Another week has passed and we are one week closer to finding out the 2017 Oscars. To maintain this bit of Oscar buzz that I have going on here, this week i am taking a look back at some of my all-time favourite Oscar-winning performances. This list is a countdown, and doesn’t feature any performances from the 00’s as they were covered last week.
10. Nicolas Cage (Ben Sanderson, Leaving Las Vegas)
Perhaps Nicolas Cage’s best performance to date (and with what he has produced of late, maybe the best we’ll ever see of him) is his portrayal of Ben Sanderson, an ex-screenwriter who has lost everything and finds solace only at the bottom of the bottle. The film follows Ben as he slowly drinks himself to death. By no means is this an easy watch, but Cage makes it so that you cannot bring yourself to turn it off and escape what is a truly Oscar-worthy performance that takes a very long time to leave you once it’s finished.
9. Joe Pesci (Tommy DeVito, Goodfellas)
Arguably the greatest thing about this film is Joe Pesci’s critically-acclaimed performance as gangster Tommy DeVito. I will never forget watching the film for the first time during the school holidays a couple of summers ago. When it came to the infamous ‘Do you think I’m funny’ scene, I had the windows wide open and Pesci’s character was going hell for leather for the whole street to hear. Not only is it a tremendous performance, but it has fond memories for me of the time the postman got an insight into how I spend my days home alone.
8. Jodie Foster (Clarice Starling, The Silence Of The Lambs)
To have picked Anthony Hopkins here would have been predictable, so I’m actually going to sing the praises of Jodie Foster’s performance instead. She was wonderful as Clarice, the young FBI go-getter who gets assigned a really tough case. She was a joy to watch here, and was every bit the ideal match for Hopkins’ Hannibal – no mean feat, you could say.
7. Christoph Waltz (Dr. King Schultz, Django Unchained)
I stated that I wished I could have included this performance on my last list, but as Django Unchained came out in 2012, it was too little, too late. However, now that we’re onto all-time favourites, there’s nothing to stop me talking about Christoph Waltz’s turn as Dr. King Schultz – the bounty hunter with extreme class in Tarantino’s superb western. Every time I see Waltz’s name, I immediately pay attention because, as someone who wants to be an actress, there is always something to be learnt from him. Here I learnt that it wasn’t a fluke that he won his award for Inglorious Basterds. He is simply masterful.
6. Robert De Niro (Vito Corleone, The Godfather Part II)
I have so much admiration for Robert De Niro in this role because he took on someone who had been made famous by Marlon Brando in a previous film and then had to learn roughly half his dialogue in another language. You can’t say he didn’t earn his Oscar here. However, De Niro also managed to further remind audiences of the main theme from The Godfather – family. There are many tender moments we share with him during the film that make this and the whole trilogy so special.
5. Robin Williams (Sean Maguire, Good Will Hunting)
One of the best things about this film, and there are many to choose from, is Robin Williams’ life-affirming performance as therapist Dr. Sean Maguire. Williams was so good that you just wanted to spill your guts to him after watching the film. It was a serious role, no doubt about it, but he managed to give it his own special touch that made it feel so personal.
4. Octavia Spencer (Minny Jackson, The Help)
If you were to ask me how I would describe this performance, the word I would use would be iconic. I watched part of the film before reading the book, and when I finally read the book, all I could hear as I was working my way through the chapters was Octavia Spencer’s voice as she took on Minny echoing in my head. She was fierce as the sassy little maid, and brought a lot of humour to a film that actually covered something very serious indeed, without causing you to forget what the main point of the film was in the first place. The only shameful thing about it is that she was the only cast member to win the award she was nominated for.
3. Jared Leto (Rayon, Dallas Buyers Club)
Jared Leto has been acting for a long time, and has starred in some very heavy-going films (need I mention Requiem For A Dream?). It is with his turn as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club however that he proved to the world what a serious and capable actor he truly is. It is a very moving performance that he provide us with here, and after undergoing such an immense physical transformation as well, he is well deserving of his win.
2 Al Pacino (Frank Slade, Scent Of A Woman)
It would have been so wrong of me not to include good old Al on this list now that I finally had the opportunity. Personally, I would have thought that he would have won more that his single Oscar for his role as Frank Slade, especially after Serpico. Alas, this remains his only win, but it is an award he won for what is perhaps my favourite role of his outside the obvious Michael Corleone. Pacino did a marvellous job playing the blind ex-army serviceman, and that speech at the end must surely have been what swung it for the board that year.
1. Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Forrest Gump)
Forrest Gump is a film that runs for nearly two and a half hours, and that is roughly the time I spent smiling when I watched it for the first time years ago. This was solely because of Tom Hanks’ wonderful performance as the big-hearted man who had led a life to look back on and marvel at. After seeing much of his other work, I still say that this is my favourite performance by Hanks, and one that was very worthy of the Oscar it won.
That wraps up my all-time favourite Oscar-winning performances. Maybe there have been a couple of surprises for you there, but I know for sure that those of you familiar with this site by now will know there were names mentioned there that were certain to make an appearance. Who would you include amongst your favourites? Let me know – we might just get ourselves a little discussion going!