2022 has been another weird year in the ‘pandemic trilogy’ and it’s been another rough one to get through but what has certainly helped, at least on some level, has been a bevy of amazing performances by some incredibly talented actors who have made going to the cinema worthwhile… yes that is a stupid way to start this list, we work with what we have around here.
What follows is a list of 20 performances (plus 5 honourable mentions) that I quite liked in 2022. You might not agree with the people I picked, you might think I’m stupid for picking some of them and you would be right on that but it’s my blog and this is my list, to make it you just have to be wildly entertaining in some way and if you can get here by being absolutely batshit crazy, well good for you. We’re only going with films released in Australia that I’ve been able to see, same as the best and worst lists were except this one is longer because sometimes there are good performances in bad films and they deserve a special list of their own. Also, one person per film for the main list because it makes for more of a challenge so any extras go straight to the honourable mentions list
But first, with no explanation, honourable mentions!
Stephanie Hsu/Ke Huy Quan/Jaime Lee Curtis – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Jared Leto – House Of Gucci
Alexander Skarsgard – The Northman
Harry Melling – Please Baby Please
Christian Bale – Thor: Love and Thunder
20. Walker Scobell as Young Adam in The Adam Project
Being a child actor is not easy, indeed quite often there’s a cliche rule that child actors aren’t that good so it’s unfair to judge them. However sometimes there’s a child actor who is handed a particularly difficult job and does it so well that it stays with you and in The Adam Project, Walker Scobell’s main job was to convincingly portray a young Ryan Reynolds and he does it flawlessly.
He manages to get all the mannerisms down perfectly to the point where you wonder if maybe the filmmakers just went back in time and stole a young Ryan Reynolds to do these scenes. This is the child actor of the year that we should keep an eye on because he is undoubtedly going to be a big deal in the future, most likely next year when he brings Percy Jackson to life.
Best Scene: The two Adams meet for the first time
19: Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen in The Gray Man
After spending a decade portraying the symbol for all things good and honourable, it appears that Chris Evans has decided to enter his villain era and thank goodness for that because he is clearly having a blast doing it, which is just fun to watch.
Lloyd Hansen is just an objectively fun villain, over the top and cheesy with a taste for torture that is entertaining to watch. While the film itself might be kind of basic action fare, it’s impossible to not enjoy Chris Evans going for broke every single time the camera even thinks about looking in his direction.
Best Scene: “I got SHOT IN THE ASS SUZANNE!”
18: Joanna Lumley as Meghan Geoffrey-Bishop in Falling for Figaro
Is this just on the list because I got an hour and a half of Joanna Lumley basically doing the bitchy goddess routine that she did throughout all of Absolutely Fabulous? Yes, it is, it’s also one of the most fun performances of the year because when you ask someone famous for playing a legendary bitch to play an old washed-up legendary bitch, you get a performance almost scientifically designed to appeal to me specifically.
The rest of Falling for Figaro might be dull, but god damn it’s nice getting Joanna Lumley delivering withering put-downs again. She’s legitimately fantastic and should just turn up in every film, call the main character a stupid cow and walk off and it would make cinema as a medium so much better.
Best Scene: The first lesson
17: Neal Ward as Lionel Flack in Feed Me
Cheap independent films are littered with fantastic, strange performances by actors trying to grab attention with the limited reach that film provides and Neal Ward delivers possibly the strangest performance of the year.
Lionel Flack is a con man who basically tricks people into signing off on allowing him to cannibalise them and Neal plays the role with such disgusting glee that it’s impossible to look away from. If acting is a series of choices, then Neal picked the most insane choice every time and it all blends together to create a masterclass of low-budget comedy horror acting that should be the gold standard for films like this.
Best Scene: The dinner date
16: Ethan Hawke as The Grabber in The Black Phone
The Grabber really is a thankless role, having to operate mostly in small bursts as this intimidating figure and spend most of the film behind a large mask but Ethan Hawke takes that role and elevates it with a brilliant performance.
If he only gets to show his eyes in a scene, those eyes are going to tell you absolutely everything. If all that’s uncovered is his mouth, you will see the devilish sneer just begging to appear. Every little chance he can get to turn The Grabber into a formidable force to be reckoned with, he will take and he will absolutely go for it.
Best Scene: The kidnapping
15: Ralph Fiennes as Chef Slowik in The Menu
The Menu as a film completely revolves around believing Chef Slowik is the best chef on the planet and that he has completely lost his mind, and Ralph Fiennes absolutely sells that. His presence just sits in the background at all times, he is the ultimate puppet master just preparing the perfect menu that the audience has to go along with.
Whenever he has to explain the next course of the menu, it’s a powerful monologue that lets you deep into this man’s psyche in ways you never expected. He really feels like he should be running a kitchen that you’d want to visit… you know, if he didn’t kill you at the end of it.
