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Steven Spielberg is known for a number of unmistakable directorial trademarks. Audiences and critics associate his artistic voice with parental strife, closeups of awestruck wonder, dramatic blocking, elaborate camera movements, and populist sentimentality.
Despite worldwide acclaim and box office success, however, Spielberg often doesn't get enough credit for one of his greatest strengths: eliciting charismatic performances from the actors in his films. Every one of his movies features at least one unforgettable performance, be it from a star in the leading role, a character actor delivering extraordinary supporting work, or a newcomer proving their talents for the first time. As we celebrate the release of his latest — and most personal — film The Fabelmans, EW looks back at the best performances in every Steven Spielberg movie leading up to it.
<i>Duel</i> (1971) — Dennis Weaver
Spielberg's breakout film — originally shot for and released on television, then expanded for a theatrical run — pits an ordinary man (Dennis Weaver) against a malicious truck driver who wants to run him off the road. It's essentially a 90-minute chase sequence with only brief respites from the action, and Weaver is almost always alone on screen, as we never see the truck driver's face.
The actor's everyman qualities make him easy to root for — his sweaty, shaky paranoia makes his dangerous predicament feel like every driver's worst anxieties coming true. And though he spends most of the film in silence, he manages to make talking to himself seem both natural and appropriate.
If you liked Dennis Weaver in Duel, you might also enjoy him in: Touch of Evil (1958)
<i>The Sugarland Express</i> (1974) — Goldie Hawn
When her son is placed in the foster system, a desperate mother (Goldie Hawn) goes on the run to find him, breaking her husband out of prison and taking a police officer hostage in the process.
Hawn gives the most classically New Hollywood-ish performance in Spielberg's filmography — a morally gray, complex figure who's prickly, confused, emotionally intense, but ultimately sympathetic because her struggle is so acute. She embodies desperation so thoroughly that even her most chaotic actions make a certain amount of sense.
If you liked Goldie Hawn in The Sugarland Express, you might also enjoy her in: Death Becomes Her (1992)
<i>Jaws</i> (1975) — Richard Dreyfuss
The original summer blockbuster contains a trio of wonderful performances at its core — Roy Scheider is fittingly flustered yet steady as Chief Brody, and Robert Shaw is transfixingly gruff as Quint — but Richard Dreyfuss is the most impressive in Jaws' trickiest role. As shark expert Matt Hooper, the actor enhances the tension by scientifically contextualizing the level of danger that Amity Island faces, yet his sense of authority reassures the audience that we're in good hands.
Since he's not as strapping as Scheider or as experienced as Shaw, he effectively functions as the audience's surrogate during the film's action sequences, as his presence adds a layer of vulnerability that his co-stars don't provide. And his fast-paced humor provides momentary relief from the mounting tension without fully disrupting it.
If you liked Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws, you might also enjoy him in: American Graffiti (1973)
<i>Close Encounters of the Third Kind</i> (1977) — Melinda Dillon
In the first of Spielberg's many acclaimed sci-fi projects, Jillian (Melinda Dillon) serves as a secondary protagonist, providing a much-needed counterbalance to Richard Dreyfuss's Roy. While Roy leaves his wife and kids to pursue a higher purpose, Jillian's entire motivation is family-oriented: her son is abducted by otherworldly visitors, so she risks her life to bring him back.
Dillon gives off a natural sense of selflessness and care that's vital for her character's protective nature, which prevents the film from seeming overly bleak in the wake of Roy's abandonment. She's especially brilliant in the abduction sequence, where she plays her overwhelmed confusion with a quiet timidity before eventually escalating into full-blown panic.
<i>1941</i> (1979) — Nancy Allen
Despite a star-studded cast and a script from Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, Spielberg's first attempt at comedy is a massive misfire. The film is overstuffed with half-baked ideas that don't fit together, trying and failing to mix biting social commentary with broad, anarchic humor.
One of the few highlights, however, is Allen, who plays a young secretary who's aroused by airplanes. Her enthusiastically flirtatious performance is so over-the-top and ridiculous that it clarifies one of the film's few coherent satirical statements: Americans are so enthralled by warfare that their obsession is close to a literal fetish. And, more importantly, her high-flying antics are genuinely funny.
