Best of 2014: Acting Performance

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All the best performances by favorite actor and actress in movies released in 2014 loved by Sinekdoks.

On the previous post, I post my appreciation to all the best posters that attracted me in 2014. Now, I’m going to present a special post I dedicated to actresses and actors who had delivered stellar performances during 2014. I noticed that there’s a tendency that ensemble of casts did not illuminate a movie, but sometimes an actor/actress alone did the impossible to save the whole movie—hint: check Oscar Best Picture nominations.

Yet, before we go to the list. I’d mention some possibly great movies I missed in 2014. They are: Birdman, Inherent Vice, American Sniper, Wild,  Selma, Unbroken, Into the Woods, Pride, Big Eyes, Still Alice, The Hundred Foot Journey, Mr. Turner, A Most Violent Year and more.

Now, this is 15 best performances by actors and actresses in 2014.

 15. Bill Murray as Vincent McKenna (St. Vincent)

I always love Bill Murray in all his movies I watched; Ghostbuster, Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation, and all his collaborations with Wes Anderson. In earlier movies I watched, his characters had never been a completely serious man, yet his recent works proved that he’s been able to be serious, to be troubled, and bored. His portrayal of Vincent McKenna is a quintessence of what he had in his 90s persona and his recent troubled-man tendency. His smooth chemistry with Jaeden Lieberher perhaps makes a gap-generation drama cliche, but he did it well as an old jackass.

14. Tilda Swinton as Eva (Only Lovers Left Alive)

Tilda Swinton is a missus chameleon with all ephemeral roles she took—she never gets a type-cast predicate. In 2013, she portrayed an old meanie in Snowpiercer; in 2014, she got even older in a cameo in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Yet, her oldest role in 2014 contains the best performance she delivered; as a vampire who has lived for hundreds of years and currently misses her literally longtime husband, Adam (Tom Hiddlestone). Her character is completely bizarre and unpredictable; only Tilda’s mesmerizing performance could handle an eccentric bloodlust in her.

13. Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski (Edge of Tomorrow)

Rita Vrataski a.k.a the Angel of Verdun a.k.a Full Metal Bitch is a typical badass heroine in the battleground full of aliens and death; yet, she’s more complicated than that. Rita’s not a cold-hard bitch like any femme fatale, she’s warm and cooperative. The truth that she’s just like Tom Cruise’s character makes her more reachable and, definitely, likable. Blunt’s got the heart to make the Full Metal Bitch alive—just as intriguing as what she did in Looper (2012).

12. Tom Hardy as Ivan Locke (Locke)

With only himself on the screen for the whole duration, there’s no way Tom Hardy’s performance in Locke is missed. He performed a master-class performance of solo-dialogue and facial expression to portray a devastated man whose friend is only choices in a night that owns all night. Thank God it’s Hardy there, a man with class; a man who never screwed all biggest opportunity he had in Rocknrolla, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Warrior, and Locke; he’s a cinema-legend in making.

11. Michael Fassbender as Frank (Frank)

Fassbender never has some quite typical character; he’s mostly good at being a villain like in X-Men: First Class and 12 Years A Slave, yet, he’s also got a penchant at being a morally questionable man—Shame, Hunger, and the latest Counselor. Yet, Frank is obviously Fassbender’s most insane choice of role. He’s an enigmatic band leader hiding all the time inside a papier-mâché head with unpredictable sense of humor and sense of everything. Fassbender barely shows his facial expression, he even needs to explain his expression with words. It’s a real art of body performance!

10. Keira Knightley as Gretta (Begin Again)

I sometimes love Knightley for a role that people think is a total miscast or total waste of talent for her, like in Anna Karenina and Seeking A Friend For The End of The World. Her role in Begin Again is completely not a miscast though, but I love it so much. She makes a real strong chemistry with Mark Ruffalo, which you will regret in the end ’cause they do not end up together. However, her best shot in Begin Again is completely her proof to be a descent singer, and oh, the ‘Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home’ scene is too beautiful to miss.

