An actor might be a seasoned pro or a nonprofessional first-timer, an up-and-comer or someone hitting their midcareer stride — whatever the case may be, when the performer and role click, there's a mysterious alchemy.
This year's feats of actorly alchemy on the big screen run a breathtaking gamut. We've been knocked out by the artistry of famous stars playing famous people (Christian Bale, Rami Malek), character actors claiming center stage (Olivia Colman, John C. Reilly) and experienced performers working in a new key (Melissa McCarthy, Ben Foster) — or a new language (Steven Yeun). An inspiring new generation of actors that includes Dominique Fishback, Timothee Chalamet and Elsie Fisher has etched charged and illuminating visions of teenage experience.
But whether the characters are camping it up in a British royal palace, shoplifting on the streets of Tokyo, pining for middle-school acceptance or battling to survive the hell of prison, they're unforgettable because the actors make them live and breathe. They delight us, perplex us, break our hearts and nudge us to new vantage points.