Top 100 Acting Performances that Impressed & Inspired Me the Most

Latest update: September 2021 | Adrian Țofei

These are the acting performances on film that impressed and/or inspired me the most from childhood till recently. They’re not necessarily the ones I consider to be the greatest or most realistic ever recorded, it’s a highly subjective list of the performances that marked my life. Colored green are the newly-added performances and those that climbed in the top at the latest updates. Check out my other film lists as well!

Top 10:

  1. Anthony Hopkins directed by Florian Zeller in The Father (2020) – review
  2. Sissy Spacek directed by Brian De Palma in Carrie (1976)
  3. Mo’Nique directed by Lee Daniels in Precious (2009)
  4. Kathy Bates directed by Rob Reiner in Misery (1990)
  5. Christoph Waltz directed by Quentin Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds (2009)
  6. Javier Bardem directed by Joel & Ethan Coen in No Country for Old Men (2007)
  7. Joe Pesci directed by Martin Scorsese in GoodFellas (1990)
  8. Anne Hathaway directed by Tom Hooper in Les Miserables (2012)
  9. Emily Watson directed by Lars von Trier in Breaking the Waves (1996)
  10. Oprah Winfrey directed by Steven Spielberg in The Color Purple (1985)

Top 25:

(in chronological order from 11th to 25th)

  • Lady Gaga directed by Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born (2018)
  • J. K. Simmons directed by Damien Chazelle in Whiplash (2014)
  • Matthew McConaughey directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga in True Detective: Season 1 (2014 TV Mini-Series)
  • Hugh Jackman directed by Tom Hooper in Les Miserables (2012)
  • Jessica Lange in American Horror Story: Asylum (2012 TV Mini-Series) – review
  • Nick Nolte directed by Gavin O’Connor in Warrior (2011)
  • Ashley Bell directed by Daniel Stamm in The Last Exorcism (2010)
  • Jeff Bridges directed by Scott Cooper in Crazy Heart (2009)
  • Angelina Jolie directed by Clint Eastwood in Changeling (2008)
  • Kevin Spacey directed by Sam Mendes in American Beauty (1999)
  • Richard Farnsworth directed by David Lynch in The Straight Story (1999)
  • Tom Hanks directed by Robert Zemeckis in Forrest Gump (1994)
  • Robert De Niro directed by Martin Scorsese in Taxi Driver (1976)
  • Rod Steiger directed by Norman Jewison in In the Heat of the Night (1967)
  • Bette Davis directed by Robert Aldrich in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

Top 50:

(in chronological order from 26th to 50th)

  • Carey Mulligan directed by Emerald Fennell in Promising Young Woman (2020) – review
  • Alicia Vikander directed by Tom Hooper in The Danish Girl (2015)
  • Alex Essoe directed by Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer in Starry Eyes (2014) – review
  • Benedict Cumberbatch directed by Morten Tyldum in The Imitation Game (2014)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal directed by Dan Gilroy in Nightcrawler (2014)
  • Rosamund Pike directed by David Fincher in Gone Girl (2014)
  • Octavia Spencer directed by Ryan Coogler in Fruitvale Station (2013)
  • Saoirse Ronan directed by Neil Jordan in Byzantium (2012)
  • Brittany Ashworth directed by Dom Rotheroe in Exhibit A (2007)
  • Viggo Mortensen directed by David Cronenberg in Eastern Promises (2007)
  • John Jarratt directed by Greg McLean in Wolf Creek (2005)
  • Julia Roberts directed by Steven Soderbergh in Erin Brockovich (2000)
  • Jeff Bridges directed by Joel & Ethan Coen in The Big Lebowski (1998)
  • Meryl Streep directed by Clint Eastwood in The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
  • Rowan Atkinson in Mr. Bean (1990-1995 TV Series) and Bean (1997)
  • Michael Douglas directed by Joel Schumacher in Falling Down (1993)
  • Michael Douglas directed by Oliver Stone in Wall Street (1987)
  • Al Pacino directed by Brian De Palma in Scarface (1983)
  • Rutger Hauer directed by Ridley Scott in Blade Runner (1982)
  • Robert Powell directed by Franco Zeffirelli in Jesus of Nazareth (1977)
  • Robert De Niro directed by Francis Ford Coppola in The Godfather: Part II (1974)
  • Harriet Andersson directed by Ingmar Bergman in Cries and Whispers (1972)
  • Peter Falk in Columbo (1968-1990 TV Series)
  • Hattie McDaniel directed by Victor Fleming, George Cukor & Sam Wood in Gone with the Wind (1939)
  • Boris Karloff directed by James Whale in Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Top 100:

