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

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

2. Marlon Brando, Last Tango in Paris


What can be written about Marlon Brando here that hasn’t already been said, written or hinted at. He was a genius. He was an original. He was a miserable human being to be around. And it’s this persona, full of enigma and the intangible, that sets him apart in the annals of acting. Brando was emblematic of a new wave in Hollywood, setting the stones in place for New Hollywood with his method and his mumbling and his outrageous behavior. All three of those last qualities bubble to the surface and brim over the celluloid in his performance as a widower engaging in an anonymous, strictly pervertedly, sexual relationship in Last Tango in Paris.

Throughout the film, Paul (Brando) subjects Jeanne (Maria Schneider), his young lover, to an assortment of abuse and debasing acts (butter). They share no personal information — no names, no pasts, just sex. But the tides turn when Paul tries to win Jeanne back after leaving her deserted in their pleasure-pain apartment. This is where the real beauty of the film and Brando’s performance emerge, whereas earlier Brando was stripped naked literally to perform lascivious acts, he strips himself bare emotionally in Paul’s pursuit of Jeanne, with the audience tripping along as he opens up about his wife’s suicide, tangos in public with Jeanne, and even as he chases her through the streets of Paris, with no holds barred and clinging only to lovelorn desperation. His character went from unfeeling monster of sexual appetite to running heart-on-sleeve and shouting after Jeanne. Simply, Brando as Paul is a magnificent creature.

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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