09. Mark Ruffalo as David Schultz (Foxcatcher)

As Dan in Begin Again, Ruffalo might deliver a good performance along with his chemistry with Knightley that helps. Yet, his nuanced acting in Foxcatcher is definitely a astonishing. His character, a seven-time World and Olympic medalist, Dave Schultz, might be a third concerned character after Steve Carell’s John Du Pont and Channing Tatum’s Mark Schultz; yet, his charisma eventually overshadows the other two. The moment of his on-screen murder might be traumatic judging from Ruffalo’s devoted transformation physically and beyond.

08. Brendan Gleeson as Father James (Calvary)

It’s never been easy to portray someone with a rare characteristic in the world, but Brendan Gleeson nailed it with his performance in Calvary.  He portrays a Father and a father who gets a murder threat during a confession in his parish. The shift of his character’s emotional degradation is portrayed at its best by this father of Domhnall (who also gets a role in this movie) as Father James’ via dolorosa reaches the end of it on the top of Calvary.

07. Mackenzie Foy as Murphy (Interstellar)

Interstellar might be the most divisive movie in 2014—many people love it, yet, many other people boo it for many reasons. However, Mackenzie Foy’s acting is never been divisive. As a child actress, she shows quality not just being too sentimental, but creating an atmosphere to some farewell moment you can’t imagine. The scene where Murphy asks her father to stay is very grand and emotional—you can even feel how Murphy’s feeling for being separated to his father without certainty of when they will meet again. Foy’s atmospheric performance, for me, goes even deeper than Jessica Chastain’s as her adult counterpart.

06. Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing (The Imitation Game)

In my review on The Imitation Game, I have said that Cumberbatch’s Alan Turing is a counterpart of his Sherlock—a pretty genius, who always become the smartest ass in the room, with all confidence, determination, and mild cockiness. Yet, Turing is full of irony; and Cumberbatch is just into it. The breaking of Enigma moment might be a Sherlock resemblance, but the dusk of Turing’s life has brought Cumberbatch into a deeper level of genius—a pariah to a country he managed to rescue. The last 10 minutes of the movie is a real proof that Cumberbatch has gone beyond himself.

05. Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking (The Theory of Everything)

I only know him for a brilliant role in Les Misérables, I wasn’t even excited to see him portraying another genius, Stephen Hawking, in one of the most glorified biopic in 2014. However, I found myself wrong when I finally witnessed what he’s done to reenact the past life of Stephen Hawking. Redmayne’s profound acting to dramatize the moment when Hawking began to lose his physical control, or how he obtained his doctoral, or how he accepted his wife’s platonic love with other man, deserves a real kudos.

04. J.K. Simmons as Terrence Fletcher (Whiplash)

Don’t fuck with J.K. Simmons. His character in Whiplash might be the most despicable male ‘antagonist’ in 2014 as his Fletcher never gives a fuck, never tolerates, and full of humiliation. Thanks to Simmons, who delivers a master-class performance with each of his sarcastic lines shouted from his foul mouth and his surprisingly muscular build (for a music professor? That’s a real devotion to performances). His character always stands in a border between a motivating mentor and a merciless psychopath without being definite on stating his ground. This is a milestone for Simmons, whether people despise his character or not.

03. Scarlett Johansson as The Female Alien (Under the Skin)

One cannot miss Scarlett Johansson in 2014; she appeared in 3 movies and went badass in all of them. She’s still kicking some ass as Black Widow in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, then kick more asses as a super-human femme fatale in Lucy. Yet, she’s being most obscure, mysterious, attracting, seductive, and mostly enigmatic for her alien role in Under the Skin. We barely know what her character’s motif is, barely know why she preys on some men, or where she abducts those men; but what we know is, her flat, emotionless expression leads us into more questions than answers. Johansson really manipulates without attempts.

02. Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam & Anthony (Enemy) and Louis Bloom (Nightcrawler)

We see a cinema legend alive in this decade. Ever since Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal’s choice of roles has always been interesting (Prince of Persia and Day After Tomorrow do not include) and his devotion to his roles has always been a totality. Look what he’s gonna be in 2015 through a still of Southpaw that has gone viral. Yet, it’s best if we take a deep look at what he did in 2014. First, the portrayal of a man with his doppelganger in Enemy—Gyllenhaal convincingly portrays two men with entirely different characteristics in a quirky thriller by Denis Villeneuve. Second, he’s gone as thin as bone and skin with his eyes almost gouged out without intervention to portray a sociopath gone sicko, Lou Bloom. Look how Gyllenhaal has gone far beyond himself making him one of the most dangerous actor to date in years to go.

