1. Cate Blanchett- Tár– One of the great director/star pairings in recent years, Cate Blanchett gives a thunderous performance as the conductor Lydia Tár in Todd Field’s first film in over 15 years. A ghost story that doubles as a complex dissection of power, Tár simply would not work without Blanchett’s cooly confident yet simmering performance at its center. As the classical music world that she’s become queen of begins to slip through her fingers, Blanchett brings this masterclass in narcissistic folly to brutal, scathing life.
2. Lee Hye-yeoung- In Front of Your Face & The Novelist’s Film– The prolific director Hong Sang-soo made two of the year’s best films, and Lee Hye-yeoung was at the center of both of them. In In Front of Your Face, she plays a world-weary former movie star returning to Seoul from the U.S. to visit some old friends and family as well as a promising young director who wants her to return to acting in his new film. In The Novelist’s Film, she is an acclaimed writer who spontaneously decides to make her first film upon meeting a famous actress on a walk. Lee injects the extended conversation scenes in both movies with an undercurrent of tragedy while also injecting them with sly humor.
3. Tang Wei- Decision to Leave– Tang Wei is spellbinding as the secretive wife of a man murdered in the mountains. As the detective investigating the case becomes more and more obsessed with her, Park Chan-wook’s masterful thriller takes an abundance of twists. Tang walks the tightrope of maintaining an air of mystery while keeping her character’s crumbling humanity at the forefront.
4. Jack Lowden- Benediction– Terence Davies’ World War I-era biopic of the poet Siegfried Sassoon is an immaculately conceived story of queer repression that is imbued with just enough exuberance to keep its main character from total despair. Lowden brilliantly navigates Sassoon’s turbulent life, the way his wartime traumas and his past loves inform his creative brilliance.
5. N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan- RRR– It’s impossible to choose between the two gleeful revolutionaries at the center of S. S. Rajamouli’s action epic. Rao and Charan are master showmen in each and every one of RRR‘s increasingly complex action set pieces. From a daring bridge rescue to storming a British colonialist compound with a crew of zoo animals, their freewheeling energy and emotional spontaneity amplify Rajamouli’s tightly choreographed action.
6. Tilda Swinton- Memoria– The new film from the great Apichatpong Weerasethakul follows a Scottish woman traveling alone in Colombia. Plagued by mysterious ‘boom’ noises that interrupt her day-to-day life, the exhausted woman endeavors to find their origin. Swinton’s quiet intensity and endlessly captivating eyes open the window to a troubled, tired soul.
7. Lesley Manville- Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris– Lesley Manville gets a star vehicle worthy of her immense talent in Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. As a widowed cleaning lady in ’50s London who kicks in the door at House Dior in Paris in pursuit of a couture gown, Manville plays to the rafters. Crucially, though, her Mrs. Harris also has a current of melancholy pulsating underneath, which doesn’t slow her down but does give the movie an air of emotional complexity.
8. Juliette Binoche- Both Sides of the Blade– One of the best movie moments of the last year was a simple shot of Juliette Binoche leaning over a balcony at night, surveying an old flame. Teaming up again with director Claire Denis for another mesmerizingly tactile study of romance, its pleasures and discontents, Binoche simultaneously brings conflicting emotions to the forefront of her love-lorn character.
9. Daniel Kaluuya- Nope– After their star-making collaboration on 2018’s Get Out, Daniel Kaluuya and director Jordan Peele reunited for another showstopping, high-concept thriller. In Nope, Kaluuya plays OJ Hayword, one half of a sibling duo keeping a horse ranch afloat after the mysterious death of their father. As increasingly bizarre things happen at the ranch, the subdued grief and gravitas of Kaluuya’s performance provide Peele’s sci-fi Western with a deeply haunted heart.
10. Lea Seydoux- Crimes of the Future– As a performance artist whose art is surgery, Lea Seydoux lends both chilly precision and genuine warmth to the character Caprice in David Cronenberg’s latest. Tasked as both creator and caretaker, she is a window into the director’s long-standing preoccupations with the mind/body connection. In Seydoux’s hands, though, you never forget that Crimes of the Future is also a deeply romantic love story.
Keke Palmer- Nope
Rayan Sarlak- Hit the Road
Nina Hoss- Tár
Jon Bernthal- Sharp Stick
Banks Repeta and Jaylin Webb- Armageddon Time
Rachel Sennott- Bodies Bodies Bodies
Viggo Mortensen- Crimes of the Future
Avshalom Pollak- Ahed’s Knee
Justin Long- Barbarian
Nicole Kidman- The Northman