5. Faye Dunaway in Network
Diana Christensen is a ratings-hungry, unconscionable monster and it’s Faye Dunaway’s performance that raises the character up from the pitfalls of one-dimensional, man-eating, acid-spouting villainess into a living, fire-breathing woman of misguided strength and fortitude. She sees something, she goes after it, no matter the cost of life, limb or sanctity. But it’s the subtleties of Dunaway’s performance that make Diana all the more eerily striking, with the occasional eye widening and voice crack trembling her porcelain-colored, tough-as-nails veneer. (Check out Mike D’Angelo’s write-up on her Oscar-winning performance over on The Dissolve.)
While her older married lover (William Holden) goes to leave her, she rages and rages and rages to no avail. He calls her out on the “shrieking nothingness” of her life, claiming that he is the only link she had left to humanity. She is taken aback in one fluid, fragile motion, with her eyes melting from raging to vulnerable and her voice softly cracking at “Then don’t leave me.” As he explains that it’s too late for them, she deconstructs, going to sit on a living room chair, and as he continues to list her faults (“You’re madness, Diana. Virulent madness.”), her silent shaken silence turns into a wider-eyed facial expression of being struck violently to the heart. Dunaway’s performance is a masterpiece of emotion, control and loss.