Greatest Performances in Cinematic History

Keep in mind, I have not seen every movie ever made. This is simply a list of my all time favourite acting performances. I only used each actor once, and decided to choose what I believe to be their greatest performance. I have listed the performances I'm referring to in the description.
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1.
Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger work comprised nineteen films, including 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), The Patriot (2000), A Knight's Tale (2001), Monster's Ball (2001), Ned Kelly (2003), The Brothers Grimm (2005), Lords of Dogtown (2005), Brokeback Mountain (2005), Casanova (2005), Candy (2006), I'm Not There (2007)...
“ The Dark Knight

The true art of performance was never truly as prevalent as it was when Heath Ledger played the villain in one of the greatest movies of all time. Never, and I mean never, was pure evil encapsulated as well as it was in the character The Joker in The Dark Knight. Every movement, gesture, nervous tic, and line is calculated and made memorable by a truly brilliant performance. Heath Ledger deserves every bit of praise he gets for his portrayal as The Joker, not because of his unfortunate death, but because Heath Ledger played the greatest character ever put on screen to literal perfection. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
2.
Jack Nicholson
With 12 Academy Award nominations (eight for Best Actor and four for Best Supporting Actor), Nicholson is the most nominated male actor in Academy Awards history. Only Nicholson (1960s-2000s), Michael Caine (1960s-2000s), Paul Newman (1950s-1960s, 1980s-2000s), and Laurence Olivier (1930s-1970s) have been nominated for an acting (lead or supporting) Academy Award in five decades...
“ One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest

Everything Nicholson does in the movie is so human and real. He holds nothing back and throws everything he had into a performance that desperately needed every single bit of talent an amazing actor could give. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
3.
Anthony Hopkins
Actor, Hannibal
Anthony Hopkins was born on December 31, 1937, in Margam, Wales, to Muriel Anne (Yeats) and Richard Arthur Hopkins, a baker. His parents were both of half Welsh and half English descent. Influenced by Richard Burton, he decided to study at College of Music and Drama and graduated in 1957. In 1965, he moved to London and joined the National Theatre...
“ The Silence of the Lambs

He was brilliant, cunning, and psychotic. Truly a classic, Anthony Hopkins’ performance was nothing short of pure genius. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
4.
Denzel Washington
Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. was born on December 28, 1954 in Mount Vernon, New York. He is the middle of three children of a beautician mother, Lennis (Lowe), from Georgia, and a Pentecostal minister father, Denzel Washington, Sr., from Virginia. After graduating from high school, Denzel enrolled at Fordham University...
“ Training Day

Sadistic would be a compliment for Alonzo Harris. When you think of Denzel’s acting, you think about power. He brought a whole ton of power in his best performance of his career. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
5.
Malcolm McDowell
Malcolm John Taylor was born on June 13, 1943 in Leeds, England, to working-class parents Edna (McDowell), a hotelier, and Charles Taylor, a publican. His father was an alcoholic. Malcolm hated his parents' ways. His father was keen to send his son to private school to give him a good start in life...
“ A Clockwork Orange ” - baljot_jordan23
 
6.
Kevin Spacey
As enigmatic as he is talented, Kevin Spacey has always kept the details of his private life closely guarded. As he explained in a 1998 interview with the London Evening Standard, "the less you know about me, the easier it is to convince you that I am that character on screen. It allows an audience to come into a movie theatre and believe I am that person"...
“ The Usual Suspects

The performance that made me love movies. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
7.
Leonardo DiCaprio
Actor, Inception
Since the 2000s, DiCaprio has received critical acclaim for his work in a wide range of film genres. His subsequent films include The Man in the Iron Mask (1998), the biographical crime drama Catch Me If You Can (2002) and the epic historical drama Gangs of New York (2002) which also marked his first of many collaborations with director Martin Scorsese...
“ The Basketball Diaries

