2019 was a strong year for women with a number of wonderful performances and several female-led films succeeding at the box office as well as critically. The fact that a number of great female performances aren’t on this list is a clear indication of the fantastic a year it was.
The following Top 5 list was compiled by Dylan Blight and Ashley Hobley.
2018 was a breakout year for Awkwafina with scene-stealing supporting roles in Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians. In The Farewell, Awkwafina is given the lead and proved to everyone that she is capable of far more than comedy relief.
In Lulu Wang’s semi-biographical film, Awkwafina plays Billi, a woman who is travelling home to see her cancer-diagnosed Grandmother (Zhao Shuzhen, who could easily be on this list) who doesn’t know about her condition. Awkwafina’s performance as someone struggling with being honest and the differences in culture was a delight to experience.
Awkwafina also brought the funny this year in Jumanji: The Next Level in which she plays the thief avatar Ming Fleetfoot.
– Ashley Hobley
After years of doing romantic comedies, judging American Idol and acting in middling genre fare, Jennifer Lopez reminded us all how good she can be in arguably her best performance to date, or at least since Out of Sight or her breakout role in Selena.
As the veteran stripper turned thief/scam artist Ramona Vega, Lopez is given the opportunity to play a character with a number of layers. The stripper who enjoys her power over men, the mother hen who takes Constance Wu’s Destiny and others underwing and the criminal willing to take her scheme to the limits. Lopez plays each aspect of Ramona perfectly and is so captivating on the screen that the audience can’t help but root for her despite all the terrible things she’s doing.
– Ashley Hobley
Florence Pugh showed up most in Lady Macbeth in 2016 and ever since then has quickly been on track to become one of the biggest actors around, a title that could quickly be cemented if her performance in next years Black Widow makes he a fan with more general movie audiences.
This year she appeared in Fighting with My Family as Saraya Knight, the real-life wrestler most know as Paige. But her biggest role was in Ari Asters’ follow up to Hereditary, the horror-drama Midsommar.
In Midsommar, Florence has a tough role as she’s playing a distraught, depressed and confused young lady who’s just flown half-way around the world with her shitty boyfriend to help deal with a hugely traumatic event she’s just been through.
It was definitely not an easy movie to shoot, as the character is never given a moment of reprieve from the anxiety and night-terror but Florence made it one of the most memorable of the year.
– Dylan Blight
In my very important opinion, Lupita Nyong’o is likely to be shunned by the Academy Awards despite one of the year’s best performances because it’s from a genre film. But that is their usual way.
In US from Get Out director Jordan Peele, Lupita plays two very different characters that share the same face. The first is Adelaide Wilson, a normal Mum on holiday; the second Red, a doppelganger that breaks into Adelaide’s house and starts terrorising her family with her supporting doppelgangers for each of Adelaide’s family members.
US is a lot more nuanced than all of that, but so is Lupita’s performance in a movie where she plays two very different roles. The most outwardly interesting being, of course, Red who is scary as she walks to a beat across every room with scissors in hands, but her performance as Adelaide is also really good and it was important for the film to work that both characters were realised as separate beings. Lupita Nyong’o succeeds and gives a standout performance.
– Dylan Blight
2019 saw Scarlett Johansson return to the role of Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow for the seventh time in Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing film of all time. Being one of the emotional pillars of that film would be good enough to get most people on this list but Scarlett Johansson also had a delightful performance in Taika Watiti’s Jojo Rabbit.
As Jojo’s secretly anti-Nazi mother Rosie, Johansson took the opportunity to showcase her wit and comedy skills and delivered them with much-needed heart.
As good as Scarlett Johansson is in those two films, it is her role in Marriage Story that will see her being talked about this awards season. As Nicole, a mother and actress seeking to find herself outside of her marriage to Adam Driver’s Charlie, Scarlett Johansson gives a heartfelt and honest performance. With Noah Baumbach’s wonderful dialogue, Scarlett Johansson gives one of the performances of her career with a number of memorable scenes with Adam Driver and Laura Dern.
– Ashley Hobley