2. Helen Mirren, 'The Queen'
The defining quality of Helen Mirren's performance as Queen Elizabeth II is its stillness. And it's in that quiet command that the actress sums up all that's admirable and also antiquated about the British Monarchy: its constant, comforting continued existence, as well as its blinkered myopia. That's a tricky balance, but Mirren walks it perfectly in The Queen, a seemingly straightforward docudrama about the 1997 death of Princess Diana that peeks behind the curtain to see the inner workings of a woman who had reigned, by that time, for 45 years. Neither a straight facsimile nor a nervy reimagining of one of the world's most famous public figures, Mirren prefers to let Elizabeth remain a withdrawn, restrained presence, hinting at her casual callousness but also suggesting a queen who's seen enough history pass to never be surprised by anything that occurs. Mirren has often carried herself with a regal air, but The Queen was her crowning achievement.