Ryan Gosling (1)- Gosling’s addition of First Man is enough to keep him here. It’s not one of the best performances of the year—but it’s solid, and the other heavy-hitters, DiCaprio, DDL can’t overtake him as they didn’t work. Even Bale’s achievement in Vice, though it’s superior to Goslings, isn’t in a great film either.
Daniel Day-Lews (3)- DDL did nothing to surpass Dicaprio in 2018 (they both took another year off) but Phantom Thread is two years more recent than The Revenant.
Leonardo Dicaprio (2)- I want to move other actors past him but it was such a weak year for male actor leads.
Adam Driver (4)- 12 archiveable films since 2012 (granted with a few very small parts in there) but still. His work in 2018’s Blackkklansman is enough to praise and hold serve from last year’s #4 slot
Christian Bale (6)- This decade Bale has now had two tremendous collaborations with David O. Russell (The Fighter, American Hustle) and Adam McKay (The Big Short, Vice).
Joaquin Phoenix (HM)- Getting to star as a center entity in one of Lynn Ramsay’s works was the perfect opportunity for Phoenix to rebound from a couple of down years. He’s very good in The Sisters Brothers as well but it’s You Were Never Really Here that leaps Phoenix from the honorable mention list last year to the top 6.
Ethan Hawke (HM)- Hawke’s First Reformed performance was so important for his career and resume. It gives him range- he’s no longer exclusively the free-spirit Gen-X’er. It also gives him some variation like working with Pawlikowski did earlier in the decade—another great film where he’s not the male-muse or Linklater surrogate.
Daniel Kaluuya (HM)- Get Out and Widows in back to back years as real candidates for the best male acting performance of the year in both years. His 10 minutes in Widows is worth more than the 2 hours of Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody or Christian Bale in Vice.
Michael Jordan (10)- Being a weak year for male acting performances here the work 12 months ago in Black Panther is enough to move him up a slot even. I’m nervous though- three films in the archives since 2013- Fruitvale Station, Creed and Black Panther. He’s superb in all of them—all of them with Ryan Coogler.
Oscar Isaac (7)- He’s good in Annihilation so he holds onto a slot in the top 10 here but we’re getting pretty far in the distance from his astonishing 2013-2014 with Inside Llewyn Davis, Ex Machina, A Most Violent Year.
- Colin Farrell- He’s about the fifth best performance in Widows but his recent resume is substantial with The Beguiled in 2017 and two collaborations with Yorgos Lanthimos in Sacred Deer (2017) and especially his career-best work in The Lobster (2015)
- Tom Hardy– I’m ready for a top 10 of the year film where Tom Hardy gives the best performance– it’s never happened—perhaps that’s not in the cards and he’s not that type of actor?
- Ralph Fiennes – another year removed from Grand Budapest, A Bigger Splash and the best scene in Hail Caesar!
- Stephan James- James had a breakout 2018 with both If Beale Street Could Talk and Homecoming.
- Jake Gyllenhaal- He continues to do interesting work and added Velvet Buzzsaw and The Sister Brothers to his archiveable resume in the last 12 months and his last five years resume still includes Nightcrawler
Fell off last year’s list
- Michael Fassbender (8)
- Matthew McConaughey (HM)
- Michael Stuhlbarg (HM)