2019 Movies: Acting

Now we’re getting meaty.

And there’s no ham like an actor.

And that’s why we love them.

Here are all of my favorite thespian achievements of 2019 in film, save for the Academy Awards’ Big Four official categories, which are reserved for The (forthcoming) Stevens.


On the big screen. Ranked not only in terms of the listed performances; I also factor in how much future success I believe their turns indicate (the same applies for the Breakthrough category below).


  1. Honor Swinton Byrne, The Souvenir
  2. Jimmie Fails, The Last Black Man in San Francisco
  3. Tom Mercier, Synonyms
  4. Erika Karata, Asako I & II
  5. Shuzhen Zhao, The Farewell
  6. Julia Stockler & Carol Duarte, Invisible Life
  7. Keith Williams Richards, Uncut Gems
  8. Djibril Zonga, Les Misérables
  9. Eliza Scanlen, Little Women
  10. Melvin Gregg, High Flying Bird
  11. Julia Fox, Uncut Gems
  12. Byron Bowers, Honey Boy
  13. Cardi B, Hustlers
  14. Amber Chardae Robinson, Stuber
  15. Dogu Demirkol, The Wild Pear Tree
  16. Himesh Patel, Yesterday The Aeronauts
  17. Lily Banda, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
  18. Sanya Malhotr, Photograph
  19. Noa Fisher, Uncut Gems


Personal breakthroughs for me individually, not globally, nor even necessarily nationally. They either entered my (TV-abstinent) radar, or elevated my impression of them.


  1. Franz Rogowski, Transit / In the Aisles
    • Became one of my favorite actors overnightyear
  2. Camila Morrone, Mickey and the Bear
  3. Jonathan Majors, The Last Black Man in San Francisco
  4. Margaret Qualley, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood / Adam / Donnybrook / Strange But True
  5. Tom Burke, The Souvenir
  6. Valerie Pachner, A Hidden Life / The Ground Beneath My Feet
  7. Carloto Cotta, Diamantino
  8. Taylor RussellWaves Escape Room
  9. Aisling Franciosi, The Nightingale
  10. Marcello Fonte, Dogman
  11. Liron Ben-Shlush, Working Woman
  12. Gabriela Cartol, The Chambermaid
  13. Ana de Armas, Knives Out
  14. Calvin Demba, Mickey and the Bear Yardie Last Christmas
  15. Jonas Dassler, The Golden Glove
  16. Maya Erskine, Plus One 
  17. Juli Jakab, Sunset
  18. Juan Barberini, End of the Century
  19. Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dolemite Is My Name
  20. Ioana Iacob, I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians
  21. Félix Maritaud, Sauvage
  22. Diana Lin, The Farewell
  23. Jack Lowden, Fighting with My Family
  24. Dev Patel, The Wedding Guest
  25. Awkwafina, The Farewell
  26. Emelie Jonsson, Aniara
  27. Octavio Pizano, Ms. Purple
  28. Alia Bhatt, Gully Boy
  29. Joel Fry, Yesterday
  30. Ranveer Singh, Gully Boy
  31. Angus Imrie, The Kid Who Would Be King
  32. Kulvinder Ghir, Blinded by the Light
  33. Babou Ceesay, The Best of Enemies
  34. Siddhant Chaturvedi, Gully Boy


By “young,” I mean adolescent. As in, not Florence Pugh young.


  1. Nguyen Phuong Tra My, The Third Wife
  2. Samantha Mugatsia, Rafiki 
  3. Asier Flores, Pain and Glory
  4. Marguerite Bouchard / Romane Denis / Rose Adam, Slut in a Good Way
  5. Julia Butters, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
  6. Azhy Robertson, Marriage Story
  7. Bobbi Salvör Menuez, Adam
  8. Paola Lara, Tigers Are Not Afraid
  9. Maxwell Simba, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
  10. Emma Nelson, Where’d You Go, Bernadette 
  11. Sheila Munyiva, Rafiki
  12. Niamh Wilson, Giant Little Ones
  13. Noah Jupe, Honey Boy Ford v Ferrari 
  14. Jonathan Aranbayev & Jacob Dylan Igielski, Uncut Gems
  15. Viveik Kalra, Blinded by the Light
  16. Finn Little, Storm Boy
  17. Gedion Oduor Wekesa, Styx 
  18. Taylor Hickson, Giant Little Ones


Singular thespians in singular singular scenes.

The category’s dominated by celebrities because cameos often feed off our familiarity with their fame, specifically the audience’s awareness of the actor’s reputation, and how the cameo plays around with these expectations (often for comedic, meta, self-referential, self-aware effect). Ultimately, we’re watching the actor — and we’re aware of the actor — more than their character.