If you liked Nancy Allen in 1941, you might also enjoy her in: Dressed to Kill (1980)
<i>Raiders of the Lost Ark</i> (1981) — Karen Allen
The first three Indiana Jones films tried to emulate the James Bond formula by giving Indy a new love interest in every movie, but it set audiences up for disappointment by striking gold in the first installment, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
As Marion Ravenwood, Karen Allen often usurps the spotlight from Harrison Ford. She's just as clever and physically commanding as her co-star, but expresses a much wider range of emotion — she's convincingly fearful in the film's scariest moments and justifiably angry at her character's mistreatment, but also seems charmingly personable and laid-back in the movie's calmer stretches.
Her fiery screwball banter and effortless chemistry with Ford makes for the most organic, invigorating romance in Spielberg's entire filmography.
If you liked Karen Allen in Raiders of the Lost Ark, you might also enjoy her in: Starman (1984)
<i>E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial</i> (1982) — Henry Thomas
Spielberg has a particular penchant for eliciting strong, emotional performances from child actors playing characters in extraordinary circumstances (see also: Empire of the Sun, A.I.). His first kid-led movie features one of the most memorable and affecting child performances in American pop cinema: Henry Thomas as Elliott, the young boy who adopts E.T. and helps him return home.
It's immediately clear that Elliott is carrying something heavy behind Thomas' bright blue eyes; we later learn that his father has recently abandoned the family. The actor portrays Elliott with a haunted, lonely quality that quickly identifies the audience with his character, and makes his eventual joy at E.T.'s arrival all the more heartwarming. Thomas doesn't feel like an actor rehearsing lines so much as an actual kid whose real reactions are being captured on film. It's an impressively natural performance that grounds a fantastical story in genuine emotion.
If you liked Henry Thomas in E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, you might also enjoy him in: The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
<i>Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom</i> (1984) — Ke Huy Quan
In hindsight, Temple of Doom makes for a pretty unpleasant viewing experience. It's stuffed to the brim with offensive cultural depictions, is punctuated with shrill sound effects, and spends a sizable portion of its run time literally torturing its characters (and, by extension, its audience).
However, Indy's lovable kid sidekick Short Round (Quan) is one of the film's few sources of levity and charm. Quan's high-energy performance feels like it's been plucked out of a better, more fun movie, slinging silly jokes with zest and nimbly dodging his way through the film's thrilling action sequences.
If you liked Ke Huy Quan in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, you might also enjoy him in: Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)
<i>The Color Purple</i> (1985) — Oprah Winfrey
Spielberg wasn't the best fit to adapt Alice Walker's seminal historical novel The Color Purple but he filled the cast with excellent actors who delivered strong work across the board, including Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Margaret Avery, and Desreta Jackson. However, given her magnanimous public persona, the film's most surprisingly transformative performance comes from Oprah Winfrey in her film debut.
She begins as a cold, hardened matriarch who's unpleasant to everyone around her but maintains a respectable strength nonetheless. Later, Winfrey's nearly unrecognizable when her character becomes quiet and emotionally fragile after enduring decades of abuse. She is equally convincing and heartbreaking at both of the character's extremes before moving to a more peaceful middle ground at the film's conclusion.
If you liked Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple, you might also enjoy her in: Selma (2014)
<i>Empire of the Sun</i> (1987) — Christian Bale
This wartime coming-of-age story views World War II from the perspective of a young English boy (Christian Bale) in a smoldering Shanghai. The actor doesn't shy away from his character's more irritating qualities, ensuring that he's believably stuck-up and self-interested before the war strips him of comfort and social status. But you feel for him despite his annoying tendencies because it's clear that he's just a frightened, lonely kid who doesn't know what to do.
After a significant time jump, Bale sells the character's transition into a harder-edged, self-sufficient young man who can't regain the innocence he lost with his parents. And all the while, he maintains a pure, complex fascination with airplanes — awestruck by the majesty of their designs and capabilities despite experiencing their destructive power firsthand.
If you liked Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun, you might also enjoy him in: Rescue Dawn (2006)
<i>Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade</i> (1989) — Sean Connery
Indiana Jones' third outing pairs the adventurer with a new partner: his father. Spielberg and franchise co-creator George Lucas held that nobody could have played Indy's dad but James Bond — after all, the series was their attempt to one-up the 007 films — and Sean Connery carries elements of the character's spirit into Henry Jones Sr.
In many ways, the elder Jones reveals how terrible someone with Bond's temperament would be as a parent, as Connery plays him with utter disinterest in his son that seems to stem from snobbery and selfishness. Yet he's also the polar opposite of 007: he's a huge dork with genuine enthusiasm for banal academia who possesses very little in the way of street smarts.
