Gal Gadot, Emma Stone, Margot Robbie, and More Are the Best Performances of the Year

Best Performances - 2018 - Jennifer Lawrence
Photographs by Juergen Teller; Styled by Edward Enninful

From the inauguration of Donald Trump to the horrifying revelations about Harvey Weinstein and other alleged sexual predators, Hollywood, like the rest of the world, could not escape the barrage of often shocking daily news. In the midst of all that noise, some strong, positive voices emerged, and, happily, many of those voices were female. Last June, Wonder Woman, starring the glorious Gal Gadot, broke worldwide box office records. The film, which was directed by Patty Jenkins, brought women, young and old, to tears when Wonder Woman takes over the battlefield. As 7-year-old Brooklynn Prince, the irresistible star of The Florida Project, a gritty look at the dark side of the American dream, told me, “I started crying because Wonder Woman shows that you don’t need help from a man to be who you want to be or do what you want to do.”

It was a message that echoed throughout the year. Films like Lady Bird, starring Saoirse Ronan as a Catholic high-school girl in Sacramento, California, longing for a bigger life; Battle of the Sexes, which starred Emma Stone as the defiant tennis player Billie Jean King; and A Fantastic Woman, featuring the transgender actress Daniela Vega as a woman who loses her older lover and must fight for her identity, all focused on the complicated struggles and personal triumphs of their female protagonists.

Other actresses also shined: Margot Robbie was completely transformed as the twisted Olympic ice-skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya; the glamorous Mary J. Blige disappeared seamlessly into the role of a sharecropper’s wife in Mudbound; and in Molly’s Game, Jessica Chastain went Kardashian-esque as the high-stakes “Poker Princess” Molly Bloom. Rarely has Hollywood given such a huge spotlight to the complexity of women’s lives.

Of course, there were also wonderful performances by men. It was a game-changing year for Robert Pattinson, who was nearly unrecognizable as a mentally ill criminal in Good Time, as was the great Richard Gere, who challenged himself by playing the oddball title character in Norman. Daniel Kaluuya gave a breakout performance in the runaway hit Get Out, and Timothée Chalamet revealed himself as the next huge star in Call Me by Your Name. There were fantastic surprises: James Franco was mysterious and peculiar as Tommy Wiseau, the character he played in The Disaster Artist, and Jake Gyllenhaal elevated Stronger from the standard recovery-from-tragedy drama to something bordering on spiritual.

The Movie Issue is our annual celebration of the beautiful, the challenging, and the thrilling. The point, especially this year, is to cut through the rancor and understandable anxiety we’re going through, and focus on the work. Here, we are offering 29 excellent reasons to go to the movies—and a moment to reflect on a world in transition. The hope is that increased honesty will lead to positive change. Perhaps the most vital reminder of what is possible comes from Gary Oldman’s majestic performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. As portrayed by Oldman, Churchill is an outsider and roundly disliked. And yet, his inherent, stubborn message is to be bold, to be brave, to never give up the fight. And let’s not forget: Like Wonder Woman, Churchill won the war.

Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone

Jennifer Lawrence wears Dior dress; Dior Fine Jewelry earrings, and ring. Beauty: Dior. Emma Stone wears Louis Vuitton dress. Beauty: L’Oréal Paris.

Gal Gadot and James Franco

Gal Gadot wears Giorgio Gadot wears Giorgio Armani jacket; Fabergé necklace; her own earring. Beauty: Revlon. James Franco wears Giorgio Armani jacket, shirt, and bow tie.

Daniela Vega and Robert Pattinson

Daniela Vega wears Salvatore Ferragamo dress; Tiffany & Co. earrings; Gianvito Rossi shoes. Beauty: Covergirl. Robert Pattinson wears Dior Homme tuxedo, shirt, and bow tie.

Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman

Marbot Robbie wears Louis Vuitton dress; Wing & Weft Gloves gloves. Beauty: Lancôme. Nicole Kidman wears Dior dress; Wing & Weft Gloves gloves. Beauty: Neutrogena.

Tom Hanks and Mary J. Blige

Tom Hanks wears Tom Ford suit; Emma Willis shirt; Hanks’s own jewelry. Mary J. Blige wears Versace dress; Chopard earrings; De Beers ring. Beauty: MAC Cosmetics.

