10. Michael Keaton, ‘Birdman’
As much as ‘Birdman’ is a technical marvel, it would have been rendered a soulless piece of beauty without the extraordinary work of its actors. There isn’t a single frame where actors miss a beat, as if they are not acting, but rather performing to the tunes of synchronized rhythm of an orchestra. And the leader to this group of chameleons is Michael Keaton, who in his career best turn as confused, frustrated, egotistical washed-up actor is thrilling to watch from start to finish.
9. Viola Davis, ‘The Help’
One of the most prolific and respected actresses of her generation, Davis career-best turn came in ‘The Help’ where her portrayal of a maid seeking to build new relationships leaves you moved and motivated. She is phenomenal in every scene and it’s a real shame that she lost the Oscar that year to Meryl Streep, who won it for her mediocre performance in ‘The Iron Lady’.
8. Adèle Exarchopoulos, ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’
As a young woman exploring her sexuality, Adele’s performance in the film is devastatingly brilliant. She portrays the vulnerability, the rawness and the sheer helplessness of a teenager caught up between love and jealousy with remarkable authenticity and poise. She deservedly won the Best Actress award at Cannes for her performance.
7. Michael Fassbender, ‘Shame’
Fassbender’s searing portrayal of a man battling his sex-addiction will be remembered for a long time. It’s a performance that’s equivalent to other great performances of “man battling his inner demons” like Robert de Niro in ‘Taxi Driver’ and Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”. Fassbender new found stardom has a lot to do with this performance.
6. Leonardo DiCaprio, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
A Wall Street rock and roll star, as Jordan Belfort, DiCaprio gave one of his finest and funniest performances, definitely one that should have won the Academy Award. Liar, thief, cheat, surrounded by the best and the worst that money can buy — drugs, booze, and hookers — he is riveting, and deeply funny. The sheer joy he takes in the performance is part of what makes it so great. There is a ferocious energy to his work that is astonishing to behold.