Top Ten Greatest Performances Of All-Time (Diana Drumm)

Our two week series continues with our native of New Hampshire…

4. Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain


Yes, I hear you clamoring for The Joker, but here’s some context for this up-for-debate choice… I have loved Heath Ledger since I was 12 years old. I rented 10 Things About You enough times from the video store that my parents finally gave in and bought the darn thing. I had a beta fish in high school named Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein of Gelderland (Ledger’s character’s fake jousting name in A Knight’s Tale). My first full-length (yet to be optioned) script had a lead written specifically for him (what mad dreams teenage girls weave). When Brokeback Mountain came out in theaters, I dragged my mother far upstate (or at least somewhere beyond our native New Hampshire seacoast) in the middle of New England winter to see the tale of two Midwestern cowboys finding love in an unexpected place. Suffice it to write, I was floored. I had never seen a performance as subtle, as nuanced, before and from someone I clearly, most probably overly, admired.

I remember reading somewhere around that time a piece in which either Ledger or a writer said that Ledger’s performance as Ennis Del Mar came from his mouth, that all of his acting attention and ability focused on his mouth and the rest came from that. And you can find it in Ennis and even in Ledger’s later, more lauded performance of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Ennis is a man from a conservative Americana background, close-lipped about his opinions let alone his actual feelings. You see that struggle in Ledger’s jaw every time he has words to speak, and crumble when it hits anything on his emotions for Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal). Ledger’s performance is heartbreaking, heart-wrenching and love-affirming.

What do you think?

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Written by Diana Drumm


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Robert MacFarlane

I’m just going to assume you’ve never seen Dead Ringers, because to have Jeremy Irons on a “Best Performances of All Time” list and NOT have him for his dual performances in Cronenberg’s fucked up masterpiece is sheer lunacy.

Sam Coff

WOW. Great list, Diana!

Love the blend of classic and modern, and I especially love how your list functions as a sort of “Best Actors Ever” list.

And, of course, Geoffrey Rush for everything :-D

Jason Fattorusso

Happy to see both Rush fur Quills and Ledger for BBM. But the one person I was super happy to see for his role? Brando

Greg Cwik

I see your list and raise you with mine, which might raise some eyebrows with its plebeian popularism:

(Mind you I just made this right now, in five minutes)

Al Pacino- “The Godfather Part II”
Robert De Niro- “The King of Comedy”
Joaquin Phoenix- “The Master”
Live Ullmann- “Persona”
Faye Dunaway- “Chinatown”
Roy Scheider- “Jaws”
Isabelle Huppert- “La Pianiste”
Ellen Burstyn- “Requiem for a Dream”
Heath Ledger- “Brokeback Mountain”
Jack Nicholson- “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”


I finally decided to go at this from the gut/heart level since picking “best” many of which have appeared on other lists is just impossible. So here are the 10 films that when flipping dials, I simply cannot go past without watching at least for a few minutes simply because in most cases it is two great actors/Actresses bouncing off of each other or great music with excellent acting 1. Same Time Next Year 2. Casablanca 3. Lion in Winter 4. All That Jazz 5. 84 Charing Cross Road 6. The Chosen 7. Chinatown 8. L A Confidential 9. Usual… Read more »


Great list!!!

Zohar Orbach

I love how you chose Ledger’s performance in BM. It’s one of the most subtle & heartbreaking performances I have ever seen, and combining her with his turn in TDK and his hollywood debut in ’10 things’ is a perfect display of his greatness. I love this project in general – performances lists are a great passion of mine. In my longlist I have, I guess, Lawrence in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ (I adore Chastain in ZDT, but Lawrence is still my one of most deserving wins in this millenium), Mary-louise Parker in ‘Angels in America’ (A Tv miniseries, but one… Read more »


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