Saoirse Ronan and Andrew Garfield

Saoirse Ronan wears Chanel dress; Tiffany & Co. earrings; Jimmy Choo pumps. Beauty: Chanel. Andrew Garfield wears Prada suit and top; Converse sneakers.

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman

“This year on Halloween, my daughter and I went trick-or-treating, and I had on this huge mask so I could see everyone but they couldn’t see me. Whenever I saw a Wonder Woman costume on a girl or a boy, it was so exciting. My daughter, who was dressed as a unicorn zombie, would run up to me and say, “Did you see that Wonder Woman?” They were everywhere!”

Gal Gadot wears Moschino Couture dress; Fabergé ring; Off-White c/o Jimmy Choo shoes.

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

“[Jennifer Lawrence] came to see Cabaret and both of my contacts popped out of my eyes at the same time and my prescription is -900, which, if you know what that means, is like…I cannot see. So, they had to drag me off the stage in the dark and she came backstage afterwards and I was like, ‘I couldn’t see anything! It was garbage! It was a disaster!’ And she was like, ‘Enough, enough. I’m your dance mom. You need to calm down.'”

Emma Stone wears a Louis Vuitton dress; Cartier earrings.

Hong Chau in Downsizing

“I am Vietnamese, and we don’t celebrate birthdays. My parents don’t actually know their birth dates—they just go by their signs. When somebody asks you how old you are, you say, ‘I’m born this month in the Year of the…’ I was born in the Year of the Sheep. Sheep don’t like to be the center of attention, and they don’t like being told what to do. That pretty much sums me up.”

Hong Chau wears an Etro dress; Chanel Fine Jewelry earrings; Tiffany & Co. ring.

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

“I’ve had a flirtation with Winston Churchill for years; there’s been a book of famous Churchill quotes on my bookshelf since childhood. To me, he was the man who won the war. And yet, when I was first asked to play the part, I thought, Don’t be ridiculous, and turned it down. But they came back, and it felt right. My wife said, ‘Look, you get to stand in Parliament and say these great words. What have you got to lose?'”

Gary Oldman wears a Canali suit; Boss shirt and tie.

Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

“I always joke that Jason Dixon, the character I play in Three Billboards, is Barney Fife meets Travis Bickle. I spent a lot of time trying to perfect his southern Missouri accent. I did ride-alongs with a cop down there—he had a great twang. Accents should be practiced as if you’re drunk. Actors get a little tense when they have to do an accent. Drunkenness relaxes everything.”

Sam Rockwell wears a Marni trench; Editions M.R shirt; Simon Miller T-shirt; Huntsman pants; Rolex watch; Church’s shoes.

Grace Van Patten in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

“My character in The Meyerowitz Stories is a sweet family girl, but when she sends films she makes in school to her family, you see her wild side. I’m naked in most of those films. I sat next to my dad at the premiere, and that was probably the most uncomfortable thing in my life. To see myself 75 feet tall and naked was not easy. I sank into my chair and heard my dad kind of laugh nervously. We pretended those scenes never happened.”

Grace Van Patten wears an Alberta Ferretti dress; her own jewelry.

Daniela Vega in A Fantastic Woman

“Being an actress, for me, is about my own transition. It’s about looking for answers. It’s about trying to survive in my life and also for the lives of others who face similar challenges. Life is scary, but art is not scary.”

Daniela Vega wears a Max Mara dress; David Webb earrings; Piaget necklace; Chanel Fine Jewelry ring (right hand); Tiffany & Co. bracelet and ring (left hand); Gianvito Rossi shoes.

Nicole Kidman in The Beguiled and The Killing of a Sacred Deer

“My husband is an artist, but he still has a hard time watching me sometimes. During The Killing of a Sacred Deer at the Cannes Film Festival, he was both hypnotized and shattered. When he hears me scream or cry from a certain place in my soul, it’s almost like it goes straight into him. His brain and heart don’t discern between acting and real life.”

Nicole Kidman wears a Prada top and skirt; Chanel Fine Jewelry ring; Jimmy Choo pumps.

Jennifer Lawrence in Mother!

Where was your first kiss? This is going to sound like a murder story, but it was in the woods, outside of a baseball park. I had lost my turtle. Curtis, the guy I kissed, found it.

Was that your first pet? No, it was a schnauzer named Ozzie. He hated us so much. He never wanted to be in the same room with us.

So what’s your porno name—first pet plus first street name? Ozzie Ormond.