If you liked Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you might also enjoy him in: The Untouchables (1987)
<i>Always</i> (1989) — Holly Hunter
Spielberg's bizarre remake of 1943's A Guy Named Joe has a plethora of problems, but none of them have to do with Holly Hunter's performance. The fantasy-romance follows a selfish firefighter pilot (Richard Dreyfuss) who dies, becomes a ghost, and watches his girlfriend fall in love with another man.
Dreyfuss isn't a likable enough presence in the film to make us feel much when he meets his untimely demise, but Hunter acts so believably heartbroken and miserable that you mourn him on her behalf. The film asks its lead actress to create romantic chemistry with both Dreyfuss and Brad Johnson (not an easy task!), and she delivers in spades. Though the script doesn't leave her with much to work with, she makes the most of the material.
If you liked Holly Hunter in Always, you might also enjoy her in: Broadcast News (1987)
<i>Hook</i> (1991) — Bob Hoskins
In Spielberg's bloated Peter Pan adventure Hook, Robin Williams is solid as a grown-up Peter, and Dustin Hoffman is unrecognizable as his one-handed pirate nemesis. But Hoskins' Smee is Hook's most inspired performance, bringing some of the only comic relief to a film that desperately needs more of it. Smee is not a particularly verbose character, so the actor relishes the opportunity to craft a fully realized supporting performance out of body language.
With a constant grin and a dancer-like pep in his step, Hoskins makes Smee seem utterly content with his lot in life. He's too enamored with whatever's on his mind — or the food he's shoveling into his face — to recognize the constant belittlement by his boss. He's laughably loyal and unbothered.
If you liked Bob Hoskins in Hook, you might also enjoy him in: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
<i>Jurassic Park</i> (1993) — Sam Neill
Jurassic Park prioritizes thrills over human drama, which is why many of the characters feel a little thinly sketched compared to other Spielberg ventures. That's not the case for Sam Neill's Alan Grant, however — he's the only character in the script who enjoys a full arc, transforming from his former self to someone a little more friendly.
Neill makes Grant's dominant personality trait a constant irritation — with his romantic rival (Jeff Goldblum), with ignorant businessmen (Richard Attenborough), and, most importantly, with children (Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards). He begins the film with total disdain for youths — the happiest he ever seems is when he's gleefully terrifying a young kid visiting his dig site. But when the park goes awry, his paternal instincts reluctantly and involuntarily kick in as he becomes the de facto protector of his young companions, eventually harboring a slight affection for them that Neill wisely doesn't overplay.
If you liked Sam Neill in Jurassic Park, you might also enjoy him in: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
<i>Schindler's List</i> (1993)— Ben Kingsley
Spielberg's harrowing Holocaust drama Schindler's List is full of incredible performances, from Liam Neeson's conflicted Oskar Schindler to Ralph Fiennes' terrifying Amon Göth. It's Ben Kingsley, however, who delivers the film's most complex work as Itzhak Stern.
While Schindler is a privileged businessman and Göth holds immense power, Stern is the film's most prominent Jewish character, fighting for justice with quiet dignity and resolve. Kingsley portrays him with a staggering balance of haunted weariness and fierce determination — constantly weighed down by the atrocity of the circumstances and resigned to the tragedy his people face, but also persistent in his attempts to lessen the devastation.
If you liked Ben Kingsley in Schindler's List, you might also enjoy him in: Hugo (2011)
<i>The Lost World: Jurassic Park</i> (1997) — Pete Postlethwaite
The follow-up to Jurassic Park boasts even thinner characters than the original film, which means there isn't an abundance of great performances despite the actors' best efforts. Pete Postlethwaite is the only actor who rises above the flimsy material, playing a big game hunter with the intensity of a four-star general.
Everything he does is in pursuit of eventually hunting a tyrannosaurus rex, and his radical commitment to his cause makes him totally disengaged with his fellow humans. He barks orders at his subordinates like they're dogs, but speaks with such confidence and precision that his authority seems unquestionable.
If you liked Pete Postlethwaite in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, you might also enjoy him in: Romeo + Juliet (1996)
<i>Amistad</i> (1997) — Djimon Hounsou
Spielberg was not the right director to make a sweeping historical epic about the horrors of slavery, as he focuses far too much of the film's attention on the white lawyers and allies who try to win freedom for the enslaved passengers of the Amistad.
But Djimon Hounsou's performance as Cinque is complex, empathetic, and steady, making you wish he was part of a better movie that prioritizes his perspective. His face and movement are highly expressive, communicating confusion, panic, anger, and fear behind a constant veneer of resolve.
