Our ongoing celebration of the year in cinema wouldn’t be complete without a few (or 1500) words about our favorite actors and actresses of the year. With the staff of ScreenCrush finalizing their lists of 2016’s best movies (you can already read Editor-in-Chief Matt Singer’s top ten here), we had to take a moment to celebrate the men and women who made the movies so memorable. And with some actors already breaking out of the pack and getting a lot of acclaim from critics groups and voting bodies, we decided to try to pick at least a couple names that aren’t popping up as frequently among the year-end awards. So we love you, Natalie Portman in Jackie and Mahershala Ali in Moonlight, but we decided to throw a little extra love some other performers’ way.

In alphabetical order, here are the five actors and five actresses we loved most in 2016:


Annette Bening
From 20th Century Women

Any apprehensions that Mike Mills might belabor the precious points of Beginners in 20th Century Women are instantly nullified by Annette Bening’s irresistible lead performance. Bening is the center of a trio of intimately influential women in Mills’ coming-of-age dramedy — a description as deceptively simple as Bening’s matriarch. As Dorothea, Bening’s earthy and warm aesthetic just barely obscures a complex internal life of conflicting emotions, wherein confidence is the hopeless inversion of self-doubt. By some unreasonable coincidence, Bening gives what may very well be the performance of her career in the same year that Natalie Portman delivers an impeccable turn as the grieving First Lady in Jackie. To think that Bening might lose the Best Actress Oscar to Portman yet again (after losing to her in 2010) is both sensible and entirely unfair. — Britt Hayes


Viola Davis
From Fences

Troy Maxson is the type of man who dominates every room he walks into, and Denzel Washington is that type of actor, too; big, boisterous, talkative, and oozing charm. Living in that man’s shadow  — acting in that man’s shadow — can’t be easy. In any context, Viola Davis’ performance in Fences would be impressive. Opposite Washington, it’s borderline superhuman. She doesn’t just hold her own against him, she steals scenes from him as Troy’s long-suffering wife Rose, particularly in the moments when Rose finally stands up for herself and unloads on her husband after he reveals a shocking indiscretion. Fences sticks closely to the events of the August Wilson play that inspired it, and it does feel like a work of theater that’s been transposed to the screen; it’s small and intimate and Washington, who also directed the movie, films most of the key moments in close-up. It’s all about reveling in the magnificent performances of its ensemble cast. And Davis’ is best of all. — Matt Singer


Colin Farrell
From The Lobster

The science is still shaky on this, but there appears to be a direct correlation between the enjoyability of a Colin Farrell performance and the eccentricities of its film. The riskier, more subversive and inventive the film, the more entertaining — and valuable — Farrell’s role in it. The Lobster has officially usurped In Bruges in the 10 spot on the Colin Farrell Acting Scale, setting a new high bar for his career to date: Frumpy, lumpy, out of shape, somewhat neurotic, and still, by some inexplicable miracle, quite charming. Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest film imagines a not-so-outlandish dystopia in which single people are sent to a hotel and given 45 days to find a romantic partner; those that fail are transformed into an animal of their choosing. The mustache, glasses, and substantial belly make for a convincingly schlubby disguise, but Farrell never lets his costuming carry his performance. He mines the role of David for all the pathos it’s worth and then some, making this insecure man both surprisingly empathetic and hilariously pitiful. With the help of an excellent ensemble that includes Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, and Lea Seydoux, Farrell finds the melancholy heart at the center of Lanthimos’ absurdist dark comedy. — BH


Ryan Gosling
From La La Land

Look, if we, as a collective society, gave out an annual award for Most Charming Human in a Motion Picture, Ryan Gosling would be a regular shoo-in, his inevitable victory the result of a unanimous vote. And thanks to the power derived from his now-thrice-proven chemistry with the equally charming Emma Stone, that charisma is amplified to a borderline sickening degree in La La Land — a film that defies all the (understandable) skepticism one might have based on all its early hype. Yes, it’s that wonderful. Damien Chazelle’s musical Hollywood throwback is a total joy to behold, but it wouldn’t be half as good without its modern day Fred and Ginger, Gosling and Stone. It’s difficult to praise Gosling’s soulful and winsome performance without acknowledging Stone, as one is dependent upon the other. Still, Gosling sings, dances, and melts hearts with a cavalier smirk; he’s so good that you’ll actually believe that someone who looks like Ryan Gosling could ever know the sadness of being lonely. — BH

