Every year as the Oscars roll around, Hollywood is abuzz with the biggest contenders and snubs, and critics have their lists ready for “who will win and who should win.” But what about the performances that weren’t even nominated? Below is a list of the top performances of the year that didn’t make the cut.

  • Elizabeth Debicki, Widows— In a role that requires submission to brutality from both men and her mother, Debicki as Alice manages to come out a scene stealer, capturing the vulnerability of a downtrodden woman who finds power within herself and becomes unstoppable.
  • Charlize Theron, Tully Charlize Theron’s vulnerability in this film is tantalizing. Motherhood can be terrifying and postpartum depression is real for many women. This movie, with Theron at the helm, is bittersweet and lovely, and her performance as Marlo is fearless in the embrace of the lows as well as the highs of motherhood.
  • Elsie Fisher, Eighth GradeTransitioning from pre-teen to fullfleged teen is a terrifying time. Watching Kayla fumble through the constant trials of eighth grade life is an equal mix of cringe-inducing terror and heartwarming wonder, and Fisher soars on all fronts.
  • Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place/Mary Poppins Returns– Emily Blunt had a great year– taking on an emotionally silent role in a passion project with her husband as well as tackling an international icon. In A Quiet Place, there’s a riveting scene in which Blunt has to give birth in a bathtub– her silent screams as she tries to make as little noise as possible are still haunting. And later in the year, she showcased her talents as Mary Poppins, lighting up the screen in a very different bathtub, somehow managing to bring the character back to life in a unique but delightfully recognizable way.
  • Rachel McAdams, Game Night— In Game Night, McAdams is perfectly matched with Jason Bateman, playing her role straight and sincere. She shows off her excellent timing and emotional range with a commanding screen presence that is a joy to watch in unexpected ways.
  • John C. Reily, The Sisters Brothers-John C. Reily also had a great year, producing as well as co-starring in The Sisters Brothers and starring in Stan & Ollie and Holmes & Watson also out last year. But his turn as Eli in The Sisters Brothers was bittersweet, full of the comedic timing that we’re familiar with, and also a sincerity and sadness that we don’t always get to see.
  • Julia Roberts/Lucas Hedges, Ben Is Back— This movie gets the award for “Most Overlooked Movie of the Year.” This was a powerful story about a family struggle that is relatable to many families in America. It follows a day in the life of the Burns family as the prodigal son, Ben, returns from rehab to spend Christmas with his family. His mom, Holly, played by Julia Roberts in a fierce, loving, comeback performance, decides that he can stay only if he doesn’t leave her sight. What follows is the rollercoaster of addiction and the tension of damaged familial bonds with Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges evenly matched as screen partners in performances that deserve recognition.
  • Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther— It’s rare that a movie gives you a villain whose worldview you can sympathize with and understand. In Black Panther, that villian is Killmonger played by Michael B. Jordan in a fierce, passionate performance. It’s sad to see him meet his necessary end at the clawed hands of T’Challa, but his final lines about bondage set against the backdrop of the Wakandan sunset create an emotionally charged moment that almost makes you want to shed a tear. Michael B. Jordan maintains that mix of emotions throughout the film with his commanding screen presence and unshakeable charisma.
  • Ethan Hawke, First Reformed— Ethan Hawke gives one of his best performances in First Reformed where he plays Reverend Toller, a minister who begins to grapple with his faith after meeting with a depressed congregant and soon spirals out of control. His performance is at once subtle, manic and thrilling. In a movie filled with despair, Hawke’s performance carries a relatable truth about how to make sense of a senseless world.
  • Olivia, Game Night/WidowsYes, Olivia the West Highland White Terrier deserves to be recognized for her outstanding performances in two movies this year, particularly in Widows where she’s just as much a driving character as any of the titular widows often stealing her scenes even from the incomparable Viola Davis.



Written by Sydney Mineer