Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time

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  1. Peter O'Toole as T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  2. Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954)
  3. Meryl Streep as Sophie Zawistowska in Sophie's Choice (1982)
  4. Al Pacino as Sonny Wortzik in Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
  5. Bette Davis as Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950)
  6. James Cagney as George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
  7. Dustin Hoffman as "Ratso" Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
  8. James Stewart as George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
  9. Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein (1974)
  10. Robert De Niro as Jake La Motta in Raging Bull (1980)
  11. Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown in My Left Foot (1989)
  12. Jack Nicholson as "Badass" Buddusky in The Last Detail (1973)
  13. Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter (1968)
  14. Robert Duvall as Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies (1983)
  15. Tom Hanks as Josh Baskin in Big (1988)
  16. Cary Grant as T.R. Devlin in Notorious (1946)
  17. Denzel Washington as Malcolm X in Malcolm X (1992)
  18. Emily Watson as Bess McNeill in Breaking the Waves (1996)
  19. Paul Newman as Frank Galvin in The Verdict (1982)
  20. Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II (1974)
  21. Giulietta Masina as Cabiria in Nights of Cabiria (1957)
  22. Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands in Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  23. Russell Crowe as Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider (1999)
  24. Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
  25. Greta Garbo as Ninotchka in Ninotchka (1939)
  26. Maria Falconetti as Joan of Arc in The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
  27. Marlon Brando as Paul in The Last Tango in Paris (1972)
  28. Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday (1940)
  29. Peter Sellers as Chance the Gardener in Being There (1979)
  30. James Stewart as John "Scottie" Ferguson in Vertigo (1958)
  31. Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray (2004)
  32. Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
  33. Dustin Hoffman as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie (1982)
  34. Buster Keaton as Johnny Gray in The General (1927)
  35. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in Capote (2005)
  36. Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Cross Mulwray in Chinatown (1974)
  37. Gene Hackman as Harry Caul in The Conversation (1974)
  38. Carole Lombard as Maria Tura in To Be or Not to Be (1942)
  39. Laurence Olivier as Richard III in Richard III (1955)
  40. Nicole Kidman as Suzanne Stone Maretto in To Die For (1995)
  41. Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction (1994)
  42. Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976)
  43. James Dean as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
  44. Charlie Chaplin as a Tramp in City Lights (1931)
  45. Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick in Election (1999)
  46. Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland in Cast Away (2001)
  47. Jack Nicholson as Randle Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
  48. Bill Murray as Phil Connors in Groundhog Day (1993)
  49. Liv Ullmann as Elisabet Vogler in Persona (1966)
  50. Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  51. Henry Fonda as Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  52. Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton in The Remains of the Day (1993)
  53. Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill "The Butcher" Cutting in Gangs of New York (2002)
  54. Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story (1940)
  55. Sidney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night (1967)
  56. Jodie Foster as Sarah Tobias in The Accused (1988)
  57. Max Von Sydow as Lasse Karlsson in Pelle the Conqueror (1987)
  58. Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Aliens (1986)
  59. Catherine Deneuve as Severine Serizy in Belle de Jour (1967)
  60. Diane Keaton as Annie Hall in Annie Hall (1977)
  61. Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth in Schindler's List (1993)
  62. Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious in Sid & Nancy (1986)
  63. Gena Rowlands as Mabel Longhetti in A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
  64. Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler (1961)
  65. Jack Lemmon as Jerry/Daphne in Some Like It Hot (1959)
  66. Holly Hunter as Jane Craig in Broadcast News (1987)
  67. Spencer Tracy as Henry Drummond in Inherit the Wind (1960)
  68. Cary Grant as Dr. David Huxley in Bringing Up Baby (1938)
  69. Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
  70. Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  71. Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood in Silkwood (1983)
  72. Judy Garland as Esther Blodgett, A.K.A. Vicki Lester in A Star Is Born (1954)
  73. John Travolta as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (1977)
  74. Madeline Kahn as Lili Von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles (1974)
  75. Julie Christie as Diana Scott in Darling (1965)
  76. Burt Lancaster as J.J. Hunsecker in Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
  77. Morgan Freeman as Leo Smalls Jr., A.K.A. Fast Black in Street Smart (1987)
  78. Toshiro Mifune as Sanjuro Kuwabatake in Yojimbo (1961)
  79. Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
  80. Jeanne Moreau as Catherine in Jules and Jim (1962)
  81. Kate Winslet as Clementine Kruczynski in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  82. George C. Scott as General George S. Patton Jr. in Patton (1970)
  83. Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry (1999)
  84. Anjelica Huston as Lilly Dillon in The Grifters (1990)
  85. Jessica Lange as Frances Farmer in Frances (1982)
  86. Robert Walker as Bruno Anthony in Strangers on a Train (1951)
  87. John Wayne as Ethan Edwards in The Searchers (1956)
  88. Christopher Walken as Nick Chevotarevich in The Deer Hunter (1978)
  89. Gong Li as Juxian in Farewell My Concubine (1993)
  90. Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski in The Big Lebowski (1998)
  91. Jane Fonda as Bree Daniels in Klute (1971)
  92. Clint Eastwood as "Dirty" Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry (1971)
  93. Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce Beragon in Mildred Pierce (1945)
  94. Peter Lorre as Hans Beckert in M (1931)
  95. Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It? (1993)
  96. Judy Holliday as Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday (1950)
  97. Ben Kingsley as Don Logan in Sexy Beast (2001)
  98. Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944)
  99. Steve Martin as Navin Johnson in The Jerk (1979)
  100. Malcolm McDowell as Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Author Comments: 

