The 25 Best Movie Performances of The 2010s

The decade trundles to an end, so naturally enough everyone is reflective. How have the last ten years been? In the face of naysayers such as Bret Easton Ellis, who decry the death of this and that as though they weren’t really bemoaning their own increasing irrelevance, this has been a decade with stunning acting. So here are some of the best who occupied our screens these past ten years.


25. Julianne Moore – Gloria Bell

Julianne Moore, despite assuredly being an incredible, exceptional artist, here, she becomes a charming everywoman. She brings real excitement and understanding to her character, a mid 50s woman undergoing a midlife crisis—unfortunately still a rarity on our screens, decent roles for middle-aged women, that is. You can really tell that Moore is taking pleasure in the role and relishes the opportunity, which only adds to the viewing experience.


24. Yalitza Aparicio – Roma

Aparicio brings a naturalism and sensitivity to this role as a maid for a middle class Mexican family. Her days are mostly spent looking after others and their needs, but she also finds time to squeeze in her own personal experiences. Her compassion and lack of resentment is remarkable as she is used and neglected by those around her.

Aparicio also brings moments of joy to this role, her face brightening when she chats conspiratorially with her fellow maids or plays with the children. It is a rounded and well balanced performance, taking in fear, despair and happiness, which is especially impressive from an actor who had no intention of being an actor previous to the film.


23. Denzel Washington – Fences

Denzel Washington - Fences

Washington is a powerhouse. This role is something different for him. Playing a working class, family man he gives due attention to the micro dramas of everyday life and the difficulty of raising a family and being part of a marriage and all the frustrations therein. It’s great to see Washington in a role where he can focus on the minute, human condition, opposed to the super-cool, ass-kicker type in which we are used to seeing him. In Viola Davis, Washington has a screen partner who can give as good as she gets and so the two elevate each other respectively.


22. Leila Hatami – A Separation

Simin is a mother who wants to bring her daughter to live abroad, to a higher standard of life. Her husband won’t leave Iran because of his sick father and so legally Simin is trapped. What follows is a complex emotional conflict between the couple. They care for each other but, nonetheless, they have found themselves at cross purposes. Pressure mounts for Simin who feels increasingly frustrated, and Leila Hatami conveys this desperation and powerlessness beautifully.


21. Ben Mendelsohn – Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom (2010)

Probably the creepiest character on this list, Mendelsohn plays Pope, who has recently been released from prison and has come home to a criminal family hoping to pick up where he left off. He sets about manipulating and terrorising his family members either with direct menace or through disingenuous innuendo. His strange relationship with his mother is also unsettling. All in all, every time he enters the frame he’ll make your skin crawl.


20. Kang-ho Song – Parasite

Kang-ho Song is the poster boy for Korean arthouse cinema, having worked with the biggest names in his home country over the last 20 years. In Parasite he is at the peak of his powers. He has a brilliant, quietly expressive face and can shift from comedy or levity to sorrow smoothly, which was essential in this film in particular. As his family slowly start infiltrating the wealthy Park household he provides a comic edge but when their plan starts to fail, he takes on the burden of suffering.


19. Amy Adams – Nocturnal Animals

Playing a rich art gallery owner called Susan, Adams is tense and refined. When her ex husband publishes a novel about a traumatic crime, we see Susan’s dissatisfaction and regret surface. Adams is never a showy actor, but here, with the right direction and attention, she gives a performance all the more affecting for its patience.


18. Ruth Negga – Loving

Ruth Negga in Loving

Negga had a break out performance alongside Joey Edgerton in this civil rights romance. Together they are a mixed race couple living in Virginia of the 1960s. Negga’s character Mildred is strong willed and determined to fight the system, the country, that insists that her relationship to a white man, her husband, is illegal. She bears the hardships and pain of this struggle while also maintaining the difficult balancing act necessary of any relationship. This is a true and human romance, played with real understanding and heart.