Whenever aspiring actors go for auditions, the question circling their minds is what do they try to get inspiration from. Obviously, there are several acting moments in movies to take inspiration from, but sometimes under pressure it is difficult to remember those moments. Well, worry not! We are here to help you.
This century itself has witnessed some of the finest acting performances ever captured on celluloid. Great actors like Daniel Day-Lewis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts have shone on-screen, breaking our hearts, terrifying and unsettling us with performances that flaunt their brutal acting abilities. There have been many moments on-screen when an actor just snatches your breath, holds your nerve with a look in his eyes that go beyond the words of the script, channelizing raw emotions and letting us empathize with the character without judging them. The list I am going to present here is about the acting “moments” and not the performances as a whole. So without taking away much of your precious time let me bring you the list of top acting scenes that aspiring actors can learn from.
Read More: Best Movie Performances of the 21st Century
10. “Is that my daughter in there?”: Mystic River
A lot has been said about how undeserving Sean Penn was for his Oscar in this emotionally grueling role as a father who desperately seeks vengeance against the killer of his teenage daughter. I strongly disagree with any such arguments. Sean Penn was absolutely fantastic as Jimmy Markum, a man haunted by his criminal past and consumed by revenge for his daughter. Yes, he does tend to go slightly over-the-top at some places but don’t we all lose our emotional hold in some situations in our lives? This particular scene in the film where Penn’s character rushes towards the crime scene surrounded by cops, asking his old friend Dave If the body they found there was that of his daughter’s is undoubtedly among the finest pieces of acting we’ve had this century. Kevin Bacon deserves a special mention too for his incredibly subtle look and gestures in the scene.
9. “I Wish I knew How To Quit You”: Brokeback Mountain
One of the most powerful love stories ever told in cinema. Brokeback Mountain is a heartbreaking film about the love shared between two cowboys. Portraying men who are torn apart by their complex emotional and sexual relationship in an evil and judgmental society is no easy task. Both Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger deliver performances that would remain etched in our hearts forever. The scene where the lovers argue heatedly over their uncertain future and relationship only to come to the realization that they could never be taken apart is simply one of the most beautifully acted scenes we’ve seen in recent times.
8. “The Show Goes On”: The Wolf of Wall Street
The film that nearly won DiCaprio his first Oscar ever. Playing an utterly despicable, morally frivolous character, DiCaprio further consolidated his position in Hollywood as the actor who could take on the dark, troubled, insanely corrupt characters of Scorsese’s world that the great Robert De Niro fearlessly took on back in the 70s and 80s. “The Show Goes On” scene tells us a lot about Jordan Belfort’s character. This was a man who never gave up his spirits and was so in love with what he did and his people whose loyalty towards him is unquestioned. DiCaprio, with an awe-inspiring performance, makes this scene a real classic.
7. “Another Divorce”: The Devil Wears Prada
Well, there you go. It’s that woman again. Meryl Streep. An absolute masterclass. This is the scene where Streep’s icy cold Miranda Priestly displays a tiny moment of vulnerability. It is one priceless piece of acting as we see the real women underneath all that exterior facade that has helped her thrive in a ruthlessly competitive industry.
6. “The Coin Toss”: No Country For Old Men
The unmatched brilliance of this scene has a lot to do with the genius of The Coen Brothers and the phenomenal acting skills of Javier Bardem. With a single glance, Bardem’s Anton Chigurh sends shockwaves and terror inside us as we are virtually put in the same place as that of the old gas station owner. A truly remarkable piece of acting.
5. “No Blinking”: The Master
Like Scorsese and Coppola, Paul Thomas Anderson knows what to get from his actors and more often than not, pushes them to the darkest extremes. ‘The Master’ was an acting riot between two of the finest actors of our times, Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Like a beautifully orchestrated jam session between two highly skilled classical musicians, this scene plays out like a soaring melody. Joaquin Phoenix is unforgettable here as he gathers his broken memories and emotions from the past through a psychological exercise. One of the most powerful acting showcases of this century.
4. “I Saw You Erica”: Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett. Is there anything that this woman can’t do? It’s Blanchett’s mind numbing performance of a woman slipping into a complete mental breakdown that elevates this Woody Allen film to another level. Blanchett makes us empathize with a character who lives in a perpetual state of denial and is disillusioned about her past and her own identity. My meagre words would only take away the sheer beauty and intensity of this moment. Watch out!
3. “I Did Everything I Could”: Capote
Beautiful, Poignant and Heart-wrenching. This inexplicably intense scene is a masterful display of the miraculous acting prowess of the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman sinks deep into Truman’s soul with his fussy mannerisms and tender voice. As I write this I just realized that today marks the actor’s 3rd death anniversary. What a tragic loss for the world of cinema. What a truly amazing actor.
2. “Betty’s Audition”: Mulholland Drive
Naomi Watts said in an interview that she never had to give any audition after ‘Mulholland Drive’. Well, I guess, every director she worked with after might not have felt the need to after watching her phenomenal, once in decades, performance in ‘Mulholland Drive’. And this scene, in particular, is a testament to what variety and range Watts can bring to a role. Watch closely, and you will see a chameleon-like quality in her; at one moment she is sweet and innocent, and at the very next she turns evil. Very few actors have such talent. Even fewer have such versatility.
1. “I Hate Most People”: There Will Be Blood
Well, I could probably write a whole article on this scene. The moment captured is absolute gold as Daniel Plainview shows us his inner world, lets us close in on his thoughts but in a matter of seconds, shuts us off from his realm of utter hatred and disdain for humanity. In an incredible display of subtlety and finesse, Daniel Day Lewis takes complete control of the entire scene. The way he drinks and talks about his feelings towards people and life leaves you spellbound. A lot of people talk about the final “milkshake” scene as the best moment in the film but to me, this is the scene which captures the essence of the film and undoubtedly the single best acting moment of this century.
Read More: Best Acting Performances of the 21st Century