10. Ethan Hawke as Jesse Wallace - Before Midnight
It seems like Ethan Hawke has matured in terms of acting just like how Jesse Wallace matured in Before Midnight. From Before Sunrise to Before Midnight, we witnessed the changes in his characters but it's in the third installment Hawke shined the most. I always find Julie Delpy a little ahead of him in terms of stealing the scenes but in Midnight, they're pretty much head to head. Ethan Hawke in the hotel scene was amazing. Delpy could easily steal that scene because of her boobs flashing in the camera for some time but Ethan Hawke managed to do his own thing and it was fantastic.
9. Bruce Dern as Woody Grant - Nebraska
Bruce Dern didn't do much talking in Nebraska but his facial expressions are the real reason why he's no. 9 in my Lead Actors ranking (with a straight face). He depicted the frustration, agitation and many other emotions of Woody Grant so perfectly well and we understand him more because of it. That's hard to achieve but Dern, probably with the help of his age, portrayed Woody Grant flawlessly.
8. Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover - Prisoners
Yes, he can be too much most of the time in Prisoners but no kidding, he put me on the edge of my seat and made my heart beat fast for his aggressive take of a desperate father looking for his lost daughter. I often use intense in sentences but Hugh Jackman is the real epitome of INTENSE. He's also one of the actors that surpassed their performance from their previous Acadamy nominated one.
7. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup - 12 Years a Slave
Solomon Northup was a free man who was kidnapped by traders and was enslaved for 12 years. Based on what I saw in 12YAS, I think Ejiofor took note of that when he was acting as him. His performance reeks of intelligence, control and power. His close up shots showing his teary eyes and frowned face depicts the hard life as a slave. Ejifor stayed true to his character throughout the film. For the most part reserved but it's by the end when he showed what a great actor he is.
6. Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis - Inside Llewyn Davis
His performance as Llewyn Davis reminds me of Natalie Portman in Black Swan where their acting talent is incorporated with another skill. Isaac is to singing and Portman is to dancing. What's impressive is that their skill is above average, in fact, really superb. Oscar Isaac proved to be a lead actor and I think we'll be seeing more of him in the future.
5. Michael Cera as Jamie - Crystal Fairy
In a film where the plot is kind of slight, Michael Cera managed to show lots of layers in his performance. From being extremely annoying to being lovable. He showed one of the most natural acting I've seen in 2013 films and I think his performance was overlooked by many because he's Michael Cera. I wish he'd accept more realistic films because he excels in them.
4. Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda - Rush
It's really unfortunate that he was labeled as a Supporting Actor in Rush when he's easily one of the main focus of the film and he's a competent lead for that matter. Daniel Brühl showed that he can be a method actor by mimicking not only the accent of the real Niki Lauda, but also his mannerisms. He also made an unlikable character likable and only few actors can do that. We need to see more of him in the future because he's a legit talent.
3. Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort - The Wolf of Wall Street
I rarely find him effective in portraying serious roles because he's not good at being natural and when he does, it's only in some parts of his overall performance. But in The Wolf of Wall Street, I think everything that he did was apt to his character and to Scorsese's vision of the character and the film. He's extraordinary in Wolf and a big good luck to him for the Oscars.
2. Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips - Captain Phillips
We all know how good Tom Hanks as an actor based on his filmography but it's been so long that we've seen him in a role where his amazing acting chops were showcased well. Thanks to Captain Phillips! In the film, he gave an out of this world performance. The last 30 minutes of the film, we see Tom Hanks in his prime. It's hard to tell because he's shown a lot of great acting in the past but his performance in Captain Phillips is up there as one of his bests.
1. Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof - Dallas Buyers Club
After being snubbed the past few years, at last he's being recognized and in a really huge way. We are living in the Age of McConnaisance as they say and it continues this year with raving reviews about True Detective and the upcoming Nolan film, Interstellar and Gus Van Sant's Sea of Trees. Anyway, I was floored by his performance in Dallas Buyers Club. Even without pointing out his weight loss, his transformation is tremendous as an AIDS patient (and smuggler), Ron Woodroof. The scene where he's driving while crying because he has finally come to terms about his dying condition was insanely good and easily my favorite part of the film. McConaughey and Leto's extraordinary performances carried what could have been an ordinary film. From being a romcom heartthrob, apparently he's gone a long way. He's now known as one of the best actors of his generation.