The 20 Best Movie Performances of 2017

7. Daniel Day Lewis – Phantom Thread

Who could’ve possibly predicted that Daniel Day Lewis would show up on a best performance list? Probably everyone considering the fact that he has six Oscar nominations and three wins. His most noteworthy win happens to come from a movie directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who also directed Phantom Thread.

To sum it up, of course Daniel Day Lewis made his way onto the list. There was absolutely no way the critically acclaimed director would allow DDL to drop the ball. Hell, there was no way Lewis would allow himself to drop the ball.

Phantom Thread revolves around an obsessive dressmaker who puts his work far above his social life, much to the dismay of a love interest named Alma. His manic tendencies are on full display, which means every scene is filled to the brim with acting bravado. DDL hooks you in from the very beginning with his quaint mannerisms.

As the movie progresses, the eccentric protagonist continues to show his true colors. Sometimes he’s despicable and other times he’s oddly likeable. What remains consistent is the fact that he’s always fun to watch.

This is not Daniel Day Lewis’s best performance, and that’s perfectly okay. It would have been extraordinary if he could top his work in There Will Be Blood or My Left Foot. Basically, the bar was set too high. Still, it’s a magnificent performance in its own right. The protagonists mental and physical deterioration is as compelling as it is darkly humorous. If this truly is Daniel Day Lewis’s last film, we can all agree that his career ended on a high note.


6. Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

The Darkest Hour

Talk about a transformative performance. Gary Oldman is completely unrecognizable taking on the role of Winston Churchill, but don’t be so quick to give the makeup department all the credit. So many actors have attempted to play the British statesman, but none have nailed it quite like Oldman. He steps straight into Churchill’s shoes and becomes him.

Darkest Hour would be nothing without Oldman. Everything about the movie is perfectly fine, but it’s Oldman who makes it an actual treat to sit through. He delivers a flashy performance that settles into more subtle territory when it needs to. It would be so easy for Oldman to overact, but he understand how to strike a necessary balance. There’s a balance between grounded authenticity and showing acting. This balance results in an experience that’s highly memorable.

It’s no surprise that Oldman is the Oscar frontrunner for a number of reasons. First, the Academy loves showy, transformative performances. That’s why Christian Bale was able to nab the Oscar for The Fighter. Second, Oldman is a veteran actor who is long overdue for an Oscar. Most importantly, his performance is legitimately fantastic.


5. Daniela Vega – A Fantastic Woman

A Fantastic Woman

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding cisgender people playing transgender characters. Some argue that producers would rather make money off profitable stars rather than cast talented transgender performers.

Eddie Redmayne, Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Elle Fanning are certainly bigger names than people like Laverne Cox, Mya Taylor, and Jamie Clayton. That does not mean, however, that they’re more capable of delivering better performances. There are plenty of trans celebs who can act their socks off. Hollywood just needs to give them a chance.

Maybe Hollywood isn’t the right word for this specific entry in the list considering the fact that it comes from Chile, but the point stands. Daniela Vega, the star of the Oscar-nominated A Fantastic Woman, oozes with talent. The movie’s subject matter is something that could, in the wrong hands, dip into unnecessary melodrama. Luckily, the cast and crew work together to make every moment feel authentic rather than hammy.

Vega is one of the primary reasons why the movie feels so real. This naturalistic performance works so well because it never feels overdone. Vega shows incredible restraint even when the most distressing scenes play out on screen. She can emote when she needs to, but she knows when it’s necessary.

Vega is apparently the first openly transgender actress in Chile. Given the amount of talent she shows in this movie, let’s hope she sticks around. More importantly, let’s hope more transgender actresses like her are given a chance. She is liable to give plenty of talented people hope.


4. Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water

Sally Hawkins doesn’t have to utter a single word to floor you with her performance in Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water. Her character may be mute, but she can still make audiences feel all sorts of emotions. The sensitive portrayal of a shattered woman trying to find her place is powerful, thought-provoking, and freaking brilliant. As if Del Toro’s usual awesomeness wasn’t enough, he had to give us one of 2017’s most memorable performances as well.

The themes regarding what it means to be human really make this performance work. The protagonist often feels like an outcast due to her inability to speak, so it’s no wonder she finds solace when she finally meets the mysterious amphibian, who also happens to be something of an outcast.

