Best of 2020 – Lead Actor


Over the last few days I’ve been looking back at the best acting performances from the year 2020. Yesterday we began the Lead categories by looking at five incredible female performances. We wrap it up today with Lead Actor and without question there are some really strong contenders. So without further delay here are my top choices for Lead Actor.

Honorable Mentions: Tom Hanks (“News of the World”), George Clooney (“The Midnight Sky”), Jude Law (“The Nest”), Kevin Costner (“Let Him Go”), Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine (“Farewell Amor”), Nnamdi Asomugha (“Sylvie’s Love”), Gary Oldman “Mank”)

#5 – Ben Affleck – “The Way Back”


So far during this awards season not enough people are talking about Ben Affleck’s soulful and deeply personal performance in “The Way Back”. Sure it’s a sports story about redemption, but Affleck doesn’t give his character easy outs nor does he allow for a Happily Ever After scenario. This is an honest look at alcoholism and you can see Affleck dealing with his own demons through the eyes of a broken high school football coach.

#4 – Chadwick Boseman “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”


His character’s name may not be in the title, but Chadwick Boseman’s ambitious but deeply scarred Levee is clearly the movie’s heart. Boseman brings enough charisma to fill a room and he doesn’t allow the film’s occasional ‘staginess’ to hold him back. The movie carries the weight of being Boseman’s final big screen performance following his tragic passing. It’s also a powerful and sobering reminder of the immense talent he possessed.

#3 – Steven Yeun – “Minari”


Yet another amazing performance from this heartbreaking yet heartwarming family drama. Yeun is both the anchor and the glue in a role that should cement him as a solid leading man (for those who for some reason still had doubts). Yeun brings warmth and pathos to a character who certainly has his faults. But buried within his ambitions is the heart of a man trying to convince himself and his family to believe in the American Dream. Powerful work.

#2 – Riz Ahmed – “Sound of Metal”


I admit, I slept on this movie. But then I started hearing so many people talk about Riz Ahmed’s performance. I finally gave it a go and within 15 minutes I knew exactly why people were so enthusiastic. Ahmed gives what should be a star-making turn playing a punk rocker who loses his hearing and is forced to adjust to his new challenging reality. It’s a brutally honest and unflinching performance that has stuck with me since first seeing it.

#1 – Mads Mikkelsen – “Another Round”


This isn’t the first time Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen has topped one of these lists of mine. A bit of magic happens when he and filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg get together which is exactly what happened with “Another Round”. This is such a tricky role for Mikkelsen, taking a rather absurd idea on the surface and turning it into a deep, internal exploration of middle-age disillusionment. There’s humor, remorse, hope, and tragedy woven into this one phenomenal performance and Mikkelsen again proves himself to be one of our very best working actors.

And that wraps up this year’s look back at the best performances of 2020. What did you think of this list? Please leave you thoughts in the comments section below and lets do it again next year.

22 thoughts on “Best of 2020 – Lead Actor

      • Luis Tosar in EYE FOR AN EYE, Roman Griffin Davis in JOJO RABBIT, Michael B. Jordan in JUST MERCY, Ibrahima Gueye in THE LIFE AHEAD, Andy Samberg in Palm Springs, Adam Sandler in UNCUT GEMS, Patrick Robinson in SITTING IN LIMBO, Forest Whitaker in JINGLE JANGLE (or is he supporting?) and Jaden Michael in VAMPIRES VS THE BRONX.

        I know some of these are technically 2019 films, but they were released where I live in 2020.

  1. I have Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in my hard drive while The Way Back is on HBO as I hope to watch it soon. I hope to get to all of these. BTW, why did no one talk about August Diehl the year before for A Hidden Life? That was a moving and graceful performance in what I thought was Malick’s most accessible film since The New World.

  2. Mads! Riz! Chadwick! Love those picks and they would make my Top 5 as well. I haven’t seen your other picks, but I love Steven Yeun and I know I’ll love him in Minari. Delroy Lindo for Da 5 Bloods is another favorite. Same with Tom Holland for The Devil All The Time. No one talks about him in that anymore but I thought he was great.

    • I had a few issues with “Devil” but you’re so right about Holland. I liked Lindo too. I just felt his performance was a little too big at times. And I know I’ve said this before but I’m anxious to read your thoughts on MINARI.

  3. Oh Riz Ahmed for sure. I was late to Sound of Metal as well and was completely floored when I got around to it. Won’t get to see Minari til later this year (unless by some miracle it’s made available next month as a premium rental) but I hear great things about Steven Yeun’s performance. His career trajectory post-Walking Dead is incredible.

    • Ahmed blew me away and I’m anxious to watch that film again. As for Yeun, I can’t wait for more people to be able to see MINARI. I’ve watched it twice and can’t recommend it enough.

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