This is a list of my favorite film performances of the past ten years. It's not exactly a list of the best performances although I think every performance on this list is one of the best I've recently seen. For instance, I don't necessarily think Kurt Russell in Death Proof turned in a better performance than Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood but I enjoyed it more.
In other words, take this list with a grain of subjective salt. That said, number one on this list was the performance of the decade.
15. Michael Fassbender in Inglourious Basterds (2009)Obviously, Christoph Waltz stole the movie as Landa, but Michael Fassbender took a small, archaic role ("old chap, I hope you don't mind if I go out speaking the King's ...")and made it shine. Is there a man-crush here? Obviously.
14. Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton (2007)Another great supporting turn from Tom Wilkinson as a brilliant lawyer in a manic state. Heartbreaking.
13. Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa (2003) Another actor might have tried to imbue this character with some semblance of humanity or pathos but not Thornton. He plays it brutally straight.
12. Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)Come back to acting, Hackman, the world has enough historical novels.
11. Franka Potente in The Bourne Identity (2002)She takes a familiar role (the innocent bystander pulled into an action picture) and does something entirely new, playing it as realistic as possible, watching Jason Bourne with equal parts erotic fascination and terror.
10. Naomi Watts in The Painted Veil (2006)Her second greatest performance of the decade. An old-fashioned star turn as a woman who falls in love with her husband after she marries him.
9. George Clooney in Michael Clayton (2007)Remember when he couldn't really act? This is another great star turn in a film that grows on me as time passes.
8. Kurt Russell in Death Proof (2007)He does so much in this film. He's funny, pathetic, then terrifying, and finally, a cringing coward. There's nothing better than Hollywood hunks that are able to act without vanity. No way Burt Reynolds could have pulled this off.
7. Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (2008)A brilliant, lived-in performance. Second great performance from Mickey in this decade after his turn in Sin City.
6. Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal (2006)Judi Dench completely sheds her bubbly personality and plays a malicious, almost-evil schoolteacher in this solid thriller.
5. Christian Bale in American Psycho (2000)Lately Christian Bale has admitted he was channeling Tom Cruise for this role. Regardless, he was the best psycho since Tony Perkins.
4. Nicole Kidman in The Others (2001)An icy performance as a woman sewn up extra tight. She's not a favorite actress of mine but for the length of this film she mesmerized.
3. Colin Farrell in In Bruges (2008)So funny and then so tragic as a man trapped in purgatory on earth.
2. Kate Winslet in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)Everything she does as prickly, lovelorn Clementine in this film is fascinating.
1. Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive (2001)One of the great screen performances as she transforms from Betty to Diane.
Special award to Bill Nighy in Shaun of the Dead for best five-minute performance.