Leonardo DiCaprio was flawless, showing at a young age how versatile an actor he could be. If you didn’t see it, do yourself a favor and see the best DiCaprio performance of his illustrious career. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
8.
Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson was born on June 7, 1952 in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, UK, to Katherine (Brown), a cook, and Bernard Neeson, a school caretaker. Liam worked as a forklift operator for Guinness, truck driver, assistant architect and an amateur boxer. He had originally sought a career as a teacher by attending St...
“ Schindler's List ” - baljot_jordan23
 
9.
Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy made his debut in Ridley Scott's 2001 war film Black Hawk Down. Hardy's other notable films include the science fiction film Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), the crime film RocknRolla (2008), biographical psychological drama Bronson (2008), science fiction thriller Inception (2010), sports drama Warrior (2011)...
“ Bronson

Terrfying, intense, insane, outlandish. These are just a few words to describe the kind of character Tom Hardy portrayed in this film. He was clearly educated on this notorious English prisoner, and didn't shy away from opening up the soul of Mr. Bronson ” - baljot_jordan23
 
10.
Tom Hanks
Thomas Jeffrey Hanks was born in Concord, California, to Janet Marylyn (Frager), a hospital worker, and Amos Mefford Hanks, an itinerant cook. His father had English, and some German, ancestry, while his mother's family, originally surnamed "Fraga", was entirely Portuguese. Tom grew up in what he has called a "fractured" family...
“ Forrest Gump

It’s heart-warming, tragic, emotional and classic.. There’s no arguing, this was one of the best performance ever on screen. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
11.
Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman is a talented British born movie actor who played Sid Vicious in Sid & Nancy, Drexl in True Romance, and George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He starred in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the remake of RoboCop. He is also an English filmmaker, musician and author. Renowned for his "big" acting style...
“ Leon: The Professional ” - baljot_jordan23
 
12.
Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson is an American actor and film producer. He achieved prominence and critical acclaim in the early 1990s with films such as Jungle Fever (1991), Patriot Games (1992), Amos & Andrew (1993), True Romance (1993), Jurassic Park (1993) and his collaborations with director Quentin Tarantino including Pulp Fiction (1994)...
“ Pulp Fiction

Sam borders the line between total badass and complete psychopath. Mr. Jackson embodies Jules perfectly, blending swagger and insanity into the perfect mixture. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
13.
Brad Pitt
An actor and producer known as much for his versatility as he is for his handsome face, Golden Globe-winner Brad Pitt's most widely recognized role may be Tyler Durden in Fight Club. But his portrayals of Billy Beane in Moneyball, and Rusty Ryan in the remake of Ocean's Eleven and its sequels, also loom large in his filmography...
“ Fight Club

Fight Club is a modern-day masterpiece, and Pitt's turn as Tyler Durden is a good reason why. Durden is a brutal, charismatic, anarchist-everything Norton's character aspires to be. Pitt blends charisma, comedy, insanity and cool into one brilliant punch ” - baljot_jordan23
 
14.
Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman was born Natalie Hershlag on June 9, 1981, in Jerusalem, Israel, to a Jewish family. She is the only child of Avner Hershlag, an Israeli-born doctor, and Shelley Stevens, an American-born artist (from Cincinnati, Ohio), who also acts as Natalie's agent. She left Israel for Washington...
“ Leon, The Professional

One of the most underrated performances ever. The character was perfectly encapsulated by a then, only 12 year old Natalie Portman. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
15.
Christian Bale
Christian Charles Philip Bale was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, UK on January 30, 1974, to English parents Jennifer "Jenny" (James) and David Charles Howard Bale. His mother was a circus performer and his father, who was born in South Africa, was a commercial pilot. The family lived in different countries throughout Bale's childhood...
“ American Psycho

