Who to Study: The Best Acting Performances of All Time
If you desire to be a great actor, analysing the greatest movie performances in the film industry will help you sharpen your overall technique on and off the screen. Studying your film history will be your best advantage in understanding how to hone your artistic skills.
So who are the greatest acting performers of all time? Which performances should you be taking the time to study? In this guide, we’ll go through some of what we consider, as experienced acting coaches, to be the best performances of all time.
Let’s get started.
Best Female Acting Performances Of All Time
When looking at some of the greatest acting performances of all time it’s important to consider that this can be subjective since audiences can be drawn to different types of actors and their unique acting styles. However, in terms of iconic female performances in history, timeless actors include:
Vivien Leigh, Gone With The Wind
Academy Award winner and British actress played Scarlet O’Hara in this classic historical tale of romance in the American Civil War. A long, involved story with complicated and stubborn characters, Leigh went on to win an Academy Award for her performance in the film.
She was professional and disciplined in such a difficult role, and her performance is remembered as one of the best best actress performances of all time.
Judy Garland, The Wizard Of Oz
Garland’s is one of the greatest performances in cinema history. She plays Dorothy Gale, who is transported to the world of Oz, meeting many friends and foes along the way. This is an enchanting story from its start at The Yellow Brick Road all the way to the Emerald City.
Garland’s exceptional singing abilities and ability to portray her own vulnerability and fragility through her acting led to many of her performances being critically acclaimed. Even now, over 50 years since she died, her versatility and talent is still spoken so highly of.
Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Audrey plays Holly, an independent and fashionably feminine woman who knows her way around the world. This film is known for being a great story of companionship and love in American cinema.
While Audrey didn’t share the dancing or singing abilities of many of her counterparts in the same era, her charisma and honesty shone through in her roles, making her a firm fan favourite.
Bette Davis, All About Eve
In All About Eve Bette Davis plays Margo Channing, an ageing Broadway star married to a playwright. When she meets Eve – a dewy-eyed girl who loves the theatre – it isn’t long before Eve’s real ambitions come into play.
Davis was known for her forceful intensity and dedication to perfectionism. Often playing unsympathetic or neurotic characters she delivered such a believable on screen presence that audiences were completely captivated.
Marilyn Monroe, Some Like It Hot
In this romantic comedy film, Marilyn plays the irresistible Sugar Kane in the main cast, a ukulele player who joins two male musicians disguised as women. These men – Joe and Jerry – compete for her affection, but other complications arise. The film was a commercial success and is still considered one of Monroe’s best movie performances of all time.
While often pigeonholed as just a pretty face, Monroe’s performances exuded a genuineness and comedic flair that led to her being recognised as a leading talent in film.
Best Male Acting Performances Of All Time
Brad Pitt, Fight Club
This would be one of Brad Pitt’s many great performances that highlight his versatility as an actor. He plays the main character in this thriller drama, where sinister events start to spiral when they create an underground Fight Club.
Paired with Ed Norton, this complicated film won its fair share of negative critics, however it has since become a cult classic. Brad’s performance was uncompromising, even chipping his teeth deliberately for the role.
In this film, Johnny Depp gives an example of one of the best movie performances. As a chameleon actor, he has adapted to so many roles in his career, and The Pirates of the Caribbean is one of many smash hits.
Showcasing his comedic talents as well as a flair for accents and transformative physical acting, Depp is consistently sought after as an actor across a variety of roles.
Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver
Robert De Niro plays Travis Bickle, an edgy ex-veteran who works as a taxi driver in New York. As an in-your-face type of film, Taxi Driver is one of the greatest performances in his career.
As an intense, method actor, De Niro has the uncanny ability to inhabit each character and make them his own for believable and truly great acting performances. Unexpectedly versatile, De Niro made a name for himself playing uncompromising portrayals of abrasive and often violent characters in his early career followed by critically acclaimed comedic roles in his latter years.
Heath Ledger, Dark Knight
Heath Ledger was already struggling with his mental health at the time, this came as a sad advantage to his stunning lead role as the Joker in Dark Knight.
He plays the best performance as a psychotic, narcissistic, and criminal villain. His intensity and dedication to the role led to a great performance that is still considered scary today.
Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump
Tom Hanks plays Forrest Gump, a central character with a crippling disease that prevents him from running. The roles required Hanks to adopt a strong southern accent and act as both a physically and mentally challenged young man.
Signing up for the role an hour and a half after reading the script, Hanks made an unbelievable impression on viewers worldwide and is widely regarded as giving one of the best actor performances of all time. An opinion that is bolstered by his winning of an Academy Award for the performance.
Who To Watch In Future
You’ll note that most of the aforementioned actors are from a different era of Hollywood or have been around for a number of decades. So who is the number one actor in the new Hollywood era?
Presently in the film of today, the best actors of all times can also include Robert Downey, Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Tom Cruise, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslett, Viola Davis and more.
While there is no simple answer for who is the greatest actor of all time or which actor has the best acting skills, study these actors long enough and you’ll be on your way to learning and understanding what makes an actor great.
Of course, watching great acting performances is just one step in the journey to becoming a great actor. The best actors engage in professional training throughout their careers.
At The Actors Pulse, our skilled acting coaches can support you to give your greatest acting performances through instruction in the Meisner method. As the Southern Hemispheres’ leading acting school for the Meisner technique, we help prepare our students for a successful career on stage and screen.
To learn more, contact our team today at 0414 475 515.
Billy Milionis is one of the few Australians to have ever studied under the legendary master teacher, the late Sanford Meisner. Billy has also studied story structure and scene analysis techniques with John Truby and later at UCLA. He has also spent several years doing improvisation in Hollywood with the L.A. Connection. In addition, he trained in the technique of Stella Adler, Practical Aesthetics and Lee Strasberg’s method.