The Best Male Film Performances of 2010

Heroes and villains, criminals and crazed creative types: the 20 best male performances of 2010 definitely run the dramatic/comedic character topography... with a few unusual turns tossed in for good measure.

Film: Shutter Island

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Max Von Sydow


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List number: 20

Display Width: 200Leonard DiCaprio
Shutter Island

There's little subtlety to Shutter Island. Martin Scorcese's take on a B-movie potboiler. From the beginning of the film, the overbearing score screams out to us that things are not right on the titular island. DiCaprio plays U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels with the same overbearing intensity. We know early on that he's haunted by both the memory of his dead wife and his experiences in World War II. Daniels seems right on the edge of losing it, and trying to investigate a disappearance at a hospital for the criminally insane doesn't seem like the best place for him. Especially when nobody will help him with the case. As the story goes on and Teddy's behavior gets more and more extreme, DiCaprio shifts effortlessly from quiet breakdowns to violent rage. All the while nightmarish dreams and confused flashbacks prey on Teddy, and DiCaprio plays it straight, keeping his character believable even as events on the island make less and less sense to him. Without DiCaprio's assured performance, Shutter Island could well be indistinguishable from its B-movie influences. Chris Conaton


Film: True Grit

Director: Joel and Ethan Coen

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Barry Pepper, Josh Brolin


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List number: 19

Display Width: 200Jeff Bridges
True Grit

How, exactly, do you top an iconic turn by a mythic Hollywood legend? To make matters worse, we're talking about Western idol John Wayne, his only Oscar winning role, and a film many feel is the last word on the pre-post modern traditional Western. The answer is Jeff Bridges. Building off the book by Charles Portis and the era-specific language in Joel and Ethan Coen's masterful script, the artist formerly known as The Dude shows that 2009's Award Season recognition for Crazy Heart was no career overview. In fact, his Rooster Cogburn manages the near impossible. With his graveled growl and rough rider rawhide persona, he manages to make us forget that Wayne was ever set in said saddle to begin with. Now that's acting. Bill Gibron


Film: Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

Director: Mat Whitecross

Cast: Andy Serkis, Naomie Harris, Ray Winstone, Olivia Williams, Noel Clarke, Toby Jones


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List number: 18

Display Width: 200Andy Serkis
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

Andy Serkis has carved out something of a specialty for himself playing roles where you don’t actually see him on the screen: he was the actor behind the CGI Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and also for King Kong’s facial expressions in Jackson’s 2005 film of the same name. But after his blistering performance as New Wave rocker Ian Drury in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll Serkis should be in high demand for more traditional roles as well. He’s a revelation as Drury, creating a character as demonic in his cruelty (having been dealt a harsh hand in life, Drury seemed determined to pass the pain on to those closest to him) as he was committed to his music. Sarah Boslaugh


Film: The Runaways

Director: Floria Sigismondi

Cast: Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart, Stella Maeve, Scout Taylor-Compton, Michael Shannon


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List number: 17

Display Width: 200Michael Shannon
The Runaways

Do yourself a favor before sitting down to this otherwise ordinary biopic of the '70s all girl rock group. Go out and find Edgeplay (an actual documentary on the Runaways) and then queue up The Mayor of the Sunset Strip, a film about legendary LA radio DJ Rodney Bingenheimer. Why? Because after seeing the original music scene miscreant Kim Fowley in action, you will be devastated by how accurately Michael Shannon captures the man's pre-Malcolm McLaren Svengali surrealism. With dialogue loaded with quotable (if PC questionable) putdowns and an aura that suggests drug-induced decadence, the underappreciated actor turns the otherwise opportunistic promoter/songwriter into a Greek glam tragedy, a seemingly accurate talent scout whose lesser qualities undermined his Simon Cowell-like insights. Strident self-destruction has never looked -- or sounded -- so mesmerizing. Bill Gibron


Film: Get Low

Director: Aaron Schneider

Cast: Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Scott Cooper


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List number: 16

Display Width: 200Robert Duvall
Get Low

You would think that Robert Duvall couldn’t pull anything else out of that battered old hat with the “Crusty Old Codger” sign stapled to it, but Get Low would prove you wrong. The film is a crisply-made but underwhelming piece about a codger (Duvall) in a small Southern town whose temper and hermetic isolation has made him a thing of legend -- and that’s before he announces that he’s going to have a funeral party (when he’s still breathing) at which everybody can come and tell stories about him. The script demands Duvall’s character to have a witch-like quality for twigging to everybody’s unexpressed thoughts, and very quickly it’s apparent that Duvall’s darting eyes and evil-humored brow are up to the task -- that deep, bourbon-rinsed voice doesn’t hurt, either. That the film works at all is almost entirely due to Duvall’s bad-tempered, biblical presence. Chris Barsanti


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