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

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

3. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth


She is strong, she is invincible, she is Elizabeth I. The last Tudor monarch, the Virgin Queen, the Boleyn bastard, has graced the big screen on several occasions, played by a bevy of women from Bette Davis to Jean Simmons to Helen Mirren. As in life, she is a force to be reckoned with, by the women who play her and the audiences who watch her. Her life, as it is remembered, is littered with discrepancies, hypocrisies, and convoluted contradictions. She was a woman in a seat of power. She was an official virgin with royal suitors and rumored lovers. She ruled with a firm fist, only to leave the British throne in the hands of a Scot. She is indomitable, but also human.

In Elizabeth, we see Elizabeth progress from proud princess to new queen to an icon, which as a performance, like in life, is no easy feat. And this is where Cate Blanchett steps in. Blanchett embodies Elizabeth each step of the way, with her eyes flickering between vulnerability, gaiety and ferocity and her body being born down by growing stature and weighty emotional ties. After flicking around, flirting with the notion of marriage and romance and a happy life, Elizabeth discovers more than once that letting people too close would endanger not only herself but the kingdom and resigns herself to a locked away distance, only then can she rule her people well. Though she stands as the most powerful woman in the world, Elizabeth I must let go of the one person she could have ever loved full-heartedly, and Blanchett plays this scene in such a way that captures both Elizabeth’s deep-seeded pain and her stomach-turning strength. Blanchett is one of those actresses who can just as weightily let out a gale force wind as a slight whimper, and it is this quality that lends itself to hers being the best portrayal of Elizabeth I ever seen in cinema, capturing both the iconic image and reputation while also conveying the enigmatic aspects in a believable and reasonable way.

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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