What was your favorite Halloween costume? A picnic table. My mom wouldn’t let me be a witch or a ghost or anything demonic, so I cut a hole in a plastic cloth and went as a picnic table. The problem was I had a crush on this guy named John, and I was so pumped for Halloween because it was our chance to interact. And then I put my face in the tablecloth and was like, “Hi, John. Are you my boyfriend?”

Jennifer Lawrence wears a Dior dress; Dior Fine Jewelry earrings and ring.

Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out

“When I first read the script for Get Out, I thought, Are you allowed to do this? Are they really going to let this black guy kill all these white people? I think the most fascinating art pieces come at a price to the person making them. And this movie took a risk. On opening night, I went to see it in a theater in the hood in Atlanta. The crowd clapped, they cheered, they yelled, ‘Get out, man! Yo—get out!’ It was all the stuff that we hoped the audience would say.”

Daniel Kaluuya wears a Gosha Rubchinskiy x Adidas Football sweatshirt and sweatpants; ’47 hat; Gucci socks; Kaluuya’s own sneakers.

Brooklynn Prince in The Florida Project

“I booked The Florida Project when I was 6. I’m 7 now. It was really fun because during shooting I got to eat ice cream! I want to start my own YouTube channel, and the name of it will be I Am Crazy for Ice Cream because I am crazy for ice cream. I’m also so into fashion. I wear shorts in the movie, and they were so short. It was a struggle getting them on. Now, I’m like, ‘Mom! Where are my skirts? No more shorts!’”

Brooklynn Prince wears a Baby Dior dress; La Coqueta shoes.

Harris Dickinson in Beach Rats

“I’m naked quite a lot in Beach Rats, and it’s a little strange to act when you’re naked. When the boom operator is standing over you, and you’re not wearing anything, it’s awkward. But, in the end, I didn’t find it difficult. I’m pretty comfortable with my body. Not in an ‘I’m happy to flaunt it for £5’ kind of way, but it does go deep into the psychology of someone trying to figure out their own sexuality, and their identity.”

Harris Dickinson wears a Calvin Klein 205W39NYC shirt, pants, and boots.

Diane Kruger in In the Fade

“As an actor, people put you in categories. It’s ‘Oh, she has an accent,’ or ‘She doesn’t have an accent,’ or ‘She can do this accent,’ or ‘No, she can’t.’ They’ll say, ‘She’s a pretty blonde, so I don’t know if we can see her in a comedy.’ So I know that for Fatih Akin to pick me was a big risk because he’s very well known in Germany as a director who casts unknowns or people he discovers who are not actors at all. In the beginning, he got a lot of backlash for it. And, in truth, I don’t think I could have played this character five years ago. Now I’m ready to shed any beauty look. I want to be stripped of any pretense, of any glamour.”

Diane Kruger wears a Rosamosario romper; Christian Louboutin shoes.

Ben Stiller in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

“When I was 14, I auditioned for an Off Broadway play. The scene was about a bris, the Jewish tradition of a child having the tip of his penis snipped off. Being the nice Jewish kid that I was, I did not know what a bris was, and I decided to pronounce it brie. Bris as brie. So I did the monologue, and, at the end, the director said, ‘Thank you very much, and it’s pronounced bris.’ I did not get the part.”

Ben Stiller wears a Gucci coat; Olatz pajamas.

Margot Robbie in I, Tonya

“When I was 6, my favorite film was Robin Hood: Men in Tights. It’s got a lot of adult jokes, and it was really inappropriate for a child to see. In school, they asked us, ‘If you were to make a potion, what would you put in it?’ Even then, I could recall lines of movies, and I said, ‘The testicles of a newt!’ I got called up to the front of the class and was asked why I put testicles in my potion. I had no idea what testicles were—I just loved the film.”

Margot Robbie wears a Dolce & Gabbana top, shorts, and shoes.

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

“I was late to the game on The Room, which is considered by many to be the worst movie of all time. For years, I would see this billboard in L.A. that Tommy Wiseau, the actor and star of the movie, had paid to have up on Highland Avenue. It was a picture of him, sort of glaring down at you, with the words THE ROOM and a phone number. I was like, ‘What is this? Do you call the number and this crazy, weird, vampirelike guy can be in your movie?’ But then I started reading The Disaster Artist, which was written by one of the other actors in the movie, and before I was halfway through, I just knew it was such an incredible, bizarre story, unlike any other in Hollywood, about outsider artists trying to achieve their dreams. I was instantly drawn to Tommy. It’s almost like we were made for each other.”

