There were plenty of great performances in the year 2013, but these are the actors that went above and beyond, appearing in numerous films, grossing their respected films millions, and receiving acclaim from critics around the world.
10. Christian Bale
After the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy came to an end last year, Christian Bale kept busy with two releases in 2013: Out of the Furnace and American Hustle. While Furnace fizzled to mediocrity, American Hustle has all the buzz during awards season. Bale leads the impressive ensemble in Hustle and is the most consistent throughout the film. That says enough when you see the actors he’s surrounded with.
9. Ryan Gosling
Taking off in 2012, Gosling returned to the big screen three times this past year. First in Gangster Squad, which grossed $46 million. Squad was unfortunate of being bumped to early 2013 because of Aurora shooting. In The Place Beyond the Pines, Gosling is reunited with Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) in this crime drama that has Gosling playing a motorcycle stuntman/criminal. Gosling is reunited with another director in Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn from Drive). While Gosling appeared in three movies this year, they were all early in 2013 and none garnered any awards attention.
8. Hugh Jackman
Fresh off his Oscar nomination last year, Jackman brought in over $132 million during the summer for The Wolverine. Then in September, Jackman starred in Prisoners, a very acclaimed thriller from Denis Villeneuve. Hugh Jackman has proven he could be a very profitable leading man. His performance in Prisoners had plenty of critics commenting as the best in his career. It’s hard to disagree.
7. Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt has been trying to get World War Z made since he secured the rights in 2007. Finally, the film was made and released and to overwhelming success. The critics liked it and the film brought in over $200 million domestically. Pitt also starred in The Counselor, which bombed. But what saved Pitt this year after one success and one failure was his involvement with 12 Years a Slave. As a producer and a small role in the film that is taking awards season by storm, it’s hard to doubt Pitt’s influence will drive 12 Years a Slave to Oscar success.
6. Dwayne Johnson
The Rock has been one of the most bankable actors in Hollywood, and 2013 didn’t disappoint the former wrestling superstar. Fast & Furious 6 grossed close to $240 million, good enough for eighth highest of the year. G.I. Joe: Retaliation grossed over $122 million while Pain & Gain grossed about $50 million. Here’s all you need to know: if Dwayne Johnson stars in your movie, you’ll make plenty of money. It’s tough to argue with that.
5. James Franco
I’m not sure if any actor had a more diverse year than James Franco. First, starring in Oz the Great and Powerful which grossed over $230 million, it’s his highest grossing film that isn’t Spider-Man. Plus Oz was his movie. Then he’s seen in Spring Breakers, the controversial Harmony Korine film where Franco has been receiving plenty of awards attention for supporting actor. He also co-stars in This is the End alongside his Apatow crew friends, which was one of the surprise hits of the summer grossing over $100 million. Finally, he co-wrote, directed, and starred in As I Lay Dying. Is there anything Franco can’t do?
4. Leonardo DiCaprio
DiCaprio has never been far away from success, and 2013 is just another year he can be proud of. First, playing Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation put him on the map early in the year. The film was a box office success with $144 million. But then he teams up with Martin Scorsese for the fifth time in The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio gives a captivating performance as Jordan Belfort, and the film is one of the most divisive of the year among audiences and critics. DiCaprio is your leading man whether it’s a blown-out blockbuster or an awards-grabbing film at the end of the year. He’s proven it over and over again. Now will the damn Academy finally reward him!
3. Tom Hanks
If there’s anyone who doesn’t need an introduction, it’s Tom Hanks. He’s been out of the game for a while now but in 2013, he made a strong statement that he still has what it takes to give a great performance. In Captain Phillips, it’s his best performance in over a decade. It also helps that the film grossed over $100 million and it’s a favorite for a Best Picture nomination. Then in Saving Mr. Banks, he plays Walt Disney opposite of Emma Thompson in another film receiving plenty of awards buzz. Who else is likeable enough to play Walt Disney than Tom Hanks? Anyone?
2. Bradley Cooper
After his Best Actor nomination from last year’s Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper kept his foot on the acceleration pedal and in 2013 he starred in three films. First was The Place Beyond the Pines. While it was mainly marketed as a Ryan Gosling film, Cooper certainly had the most screen time and gave a very honest performance. Next, he co-starred in the third installment of the Hangover franchise, grossing $112 million domestically. Finally, Cooper starred in American Hustle, teaming up with David O. Russell once again. While it’s a long shot Cooper will receive another Oscar nomination this year, there’s no doubt he was an actor you just couldn’t ignore throughout the entire year.
1. Matthew McConaughey
I think it’s safe to say that McConaughey has put all of the romantic comedies behind him. He’s not the same actor who was seen alongside Kate Hudson a decade ago. With Bernie in 2011 and Killer Joe and Magic Mike last year, McConaughey has opened everyone’s eyes to the acting chops he has. 2013 made the conversation more interesting. First, he was the titled-character in Mud, a film that received glowing reviews and coined as the modern day Huckleberry Finn. Then came Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey’s golden ticket to a Best Actor nomination. Here he completely transformed himself to the role of Ron Woodroof, a tough red neck who is HIV-positive and opens doors to medication and procedures that aren’t FDA approved. Finally, he’s seen in the beginning of The Wolf of Wall Street, taking on DiCaprio and showing him the ropes to the trade.
If your perception of McConaughey is still a good-looking guy who can only take off his shirt to land him a movie role, then you missed his incredible year. Check out the indie-gem Mud and then Dallas Buyers Club and I guarantee your opinion will change. 2014 looks pretty good for McConaughey as well with the HBO series True Detective and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar on McConaughey’s resume. Not too shabby at all.