For this week’s Genre Geeks column, we are elated to share the best performances that emerged from genre cinema in 2018. So often bias takes hold of visibility, making such work either outright ignored or seen as lowbrow participation. Whenever the Academy does break tradition, it’s always to reward their veterans for diving into a challenging setting. These ten performances are every bit as deserving of awards recognition as their safer contemporaries. Therefore, let the countdown from great to greatest begin!

10Deric McCabe in “A Wrinkle in Time”
(Walt Disney Studios)

A controversial selection in many eyes, Derick McCabe’s performance in “A Wrinkle in Time” is the epitome of a child allowed to be their precocious prodigal self. Whether he’s lecturing teachers about the rudeness of gossiping or excitedly telling his sister Meg (Storm Reid) about the scientific fascinations they’ll encounter on their quest, McCabe is a ball of infectiousness. Charles Wallace’s innate goodness radiates so bright thanks to McCabe that it’s shocking how convincing he is once transformed into a diabolical brat during the latter part of the movie. Flipping that behavioral switch so deftly is a mark of true skill, one that McCabe should nurture and carry with him to full bloom if he continues this career path.

9Elizabeth Debicki in “Widows”
(20th Century Fox)

Utilizing height as a means of control and strength is something that never happens in a female-driven studio film. The way Elizabeth Debicki weaves through a scene as Alice is spellbinding, her lanky vulnerability and sexuality harnessed into a weapon of self-sufficiency. Even getting chastised verbally and physically by Viola Davis’s Veronica doesn’t shatter Alice’s spirit. Debicki expertly pieces together a portrait of a woman temporarily in financial limbo, one who isn’t ashamed of allowing people in as long as they’re aware she’s never going to succumb to patriarchy again.

8Henry Cavill in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”
(Paramount Pictures)

Although handed a predictable arc, Henry Cavill finds his calling inMission: Impossible – Fallout as the studly yet dangerous assassin, August Walker. Cavill’s physique is put to incredible use, flexing some serious fight choreography for a breathtaking bathroom brawl. Henry Cavill’s Walker is a hunk of mass destruction who works vociferously to complete his mission. Providing the perfect contrast to the aging yet tireless Tom Cruise, Cavill exerts endless stamina to stay toe-to-toe with the legendary action star.

7Michael B. Jordan in “Black Panther”
(Walt Disney Studios)

This is a performance that some take for granted because it’s so eerily effortless and empathetic. Although he’s your typical “Big Bad” threat on paper, Michael B. Jordan uses his swagger as an affront to tradition, authority, establishment and false righteousness. This, in turn, challenges the viewing audience to reflect on the motivations behind his menace. Eric Killmonger’s methods are heinous but his purpose is understandable; he’s reclaiming the power to an abused people from a kingdom that abandoned their race to centuries of oppression. B. Jordan’s final line delivery is a moment of unshakable poetic tragedy, cutting to the core of Killmonger’s refusal to be anyone’s slave like his ancestors before him.

6Chris Hemsworth in “Avengers: Infinity War”
(Walt Disney Studios)

Chris Hemsworth’s Thor has always been dashing, but it wasn’t until “Thor: Ragnarok” that the character’s funny bone began revealing itself. Tossing away the facade of a nobleman – and that extra volume of flowing Viking hair – was just the makeover needed to rid Thor’s stoicism. InAvengers: Infinity War,” Hemsworth never loses that budding charisma. That being said, he also embraces the complex layers of a man trying to find optimism despite having lost his family to the throes of war.

There’s noted melancholy in Hemsworth’s gaze, especially his scenes of commiseration with Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper). Still, Hemsworth perseveres in inspiring fashion, ultimately showing that the best of heroes stomach loss in order to prevent widespread decimation. When Thor finally returns to Earth, there is not a single audience member who didn’t feel a surge of pride knowing that this alien being was the planet’s best hope of survival.

5Alex Wolff in “Hereditary”
(A24 Films)

Alex Wolff pulsates star wattage as the younger version of Dwayne Johnson’s character in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” yet it’s “Hereditary” that demonstrates his preternatural talent. Although far from a legitimate shot at “Best Supporting Actor,” there’s no denying one of the best performances in this category exists in a classroom with Wolff contorting his body as freakishly as he does his emotions. Blue lights will never be the same again thanks to Wolff’s permanent scarring in which felt every bit of anguished pain was felt tenfold.

4Emily Blunt in “A Quiet Place”
(Paramount Pictures)

In her superior performance of 2018, Emily Blunt is wordlessly spectacular as a mother battling guilt as fervently as she is the creatures coming to destroy her family nucleus. Blunt has always been a consummate professional, but weak writing has often been her Achilles heel among awards bodies. Here Blunt defies genre constraints by summoning all her maternal force and doing whatever it takes to protect her loved ones (present and near-future). The iconic nail scene is masterfully executed by director John Krasinski, but it’s his wife Emily Blunt who upholds the suspense, creating one of the most visceral audience reactions in horror history.

3Toni Collette in “Hereditary”
(A24 Films)

Motherhood pays the ultimate price in Ari Astor’sHereditary,” and Toni Collette goes through all of its highs and lows in tumultuous fashion. Battling the forces of paranoia and a creeping supernatural presence that is felt but rarely seen, Collette masters the fear that rises when your family begins to fracture beyond control — sometimes literally. Yet, the pinnacle of thespian perfection lands with a thunderous explosion during an uncomfortable dinner scene. All the pent-up rage and resentment for putting up with a child’s insolence — and the often ungratefulness their parents ritualistically endure — expresses itself with more terror than an ectoplasm conjuring. In that flash of unforgettable anger, Collette earns every rave bestowed upon her by a critical community in demand of her second Oscar nomination.

2Danai Gurira in “Black Panther”
(Walt Disney Studios)

Sometimes a great performance is engraved into the minds of its audiences because of the role’s distinctiveness. Danai Gurira’s Okoye is easily the most memorable character creation of 2018. She’s a pop culture icon of toughness, bravery, nuanced ambivalence, and unintentional humor. However, it’s Gurira’s evocation of Okoye’s internal conflict that makes this a performance worthy of accolade. She is torn between standing by her nation or following her moral compass. In today’s politically volatile climate, we all need a bit Okoye’s fierce realness to keep us focused on what’s truly worth fighting for.

1Viola Davis in “Widows”
(20th Century Fox)

All hail Queen Viola! Her ball-busting performance as a woman with both everything and nothing to lose is the first role worthy of her commandeering. Taking charge of one last heist to escape the sins of her husband, Davis shines as a symbolic spearhead for female agency reclamation. No longer the matron of the stereotypical “black suffering” story, Davis proves she is every bit as capable of leading an action film as her white male colleagues. To top it off, Widows is basically a “Greatest Hits” showcase of Davis’s best qualities as an actor: vulnerability, resilience, warranted contempt, regal mournfulness, and the ability to fuel others into action. No one musters a plethora of raw emotions better than Viola Davis.

What do you make of this list? What are your favorite genre performances from last year? Let us know in the comments below!

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