10 Best Movie Performances of Each Year of the 1990s
Looking back to the 1990s, there are inevitably cinematic performances that immediately stand out. From entertaining comedic turns to powerful dramatic roles, the decade showcased incredible work by incredible actors that will go down in cinematic history.
But in every year of the 1990s, there was inevitably one performance that stood out among the many greats. Some of these performances won awards at the time, while others were only appreciated in the years that followed. But they all helped define a decade in movies.
ten 1990: Joe Pesci – Goodfellas
by Martin Scorsese Freedmen is perhaps the greatest mob film of all time and it delivers one of the most intense characters in the genre. Joe Pesci plays Tommy DeVito, a hot-headed crime family trooper who can go from party life one minute to cold-blooded killer the next.
Pesci brings much more to the role than violence and unpredictability. He makes Tommy funny enough that it’s easy to forget the terrible thing the audience just saw him do. Although it’s a supporting role in the entire brilliant movie, it’s responsible for many of the most iconic moments.
9 1991: Anthony Hopkins – The Silence of the Lambs
Like with Tommy DeVito in Freedmen, there is something about a performance that can really terrify the audience that is very effective. Anthony Hopkins is an actor of incredible range and chances are no one knew he could be as unsettling as he is as serial killer Hannibal Lecter in Thesilenceofthelambs.
Although he spends much of the film in a cage, whenever Lecter is onscreen, there’s a feeling of unease that pervades everything. He’s a creepy yet intelligent monster that draws audiences in even as he tries to look away. As a result, Hannibal Lecter is considered one of the greatest movie villains of all time.
8 1992: Denzel Washington-Malcolm X
Not only is civil rights leader Malcolm X’s role historically huge, but Spike Lee’s epic take on human history has made it even more daunting. In retrospect, there were few actors who could have filled this role other than Denzel Washington.
Throughout the complex journey of this man’s life, Washington plays all the different aspects of the character to perfection. He is also fiery and passionate in his inspiring speeches while showing vulnerability in his most intimate moments.
seven 1993: Holly Hunter – The Piano
As acclaimed director, Jane Campion is back in the awards season discussion with The power of the dogmany revisit his other great Oscar nominee, The piano, and her lead performance of Holly Hunter.
Hunter has taken on the role of a mute single mother who is sent to New Zealand for an arranged marriage and begins a romance with a plantation worker. Not to mention, Hunter delivered a raw and powerful performance that was endlessly captivating and impressive.
6 1994: Samuel L. Jackson – Pulp Fiction
At the time of pulp Fiction, much of the buzz surrounded John Travolta’s comeback performance. But the actor who walked out of the movie as a star was Samuel L. Jackson. As witty hitman Jules Winfield, Jackson proved to be the perfect collaborator for Quentin Tarantino’s unique dialogue style.
Jackson was hilarious in the role while remaining an intense presence when needed. His first scene in the car with Travolta and his last scene in the restaurant show just how much Jackson brought to the role.
5 1995: Sharon Stone – Casino
The team and cast behind Freedmen gathered for the spiritual continuation Casino which examined the rise and fall of organized crime in Las Vegas. So it was quite surprising that Sharon Stone ended up stealing the show from Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci.
As De Niro’s troubled wife, Ginger McKenna, Stone gave an emotionally raw performance as a woman losing control and finding herself in a world of growing danger. It could be frustrating and heartbreaking at the same time.
4 1996: Frances McDormand – Fargo
In the dark and violent crime story of Fargo, Marge Gunderson is a shining light trying to break through. What could have become a cartoon character became an endearing hero thanks to Frances McDormand’s performance.
With the thoughtful accent and consistently positive attitude, McDormand avoids caricature by portraying Marge as someone who wants to see the good in the world but is always ready to face the bad. It’s a funny, touching and quirky performance in one of the Coen brothers’ best films.
3 1997: Robin Williams – Hunt for Goodwill
Robin Williams is one of the most beloved actors of all time and had a real knack for switching between comedic and dramatic roles. Goodwill hunting was one of his most serious and reserved performances and rightfully won the actor an Oscar.
As widowed psychiatrist Sean Maguire, Williams delivers a calm and compassionate performance that is at the heart of this touching story. He’s a kind man who seems so determined to fix a troubled young man’s problems that he doesn’t acknowledge his own grief.
2 1998: Jeff Bridges – The Great Lebowski
Comedy performances are often not considered as high as dramatic performances. A look at Jeff Bridges’ tour de force performance as The Dude in The great Lebowski proves how wrong this perspective is.
As a pot-smoking, middle-aged bowler who is reluctantly drawn into a kidnapping plot, Bridges gives his all for the role. In a story filled with wacky, over-the-top characters, The Dude could have been easily overshadowed, but Bridges makes him a hilariously charming pathetic hero of the modern age.
1 1999: Haley Joel Osment – The Sixth Sense
There have been many terrific performances by child actors in films over the years, but few have worn a film with their performance quite like Haley Joel Osment does in The sixth sense.
The role of Cole Sear, a young outcast boy haunted by a dark secret, deserves so much more Osment than just being the likeable young character and acting scared. He is truly the central character of the story, and his harrowing journey makes audiences all the more invested in how he will overcome him.
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