  1. Simon Chinn, The Amazing Johnathan Documentary
  2. Martin Lawrence, The Beach Bum
  3. Keanu Reeves, Always Be My Maybe
  4. Robert Pattinson, The King
  5. Sharon Stone, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese
  6. Al Pacino, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
  7. Matt Damon, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot
  8. Cardi B, Hustlers
  9. Bill Murray, Zombieland: Double Tap
  10. The Rock, Fighting with My Family
  11. Nick Jonas, Midway
    • His version of Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity, sans Oscar.
  12. Little Steven Van ZandtThe Irishman
  13. Kyle Mooney, The Unicorn
  14. Patti LuPone, Last Christmas
  15. Matthew Maher, Captain Marvel
  16. Mel Brooks, Toy Story 4
  17. Richard Kind, Bombshell 


This time, the singular singular scenes go plural; the movies built upon litanies of cameos:


  1. Uncut Gems
  2. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
  3. Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese
  4. Jay and Silent Bob Reboot
  5. Midway
    • A movie that’s basically a feature-length series of cameos.
  6. Dolemite Is My Name
  7. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw


My favorites cameoers who came to cameo a couple of times, with each of their respective turns listed in order of personal preference.


  1. Sharon Stone, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese / The Laundromat
  2. Bruce Dern, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood / The Peanut Butter Falcon
  3. Snoop Dogg, The Beach Bum Dolemite Is My Name / The Addams Family
  4. Scott Mescudi (AKA Kid Cudi), Drunk Parents / Jexi
  5. Thomas Haden Church, The Peanut Butter Falcon, Hellboy

  1. Give Me Liberty

  1. Brittany Runs a Marathon

  1. Adam
  2. Under the Silver Lake
  3. This Is Not Berlin
  4. Tigers Are Not Afraid


With a preference for movies that rely on deep casts, and each member relatively equally. As always, both size matters, AND how it’s used.


  1. Parasite
  2. The Laundromat 
  3. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
  4. The Dead Don’t Die
  5. Uncut Gems
  6. Pain and Glory
  7. Diane
  8. Chained for Life
  9. Gloria Bell
  10. Climax
  11. The Souvenir
  12. The Irishman
  13. The Beach Bum
  14. Marriage Story
  15. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
  16. Non-Fiction
  17. The Farewell
  18. Perfect Strangers
  19. Little Women
  20. Knives Out
  21. Midsommar
  22. At War
  23. Mickey and the Bear
  24. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
  25. Toy Story 4
  26. In the Aisles
  27. Les Misérables
  28. Dolemite Is My Name
  29. Official Secrets
  30. Grass
  31. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
  32. Midway


Ranked in order of the totality of their combined 2019 work. And, after the actor’s name, their movies are listed in order of the relative strength of their performances in each.