Best Scene: Tyler’s Bullshit
14: Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in Spencer
One of the two big shock moments from this year’s Oscars (besides the one we’re not going to talk about) was that Kristen Stewart didn’t win for her work in Spencer. Spencer is a film that is somewhat of a fever dream and, if we’re being honest, shares more in common with something like Blonde than we might want to admit however it’s undeniable that Kristen Stewart was electric as Diana.
She delivered a performance that really let you see just how destructive fame was to Diana and also was another reminder (one we apparently still need) that the Twilight kids were actually quite damn talented.
Best Scene: The big dinner
13: Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani in House of Gucci
Every year there are big snubs at the Oscars and this year’s big snub was Lady Gaga for her glorious performance in House of Gucci. If you wanted a powerful soap opera performance that just oozed with richness, there was no one doing it like Gaga.
Every single scene is a delight, an intense powerful character study that showed off the depth of Gaga’s immense talent as a performer. In a film full of heavy hitters, none hit quite as hard as Gaga who basically carried House of Gucci on her shoulders and forced everyone to keep up with her.
Best Scene: “Father, son and House of Gucci”.
12: Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson in Hocus Pocus 2
It feels like sometimes we forget that Bette Midler is a fantastic actress, possibly because she really hasn’t had a truly iconic role since maybe First Wives Club but there’s a reason why this woman is only an Oscar away from being an EGOT, that reason being that she’s goddamn amazing and ESPECIALLY in the role of head witch Winifred Sanderson where she reminded everyone why that role has been stuck in our heads since 1993.
In Hocus Pocus 2 not only did we get so much more of the absolutely hilarious scene-stealing moments that made Winifred an icon but she also ended the movie by tearing our hearts out and reminding everyone that she can do just about goddamn anything.
Best Scene: Winifred begs to be reunited with her sisters
11: Janelle Monáe as Helen & Andi Brand in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Playing twin roles is certainly not easy, but Janelle Monáe is so talented that she makes it look easy. She is Glass Onion’s emotional centre, the heart of the film that makes the entire film work beyond just the murder-mystery element of it.
She lays everything out there, throwing in some accent work just for fun and spending a large amount of the film playing one twin pretending to be the other twin in order to help solve the ultimate mystery of the film. Scene stealing would be an understatement for what Janelle does here, she’s movie stealing.
Best Scene: Meeting Blanc for the actual first time
10: Nicole Kidman as Queen Gudrún in The Northman
Nicole Kidman doesn’t really get to do much in The Northman, since the entire plot of The Northman basically is about a Viking trying to save her after a successful coup but Kidman takes the very few scenes she’s got to work with and turns them into something special.
Nicole gives off a powerful regal energy that emanates throughout the entire film and has you rooting for her to be saved… right up until the moment where it looks like she might be saved and everything takes a sharp turn. Nicole Kidman basically got to do her own version of Lady Macbeth only somehow even more intense and it’s truly one of the greatest performances in her career that’s chock full of great performances
Best Scene: Queen Gudrun reveals what really happened
9: David Harbour as Santa Claus in Violent Night
This performance could’ve easily been phoned in, it’s not like anyone would’ve really objected since the violent spectacle of Violent Night was enough for most people but David Harbour went the extra mile and created a wonderfully layered interpretation of Santa Claus.
Harbour’s Santa is fundamentally still the same jolly fat man we all know and love but he’s been worn down over the years by the pressures of consumerism that he feels responsible for. He’s jaded, cynical and just barely hanging on but there’s still that Christmas spirit buried deep inside that comes out more and more throughout the film. It’s easily the best version of Santa to be put on film for a damn long time, it just happens to be a Santa who can kick your ass.
Best Scene: The first walkie-talkie conversation with Trudy
8: Sebastian Stan as Steve in Fresh
Someone let Sebastian Stan do his interpretation of Patrick Bateman and we should be thankful for that. From the awkward charming meet-cutes at the beginning of the film to the raw horror of the final few scenes, every bit of Sebastian’s performance is controlled so perfectly that it works.
You get how he could get away with all this for so long, how someone could fall into his web and how truly terrifying he is under the facade. It’s an intense layered performance that will shock and horrify you in all the best ways but it’s so meticulously controlled that you can’t picture anyone else doing this.
Best Scene: Dancing while preparing the meat
7: Brittany Snow as Bobby-Lynne in X
X has a lot of genuinely great performances to pick from, it’s really a cornucopia of iconic horror performances that will stick with you for a long time but I’m just a sucker for a southern porn star with a heart of gold and Brittany Snow delivers that.
Bobby-Lynne basically spends the entire film with a neon sign over her head saying, “I’ll be the victim!” but she has such a confident energy that you can’t help but love her and her insane energy, she’s easily the most fun character in the entire movie and makes you wish Brittany would join her co-stars Mia and Jenna and just do a whole bunch more horror films because she clearly has a knack for it.
