Much of the year’s best acting took place in movies that might have slipped beneath your radar. For a full range of 2016’s best, hunt down these worthwhile titles.
Josh Hamilton, “Take Me to the River”
Both menacing and darkly hilarious, Hamilton’s character, like the film itself, keeps us off-kilter from start to finish.
Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith, “Yoga Hosers”
If you can get past the goofiness of Kevin Smith’s latest (Nazi braunschweigers?), the sparkling chemistry between the film’s stars (whose famous dads appear on screen as well) was a comedic highlight.
Devin Druid, “Louder Than Bombs“
Director Joachim Trier scored some heavy hitters for his English-language debut — including Isabelle Huppert and Jesse Eisenberg — but the standout was Druid, as a troubled teen still processing his mother’s death.
Parker Sawyer and Tika Sumpter, “Southside With You”
Playing the future POTUS and FLOTUS on their first date, Sawyers and Sumpter radiated intelligence and passion — and gave the best walk-and-talk this side of a Linklater movie.
Madina Nalwanga, “Queen of Katwe”
A native Ugandan cast after a massive search, Nalwanga’s turn as a real-life chess prodigy anchors one of the year’s best (and least appreciated) feel-good films.
Sarah Paulson, “Blue Jay”
After blowing us away on “The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” Paulson scored again with a mostly improvised role opposite Mark Duplass as a woman reconnecting with an old love.
Sonia Braga, “Aquarius”
Forty years after her international breakthrough, the Brazilian screen icon reminded us she’s still one of the screen’s most formidable actresses, as she battles developers to save her beach-side flat.
Lily Gladstone, “Certain Women”
You can barely catch this screen newcomer acting, making her turn as a lovesick ranch hand all the more palpably poignant.
Samantha Robinson, “The Love Witch”
In a film meticulously designed to pay homage to the luridly sexy horror movies of the 1970s, Robinson’s turn felt as perfectly, pin-pointedly retro as the sets and costumes.
Tom Bennett, “Love & Friendship”
The Brits have enjoyed Bennett’s comic stylings for years, but thanks to his brilliantly daffy turn in this Jane Austen adaptation (and a rather different role in “Mascots”), the U.S. can appreciate him as well.
Alden Ehrenreich, “Hail, Caesar!” and “Rules Don’t Apply”
In two separate comedies, a 1950s Hollywood backdrop gave this up-and-comer the chance to be funny, charming and romantic, affirming his selection to play young Han Solo.
Joe Seo – “Spa Night”
Playing a repressed young gay man in Andrew Ahn’s powerhouse debut, Seo communicates volumes of pain and desire with a minimum of dialogue
Royalty Hightower, “The Fits”
It’s no mean feat to carry a film as a tween, but Hightower’s work as a boxer-turned-dancer in this description-defying indie marks great things to come.
Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon, “Other People”
As a blocked comedy writer and his cancer-stricken mom, Plemons and Shannon steered clear of cliché, making us laugh while breaking our hearts.
Andre Royo, “Hunter Gatherer”
The “Empire” co-star sunk his teeth into this wonderfully complex role, making a shady and downright unlikable character utterly riveting to watch.
Lily Rabe, “Miss Stevens”
Even if Rabe’s gorgeous, vulnerable and deeply human turn as a high-school teacher flew under the awards radar, it should put her on the top of every casting director’s wish list.