10. Simon Pegg - The World's End - One of the smartest decisions made for The World's End was to switch up the characters that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play, Frost being the straight-man and Pegg being the main comedy character. Whilst both do an excellent job, Pegg is easily the standout here. His portrayal of Gary King really makes you feel sympathy for such an awful human being as King, letting you know that there is something darker in the character throughout the film with the reveal of this at the end of the film being the best acting in Pegg's career. Not only does Pegg nail the dramatic stuff but he's still incredibly funny, the highlight being when he fights one-handed so he can finish off his pint.
9. Chloe Grace Moretz - Kick-Ass 2 - In the very first of these lists I did back in 2010, I named Moretz' performance in the first Kick-Ass to be the best performance of that year and in this film, I think she's even better. As excellent as Moretz was in the first film, we only really saw Hit Girl, in this film we see a lot more of Mindy and we get a lot more character development for her and Moretz nails all of this, bringing a lot of heart and humour to her performance and the high school sub-plot, which I should hate, is made a blast to watch because of how excellent Moretz plays the character. Plus, when she goes full Hit Girl in the film, she still makes for one of the best badass characters of the year.
8. Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips - This could very easily have become one of the most generic characters of the year but the performance by Abdi, mixed with the writing, helps to create a very compelling character. Throughout the film, we get the sense that he doesn't want to do what he's doing, only doing so because there is no other option for him in order to stay alive. This is a very tricky act to pull off, especially when most of the film is spent alongside Tom Hanks, but Abdi, in his very first film performance, absolutely nails this character.
7. Bruce Dern - Nebraska - It was a really tough choice over whether to put Dern or June Squibb on this list for Nebraska but I ended up going with Dern because he gives a much more emotionally powerful performance. Throughout the film, we get a feeling that Dern is someone who wants to help people but, because of his upbringing, didn't really have chance to shine. When he gets the letter telling him he's won $1 million, he found the first instance of purpose in his life in a long time and Dern brilliantly captures the obsession to get the money, even though we know he will never get it. His interactions with Will Forte are also excellent and Dern gives one of the funniest and most dramatic performances of the year.
6. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy - Before Midnight - I know my rule is to only include one performance per film but there is no way I could justify leaving either one of these off the list. Delpy and Hawke are Celine and Jesse, whilst the witty charm they had in the first 2 films is great in the first half, it's in the second half of the film when these two have the argument that the performances reach their peak. All of the anger expressed by Hawke and Delpy feels very believable and the power of these performances is what enables Before Midnight to be such a great film.
5. Jessica Chastain - Zero Dark Thirty - This is an example of a quiet, understated performance making a film. In many ways, it can be said that Chastain's performance is pretty one-note but that's the genius of the performance, it shows just how single-minded she is in finding Bin Laden and how she doesn't really have any life outside of the hunt. The real power of the performance comes at the very end, after Bin Laden is killed, when we see Chastain sitting in the plane, contemplating what to do now that a 10 year chapter of her life has ended and it's a brilliant piece of really subtle acting from Chastain and I really feel she should have won the Best Actress Oscar over Jennifer Lawrence.
4. Sandra Bullock - Gravity - This is probably the most demanding performance of the year. For the majority of the film, Bullock is on her own with literally nothing to work against and Bullock nails it. Every single emotion that she feels throughout the film and every act she does feels genuine to what a person in her situation would feel and do and the more emotional stuff she does later on in the film is acted perfectly.
3. James McAvoy - Filth - This is a true powerhouse performance from McAvoy. He throws everything he has into this role and fully absorbs the role of Bruce Robertson. McAvoy fully gets across how much of a sick, depraved individual Robertson is but he also gives some more quite aspects of his performance to show that there is something seriously wrong with the character and this side of the performance is what puts McAvoy so high in this list.
2. Michael Shannon - The Iceman - This is a case where a performance can make a film. On the whole, The Iceman is not a great film, the writing and direction is pretty generic and most of the acting is fairly bland except for Michael Shannon. He gives a truly terrifying performance in this film and there is a constant sense of fear that you will never know what he's going to do next and that sense of fear of the character is what makes The Iceman a good film and it really highlights how much of a disappointment Shannon was in Man of Steel with his excellent performance in this coming out the week before Man of Steel in the UK.
1. Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln - It's a Daniel Day-Lewis performance, do I even need to say that it's excellent. Everything that Lewis does in the film fully encapsulates the spirit of Lincoln and this gives real weight behind everything he's saying in a perfect pairing of actor and writer with Lewis and Tony Kushner. All this makes this the best performance of 2013.
- Amy Acker and Nathan Fillion - Much Ado About Nothing
- Tom Hiddleston - Thor: The Dark World
- Frank Langella - Robot and Frank
- Lake Bell - In A World
- Michael Smiley - A Field in England
- Ellen Page - The East
Next time is my final list in my 2013 retrospective, my top 10 favourite films of 2013.