Due to a recent viewing of the Paul Thomas Anderson film, The Master, I was forced to look at what acting performances have been better than the several I just finished witnessing on the screen. This lead to a top five list of the greatest male performances of this century, being from the year 2000 to the present. This list will be a subject of debate but none the less, has what I consider the greatest performances we have seen in the last 12 years.
Sean Penn: Mystic River
After having out grown his “bad boy” persona, but not his passion for what he believes, Sean Penn would team up with Hollywood royalty in director, Clint Eastwood for an adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel, Mystic River. Playing former convict and very small time ring leader of loyal enforcers Jimmy Markum, Penn pulls out one of the most emotional roles of his storied career. This would earn Penn his first Oscar win for which he seemed quite humbled by the honor. Penn’s performance is undeniably genuine and flawless from beginning to end.
Leonardo DiCaprio: Blood Diamond
Leonardo DiCaprio made Blood Diamond amid a streak of fabulous performances in three straight Martin Scorsese films. It was the Blood Diamond that to me showed DiCaprio’s talent and commitment to every role he undertakes. Playing the role of Danny Archer, a South African smuggler and somewhat of an unforgiving pirate who’s life is turned upside down when he help’s a poor farmer rescue his son from the rebel forces who kidnapped him forcing him to fight. Archer does all of this in exchange for a rare pink diamond found and hidden by the boy’s father. DiCaprio mastered a perfect South African accent and for once even managed to seem somewhat evil and ruthless while we believe and see his heart actually change along the way.
Christian Bale: The Fighter
Christian Bale was clearly at the peak of his career and almost couldn’t help but put out hit after hit when he took on the role of the real life former boxer and crack addict, Dick Ecklund. The physical transformation Bale underwent, while remarkable, is only a side note to his incredible and spot-on portrayal of Dick Ecklund. Between a pitch perfect Boston accent to the heart-warming in-film transformation from sunken crack addict to passionate and driven boxing trainer is near remarkable.
Mickey Rourke: The Wrestler
The film and role of a lifetime could never have been done with out Mickey Rourke’s involvement. The story that brought out so many emotions in Rourke and hit so close to home that it could have distanced Rourke from making the role that late in his life would define his career. Rourke saw so many similarities between Randy “The Ram” and his life and believed so highly in Darren Aronofsky that he did nothing short of throw himself deep into the role making for some of the most compelling acting seen on screen in years with a true reality that makes you feel every emotion felt not only by “The Ram” but by Rourke himself.
Heath Ledger: The Dark Knight
Not much can be said that hasn’t already been said by Ledger and his portrayal of The Joker in the truly epic middle story of Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga. His commitment and transformation not only was superb acting but truly frightening in achieving what Ledger and Nolan set out to accomplish by making The Joker seem so real it would strike fear in all that saw it. No one wanted to see what happened to Ledger come about but there is no doubt it’s the film he will be remembered for and it is a movie and role anyone would be proud to have it be their calling card.
Marc has been a lifelong film fanatic. From the moment he saw his first live action movie in a theater at the age of 5 (Back To The Future) film has been special and exciting with every viewing. While writing and managing his own site, Loveyourmovies.com, Marc has developed his writing ability, views and opinions on film and acting. You can follow Marc on Twitter @thedvdgen and on Facebook.