This list is based purely on films officially released in 2016 that I saw in calendar year 2016. Out of 53 movies, each packed with male performances, these are the fifteen best.
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
His finest performance yet . . . troubled, emotionally closed . . . nothing short of heartbreaking . . . he almost always chooses the quieter way . . . makes the larger moments of emotion even more powerful.
Julian Dennison – Hunt for the Wilderpeople
One of the performances of the year as a chubby, thug-life poser . . . his physicality is wonderful . . . an innocent earnestness sells even the most ridiculous moments . . . without ever becoming cartoonish.
Ryan Gosling – The Nice Guys
Gosling’s wastrel PI . . . is enough to get you in the door . . . incredibly funny . . . hilarious.
Andre Holland – Moonlight
Kevin is particularly well done by Andre Holland . . . moments of incredible power . . . a lengthy section at a diner.
Sam Neill – Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Finest performance in years as the crusty, cranky foster father . . . hilarious, dry, minimal . . . if I’ve seen a performance that said more with stillness & bewildered looks, I can’t think of it.
Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool
A force of nature . . . it isn’t just his facility with profanity and comedy; he’s able to make us believe in Wade as a real person by nailing more dramatic moments as well.
Trevante Rhodes – Moonlight
Rhodes creates a genuinely tragic figure as the young man version of Chiron . . . an intense front with sorrow behind his eyes.
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals
Brilliant in a minimal, menacing performance as a mysterious, morally compromised lawman.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals
Real revelation . . . unbelievably terrifying . . .way out there on the edge . . . nothing short of award worthy.
Anthony Weiner – Weiner
Complicated, decidedly troubled human being . . . an empathetic crusader & a self-absorbed narcissist . . . you’re left to pick up the pieces and puzzle over the man.
Russell Crowe – The Nice Guys
Crowe’s brutish enforcer . . . basically brilliant . . . hilarious, poignant.
Robert Downey, Jr. – Captain America: Civil War
Performances are nothing short of excellent. Robert Downey Jr. . . . distinguishes himself with . . . most likely his best performance since the nineties.
Joel Edgerton – Midnight Special
Another in a line of really amazingly good performances . . . locked down & minimal . . . tamped down & interior.
Jake Gyllenhaal – Nocturnal Animals
A really emotionally raw performance.
Shah Rukh Khan – Fan
A dual role . . . both star & fan in this thriller . . . really intense performance . . . his work as superstar really knocked me out . . . interesting layering . . . head and shoulders above anything else he’s done.
Next time, best female performances!