In lieu of Simon Kinberg’s “Dark Phoenix” hitting theaters today, it only made sense to show the versatile “mutant” acting abilities of its ensemble. Because of the larger roster, the piece will be broken up into two parts across two weeks. Featured below are the upperclassmen of performers who have done a stellar job representing the X-Men of yesteryear. Without further ado, here are the best genre performances outside of this franchise from Sophie Turner (Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix), Michael Fassbender (Magneto), James McAvoy (Professor X), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), and Nicholas Hoult (Beast).
5Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in “Game of Thrones” (2010-2019)
You don’t need to be telepathic to guess this one. Sophie Turner’s screen debut is also her greatest as the eldest daughter of Eddard and Catelyn Stark. As Sansa, the actress sends the eventual Queen of the North on a grueling journey from naive noble maiden to military tactician and sovereign ruler. Through it all, Sansa’s strength is unwavering thanks to Turner’s ability to exude steadfast resolve even when her eyes betray concern. Despite facing the worst of mankind and evil, Sansa’s power pulsates throughout Westeros by series’ end. If that stupendously realized arc doesn’t earn Sophie Turner an Emmy nomination, it would be a grievous error in character evaluation.
4Michael Fassbender as David 8/Walter One in “Alien: Covenant” (2017)
Michael Fassbender is double the trouble in this sequel to the “Alien” prequel, “Prometheus.” As the nefarious cyborg David, Fassbender channels the madness of Shakespeare’s most tragic villains. His android’s motivations travel from empathetic to diabolical. David wipes out an entire civilization, not to mention murdering his sole surviving human friend from their first mission, Doctor Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace). When the newer model, Walter, encounters his double, Fassbender heightens the allure of reflection. In the film’s best scene – and one of the most memorable moments in the entire franchise – Fassbender permeates the setting with intense homoeroticism when describing how to play an ancient flute. Even in Steve McQueen’s “Shame,” Fassbender’s sexual energy was never this alive.
3Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games” (2012)
Lawrence’s fierce and resourceful Katniss Everdeen is given remarkable source material flexing by the Oscar-winning actress throughout the film series. However, Lawrence’s fire burns brightest in the inaugural entry, as the world won’t soon forget her selfless plea to volunteer in the deadly Games in place of her young sister, Primrose (Willow Shields). Katniss is such an individual force of nature that her love triangle with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is a complete afterthought. Even when she is in critical danger, Lawrence amasses so much confidence from the fandom that fear for Katniss’s safety is fleeting if nonexistent.
2James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Horde in “Glass” (2019)
Buried underneath a dredge of negative reviews for M. Night’s Shyamalan’s latest is the finest two hours of James McAvoy’s career. Showing even more personality elasticity than “Split,” the British thespian magnifies pathos beneath the psychosis. In his lengthy monologues to Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), McAvoy demonstrates the isolation and entrapment of a mind unable to access freewill. Furthermore, he shows the dark dichotomy of brilliance and insanity, and the tragedy that comes with such internal strife. By the end, the audience is exhausted but nonetheless inspired by the free-flowing stamina of McAvoy’s masterclass acting.
1Nicholas Hoult as Nux in “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)
Hoult is guaranteed entry into Valhalla after this legendary performance. The young actor has always been focused and grounded when tackling a character, but in George Miller’s post-apocalyptic blockbuster he abandons technique for full surrender. As Nux, Hoult authenticates the desire to have a purpose in life, whether it be donating blood, being a vessel to a warlord’s vision, or latching onto a just cause.
In the end, Nux finds himself on a path of self-determination, where for once he isn’t literally chained to someone else’s dreams or ambitions. Thanks to his accidental fellowship with Max (Tom Hardy), Furiosa (Charlize Theron), and the liberated wives of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), Nux comes to the conclusion that he is his own destiny-maker. Hoult proves that even in the most desolate of scenarios, redemption and identity ownership are still within reach.