Every so often I see a movie where one thing in particular is a standout: perhaps it’s the score or an original song, or maybe it’s ground-breaking effects or an amazing shot, or sometimes it’s the acting. Today’s post is inspired by a movie that’s new to the Box and On Demand where the leading lady’s performance is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Here’s who I’m talking about, along with 3 other amazing, show-stopping performances from the year that just ended.

Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in Judy – Zellweger’s transformation in this film about the final months of Garland’s tragic life is almost unbelievable. It’s one of those things where if you didn’t KNOW it was Zellweger beforehand, you’d probably be like “Who’s this actress?” I personally didn’t know much about Garland’s life other than the fact that she starred in The Wizard of Oz and was Liza Minelli’s mom. So I was definitely sucked in by this look at the end of her career — and especially by the flashbacks that showed the horrible abuse she suffered at the hands of her managers when she was just a teenager. It’s a heartbreaker of a movie, but Zellweger’s performance will astonish you.

Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide/Red in Us– Where to even begin with the woman my critics group just named Best Actress for her dual performance in this totally freaky thriller? She transcended the horror genre with her uber-creepy voice, looks and physical movement — portraying both a horrified mother on a nightmarish family vacation and a deranged stalker. The film’s “reveal” at the end only serves to make Nyong’o’s feat that much more impressive. But I can’t lie: this is the one performance on this list I don’t think I can bring myself to watch again. (I could barely even peek through my fingers at the trailer, so cut me some slack.)

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman – Similar to Judy, I didn’t know much about Elton John’s childhood or backstory before seeing this film. I was wowed by Egerton’s immersion into his role. Since my kids are huge fans of Sing, I knew that he could, uh, sing, but obviously portraying one of the most beloved entertainers alive is next-level business compared to being the voice of an animated teenage gorilla. I sincerely hope Egerton’s efforts are acknowledged by the Academy in a few weeks.

Matthew McConaughey as Poet Moondog in The Beach Bum– Could this movie even exist without Matthew McConaughey? The answer to that question is “no.” This is the role that sums up McConaughey’s entire being. Only HE could pull it off. Matthew McConaughey IS Poet Moondog, who IS The Beach Bum. Maybe the real question is whether the Academy will recognize this amazing performance? (The answer to that question is also “No …. no, they will most certainly NOT.) But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the heck out of it!

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