Top Ten Greatest Performances of All Time (Karen Peterson)

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top10When I found out we were doing this Top Ten Greatest Performances of All Time series, I was immediately nervous about it. For a couple of reasons. First, how was I ever going to narrow down thousands of performances into my personal Ten Greatest? And second, I could very well be run right out of the Awards Circuit when I admit to not having seen some truly iconic films. Oh, and third, my list is probably going to garner some pretty stiff (and probably deserved) criticism from you, our discerning readers.

My process for creating this list was pretty simple. I made a rule that I wouldn’t select any performance after 2010. That’s just too recent to stand the test of time. I originally wanted to focus more on female performances, but as I jotted down names that came to me, they were more predominantly male. Which surprised and disappointed me as a contributor to the Women in Cinema column.

I wrote down every amazing performance I could think of, eventually coming to 54 finalists. And there are some truly stunning performances in that list of 54. From all decades of film, all genres, and even a fairly balanced split between men and women.

Unfortunately, I had to leave off some notable roles. (This is the part where I admit I’ve never seen The Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Raging Bull, Sunset Boulevard, A Streetcar Named Desire or Network.)

But as I whittled my list down to its final 10, I was forced to make cuts. Gone was Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys. Away with Sissy Spacek‘s Carrie. Sidney Poitier for In the Heat of the Night? Not this time. And my list didn’t have room for Edward Norton, Julie Andrews, Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman, Barbara Stanwyck, Natalie Wood or Meryl Streep either.

Eventually I came to my chosen Ten. A ten that I’m still not completely satisfied with or certain about. A ten that will be jeered far more than it is lauded, I know. A ten that I will want to change yet again the second this post is published.