The 25 Best Movie Performances of the Decade

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15. Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar
American Splendor (2003)

It’s hard to forget his wine-whiney lines in Sideways, but his dour portrayal of comics writer Harvey Pekar in American Splendor was a more complete, singular performance. Tim Basham


14. Halle Berry as Leticia Musgrove
Monster’s Ball (2001)

Berry’s Oscar-winning performance as down-and-out death row widower Leticia is startlingly unglamorous and fearlessly honest. In a film that is full of deeply flawed, unvarnished characters, Berry displays the kind of raw vulnerability alongside steely, almost vicious, resiliency that stays with you long after the final credits roll. Emily Riemer


13. Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II
The Queen (2006)

There are few bigger challenges than portraying a living celebrity whose private life feels completely foreign to us commoners. Helen Mirren fully inhabited the queen of England as she navigates a world that has changed tremendously during her lifetime. Josh Jackson


12. Julie Christie as Fiona Anderson
Away From Her (2007)

Julie Christie got her first Oscar nomination in 1965. Her fourth came 22 years later for her turn as a victim of Alzheimer’s in Sarah Polley’s directorial debut, Away From Her. Christie makes us fall in love with her character before we see her slip from her husband’s grasp, make the loss so much more palpable than it otherwise would have been. Josh Jackson


11. Sean Penn as Jimmy Markum
Mystic River (2003)

Playing a man distraught over the murder of his daughter this is Penn at his emotional zenith (yes, a half-an-iota better than Milk) with excellent direction from Clint Eastwood. But really, Penn could be on this list for a number of roles. Tim Basham