Top 5 Lead Actress Performances of 2015


Today we shift back to the ladies and focus on the Lead Actress category. To be perfectly honest 2015 belonged to the women. There were so many rich and powerful performances from a host of immensely talented actresses. These particular five are only scratching the surface of what we got over the past year. So without further adieu…

#5 – Carey Mulligan (“Suffragette”)


While the movie may have had flaws there wasn’t a single hiccup with Carey Mulligan’s performance in “Suffragette”. Mulligan is a fantastic actress who never gives us a false moment. In this film you see that with clarity. It’s such authentic work that lacks any semblance of glamour or show. Mulligan has a knack for portraying burdened and emotionally complex characters and the setting of “Suffragette” is ideal for her strengths.

#4 – Charlize Theron (“Mad Max: Fury Road”)


At the beginning of the year this was not a performance I would have expected to make this list. That’s not a knock on Charlize Theron. It’s just that Mad Max movies aren’t typically known for their knockout performances. But Theron more than earns her praise for a role that essentially puts her as the film’s lead. She excels in the movie’s intense demands while also developing a female strength that goes beyond physicality. It’s hard not to invest in the amazing work Theron gives us.

#3 – Nina Hoss (“Phoenix”)


Perhaps the most devastating performance of 2015 came from German actress Nina Hoss in the piercing post-Holocaust drama “Phoenix”. Hoss is asked to carry a huge emotional load with very little dialogue to work with. The result is a powerfully quiet and contained performance that tells a poignant story right up until the perfect final scene. More people need to seek out “Phoenix” and take in what Hoss brings to her thoroughly intriguing character.

#2 – Brie Larson (“Room”)


One of the small gems to spring up during the 2015 movie year was Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room”. It is a powerfully moving drama and its success relies on the strength of its core mother/son relationship. Brie Larson is pivotal in making that relationship genuinely authentic. Larson maneuvers through several levels of emotional trauma never showing an ounce of insincerity and without hitting a single false not. It’s just another example of Larson showing she deserves more attention than she has gotten so far in her career.

#1 – Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”)


Back and forth, back and forth. That’s how I’ve been when it comes to my #1 pick. It is such a strong category but in the end I feel Saoirse Ronan deserves to be at the top of the list. “Brooklyn” was such a charming film but it also told the story of a young woman breaking free and taking the reins of her life. Ronan masterfully moves her character from shy and naive to outgoing and confident. It is such a beautiful and earnest performance. Even more stunning is that Ronan is only 21 years-old. Here she shows a maturity beyond her years and she cements herself as a true top-tier actress.

Only one more to go. Next time we dive into the lead actor category. But what about these choices? Agree or disagree? Please take time to share your thoughts and your picks below.

16 thoughts on “Top 5 Lead Actress Performances of 2015

  1. Agreed. Such a strong list, and I so have to watch Phoenix and Suffragete. I did enjoy Mulligan’s Far from the madding crowd performance. And YES! Brie Larson is my favourite and for me Emily Blunt and Saoirse Ronan are an equal second.

    • Let me tell you this, I HATED leaving off Emily Blunt. She is a favorite of mine and after first seeing “Sicario” I really liked her performance but didn’t consider it one of the best of the year. And I watched it a second time and got a much better understanding of what she brought to it. I really appreciate it more now

      Just DVR’d Far From the Maddening Crowd last night. Really interested in seeing that one.

    • You’re right. But I think a lot of it is due to the way it is written. She is legitimately the lead character in my opinion. And in many ways you can see Hardy tempering his performance in support of hers. It was such a wonderful surprise.

  2. I’ve not seen Suffragette or Room yet, but I agree Ronan was very good and Hoss too. I’d watch both films again for the performances alone. Theron (and MMFR more generally) – I just don’t have the same enthusiasm for…but I know I’m in the minority with that.
    I don’t think I could narrow it down, so I think you’ve done well to be ruthless. Can I throw a few more out there that I like? Bel Powley (Diary of a Teenage Girl); Charlotte Rampling (45 Years); Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria, both leads in my opinion!); Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett (Carol…again, both are leads); Anne Dorval (Mommy); Sidse Babett Knudsen (The Duke of Burgundy). It has been a good year in this respect. I can’t think of as many impressive lead performances by men.

    • Exactly! I have said elsewhere that this was the year for women! So many incredible leading and supporting performances from woman. I love it. In fact the majority of the films in my Top 10 actually star women. That is a good thing for the industry!

  3. I still need to see Suffragette!! I LOVE Mulligan and she’s so massively underrated. LOVE that you included Theron and Hoss who delivered Oscar-worthy performances.

    • Thanks Ruth. Such a strong year for women. I could easily put up five more that I think are deserving. Mulligan is definitely underrated. Did you see Far from the Madding Crowd? I missed it last year but plan on seeing it tonight. I heard she is very good in it.

    • Wow. Not impressed with Nina Hoss? Oh man I thought she was superb (obviously). We do agree about Mulligan though. It seems like she is always good.

  4. I love all 5 of these choices. It sucks that Suffragette was so lackluster because Mulligan’s performance deserved more attention.

    • YES! They certainly are. I think more people need to see Hoss’ performance and Theron seems to have been brushed aside by a lot of people. Don’t understand why!

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