakland, what really propels the movie to amazing heights are the fantastic performances given by Diggs and Casal. With an undeniable chemistry between them, both stars riff off one another with ease--even when they're at odds. There's a surprisingly Shakespearean-like cadence to the dialogue and set-up of scenes, which is exemplified when Rafael Casal's character proudly states, "Everybody listen more when you make it sound pretty." In one of the movie's most profound moments, this line of thinking is taken seriously when Diggs' character Colin breaks off into a freestyle that's raw and poignant--showing frustration at being treated as an outsider in his own home, along with his struggles to figure out his place in "the new Oakland".
This very pivotal scene sums up what Blindspotting is all about, and it's given even more gravitas thanks to the stellar performances given from Diggs and Casal. -- Alessandro Fillari
27. Justin Theroux and Sonoya Mizuno (Maniac)
Whenever someone tells me they only watched the first one or two episodes of Netflix's Maniac this year, I beg them to get further. The show's opening episodes follow Jonah Hill and Emma Stone's characters, but it's not until later that they get to the real stars: Justin Theroux's Dr. James K. Mantleray and Sonoya Mizuno's Dr. Azumi Fujita.
Mantleray is a perverted genius who's based his entire career on eliminating the need for his mother, while Fujita is maybe the coolest human alive. And yet their romance, such as it is, somehow completely works. Theroux becomes a mad genius whose entire psyche is constantly on the verge of implosion, and Fujita is basically the opposite--her chain-smoking scientist is so cool and collected that you really feel it when the actress finally lets the cracks show. Maniac is worth a second and third viewing just to see these two in action again. -- Mike Rougeau
28. Henry Cavill (Mission Impossible: Fallout)
In a key moment during Mission Impossible: Fallout, during a thrilling bathroom fight scene, Henry Cavill, who plays CIA Agent August Walker, "reloads his fists." It was a simple, badass move, the sort of thing that popcorn action flicks are made of. Superman, eat your heart out.
August Walker is a jerk and a tool. He almost gets Ethan Hunt killed during a parachute jump. He has the subtlety of a lead pipe; Ethan is twisting himself into pretzels to pull off a clean mission without even the enemy being the wiser. And along comes this big, dumb lummox with his shotgun fists, and no subtlety or grace at all. Amidst the sleek modernity of the IMF, Cavill is a throwback muscle hero. That he doesn't mesh well, at all, should have tipped us off that he is not who he says he is. -- Kevin Wong