If you liked Djimon Hounsou in Amistad, you might also enjoy him in: Blood Diamond (2006)
<i>Saving Private Ryan</i> (1998) — Jeremy Davies
The seminal World War II drama Saving Private Ryan features an unbelievable lineup of future stars and excellent young character actors, including Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Vin Diesel, Paul Giamatti, Bryan Cranston, Nathan Fillion, Giovanni Ribisi, and countless others. The most endearing among them, though, is Jeremy Davies, who plays Corporal Timothy Upharn, the most anxious of the film's ragtag crew.
Davies' wiry frame, soft vocal delivery, and constant look of concern firmly oppose any romanticized vision of war. His presence in the film clarifies that militaries weren't just enlisting the services of strapping badasses who look like movie stars — they sent young, insecure kids to go kill each other on the front lines before they had the chance to find out who they really were. His performance is warm, eccentric, and heartbreaking, highlighting the vulnerability and fear that so many endure during wartime.
If you liked Jeremy Davies in Saving Private Ryan, you might also enjoy him in: Lost (2004-2010)
<i>A.I. Artificial Intelligence</i> (2001) — Haley Joel Osment
After his breakout performance in The Sixth Sense, Haley Joel Osment played a robot child programmed to love unconditionally in Spielberg's sci-fi drama. His performance is one of the most troubling depictions of artificial intelligence in American cinema: an unblinking, un-aging shell of a child with the appearance of emotions, but no interiority to ground his "feelings" in reality or experience.
Osment nails the upsetting nature of the uncanny valley — so visually and behaviorally close to real humanity that he almost fools you into thinking he's a real boy, which makes his slight deviations from the norm all the more disturbing. Yet his fear and desperation for love seem so genuine that you pity him despite his lack of humanity. He's hard to watch, but also makes it hard to look away.
If you liked Haley Joel Osment in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, you might also enjoy him in: The Sixth Sense (1999)
<i>Minority Report</i> (2002) — Samantha Morton
In this adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story, Tom Cruise plays a detective who stops murders before they occur thanks to the unwitting help of Agatha (Samantha Morton), a woman who can see the future and is kept sedated in a trancelike state at Washington, D.C.'s police headquarters. Extenuating circumstances force Cruise's character to take Agatha hostage, which gives Morton the opportunity to give a mesmerizingly frightening supporting performance.
Agatha stumbles around the outside world for the first time in years, delivering every line in either a whisper or a shriek. Morton seems so disoriented that you never doubt that she's been floating in a sensory deprivation chamber for decades. She exudes a sense of otherworldly wisdom and existential terror — you fully believe that she can see the future, and understand that what she's witnessed is mortifying.
If you liked Samantha Morton in Minority Report, you might also enjoy her in: Synecdoche, New York (2008)
<i>Catch Me If You Can</i> (2002) — Christopher Walken
In the wake of his parents' divorce, young con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) makes counterfeit checks, runs from the FBI, and impersonates an airline pilot, an emergency room doctor, and a lawyer. Christopher Walken plays Abagnale's father, who, like his son, is living a lie.
He's a failed businessman seduced by the false promise of the American dream, struggling to hold together the appearance of a confident man when he's almost run out of confidence. Walken plays the elder Abagnale with profound melancholy lurking beneath the surface, clearly weary from one too many failed ventures but unable to fully own his mistakes in the presence of his son.
<i>The Terminal</i> (2004) — Stanley Tucci
Spielberg's off-kilter comedy The Terminal is stuffed to the brim with thinly-sketched caricatures that aren't funny enough to justify their cartoonish flatness. Least egregious among them is the Acting Field Commissioner of the airport, played by Stanley Tucci in the movie's only performance that remotely resembles an actual human being.
While his motivations are often inconsistent, Tucci plays his character with the same condescending frustration that make his performances in films like The Devil Wears Prada and Spotlight so fun to watch. His sassiness and selfishness balance out with the actor's natural charisma to create an annoying character at the end of his rope — compelling without being particularly likable.
If you liked Stanley Tucci in The Terminal, you might also enjoy him in: Spotlight (2015)
<i>War of the Worlds</i> (2005) — Dakota Fanning
Spielberg's thrilling sci-fi disaster War of the Worlds depicts ground zero of an alien invasion from the perspective of a working-class dad (Tom Cruise) and his estranged kids. Dakota Fanning expertly plays Cruise's young daughter, imbuing her with an unusual maturity and poise for someone her age that clarifies how much she's had to look after herself amid her parents' separation.
