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The 10 Best Male Movie Performances of All Time

12 November 2017 | Features, Other Lists | by Vitor Guima

This article is here to explore and talk about some of the best male performances in the history of film. From a tramp in a silent film to a quiet hitman, and from a man who plays chess with death to a ruthless oilman, this list has some of the greatest actors of all time.

Please, let’s not forget the main factors that interfere in the writing of an article like this are personal preferences. If you think any other performance should be on the list, or if you disagree with the order (even though this list is not ranked), please leave your top 10 in the comments section below.

So here are the 10 best male performances of all time.

 

10. Alain Delon in “The Samurai” (1967)

le samurai

In this film directed by French master Jean-Pierre Melville, Alain Delon is hitman Jef Costello, a perfectionist killer who never gets caught. One day he is seen by a witness after killing the owner of a nightclub, and everything is at risk from that moment on.

Delon’s performance as the methodic and quiet assassin Jef Costello is something that is able to deliver – most of the times silently – every trace of this killer’s persona, and each move made by Delon helps create the unique atmosphere of this film. The way he checks his keys, his hat and his overcoat… everything is meaningful, calculated and cold.

Without a doubt, in this film directed by one of the greatest French directors of all time, Delon delivers one of the best performances in history.

 

9. Max von Sydow in “The Seventh Seal” (1957)

the-seventh-seal-chess-game

In one of the most iconic movies in the history of cinema, which was also directed by one of the best filmmakers of all time, legendary actor Max von Sydow delivers his best performance as Antonius Block, a knight who just got home from the Crusades. Once there, Block meets Death (Bengt Ekerot) and, noticing his time has come, he challenges Death to a chess game for his life.

This movie, which takes place during the Black Plague, approaches many philosophical themes as Block questions himself about the existence of God, about life and death as he tries to defeat the Grim Reaper in this chess match.

Delivering a powerful performance with amazing moments of dialogue written by Bergman, von Sydow’s performance in this film should definitely be considered among the best in film history.

 

8. Robert De Niro in “Raging Bull” (1980)

Raging-Bull

In this film directed by Martin Scorsese, a boxer with a very complicated and violent temper realizes that the same thing that makes him a champion in the ring is the thing that destroys his personal life.

This journey with self-destructive behavior is wonderfully portrayed by Robert De Niro as boxer Jake LaMotta. In the best performance of his career, De Niro is perfect in showing the struggle this man has in his personal life.

One of the best films in Scorsese’s career, the acting in “Raging Bull” by De Niro is simply superb. This is a film that definitely should be watched by any cinephile and De Niro’s performance should without a doubt be considered among the best in history.

 

7. Marcello Mastroianni in “La Dolce Vita” (1960)

La Dolce Vita

This Federico Fellini film that won the Palme d’Or in 1960 stars Marcello Mastroianni as Marcello Rubini, a journalist who is trying to find his place in the world. While trying to become a writer, this man is divided between his home life with his girlfriend and his fascination with Rome’s social elite.

Mastroianni is able to bring to this paparazzo journalist so many different nuances that his acting becomes one of the most astonishing elements in “La Dolce Vita.” From charmy and alienated to a man completely out of control, Mastroianni’s performance is simply amazing.

A mandatory movie for any cinephile, “La Dolce Vita” is Mastroianni at his best and his portrayal of Marcello Rubini definitely deserves a place on this list.

 

6. Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” (2007)

there will be blood daniel day lewis

Is Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as Daniel Plainview the best of this century?

“There Will Be Blood” is considered by the BBC the third best film of the 21st century. From the great directing by Paul Thomas Anderson to the amazing script and the brilliant acting by Daniel Day-Lewis, this film is without a doubt one of the best of this century.

In this movie, in the early years of the 20th century, we follow the story of Daniel Plainview, an oilman who does anything to get what he wants. The way Day-Lewis disappears into the character is so fascinating that we’re not able to recognize him at any moment.

This ambitiously epic movie, which leads us through a journey with this impelled and cruel man that takes advantage of everyone around him to reach his objectives, is definitely worth watching because in this film, Daniel Day-Lewis – a man who delivered brilliant performances in “My Left Foot,” “In the Name of the Father,” “Gangs of New York” and “Lincoln” – has the best performance of his career and one of the best in the history of cinema.

