Year in Review: The 10 Best Performances of 2009

Often “Best of” lists include a bunch of the Oscar bait roles that we hear about at the end of every year (ex. “I hear Helen Mirren is great in that movie that opened in one theater in LA!”) but in 2009 we had some great performances in big movies which sadly isn’t always the case (G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and Terminator: Salvation, I’m looking at you two). With this list I tried to balance the two opposing worlds of critical credibility and popularity by considering which roles stuck out in my mind most. I thought about which characters I couldn’t stop thinking about (not counting stuff like Chris Klein’s brilliant turn as Charlie Nash in Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li) and this is what I came up with:

10. Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills in Taken

While watching Taken one can’t help but root for Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills, the bad ass old dude, who systematically eliminates the scummy Eurotrash who stole his daughter. What’s most appealing about Bryan Mills is that he doesn’t just use all brute force but instead opts for clever ways to dispatch an enemy who vastly out number him.

9. Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell in Moon

Throughout the slow burning Moon, Rockwell is fascinating to watch as a lonely astronaut at the end of a three-year contract of working by himself on the moon. His mental stability is thrown into question when he discovers another “iteration” of himself. Rockwell successfully carries the film pretty much by…and with himself.

8. Zach Galifinakis as Alan Garner in The Hangover

Galifinakis’ role as Alan, the well meaning but bizarre satchel wearing in-law, hilariously introduced the world to the oddball comedian. When not doing his insane stand up, Galifinakis had been formally relegated to supporting roles in terrible films (Out Cold anyone?) but is now in high demand as he will be re-teaming with Hangover director Todd Phillips in Due Date with Robert Downey Jr. as well as reprising his Alan role in a Hangover sequel.

7. Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek

Stepping into a massive amount of fanboy/Trekkie pressure, relatively unknown actor Chris Pine somehow managed to avoid doing a William Shatner impersonation and truly made the role of Captain Kirk his own in J.J. Abrams’ enjoyable reboot of Star Trek. The film absolutely could not have succeeded with out Pine’s perfect blend of charm, comedic timing and action star cockiness.

6. Anna Kendrick as Natalie Keener in Up in the Air

I never would have thought an actor from Twilight could make the best performances list but Anna Kendrick is simply wonderful in Up In The Air as young executive looking to shake up George Clooney’s world. She is also may be the first character ever on film who is NOT attracted to a George Clooney character.

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