Best of 2018 – Lead Actor

lead actor

All week I’ve been sharing my favorite performances from 2018 and we finish it up today with the Lead Actor category. Once again this was a toughie and leaving of certain names was hard to do. But those are my self-inflicted rules so lets go with it. Here are my five favorite Lead Actor performances from the year that was.

#5 – Bradley Cooper (“A Star is Born”)


There are some mixed opinions on this Bradley Cooper performance. Some have said he goes too big while others have accused him of hogging scenes. I found him to be a near perfect fit as an aging music star worn down by his addictions. Cooper nails this role both musically and dramatically.

#4 – Viggo Mortensen (“Green Book”)


Viggo is another of those actors who can lose himself into any role he tackles. Here he adds fifty pounds and a healthy Italian accent to portray a streetwise lug who has his eyes opened to the ugliness of racism in the country and his own heart. It’s a role that could have gone really bad, but thanks to Viggo it never does.

#3 – John David Washington (“BlacKkKlansman”)


Spike Lee found the perfect guy to man his crazy, terrifying, and often hilarious “BlacKkKlansman”. From his very first scene, John David Washington’s charisma is off the charts. He also packs a sly wit that makes for some really funny scenes even among such vile and disgusting subject matter.

#2 – Joaquin Phoenix (“You Were Never Really Here”)


Joaquin Phoenix is an actor with a ton of range and a knack for giving deeply committed performances. His dark and physical turn in this brilliant Lynne Ramsay fever-dream is both frightening and mesmerizing. From mental anguish to brute physicality, Phoenix relays it all with a wicked precision.

#1 – Ethan Hawke (“First Reformed”)


There were so many good performances in 2018, but it was none other than Ethan Hawke who surprised me the most. I’ve always liked Hawke but never has he given a performance quite like this. It’s quieter and more reserved than anything he has done before. This is Hawke at his very best and that’s saying something.

That wraps up yet another look back at the previous year’s best performances. Please share your thoughts on Lead Actor or any other category I’ve covered. Let’s do it again next year. 👍

24 thoughts on “Best of 2018 – Lead Actor

  1. I agree with Bradley and Joaquin and especially Viggo (who won my Vits Award). While I found John’s performance to be far from bad, I didn’t think it was that good either. I haven’t seen FIRST REFORMED yet.

  2. Excellent choices, some I’ve seen (A Star is Born; BlacKkKlansman) and with which I wholly agree putting on a Best Of list. Cooper broke my heart. John David Washington had me cheering like a crazy person. I loved his charisma.

    I just saw that Green Book has re-appeared at a more local theater, and I plan on checking it out after work tonight. A 10:15 showing. Looking forward to it.

    • Anxious to read your thoughts on Green Book. Viggo is classic Viggo. Completely committed through and through. I was happy to see him get an Oscar nom.

  3. Having just seen First Reformed recently, I’m now more upset that Ethan Hawke didn’t get nominated as I think it’s his best performance to date. Yet, since First Reformed premiered in 2017 as I always go by premiere date (unless it’s for private screenings or the lame Butt-Numb-a-Thon film festival). Here’s my Best Actor list so far…

    1. Stephan James-If Beale Street Could Talk
    2. John David Washington-BlackKklansman
    3. Ryan Gosling-First Man
    4. Jason Bateman-Game Night

    I’m so disappointed by the films I didn’t get to see in 2018.

    • I like every choice you list especially Gosling. He’s an interesting case. I’ve often found him too reserved and low-key. But that actually makes him perfect for the role of Neil Armstrong. Great performance.

  4. Damn, man! It’s hard to argue with any of these choices. They were all great. Hawke, Mortensen and Phoenix are definitely in the top three for me. This should actually be the Oscar nominees and I still don’t know who I’d choose to win.

  5. I cannot agree more with this list. I like the mention of Phoenix, but Ethan Hawke? Yes, and yes, and again yes. Quietly powerful performance, so unjustly ignored by the Academy.

  6. I’ve seen Viggo and JDW, and both were excellent. Your assessment of their work is spot on. I also really enjoyed John Cho in Searching and Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry to Bother You. And if risking your life for every frame of an action flick is allowed to be considered serious acting, I’d give a nod to Tom Cruise in Fallout.

    • Oh I LOVE that you mentioned Cruise. Not sure if you saw my Top 10 from last year but M:I – Fallout was my #1. Sadly the Academy would never give Cruise a shot which is an absolute shame.

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