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Year-End List 2014: 25 Best Movie Performances

This year's best movie performances may not all be the biggest parts or the showiest bits of acting, but just the actors and the parts that made you feel passionately about what you're watching. All the actors listed below turned in what we thought were the most impressive performances of the year. They will not all win the Oscars, but this list isn't about awards - it's about awesome.

Read on to see what made the shortlists and let us know in the comments what made yours.

25. Rose Byrne
Neighbors
Generally, women tend to have toned down comedic roles in movies, but Rose Byrne somehow flexed all her comedy chops in Neighbors and easily stole each and every one of her scenes. Her timing was perfect and her screen presence was palpable. Since Bridesmaids, this was arguably Rose Byrne's comedic breakout smash. 

24. Mackenzie Foy
Interstellar
She may not have a lot of screentime in Interstellar - she eventually turned out to be Jessica Chastain - but her moments were exquisite. Child actors playing a role in an adult film often doesn't work, but Mackenzie Foy somehow managed to infuse her character into the mix. She was just as good, if not better, than both Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain in this film. 

23. Ellar Coltrane
Boyhood
Ellar Coltrane literally grew into the role as he ages. As a child, he was already believable, but as the film progressed, he exuded the right amount of energy and a subtle command over his role. There's an identifiable confidence and rawness that at times I forgot that I was watching a film and not a documentary. 

22. Robert Duvall
The Judge
Rigid and poignant. Robert Duvall played his role with so much depth and complexity that it was hard to figure out where to stand with his character. He was icily effective with the way he approached every scenes and he was just brilliant as a man who has nothing to lose.

21. Jennifer Lawrence
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Jennifer Lawrence was golden again. True, she's been playing this role for years now, but she managed to infuse a lot more charisma here than her previous take on Katniss Everdeen. Her performance was riveting showing desperation and determination that felt right and she just effortlessly carried the whole film - and the franchise, for that matter.

20. Ralph Fiennes
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who knew Ralph Fienees could be a comedic actor? He was just radiant as his eccentric character and showcased a lot of range in The Grand Budapest Hotel. He was riotously humorous, but felt like he really took his character very seriously providing a perfect balance of both.

19. Angelica Panganiban
Beauty In A Bottle
I wasn't sure if Angelica Panganiban's brand of comedy could sustain her part in the film, but she blew me away. Not only was she consistently funny and had an excellent comedic flair, but she also gave her character some great dynamics and dimensions.

18. Matthew McConaughey
Interstellar
Once again, Matthew McConaughey gave a stellar performance - pun intended! I admit, I was getting tired of his one-note characters, but he was dazzling in this film providing a realistic take of going through the agony of his lost years. With Interstellar, he added another dimension to his already growing list of fantastic acting performances.

17. Chris Pratt
Guardians of the Galaxy
Chris Pratt was, by far, one of Marvel's best casting choices since Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man. He was instantly likable and his charisma and ability to transform a 'pathetic' character into a hero was entirely credible and impressive. He had this indelible sense of coolness that's pretty rare. He was hilarious and still believable at delivering some of the more emotional scenes.

16. Iza Calzado
Starting Over Again
Wonderfully understated. Iza Calzao may have not been given much to do on Starting Over Again, but by the time she got her moment, it was splendid. There's a certain calmness to her delivery that was impressive and every flex of her facial muscle for sheer mastery of control, expression, and projection especially during the last act of the film was impeccable. 

15. Felicity Jones
The Theory of Everything
The buzz surrounding The Theory of Everything was mostly on the portrayal of Stephen Hawking, but Felicity Jones' take on Jane Wilde also deserved the attention. She was the heart of the movie, and how she relied upon assured confidence in her character was compelling. She was wonderful and I felt her love, struggle, and heartbreak, the type of acting that films were made to capture.

14. Logan Lerman
Fury
For a movie like Fury, Logan Lerman brilliantly found a way to make his character more layered than usual, constantly evolving and effectively conveying the critical transformation of innocence to maturity until he came full circle in a heart-pounding final act. His performance was subtle, but extremely riveting.

