Oh boy was 2019 a year filled with thrills, kills, chills and… another season of American Horror Story. Somewhere amid all the political strife, medical emergencies and Keto recipes flooding Pinterest we somehow found time to go to the movies.
In celebration of another banner year at the cinema (every year is a banner year when you’re a popcorn fan), we’re taking to look back on the the leading men and supporting actors that pushed the envelope and redefined the medium. Below are Nightmare on Film Street’s Top 10 Male Performances of 2019!
10. Keanu Reeves – John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
Have you ever wondered what Keanu Reeves looks like riding a horse? Wonder no more, because John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellem showed us that Mr. Wick was capable of more than shooting a record-setting amount of henchmen in the head. And, surprise surprise, he looked great doing it too! John Wick is a man who’s emotions dies with his late wife, leaving a stoic husk of a man living life like every minute was his last…mainly because in John Wick is now a man without a country, without a home, and without any allies. And if ever there was an actor perfectly suited to portray a hardened, combat-ready, GQ model it is surely Keanu Reeves.
Read Nightmare on Film Street Full Review of John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum HERE
9. James Ransone – It Chapter Two
It Chapter Two was filled from top to bottom with incredible performances from the adult members of The Losers Club but no one quite tickeld our funny bones and touched our hearts like James Ransone’s Eddie Kaspbrak. As neurotic as neurotic can be, James Ransone’s performances showed us the cleverly comedic side of a surprisingly heart-breaking duo. His hilarious take on the hyper-ventilating hypochondriac helped give us a quick breath of relief in between scares including his own encounter with Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), which was without question, one of the most frightening sequences of the year.
8. Godzilla – Godzilla: King of The Monsters
There’s been some debate over the year’s about Godzilla’s gender. It likely doesn’t help that Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998) introduced us a very specifically female Godzilla, eating fish by the tanker load and laying eggs in Madison Square Gardens. For years Godzilla was treated as gender-neutral but there is no denying that he was crowned King of The Monsters in cinemas this summer where he swam, fought, and roared his way onto the list as one of the year’s biggest badasses. If if you still have your doubts about the details of the monster’s chromosomes, let’s at least take this opportunity to congratulate the real heroes: The multi-gendered effects team that worked tirelessly to bring this kickass kaiju to life!
7. Anthony Mackie & Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – Black Mirror: Striking Vipers
It might be a bit of a cheat to have both Anthony Mackie and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II on this list but I would argue that what makes this episode so special is Danny (Anthony Mackie) and Karl’s (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) relationship. We watch these two men grow from best bros, to estranged friends, to lovers over the course of an hour, anchored by surprising performances (Nicole Beharie’s included) that highlight the complexity of love and lifelong relationships. Extra points to Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s character for also owning the coolest pinball machine the internet has ever seen.
Read Nightmare on Film Street’s Full Review of Black Mirror: Striking Vipers HERE
6. Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
Likely the year’s most controversial film, Todd Phillips’ Joker is a heart-of-darkness presentation of a man that’s been teetering on the edge his entire life until one day he realizes he already fell long ago. Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck is a menacing and mentally unstable siren of the times, regardless of whether or not those are times we’re glad to be alive. He’s a ringleader, standing amid the chaos of a city-wide circus that is feeding the wealthy to lions, stampeding through the streets like elephants, and donning clown makeup in recognition of the cruel joke life has become. It’s a grim depiction of our darkest selves, and would not have struck as strong chord with us if not for Phoenix’s powerful performance.
5. Damon Herriman – Mindhunter / Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
Damon Herriman seems to have made real-life monsters his business in 2019, and business is good. Not only did we see him as an inhuman militiaman in Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale, but he also portrayed real-life monster Charles Manson…twice! Herriman’s Manson in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood appears only briefly but his presence is immediately known and looms large over the rest of the film. And, of course, in David Fincher’s Mindhunter we see a more seasoned, psychotic presentation of the rambling cult leader as he trades verbal blows with FBI Investigators in a maddening game connect-the-thoughts.
Read Nightmare on Film Street’s Full Review of Mindhunter Season 2 HERE
4. Winston Duke – US
If you have ANY doubts about Winston Duke’s placement on this list you are severely underappreciating his picture-perfect presentation of a Dad. Familyman Gabe Wilson comes fully loaded with dad jokes, bad boats, and an admirable attempt to protect his family with a standard-issue dad bat. Not only that, he’s pulling double time in this movie fighting his own doppelganger Abraham!
3. Jack Reynor – Midsommar
Christian is the shittiest boyfriend. He’s incapable of providing any level of comfort for his grieving girlfriend and he makes her feel as though that’s somehow her fault, holding her at arms lengths for years rather than admit the faults in their relationship. Jack Reynor’s performance is nothing short of brilliant because he shows us a cringe-worthy Christian who just can’t seem to get his sh*t together. He’s not to blame for everything, but he is a pretty terrible friend, an even worse boyfriend, and the recipient of the headshake heard around the world.
2. Brad Pitt – Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
Every performance in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood was a memorable performance, but there is no denying the calm, cool (but secretly deadly) Cliff Booth, portrayed by Brad Pitt in a career-best performance. Cliff Booth is such an electric character on screen that we can watch him just driving around LA city streets and find it entertaining. His uber-zen nature is in perfect contrast to Leonardo DiCaprio’s explosive Rick Dalton and the homicidal hippies circling the entire cast. There is a quiet intensity inside Cliff Booth, like many of the child soldiers that grew into the quiet men of that generation, but more than anything he’s just a care-free guy that lived a life filled with stories that you’d love to listen to while sharing a pitcher of margaritas in a corner booth.
Read Nightmare on Film Street’s Full Review of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood HERE
1. Willem Dafoe – The Lighthouse
Thomas Wake is but a lowly Lighthouse Operator. He works hard like the rest of us, has bodily functions like the rest of us, and drinks himself into a stupor and worships the gods that reside within the glow of the lighthouse. You know, like the rest of us. And somehow, despite the ugliness, and the downright awful quirks of this career crackpot, is the role that Willem Dafoe was born to play. Opposite him in an equal brilliant performance is Robert Pattinson but it’s Dafoe’s dutybound delirium that towers not only over this film but over the entire year.
What were your favorite male performances of the last year? What was your favorite performances of the last 10 years? Be sure to check out the rest of our year-in-review recommendations HERE and let us know your best of the year picks on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club.