Christian Bale, as a lot of my picks, acted as a crazy, sadistic mad-man. He was fantastic, as he literally immersed himself into the role, bringing out his best performance. It was truly incredible. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
16.
Russell Crowe
Actor, Gladiator
Russell Ira Crowe was born in Wellington, New Zealand, to Jocelyn Yvonne (Wemyss) and John Alexander Crowe, both of whom catered movie sets. His maternal grandfather, Stanley Wemyss, was a cinematographer. Crowe's recent ancestry includes Welsh (where his paternal grandfather was born, in Wrexham), English...
“ Gladiator ” - baljot_jordan23
 
17.
Ralph Fiennes
Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes was born on December 22, 1962 in Suffolk, England, to Jennifer Anne Mary Alleyne (Lash), a novelist, and Mark Fiennes, a photographer. He is the eldest of six children. Four of his siblings are also in the arts: Martha Fiennes, a director; Magnus Fiennes, a musician; Sophie Fiennes...
“ Schindler's List ” - baljot_jordan23
 
18.
Robin Williams
Robin McLaurin Williams was born on Saturday, July 21st, 1951, in Chicago, Illinois, a great-great-grandson of Mississippi Governor and Senator, Anselm J. McLaurin. His mother, Laurie McLaurin (née Janin), was a former model from Mississippi, and his father, Robert Fitzgerald Williams, was a Ford Motor Company executive from Indiana...
“ Good Will hunting ” - baljot_jordan23
 
19.
Javier Bardem
Javier Bardem is the youngest member of a family of actors that has been making films since the early days of Spanish cinema. He was born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, to actress Pilar Bardem (María del Pilar Bardem Muñoz) and businessman José Carlos Encinas Doussinague. His maternal grandparents were actors Rafael Bardem and Matilde Muñoz Sampedro...
“ No Country for Old Men

Nothing can really describe this performance other than "perfect villian". Bardem is cold, remorseless and terrifying in this role. There is no doubt he deserved that Oscar. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
20.
Ellen Burstyn
Actress, Interstellar
Ellen Burstyn was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Correine Marie (Hamel) and John Austin Gillooly. She is of mostly Irish, German, and French-Canadian descent. Ellen worked a number of jobs before she became an actress. At 14, she was a short-order cook at a lunch counter. After graduating from Detroit's Cass Technical High School...
“ Requiem for a Dream ” - baljot_jordan23
 
21.
Edward Norton
Actor, Fight Club
Edward Harrison Norton was born on August 18, 1969, in Boston, Massachusetts, and was raised in Columbia, Maryland. His mother, Lydia Robinson "Robin" (Rouse), was a foundation executive and teacher of English, and a daughter of famed real estate developer James Rouse, who developed Columbia, MD; she passed away of brain cancer on March 6...
“ American History X

Powerful, exhilarating, scary, daring. Edward Norton was brutally vicious, sinister and explosive in this role. It was nothing short of a masterpiece. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
22.
Jesse Eisenberg
Curly haired and with a fast-talking voice, Jesse Eisenberg is a movie actor, known for his Academy Award nominated role as Mark Zuckerberg in the 2010 film The Social Network. He has also starred in the films The Squid and the Whale, Adventureland, The Education of Charlie Banks, 30 Minutes or Less...
“ The Social Network

Eisenberg pulls off the role of a guy too smart for his own good with ease. In a role that combined sarcasm, wit and uncertainty, this should've been the performance to take home the Oscar. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
23.
Sean Penn
Sean Penn is a powerhouse film performer capable of intensely moving work, who has gone from strength to strength during a colourful film career, and who has drawn much media attention for his stormy private life and political viewpoints. Sean Justin Penn was born in Los Angeles, California, the second son of actress Eileen Ryan (née Annucci) and director...
“ I Am Sam

He went full retard. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
24.
Sam Rockwell
Actor, Moon
Sam Rockwell was born on November 5, 1968, in San Mateo, California, the child of two actors, Pete Rockwell and Penny Hess. The family moved to New York when he was two years old, living first in the Bronx and later in Manhattan. When Sam was five years old, his parents split up, at which point he and his father moved to San Francisco...
“ Moon ” - baljot_jordan23
 