01. Rosamund Pike as Amy Elliot Dunne (Gone Girl)

From a Bond girl to the gone girl, Rosamund Pike’s being wise in accepting this role of a lifetime. She takes it and absolutely wins it with her exceptional performance. Her groundbreaking, standout performance is an impossible gem to miss in 2014; she nailed it hard and harsh (although perhaps she might never get a chance to top this again in the future) to get us into a love-hate interest to her. Amy Elliot Dunne is a layered character with unpredictable steps to take, even if we have cracked her skull and unspool her brains, we might never get answers—and that’s what we get from Pike’s marvelous work. Pike’s performance is one bold sign in the 2014 cinematic highlight; even if she doesn’t get any award for this, her persona will still get remembered for years to come.



I still have some names that do not make my top 15 list, yet, they deserves more than recognition for their superb performance in 2014. So, here’s the list without order.

  • Ethan Hawke & Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
  • Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori in The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Rene Russo in Nightcrawler
  • Ben Affleck and Carrie Coon in Gone Girl
  • Dan Stevens in The Guest
  • Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything
  • Bill Hader & Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man
  • Kirsten Stewart in Cloud of Sils Maria and Camp X-Ray
  • Keanu Reeves in John Wick
  • Agata Trzebuchowska & Agata Kulesza in Ida




18 responses

  1. Gleeson! Johansson! Pike!

    This year had some great acting in it!

    1. True that! And it had no dominant power, I saw people’s list and everyone had different picks 🙂

  2. Great list! Definitely agree with some of your choices, with Rosamund Pike topping the list. Still rooting for her to win (though chances are slim).

    1. Thanks! I think her performance in Gone Girl was one of a kind. I hope so!

  3. Excellent list! I especially love your top two. Gyllenhaal and Pike gave the best performances of the year.

    1. Thanks! I really hope they will win awards, though Oscars might be to impossible (especially for Gyllenhaal).

  4. Great picks here Paskalis, we share some faves in both male & female performances. I still need to see Nightcrawler, Whiplash, Only Lovers Left Alive and Calvary! Oh, nice to see Tony Revolori got a mention, I think he’s as memorable as Ralph Fiennes was, which was a feat considering he’s a newbie!

    1. Yeah, some of those movies might complete your list. I guess it’s fair ’cause I haven’t seen Keaton or Norton in Birdman, whom people seemingly love. Oh yeah, weren’t they completing each other, Revolori and Fiennes? That’s masterclass!

  5. Everything is awesome but Gleeson, I just don’t get it, aaaaaand Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens should get credits as they really deserve……

    1. I love Gleeson in Calvary, seriously hahaa Carrie Coon is in the honorable mentions. I love her as Margo, too 🙂

      1. yeah, I saw it too, but still no Kim Dickens ? REPEAT ! No Kim Dickens ? Ahahaha

        Gone Girl, Foxcatcher, Pride, Birdman have the best ensemble this year, I could fill my list only with these four :)))

        1. Yeah. I loved Rhonda Boney, but I imagined her differently from the book. That’s why she didn’t make it hehe

          Ah, haven’t seen Pride and Birdman just yet.

  6. I love your list! I also loved Pike and Gylenhaal, also Fassbender, Knightley and Blunt. Thanks for remembering me about Mackenzie Foy.

    1. I wish I could see more of Blunt as she also had a role in Into the Woods, but why wasn’t it screened in Indonesia? Come on. Ah Mackenzie Foy, I loved her so much I coudn’t resist not to put her here. Can’t wait to see your list, too, Andina!

  7. Some really good performances mentioned. I love that you mentioned Mackenzie Foy. She was amazing.

    1. She’s the only teen actress I mentioned! Amazing! Anyway, thanks for stopping by

  8. LOVE number 1 🙂 Great list and it’s nice seeing Keira here, you should check out Laggies!

    1. So, this year is a real deal for Keira. Begin Again, Imitation Game, and if it’s true that Laggies is good, she really had a good year!

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