Here is my final list celebrating the great performances of 2015. The top 15 best male lead performances of the year. Enjoy!
15. Michael Fassbender as Silas in Slow West: You got to love Michael Fassbender! Last year, he plays Magneto, the mutant with a metal helmet as well as a musician that wears a paper mache head. Now he bounces his way into the Western genre as the rather sly cowboy Silas. What makes his work here different from his previous work is how he plays someone that is more...cool, oozing charm and slight sensitivity.
14. Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope in Southpaw: Even if Gyllenhaal is hampered by subpar writing, he still fights his way out of it with his performance in this. I would say this is a performance as demanding and committed as well...Jake Gyllenhaal's performance last year in Nightcrawler. I can imagine he's only going to get better.
13. Joel Edgerton as John Connolly in Black Mass: Black Mass may have been marketed as a comeback vehicle for Johnny Depp. But ultimately, it's Joel Edgerton who walks away with the film as the sole MVP. Even if his John Connolly wasn't the most likable guy in the room, I still found myself feeling bad over what might happen to him in the end.
12. Jason Bateman as Simon in The Gift: Who knew Jason Bateman was capable of playing someone so punchable? He's usually playing the lovable comedic straight man. But as a man with a hidden past, Jason Bateman really gets to play against type. While we normally see comedians go serious, I certainly did not expect this from him.
11. Jason Mitchell as Easy E in Straight Outta Compton: Back in August when this movie came out, while the main acting trio was getting major props, it was Jason Mitchell who was on the tip of everyone's tongue. With good reason too because with how he nails the performing style of Easy E and showcases layers of humor and depth, Mitchell steals every scene he is in.
10. Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass in The Revenant: At this point, saying Leonardo DiCaprio gave a masterful performance is like saying the grass is green. It is so obvious that he always delivers and pushes himself as a performer. Here, he pushes himself to great physical lengths, hardly uttering any dialogue as he lets his face do the talking while undergoing such brutal conditions. If he doesn't win an Oscar this time around, the man truly is cursed.
9. Taron Egerton as Eggsy Unwin in Kingsman: The Secret Service: Taron Egerton is one of the greatest cinematic finds of 2015. In Kingsman, he gets to ooze charisma, hold his own against veteran actors like Sir Michael Caine and Colin Firth, and handle some killer action scenes. It's the kind of star-making turn that makes you eager to await his next move and I certainly can't wait to see what he's got on his table in the future. The near future.
8. Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs: Even if Michael Fassbender looks little like Steve Jobs, he still gets to create a colorful portrait of him. He plays Jobs like the machines he's trying to sell, speaking in rapid fire while always trying to look ahead and evolve. This year, he not only got to speak "Aaron Sorkinese" but also Shakespearean in Macbeth. At this point, he's not an actor, but a certified chameleon.
7. David Thewlis as Michael Stone in Anomalisa: A lot of us can probably identify with David Thewlis' Michael, somebody who feels they undergo the same mundanity every single day. Through his voice work, Thewlis is able to capture Michael's neuroticism as well as his more optimistic switch as soon as he stumbles across the mercurial Lisa. Once he meets this woman and feels he has immediately found love, you really felt that.
6. Jacob Tremblay as Jack in Room: Jacob Tremblay gave perhaps one of the best child actor performances in recent memory if not ever. It is quite rare for child actors to portray children as...simply children in my opinion. Jack experiences the atypical starry-eyed wonder that children have as well as their burning curiosity about the world perfectly.
5. Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Fury Road: Action star is another thing that Tom Hardy can add to his already diverse resume. But not only does Hardy handle the action very well, but the subtle emotional journey as well. He goes from paranoid recluse who holds women at gunpoint to sympathetic ally that becomes a great asset to the central female characters through sudden inflictions of his eyes. Much like Michael Fassbender, is there anything this man can't do?
4. Michael B. Jordan as Adonnis Creed in Creed: Jordan proves himself as a more than worthy successor to Sly Stallone in the Rocky franchise. Jordan's work is a dynamic mix of charm, physicality, and depth. Even as he shows off his charming smile, he captures his inner fury and torment through his hard punches. Thanks to his work in both this and Fruitvale Station, Michael B. Jordan proves why he is destined to be one of our biggest stars working today.
3. Matt Damon as Mark Watney in The Martian: Few movie characters this year have left me feeling as much joy when leaving the theater as Damon's Mark Watney. Even when we sense the fear in his voice that he won't make it through to the end, he still throws out a few funny quips, trying to stay optimistic in the face of danger.
2. Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace in The End Of The Tour: We have seen plenty of comedians attempt to play it straight, but when I heard about this film and that Jason Segel would star, I thought "Really? Jason Segel?" But boy, am I glad that he stunned me with his dramatic powerhouse of a performance. It's a shame that despite ticking the right boxes (comedian going serious, real-life person), Segel was considerable overlooked this award season. But regardless, here's hoping his work here opens up an interesting chapter in his career.
1. Ben Mendelsohn as Gerry in Mississippi Grind: Trivial question: What do the cold eyes of Pope Cody in Animal Kingdom, the power hungry sleaze of Daggett in The Dark Knight Rises, and the heart of gold from Robin in The Place Beyond The Pines all have in common? They're all played by the guy above. Gerry is a rare leading role for typical "that guy" Ben Mendelsohn and he seizes it. Through the way he widens his big determined smile and says "Uhh, you know" like a kid who he thinks he's in trouble, he is able to give Gerry a huggable factor that sets him apart from the darker characters he's portrayed in the past. After both this and Starred Up, I'll pretty much follow whatever his next projects are.
Here, you can see my list of the top 15 best supporting male performances and my lists of the best female performances here and here.