25.
Matt Damon
Matthew Paige Damon was born on October 8, 1970, in Boston Massachusetts, to Kent Damon, a stockbroker, realtor and tax preparer, and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early childhood education professor at Lesley University. Matt has an older brother named Kyle who is now a sculptor. His father is of English and Scottish descent...
“ Good Will Hunting ” - baljot_jordan23
 
26.
James Franco
Actor, 127 Hours
Known for his breakthrough starring role on Freaks and Geeks, James Franco was born in Palo Alto, California on April 19, 1978. His mother, Betsy Franco, is Jewish, and his father, Douglas Eugene "Doug" Franco, was of Portuguese and Swedish descent, and ran a Silicon Valley business. James's mother, a writer, has occasionally acted...
“ 127 Hours ” - baljot_jordan23
 
27.
Kate Winslet
Actress, Titanic
Ask Kate Winslet what she likes about any of her characters, and the word "ballsy" is bound to pop up at least once. The British actress has made a point of eschewing straightforward pretty-girl parts in favor of more devilish damsels; as a result, she's built an eclectic resume that runs the gamut from Shakespearean tragedy to modern-day mysticism and erotica...
“ Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ” - baljot_jordan23
 
28.
Clive Owen
British actor Clive Owen is one of a handful of stars who, though he is best known for his art house films, can handle more mainstream films with equal measures of grace and skill. Owen is typically cast as characters whose primary traits are a balance of physical strength, intellect, and forceful will...
“ Closer ” - baljot_jordan23
 
29.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a gifted actress, known for her versatile work in a variety of film and television projects. Possibly most known for her role as Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, she has also starred in critically acclaimed independent films such as Smashed, for which she received an Independent Spirit Award nomination...
“ Smashed ” - baljot_jordan23
 
30.
Joe Pesci
Actor, Goodfellas
Compact Italian-American actor Joe Pesci was born February 9, 1943, in Newark, NJ, to Mary (Mesce), a part-time barber, and Angelo Pesci, a bartender and forklift driver. Pesci first broke into entertainment as a child actor and by the mid-50s was starring on the series "Star Time Kids". In the mid-'60s he released a record under the stage name of "Joe Ritchie" titled "Little Joe Sure Can Sing"...
“ Goodfellas ” - baljot_jordan23
 
31.
Will Smith
Willard Carroll "Will" Smith, Jr. (born September 25, 1968) is an American actor, comedian, producer, rapper, and songwriter. He has enjoyed success in television, film, and music. In April 2007, Newsweek called him "the most powerful actor in Hollywood". Smith has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, two Academy Awards, and has won four Grammy Awards...
“ The Pursuit of Happyness ” - baljot_jordan23
 
32.
John Goodman
John Stephen Goodman is a U.S. film, television, and stage actor. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Virginia Roos (Loosmore), a waitress and saleswoman, and Leslie Francis Goodman, a postal worker who died when John was a small child. He is of English, Welsh, and German ancestry. John is best known for his role as Dan Conner on the television series Roseanne (1988-1997)...
“ The Big Lebowski

Truly the best comedic performance of the past twenty years, as well as Mr. Goodman's best performance. Walter is just one of those characters that sets up every scene no matter what he does. Goodman doesn't just interpret Walter, he becomes him, in a sense. ” - baljot_jordan23
 
33.
George Clooney
Actor, Gravity
George Timothy Clooney was born on May 6, 1961, in Lexington, Kentucky, to Nina Bruce (née Warren), a former beauty pageant queen, and Nick Clooney, a former anchorman and game show host (who was also the brother of singer Rosemary Clooney). He has Irish, English, and German ancestry. Clooney spent most of this youth in Ohio and Kentucky...
“ The Descendants ” - baljot_jordan23