Best of the Decade: Actors

With the decade drawing to a close, One Large Popcorn, Please! has been honouring the greatest films of the past ten years. But this week, Tom will be revealing his favourite male thespians from this period.

The countless quality films of the 2010s have brought with them many talented personalities, both behind the camera and in front of it. The latter personnel have long been central to a picture’s success, a trend that continued through the decade just been – whether that be because of a performer’s talent, name recognition, or both.

There is no shortage of either in the list below, consisting of this author’s Top Ten Male Actors of the Decade. The choices below have taken into consideration the actor’s body of work, the quality of their performances, the consistency of their output, and any personal appeal held by yours truly.

10. Brian Tyree Henry

Atlanta - Henry

Although his filmography isn’t as extensive as his contemporaries listed below, Henry’s roles and talent are to be envied by all. A breakthrough role in TV’s Atlanta was followed by appearances in the critically-acclaimed Widows (superbly playing a villainous role) and If Beale Street Could Talk (demonstrating his softer side). Additionally, he has reached a wider audience thanks to a vocal performance in Into the Spider-Verse and more recently, a cameo in Joker. In short the warm, loveable Henry is showing all the signs of a future star.

9. Sam Rockwell

Mr Right - Rockwell

Supporting roles are the forte of Rockwell, who has developed a strong resume by playing bold, eccentric characters. His decade started with a bang by appearing in the blockbuster Iron Man 2 as antagonist Justin Hammer, before being relegated to smaller productions such as Seven Psychopaths and The Way, Way Back. His multifaceted performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as a corrupt policeman garnered him an Academy Award, leading to being cast in two other Oscar contenders, Vice and Jojo Rabbit.

8. Daniel Craig

Spectre - Bond

The demands of playing Agent 007 have limited his ability to take on roles, but nonetheless Craig has chosen some fine movies to be part of. In the same year, the Briton showed his dramatic, serious chops by leading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and a more characterful side as antagonist Sakharine in The Adventures of Tintin. Goofier roles in Logan Lucky and Knives Out came after, proving how adept Craig could be a comedy, yet his most substantial contribution is undoubtedly as James Bond in Skyfall and Spectre, deemed by many to be the best portrayal of the British spy ever.

7. Christian Bale

Hostiles - Bale

This method actor is much like a chameleon, able to blend himself into any role he pleases. Bale has floored filmgoers with his lifelike performance as drug-addicted Dicky Ecklund in The Fighter, which netted him an Academy Award – his first and only one to date. Following that was a return as Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises, weight-gain for the crime-drama American Hustle, a peculiar role in The Big Short, even more weight-gain to play Dick Cheney in Vice and then dramatic weight-loss to be in Ford v Ferrari. Plainly, Bale’s commitment to his craft cannot be faulted.

6. Michael Keaton

Still image from the trailer of "The Founder"

Once a household name and box-office drawcard, Keaton’s career looked to be falling wayside before experiencing a renaissance in the 2010s. A memorable appearance in The Other Guys and voice role in Toy Story 3 was proceeded by an Oscar nomination for his lead performance in Birdman. And the charismatic Keaton wasn’t done there, securing the main parts of the high-calibre biopics Spotlight and The Founder before being cast as the supervillain Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming – a tongue-in-cheek nod to his early filmography.


5. Steve Carell

Big Short - Carell

Primarily associated with comedic roles prior to this decade, Carell has turned his career around to become one of the most sought-after performers in Hollywood. Supporting turns in the dramadies Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Way, Way Back transitioned to a powerful lead performance in the biographical drama Foxcatcher, securing him a Best Actor nomination at the Oscars. A string of critically-acclaimed roles followed that saw him blend his funny and serious personas, including The Big Short, Battle of the Sexes, Last Flag Flying and Vice.

4. Tom Hardy

Fury Road - Hardy

Emerging from relative obscurity as a supporting player in Inception, this characterful pom is now a celebrated and widely-lauded member of the acting fraternity. Hardy exudes confidence as both a lead and support in productions big and small, including films such as The Dark Knight Rises as primary antagonist Bane; Mad Max: Fury Road as the title character; The Revenant as felonious John Fitzgerald; and Dunkirk as a largely-mute Air Force pilot. Only his efforts in Venom tarnish an otherwise stellar decade.

3. Leonardo DiCaprio

Wolf of Wall St - DiCaprio

Here’s a listing that should come as no surprise. Much like Christian Bale, DiCaprio began his acting career as a child and already had a prestigious resume as the decade commenced. Yet he has continued to provide excellent performances as he sought Oscar glory in films like J. Edgar, Django Unchained and The Wolf of Wall Street before finally winning a statuette for The Revenant. A much-deserved break from movies followed, with DiCaprio making a triumphant return – and capping off an impressive decade – in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

2. Lakeith Stanfield


The second alum of Atlanta to be featured on this list, the enigmatic Stanfield has already crafted a fine catalogue of performances in a rather brief period. After an astonishing debut in Short Term 12, he landed roles in Selma, Dope and Straight Outta Compton (the latter as Snoop Dogg, no less) before gaining widespread attention in Get Out. Then came more blockbuster roles in The Girl in the Spider’s Web and Knives Out, alongside a gripping lead performance in Sorry to Bother You. With a CV of that calibre, Stanfield is definitely a name to watch in the decade to come.

1. Adam Driver

Silence - Driver

What a decade this man has had. Beginning with a minor role in J. Edgar, Driver has appeared in endless films of exceptional acclaim, such as Frances Ha, Lincoln, Tracks, Inside Llewyn Davis, While We’re Young, Midnight Special, Paterson, Silence, The Meyerowitz Stories, Logan Lucky, BlacKkKlansman, The Report and Marriage Story. And to top it all off, he was also Kylo Ren, the principal villain in the seventh, eighth and ninth chapters of the Star Wars saga. Driver’s assuredness, consistency and dedication to his profession have gone unmatched by any of his fellow actors these past ten years, which is most extraordinary given his youth – with that considered, the best days of Adam Driver are surely ahead of him.

The Next Ten: Although no Australians were included in the Final Ten, there were some who came close to being so, chiefly Ben Mendelsohn for his ability to be consistently cast as villainous characters. Fellow Aussie Hugh Jackman was also considered for his charming personality, but ruled out for his poor choice of blockbuster roles. A similar problem plagued Jason Clarke and Joel Edgerton, who both gave impressive performances in otherwise mediocre movies. (With that said, they did appear in some good ones too.)

Ryan Gosling drew praise for his efforts in critically-acclaimed films, yet his string of box-office bombs meant he was ineligible for consideration; meanwhile the magnetic and talented Dwayne Johnson suffered the opposite problem, drawing crowds to see mediocre movies. Michael B. Jordan landed many big roles, but his lack of work and limited range resulted in him being excluded.

Yet another consideration was Keanu Reeves, whose Keaton-style comeback in the decade’s latter-half wasn’t enough to overcome his earlier sins; likewise, Robert Pattinson couldn’t quite escape his Twilight past despite exceptional turns in a string of independent features. And finally there’s Jesse Plemons, making surprise appearances in everything from blockbusters to Oscar contenders – he may well feature on a very similar article in ten years’ time.

Next Week: it’s the turn of the ladies as yours truly reveals his Top Ten Actresses.

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