From the April 2006 issue.

What a lame list, too modern, where is Mitchum?

I agree completely... sorta. I don't see in Mitchum what others see in Mitchum. He does make the cut for the (unranked) 101-200th greatest performances for Out of the Past and Night of the Hunter.

I would like to try to defend and condemn the list all at once.
So let me just say that the editors of Premiere are idiots. Evidently twenty of the one hundred greatest performances in the history of film were given in the 1970s. That's 1 in every 5. Morons.

But try to see it from their point of view. If I'm an editor at Premiere I would guess that I'm, on average, fifty-six years old, pretty damn white and male (again, on average.) This means that I'm 19 when Dustin Hoffman plays loser addict Ratso Rizzo; 21 when Jane Fonda plays a whore and Eastwood and McDowell play psycopaths; and they are 24 the year that six (6!) of the 100 Greatest Performances are given.

When the 80s hit all of a sudden the roles grow up and become adult. Sigourney me no Weavers and Gary me no Oldmans. The first is one of just 38 female performances and the other is a portrayal of a punk icon from the 70s when future Premiere editors were young and just starting their soul-draining careers. And Big is about a child in an adult's body which doesn't mean that the Premiere editors are projecting at all... not at all. Did everybody notice the total of seven (7!) actors of colour? Serves 'em right for not making any movies in 1974.

Based upon this evidence I am going to enjoy growing old and inflicting honour upon the less-deserving. Let the lionization of John Cusak begin! (I'm not kidding.)

Putting aside mental capacity, I think that the nature of movies skews results towards more modern movies. Once the 50s and Marlon Brando arrive the game changes. The nature of acting, of "performance," changes. Naturalistic style swallows up stylized studio approved methods. I can think of very few pre-1950 moments of emotionally operatic acting. Al Pacino alone accounts for more scene-chewing arias.

The seventeen (17!) pre-1950 performances mostly have a frenetic quality to them. As part of the studio assembly line method of making movies they all stand out. Another problem is the studio created and controlled career of actors. When you're Fred Astaire you don't get the chance to play a drug addict with a physical disability, you always play "Fred Astaire." Which of his performances is "greatest"? Let's not even bring up the even greater Ginger Rogers.

So their own prejudices and the movie business itself conspire to make what you so rightly dub "a lame list."

Not that I like them all that much but... can you believe that neither Bruce Lee nor Harrison Ford made the cut? Not even the Top 200.

Nobody gets screwed like Bogie. No The African Queen. No The Caine Mutiny.

I'd love to see a "100 Greatest Performances Pre-1950" list and if Bogart in Casablanca isn't on it I will write a letter of recommendation to the editors of Premiere.

I thought it was common knowledge that the editors of Premiere are idiots.

