Best of 2016 – Lead Actor


Each year I set aside time to examine and spotlight what I think are the best performances of the past movie year. In keeping with the upcoming Oscars I have adopted their format and for the last several days I’ve been highlighting the very best performances for each of the four acting categories. Today wraps it up with a look at the best lead actor performances. While not as strong as the women’s categories, there were still several to choose from. Here are my favorites.

#5 – Tom Hanks (“Sully”)


I think we have reached a point where many people take Tom Hanks performances for granted. He is expected to be good so people either overlook him or simple don’t muster the excitement come awards time. But that doesn’t change the quality of his work. “Sully” is yet another example of why Hanks is one of the tops in Hollywood. It’s a perfectly contained performance in tune with what the film and character needed.

#4 – Rolf Lassgård  (“A Man Called Ove”)


Watching Rolf Lassgård portray his cranky, curmudgeon of a character is simply a ton of fun. He manuevers through layers of the blackest comedy and the tenderest drama. Lassgård’s tough-minded performance carves its way through the story’s steady wave revelations. Many critics have called the film overly sentimental and manipulative. I found it to be both delightful and heart-breaking and that is in large part due to Lassgård’s great work.

#3 – Clive Owens (“The Confirmation”)


In one of the more underseen movies of 2016 Clive Owen plays a down-on-his-luck father trying to reconnect with his son. Bob Nelson penned 2013’s wonderful “Nebraska” and here he brings some of the same straightforward realism and prickly dark comedy. Owen has no problem fitting into Nelson’s character. At times he’s very funny, but Owen also keeps his character firmly grounded in the real world. It’s such a good performance that too many people missed.

#2 – Viggo Mortenson (“Captain Fantastic”)


Now here is a movie that came completely out of the blue. “Captain Fantastic” is an impossible picture to peg down, and even when you think you have it figured out the film becomes something dramatically different. But it works in large part due to Viggo Mortenson’s outstanding performances. It’s impossible to list every layer and complexity his character exhibits, but one thing is for certain – Mortenson loses himself in the role and the results are simply captivating.

#1 – Denzel Washington (“Fences”)


In a year rich with wonderful performances Denzel Washington’s work in “Fences” was still an easy choice for my #1 spot. That’s not a knock on the others. Washington is just that good playing a bitter, jaded man deeply bruised by his past. The film stays close to its stage roots which means lots and lots of dialogue. This allows Washington to showcase why he is one of the very best actors in the business. There are so many 2016 performances worthy of attention, but Washington soars on an entirely different level.

That finishes up this year’s look at the four acting categories. What did you think about this list? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

26 thoughts on “Best of 2016 – Lead Actor

  1. There you go with that lead actors stuff again. They telll me that lead is dangerous. I don’t know. I had a water leak under my sink and the plumber said my pipes was lead. I been living in the house since 1934 and it ain’t give me no trouble till then.

    • Who else could it be at the #1 spot? Terrific list buddy. And Clive Owen is an inspired pick, I hadn’t even heard of that film (confirmation of your sentiments about it being an overlooked movie/performance).

      One thing that astounds me is how we have come to appreciate Washington’s ability to be the big, bad action hero. Could he have been any different in Fences?!!

      • It had to be Denzel, right? So much power in that performance and not in the common action sense (as you mention). He’s just tremendous. As for Owen, it is such a great performance. The Confirmation was my #19 or #20 film of the year. It’s so good. Not sure if it’s on Netflix but if so check it out!

  2. I’ve only seen your #1, so far, but I have no doubt you made the right choice. The man just killed it. That said, I’m looking forward to seeing the rest. Haven’t even heard of that Clive Owens movie. How did that completely miss my radar?

    • The Confirmation was a smaller film and it never got a big screen release in my area. Very limited I think. I ended up renting it and I’m so glad I did. Love it. Give it a look if you get a chance.

  3. Another great list, Keith! I also loved Ryan Gosling (both in La La Land and The Nice Guys), and Michael Fassbender in The Light Between Oceans. So many great performances this year.

    • You’re right. Tons of good performances. I’m really anxious to see Fassbender in The Light Between Oceans. That film never opened up in my area. I think it finally hits Blu-ray in a couple of weeks.

    • Viggo had to be high up bro. He just had to be. Such a fascinating character and performance. It’s also good to hear some love for Hanks. I truly believe he often gets lost in the shuffle. Yet he is consistently great.

      • Such a subtle but great performance from Viggo. I really hope he get a nom come Oscar night.

        Hanks is always great, man. It’s become so common place for him to be good, though, that he doesn’t get the same recognition anymore. Speaking of which, I caught Capt Phillips on Tv again the other night and he’s just superb. Really superb. That ending where he’s in shock? Absolutely fabulous work! Why he was snubbed that year, I’ll never know.

      • Oooooh man! That final scene in Captain Phillips is crushing! I’ll never forget it mainly because of Hanks. He tears you up doesn’t he?

  4. I love that you went with Rolf Lassgård! A Man Called Ove was such a good movie. I definitely agree with Denzel at #1 . He’s my favorite lead actor performance of the year. Viggo is great as well.

  5. Pingback: Movie Review – Post, The – Fernby Films

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