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Best Lead Performer in a Movie in 2020


From Maria Bakalova, who emerged from obscurity with her much talked-about debut as Borat’s daughter, to the late Chadwick Boseman in his final film performance, there were some truly remarkable performances this year in movies, featuring arguably career-best work from all of our chosen nominees. This is possibly the most competitive category in this year’s awards race.These are our best lead performer in a movie of 2020 nominations.

Best Lead Performer in a Movie in 2020

Click through the gallery above or scroll down for the full list!

Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Best Lead Performer in a Movie in 2020 2Borat Subsequent Moviefilm needs to modulate how comedian Sacha Baron Cohen can pull off a majority of his stunts now that the Borat character is a recognizable pop-culture icon. Disguises are one answer, but the real solution to this issue is giving Cohen a capable, captivating co-star in the form of Maria Bakalova, who plays Tutar, Borat’s teen daughter. The actress is able to be hilarious while also carrying some of the cringey weight a Borat film requires. As Tutar, she not only participates in the movie’s most memorable, and jaw-dropping, moments, but she’s also allowed to exist on her own and cause her own brand of calamity with unsuspecting members of the public. With Bakalova’s awesome addition and fearless presence, Cohen finds a true on-screen partner in crime – and a breakout star.

For more, check out our full Borat Subsequent Moviefilm review!

Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Lead Performer in a Movie in 2020 3It feels like a miracle not just to see Chadwick Boseman grace the screen once more, but for his final role to come in an August Wilson work. Like Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams, his plays offer Black actors a litmus test to gauge their own range and talent. And Boseman – and for that matter, director George C. Wolfe – chose a tall task by taking on Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The play instills charged monologues and big emotions, and a supernatural element familiar to Wilson’s best work, within a character who swings without warning between exuberance and anger. And while the film boasts a strong ensemble, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is Boseman’s movie from beginning to end. He shows his full range. All the tools, from his charm to piques of anger, that fated him for stardom. It’s bittersweet that he discovered a new level to his talent when his journey was close to its end.

For more, check out our full Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom review!

Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods

Best Lead Performer in a Movie in 2020 4Bolstered by an absolutely mesmerizing central performance from Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods is a raw and rewarding deep dive into two countries’ still-open wounds decades after the intractable conflict that stitched them together. While the performances are stellar across the board, this tale of old war buddies who return to Vietnam is held together by the showpiece turn from Lindo. By film’s end, he’s not necessarily the protagonist, but he’s absolutely the center of gravity. It’s hard not to think of Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now when examining Paul’s descent into his own mind the further he delves into the Vietnamese jungle. There are long stretches where Lindo is alone, talking directly to camera, emoting as only he can, and it is truly some of the most transfixing cinema of the last several years.

For more, check out our full Da 5 Bloods review!

Elisabeth Moss – The Invisible Man

Best Lead Performer in a Movie in 2020 5Elisabeth Moss is the beating heart of The Invisible Man as the distressed and desperate Cecilia, who absconds away from her violent and cruel ex-boyfriend and then spends most of the movie struggling against the waves of trauma that her relationship with him have left her drowning in. This is another no-holds-barred performance from The Handmaid’s Tale actress who offers up an almost uncomfortably raw turn as a woman wronged so badly that she almost has no concept of how to treat the people who are left in her life.

For more, check out our full The Invisible Man review!

Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

Best Lead Performer in a Movie in 2020 6Carey Mulligan’s beguiling, chameleonic performance is the heart and soul of Emerald Fennell’s challenging comedic revenge thriller. As the relentless Cassandra Thomas, Mulligan anchors the escalating tension with a performance that’s as magnetic as it is unpredictable, keeping viewers and her targets guessing right up until the film’s sure-to-be divisive final moments.

Those are our picks for the best lead performer in a movie in 2020 – let us know in the comments what’s on your list that didn’t make ours, and be sure to cast your vote for our Movie of the Year 2020 People’s Choice Award here!

There are plenty of other awards! Check out all our movies, TV, and comics nominees below!

Best Movies of 2020

Best TV of 2020

Best Comics of 2020

Be sure to check out all of our other movies, TV and comics of the Year award nominees as well as our picks for the best games of 2020!

IGN’s Best of 2020 was designed by:
Lead Design + Art Direction: Justin Vachon
Branding + Art Direction: Angela Nguyen
Branding + Social Design: Julia Rago
Editorial Design: Amanda Flagg
Editorial Design: Eric Sapp
Motion Graphics: Will Batchelor

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