• Julianne Moore stars in 'The Kids Are All Right', now streaming at SBS On Demand. (Focus Features)
If you’re looking for world-beating actors giving some of the best performances of their careers, you’ve come to the right place.
By
Anthony Morris

25 Jun 2019 - 3:25 PM  UPDATED 25 Jun 2019 - 3:34 PM

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

It’s one thing for an actor to create a compelling character; it’s another thing entirely for them to dismantle that character in front of our eyes. In Still Alice Moore plays a linguistic professor and Alzheimer’s sufferer who finds that her inevitable decline is the one part of her life she can’t control.

Gabourey Sidibe in Precious

In Precious, Gabourey Sidibe plays Precious, a 16-year-old mother of two trying to escape her abusive mother and a crushingly poor upbringing. It was her first movie role, and her performance in this harrowing film is astonishing; it’s no surprise she was nominated for an Academy Award.

SBS VICELAND (Digital HD Channel 31)  
Saturday 29 June, 8:30pm 

 

Penélope Cruz in Volver  

As the put-upon housewife and restaurateur Raimunda, Penélope Cruz is the heart and soul of Pedro Almodóvar’s ensemble drama about three generations trying to avoid the mistakes of the past. It’s a celebration of the bonds between women (there’s also a ghost), and Cruz’s presence fills every corner of the film.

Rosamund Pike in A United Kingdom

This true-life romance between English office clerk Ruth Williams (Pike) and the man who would be king of Botswana (David Oyelowo) goes from crowd-pleasing fairy-tale to grim reality as apartheid and political expediency threaten to tear them apart. It’s Ruth’s emotional journey we go on as her world is turned upside down more than once, and Pike makes her bravery – and her love for her husband – the emotional core of the film.

Julianne Moore in The Kids Are All Right

As one half of a lesbian couple who find their world turned upside down when their teenage children bring their sperm donor father (Mark Ruffalo) back into their lives, Moore plays a woman yearning for a life outside the confines of marriage. It’s a tough role to make sympathetic: she does it with ease.

Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose

Taking on the life of singer Edith Piaf is not for the faint of heart. Even as she rose to fame on stage her life was full of suffering and loss, and Cotillard – in a vanity-free and hunched over performance that soars even when Piaf is at her lowest – gives it her all to show the pain the singer went through.

Oscar Isaac in The Two Faces of January

This gorgeous Patricia Highsmith adaptation revolves around three people: a couple (played by Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst) fleeing trouble and the charming but shady tour guide (Isaac) they meet in Athens who offers to help them out. But as the story develops, it’s Isaac’s character who increasingly becomes the focus of this twisted tale, and with a darkly charismatic but troubled performance he grabs the spotlight and doesn’t let go.

Alicia Vikander in Testament of Youth

Based on a classic anti-war memoir, Testament of Youth centres on a young woman who finds her friends and family taken from her by the horrors of the First World War. Vikander’s consistently compelling performance reveals both the pain and suffering felt by those left behind by the war, and the grim determination that such a nightmare should never happen again.

Jackie Chan in City Hunter

There’ll probably be a day when audiences won’t be impressed by the stunts of Jackie Chan, but watching City Hunter, that day feels a long, long way off. It’s a fun, slapstick-style romp that gives Chan plenty of opportunity to show off his martial arts skill; considering what he usually goes through making his films, it’s surprising his only injury during the production was dislocating his shoulder.

Nicole Kidman in Dogville

There’d always been more to Nicole Kidman than the straightforward Hollywood star she became in the ’90s, but it wasn’t until she started breaking out into wider roles in the early 21st century – like the seemingly innocent woman on the run she plays in this minimalist drama from Lars von Trier – that her real range became apparent.

Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life

Going from heart-throb to family man is a tricky transition for many Hollywood hunks, but there’s no better director to guide an actor down that path than Terrence Malick. Here Pitt plays a stoic, thoughtful parent, embodying both an iconic father figure and a troubled man dealing with his own questions about life.
Review: https://www.sbs.com.au/movies/review/tree-life-review-malick-ponders-our-place-universe

Rachel Weisz in Denial

In a film that seems to become more relevant with each year, Weisz plays a historian forced to prove the Holocaust actually happened when she is sued for libel by Nazi apologist David Irving. Playing a thoughtful character is often tough, and Timothy Spall is a scene-stealer as the deliberately buffoonish Irving, but Weisz grounds her character with such decency and righteous anger that she becomes this legal drama’s moral centre.
Interview with director Mick Jackson: https://www.sbs.com.au/guide/audiotrack/playlist-13-dave-chappelles-stand-denial-mick-jackson-and-downfall 

Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin

Tilda Swinton is best known for playing a range of quirky and slightly alien characters (vampires, angels, magic monks and so forth). Here, she goes as far in the opposite direction as she can as a regular mother worried about (and living a life in ruins because of) her son, and it’s just as compelling as any of her flashier roles. 
Review: https://www.sbs.com.au/movies/review/we-need-talk-about-kevin-review

Woody Harrelson in LBJ

It’s been decades since Woody Harrelson first became a star as the likably dumb “Woody” from Cheers. He’s spent a lot of his time since then bringing his natural charm to create compelling portraits of tough guys and mean guys, and they didn’t come much tougher or meaner – or more charming when he wanted to be – than Lyndon B Johnson, the 36th President of the United States.

Morgan Freeman in Five Flights Up

Morgan Freeman embraces his softer side (and has surprisingly strong chemistry with Diane Keaton) in this warm and charming comedy about a couple wondering whether to sell off their New York apartment after 40 years. Keaton’s comedy chops are no surprise; Freeman turning on his twinkly charm alongside her is what makes this film something special.

 

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