Her fiery passion is evident both when she’s with the asset and when she’s defending him. She doesn’t need to speak in order to show how she feels. She lets her body do the talking and it’s as beautiful as it is inspiring. In fact, her ability to convey these emotions without speaking shows her talent as an actress.

It’s wild to think that this is only one of two phenomenal performances coming from Hawkins last year. She also did a terrific job in the criminally underseen Maudie. In the end, this one edges out Maudie only because of how complex and emotionally charged it is. Hawkins and Del Toro are clearly a match made in heaven. Here’s hoping they collaborate again in the future.


3. Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name

Numerous reviews have chosen to point out the effectiveness of Call Me By Your Name’s final moments. In particular they tend to write about the final few frames, which truly show Timothée Chalamet’s dazzling acting chops. He wasn’t exactly hiding them throughout the first two hours, but these final moments cement his status as one of 2017’s most gifted performers.

The heartbreaking long shot that lingers on Chalamet’s face as the film draws to a close will leave you breathless. It’s everything great about his performance rolled into an incredibly brief moment, but that incredibly brief moment is sure to stick with viewers.

Even prior to the earth-shattering finale, Chalamet perfectly captures what it’s like to be young and in love. He checks off all the boxes in a multistep process that millions of people have gone through. Audiences will see the confusion, lust, and envy that come with love before those final few shots. Just keep in mind that the best is saved for last.

Call Me By Your Name is a beautiful meditation on young love that ranks among the best films of last year. There’s a lot to admire in what many have called the most romantic movie of 2017. From the script to the cinematography, Call Me By Your Name does a whole lot right. It’s tough to pick the single greatest aspect, but Chalamet’s performance certainly stands out as one of the primary reasons people should give this movie a look.


2. Robert Pattinson – Good Time

Pattinson hasn’t had much trouble proving he’s a talented actor even with the Twilight saga staining his reputation. Critics were quick to praise his work in movies like Life, Cosmpolis, and The Rover. Still, he never had his shining moment until last year with the release of Good Time.

People who still doubted Pattinson’s talent were quick to change their mind after sitting through another Safdie brothers masterpiece. Sure, the movie was stylish and well-written, but Good Time owes a large chunk of its success to the dude who played Edward Cullen.

Connie Nikas is not a good person, but Pattinson will have you second guessing yourself. That’s because he creates such an emotionally complex character. He doesn’t rely on the script to make Nikas such a multifaceted character. Rather, he carefully plants subtle details into his performance to make audiences question the moral choices of the protagonist.

Body language, tone, and facial expressions are all carefully used to both bring the character to life and reinforce the underlying themes set up by the script. In other words, Pattinson knows what he’s doing.

This definitely won’t be his last award-calibre performance. If anything, this is just the beginning. He’s proven that he can outshine so many talented people if he’s given the right material. The goal now is to continue to give Pattinson these kind of acting opportunities.


1. Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

There’s a reason Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won Best Ensemble at the SAG awards this year. It’s because the cast is seriously incredible. While only two of them made their way onto this list, there were plenty of seriously impressive performances jammed into one tiny movie. That being said, one performance reigns supreme. Although there was plenty of competition, one actress makes it a little too easy to pinpoint the standout. Her name is Frances McDormand.

Calling this the best performance within the movie wouldn’t be giving it enough credit. This is the best performance of 2017, period. Mildred Hayes is a confrontational potty mouth who stops at nothing to find her daughter’s killer.

At times she seems borderline unlikeable, but there’s no denying the fact that she is an incredibly strong female character. Given the fact that 2017 ended up being the year of women, it’s great to see such a talented actress deliver the goods.

It’s not just the fact that she plays a strong character though. Anyone could technically play the part written by McDonagh. Nobody could play it quite like McDormand though. She brings undeniable swagger to the role because she exudes an immeasurable amount of confidence. She’s confident playing the part, but she never seems like she’s phoning it in. She has fun with the performance while simultaneously putting in her best effort.

Clearly people have taken note considering the fact that she has taken home just about every major award out there. She’s a shoe-in for the Oscar, and it’s hard to blame voters. This is a top notch performance from an actress who consistently delivers top notch performance. In hindsight, it’s not all that surprising that she’s able to top this list.