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.

To call this a great performance is definitely a 110% correct! it is simply undeniable. But calling this piece the greatest of all time is not as bad of joke as it is merely an insult to some of the greatest performances ever. It is an insult to Daniel Day Lewis on my left foot or the Butcher in Gangs of New York, it is an insult to Sean Penn on Milk or Gary Oldman on..
Nearly any film his made really... To Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone... I mean I could go all they ia simply ludicrous...and even after that rant Ican tell you his performance is amazing...but not close to the best of all time.

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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

That wass a great performance

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3 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

I mean come on - iliekpiez

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4 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?

The way Day-Lewis portrays Daniel plainview’s gradual slip into greed and insanity is so captivating at times during the film I forget that this is merely a facade of epic proportions by day-Lewis and begin to believe I am watching a real person.

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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.

Travis bickle is better than the joker in TDK

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6 Anthony Hopkins - The Silence of the Lambs

This IS acting. To be able to create the most infamous villain of the late 20th century, with the british pressure actually naming a real serial killer after his character, with only 16 minutes of screen time is a true accomplishment. The creepiest portrayal of a serial killer since Norman bates, and given that he created a character that was scarier than Freddy Krueger or Jason voorhees even when incarcerated, their is no contest

This performance stays with you. - Potbellypup3

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

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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7 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.

It is a very good perfomance, but not top 10 ten of all time.

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8 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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9 Malcolm McDowell - A Clockwork Orange

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.

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


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.

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.

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 was great in the sequel too... Deserves number 1 and 2 for his roles in the Godfather parts I and II.

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The Contenders

11 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.

12 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.

13 Ralph Fiennes - Schindler's List

One of the best supporting performances.


14 Stefán Karl Stefánsson - Polite People

He is number one


number 1

Stefánsson gives a wonderfully subdued performance in this unique comedy-drama. - SourNote2014

15 Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds

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

Best acting ever

16 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

17 Anthony Perkins - Psycho

This DESERVES to be in the top 5.

18 Song Kang-ho - The Host

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

19 Vivien Leigh - Gone With the Wind

Nobody comes close

As much as I love Marilyn Monroe as well as others on this list, I don't see how they are ranked about Vivien Leigh's legendary performance as Scarlett O'Hara.

20 Javier Bardem - No Country For Old Men

His deadpan delivery of lines is genius.

Best Villain,
Hands fown

21 Kevin Spacey - American Beauty

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

He is really a Genius...

An outstanding performance. He well deserverd the Oscar.

An underrated gem in movie history, this is Kevin’s Spacey’s best performance which made this movie amazing.

22 Denzel Washington - Malcolm X

No way Seth Rogen should be higher then Denzel and I love the guy. This work was pure genius

23 Minoru Chiaki - The Lower Depths
24 Leonardo DiCaprio - The Departed

Just definitely the full package. This character feels so real it is not funny. Leo can really maintain his realism in this movie.

An amazing realistic performance, kind of reminds you of the average person with debt problems and anxiety!

Leo was extraordinary in this film, how he showed the anxiety and the constant fear his character facing is out of this world. One of my favorite films ever!

The most legendary role of Leo DiCaprio. The realism in this character is so intense and he keeps you on the edge of your seat.

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25 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

26 Samuel L. Jackson - Pulp Fiction

"Say what again, I dare you, I double dare you motherf***er! " - BeatlesFan1964

Does he look like a b****?!? - xandermartin98

27 Jason Miller - The Exorcist
28 Russell Crowe - A Beautiful Mind

Russell Crowe was ROBBED of an Oscar for his performance in "A Beautiful Mind". He was absolutely SUPERB. Actors don't come better than Russell Crowe.

I just feel that it's a wonderful movie.i don't know whether it deserves to be in top 10 but definitely in top 20.

29 Tim Robbins - The Shawshank Redemption

One of the greatest acting performance of all time, Robbins and his mind blowing and just perfect picture of Andy Dufresne is unquestionable

30 Marlon Brando - On the Waterfront

He's the greatest actor of all time. I was actually confused what to choice - the Godfather or On the Waterfront. But decided to pick up the Waterfront. Mr Brando's breathtaking acting makes me cry all the time I watch this film. Masterpiece acting...

The best of this lot, there is no accounting for taste concerning some ahead of Brando

I coulda had class!, classic. - Potbellypup3

The three best acting performances ever are all Brando. Streetcar; Waterfront; Julius C.

31 Al Pacino - The Godfather Part II

Pacino reaches a new level of depth in this film. He had one good scene in the first film, but he has several great scenes in this sequel, including his perfect performance in the scene with Diane Keaton. You can turn off the sound and just watch his eyes in that scene and you would realize that he deserved an Oscar for that scene alone. Simply a perfect performance.

The pure lifelessness in his eyes is worth a spot in the top 10. It was an incredible portrayal of an incredibly difficult character.


32 Barbra Streisand - The Guilt Trip
33 Jack Nicholson - The Shining

Should be number 1

The remarkable performance by Nucholson should totally be up with De Niro in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and Al Paccino in The Godfather 1 and 2 and Scarface.

34 Charlie Chaplin - The Great Dictator
35 Charlie Sheen - Platoon

The end speech, the war scenes and the Village scenes were all just... He couldn't of done better!

Outstanding work by his first ever leading role in a movie!

36 Gary Oldman - Léon: The Professional

I'm shocked I made it here. That being said Oldman deserved an Oscar for this.

37 Peter O'Toole - Lawrence of Arabia
38 Roy Scheider - Jaws
39 Ellen Burstyn - Requiem for a Dream

Requiem for a dream is probably one of the most disturbing films you will ever see. If you still want to take drugs after watching this, nothing will stop you. This masterpiece is incredibly depressing yet simply amazing, both at the same time. Jared Leto made this film brilliant but Ellen Burstyn fitted the role of sara goldfarb so well. Her acting sucked you into her depressing dream world. When you watch this haunting film, the depression becomes so bad that you start feeling like some of the characters. Confused, lonely and desperate. Ellen Burstyn Is also one of my most favourite actresses, she has been in a lot of good movies but this film is one of the greatest. Well, it is the greatest. - Potbellypup3

A very disturbing film, with unbelievable consequences. But Ellen Burstyn steals the show
With her amazing performance in this movie!

Her performance in this film is pure perfection. Technically brilliant, emotionally impactful, and lasts with you long after the film is over.

Just so real

40 Linda Blair - The Exorcist
41 Michelle Williams - Take This Waltz
42 Joe Pantoliano - Memento
43 Judy Garland - The Wizard of Oz
44 Dustin Hoffman - Rain Man

This should be in the top 5 or top 3 in bed performances of all time. This performance is incredible.

This was really a performance for the ages. Deserves to be way higher.

Easily should be top 5

Should be top 3

45 Gregory Peck - To Kill a Mockingbird

This is the greatest performance ever. You can't find a flaw in his performance.

46 Bruno Ganz - Downfall
47 Russell Crowe - Gladiator

Why is this not in the top ten?

48 James Dean - Rebel Without a Cause
49 Sheryl Lee Ralph - Mistress
50 Christopher Walken - The Deer Hunter
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List Stats

3,000 votes
280 listings
8 years, 99 days old

Top Remixes (21)

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

View All 21

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