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Top 10 Best Acting Performances of All Time

Avatar of Devendra Kumar



top 10 acting performances

What is an actor? According to many of its definitions, it is defined as a person who portrays a character in his/her performance. Only the person performing on the stage or in front of a camera knows the struggle and the amount of dedication he/she has to put forward to bring out the best for the audience. Countless actors have emerged since the inception of the cinema. But only a handful of them has managed to reside in the minds and hearts of the moviegoers.

Here are the top 10 best acting performances of all time! Enjoy!

Note: We have prepared the following list based on various prominent surveys and ranking systems. Our personal emotions and attachment with the characters have not influenced our process.

Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs)

the silence of the lambs

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Despite appearing for roughly 15-20 mins as Hannibal Lecter, Anthony Hopkins delivered the most haunting performance of his entire career in this movie. The bone-chilling dialogue delivery combined with his sinister persona almost stole the show from Jodie Foster. Many performers have portrayed this wicked cannibal. Every one of them brought something new to the table. But none of them topped the exceptional work done by Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Anthony Perkins (Psycho)


Psycho (1960)

Anthony Perkins‘ overall career may not look as illustrious as other performers’ in Hollywood. But he immortalized the character of Norman Bates for all the cinephiles around the world. The shy owner of the Bates Motel turns into a psychotic serial killer who also happens to be suffering from a dissociative identity disorder. Under the flawless direction of Alfred Hitchcock, the moviegoers watched Perkins’ true acting abilities. And how can we forget his damn creepy stare at the end!

Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

the dark knight

The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger‘s dark, complex, and iconic portrayal of the Joker is considered as one of the greatest acting performances of the 21st century. Wait! Was he really acting here? Or was he literally breathing and living his deranged character? We think you know the answer pretty well! The decision to shift from the memorable darkly comic portrayal of the Joker worked for Ledger. Instead, he emphasized the most realistic and chaotic version of the Clown Prince of Gotham. His indelible performance made him the first actor ever to bag an Academy Award for a superhero movie.

Denzel Washington (Malcolm X)

malcolm x

Malcolm X (1992)

The first-ever collaboration between director Spike Lee and Denzel Washington worked like a charm for the viewers. To this date, we do not know how Denzel got snubbed at the 65th Academy Awards. A large portion of film critics still believes that his performance was way superior to Pacino’s. His iconic cinematic depiction of Malcolm X was absolutely perfect. The movie’s runtime is way over three hours. But thanks to his captivating and power-packed performance, it does not feel like a complete drag.

Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

one flew over the cuckoo's nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

From start to end, this movie completely belongs to Jack Nicholson! The 1970s turned out to be the game-changing period for Nicholson as he dispatched some of the finest Hollywood classics during that time. And this little gem is the best among them. It showcases his career-best performance to the viewers. He plays an irrepressible and lunatic character named Randle McMurphy. He gets caught for raping a young girl. But his false play of mentally ill patient enables him to get admitted into a mental hospital.

Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)

there will be blood

There Will Be Blood (2007)

“I drink your milkshake!”

Imagine what was going on in the dirty little mind of scary Eli when he first heard this dialogue from Daniel. The latter’s obsession with wealth turns him into a compulsive and ruthless oilman. When you start to talk about Daniel Day-Lewis, you have to admit that there is no limit to the range of his acting abilities. Just when we began to think that we had seen enough of Day-Lewis, he presented something new from under his sleeves. He feels the character of Daniel Plainview to his bones here. The gradual and methodical metamorphosis of his ordinary character into a shattered and merciless persona still bewilders us.

Meryl Streep (Sophie’s Choice)

sophie's choice

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Sophie’s Choice displays one of the most emotional and heartbreaking stories of all time. Based on the novel of the same name, this film treasures the greatest performance of Meryl Streep. She plays a Polish immigrant named Sophie. From handling her emotionally unstable lover to sacrificing both of her children in a Nazi concentration camp, she travels a long and painful journey in the movie. Her flawless portrayal of Sophie won her Best Actress Oscar.

Al Pacino (The Godfather Part II)

the godfather part 2

The Godfather Part II (1974)

Al Pacino definitely deserved an Oscar for his unforgettable performance as Micheal Corleone! We have watched many outstanding performers getting snubbed at the Academy Awards. But none of them has been publicized as much as Pacino’s snub to date. After the death of Vito Corleone, Micheal becomes the head of his family’s crime business. His desire for vengeance and lust for power diminish his goodness that he once possessed in his youth. Pacino brings the required fierceness and commitment to the changed persona of Micheal. Many consider it as his career-best performance.

Robert De Niro (Raging Bull)

raging bull

Raging Bull (1980)

Raging Bull is probably the greatest cinematic project Robert De Niro has ever done. He garnered critical acclaim for his violent, animalistic, and magnificent portrayal of Jake LaMotta. He even gained nearly 27 kg for his role. These types of physical transformations were not prominent at that time. But he made this character as realistic as possible. He ended up bagging his second Academy Award for this movie after previously winning for The Godfather Part II.

Marlon Brando (The Godfather)

the godfather

The Godfather (1972)

Ladies and gentlemen! You are looking at the greatest comeback in the history of cinema! The movie that restored the scattered career of the great Marlon BrandoThe Godfather! He stole every scene of this artistic magnum opus. Brando might have faced a lot of issues for his attitude and indiscipline on the movie sets. But when it came to acting, he gave it all. The same can be said here! He performed exceptionally well in this Coppola’s project. He even wore dental prosthetics for giving a unique touch to the overall character of Vito Corleone.

Hollywood geek, foodie, poet, and a part-time content writer. I love rock songs and voice acting.


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