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

Heath Ledger literally transformed into this character. I've often challenged people to find Heath Ledger here. It is impossible: he simply is not here. Heath IS the Joker.

I am just one man's opinion, but I will go to my grave believing that this performance should be heralded as the single greatest acting achievement of all time. Nothing else even comes close. He completely steals the show by becoming invisible in the role.

Heath Ledger IS the Joker. His should be the first and last performance people think of when they consider the greatest acting performance of all time.

Every actor will eventually achieve a level of greatness that catapults them to another level. Heath somehow managed to shoot past this level and land on a level that is completely empty and devoid of other performances. He is completely and utterly alone here. No other performer has ever come this close to acting nirvana.

Unfortunately how he did it died with him. There is nothing here ...more

The amount of imagination, invention, efforts and determination were needed for this character - I highly respect. nothing will top this perfection.

Every time he appears on screen (which he doesn't get much screen time), everyone focuses on him. It's mind-boggling on how amazing his performance it was. I know this might be harsh but, Heath Ledger died as The Joker.

The greatest acting performance ever in the history of cinema. He died soon after he acted for the film, which makes me think that he is born to play this role. He died like his job on this earth is over. Epic performance. Thank you a lot Heath Ledger.

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

Pure BEAUTY. Seeing Jack play this troubled man, but yet good person has never been so touching, and inspiring. Really this performance can be described in three words...THE BASEBALL SCENE!

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!

Jack Nicholson pretty much managed *PERFECTION*. Heath Ledger's Joker doesn't even come *REMOTELY* close. Though I think Ledger was really good.
A 9.9/10 performance from Nicholson.

3 Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood

The essence of the character and the actor are 2 completely different people

Completely transformative role, I didn't see Lewis here - I saw Plainview

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.

Nothing comes close to this level of acting, this is definition of a one man movie!

4 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!

5 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

Marlon Brando is iconic, he is at his best, and who the h* voted for Orlando Bloom and not Brando, R.I.P, you gave us all you had in this movie

6 Tom Hanks - Forrest Gump

Tom Hanks was brilliant as Forrest Gump! Life is like a box of chocolate indeed!

It's a most amazing performance by any actor on the planet I was moved each part of the movie is to perform to perfection and it makes me cry each time I see it I don't have words to tell it's so heart touching and feel real and how to be a nice and innocent man should act its greatest performance of all time.

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.

7 Anthony Hopkins - The Silence of the Lambs

And the Oscar should’ve gone to... Without hardly ever raising his voice, Hopkins knew how to send a chill down your spine and make your heart pound out of your chest. Fantastic performance!

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

8 Malcolm McDowell - A Clockwork Orange

He was so good, people thought he was actually crazy and was type cast for much of his career since. Fantastic acting, improvisation and narration

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

9 Al Pacino - Scarface

He is god of acting

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

10 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.

The Contenders

11 Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds

Anyone who has seen this movie must admire this performance. Waltz is just so natural in this role is not even funny.

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

Great actor, great role, deserves to be higher

Truly the best performance ever

12 Stefán Karl Stefánsson - Polite People

He is number one


number 1

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

13 Anthony Perkins - Psycho

This DESERVES to be in the top 5.

It's truly groundbreaking and ahead of its time

14 Ralph Fiennes - Schindler's List

One of the best supporting performances.

Greatest in history, quite simply

Ralph the Great

Acting genius

15 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

16 Al Pacino - The Godfather

I think this is the most natural by al pachino by any movies he has been on

He was absolutely SUPERB in "Scent of a Woman" and of course, he won an Oscar for it.

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.

17 Song Kang-ho - The Host

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

18 Denzel Washington - Malcolm X

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

19 Minoru Chiaki - The Lower Depths
20 Samuel L. Jackson - Pulp Fiction

Jackson plays Jules as the straight man to the more impulsive and slightly dim Vincent, a character who, when he's not intimidating his employer's targets, is very easy-going and introspective. Jackson performs with wit and profound maturity. - SourNote2014

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

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

21 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

22 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.

23 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.

One of the best oscar winners of all timd

The greatest acting performance of all time. Watch her many many facial expressions when she is happy,sad,angry,worried,jealous,scared,seductive,playful,sexually satisfied, etc.etc.

24 Jason Miller - The Exorcist
25 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

best ever

26 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.

the best

27 Javier Bardem - No Country For Old Men

His deadpan delivery of lines is genius.

Best Villain,
Hands fown

28 John Candy - Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Candy's performance, while hilarious, is also layered with deep pathos. - SourNote2014

29 Charlie Chaplin - The Great Dictator

Heil hitler

30 James Gandolfini - The Sopranos

Did any of these other great actors carry a performance and character development for years? - Billyv

31 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!

Yes yes yes

32 Gary Oldman - Léon: The Professional

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

33 Kevin Spacey - American Beauty

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

An outstanding performance. He well deserverd the Oscar.

He is really a Genius...

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

34 Dustin Hoffman - Rain Man

Should be top 5. To be able to portray a man who, in the end, is likeable and yet you don't know what he really feels.

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

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

Easily should be top 5

35 Clint Eastwood - Unforgiven
36 Robert De Niro - Raging Bull

This should be number 1. The perfect performance for a perfect actor.

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

37 Barbra Streisand - The Guilt Trip
38 Linda Blair - The Exorcist

Best child performance of all time!

39 Peter O'Toole - Lawrence of Arabia

The rankings are ridiculous without O’Toole at the top of the list!

Why is this low on the list? It should be in the top 10.

40 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.


41 Joe Pantoliano - Memento
42 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

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

This performance should be in the top 15

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

43 Judy Garland - The Wizard of Oz
44 R. Lee Ermey - Full Metal Jacket

The realism of this character is so intense, thanks to this great actor, who has only starred in a few movies but have made some memorable appearances and this is his best

He is so good in this movie, he maintains his realism, he made this movie what it is today... classic!

It has burned almost every performance on this list, it will definitely burn the overrated Pirates of the Caribbean performance of Orlando Bloom!

Great performance, A definite greatest War movie performance!

45 Bruno Ganz - Downfall
46 Michelle Williams - Take This Waltz
47 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.

48 Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street

The Performance is Leonardo DiCaprio in this movie is Outstanding...

49 Graham Chapman - Monty Python and the Holy Grail
50 Christian Bale - The Fighter

Unforgettably eye-catching performance alongside Melissa Leo 's greatness in performing in the movie.

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