Greatest Acting Performances On Film

There are hundreds of films with some great acting performances. And many films have amazing performances too. But this list goes through the top 10 all time greatest acting performances to ever be seen on camera.

The Top Ten

1 Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight

This is without a doubt the single best acting performance I have ever seen. I pride myself in having watched several all time great movies, with outstanding acting (Literally every movie on this list) however none can surpass Heath Ledger's depiction of the Joker. His performance in this film gives me goosebumps every single time I watch it. His mannerisms and raw psychotic emotions send a shiver down my spine! Every scene he is in makes me smile from sheer amazement of how incredible one human being can act. Kudos to Heath Ledger. Rest in peace, you deserve it.

Heath Ledger gave a thrilling, menacing, chilling performance as the Joker, he immersed himself completely in the role so that you wouldn't guess it was him something other actors can't achieve. In this film you are cheering for the villain.

I have a little doubt between this and Jack Nicholson's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" as the best performance ever, but at the end, this won. No actor before (and after) has showed us an acting like this, thrilling, monumental, it can win other brilliant performances by older actors cause it's more than brilliant, it's perfect.

He turned himself to Joker,he devoted his life to the performence,The Dark Knight would't be so brilliant without him.

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2 Jack Nicholson - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Perfection, he carried nearly every scene in what might be the greatest indie movie of all time. This is his standout performance among all 12 of his Oscar-nominated performances and three Oscar wins. And since it was for Best Actor (not Best Supporting Actor in the case of Ledger's equally amazing Joker), I've give a slight nod to Jack.

Perfect performance. Even Though he is not a method actor ( he may be), the performance was perfect. He is also the greatest actor of all time, better than daniel day lewis, de niro, pacino. Brando is good too!

Seeing that Heath Ledger in the Dork Nut is number 1 out of sympathy and has 9% more of the votes proves you guys know nothing about acting. Heath Ledger didn't play the Joker. He played a crazy guy with make-up. This performance blows that out of the water. - 445956

Heath at number 1? That js it, I am done. - 445956

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3 Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood

There are many actors who give great performances and bring characters to life. Then there are actors like Daniel Day-Lewis. He is the only actor living today, who can BE a character, and this character is showing the best of his talents. The most impressing accmopishment though, is not just how good this performance is, but how he made a character who is just an oil man so much more then what the character should have been. While Heath Ledger, Marlon Brando and Anthony Hopkins were given roles as The Joker, Head of the most powerful mafia family in New York and a genius cannibalistic psychopath, Daniel was given the role of an oil man.
See the movie and then the Oscar speech for the role. It's unbelievable to think that it's the same person.

What A Performance! I Was Just Amazed At How Well He Put On This Character. Simply Wonderful.

Oscar-Best Actor In A Leading Role

Hands down deserves to be top ten best performances of all-time, if not first! Come on, Orlando Bloom has three in top 5? Did he make this list?

He is the best

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4 Marlon Brando - The Godfather

Wow. I just can't believe that this incredible piece of actin has been out voted by a pretty boy in a pirate suit. To be fair, I love Pirates of the Caribbean but Orlando Bloom doing okay in the same role for three movies does not make him fit to surpass perhaps the most appropriately done for the film acting performance ever. Marlon Brando made The Godfather. For him to be passed is ridiculous.

If you would just watch how he immerses himself into the Godfather you will how amazing it is, And he is not even Italian but Native American, and he was 48 when he done this movie, and with such pride and effort into his work it became the greatest acting performance of all time

This is by far the greatest performance on film, Marlon Brando has given his all in this role. He well deserved oscar win, for one of the greatest actors in history

You guys seriously think Ledger beat this? - 445956

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5 Robert De Niro - Taxi Driver

I Love This Movie. Mainly Because Of The Script, The Directing and Deniro's Performance. You can See His Sanity Slowly Slipping Throughout The Film, Until He Snaps At The End, Classic.

Oscar-Nominated for Best Actor In A Leading Role

I have never seen an acting performance like this. The way De Niro plays Travis is the perfect mix of madness, deranged, allure and chilling. At his prime, GOAT next to Brando. Only he could play the Don the way Brando perfected it.

No one competes with DeNiro. He is the greatest.

He is an acting God!

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6 Robert De Niro - Raging Bull

This is what acting is all about. Robert De Niro poured his heart into this film and got what he deserved, a well-earned Academy award. He looks exactly like Jake La Motta in the film. The entire film is full of two great performances (the other being Joe Pesci's) but I have to say that Robert De Niro's portrayal of Jake La Motta has upstaged the entire cast.

