- 2020 hasn’t been great, but at least some fantastic performances have been able to distract us at times.
- From Delroy Lindo in “Da 5 Bloods” to Elisabeth Moss in “The Invisible Man,” we highlighted 12 unforgettable characters in movies so far this year.
- And go all the way to the end to see who are the best documentary characters from this year.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Though 2020 has been an awful year, if there’s any positive takeaway it’s that when we’ve desperately needed some distraction, movies have been there to entertain us.
And in those movies, we’ve encountered some fantastic characters that have made us laugh, cry, or just completely wowed us.
There’s the fantastic performance from Elisabeth Moss in “The Invisible Man,” the chilling acting of Delory Lindo in “Da 5 Bloods,” and Chris Messina’s scene-stealing in “Birds of Prey.” But there are definitely more to highlight.
Here are 12 of the most unforgettable characters from movies in 2020 (so far):
Al Capone (Tom Hardy) in “Capone”
One of the wildest performances of the year has to go to Tom Hardy playing the notorious gangster, Al Capone. In Josh Trank’s trippy movie, Capone is in the autumn years of his life, sweating away in Florida slipping in and out of memories from his violent past.
Hardy, with a gurgly voice and big scar on his face, goes all-in on the performance (as he usually does). Whether it’s being soaked in blood and crawling over dead bodies or pooping himself multiple times, he’s totally game and that’s a big reason why it’s hard to forget his portrayal of Capone after seeing the movie.
Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) in “The Invisible Man”
Like Hardy, Moss also loves to take it to the limit and that’s a major highlight of this thriller. I mean, she basically has to punch, kick, and scream at nothing throughout the movie to make it believable that she’s being tormented by someone who is invisible.
That mixed with the psychological weight we feel for her character, who is in an abusive relationship, just sucks us into the plight of Cecilia’s journey.
Crystal (Betty Gilpin) in “The Hunt”
This movie certainly isn’t for everyone. Its ultraviolence and wacky plot are designed to enrage you. But what keeps you fascinated is the performance by Betty Gilpin, whose Crystal is smarter and tougher than anyone else. Though, like the rest of us, she has no clue why she’s in this predicament of being hunted for sport.
But as the movie goes on it’s Gilpin’s perfect delivery of jokes that heightens the movie. And the scene where she reveals some vulnerability while talking to a guy before killing him shows off Gilpin’s incredible talent.
Grace (Riley Keough) in “The Lodge”
Yes, we have highlighted some troubled characters so far, but none can compare to what Grace goes through in “The Lodge.”
Hoping to become friendly with the children she’ll soon be the stepmother of, the idea of spending some quality time out in a secluded lodge turned out to be the wrong move. For everyone.
Riley Keough uses her usual soft-spoken style to perfection in building up the progression of her character slipping into madness.
Hunter Conrad (Haley Bennett) in “Swallow”
OK, Hunter is a close second to Grace.
In this fantastic thriller, Haley Bennett plays Hunter, a newlywed who finds herself so isolated and worthless in her new life that she begins to swallow small inedible objects. Things then spiral out of control from there leading to a wild conclusion.
But it’s Bennett’s talents that make us have empathy for Hunter and we end up rooting for her throughout her troubled journey of self-discovery.
Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) in “Bad Boys for Life”
Let’s be honest, “Bad Boys for Life” could have really gone off the rails if it wasn’t for the great performance by Kate del Castillo as the mysterious woman from Mike’s (Will Smith) past who dabbles in witchcraft.
Her intensity in the role makes the off-the-wall third act work. Sure, we went to the movies to see Will Smith and Martin Lawrence team up again on-screen, but it wouldn’t be the year’s biggest box office hit (so far) if there also wasn’t a character like Isabel that they were up against.
Jane (Julia Garner) in “The Assistant”
In Kitty Green’s powerful movie Julia Garner delivers one of the most memorable performances of the year playing Jane, the assistant of a never-seen movie executive who clearly is having his way with young women behind closed doors. We watch as Jane has to navigate her conscience with the career-soaring dreams she has for herself.
Garner’s subdued performance is pitch-perfect for a movie set in a Lower Manhattan production office where everyone inside it knows what’s going on but all turn a blind eye.
Paul (Delroy Lindo) in “Da 5 Bloods”
I have already made my case for why Lindo’s performance is Oscar-worthy in “Da 5 Bloods.” But happy to write a little more about how great he is.
The performance of Paul in the movie is a masterclass in acting as Lindo fuels the role with intensity and anger that just floors you every time you watch it. And then there’s the end of the movie, where he addresses the camera directly that just never gets old to watch.
Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) in “The King of Staten Island”
Who would have thought that one of the most heartfelt performances of the year would come from Peter Davidson?
But the “SNL” star brings it in this emotional role that loosely is taken from his own life. Right from the opening shot of the movie you are taken aback by Davidson as he shuts his eyes and floors it down the highway, almost getting into an accident. Didn’t expect that from a Judd Apatow movie! And as the story goes on, Davidson’s tenderness and self-deprecation continue to be surprising and refreshing.
Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg) in “Shirley”
Though Elisabeth Moss shines in playing author Shirley Jackson it’s the performance by Michael Stuhlbarg as her husband Stanley Hyman that is the glue of the movie.
Stuhlbarg is his usual fantastic self as he steals every scene he’s in, playing the self-centered and manipulative Hyman. The movie shines whenever Stuhlbarg and Moss are on the screen at the same time.
Stetler (Kevin Bacon) in “You Should Have Left”
One of the highlights in the Blumhouse thriller “You Should Have Left” is the Stetler character.
Known throughout the movie as the caretaker of the spooky house Theo (Kevin Bacon) and his family are renting, Stetler elevates the tension whenever he shows up on-screen.
And then by the end, there’s the big reveal that it’s Bacon who is playing the character. Fantastic. (And it seems he had a lot of fun playing the sleight-of-hand role.)
Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) in “Birds of Prey”
It always elevates a superhero movie when there’s a strong villain, and Chris Messina definitely pulled that off playing the sadistic Victor Zsasz in “Birds of Prey.”
Ewan McGregor has his moments in the movie as Black Mask, but it’s Messina as Zsasz who really steals the movie. With his cut-up face and that wicked stare, the guy who is known best for playing grounded and likable characters swings for the fences here and it completely works.
Honorable Mention: The best non-fiction characters
We cannot leave out some of the best documentary subjects that have blessed us this year:
FBI special agent Doug Mathews (“McMillions”) should seriously have a show of his own; he’s such a character. The story he tells of him showing up to an FBI briefing wearing a gold suit is unbelievable.
Joe Exotic (“Tiger King”) entertained the heck out of us when we needed it the most during the pandemic and now we’ll see how Hollywood will tell his story going forward. Even Nicolas Cage has agreed to play him.
Michael Jordan (“The Last Dance”) solidified his greatness not just as a basketball player, but as a meme generator in the incredible ESPN docuseries.
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