Top 20 Acting Performances from 1990-Present


In the last 23 years, there have been hundreds of memorable performances by actors in film. They transformed themselves into the characters, bring us into a different world. They made us laugh, cry, mad, and sad. These are my top twenty performances in the last 23 years. Let me know what you think.

Firstly, here are honorable mentions that didn’t make my list:

Morgan Freeman- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Daniel-Day Lewis- There Will Be Blood (2007)

Jamie Foxx- Ray (2004)

Tim Robbins- Mystic River (2003)

Leonardo DiCaprio- Revolutionary Road (2008)

John Travolta- Pulp Fiction (1994)

Johnny Depp- Pirates Of The Caribbean (2003)

20. Edward Norton- Fight Club (1999)


Edward Norton is one of the most underrated actors. This is proven true in David Fincher’s Fight Club, where people remember Brad Pitt’s fantastic performance over Norton’s. But to me, Norton’s insomniac-strickened character with dazed-out narration was nothing short of pure genius. His performance was flawless, just like basically every other role he does.

19. Javier Bardem- No Country For Old Men (2007)


To be completely honest, I was probably the only person who didn’t really enjoy the Cohen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men. But, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t completely captivated by Javier Bardem’s portrayal of Anton Chigurh, probably one of the most iconic villains of our time. His compassionless persona brought chills to me, which showed his pure evil and disregard to human life. Bardem was brilliant, and he was able to display pure evil in this role.

18. Mel Gibson- Ransom (1997)


This is probably one of the choices people often disagree with. If you have seen the movie though, then you must have seen the phone call scene where Mel Gibson (Tom Mullen) completely breaks down because he thinks he has lost his son. He displayed a father, losing his son, with nothing short of pure perfection. Mel Gibson has always been one of my favorite actors, being able to range in his roles. But this one, however, takes the cake. Absolutely amazing.

17. Kathy Bates- Misery (1990)


Still, to this day, with all the cheesy horror films coming out, Kathy Bates’ performance as Annie Wilkes stands as one of the most terrifying characters ever. Of course, Stephen King wrote this character, and in the novel she was terrifying. But, I think Kathy Bates brought the terror to a new level. Her ability to go from happy-go-lucky to pure sadistic was mesmerizing as it was shocking. She definitely deserved the Oscar for this one. The hobbling scene still gives me the creeps.

16. Leonardo DiCaprio- The Basketball Diaries (1995)


Leonardo DiCaprio was only 21 years of age when he took on the daring role of Jim Carroll, teenager getting sucked into the world of drug addiction. Quite possibly one of the most underrated films and performances, The Basketball Diaries made sure you saw all the graphic side affects and horror of the drug world. 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.

15. Russell Crowe- Gladiator (2000)


Russell Crowe is one of the greatest actors of all-time. He chooses the complex characters, characters that most actors are afraid of taking on. He plays Maximus Decimus Meridias in Ridley Scott’s epic movie Gladiator. Maximus was a soldier, then got screwed and became a slave. Once he became a slave, he showed the world his talents and became a renowned gladiator. Russell Crowe was electric in this role, with his sword fighting and natural ability to act. It was a classic and one of my favorites.

14. Kevin Spacey- American Beauty (1999)


One of the most believable performances, Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham in Sam Mendes’ American Beauty. He plays a depressed, suburban father going through a mid-life crisis, who many men can relate to. He shows us a side of a man who isn’t afraid of showing his true feelings, and truthfully, yet rudely, displays his true emotions. Kevin Spacey’s performance brought all sort of reactions to audiences, but one common reaction, was awe.

13. Edward Norton- American History X (1998)


Powerful, exhilarating, scary, daring. These are only a few words to describe Edward Norton’s portrayal as Derek Vinyard in Tony Kaye’s American History X. Playing a former neo-nazi skinhead, Edward Norton showed a side of himself he has never shown before. Mirrored half in black-in-white and half in color, Edward Norton was brutally vicious, sinister and explosive in this role. It was nothing short of a masterpiece.

12. Tom Hanks- Philadelphia (1993)


One of the saddest, yet important, films in the past 20 years, Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia took a daring look into Andrew Beckett, AIDS-stricken homosexual who sues his law firm for wrongfully terminating him for having AIDS. When you thought of Tom Hanks in the early 90’s, you saw him as a comedic actor, a young hopeful who could always make you laugh. But when he took this role, it jump-started him to be one of the greatest actors of all-time. He earned the Best Actor nod from the Academy, and rightfully so. Deep, complexing and genuine, Tom Hanks gave one of his best performances in his career.

11. Denzel Washington- Training Day (2001)


Sadistic would be a compliment for Alonzo Harris. Denzel plays a detective, brought up on the wrong side of the tracks, and corrupt as a detective can be in Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day. Only concerned about power and money, Denzel demonstrates how complexed of an actor he could be. When you think of Denzel’s acting, you think about power. He brought a whole ton of power in his best performance in his career.

