Top 100 Film & TV Acting Performances [September 2019 Update]

Adrian Țofei, November 2018

Latest Update: September 14, 2019

These are the acting performances on film that I think impressed and/or influenced me the most from childhood till recently. They’re not necessarily the ones I currently consider to be the greatest ever, nor the most realistic ever recorded (although they’re nonetheless included), it’s a personal list of the performances that marked my life.

Colored in red are the new additions to the top, and colored in green are the performances that climbed in the top at the latest update.

Listing these performances doesn’t mean support or acceptance of the illegal, unethical or immoral behaviour of some of the actors, nor that I agree with their opinions on any subject matter.

Check out also the Top 250 Films that Marked My Life.

Top 10:

  1. Sissy Spacek directed by Brian De Palma in Carrie (1976)
  2. Mo’Nique directed by Lee Daniels in Precious (2009)
  3. Kathy Bates directed by Rob Reiner in Misery (1990)
  4. Oprah Winfrey directed by Steven Spielberg in The Color Purple (1985)
  5. Tom Hanks directed by Robert Zemeckis in Forrest Gump (1994)
  6. Anne Hathaway directed by Tom Hooper in Les Miserables (2012)
  7. Joe Pesci directed by Martin Scorsese in GoodFellas (1990)
  8. Christoph Waltz directed by Quentin Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds (2009)
  9. Javier Bardem directed by Joel & Ethan Coen in No Country for Old Men (2007)
  10. Emily Watson directed by Lars von Trier in Breaking the Waves (1996)

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)
  • Ashley Bell directed by Daniel Stamm in The Last Exorcism (2010)
  • Angelina Jolie directed by Clint Eastwood in Changeling (2008)
  • Julia Roberts directed by Steven Soderbergh in Erin Brockovich (2000)
  • Kevin Spacey directed by Sam Mendes in American Beauty (1999)
  • Richard Farnsworth directed by David Lynch in The Straight Story (1999)
  • 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)
  • Brigitte Fossey directed by Rene Clement in Forbidden Games / Jeux interdits (1952)
  • Boris Karloff directed by James Whale in Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Top 50:

(in chronological order from 26th to 50th)

  • Alicia Vikander directed by Tom Hooper in The Danish Girl (2015)
  • Alex Essoe directed by Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer in Starry Eyes (2014)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch directed by Morten Tyldum in The Imitation Game (2014)
  • Julianne Moore directed by Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland in Still Alice (2014)
  • Octavia Spencer directed by Ryan Coogler in Fruitvale Station (2013)
  • Saoirse Ronan directed by Neil Jordan in Byzantium (2012)
  • Nick Nolte directed by Gavin O’Connor in Warrior (2011)
  • Jeff Bridges directed by Scott Cooper in Crazy Heart (2009)
  • Brittany Ashworth directed by Dom Rotheroe in Exhibit A (2007)
  • Viggo Mortensen directed by David Cronenberg in Eastern Promises (2007)
  • Heath Ledger directed by Ang Lee in Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  • John Jarratt directed by Greg McLean in Wolf Creek (2005)
  • Sacha Baron Cohen in Da Ali G Show (2003 TV Series)
  • Heather Donahue directed by Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez in The Blair Witch Project (1999)
  • Rowan Atkinson in Mr. Bean (1990-1995 TV Series) and Bean (1997)
  • Meryl Streep directed by Clint Eastwood in The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
  • 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)
  • Harriet Andersson directed by Ingmar Bergman in Cries and Whispers / Viskningar och rop (1972)
  • Ali MacGraw directed by Arthur Hiller in Love Story (1970)
  • Charlton Heston directed by William Wyler in Ben-Hur (1959)
  • Vivien Leigh directed by Victor Fleming, George Cukor & Sam Wood in Gone with the Wind (1939)

Top 100:

(in chronological order from 51st to 100th)