 

 

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  • Mortimer

    Ok list. Ranking is highly debatable of course.
    I’ll add:
    Burt Lancaster – The Leopard
    Alec Guinness – The Bridge on the River Kwai
    Peter O’Toole – Lawrence of Arabia
    Peter Sellers – Dr Strangelove
    Malcolm McDowell – A Clockwork Orange
    Joaquin Phoenix – The Master

    • Ricardo Correia

      Sorry but O’Toole is horrendous in Lawrance Of Arabia

      • Mortimer

        He is little over the top in the 2nd half of the movie when he is going mad. But for the most part I think he was excellent as closeted gay with arrogant, messianic complex.

        Of entire supporting cast Jose Ferrer was the best in my opinion and he had the most limited screen time.

  • Ricardo Correia

    Never understood what people see in Pacino, I think he is terrible actor, never knows what to do with his eyes (always overacts) and generally is really unconvincing
    Love DDL but his performance in TWBB in my opinion is far from worthy of this list
    And Brando a is really bad in On The Waterfront

    • Mack

      your first judgement i saw a point. not terrible but maybe a bit overrated. still a bit off to think Pacino ‘terrible’. 2nd judgement I felt the same. it’s definitely one of the better performances of contemporary cinema. a weird one to have an issue with. your 3rd point however I thought “oh hahahaha he’s been joking the whole time. Got me!”

    • sailor monsoon

      Shhhhh

    • Gabriel Dvkx

      Damn! Shut the fuck up!

  • Ricardo Correia

    Per Oscarsson’s performance in Hunger is maybe cinema’s finest, should be in this list
    Duvall is brilliant in Tender Mercies, Nick Nolte is estupendous in Affliction and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote and Phoenix in The Master are also worthy of this list

  • Ricardo Correia

    Mastroianni has quite a few performances better than the one in La Dolce Vita (even though it is one of the best films of the 60s)

  • Gabriel Dvkx

    Top 5 for me:

    Robert De Niro – Raging Bull
    Edward Norton – American History X
    Marlon Brando – A Streetcar Named Desire
    Max von Sydow – The Seventh Seal
    Al Pacino – Scarface

    • Ricardo Correia

      Scarface and Norton ahahah

  • Abeetz

    Bogart…Casablanca; Treasure of The Sierra Madre;Caine Mutiny; Sahara???

    • Ricardo Correia

      Casablanca? lol

    • Kosta Jovanovic

      How about his best one, in a lonely place?

    • Spike Bowden

      My 2 favorite Bogart performances are Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The African Queen.

  • Ekraj Pandit

    My Choices (in no particular order):

    1. Buster Keaton in all of his silent movies
    2. Jacques Tati in all of his films
    3. Charlie Chaplin in all of his films
    4. Chishū Ryū in Ozu’s films
    5. Humphrey Bogart in In a Lonely Place and The Treasure of Sierra Madre
    6. Guru Dutt in Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool and, Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam
    7. Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2
    8. Michel Simon in L’Atalante and Boudu saved from drowning
    9. Ben Gazzara in Killing of Chinese Bookie and Husbands
    10. Daniel Day-Lewis in There will be blood

    • Ricardo Correia

      I must say you have some interesting picks right there, guess you are not a big fan of modern acting

    • grootrm

      Any more this millennia?

      • Ekraj Pandit

        Toni Servillo in The Great Beauty (2013)
        Joaquin Phoenix in The Master (2012)

  • Franco Gonzalez

    Daniel Day Lewis is not human

  • I can’t see nor find any arguments with this list.

  • Henry Alston

    It’s an excellent list but, somehow, I would have to find spots for Ray Milland’s performance in THE LOST WEEKEND and Andy Griffith’s turn in FACE IN A CROWD

  • Grace Skerp

    Toshiro Mifune (Kikuchiyo) The Seven Samurai

  • Nicolas Delattre

    Fine list. Maybe ‘Philip Seymour Hoffman’ for Capote ? His performance was amazing, such a strong and fascinating actor.

  • Tim O’Hare

    How about we end gender segregation and have a Best Movie Performances?

  • Anthony Lancaster

    Pacino in DOG DAY AFTERNOON, DE NIRO in TAXI DRIVER, ANTHONY PERKINS in PSYCHO.