The 25 Best Movie Performances of 2010

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15. Niels Arestrup (A Prophet)

Character: César Luciani
Picking a strong performance out of Jacques Audiard’s two-and-a-half-hour crime opus A Prophet is as hard as picking the best crepe in Paris, but Niels Arestrup gets the nod as viscous capo Cesar Luciani. Armed only with a spoon and a mammoth presence, Arestrup drips top-dog testosterone as an old-school gangster on the brink of obsolescence.—SE


14. Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine)

Character: Dean
Gosling is heartbreaking in this aching portrait of a disintegrating marriage, resisting at every turn the temptation to lapse into melodrama. Quietly devastating.—MD


13. Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)

Character: Lionel Logue
Overshadowed by a stuttering Colin Firth, Rush’s performance as the king’s speech therapist may be just as good, if a little more subtle. His character has his own insecurities to overcome, but still needs the confidence to stand up to royalty.—Josh Jackson


12. Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

Character: Janine Cody
Seldom in recent cinematic history has a sweet grandmother seemed so menacing, or a smile seemed so deadly. A triumphant return to the spotlight for Weaver.—MD


11. Emma Stone (Easy A)

Character: Olive
In her breakout role Emma Stone shows off her comedic licks with virtuosity beyond her years (her “Pocketful Full of Sunshine” scene an instant classic) trading wits with the likes of Stanley Tucci, Fred Armisen and Patricia Clarkson.—TB


10. Edgar Ramirez (Carlos)

Character: Carlos
Over more than five hours, Ramirez’s portrayal of Carlos is literally everywhere, capturing the most exultant highs and embarrassing lows of an extreme life. Yet through all of that, Ramirez never loses the core of who Carlos is, and what could become a caricature instead becomes all too human.—SG


9. Aaron Eckhart (Rabbit Hole)

Character: Howie
Like the rest of Rabbit Hole, Eckhart risks being too earnest, too sincere as a father dealing with the death of his son. He never quite goes over the edge into histrionic, though, instead showing perfect control of a character who’s been pushed too far.—SG


8. James Franco (127 Hours)

Character: Aron Ralston
Only an actor with Franco’s versatility could carry a film that mostly involves being wedged into an isolated canyon crack for five days—alone. Franco rivets his audience, swinging from carefree to determined to delirious, all with one arm pinned down.—AW


7. Natalie Portman (Black Swan)

Character: Nina Sayers
Still only in her 20s, it seems that Natalie Portman has been entertaining us forever. Nothing, however, compares to her demanding role as the troubled ballet star in Darren Aronofsky’s latest.—TB


6. Robert Duvall (Get Low)

Character: Felix Bush
One of our greatest living actors gets his best role in years and knocks it out of the park. It’s impossible to watch the last scene without tears.—MD