I have a lot of empathy for idiots.

It seems to me that acting is always getting better because the study of acting, the competition of acting, and the scrutiny of acting are greater than they were 30 years ago, 50 years ago, etc. For the same reasons, no athletes of 30 years ago could compete with today's top athletes. That being said, the selections themselves are dubious.

The point is not where is Mitchum (even though I like him as an actor, above all in The Night of the Hunter), but rather where is Alec Guinness?

I haven't seen any Guinness films outside of Star Wars.
I believe Mitchum's Night of the hunter is the greatest performance ever, and i saw it dubbed.

To Critico,

More truer words never spoken. Edward
Scissorhands? Nicole Kidman To die for??
That's not even a role or script worth
mentioning. It's like every year they hand
out academy awards but every year there isn't
academy award Material, that's a fact, what
are they going to say. Sorry, nothing
worth mentioning was acted this year. I say
YES! PLEASE. Halle Berrie in Monsters Ball?
A true embarresment. For the most part
these lists are indeed a function of the age
qualification and perspective of the judges
(or lack of) Alien? I don' think so.

i think in this list should be absolutely Kevin Spacey for American Beauty!!!!!

Charlie Chapman!

That's now corrected.

When you see something as ridiculous as Tom Hanks in Big outranking tons of greater performances, especially placing him over Falconetti in Joan of Arc (my choice for greatest ever), you know this list is gonna blow.

Also, where the hell are all the foreign film performances? This list is so biased... It should be re-titled to:

"Famous American performances we could think of without much effort, not to mention a few foreign performances we threw in that we've never actually seen, but thought might add a nice touch to make us appear more respectable".

what nationality is peter o toole then? and he is at the top of the list. idiots or not im sure they would at least view the movie containing the number one performance?

having tried to defend. . .the rest of the list is all over the place.

Obviously missing: Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. Alec Guiness in Bridge on the River Kwai; Bogart and Hepburn BOTH in African Queen, Edward Norton in Fight Club; Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird and MY choice for # 2 right behind O'Toole Ben Kingsley as GHANDI! (Not including this performance makes the whole list crap BTW)

Also: roles that do NOT belong anywhere near this list as long as Ghandi's out include the ridiculous choice of Johnny Depp in that crap Pirates movie, Bill Murray's Groundhog Day -THE worst film choice on the list- Steve Martin in a film I love, the Jerk, Reese Witherspoon in another piece of crap film, Election, and finally Tom Hamks in Castaway- what a lousy, boring film. Ugh! Seriously, could they have gotten Hanks MORE wrong? Big and Castaway? Kee-Rist!

Bela Lugosi-Dracula

Where is Whoopi Goldberg in the Color Purple? I understand that the movie was a little saccharine and over-sanitized, but Goldberg's perfomance was amazing coming from an actor known primarily for her comedic performaces.
Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita?
Bibi Andersson in Persona?
Max Von Sydow in The Seventh Seal?
Orson Welles in Citizen Kane???

By the way, Jack Lemmon could by himself
replace half the Premiere list in dramatic
and comedic roles and he's not even
mentioned.

Correction: Jack Lemmon was mentioned way
down for Some Like it Hot but his career
and range and abilities blow most of these
people off the stage in even his most
meger roles. "It's magic time"

To Lukeprog,

In some ways you're right it appears acting
is getting better at times, Though mention
someone who compares today with Deniro, or
Pacino, or Hackman or Voight or Hoffman,
or even older- mention someone who can stand
by Jimmy Stewart or Burt Langcaster or
Steve Maqueen and on and on. Who are you
comparing? light weights like Matt Damon or
Christian Stater, Todd Spicolli Markie Mark
Russle Crow jagoff or those other pussies?
Ilaugh
when those dweebs try to play heavies in
Martin Scorsases new joke films. For that
matter current writing, scripts stink for
the occasional winner, very occasional
are getting absolutely horrible. I haven't
seen an award winning role in years
Nickolson deserved more mention as well, he's
probably the greates actor of his generation.