This maturity sharply contrasts with Fanning's character's involuntary panic in the film's scarier moments — she reacts with shrieks and whimpering as any kid would in the same situation, but it feels much more jarring since her helplessness isn't usually so apparent. Fanning crafts a complex, unpredictable character by combining adult qualities with childish anxiety and fear.
If you liked Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds, you might also enjoy her in: Push (2009)
<i>Munich</i> (2005) — Geoffrey Rush
Munich, which follows the covert Israeli response to the Black September killings at the 1972 Munich Olympics, features numerous excellent performances by seasoned character actors, including Eric Bana, Ciarán Hinds, Daniel Craig, and Michael Lonsdale. The most intimidating among them is Geoffrey Rush, who plays Ephraim, a handler with ties to Mossad who helps set up the retaliation mission.
He only has a few short scenes, but Rush's performance is so chilling that you feel his presence whenever he's not on screen. His lack of nuance enriches the character, representing Israel's undiscerning bloodlust in the wake of the killings, with no sense of remorse or doubt in the country's merciless response. Ephraim is cold, calculated, and totally calm as he orders political executions in a hushed tone, flattening human life into a bureaucratic chore.
If you liked Geoffrey Rush in Munich, you might also enjoy him in: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
<i>Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull</i> (2008) — Harrison Ford
Part of Harrison Ford's movie star appeal is that he makes his blockbuster characters seem a little too cool for the material — Han Solo is a smartass who's dismissive of the Force and the Rebellion, and Indiana Jones has no patience for drawn-out duels or superstitious hocus-pocus. It's a refreshing change of pace, then, to see the actor so enthusiastic about this particular iconic role, even in an overall disappointing entry like Crystal Skull.
Since age restricts the amount of high-wire action in which Indy can realistically participate, the fourth Indiana Jones film allows Ford to flex his dramatic chops more thoroughly than the previous installments. His eyes twinkle as he recites historical and anthropological information when emphasizing the character's academic side, and he brings a ton of emotional nuance and well-timed humor as Jones grapples with his past, his age, and his ability to protect the people he loves.
If you liked Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, you might also enjoy him in: Morning Glory (2011)
<i>The Adventures of Tintin</i> (2011) — Andy Serkis
Spielberg's computer-animated film The Adventures of Tintin utilizes the motion capture technology popularized by Lord of the Rings and Avatar, so it's fitting that he hired the king of mo-cap to play the film's second lead. Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) is the reluctant drunken companion to teenage reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) as he races to find a mysterious treasure.
Like his work as Gollum and King Kong, Serkis uses expressive body language and an incredible vocal performance to craft an endlessly charismatic character. He's cartoonish enough to perfectly fit into the film's heightened style and texture, but so filled with small details and subtle mannerisms that he still feels remarkably human.
If you liked Andy Serkis in The Adventures of Tintin, you might also enjoy him in: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
<i>War Horse</i> (2011) — Tom Hiddleston
As the title suggests, War Horse follows a horse as he moves from owner to owner during World War I. Though he's known by most audiences for his duplicitous, conniving performance as Loki in numerous Marvel projects, Tom Hiddleston delivers one of the film's most earnest performances as Captain Nichols.
The actor seems reassuringly gentle and kind-hearted as he purchases the horse from its first owner — so much so that he could conceivably assuage the concerns of a young boy giving up his most prized possession — and nothing that he does during his stint as the film's temporary protagonist suggests otherwise. Though he seems slightly apprehensive about an upcoming battle, Hiddleston radiates optimism and selflessness as he cares for his equestrian companion — which makes it all the more heartbreaking when he eventually realizes the devastation that he faces on the battlefield.
If you liked Tom Hiddleston in War Horse, you might also enjoy him in: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013
<i>Lincoln</i> (2012) — Daniel Day-Lewis
We've come to expect every Daniel Day-Lewis performance to be riveting, transformative work that renders the actor nearly unrecognizable. But even his most ardent appreciators don't give the actor enough credit for how funny and charming he can be when the role requires it. Fully aware of Abraham Lincoln's legendary legacy, Day-Lewis breathes new life into one of the most titanic figures in American history, making it clear that the 16th president was always the wittiest and most commanding presence in any room he entered.
