Paramount Pictures

The 25 Best Film Performances of 2016
The 25 Best Film Performances of 2016

Andre Holland, Moonlight

For all its swoon-worthy needle-drops and pregnant pauses, the third act of Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight surpasses simple romantic longing. Repeatedly asking “Who is you?” of Trevante Rhodes’s quiet, insulated Chiron, Andre Holland’s adult Kevin represents a naked (and hugely charismatic) plea for both empathy and self-acceptance. Turning a spontaneous meal into a long-overdue therapy session, Holland orchestrates a charm offensive in the key of radical transparency. Gray

The 25 Best Film Performances of 2016

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Who else but Isabelle Huppert could have played Michèle Leblanc, the eponymous heroine of Paul Verhoeven’s Elle? The exuberant gravitas, the unapologetic condescension, the classily managed aggression that only the most French of faces could ever entertain—Huppert reduces us to our prosaic mortality with a glance, the pursing of her lips, the nearly imperceptible raising of an eyebrow, or the perverse delivery of a syllable. With her unassailable gaze, Huppert shuts down facile gut-reactions around violence, the reactionary faux-feminisms that could have crippled the film, and forces us to confront the ambivalences of desire—like a sphinx. Semerene

The 25 Best Film Performances of 2016

Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel, Lion

In Garth Davis’s Lion, Nicole Kidman and Dev hauntingly attest to the feelings of estrangement that simultaneously separate and bind together adopted children and their families. In the film’s finest scene, the silently cataclysmic mix of confusion and anguish that washes across Patel’s face when Saroo stumbles upon a plate of jalebis at his friend’s house captures the young man’s ineffable connection to the homeland he barely remembers. And in the film’s second finest scene, Kidman’s tearful acknowledgement of Sue’s desire to adopt Saroo as her “only path” resonates as a kind of prayer—one that brings mother and son closer together at the same time as it gives him license to go on the Proustian journey to finally understand himself. Ed Gonzalez

The 25 Best Film Performances of 2016

Tracy Letts, Wiener-Dog and Indignation

One can sense playwright Tracy Letts’s theatrical background in his physicality and delivery of dialogue, which are both marked with a profound sense of control, of measuring and reevaluating gestures and behaviors. Letts particularly knows when to bite off a line, informing it with hard, succinct musicality. In Wiener-Dog and Indignation, Letts uses his instruments to render two damningly textured portraits of casual monsters. Bowen

The 25 Best Film Performances of 2016

Vincent Lindon, The Measure of a Man

It’s through a painful failure to withhold any and all feelings that Vincent Lindon animates Thierry Taugourdeau’s wounded masculinity in The Measure of a Man. With unflappable nuance, Lindon conveys the impossible stiffness required of being a man; it’s in the suddenly unemployed Thierry pleading for work during a Skype interview, and to no avail, or in his trying to avoid male contact with his dance instructor, and ever so awkwardly. Through Lindon’s performance, manhood comes to life as something so frail, so depressive, that any glimmer of emotion promises its humiliating implosion. Semerene

The 25 Best Film Performances of 2016

Glen Powell, Everybody Wants Some!!

Leaving the strongest impact among Everybody Wants Some!!’s throng of gung-ho newcomers, the über-charismatic Glen Powell is practically a born fit for Finn, a character who can’t help but command a room. Whether delivering a drive-by wisecrack, a morsel of two-bit wisdom, or simply turning his head, Powell performs everything with ostentatious conviction—as college freshmen discovering themselves often do. Lund

Previous

Next

1234