Looking Back: Joey Picks 10 Best Performances by an Actress in 2013
by Joey Magidson
December 23, 2013
This morning, we debuted my picks for the 10 Best Performances by an Actor in 2013. Now we're continuing the second part of my look at the best performances of 2013, by looking at the big screen turns from actresses. From foreign newcomers like Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color to veteran hands like June Squibb in Nebraska, wherever you looked, there was someone giving a performance for the ages. It was a pleasure to watch Exarchopoulos, Squibb, and many other actresses deliver performances we won't soon forget. This year was truly one filled with performances of great note.
As I mentioned in Part 1, something I noticed this year was, as we've seen in many years past, the male performances of note greatly outnumbered the female, at least in terms of the Oscar race. Best Actor and Supporting Actor are stacked races, while Actress and Supporting Actress are relatively lean. That being said, I had no problem coming up with way more than ten women that gave tremendous performances this year, so perhaps the Academy just isn't on the same page as folks like I am. In fact, my favorite performance of 2013 in general was given by a lovely lady, so there's that.
Below are the ten best female performances of the year, which along with my earlier list of the best male performances of the year basically makes up my 20 best performances of 2013 overall. I'll be very curious to see your favorite turns by an actress in the comments afterwards, but for now, let's get the show on the road!
#10. Margot Robbie - The Wolf of Wall Street
Supremely sexy but also very funny, Robbie has announced her presence on the scene with authority in The Wolf of Wall Street. This is one of Scorsese's best female roles in a long time. The so called "Duchess of Bay Ridge" is great here, turning in a performance that makes her more than just a trophy wife. The scene where she teases DiCaprio is an incredibly memorable one, for sure.
#9. Julie Delpy - Before Midnight
Delpy has always been tremendous in this role, but here she adds a new dynamic to things. Especially during her third act argument with Ethan Hawke, you get see her character in a whole new light. I don't want to say too much about where her character is and what's happened in case anyone still hasn't seen this film, but it's very different than the first two, I'll say that. Regardless, Delpy has never been better in the role than she is here in Before Midnight.
#8. Amy Adams - American Hustle (hat tip to Her)
I don't think people realize just how good as year Adams has had. Between her key supporting turn in Her and especially her co-leading role in American Hustle, she's had a 2013 to remember. In the former, she's very good, but it's her flashy role in the latter that really deserves the acclaim. Affecting a fake British accent for about half the film, she's one big con in a film about cons and con artists. She's rarely been better than she is here in this likely Academy darling of a flick.
#7. Lea Seydoux - Blue is the Warmest Color
Sure, her costar is rightly getting most of the awards chatter/attention (what little there's been), but Seydoux is still an integral part of why their film is successful. As the more mature of the two, Seydoux doesn't get to come of age in the same way, but during a pair of third act scenes, she really shows you an added bit of depth to her character. She may be second best in the movie, but it's still a top notch performance that you won't be able to forget, much like Blue is the Warmest Color on the whole.
#6. June Squibb - Nebraska
A total scene stealer, Squibb has most of the movie's funniest lines, particularly during a visit to a cemetery. Finally given a chance to shine (though many of you will recognize her from About Schmidt), Squibb holds her own with Dern and Forte in Nebraska, owning certain scenes in fact. She's on track for her first Academy Award nomination, and boy does she ever deserve it.
#5. Brie Larson - Short Term 12
I enjoyed her Silent Bob-esque supporting turn in Don Jon as well, but it's her lead role here in Short Term 12 that really blew me away. As a caregiver at a center for at risk youths with a similar past to the young men and women she's helping, Larson delivers a complex and memorable performance that should work as a launching pad for her bright young career. This is the sort of role that many an actress would kill for, so it's delightful to see her just take the ball and absolutely run with it.
#4. Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle
A complete force of nature, Lawrence literally turns this film on its head whenever she comes on the screen. To some degree she functions as comic relief in American Hustle, but it's also a very sexy turn as well. Lawrence likely would be the frontrunner to win Best Supporting Actress this year if she hadn't already won Best Actress last year, but this is such a flashy performance that I wouldn't be shocked one bit if she managed to take home back to back Oscar statues.
#3. Shailene Woodley - The Spectacular Now
An incredibly tender performance, Woodley is absolutely adorable here in The Spectacular Now. Playing much more than just a high school good girl/nerd, she essays a part that defies conventions while always feeling completely realistic. The ways that her character evolves and grows is incredibly compelling, due in no small part to her performance. In a more perfect world, she'd be headed for an Oscar nomination.
#2. Scarlett Johansson - Her
It's impossible not to understand how Theodore could fall in love with Samantha due to Johansson's brilliant voice work on display in the film. There's a reason why a movement has formed to get her the first ever voice only acting nomination in Oscar's history. I don't think she'll ultimately wind up in the Best Supporting Actress lineup, but she 100% deserves it. You can't help but fall for her character. Part of it is the voice, but it's also just the chemistry she has with Phoenix. It's all rather perfect, which is something I'd say about Her in general too.
#1. Adèle Exarchopoulos - Blue is the Warmest Color
The best female performance of the year and also the best performance of 2013 in general, Exarchopoulos is absolutely outstanding in Blue is the Warmest Color. She really is incredible. Watching her character come of age is one of the heartbreakingly real events in cinema this year. From her first sex acts to her first real misery in life, it's all shown in such a way that you feel for her and feel like you know her. Especially with where the film leaves her, you just want to wrap her up in a big hug, and I'm not sure that you'd feel that way with someone else besides her in the part. A career worth watching has been birthed!
Honorable Mention - Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine, Greta Gerwig - Frances Ha, Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine, Kristen Scott Thomas - Only God Forgives, and Kate Winslet - Labor Day
And that's it for the best female performances of the year. Don't forget to check out my 10 Best Performances by an Actor in 2013 if you missed it earlier today. Tomorrow I'll be back with my picks for the Best Scenes of 2013, and our own Ethan Anderton has plenty more year-end retrospective pieces in store for posters and comedies, a list of the Best Horror films from The Golden Briefcase's Tim Buel, not to mention our picks for the Best Films of 2013. But now we turn the reigns over to you. What were your favorite performances by an actress in 2013? Did I name a lot of them? Did I miss any? Sound off below!