Top 5 Lead Actor Performances of 2015


The final stop in my look back at the best performances from 2015 in the Lead Actor category. While I believe the women were the highlight of the year, there were still several top-notch performances from the gents. Once again they represent a wide and diverse range but each are deserving of recognition. So here are my five favorite lead actor performances of 2015.

#5 –  Tom Hanks (“Bridge of Spies”)


Regardless of the movie, regardless of the genre, regardless of the role, Tom Hanks is always going to give a good performance. This year he once again teams up with Steven Spielberg to play a character so perfect for him. His performance in “Bridge of Spies” could be called expected, maybe even a bit routine for him, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fantastic work. Hanks is able to take the common man approach that he is so perfectly in tune with. He doesn’t hit a single false note and every conversation and interaction feels incredibly true. That’s one of the great things Hanks brings to every role he takes on.

#4 – Jean Dujardin (“The Connection”)


Jean Dujardin earned global attention back in 2011 for his phenomenal Oscar-winning work in “The Artist”. But prior to that and since then he has starred in a wide assortment of roles mainly in his home country of France. His latest came in “The Connection”, a wonderfully dense period crime thriller. Dujardin is superb as a naïve and enthusiastic head of an organized crime task force who is eventually burdened by the weight of his mission. The Frenchman is suave and confident but his performance isn’t one-sided. He also reveals a frailty and vulnerability that I absolutely loved.

#3 – Mark Ruffalo (“Infinitely Polar Bear”)


Mark Ruffalo is such an intriguing actor. He is always solid and dependable, but his performances are often recognized as relaxed and fairly safe. “Infinitely Polar Bear” offered Ruffalo a deep meaty role that required him to expand himself beyond what he has been known for. It’s tricky material that could have been completely undone if the performance was too big or too small. What we get is a perfectly modulated performance from Ruffalo. One moment it’s energetic and aggressive while being charming and gentle the next. And it is all done while capturing just the right tone for his character. Such strong and versatile work from Ruffalo.

#2 – Abraham Attah – “Beasts of No Nation”


There has been a long-standing debate when it comes to child actors. How much of their performance is true acting talent and how much is step-by-step directions from the filmmakers? It’s a valid question but by no means does it lessen the impact of what many of them do on screen. That’s why I have no problem putting Abraham Attah on this list. Attah was only 14 years-old when making “Beasts of No Nation” and he had no prior acting experience. That’s hard to believe after watching his gripping performance. The subject matter is incredibly intense and he’s asked to convey a brutally disturbing transformation from a young, innocent boy to a scarred, indoctrinated child soldier. He does so flawlessly.

#1 – Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”)


Leo’s quest to get that elusive Oscar is hard to wrap my mind around. In a career plump with fine performances its surprising that he still hasn’t taken home a statue. I think that streak ends thanks to “The Revenant”.  In what was his most physically demanding role, DiCaprio dives headfirst into the blood, mud, and muck of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s violent frontier western. The amount of intensity Leo brings to his character is astonishing and watching him make his way through Iñárritu’s violent and depressing world clearly reminds us of the type of actor we are talking about. Leo could have easily won a couple of Oscar’s by now. But that aside, the Oscar should be his for the taking after this riveting performance.

That wraps up this year’s look at the best acting of 2015. Anything glaringly missing from this list? Agree or disagree? Please take time to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

45 thoughts on “Top 5 Lead Actor Performances of 2015

  1. Damn I’ve gotta see that Dujardin movie. I’ve been devouring everything with Harrison Ford lately and just seriously neglecting my other crushes :/

  2. Interesting choices! I haven’t seen The Revenant yet, and haven’t seen Infinitely Polar Bear. Great to see you highlight Attah’s performance…I thought he was excellent in Beasts of no Nation. Fassbender in Steve Jobs is one of my favourites at the moment…I’m expecting to enjoy Leo grimacing for 150 minutes though!

    • The Revenant is very good and Leo is fabulous. I know he is the popular top choice but he deserves it. Ruffalo was also a real treat. Attah blew me away. Such authenticity from such a young actress.

    • Sometimes. But seasoned adult actors don’t always need to have every expression or every tone of voice dictated. I’ve read where children often need so much direction because, well they’re children.

    • Wasn’t Attah amazing? Such a crushing performance. He was my very favorite until I saw The Revenant. When I saw what Leo did I was absolutely incredible.

    • I don’t see any possible way that he loses on Oscar night. A lot of good performances last year but none put as much into theirs as he did. Amazing.

      • Oh boy. If I get a chance to win tickets to the Oscars and see if Redmayne won. I’ll run to the stage and give him a Stone Cold Stunner and then go “fuck you, fuck you, and fuck you” while giving him the finger.

  3. Haven’t seen any of these, yet. I’ve heard lots of good things about the youngster in Beasts of No Nation. I’m going to make myself watch it in a couple weekends when the NFL playoffs aren’t taking up huge chunks of my time. Go Panthers!

  4. YESSSS to your top three! (I haven’t seen the other two) but I love Ruffalo, Attah, and DiCaprio. If I had it my way, Ruffalo and Attah would have Oscar nominations with DiCaprio right now.

    • I would be absolutely fine with that. I honestly think this is the best performance of Ruffalo’s career. Loved him in Spotlight too. And Attah – WOW! So much in his performance!

  5. Great picks! I love that you included Mark Ruffulo 😀 Michael Shannon was good in 99 Homes, as was Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina. But some great choices, can’t really disagree with any of your picks!

  6. SO MUCH YES TO ABRAHAM ATTAH! I still cannot believe he didn’t get a nomination or Beasts for that matter. One of the best, most natural performances I’ve seen all year. Leo FTW though…

    • I agree with what someone else said. Abraham gives one of the best child performances of all time. Such raw emotional honesty. Every look, every expression, every reaction feels intensely authentic. And I love hearing others champion his performance.

    • Leo is a funny case for me. While I always recognized his talent, for years he always came across to me as a boy playing older roles. He just had this boyish look to him. But almost in a snap that changed and I really begin to appreciate just how immensely talented he was/is.

      • His personality is like what Tom Hanks carried in his initial years. Extremely talented guy but restricted because of his boyish charms. Well thanks to Titanic. But over the years he has elevated his standards. Have a look at J. Edgar , Departed, Blood Diamond etc. The guy has a lot in him. I pray my vote counts this year.

  7. Aiyah, I’ve only seen Bridge of Spies but agree Hanks was excellent as always. I feel that he’s overlooked as people naturally expect him to be good, y’know? I want to see The Connection as I love French movies [natch!] and I’ve only seen Dujardin in comedies.

    Btw, Jack Deth’s back. Check out his latest post on FC Keith, I’m sure you’re familiar w/ the character he’s featuring 😉

    • I think you make a great point. Hanks is expected to be good. Certainly not a showy performance but absolutely perfect for that character. And I’ll definitely be by to see what’s new at FC!

      • I think that’s a sign of a masterful actor. He does not overact, he just does what make sense for the character. I like that his role in Bridge of Spies isn’t flashy but it certainly is engaging.

    • About time. For me this was the performance that collectively showed his many talents. This performance and his work in Spotlight should catch people’s attention.

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