The Best Performances of 2014

Selma trailer

The right director and the right script don’t mean anything without the right actor. Performers are the ones who bridge the gap between the minds behind the camera and the ones in front of the screen. It is their personalities that draw us in, their expressions that tell the story, and their faces that we remember.

There were no shortage of great performances this year, across all genres and all budgets. Inevitably, a few stood out above the rest. See our list of the best performances of 2014 after the jump.

The Best Overlooked Performances

Let’s start with some hidden gems, listed in no particular order. These are the performances that didn’t make our top 10 (and wouldn’t necessarily have made our top 15) but seemed worthy of a shoutout. Some were exceptional performances hampered by unexceptional writing, others were the best parts of truly terrible films, and one is a potential breakthrough you may never get to see.

Tessa Thompson in Dear White People

Tessa Thompson in Dear White People

For all its audacity and wit, Dear White People was a bit of a scattered mess. Still, it was crystal clear on a few points and one of those was that Tessa Thompson should be a big, big star. She positively crackles as Sam, a film student and the host of the college radio show “Dear White People.” She can do cool, poised elegance and she can do righteous fury. Either way, she’s impossible to ignore.

Vampire Academy

Zoey Deutch in Vampire Academy

To the extent that Vampire Academy works at all, it’s thanks to Zoey Deutch. The relative newcomer shines bright and clear even when the film around her devolves into convoluted mythology and sub-Mean Girls high school drama. And should any superhero films be looking to cast a fresh young lead, she looks equally comfortable delivering punches and snappy one-liners.

Eva Green in Sin City A Dame to Kill For

Eva Green in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

It’s not clear that even Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller knew what they were going for with the muddled Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, but Eva Green definitely did. She played Ava Lord, the dame of the title, like the world’s femme fatale-iest femme fatale. Ava never walked when she could slink, never talked when she could purr. Those choices made her one of the film’s only highlights.

Hobbit Battle of the Five Armies Bilbo 2

Martin Freeman in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a dud of a movie: bloated but paper-thin, crammed with action yet devoid of life. The only time it snaps into focus is whenever Martin Freeman wanders onto the screen. Freeman’s easy warmth grounds the film, reminding us why The Hobbit was beloved enough to adapt in the first place.

Randall Park in The Interview

Randall Park in The Interview

The Interview should have been Randall Park‘s breakout performance. He’s a hoot as North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, a pitiful man-child with crippling daddy issues and a secret margarita addiction. It’s just that when this brat throws tantrums, the entire world is in danger. Park finds the fine line between softening a bad person and making them likable, and then gleefully shimmies down that line to the tune of a Katy Perry soundtrack.

On the next page, we get to our top 10.

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