Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy
Action movie acting is almost always overlooked by the academy. But all worthwhile blockbusters need a solid center. In Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt pulls off a difficult balancing act. The film’s tone tightrope walks between action and comedy and if Pratt can’t convincingly handle both aspects, the film falls apart. You have to believe he’s goofy enough for the funny scenes to work, but you also have to take him seriously enough to be thrilled by the action scenes. From start to finish, Pratt hits it out of the park. His “losers” speech at the film’s climax is genuinely affecting.
Dan Stevens, The Guest
Some actors are good at playing one type of role, but lack the range to handle a variety of parts. In Downton Abbey, Dan Stevens excelled at playing nice guy Matthew Crawley. But his character in The Guest could not be more different, and he’s terrific in both. As a mysterious house-guest who shows up at a family’s doorstep claiming to be an army buddy of their son who died in Iraq, Stevens finds a perfect balance of charm and menace. Something seems off about him, but he’s so cool and charming you find yourself hoping he’s really not a bad guy. The film itself stumbles a bit in its final act when it reveals who he is and what he’s doing, removing the mystery from the character. But Stevens is riveting throughout.