Regardless of what people say, it has been a very rich year for Lead Actor performances. I keep an Excel spreadsheet of performances that makes sure I don’t forget about the ones early in the year. When you sit down and look at the full scoop of twelve months and the thousands of films that come out, you can’t help but struggle to put together a list of the best. So I sat down and weeded through my spreadsheet, and these are the ten best performances from a Lead Actor in 2022.
Top Ten Leading Actor Performances
10. Jerrod Carmichael, On The Count of Three
Jerrod Carmichael has had himself a year with his brilliant stand-up special Rothaniel and making his directorial debut in the film On The Count of Three. I saw this movie at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and counted down the days before it would finall come out. It’s not easy wearing as many hats as Carmichael did in this film, but not only does he direct the hell out of this film, but he, alongside Christopher Abbott, gives two of my favorite performances of 2022.
9. Daniel Craig, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
It’s hard stepping into the shoes of a character for a second time and capturing that magic again. Daniel Craig not only captured the magic, but personally, he raised the bar in the role of Benoit Blanc in Glass Onion, the follow-up to Knives Out. I felt like Johnson’s writing here gave some flexibility, allowing Craig to come into his own with Blanc. I thought he was brilliant.
8. Daryl McCormack, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
One of the biggest surprises of 2022 was Daryl McCormack’s performance alongside Emma Thompson in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. It’s not often you see someone go toe to toe with one of the best leading actresses and knock it out of the park as McCormack did. Thompson was incredible in this film, but the performance or movie simply doesn’t work without McCormack being the perfect mate.
7. Jeremy Pope, The Inspection
Jeremy Pope stepped into the shoes of writer/director Elegance Bratton’s real life and provided one of the strongest gut-punches of a performance of the year. I’ve been keen on Pope over the last few years, but this only showed that he belongs as a leading man.
6. Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
Maybe a performance that should be higher on this list, but it shows me that this was an excellent year for Lead Actors. That said, while I didn’t love The Banshees of Inisherin as much as most, Colin Farrell gives (in my opinion) the best performance of his career. It’s truly a transformative performance that goes from soft and sweet to a man filled with rage within the entire runtime.
5. Bill Nighy, Living
Simple, sweet, elegant, and profound are all things that I would describe Bill Nighy’s brilliant performance in Living as a man who finds out he doesn’t have much longer to live.
4. Timothée Chalamet, Bones and All
The year 2022 has been full of surprises, but no bigger surprise than my falling in love with Timothée Chalamet in Bones and All. Of course, anyone who knows me knows I’ve got a history with Mr. Chalamet, but I tell you what, he blew me out of the water as Lee in this movie. There’s such a personal feeling to the performance, which Chalamet makes relatable and transforms Lee into this character we grow to love.
3. Sebastian Stan, Fresh
I saw Fresh at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, which knocked me off my feet. Not only is the script so good, but Sebastian Stan’s turn as Steve had men and women lined up in the produce section in grocery stores looking for cotton candy grapes. I give plenty of credit to his scene partner Daisy Edgar-Jones, but Stan depicts this psychotic crazy man that reminds you of Christian Bale’s performance in American Psycho. It’s one of a few movies that has been stuck in my brain since seeing it.
2. Daniel Giménez Cacho, Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Bardo is a film I have thought about every day since I saw it at AFI Fest. I recently read that Daniel Gimenez Cacho is one of a few people to work with all three of the Three Amigos (Iñárritu, Cuaron & del Toro), and that is a testament to how great of an actor he is. Iñárritu’s film is complex, layered in a way that demands so much out of Cacho in the role of Silverio Gama. When Cacho hits the screen, he takes command as Silverio and never lets it go.
1. Austin Butler, Elvis
I am sure most of you won’t be shocked that Austin Butler has landed in my number one spot, but if we are being honest, Butler fully transformed himself in the role of Elvis. He walked, talked, and sang like the King in a way that there are moments in the film that you lose the fact that it’s not Elvis. He’s on his way to his first Oscar Nomination for a reason.
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Favorite Director: Damien Chazelle