James Franco wears a Balenciaga shirt; his own pants.

Jessica Chastain in Molly’s Game

“To play Molly Bloom, I thought about what women have to become in order to find power in a society where men are making all of the rules. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh—the Kardashians are an incredible example of women who have their own sense of entrepreneurial power.’ And in real life, Molly looked a lot like them. For research, I actually watched Kim’s tutorial on face shading and contouring. As the movie goes on, Molly transforms into this idea of what a woman has to be in order to be heard: The heels get higher, the necklines are lower, the hair is longer. It was quite a departure for me, physically. And the strange thing is, I don’t look like myself at all in this film, and so many people have said to me that I’ve never looked better.”

Jessica Chastain wears an Oscar de la Renta dress; Sophie Buhai earrings.

Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird

“Until I read the script for Lady Bird, I had never encountered a female heroine who very much sees herself as a female heroine. In films, you rarely see young girls who love themselves. Lady Bird takes the self-confidence thing to a new level. She knows she’s going to be someone. And she has something to say, even if she doesn’t quite know what it is yet.”

Saoirse Ronan wears a Chanel dress.

Michelle Williams in All the Money in the World

Did you have an audition outfit back when you were starting out? I had multiple outfits. Much like a costume box. I would change between auditions. I remember changing in the car on the freeway. I’m still a fast changer. And discreet. I have a talent for taking my clothes off quickly.

What was your first favorite film? The Sound of Music. It was very influential. And I got to meet Captain von Trapp while filming All the Money in the World [Christopher Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey after Spacey was pulled from the project]. We were about to be in this movie together, and I thought, How soon is too soon to ask Christopher Plummer to sing “Edelweiss” into my phone for my daughter?

Michelle Williams wears a Louis Vuitton dress.

Tom Hanks in The Post

“I play real people a lot. And it is a huge responsibility. Anytime you are playing somebody who was alive, for good or for bad, that performance becomes a version of an official record of what happened: what motivated them, what obstacles they faced, and how they got through their particular struggle. There’s a degree of leeway that you can allow yourself as long as you’re not turning good guys into bad guys, or knowledge into ignorance. Having said that, it’s a little easier playing someone who’s no longer living. Because then you don’t have to meet them.”

Tom Hanks wears a Tom Ford suit, vest, and shoes; Boss shirt; Rolex watch.

Salma Hayek in Beatriz at Dinner

“I had a successful soap opera career in Mexico, but I left my fame and my comfort and I moved to Los Angeles because I wanted to make films. I was very, very famous in Mexico, and in the States I was working as an extra. People thought maybe I was running from the police. Why else would I leave everything I had to play a maid? I told them, ‘This industry is going to change. We are too strong of an economic force to be ignored forever.’”

Salma Hayek wears a Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello dress; Cartier earrings.

Timothée Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name

“I was loosely attached to Call Me by Your Name for four years. It never seemed like it was coming together, and then it did. Now I’ve spent nearly two years promoting it. So, in many ways, it will be the project of my youth. When I’m older, I’ll look at this film and remember what it was like to not be jaded, old, and washed up. I’ll look back and say, ‘Oh, when I was young…’”

Timothée Chalamet wears a Sandro jacket and pants; Schiesser tank top; Sermoneta Gloves gloves; Calvin Klein 205W39NYC boots.

Andrew Garfield in Breathe
Photographs by Juergen Teller; Styled by Edward Enninful

“My first kiss was at a party, when I was 12 or 13, during my first term at a coed school, so, you know, hormones were raging. A girl named Dora had this party when her parents were out of town, and it was literally a bacchanalia for 13-year-olds. No one was having sex, but it was just like, ‘Oh, we all get to kiss each other.’ And there were around 200 people there. It was about five hours of everyone going, ‘Have we made out yet? No? Let’s go!’ To this day, my friends and I will be in a pub or at dinner and say, ‘Remember Dora’s party?’ and sigh. It was an awakening.”

Andrew Garfield wears a Shrimps coat; Michael Kors sweater; Sunspel sweatpants.

Mary J. Blige in Mudbound

“The goal for this film was for me to disappear. I was absolutely petrified, and I cried the first day of shooting. I just couldn’t pull Mary J. Blige away. It was a huge undertaking. I had to get rid of myself. But afterward, when I saw the film, I was not Mary J. Blige—I was Florence Jackson.”