(in chronological order from 51st to 100th)

  • Elisabeth Moss directed by Leigh Whannell in The Invisible Man (2020)
  • Brad Pitt directed by James Gray in Ad Astra (2019)
  • Robert De Niro directed by Martin Scorsese in The Irishman (2019) – review
  • Ann Dowd directed by Ari Aster in Hereditary (2018)
  • Sam Rockwell directed by Adam McKay in Vice (2018)
  • Susan Sarandon in Feud: Betty and Joan (2017 TV Mini-Series)
  • Michelle Williams directed by Kenneth Lonergan in Manchester by the Sea (2016)
  • Alexandru Potocean directed by Andreea Valean in There Is Nothing in This World (2015 Short)
  • Julianne Moore directed by Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland in Still Alice (2014)
  • Jared Leto directed by Jean-Marc Vallee in Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
  • Michael Eklund directed by Brad Anderson in The Call (2013)
  • Anne Hathaway directed by Christopher Nolan in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
  • Stanley Tucci directed by Peter Jackson in The Lovely Bones (2009)
  • Victor Rebengiuc directed by Calin Peter Netzer in Medal of Honor (2009)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman directed by John Patrick Shanley in Doubt (2008)
  • Sergi Lopez directed by Guillermo del Toro in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  • Matt Dillon directed by Paul Haggis in Crash (2004)
  • Sacha Baron Cohen in Da Ali G Show (2003 TV Series)
  • Jack Nicholson directed by Alexander Payne in About Schmidt (2002)
  • Heather Donahue directed by Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez in The Blair Witch Project (1999)
  • Gloria Stuart directed by James Cameron in Titanic (1997)
  • John Turturro directed by Robert Redford in Quiz Show (1994)
  • Mykelti Williamson directed by Robert Zemeckis in Forrest Gump (1994)
  • Tom Hanks directed by Jonathan Demme in Philadelphia (1993)
  • Anthony Hopkins directed by Jonathan Demme in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Robert De Niro directed by Martin Scorsese in GoodFellas (1990)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis directed by Jim Sheridan in My Left Foot (1989)
  • Tom Hanks directed by Penny Marshall in Big (1988)
  • Victor Rebengiuc directed by Stere Gulea in The Moromete Family (1987)
  • Al Pacino directed by Sidney Lumet in Dog day Afternoon (1975)
  • Edward Woodward directed by Robin Hardy in The Wicker Man (1973)
  • Al Pacino directed by Francis Ford Coppola in The Godfather (1972)
  • Ali MacGraw directed by Arthur Hiller in Love Story (1970)
  • John Marley directed by Arthur Hiller in Love Story (1970)
  • Ryan O’Neil directed by Arthur Hiller in Love Story (1970)
  • Jean-Louis Trintignant directed by Costa-Gavras in Z (1969)
  • Katharine Hepburn directed by Anthony Harvey in The Lion in Winter (1968)
  • Anthony Perkins directed by Alfred Hitchcock in Psycho (1960)
  • Charlton Heston directed by William Wyler in Ben-Hur (1959)
  • Christiane Kubrick directed by Stanley Kubrick in Paths of Glory (1957)
  • Kirk Douglas directed by Stanley Kubrick in Paths of Glory (1957)
  • James Dean directed by George Stevens in Giant (1956)
  • Marlon Brando directed by Elia Kazan in On the Waterfront (1954)
  • Brigitte Fossey directed by Rene Clement in Forbidden Games (1952)
  • Gary Cooper directed by Fred Zinnemann in High Noon (1952)
  • Maximilian Schell directed by Stanley Kramer in Judgment at Nuremberg (1951)
  • Charles Chaplin under his own direction in The Great Dictator (1940)
  • Clark Gable directed by Victor Fleming, George Cukor & Sam Wood in Gone with the Wind (1939)
  • Vivien Leigh directed by Victor Fleming, George Cukor & Sam Wood in Gone with the Wind (1939)
  • O.P. Heggie directed by James Whale in Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  • Charles Chaplin under his own direction in The Gold Rush (1925)

Listing these performances doesn’t mean acceptance of the potentially illegal, unethical or immoral behaviour of any of the actors, neither that I agree with their opinions on any subject matter.