The 1990s in Review: Best Performances

Commentary by James Berardinelli


A good performance does not necessarily make a good movie, and a great performance does not necessarily make a great movie. As a result, it's easy to overlook majestic acting in any end-of-the-decade overview because that work did not occur in one of the Top 10 (or 20) films. Without giving much away, I can say that most (although not all) of the performances discussed below occurred in movies that will not be listed on my "Top 10 of the 1990s" roster. These performances all took place in good films, but, in many cases, other aspects of the production were not up to the level of the actor or actress' efforts. For simplicity's sake, I have not attempted to break things up into the Oscar categories of Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress.

Additionally, it should be noted that this is a list of Best Performances, not of Best Performers. My purpose here is not to rank actors. Admittedly, there is some synergy between the performance and the performer, but it's not a one-to-one correspondence. The list is intended to highlight a single instance, not a body of work. (Otherwise, one might legitimately complain about the exclusions of such top-notch actors as Kevin Spacey and Susan Sarandon.)

As usual, the list is presented in reverse order.

An * indicates an Oscar nomination for this actor in this part. A ** indicates a nomination and a win.

The Runners-Up
(Alphabetical; Didn't quite make the Top 10, but nevertheless worthy of recognition)

The Top 10

© 1999 James Berardinelli

Back Up