We often think of Lincoln as a brilliant orator, so Day-Lewis brings a hyper-articulate gracefulness to even the film's most intimate, quiet scenes. He launches into amusing anecdotes and lengthy parables with a folksy yet measured cadence that lulls you into a trance whenever he opens his mouth. Yet he also seems thoroughly interested in everyone with whom he converses, with a welcoming posture and an inviting, friendly gaze.
<i>Bridge of Spies (2015) — Mark Rylance
Cold War drama Bridge of Spies begins with a breathtaking, wordless sequence where the FBI arrests unassuming painter Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) for espionage. The charges seem impossible: how could such a quiet, harmless old man be a KGB agent conspiring against the United States? In his Oscar-winning role, Rylance's steady, restrained performance reveals a paradoxical side of spyware that we don't normally see in American movies — the very best spies will always appear like dull, unremarkable people whose lives seem too ordinary to possibly hold international secrets below the surface.
He maintains a constant neutral temperament, oddly unbothered by his arrest and uncertain fate. His unwavering, unreadable composure ultimately seems more impressive than any feat of physical strength, and his slight glimmer of kindness toward his lawyer (Tom Hanks) makes him feel like an old friend.
If you liked Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies, you might also enjoy him in: The Outfit (2022)
<i>The BFG</i> (2016) — Jemaine Clement
While Mark Rylance is fantastic as the Big Friendly Giant, Jemaine Clement is even stronger as a bigger, unfriendlier beast called "the Fleshlumpeater." The actor's naturally deep voice becomes downright thunderous coming from the mouth of an enormous monster.
Clement's understated deadpan delivery achieves an unusual combination of humor and intimidation — he's a frightening villain whose size and cruelty make him an unsettling presence, but he's so stupid and clueless that he also makes you laugh several times a minute. And his motion capture performance falls somewhere between a caveman and a toddler, hunched over and unpredictably hobbling around with weight and uncertainty in every step.
If you liked Jemaine Clement in The BFG, you might also enjoy him in: Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009)
<i>The Post</i> (2017) — Bob Odenkirk
In The Post, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep play Ben Bradlee and Katharine Graham, respectively, as larger-than-life figures and bombastic patriots of the highest moral fortitude. But the two main characters aren't the ones doing the Washington Post's vital on-the-ground grunt work — no, the actual reporting, risk, and labor is performed by a team of courageous journalists, the best among them played by Bob Odenkirk.
The actor plays Ben Bagdikian with mild manners, speaking in hushed tones and clearly demonstrating apprehension toward the Post's actions that could make him an enemy of the Nixon administration. But he rolls up his sleeves and gets the work done despite his apparent anxiety, and his persistence through his fear makes him seem all the more heroic.
If you liked Bob Odenkirk in The Post, you might also enjoy him in: Nobody (2021)
<i>Ready Player One</i> (2018) — Ben Mendelsohn
Spielberg's sci-fi adventure Ready Player One follows Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a gamer who searches for clues that could make him the heir to a vast virtual reality fortune. The world the film creates is bleak and somewhat outlandish, and the most dramatically effective sequences occur when its most realistic character is on screen: Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), a greedy CEO of an evil corporation who races Wade to take control of the VR landscape.
In his first encounter with Wade, Mendelsohn plays Nolan like a classic Silicon Valley mogul — in an attempt to appeal to Wade's nerdy sympathies, he seems like a laid-back, reluctant businessman who's really a geek at heart. But he quickly reveals that the relatable, good-natured billionaire image is merely a facade, and that he's actually a cunning, ruthless villain who will stop at nothing to become even richer. Like his performances in Rogue One and Cyrano, Mendelsohn excels here as a sniveling, pathetic antagonist whose misfortune you'd pity if he wasn't so cold and annoying.
If you liked Ben Mendelsohn in Ready Player One, you might also enjoy him in: Killing Them Softly (2011)
<i>West Side Story</i> (2021) — Ariana DeBose
Though every performance is strong in Spielberg's staging of West Side Story, DeBose's stands out as particularly exceptional. The actress commands every frame of her screen time, cycling through the full spectrum of human emotion while delivering gorgeous vocals and athletic precision in the musical numbers.
Anita is among the most physically demanding roles in the film, as she's a central figure in two of the biggest dance sequences (the gym dance and "America"), and DeBose is absolutely magnetic in both of them. Her heartbreaking fight with Maria ("A Boy like That/I Have a Love") is the film's most moving dramatic scene, and it was miraculously sung live, breaking with both the norms of the film's production and broader Hollywood musical conventions.
If you liked Ariana DeBose in West Side Story, you might also enjoy her in: Schmigadoon! (2021)