  • Ann Dowd directed by Ari Aster in Hereditary (2018)
  • Rami Malek directed by Dexter Fletcher & Bryan Singer in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
  • Sam Elliott directed by Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born (2018)
  • Sam Rockwell directed by Adam McKay in Vice (2018)
  • James Franco under his own direction in The Disaster Artist (2017)
  • Susan Sarandon in Feud: Betty and Joan (2017 TV Mini-Series)
  • Michelle Williams directed by Kenneth Lonergan in Manchester by the Sea (2016)
  • Eddie Redmayne directed by Tom Hooper in The Danish Girl (2015)
  • Amy Adams directed by Tim Burton in Big Eyes (2014)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal directed by Dan Gilroy in Nightcrawler (2014)
  • Rosamund Pike directed by David Fincher in Gone Girl (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)
  • Jesse Eisenberg directed by David Fincher in The Social Network (2010)
  • Natalie Portman directed by Darren Aronofsky in Black Swan (2010)
  • Victor Rebengiuc directed by Calin Peter Netzer in Medal of Honor / Medalia de onoare (2009)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman directed by John Patrick Shanley in Doubt (2008)
  • Sergi Lopez directed by Guillermo del Toro in Pan’s Labyrinth / El laberinto del fauno (2006)
  • Matt Dillon directed by Paul Haggis in Crash (2004)
  • Jack Nicholson directed by Alexander Payne in About Schmidt (2002)
  • Naomi Watts directed by David Lynch in Mulholland Drive / Mulholland Dr. (2001)
  • Jeff Bridges directed by Joel & Ethan Coen in The Big Lebowski (1998)
  • Ulrich Thomsen directed by Thomas Vinterberg in The Celebration / Festen (1998)
  • 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)
  • Denzel Washington directed by Spike Lee in Malcolm X (1992)
  • Geena Davis directed by Ridley Scott in Thelma & Louise (1991)
  • 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 / Moromeții (1987)
  • Robert Shaw directed by Steven Spielberg in Jaws (1975)
  • Robert De Niro directed by Francis Ford Coppola in The Godfather: Part II (1974)
  • Al Pacino directed by Francis Ford Coppola in The Godfather (1972)
  • 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)
  • Anne Bancroft directed by Mike Nichols in The Graduate (1967)
  • Anthony Perkins directed by Alfred Hitchcock in Psycho (1960)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Hattie McDaniel 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)

Beyond Top 100:

(performances that barely missed the top or have been recently removed from the top to make place for new additions, in chronological order)

  • Emma Stone directed by Yorgos Lanthimos in The Favourite (2018)
  • Laura Dern directed by Jean-Marc Vallee in Big Little Lies: Season 1 (2017 TV Mini-Series)
  • Nicole Kidman directed by Jean-Marc Vallee in Big Little Lies: Season 1 (2017 TV Mini-Series)
  • Alexandru Potocean directed by Andreea Valean in There Is Nothing in This World / Nu exista-n lumea asta (2015 Short)
  • Harvey Scrimshaw directed by Robert Eggers in The Witch (2015)
  • Mackenzie Foy directed by Christopher Nolan in Interstellar (2014)
  • Stanley Tucci directed by Peter Jackson in The Lovely Bones (2009)
  • Rinko Kikuchi directed by Alejandro G. Innaritu in Babel (2006)
  • Cal Robertson directed by Ben Coccio in Zero Day (2002)
  • Michael Clarke Duncan directed by Frank Darabont in The Green Mile (1999)
  • Gloria Stuart directed by James Cameron in Titanic (1997)
  • Reese Witherspoon directed by Robert Mulligan in The Man in the Moon (1991)
  • Robert de Niro directed by Martin Scorsese in GoodFellas (1990)
  • Glenn Close directed by Adrian Lyne in Fatal Attraction (1987)
  • Meryl Streep directed by Mike Nichols in Silkwood (1983)
  • Sissy Spacek directed by Michael Apted in Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
  • Piper Laurie directed by Brian De Palma in Carrie (1976)
  • Al Pacino directed by Sidney Lumet in Dog day Afternoon (1975)
  • Ellen Burstyn directed by Martin Scorsese in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
  • Peter Falk in Columbo (1968-1990 TV Series) 
  • Christiane Kubrick directed by Stanley Kubrick in Paths of Glory (1957)
  • Gary Cooper directed by Fred Zinnemann in High Noon (1952)
  • Harold Russell directed by William Wyler in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
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