The Orchard

Rebecca Hall
From Christine

So far, most of the annual year-end honor rolls are woefully lacking in recognition for Rebecca Hall, whose performance as the eponymous television reporter in Christine is nothing short of remarkable. This unconventional biopic, which would make an unnerving (and unnervingly good) double feature with Jackie, traces the final weeks in the life of Christine Chubbuck, a woman who took her own life on live television in 1974, a time long before the internet, reality TV, and tabloid sensationalism transformed the boundary between public and private into a Slip ’N Slide of indignity. Hall conveys Chubbuck’s personal struggle with depression with such poignancy that a morbid Wikipedia entry becomes a living, breathing and bleeding human being to whom so many can sadly relate. We watch as the camera captures Hall-as-Chubbuck, a specter interrogating the hypocrisy of our grim fascination. Despite knowing (or perhaps because we know) that Chubbuck’s story has a terrible conclusion that is both imminent and inevitable, Hall’s performance is also a generous gift, one that relieves us from the burden of explaining why we can’t look away. — BH

Sony Pictures Classics

Isabelle Huppert
From Elle

I’ve said it before: Paul Verhoeven’s Elle wouldn’t work without Isabelle Huppert. It’s hard to imagine any other actress playing Michele with as much conviction. She brings a commanding force to everything from her sharp dialogue to the way she carries herself with indestructible assurance. She’s a woman who, moments after being sexually assaulted, casually orders sushi takes a bath. The way Huppert delicately scoops up the heart-shaped blood forming in the bath bubbles, looks at them as if considering her possible victimhood, then swishes them away says it all. Michele is drawn to the twisted, but this time she’ll turn it into her own game. It’s a tricky character, but you never doubt Huppert for a moment. Whether you like Elle or not, there’s no denying this is one of the strongest performance of the year.  — Erin Whitney


Shia LaBeouf
From American Honey

In suspenders, eyebrow ring, and lengthy rat-tail, Shia LaBeouf does not exactly look the part of a man whose sheer presence could convince a teen girl to leave her life behind for an itinerant existence traveling the country with him selling magazine subscriptions. In a certain light, LaBeouf's outlandish costume as Jake almost looks like a thespionic dare: Dressed this way, can he convince the audience of this guys's all-consuming charisma? He can and does, and while he charms his way into the heart of Star (Sasha Lane) and the viewer, he also imbues Jake with surprising layers of hope, rage, arrogance, jealousy, and melancholy. Laugh at LaBeouf's admittedly peculiar off-screen activities all you want; when the camera starts rolling, he's still one of the most exciting young actors on the planet. — MS


Daniel Radcliffe
From Swiss Army Man

Remember that movie where Harry Potter played a farting, talking corpse? Who knew Swiss Army Man would become one of the highlight performances of Daniel Radcliffe’s career. The British actor has worked hard to distance himself from his Potter days; Swiss Army Man exemplifies Radcliffe’s range and dedication. It may sound like a role that’s easy to dismiss, but Radcliffe plays the dead body Manny with such a potent blend of raunchy humor and heart, and he does it all with extremely limited expressions and movements. It’s an incredibly physical role and Radcliffe successfully pulls off looking like a corpse that’s learning how to move and use its body again. Plus, he deserves credit for playing a guy who has a champagne cork stuck in his butt most of the time.  — EW

Itay Tiran
From Demon

The key to this little-seen but hugely powerful Polish film is the lead performance by Israeli actor Itay Tiran. His character suffers a breakdown at a wedding, and as his Piotr succumbs to a form of ghostly possession (or maybe just suffers a psychotic break), Tiran undergoes an incredible physical transformation without the assistance of any sort of makeup. Solely through the use of posture, gesture, voice, and expression, he becomes an entirely different person. There's one or two jump scares in Demon but the film is at it's most frightening when Tiran's performance makes the threat of losing your grip on reality and even your own identity all too real. — MS

Amazon Studios

Michelle Williams
From Manchester by the Sea

Michelle Williams’ role in Manchester By the Sea is proof you don’t need a lot of scenes or lines to make a big impression. It’s been 11 months since I saw Kenneth Lonergan’s latest drama and I still haven’t been able to shake Williams’ heart-shattering scene with Casey Affleck. It’s the type of scene that will undoubtedly play as her Oscars clip if when she gets nominated. We meet Williams’ Randi in brief flashbacks as the film builds; in that final confrontation between Randi and Affleck’s Lee all their repressed emotions and latent suffering finally bursts forth. It’s a gutting and cathartic moment that could have easily succumbed to melodramatics, but Williams turns it into something that feels powerfully real. As she also showed in Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, Williams has a knack for turning small roles into career highlights.  — EW