Robert de niro has been proven to be the greatest actor of all time due to his incredible performance in raging bull. There are a lot of films out there that make you believe that its happening for real, but raging bull has a unique quality in it that really drags you into the story. It feels so real. - Potbellypup3

If people don't appreciate this performance then they are disrespecting film. This is the greatest performance of all time, I reckon DeNiro just made this film. You can't watch it say that THAT wasn't Jake La Motta

Simply the best

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7 Anthony Hopkins - The Silence of the Lambs

This performance stays with you. - Potbellypup3

Great movie and great acting. The scariest film I know! - ChatonNoir

16 minutes, he was only in this film for sixteen minutes but he stole every scene. Twenty five years later, we're still talking about him. He made one of the biggest marks in cinema history in only sixteen minutes.

His wife literally left him because she was too 'creeped out' by his performance..
all that is needed to be said.

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8 Tom Hanks - Forrest Gump

Tom Hanks is known by many as one of the greatest actors to ever be on film, although I don't think this is completely true I would definitely put him on my top 10 list. - Potbellypup3

Heath Ledger was good as the Joker, but he is quite overpraised. Tom Hanks, on the other hand, proved in Forrest Gump that performances don't need gritty intensity all the time to be great.

Tom Hanks is my second favorite actor ever. The Green Mile is my favorite film by him, but Forest Gump is easily his best performance.

Its easy to play a crazy guy, but a dumb guy, no

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9 Malcolm McDowell - A Clockwork Orange

Such A Strange Movie, But One Of My Favourites, Alex Is A Freakish Twisted Character, And Malcolm Plays Him Dead On.


One of the greatest performances of all time. McDowell manages to find a middle ground between insane and charming, a charisma that is a pleasure to watch.

This one gets overlooked far to often, while agree with your #1 Alex should be in the top 10

10 Al Pacino - The Godfather

He was better than Marlon Brando in his role, but still you can't give credit away from Brando in his role as the Don, he was so excellent. Both of these performances top ten. This movie launched Pacino's career and almost got him an oscar.

Pacino changed the way people acted. He perfected every role he had through the 70's and 80's. Acting in such a way we have not seen very often. Brando will always be the Don, but Pacino perfected it.

He puts all the other cast characters in their place at the climax of the film. How he didn't score the Oscar is beyond me.

The transformation of Michael from a doe-eyed college boy to a ruthless mob boss,makes it the greatest acting performance of all time.

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The Newcomers

? David Tennant - Hamlet

The Contenders

11 Eli Wallach - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

With a ton of energy, tenacity, pure luck, emotional investment and pitch perfect comic timing, Tuco was almost literally a role to die for. He was Wallach's hardest role, but it was by far his most rewarding.

12 Ralph Fiennes - Schindler's List

One of the best supporting performances.


13 Toshiro Mifune - Seven Samurai

Brimming with endless energy, Mifune plays the tragicomic Kikuchiyo with a lot of depth and more candid emotion than anyone could ask for. - SourNote2014

14 Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds

Best supporting actor of all time. Funny, sadistic, crazy and scary.

Best acting ever

15 Song Kang-ho - The Host

Plays tender man-child Gang-du so effortlessly. - SourNote2014

16 Seth Rogen - Take This Waltz

Seth is a remarkable actor when saddled with a good script like this one. He's also a super nice guy in real life, so he handles the role of Lou with a lot of sensitivity as well as subtlety. - SourNote2014

17 Al Pacino - Scarface

Best Al Pacino role - PeeledBanana

He is god of acting

Not the best by Al Pacino, but the second.
I won't say anything else.

18 Anthony Perkins - Psycho V 1 Comment
19 Kevin Spacey - American Beauty

A truly amazing performance in a truly amazing movie, it is a shame this is not higher on the list.

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20 Humphrey Bogart - The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

This is the greatest acting performance of all time by a distance, this list is a joke

Not that far from his earlier villain roles, though being known more for his romantic leads, Bogart is tremendous in the role as Fred C. Dobbs starts out cynical and desperate and becomes increasingly more paranoid and unhinged. What a presence. - SourNote2014

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List Stats

2,000 votes
272 listings
7 years, 134 days old

Top Remixes (19)

1. Jack Nicholson - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
2. Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
3. Robert De Niro - Taxi Driver
1. Eli Wallach - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
2. Toshiro Mifune - Seven Samurai
3. Song Kang-ho - The Host
1. Malcolm McDowell - A Clockwork Orange
2. Anthony Perkins - Psycho
3. Jason Miller - The Exorcist

View All 19


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