Mary J. Blige wears a Versace bodysuit, leggings, belt, and sandals; Atelier Swarovski by Christopher Kane earrings; De Beers ring.

Jim Belushi in Wonder Wheel

“Woody Allen shoots very fast. He’ll tell you, ‘Do what you want, whatever feels comfortable to you.’ So Kate [Winslet] and I look at each other, and we do the scene. We think we’re great, that we’ve never acted better. Woody goes, ‘Cut,’ and Kate and I are like, ‘Yeah, we nailed it.’ Then Woody says, ‘That was the best example I’ve ever seen of apathetic acting. If I put that take in the movie, people would be in the lobby in three minutes. Try talking like, uh, normal people.'”

Jim Belushi wears a Tom Ford coat; Berluti sweater; Boss pants; Church’s shoes.

Richard Gere in Norman

“I loved the script for Norman, but I wouldn’t have cast myself in this film. Norman is a schlub. And it’s not that I can’t play that type of person, but there are many, many guys who have more schlubbiness in them. So, to increase my schlubbiness, I let everyone try various costumes, makeup, and hair on me to alter my appearance. There were mustaches and beards, and they’d change my hairline or add bushy eyebrows. Nothing worked. Finally, I just put little plastic pieces behind my ears to make them stick out. And we all went, ‘Whoa—that’s Norman!'”

Richard Gere wears a Giorgio Armani shirt.

Robert Pattinson in Good Time
Photographs by Juergen Teller; Styled by Edward Enninful

“Growing up, I was pretty much a dork. I really liked playing Warhammer, but I never actually figured out the rules. I just made up my own. So I never played with anybody else, because I was playing by my own rules. I was alone a lot.”

Robert Pattinson wears a Burberry coat; Dior Homme sweater; Berluti pants; Rolex watch; the Frye Company boots.

Allison Janney in I, Tonya
Photographs by Juergen Teller; Styled by Edward Enninful

“My part in I, Tonya was written for me by my former classmate and close friend Steven Rogers. Whenever someone showed interest in producing or directing the film, he would tell them, ‘You have to be okay with Allison Janney playing Tonya’s mother, LaVona, the most horrible, atrocious mother on the planet.’ It’s not the most flattering role, but I think he knew that I would have fun—that I would be able to embrace her and give her some humanity, because she’s really a monster.”

Allison Janney wears a Fendi dress; Hermès bracelets; Kurt Geiger London boots.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger
Photographs by Juergen Teller; Styled by Edward Enninful

“My dad always told me, ‘The job of an artist is to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.’ That’s always in my mind. It’s why I’m attracted to projects that are maybe going to illuminate something to you about yourself. It’s always a little frightening because you don’t know what you’re going to discover.”

Jake Gyllenhaal wears a Pringle of Scotland jacket; Frame T-shirt.


Creative Consultant: Bernhard Willhelm Hair by Yusef for Rich Hair Care at Factory Downtown Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel Set design by Peter Klein at Frank Reps Men’s Wear Editor: Sam Walker Photography Assistants: Karin Xiao, Dean Podmore Postproduction: Catalin Plesa at Quickfix Retouch

Manicures by Michelle Saunders for Essie at Forward Artists. Hair for Stone and Kidman: Mara Roszak at Starworks Artists; Hair for Lawrence by Jenny Cho at Starworks Artists; Hair for Blige by Randy Stodghill at Opus Beauty; Hair for Kaluuya by Christopher LeNeo at Criterion Group; Grooming for Hanks by Barbara Guillaume at Forward Artists; Grooming for Stiller by Natalia Bruschi; Makeup for Stone by Rachel Goodwin at Streeters; Makeup for Lawrence by Genevieve Herr; Makeup for Robbie by Pati Dubroff at Forward Artists; Makeup for Blige by D’Andre Michael; Fashion assistants: Natalie Shemian, Aisha Rae, Nadia Beeman, Hema Persad, Chandler LaFee, Johanna Andersson; Producer: Emanuele Mascioni; Local Producer: Ilona Klaver; Production coordinator: Nicole Prokes; Production assistants: Aaron Rochlin, Spencer Chase, Nabeer Khan; Special thanks to Milk Studios L.A., Chateau Marmont, LA Loft, Love Catering.