When they step onto the stage, or into the camera frame of the camera, the best actors are transformed into something entirely new. Their performances are so convincing that audiences are moved to tears or laughter—sometimes making fans think they aren’t acting at all.
Some of these actors have been performing since the 1970s. They’ve perfected their craft, while others are just starting out but are already blowing us away with their talent. These 10 performances by celebrities were a huge hit with the audience.
10 Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
In One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s NestRandle Patrick McCMurphy was a criminal that faked insanity to get out of prison. He is sentenced in what he believes will be a comfortable mental institution.
Jack Nicholson was one of the most famous actors to appear on the big screen. He played McMurphy with a memorable performance. He seems to be a disruptive force at first but eventually he starts to care about the patients and rebels against Nurse Ratchet.
He speaks out against abuse and leads other patients in outbursts while he tries his best to improve their lives. When Nurse Ratchet deals the final blow, it’s hard not to feel immense anger at how bad the situation is for these patients, especially knowing that there are really people like her out there.
The fo;m won multiple awards, and Nicholson’s performance was paramount to its success. His acting is so convincing that it’s hard to believe he isn’t still living in the asylum, struggling to bring hope. Nicholson, “we wouldn’t leave you here like this.”
9 Meryl Steep in Sophie’s Choice
Meryl Streep is the most famous actress of all time. She is a versatile actress who can play almost any role. In Sophie’s ChoiceShe plays a Holocaust survivor who struggles to cope with her trauma.
Her performance is so powerful, it will leave you feeling angry and heartbroken. Her portrayal of the pain and suffering of her character is flawless and truly moving. Streep was awarded an Oscar nomination for this film.
Her performance is still one that audiences find most emotional. Because of Streep, the term “Sophie’s Choice” has transcended from just a movie title. It’s become the modern colloquialism for the old rock and a hard place.
8 Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
“Say my name.” If there’s one unforgettable character from a television drama, it’s Walter White from Breaking Bad. Bryan Cranston was a remarkable actor playing the role of a chemistry teacher who turns to cooking meth to provide his family’s needs after being diagnosed with leukemia. Cranston won numerous awards for his role in Breaking Bad. His performance is regarded as one of television’s greatest.
Cranston skillfully portrays Walter White’s transformation into a drug lord. His performance was so convincing that it’s hard to believe he isn’t actually a criminal. In reality, Cranston is one of the nicest people you could meet—like when he randomly pays for and autographsHis biographies are available in book shops for fans.
7 Denzel Washington in Training Day
In Training DayDenzel Washington was a memorable actor playing a corrupt cop that takes a young rookie under the wing of his lap. Denzel won an Oscar for his performance in this film. It is still one of his most memorable performances.
Washington’s performance is so convincing that it’s hard to believe he isn’t actually a bad guy. He perfectly captures the character’s mystery and charisma while also making him seem dangerous and unpredictable. Washington is the one who made this film so memorable. He reportedly Many of his lines were improvised.
6 Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men
Javier Bardem performed as Anton Chigurh with chilling intensity No Country for Old Men. His performance in this film earned him an Oscar. It is still one of the most frightening to watch. He played the role of a sociopath killer who is trying to track down a man who stole his money. Bardem’s complete lack of emotion in his killing of almost everyone he meets leaves you feeling uncomfortable.
Bardem’s performance is so unnerving that it’s hard to believe he isn’t actually a psychopath. His spot-on portrayal reflects the character’s cold and calculating nature, making him seem like a real threat. As in, if you were to meet him in public after watching this movie, you’d seriously consider turning around walking the other way.
5 Jamie Foxxes in Ray
Ray Charles himself once said, “I never wanted to be famous; I only wanted to be great.” So it’s fitting that the biopic starring Jamie Foxx would be a truly “great” performance. Foxx was a remarkable Ray Charles performer in Ray. He captured the musician’s pain and suffering while also showing his immense talent.
Ray Charles’s life was filled with tragedy. He was born blind from glaucoma. He was a victim of addiction his entire life and lost many of his closest friends. He still managed to be a great musician.
Foxx won an Oscar and is still remembered for his role in the film. Jamie perfectly captures Ray Charles’s spirit and talent, making him seem like a real-life legend.
4 Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
In The Last King of ScotlandForest Whitaker was a great actor playing the role of Idi Amin, Uganda’s dictator. He perfectly captured the character’s brutality and charisma, making him seem like a real monster.
Whitaker won an Oscar because of his role in the film. No surprise there—his performance is chilling. He disturbingly revealed the character’s lack of empathy and complete disregard for human life. His performance is truly frightening and will make you feel disturbed long after the credits roll.
3 Stephanie Beatriz in Brooklyn Nine-Nine
“What kind of woman doesn’t have an ax?” Not Rosa Diaz, that’s for sure. Stephanie Beatriz performed a hilarious show in Brooklyn Nine-NineDetective Diaz. She is a tough, private but secretly caring detective who struggles with her emotions.
Stephanie Beatriz’s performance is one of the best in sitcom history. For eight seasons, she played the gritty and rough personality of Stephanie Beatriz, making her seem like an actual person.
So when people see her when she’s not acting, they struggle to believe that Diaz wasn’t her real personality—especially since her real voice is practically an octave higher than her character. Beatriz’s performance has earned critical acclaim for her work on the series. She is also a talented singer, as she stars in EncantoMaribel and In the Heights.
2 Chiwetel Ejiofor as a Slave for 12 Years
It is always risky to be a star in a movie that will provoke strong emotions. But Chiwetel Ejiofor didn’t hold anything back as Solomon Northup in 12 Years as a Slave.
Ejiofor’s performance is so powerful that it’s hard to see him in anything else without remembering Solomon—but maybe that was the point. Ejiofor was nominated several times for his role. His performance is still a moving one. He embodied the character’s pain and suffering while showing his immense strength.
His performance was so powerful that he conducted an interview with him. Entertainment Magazine, he said, “It took me a little while, even in a practical sense, of coming out of that experience, of being able to turn up at dinner parties and not just be talking about man’s inhumanity to man. It took me a little while to re-enter society.”
1 Ben Kingsley, Gandhi
Ben Kingsley has been acting since the late 1960s, so nobody’s shocked to hear us say he’s an extremely talented actor. He’s played pivotal roles in almost every genre and still appears in major box office hits like Marvel’s Shang-Chi, the Legend of the Ten Rings and Shang-Chi Iron Man 3.
But one of Kingsley’s most masterful performances came from his role as Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi. He was completely committed to the role and encapsulated Gandhi’s spirit, vulnerability, and quiet strength.
Kingsley’s stage presence pulls you in and masterfully plays with the audience’s emotions. Director Isabel Coixet said of Kingsley, “He can be British, American, Sikh—he can be anything. You ask Ben to play a chair, and he could play a chair!”
Ben received multiple awards for his portrayal as Gandhi, including an Oscar and a BAFTA Film Award. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, it’s one classic that everyone should watch.