09/02/2013 11:08 am ET Updated Sep 02, 2013

The 31 Best Performances Of The Summer

Fox Searchlight/Cinedigm/TWC/IFC

Summer of 2013 has come to its unofficial end, which means what better time than now to look back over the last four months of movie releases to find the season's best onscreen work. Ahead, in chronological order, the 31 performances that made this summer worth every heat wave.

  • 1 Ben Kingsley In "Iron Man 3"
    Ben Kingsley's Mandarin, all idle threats and subterfuge, helped make "Iron Man 3" the best superhero movie since "The Dark Knight."
  • 2 Elizabeth Debicki In "The Great Gatsby"
    Warner Bros.
    Newcomer Elizabeth Debicki played Jordan Baker in Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby," and made an impact even among A-list stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan. Great job, old sport.
  • 3 Greta Gerwig In "Frances Ha"
    If Greta Gerwig only danced down the street to David Bowie's "Modern Love," it would have been enough to make this list.
  • 4 Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy In "Before Midnight"
    Sony Pictures Classics
    The year's best film thus far includes two of the summer's finest performances, but let's just agree to throw all the awards at Julie Delpy for this one. She tears through Richard Linklater's trilogy capper with a ferociousness that becomes more nuanced with each subsequent viewing.
  • 5 Brit Marling In "The East"
    Fox Searchlight
    Those wondering why everyone keeps flipping out over indie queen Brit Marling would be wise to check out her taut work in "The East," one of the summer's most satisfying thrillers.
  • 6 Nick Offerman In "The Kings Of Summer"
    CBS Films
    One of the biggest disappointments of the last four months? That more people didn't check out "The Kings of Summer," a coming-of-age comedy that mixed "Superbad" with Terrence Malick and provided "Parks and Recreation" star Nick Offerman with an opportunity to cuss a lot. More movies like this, please.
  • 7 Amy Acker In "Much Ado About Nothing"
    Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing" was a hit-and-miss affair, but only a very dull fool would dare question the bona fides of Amy Acker's portrayal of Beatrice. In a just world, she would be one of Hollywood's biggest actresses.
  • 8 James Franco & Danny McBride In "This Is The End"
    No tripping here: James Franco and Danny McBride (as "James Franco" and "Danny McBride") are perfect in "This Is The End," to the point that their sustained argument about masturbation is only gravy. (Video is widely NSFW.)
  • 9 Emma Watson In "The Bling Ring"
    Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring" featured a transformative performance from Emma Watson, who succeeded in robbing the film out from under her less experienced co-stars.
  • 10 Henry Cavill In "Man Of Steel"
    Warner Bros.
    "Man of Steel" star Henry Cavill gave Superman something he hasn't had in a long time: a personality.
  • 11 Melissa McCarthy & Sandra Bullock In "The Heat"
    "The Heat" was just more proof that Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock might be the two best comedic actresses in Hollywood.
  • 12 Sam Rockwell In "The Way Way Back"
    Fox Searchlight
    How to make a typical Sundance coming-of-age comedy like "The Way Way Back" better than most typical Sundance coming-of-age comedies? Cast Sam Rockwell as Bill Murray in "Meatballs." A great bit if there ever was one.
  • 13 Michael B. Jordan & Melonie Diaz In "Fruitvale Station"
    The Weinstein Company
    This is shaping up to be one of the most crowded awards seasons in recent memory, but Oscar voters would be wise to remember Michael B. Jordan and Melonie Diaz for their heartbreaking work in "Fruitvale Station." Jordan has received the lion's share of praise for his performance, but don't sleep on Diaz. She's a revelation and the beating heart of the film's third act.
  • 14 Cate Blanchett In "Blue Jasmine"
    Sony Pictures Classics
    The entire supporting cast of "Blue Jasmine" is incredible (Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins and Andrew Dice Clay, in particular), but Cate Blanchett's lead performance is the stuff of Best Actress trophies. It's mesmerizing, difficult work.
  • 15 Alia Shawkat & Sarah Steele In "The To-Do List"
    CBS Films
    Aubrey Plaza is great and all, but if anyone wants to write a buddy comedy for Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele, please feel free.
  • 16 Miles Teller & Shailene Woodley In "The Spectacular Now"
    Just watch this clip and fall in love.
  • 17 Jennifer Aniston & Jason Sudeikis In "We're The Millers"
    Jason Sudeikis gave the second best Bill Murray performance of the summer in "We're the Millers," where he was matched sarcastic barb for sarcastic barb by Jennifer Aniston.
  • 18 Forest Whitaker & Oprah Winfrey In "Lee Daniels' The Butler"
    The Weinstein Company
    Everything they are is because of that butler; or, Whitaker and Winfrey should start laying out their outfits for Oscar night.
  • 19 Brie Larson In "Short Term 12"
    If the Best Actress category at the 2014 Oscars includes Gerwig, Delpy, Blanchett and Brie Larson, it would be a pretty great category. "Short Term 12" is a heart-on-its-sleeve film, and Larson is the film's heart. (Kudos here to John Gallagher Jr. as well.)
  • 20 The Cast Of "Drinking Buddies"
    Joe Swanberg's low-fi indie wound up being the best romantic comedy of the summer thanks to its winning cast. Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston are great in supporting roles, while Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson carry the film with charm for days. A movie people will watch on repeat when it hits Netflix early next year.

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