Every actor and actress dreams of that career defining performance that will cement them as one of the best, perhaps win them an Oscar, and above most, ensure they’re remembered long after their time.
Having just witnessed Ryan Reynolds give perhaps his career defining performance in new film, The Voices, Film Review UK looks back at some of those most iconic and timeless performances that still leave us in awe.
Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump (Forrest Gump, 1994)
“I may not be smart man, Jenny…but I know what love is.”
This film is not only a classic in its own right but an absolute triumph of filmmaking, much of that thanks to Tom Hanks’ incredibly moving performance as Forrest Gump, a ‘slow man’ who proves that we are all capable of amazing things, no matter what our IQ.
The film won Hanks his first Academy Award and made him a household name in Hollywood – the film is also one of the most Oscar-nominated in history (13 nominations), managing to win 6 out of the 13 it was nominated for in 1995.
Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof (Dallas Buyers Club, 2013)
This is a recent addition considering the film was only released in 2013, but considering the scale of Matthew McConaughey’s performance as real life AIDS victim Ron Woodroof, it has to be included.
Not on did the Texan actor win the Best Actor Oscar for the role, he also lost an incredible 47 pounds to accurately portray the character who in the 1980’s worked around the US medical system to smuggle much needed HIV medication from Mexico to those I need.
Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos (Monster, 2003)
Terrifyingly real. In a nutshell, the most accurate way to discribe Charlize Theron’s performance as convicted US serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the 2003 thriller Monster.
For the role, Theron gained a significant amount of weight and went through extensive facial protetic treatment every morning to look as much like her characters real life counter part. The chilling performance about Aileen’s unrelenting killing spree in Deytona Beech in the 90’s, earned Theron the Best Actress Oscar.
Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom (Nightcrawler, 2014)
Another newcomer, but it cannot be left out considering the spine-chilling performance that Jake Gyllenhaal gave as Louis Bloom, a freelance news cameraman that harbars an unhealthy obsession with crime scenes.
Gyllenhaal’s unwavering dedication to the character, which included him losing over 40lbs to show a man who struggles to pay for his next meal, earn’t the Jarhead actor an Academy Award nomination, though he sadly lost out to another man in this list.
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man (Iron Man, 2008)
Now this may seem like a head-scratching entry to the list, but when you consider the impact that this character has had on not only Robert Downey Jr’s career but also the superhero genre as a whole, it deserves its place among the other names.
RDJ has redefined the iconic character of Tony Stark in such as way that it would be next to impossible to replace him or invision anyone else in the famous suit. He’s helped turn Marvel Studios into the biggest and most profitable movie studio on the planet.
Denzel Washington as Alonzo Harris (Training Day, 2001)
Bad-ass! The defining word for describe Densel Washington’s performance as crocked gangster cop Alonzo Harris in the award-winning Training Day.
Such was the rawness of the performance, it’s been a baseline for many actors since, though no one will be able to replicate such a complex and compelling character, one that earn’t Washington an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden (Fight Club, 1999)
Forgive me, I’m breaking the first rule of Fight Club…but I have to talk about it for the sake of it’s star, Brad Pitt.
To say Pitt has enjoyed a successful career would be severe understatement, but there is one film that will remain as the pinnacle of his career, and that is of course, Fight Club. Since it’s release, Tyler Durden has been seen as somewhat of a cult hero, often making lists of the top film characters of all time.
Eddie Redmayne as Dr. Stephen Hawking (The Theory of Everything, 2014)
It was a performance that only took place less than a year ago, but Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal as the renowned physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking has to go down as one of the most authentically accurate of all time.
It is certainly an incredible achievement in the art of acting that deservedly won Redmayne the 2015 Academy Award for Best Actor. There’s no doubt that this young British actors career will go from strength to strength of the coming years, but this performance will probably remaining his defining moment.
Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena (Boys Don’t Cry, 1999)
Based on the story of female-born Nebraska teenager Teena Brendon who realises he was born in the wrong body and sets about becoming Brandon Teena in a bid to find himself and explore the true meaning of love.
Hilary Swank’s performance as the transgender teen was the defining moment in her career, not only winning her an Academy Award, but also drawing attention to the social issue of how transgender people are perceived in the world.
Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs, 1991)
He’s one of the most frighteningly real characters to have ever graced the big screen and one that sends shivers down the spines of people the world over. Anthony Hopkins portrayal of the sinister, cannibalistic doctor Hannibal Lecter is said to be one of the greatest villainous performances of all time.
The role proved to be the defining moment of his illustrious career, helping Hopkins win a Best Actor Oscar and inspiring a host of other actors craft their own evil characters.
Heath Ledger as The Joker (The Dark Knight, 2008)
There are not enough words to describe the masterful creation that is Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight – the performance is one of, if not the greatest, in history.
Chilling, complex, unrelenting…The Joker was near perfection in terms of it’s creation and a definite career highlight for Ledger, who’s life was cut terribly short after the completion of the film. A fitting tribute then that this career defining performance was immortalized in film history and recognized by his peers with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Russell Crowe as Maximus (Gladiator, 2000)
One of the greatest performances in history?…perhaps so. Certainly one of the most memorable.
Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott brought the brutality and beauty of the Roman empire to life in a way that had never been seen before. Crowe’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Maximus, the Roman General turned slave fighter, is often seen as the ‘Godfather’ of film heroes. The film didn’t do too bad either, winning 5 out of 12 Academy Award nominations, and ranking in IMDb’s Top 50 greatest films of all time.