Greatest Acting Performances On Film

Potbellypup3
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

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.

Heath Ledger BECAME the Joker for this role. No other performance has been so transformative or convincing. When you watch The Dark Knight, it's not Heath Ledger you see on screen, it is completely and absolutely the Joker in all his glory.

108 Comments
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!

I came on this list and just knew this would be here

Best for eber

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.

18 Comments
3 Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood

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

Method natural detail acting ever been acted

The greatest performance ever given by anyone.

The best!

17 Comments
4 Robert De Niro - Taxi Driver

You talking to me?

He's just the best

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.

5 Comments
5 Marlon Brando - The Godfather

The best individual performance ever seen

Not his best role but I can live with it.

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.

I mean come on - iliekpiez

14 Comments
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.

It is a very good perfomance, but not top 10 ten 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

7 Comments
7 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

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.

4 Comments
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.

Oscar-n/a

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

9 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.

10 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.
Just AMAZING.

The Newcomers

? Dom DeLuise - All Dogs Go to Heaven

DeLuise was known as a comedic actor and rarely if ever got to do drama. But his performance as Itchy Itchiford in 'All Dogs Go to Heaven' was one of his best. Itchy is the partner in crime to Charlie B. Barkin, a German Shepard who was murdered but brought himself back to life, and acts as the straight guy to him when Charlie decides to use Anne Marie for his own personal gain. DeLuise's performance is still comedic, but more subdued than most of his other roles. In a signature scene, Itchy goes limping to Charlie, having been beaten up by Carface's men, and tells Charlie that he told him to quit while he's ahead many times and didn't listen. The pain and desperation in Itchy's voice is heart-rending. That is why I am adding this performance from Dom DeLuise to the list. - SourNote2014

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.

So scary

Truly the best performance ever

No Words

3 Comments
12 Stefán Karl Stefánsson - Polite People

number 1

He is number one

Incredible.

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

13 Anthony Perkins - Psycho

It's truly groundbreaking and ahead of its time

This DESERVES to be in the top 5.

14 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

15 Ralph Fiennes - Schindler's List

Greatest in history, quite simply

Ralph the Great

Acting genius

One of the best supporting performances.

1 Comment
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.

11 Comments
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 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

21 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. Jules isn't mean by nature, he's only doing his job. 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

22 Leonardo DiCaprio - The Departed

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!

This is one of the best performances I have ever seen. I thought he should have easily won the Oscar for Best Actor that year but he wasn't even nominated!

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!

3 Comments
23 Vivien Leigh - Gone With the Wind

One of the best oscar winners of all timd

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.

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

best ever

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

26 Jack Nicholson - The Shining

the best

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.

27 Barbra Streisand - The Guilt Trip
28 Charlie Chaplin - The Great Dictator

Heil hitler

29 Javier Bardem - No Country For Old Men

Best Villain,
Hands fown

His deadpan delivery of lines is genius.

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

Yes yes yes

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!

32 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.

33 Gary Oldman - Léon: The Professional

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

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.

Easily should be top 5

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

Should be top 3

1 Comment
35 Michelle Williams - Take This Waltz
36 Clint Eastwood - Unforgiven
37 Robert De Niro - Raging Bull

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

Better than Taxi Driver.

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

8 Comments
38 Linda Blair - The Exorcist
39 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.

70? SERIOUSLY?

40 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.

41 Joe Pantoliano - Memento
42 Ellen Burstyn - Requiem for a Dream

This performance should be in the top 15

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.

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

1 Comment
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!

1 Comment
45 Bruno Ganz - Downfall
46 Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street

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

47 Sheryl Lee Ralph - Mistress
48 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.

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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List StatsUpdated 3 Nov 2019

5,000 votes
286 listings
9 years, 91 days old

Top Remixes (24)

1. Eli Wallach - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
2. Stefán Karl Stefánsson - Polite People
3. Toshiro Mifune - Seven Samurai
SourNote2014
1. Jack Nicholson - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
2. Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
3. Robert De Niro - Taxi Driver
magneto1991
1. Malcolm McDowell - A Clockwork Orange
2. Anthony Perkins - Psycho
3. Jason Miller - The Exorcist
MontyPython

WRemix
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