Almost inevitably, the best and best-loved roles in an actor’s career are those with believable vulnerability. It is perhaps the truest, surest way to connect with an audience, when an actor has the courage to share those places of the heart.
Brock Peters: To Kill a Mockingbird (the best I’ve ever seen)
Robert Duvall: To Kill a Mockingbird
Gregory Peck: To Kill a Mockingbird, Spellbound, Twelve O’Clock High, Roman Holiday, The Big Country, etc.
Daniel Day-Lewis: everything: My Left Foot, The Name of the Father, Last of the Mohicans, The Boxer, etc.
Charlie Chaplin: most everything
Jimmy Stewart: It’s a Wonderful Life, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, How the West Was Won, Shenandoah
Cary Grant: Notorious
Sidney Poitier: To Sir With Love
Peter O’Toole: Lawrence of Arabia
Gary Cooper: Sergeant York, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Marlon Brando: On the Waterfront
James Dean: Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden
Mel Gibson: The Year of Living Dangerously, Braveheart
Tom Hanks: Big, Punchline, Philadelphia, Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, etc.
Robert De Niro: Midnight Run
River Phoenix: pretty much everything
Heath Ledger: Brokeback Mountain
Jeff Daniels: Something Wild, etc. (he’s great at this)
Daniel Craig: Casino Royale
Mads Mikkelsen: After the Wedding
James McAvoy: Rory O’Shea, Penelope, etc.
Harrison Ford: Witness, Working Girl, Indiana Jones series, etc.
Djimon Hounsou: Gladiator
Bruno Ganz: Wings of Desire
Ryan Gosling: Half Nelson, The Notebook
Ethan Hawke: Reality Bites
Gerard Butler: The Jury, Dear Frankie
Kevin Costner: Bull Durham, Dances With Wolves
Michael Clarke Duncan: The Green Mile
Bill Murray: Groundhog Day
Morgan Freeman: Shawshank Redemption, etc.
Brad Pitt: Babel, Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Clive Owen: Children of Men, Beyond Borders
Ving Rhames: Dave, etc.
Nicolas Cage: Moonstruck
Sean Bean: Stormy Monday
Daniel Bruhl: Good Bye Lenin
William H. Macy: The Cooler, Happy Texas, etc.
Timothy Hutton: Ordinary People
Harvey Keitel: The Piano
Dustin Hoffman: Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie
Cuba Gooding Jr: Jerry Maguire
William Hurt: Children of a Lesser God
Keanu Reeves: The Lake House, Speed
Antonio Banderas: Desperado
John Hannah: Sliding Doors, Four Weddings and a Funeral, etc.
Matt Damon: his Bourne roles – subtle, which befits his character, but it’s there
Leonardo DiCaprio: Blood Diamond
James Franco: James Dean, City By the Sea, etc.
Jeremy Davies: Saving Private Ryan
Steve Zahn: Happy Texas, Rescue Dawn, etc.
Denzel Washington: an unappreciated master, usually brings some element of this to all his roles