13. Shailene Woodley
The Fault In Our Stars
Whether it was Shailene Woodley's wit, how she used her eyes to convey emotions, or delivering heartbreaking moment through emotional sequences, she, quite simply, knocked it out of the park. She played the role naturally and effortlessly, it felt like you're sucked into whatever she's going through. Plus, there's warmth to her performance that's palpable.

12. Rene Russo
Nightcrawler
She may not be the lead of the film, but Rene Russo delivered an intense portrayal of a role who's equally demented as the main character. She awesomely gave real insight into the distorted emotions and greed of her character and that awkwardly fabulous chemistry with Jake Gyllenhaal was just, well, fabulous.

11. Andy Serkis
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Andy Serkis was back as Ceasar, and somehow actors like him do not get enough credit for their work. He was brilliant and he was able to tap a certain depth and character to the ape that made the audience care for them more than the actual human characters. He was that good.

10. Tom Cruise
Edge of Tomorrow
Try dying a hundred times in a movie and do ALL your scenes over and over again until the whole thing is finished. Ha! Tom Cruise did that and he was superb. This was, arguably, one of his finest performances yet, and not only because of his great physicality and agility in action sequences, but the earnest and nuanced take on his character. He was in top form without taking himself too seriously, but still exuding charm with loads of hilarity.

09. Keira Knightley
Begin Again
Natural. Unpretentious. Charming. Keira Knightley has always been an enchanting presence on screen, but here, she was impressively genuine and authentic. Her singing voice wasn't particularly powerful, but it was good enough to be a major driver for the whole film. She's just a delight to watch.

08. Shia Lebeouf
Fury
Shia Lebeouf's presence may be a deterrent for some people - he's highly polarizing - but he did an exceptional job in fleshing out his sketchy character. His remarkably subtle but complex acting was a surprise especially for his character who's grounded yet not afraid to fight off the enemy. His work was impressive considering that he had little script to back him up.

07. Julianne Moore
Maps To The Stars
Her performance in Maps To The Stars further begs the question, why has Julianne Moore not won an Oscar yet? This was probably her most vibrant, funny, but wickedly offbeat work to date. She was brilliantly unhinged and neurotic that it almost felt real. Ferocious. Daring. Completely involved.

06. Tilda Swinton
Snowpiercer
Gloriously over the top. Tilda Swinton was nearly unrecognizable, but her delightfully cheeky performance and cartoonish portrayal was remarkable. She managed to infused a sadistic and frantic energy to the character that was deeply chilling and, at the same time, a pure delight.

05. Patricia Arquette
Boyhood
Boyhood was all about Ellar Coltrane, but Patricia Arquette stole the show as she delivered a superbly nuanced performance as Mason's mother. She managed to showcase a lot of emotion throughout the film and that showed a terrific acting range for her. Oh, and her emotional breakdown towards the end, stays with you. 

04. Jake Gyllenhaal
Nightcrawler
In lesser hands, Lou Bloom could have easily been a stereotypical character, but Jake Gyllenhaal brought the crazy and gave a completely terrifying, disturbing, yet recognizable performance. His commitment to his work in building an unseemly characterization of the role was fascinating and the burning intensity on his portrayal was possibly a career-best for him.

03. Julianne Moore
Still Alice
We feel for her. We cry with her. We wish she would get better. Julianne Moore successfully portrayed with such skill and graceful pain that it felt too realistic it's almost uncomfortable. She took a daring stand to be vulnerable with a plethora of emotions throughout the film, and it was emotionally gripping. Powerful performance that made the sad theme worth your while.

02. Eddie Redmayne
The Theory of Everything
Flawlessly brilliant. The physicality Eddie Redmayne brought to his role was magnificent and he completely lost himself in the part and easily one of the best performances this year of any actor. This was a flawlessly transformative performance and he made Stephen Hawking come to life.

01. Rosamund Pike
Gone Girl
Rosamund Pike was certainly intoxicating, especially during the third act of the film where it was a no holds barred roller coaster ride for her character. She was the driving force behind this film and I just cannot express how perfect she was for the role. She managed to be sympathetic and disturbing at the same time and played the beautifully constructed and layered character to great effect. Too good for words.

Year-End List 2014: 25 Best Movie Performances Reviewed by DAM on 11:55 PM Rating: 5

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