Best Scene: Bobby Lynne’s Sex-Positive Speech
6: David Howard Thornton as Art The Clown in Terrifier 2
Becoming a horror icon can sometimes take a fair few sequels, especially for a silent killer to somehow stand out from among the plethora of silent horror movie villains, but Art the Clown has definitely pulled that off all thanks to the fantastic performance by David Howard Thornton.
Unlike everyone else on this list, Thornton doesn’t get to have a single word of dialogue to help sell the character. Everything has to be physical and Thornton has created a truly horrific character that will go down in history as one of the greats. Art is able to make you laugh just by posing a certain way but can also disgust you with effortless ease. It’s a performance that should be studied, it’s so specific and imaginative that this character now belongs solely to David Howard Thornton and anyone else even trying to play it will be automatically considered inferior.
Best Scene: The Halloween Store
5: Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness
Elizabeth Olsen has been really getting her flowers for her work as Wanda for the last few years. It started with her jaw-dropping performance in Wandavision that showed that Elizabeth could fit into any sitcom ever made and then continued with Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness where she became one of the scariest characters in cinema today.
Every scene with Wanda is truly fascinating, from her decimating the Illuminati like it was nothing to the heartbreaking moment where she realises just what she’s doing to her kids, it’s the kind of performance that would be getting endless praise in any other genre but because it’s a Superhero film, it gets pushed aside as if anyone could do this.
Best Scene: Wanda confronts Doctor Strange just outside of Kamar-Taj
4: Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Do you want a real left-field prediction for the Oscars next year? Angela Bassett could finally get the award that she has been due for a long time for her powerful performance as Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
It’s a performance that shakes the earth with its power and uses every minute to great effect. She gets multiple powerful speeches that remind you why Angela Bassett is the legend she is, each one making you sit up to take notice of the raw talent on display. It’s a performance that fills the space left behind by the loss of Chadwick Boseman and it is a sight to behold.
Best Scene: Ramonda confronts the UN
3: Daniel Radcliffe as Weird Al Yankovic in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
Doing a biopic performance can be a great way to show off how good an actor you are, since you basically have to evoke a person we already know, meaning there’s an example we can compare your performance again… so to deliver a great biopic-style performance that’s the polar opposite of the actual person you’re portraying is simultaneously brilliant and insane. It’s a meta-commentary on biopics with a central performance that is absolutely nothing like Weird Al and it’s also simultaneously perfect for this film.
It’s a loving parody of the genre with a parody performance at the centre, one that plays the role dead seriously without so much as a wink to the audience even when Daniel is yelling “I’m the weird one” at the top of his lungs. It’s a brilliant performance that plays the genre cliches to the hilt, all while barely even changing the actual accent of the actor… plus, it was just generally hilarious seeing the internet realise how ripped Harry Potter is, feels like that’s a lesson people relearn every few years and it’s wild that this time it was learned while he was playing Weird Al Yankovic.
Best Scene: The inspiration for My Bologna
2: Austin Butler as Elvis Presley in Elvis
Elvis impressions are a dime a dozen but Austin Butler isn’t doing an impression…. Austin Butler is channelling Elvis, hell he might just secretly BE Elvis and this is how he’s telling us he’s back from the dead. Biopic performances can be kind of cheesy (which is why the last entry in this list is a performance that parodied them) but Austin’s performance is completely sincere and powerful. He provides you with the energy of Elvis, putting on a show that somehow manages to break through all of the Baz Luhrman insanity.
It’s truly a perfect performance, filled with heart and drama and more than a few moments that will have you thinking, much like I did, that they just found old footage of Elvis to put in the movie because it’s that damn good. For a while, after this film came out it seemed like Austin couldn’t drop the voice and people made fun of him for it, but if I could do an Elvis impression half as good as this you couldn’t make me stop doing it.
Best Scene: Trouble at Russwood Park
1: Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All At Once
Talk about a role that asked its lead to be a little of everything. Evelyn Wang is a simple laundromat but she also had to be a glamorous movie star, a long-fingered lesbian, a badass martial arts master, a maid, a sign spinner, a chef and even a rock with googly eyes and she had to be all of those at the same time. It’s a tough ask for any actress, to not only pull off that many assorted kinds of characters in a single film but to jump between them all convincingly and make it look natural is astounding.
This is the kind of performance that defines an actor, and it’s defined Michelle Yeoh as one of the ultimate actors of our lifetime who can do anything you ask her to do. There isn’t a single false note in the entire performance, just thinking about it will make your heartbreak. It’s perfect, absolutely undeniably perfect. This is the performance that made everyone realise that Michelle Yeoh is one of the greatest actresses alive and I’m stating this right now, there are two options for Best Actress at next year’s Oscars, one of them is Michelle Yeoh and the other option is giving the award to the wrong person
Best Scene: The Entire Goddamn Movie
Any great performances you think I missed? You’re probably right, tell me about them so we can all enjoy them together.