We’ve already talked about the best movies and TV series of the year here at CoS, but whenever this bi-annual time of year rolls around, we find ourselves struggling to pare those lists down. There are endless excisions of films and series we loved, to say nothing of those that maybe weren’t favorites of ours but had strong bright spots that stood out, even if the whole might have missed the mark. There’s so much great art coming out at one time that it’s often dizzying to try and catalogue it all, but we thought we’d take one more shot at it before moving on with the back nine of 2018. When it comes to film and television, to recognize great art is, most of the time, to recognize great actors, and man alive, there are a lot of great actors out there.
The list you’re about to read has allowed us to show love to some of the performances that stood out to us this year on screens big and small alike, from the broadest and most delightfully scene-stealing work to turns of uncomfortable candor and rare emotional honesty. There are comic turns and searingly dramatic ones, playful indulgences and terrifying transformations. There are even two duet performances so good that to recognize one half of the duo without the other would seem wrong — and it’s our list, so fuck it, we’re cheating. There’ll be a little something for everyone, or so we hope, so without any further preamble, we submit our top 25 performances of the year, so far.
–Allison Shoemaker and Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
TV Editor, Film Editor
25. Claire Foy
The Film: Unsane
The Director: Steven Soderbergh
The Performance: On the heels of her star-making turn as Queen Elizabeth in Netflix’s The Crown, Claire Foy branches out into grimier territory as the lead in Steven Soderbergh’s iPhone-filmed thriller, Unsane. As a woman coerced into an involuntary stay in a psych ward, Foy manages to expertly juggle a host of tactics to get out – from smiling compliance to aggressive hysteria. As Unsane’s world unravels, so too does Sawyer, with Foy filling every closeup with unspeakable dread. —Clint Worthington
Also Great: Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah
24. Rachel McAdams
The Performances: To anyone paying attention, the news that Rachel McAdams gave not one but two of the year’s best performances will come as no surprise. What’s so delightful about this particular pairing is how different these roles are, making clear, through contrast, the extent of McAdams’ significant powers. In Game Night, she’s an ebullient force of nature, so committed to the ludicrous given circumstances that a dance with a gun she thinks is fake can be both giddily funny and low-key terrifying. In Disobedience, she shows us a woman whose life is a familiar, well-practiced lie; while the (also excellent) Rachel Weisz shows us a woman falling apart, McAdams gives us a glimpse at a tamed and silenced truth that needs only the slightest bit of encouragement to come racing out. Brava. —Allison Shoemaker
Also Great: Game Night: Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons. Disobedience: Rachel Weisz, Alessandro Nivola, Anton Lesser