  1. Brad Pitt, Ad Astra Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
  2. Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse Pasolini
    • …let’s ignore Motherless Brooklyn
  3. Adam DriverMarriage Story The Dead Don’t Die / The Man Who Killed Don Quixote The Report / Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker
  4. Tilda Swinton, The Souvenir / The Dead Don’t Die
  5. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory The Laundromat
  6. Franz Rogowski, Transit / In the Aisles / A Hidden Life
  7. Matthew McConaughey, The Beach Bum / Serenity
  8. Juliette Binoche, High Life / Non-Fiction
  9. Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse High Life The King
  10. Shia LaBeoufHoney Boy The Peanut Butter Falcon
  11. Florence PughMidsommar / Fighting with My Family / Little Women
  12. Keanu Reeves, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Always Be My Maybe Toy Story 4 Replicas
  13. Al PacinoThe Irishman / Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
  14. James Badge DaleMickey and the Bear / The Standoff at Sparrow Creek / Little Woods / Donnybrook / The Kitchen
  15. Margaret Qualley, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood / Adam / Donnybrook / Strange But True
  16. Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell / Us / The Kitchen
  17. Jess Weixler, Chained for Life The Death of Dick Long
  18. Lupita Nyong’o, Us Little Monsters / Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker
  19. Bruce Dern, The Mustang Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood The Peanut Butter FalconFreaks
  20. Dennis QuaidThe Intruder / A Dog’s Journey / Midway
  21. LaKeith Stanfield, Uncut Gems Knives Out
  22. Regina Hall, Little / Shaft
  23. Ian McKellenThe Good Liar / All Is True / Cats
  24. Valerie Pachner, A Hidden Life / The Ground Beneath My Feet
  25. Sharon Stone, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin ScorseseThe Laundromat
  26. Laura DernMarriage Story / Little Women / Trial by Fire / JT LeRoy / Cold Pursuit
  27. Matthias Schoenaerts, The Mustang / The Laundromat A Hidden Life
  28. Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood Bombshell Slaughterhouse Rulez
  29. Alexander Skarsgård, The Hummingbird Project / Long Shot / The AftermathThe Kill Team
  30. Kelvin Harrison Jr.Waves Luce / JT LeRoyBolden
  31. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes The Man Who Killed Don Quixote 
  32. Danny GloverThe Last Black Man in San Francisco The Dead Don’t Die / Always in Season Jumanji: The Next Level
  33. Jacki WeaverPoms / Out of Blue / Zeroville
  34. Aldis Hodge, Clemency Brian Banks / What Men Want
  35. Bill SkarsgårdIt Chapter Two / Villains
    • Jekyll and Hyde in appearance and acting, Hyde and Hyde in the morality of the characters.
  36. Dev Patel, The Wedding Guest / Hotel Mumbai
  37. Tracy Letts, Little Women Ford v Ferrari 
  38. Jesse Eisenberg, The Art of Self-Defense / The Hummingbird Project Zombieland: Double Tap
  39. Sam Claflin, The Nightingale / Charlie’s Angels
  40. Rosalind Chao, The Laundromat Plus One
  41. Emile HirschNever Grow Old / Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood / Freaks
  42. Taylor RussellWaves Escape Room
  43. Sam RockwellRichard Jewell Jojo Rabbit 
  44. Lucas Hedges, Honey Boy Waves
  45. Judy GreerWhere’d You Go, Bernadette Driven Playing with Fire
  46. Guillaume Canet, Non-Fiction / My Son
  47. John Lithgow, Bombshell / The Tomorrow Man / Pet Sematary / Late Night
  48. Dan StevensHer Smell / Lucy in the Sky
  49. Diane Keaton, Poms / Hampstead
  50. Chris Cooper, Little Women A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood / “Henrietta Bulkowski”
  51. Mike Epps, The Last Black Man in San Francisco Dolemite Is My Name
  52. Topher Grace, Under the Silver Lake Breakthrough


The actors who shined both under a spotlight and in front of the camera, on stage and screen:


  1. Adam Driver
  2. Deirdre O’Connell
    • Stage: Dana H. Before the Meeting
    • Screen: Diane
  3. Ian McKellen
    • Stage: Ian McKellen on Stage: With Tolkien, Shakespeare, Others … and You 
    • Screen: The Good LiarAll Is True / Cats
  4. Jonathan Pryce
    • Stage: The Height of the Storm
    • Screen: The Two Popes The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
  5. John Lithgow
    • Stage: Hillary and Clinton
    • Screen: Bombshell / The Tomorrow Man / Pet Sematary / Late Night
    • Note: John Lithgow may always be our beloved John Lithgow, deftly bringing characters to animated life in his immediately-endearing fashion, but he still finds distinct nuances true to each character within his generally-recognizable, consistent persona.
  6. Cillian Murphy
  7. Emily Davis
    • Stage: Is This A Room
    • Screen: The Plagiarists 
  8. Utkarsh Ambudkar
    • Stage: Freestyle Love Supreme
    • Screen: Brittany Runs a Marathon  


In the immortal words of Mel Brooks:

“Leo: Actors aren’t animals! They’re human beings.

Max: Have you ever eaten with one?”


  1. DOGS!!!, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
  2. Dogs, Los Reyes
  3. Bulls, Our Time
  4. Gulls — The Lighthouse
  5. Dachshund, The Art of Self-Defense
  6. Ellen, The Farewell
  7. Brandy, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
  8. Sphynx Cat, Gloria Bell
  9. Dogs, Dogman
  10. Mr. Percival the Pelican, Storm Boy
  11. Marcus the Mustang, The Mustang
  12. Dogs, Parasite
  13. Purse Dog, Hustlers
  14. Bella the Dog, A Dog’s Way Home
  15. Enzo, The Art of Racing in the Rain
  16. Goat, Loro
  17. Dogs, A Dog’s Journey
  18. Tragic Dog, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
  19. Rodeo, Rojo
  20. Goose the Cat, Captain Marvel
  21. Kittens, Jawline
  22. Chicken on Head (Don’t Mention It), Missing Link
  23. Under the Silver Lake 
    • Thematically essential, beguilingly so…

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