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Ranking All 20 Oscar Nominated Acting Performances of 2018

Here's how I would rank the 20 performances nominated for Oscars in the four acting categories in 2018, from worst to best:


20. Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
See the source image Mary J. Blige is not bad in Mudbound, but she is outshined by not only the other nominees in her category but also her co-stars from the film, none of whom were nominated. The stoic nature of her character prevents Blige from having any sort of emotional release, or character transformation for that matter. If I were an Oscar voter looking to single out a member of Mudbound's ensemble, I would have looked to Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, Rob Morgan, or Carey Mulligan all before Blige.

19. Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Lesley Manville is a terrific actress. She doesn't need the Academy to tell her that. So it is kind of strange that she received her first Oscar nomination ever for this performance. Her character is not a big part of the movie, and she does not make that much of an impression. Vicky Krieps gives by far the most interesting performance in Phantom Thread, but she wasn't nominated. 

18. Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
I was not a big fan of Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World, and I thought the J. Paul Getty parts were the weakest of the movie and probably could have been cut out entirely to the benefit of the movie. But, the recasting of the role with Plummer replacing Kevin Spacey at the last minute, and shooting all of his scenes a month prior to the film's release is an impressive feat, which is why he was rewarded with a nomination. There's nothing special about the performance itself; Plummer's been better.

17. Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Woody Harrelson is not in a ton of Three Billboards..., but you really feel his absence when he is gone. That is the kind of performance that the supporting acting categories should reward more often. But when comparing against lead performances in both the lead and supporting categories, there is not enough there to make a really strong argument for him.

16. Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
I love Sally Hawkins, so I am just as surprised as you are to see her this low on the list. She does really nice work in The Shape of Water, but there is something holding it back from being in the same league as her best performances. Maybe it's because I have problems with the role she's given to play here, and I know I shouldn't fault the actor for the writing, but in this case, it is affecting how I view the performance.

15. Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread

See the source image I'll be honest, I've never really got the love for Daniel Day-Lewis. His performances are always good, but rarely worth his much-reported bizarre on-set behavior done in the name of "craft". He has claimed in interviews that Phantom Thread will be his last movie, but really does anyone really care that much? As Reynolds Woodcock, he is fantastic playing a guy who thinks his artistic process gives him license to be a jerk to the people around him, but I don't think that was too much of a stretch for him. 

14. Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
A complex and controversial character, Rockwell's Officer Dixon is probably what causes people to either get on board or not with the movie as a whole. Rockwell sells it the best he can, and he is a really interesting vessel to explore the movie's theme of what to do when you have this angry hatred inside of you. 

13. Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Pretty much the same as Rockwell, although McDormand gets some added moments of vulnerability that I wasn't expecting from her. 

12. Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
He's good. He does the whole unrecognizable transformation into a historical figure. What else is there to say?

11. Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Dafoe is really solid in a really great movie. He elicits the empathy of the audience in a way that the other characters cannot because their all super annoying. 

10. Allison Janney, I, Tonya

See the source image Allison Janney is great in everything she does. At this point, that does not need to be repeated. But I'm going to repeat it anyway. Go watch Mom, Janney is fantastic on that show. And although she plays bad moms both on Mom and in I, Tonya, the performances are so different. On the CBS sitcom, she shows off her physical comedy chops, but in I, Tonya, she uses words as weapons to both hilarious and deeply sad effect. 

9.  Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Laurie Metcalf is the kind of great where you can watch Lady Bird and not realize that Laurie Metcalf was great in it. She plays a complicated mom who loves her daughter but also has a lot on her plate so well, it doesn't feel like she's playing a character. She's playing a mom. 

8. Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
There wasn't a lot about Call Me By Your Name that I liked, but Timothée Chalamet's performance was one of those things. His physicality and expressiveness add many interesting shades and believability to the character that is not present in the script. 

7. Meryl Streep, The Post
As Katharine Graham, Meryl Streep turns in one of her best performances in years. She really gets to the heart of the character and makes the audience feel the weight of her decisions.

6. Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water would have been a much worse movie if it weren't for the supporting performances of Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Shannon. Jenkins is so great as the element of the movie that allows the audience to interpret the film in whatever way they want.

5. Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
See the source image
Similar to Jenkins, Spencer plays a crucial in Shape, making the film far more enjoyable than it'd be without her character. Also, the scene where Michael Shannon confronts her at her home is some of the best work I have ever seen from her. 

4. Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Daniel Kaluuya has a difficult task in Get Out. He has to convincingly convey that everyone one around him is acting strangely, even though they are all acting like nothing strange is happening. Like Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby, Kaluuya succeeds in this task by gaining the audience's sympathy by showing us the immense emotional stress the situation is causing, which Kaluuya primarily does with his incredibly emotive eyes.

3. Saorise Ronan, Lady Bird
Saorise Ronan probably should have won an Oscar two years ago for her role in Brooklyn. Looking back on it, we can now say that is what should have happened. But her work in Lady Bird is so different from her work in Brooklyn, anointing her that early may have been premature, as she is clearly still figuring out what kind of actress she will be. A movie like Lady Bird, which is entirely about her and her world, requires a performance that is interesting enough to keep us invested. The whole reason that movie works is that you want to see how she is going to react to the next situation she finds herself in. 

2. Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a movie that got unfairly maligned by most people when it came out. I'm not sure why that was. It is not a perfect movie, but it is one that goes for something, and it should get credit for that. Thankfully Oscar voters remembered the brilliant performance of Denzel Washington, who proves with this role that he is still interested in crafting characters quite unlike his movie star persona. His mannerisms, his speech patterns, his look are all altered to create a character that is stuck somehow between the past and the future. He is captivating. Whatever you thought of the film itself, there is no denying that Washington gives an extraordinarily moving performance. 

1. Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
I, Tonya was not my favorite movie of the year. But it does contain some of the best performances of the year, particularly Robbie's. She does an accent and changes her hair to look like (sort of) Tonya Harding, but the transformation was never the selling point of the movie, or the performance for that matter. The movie's whole point is to try to get people to see the humanity in the disgraced figure skater, and that it is mostly successful in doing so rests largely on Robbie. Her version of Tonya Harding is kind of spellbinding in a way, as it tries to get the audience to root for this ridiculous person, and ends up making the audience just want to spend more time with her. No wonder she became the center of media firestorm, there is so much to unpack in just the way Robbie throws her head back.
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How would YOU rank this year's Oscar-nominated performances? Put your ranking in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

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