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The Top 25 Performances of 2018 (So Far)

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20. Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson Annihilation Dirty Computer Emotion Picture

The Films: AnnihilationDirty Computer: an Emotion Picture
The Director: Alex Garland, Chuck Lightning

The Performances:  Each of the five women who head into Annihilation’s Shimmer does astonishing, visceral work, bringing Alex Garland’s lyrical yet nightmarish world to life one tremor at a time. Were this just the Annihilation slot, Tessa Thompson might get the nod anyway — her Josie Radek is an open wound walking, not so much crying for a tourniquet as a cut far past the point of healing. But throw in her work in Janelle Monáe’s “Emotion Picture”, aired on BET and MTV to accompany the release of Dirty Computer, and she leaps ahead of an excellent pack. As engaging as she is in each of the album’s videos in which she appears, she’s even better in the scenes that pepper the film, drawing viewers into the story of a woman confronted by evidence of a life, and a love, stripped from her mind against her will. —Allison Shoemaker

Also Great: Dirty Computer: Janelle Monáe. Annihilation: Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh

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19. Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix You Were Never Really Here

The Film: You Were Never Really Here
The Director: Lynne Ramsay

The Performance: Lynne Ramsay’s first film in eight years spends little time attempting to make itself accessible. The story of an ex-military bounty hunter who specializes in recovering abducted young girls from sex slavery, You Were Never Really Here sees Joaquin Phoenix off into an absolute hellscape, an urban fugue of exhaustion, suicidal ideation, and the depths of human depravity. Joe doesn’t say much, but Phoenix puts an ominous weight behind every single lingering gaze. For such a charismatic performer, he removes much of the affect from Joe’s presence, leaving him a ghost wandering through the world in search of a reason to stay, with the weight of the horrible things he’s seen crushing him every moment of every day. He’s a trembling hand in human form, desperate for another one to settle over him and lead him back to the light. —Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Also Great: Ekaterina Samsonov, Judith Roberts

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18. Thandie Newton

Westworld HBO Thandie Newton

The Show: Westworld
The Showrunners: Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan

The Performance:  In Westworld’s increasingly cerebral second season, robotic host Maeve emerged as the show’s beating human heart. And that’s thanks largely to Thandie Newton’s breathtaking performance. Whether delivering a biting one-liner or silently processing a horror unfolding before her, Newton brings incredible emotional depth to Maeve’s relatively straightforward quest to find her daughter. In a season too obsessed with violent delights and violent ends, Newton manages to make a believable case for empathy being the greatest strength of all. —Caroline Siede

Also Great: Zahn McClarnon, Rinko Kikuchi, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood

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17. Justina Machado

One Day at a Time Justina Machado Netflix

Photo: Mike Yarish/Netflix

The Show: One Day at a Time
The Showrunners: Gloria Calderón Kellett and Mike Royce

The Performance: Remove “Hello, Penelope” and “Not Yet” from One Day at a Time‘s excellent second season, and Justina Machado would still have given a terrific performance as the heart of a sitcom that’s already pretty much all heart. (The heart’s heart? Just go with it.) But add in those two episodes — the former centered on Penelope’s struggle with depression and what it means for her future and her relationships; the second, a gut-punch of an episode with a six-minute monologue from Machado as its cornerstone — and that terrific performance becomes an instant all-time great. Looking for a masterclass in acing the multi-camera format? (cue horns) This is it! —Allison Shoemaker

Also Great: Rita Moreno, Todd Grinnell, Stephen Toblowsky, Isabella Gomez

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16. Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway Ocean's Eight 8

The Film: Ocean’s 8
The Director: Gary Ross

The Performance: Ocean’s 8’s most impressive heist is the way Anne Hathaway manages to steal it. After public perception turned against her for being too genuine (Hollywood is fun for women), Hathaway stepped away from the spotlight for a bit. But now she’s back with a vengeance. Following her stellar turn in 2017’s Colossal, Hathaway delivers a comedic tour de force as Ocean’s 8’s image-obsessed actress Daphne Kluger. It’s a blast to watch Hathaway mock her own public persona while getting the last laugh in the process. —Caroline Siede

Also Great: Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna

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