10. Charlize Theron- Monster (2003)


When I looked at Charlize Theron playing Aileen Wuornos, and then saw the actual Aileen, and I couldn’t tell the difference. That was the selling point for me to watch it. When I actually watched Patty Jenkins’ Monster, Charlize Theron drew me in from the start. She was absolutely sensational, displaying poise and confidence in portraying a real person. Aileen was a prostitute, turned serial killer. She was amazing and she terrified me.

9. Andrian Brody- The Pianist (2002)

pianist 3

Roman Polanski’s The Pianist was one of the best stories in cinema. A renowned pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman, is on the run from Nazis in Poland. He loses his family, his friends, and through his hiding, we see through his eyes the destruction of Poland by Germany. Adrian Brody made you feel the pain he was going through, and throughout the whole movie, you were rooting him on. It was an amazing work of art and he deserved the Oscar.

8. Christian Bale- American Psycho (2000)


Wow. That’s what I said at the end of this movie. That’s all I could say. Mary Harron’s American Psycho was incredibly dark, and I found myself cringing the entire time (the dog scene). 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 amazing and highly recommend it.

7. Al Pacino- Scent Of A Woman (1993)


Al Pacino could’v been on this list 150 times. But I chose the one film that got him the Oscar nod, Martin Brest’s Scent Of A Woman. He plays Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade. He is a blind man who hires an aide to take him on a trip to New York City to do all his favorite things. But he shadows his true feelings from his aide, which is his suicidal thoughts. Al Pacino plays a blind man to perfection, and makes you believe he’s actually blind. It’s one of my all-time favorites, and another must-watch movie on my list.

6. Anthony Hopkins- Silence Of The Lambs (1991)


Always on everyone’s top lists, Anthony Hopkins plays Hannibal Lector in Jonathan Demme’s Silence Of The Lambs. He was brilliant, cunning, and psychotic. He only appeared in like 15 minutes in the whole movie, but he one the Best Actor Oscar, and gave us one of the greatest villains of all-time. Truly a classic, Anthony Hopkins’ performance was nothing short of pure genius, and really displayed the dark side of Anthony Hopkins.

5. Daniel-Day Lewis- Gangs Of New York (2002)


My favorite Martin Scorsese film, Gangs Of New York had an all-star cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, and of course, Daniel-Day Lewis who stole the show as the portrayal of Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting. He was a power-hungry juggernaut. He was ruthless, vicious, and completely mesmerizing in this movie. Anything that Daniel-Day Lewis does is pure gold. He is one of a kind, a perfectionist, and seriously was the highlight actor in 2002. Pure genius.

4. Russell Crowe- A Beautiful Mind (2001)


Russell Crowe plays John Nash in Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind. He’s a mathematician, genius, and schizophrenic. Russell Crowe was completely sensational as John Nash. His complexity was displayed by Crowe with subtle facials expressions, exhibiting the talent of his premiere acting ability. He got lost on the mind of John Nash, a mind too complex for most, but he understood it better than anyone, and it was a gift to see it on the big screen.

3. Sean Penn- I Am Sam (2001)


The top 3 is basically a toss up for me, but I made the decision to make Sean Penn’s performance as Sam Dawson as number 3. He plays a mentally disabled man fighting for the custody of his 7 year old daughter, played beautifully by Dakota Fanning. I’m fairly confident Sean Penn would be the only actor to play this role with such elegance and confidence. He was nothing short of perfection, delivering one of his most daring performances in the past twenty years. This could easily be number one on many people’s lists.

2. Heath Ledger- The Dark Knight (2008)


Say what you want about Heath Ledger’s performance in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, it was one of the best performances of all-time. People like to say his acclaim was due to his tragic passing, but it’s simply not the case. Heath Ledger took the role, knowing he had to be just as good as Jack Nicholson’s amazing portrayal as the Joker, and he surpassed it immensely. It was chilling, deep, sinister, and a masterpiece. Rest in peace to one of our favorite, most talented actors of our time. He went out with a bang.

And finally….

1. Tom Hanks- Forrest Gump (1994)


My number one pick is, of course, Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump. He echoed classic lines, such as “Life is like a box of chocolates. You’ll never know what you’re gonna get”. It’s heart-warming, tragic, emotional and classic. Tom Hanks was amazing, leaving us in awe in one of the most memorable moments of all-time. Tom Hanks won the Oscar, making him the only actor to win back to back Best Actor Oscars. There’s no arguing, this was one of the best performance ever on screen.

There’s my list. Feel free to let me know what you think of it and if I left out anyone. Hope you enjoyed it!


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3 responses to “Top 20 Acting Performances from 1990-Present”

  1. Trevor says :

    Cast Away by Tom Hanks was also a great movie made me cry all night long

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