I like to see any of the actors or actresses
attempt to play in Who's Afraid of Virginia
Woolf, except for Jack Lemmon who was piced
to play the Richard Burton part but backed
out at the last minute for no explanation.
Now THAT script required ACTING. Thing
any of these contemporary hacks could even
attempt to pull it off? No Nor has such
a script been written since to call for
such ability.

Another thing to take into account
back in the old days shock and awe
was limited. I mentioned Halle Berrie
getting an oscar for basically a soft
porn role and my comment got nuked by
the website owner. It's a valid
comment. Back when there was censorship
people had to hold the viewers attention
with personality and character and acting
not nudity or ultraviolence. Audiences
were smarter 30 years ago as well, they
were literate and knew something about
the literature upon which many successful
movies are based. They weren't the mindless
uneducated morons who attend movies these
days and lose interest if there isn't a car
chase or killing or nude scene five minutes
into the first scene. No special affects
either to hold the attention of todays
imbacile seated in the theater (usually
talking on a cell phone during the movie)

Another person missing Richard Dreyfus
he's a whale of an actor and has had many
memorable movie moments

I guess what I'm trying to say is this
list is a joke. Number one and this is
my complaint about the recent work of
the Academy Awards, THE ROLE AND THE SCRIPT
HAS TO MERIT AN AWARD. But again that
brings me back to my previous point. There
hasn't been a decent story or script out
of Hollywood for years. Pabulum. Gone
With the Wind would not be a box office
attraction these days. So what do we get
Academy awards for roles in the movie remake
of McHales Navy or the Flintstones (both
great TV shows but not the stuff of dramatic
or comedic theater. But movies have had
to be dumbed down for the audience to key
their attention, like dangling a set of
car keys up above a baby in a crib. It
keeps their attention but it's hardly worth
some kind of award. Such as an Oscar.

Robin Williams HELLO? Good Morning Vietnam,
Dead Poets Society (poignant!) Awakenings,
Fisher King, Good Will Hunting, Moscow on
the Hudson. HE MADE everyone of those
movies with the width, breadth and depth
of his enormous acting abilities. And he
doesn't just play one Character like Eastwood
or Di Niro who are both great actors. This
guy (Williams) has an acting range that out
of this world. AND HE"S NOT EVEN ON THE
LIST???????????????????????????????
STUPID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

This is not a list. This is hate mail waiting to happen.

WHAT ABOUT LEONARDO DICAPRIO?

How come Jamie Foxx is on this list but not Leo? Fail.

Funny How relative everything is. Working as closely as I do in Los Angeles with upcoming filmmakers in castings and other productions, The buzz I hear from the newbies is that Alain Delon in Le Samourai is the performance number one. The the young up coming filmmakers today worship that performance, adore it and hes not even mentioned here. For me I cant stand a list that doesn't mention Vivienne liegh for either Gone with the Wind or streetcar. Those two dream roles were won by her and are historical and of great cultural significance. I find it impossible to ignore them. F. Murray Abraham in Amadeus is also missing from the list. That to me is the best performance by any man in movie history. It does not rain with sexual frustration or liberation but it is so finely crafted in technique that it goes beyond mere choice of taste into something so poetic natural choreographed the perfect marriage of emotional life to structure movement gesticulation expression that I have ever seen on film. If you're going to pretentiously throw in Liv Ullman or toshiro Mifune you better know what you're talking about because then you'd have to add Isabel huppert the list goes on. SO Obviously this is no true list but one to make you argue and think get you're blood boiling and stand up for you're taste in actors. Think about it? Is julianne Moore on there or ally sheedy for high art or Marylin Monroe no one has ever come close to anything she was able to do on film nor even honestly impersonate her? I didn't even look its a silly list.

GEOFFREY RUSH in "Shine". COME ON. What a joke !

Where the heck is:
GREGORY PECK in 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'Spellbound'
and KIM NOVAK in 'Vertigo'????

Well this list is not good, it's obviously clear.
Laurence Olivier's performance of Richard III is ranked by someone as the greatest acting performance of all time (and acting in theatre is far mor complex and compelling than in cinema, 90% of times) and it's ranked #39 here.

What moron would list Tom Hanks as Josh Baskin in "Big" yet completely omit his Academy Award winning performance as Andrew Beckett in "Philadelphia"?