15. Naomi Watts as Cornelia in While We’re Young: It's interesting because even though I am not as old as her character, I feel like I can easily connect with her. Cornelia has a younger mentality, refusing to be a parent as well as attending hip-hop classes, and is even a role that allows Watts to showcase her dry comedic timing. Seriously, is there anything this woman can't do?
14. Alicia Vikander as Vera Brittain in Testament of Youth: Here is Alicia Vikander with another three-dimensional performance. This time, she plays WWI nurse Vera Brittain who she plays as someone with an iron fist in a velvet glove. She's a strong-willed independent thinker that seems ready to face the horrors of war yet is still unable to shield herself from it. Much like The Danish Girl, the camera can never get enough of her expressive and luminous face.
13. Kristen Wiig as Alice in Welcome To Me: Kristen Wiig is one of our more interesting actresses working today. After Bridesmaids, she could've easily cashed in on her success, maybe ending up dooming herself to 'Katherine Heigl rom-com' purgatory. But instead she took a road less traveled, seeking out roles as unique as BPD-stricken lottery winner/Oprah wannabe Alice Kreig. In the hands of a less capable actress, Alice could've come off as rather selfish and perhaps a martyr. But Wiig brings much empathy to the role by finding the humor within the tragedy. What unique roles will Wiig amaze us with next?
12. Amy Poehler as Joy in Inside Out: It is very rare to see such a perfect match of voice actor and character. Not only does Amy Poehler capture the joyfulness of Joy down to a T, but the "emotional" journey she goes on as well. She always wants her Riley to be happy, but slowly comes to the realization that Riley will have to be sad eventually. It's a showcase for Poehler's traditional comedic strengths yet is also very nuanced voice work.
11. Juliette Binoche as Maria Enders in Clouds of Sils Maria: I may not exactly be in show business, but Juliette Binoche has beautifully captured what it means to be an older actress in Hollywood, But even as Maria has shades of ego and neurosis, she's still a far cry from Norma Desmond. In fact, Maria is a far cry from Binoche's own grief-stricken Julie in Three Colors: Blue. Before France gave us Cotillard, we had and still have Binoche.
10. Amy Schumer as Amy in Trainwreck: While a lot of us were familiar with Amy Schumer before Trainwreck thanks to her work on her variety TV series, in the summer of 2015, we still watched a star being born on the big screen. While the character of Amy is very crass and crude, she is still quite three-dimensional as she slowly succumbs to the wonders of monogamy. Few performances this year had me burst into laughter while tugging my heartstrings the way Schumer's did.
9. Rebecca Hall as Robyn in The Gift: With her Robyn, Rebecca Hall gives us a suspense heroine that'll likely make Clarice Starling proud. Even if she is someone who is pure and unafraid to see the good in other people, Robyn will still grill her husband to uncover the film's mystery.
8. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as Carol & Therese in Carol: I combined the two performances because I feel that one performance is incomplete without the other. Without Carol's hungry gazing at Therese, Therese wouldn't be so caught up in her love spell that progresses. Without Therese's growing obsession, Carol's guilt wouldn't be fueled.
7. Emily Blunt as Kate in Sicario: While Emily Blunt may have dabbled into action fare with Edge of Tomorrow, what makes this performance a complete 180 is that Kate is more of an idealist than the sword-wielding Rita Vitarski and this performance involves a lot more acting from Blunt's deep, expressive eyes. Then again, Blunt just keeps doing 180 after 180, always knocking it out of the park.
6. Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Daisy Ridley is one of the greatest finds of cinema in 2015. Not only does she rise to the occasion in what is her first starring role, but gives a performance packed with gleaming charm, dramatic depth, and action-packed ferocity.
5. Charlize Theron as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road: Even as the film is titled Mad Max, it is ultimately Charlize's Furiosa who runs away with the picture. Thanks to Theron's portrait of the one-armed heroine that is packed with both layered quiet sensitivity and physical fireworks, Furiosa has made Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley very proud.
4. Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper in Spy: McCarthy's Susan Cooper was a complete game changer. Mainly in terms of how women are perceived in action films as well as comedies. What McCarthy and director Paul Feig have brought to life is a funny action heroine who feels like a simple person, someone who wants to get in on the action to stop feeling so ordinary. We all know Melissa McCarthy can make our sides split with laughter, but who knew she could kick so much butt? Even if we don't get a Spy sequel, I still want to see more of Melissa McCarthy, the action hero.
3. Charlotte Rampling as Kate Mercer in 45 Years: As the loyal wife Kate, Charlotte Rampling does more acting with just her face than most actors can with pages of dialogue. Most of the film consists of her putting on a mask for her husband. Trying to hide her grief and sadness and being unable to share her feelings with her husband of 4 1/2 decades. But that final scene, where she ponders the purpose of her decade-long marriage with just a look. Perfectly captured by this gifted actress.
2. Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey in Brooklyn: Much like Alicia Vikander, here's another name to get ready to learn to pronounce. Even as Saoirse Ronan has proven herself as a capable actress in the past, in films like Hanna and The Grand Budapest Hotel, here, she really comes into her own as a leading lady. As the camera never gets enough of her expressive face, Ronan is able to do more with less by letting her eyes do the talking. Much like the film itself, Ronan's quietly arresting work possesses a rather old school-style charm reminiscent of classic movie stars that would let their own faces do the talking.
1. Brie Larson as Ma in Room: I have always liked Brie Larson as an actress. Ever since her chameleonic turn as Envy Adams in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, I've taken note of her exquisite talent. Thankfully, with the role of Ma, she has finally been given a role where she gets to be a real force of nature and show audiences what she is made of. As Ma, she has to play both the mother role, then eventually the daughter; be unconditionally loving yet self-loathing; make her son believe Room is the world while being aware they can't stay there forever. Even if the story is mostly from the son's point of view, Larson's performance is still just as vital to the film as she has to undergo her own journey as well back while her son is learning to discover it.
So that was my own personal top 15. Please be sure to share your own top 10 or 15 in the comments section. Thanks for reading!