Best Actress of The Decade, Entry No. 5: Amy Adams

To celebrate the last decade 2010-2019 we are counting down the best actresses and discussing some of their most notable and memorable performances of the last decade. With the help of Film Twitter, the ITOL team have selected 30 actresses. Entry No. 5 is Amy Adams, and writer Kristy Strouse discusses her favourite performances by Adams over the last decade.

My First Introduction

When I think about the best working actresses of the last decade, Amy Adams always comes to mind. She’s remarkably talented, and she has a knack for delving into new projects, even if they are completely unlike anything she has done prior- and knocking it out of the park. Case in point: She can pull off being a gorgeous, naïve storybook princess in “Enchanted” (2007) and then be a scrappy, tough Bostoner who battles for those she loves in “The Fighter” (2010). They’re opposites, but Amy Adams exquisitely reminds us (and oh, how she does this a lot) that there isn’t a role she can’t do.

I was first introduced to Amy Adams in “Catch Me if You Can” (2002), but I truly was witness to ability as an actress in “Junebug” (2005). Her character is innocent, fresh-faced and overly talkative. The first few times she takes the screen you admire her courage. She isn’t like most of the others- with unrelenting optimism and bright eyes, she tries to be friends with everyone. This earnest portrayal earned her the first of six Oscar nominations. She still hasn’t won – a true travesty- but I have a feeling it won’t be long. Either way, this movie had us falling for Amy Adams, and movies weren’t the same since.

The Last Ten Years

This article, though, is about the best of the last decade. So, even without those I’ve mentioned, if you look at the last ten years alone, it’s hard not to think of Amy Adams when you think of the highest caliber working in the industry. In the last ten years she has managed to be a variety of faces and personify a long list of real and fictional characters, always with a torrent of emotion and integrity. From superhero films to romantic comedies, to the hard-hitting dramatic odysseys, when Amy is on screen: you take notice.

amy man
Man of Steel (2013)

Throughout her choice of roles, she’s been able to consistently break the mold, shaking up any sort of expectations we may have for her as she graciously transforms for each new venture. While she played Lois Lane in the lineup of more recent DC adaptations (worth noting that it was to wonderful form; she’s just the right amount of pushy and endearing as Lane) and that may have been bigger box-office wise than some of her other roles, it’s the others that are the most memorable. The women she exemplifies are given to us in a way that’s intimate and true, to a point where you feel these characters are real.  Even so, Lois Lane and the rest? She’s a star.


As I stated previously, in “The Fighter” (2010) as Charlene, she completely sells us, standing by Mark Wahlberg’s character with grit and heart. And, she knows tenacity, as often incurred in many of her performances, this is no exception. David O. Russell’s biopic isn’t directly about her, but don’t tell her that.

It’s important to note that regardless of who she’s acting with, she is never overshadowed… she manages to steal scenes, deliver lines and key moments that only work to aid those around her. Somehow, she enhances the talent of her co-stars.


She knows when to hold back and lean into a character and knows when to go completely, petal to the metal like “The Fighter”. With Paul Thomas Anderson‘s “The Master” (2012) she’s very restrained, an interesting counterbalance to the intensity of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. She’s no clueless wife to this egocentric proprietor and self-proclaimed messiah. Instead, she’s watchful, aware, and in turn is an important part of the journey for both of the male characters, as she seeks be one of the most level-headed of them all.

the master
The Master (2012)

It’s important to note that regardless of who she’s acting with, she is never overshadowed. Having worked with some of the best: Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale, it could have easily happened. Instead, she manages to steal scenes, deliver lines and key moments that only work to aid those around her. Somehow, she enhances the talent of her co-stars.


In David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” (2013) she’s resolute again, when she plays the savvy co-conspirator with Christian Bale in a funny, yet layered performance. It is a very unique film that is hard to categorize, but one that she deserves to be appreciated for. As a schemer, she manipulates nearly everyone in the movie, mastering -yet again- another angle. In the same year she had a smaller, but no less significant role in Spike Jonze’s “Her” (2013). She plays friend and neighbor of Joaquin Phoenix and even in the swiftest of interactions, her warmth and general likability ruminates.

Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams in Her (2013)


In Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes” (2014) she embodies the real-life artist Margaret Keane with strength, by subtly, but eloquently showing her story. As one of the most iconic painters through the 50’s and 60’s, she wasn’t recognized for her art. Instead, her husband (betraying her in the process) took the credit at a time where women were socially and professionally repressed, not as appreciated for their artistic capabilities (sound familiar at all?).


In 2016 she was in both “Arrival” and “Nocturnal Animals”, two very different, but also genre-pushing films. “Arrival” isn’t merely a sci-fi, there’s an existentialism to it with Adam’s character at the center, deciphering an alien language, but also unlocking parts of herself. It’s a gentle, beautifully evocative film by Denis Villeneuve and she’s the humanistic piece, our guide, that makes the visual wizardry so compelling. It’s a film about connection, communication, and it’s one of Adam’s best.

Arrival (2016)

I’d say: Amy Adam’s not only shined in the last decade, she commanded it.

In Tom Ford‘s thriller “Nocturnal Animals”, she’s a wealthy art dealer whose life is upturned when she receives a manuscript from her ex. Her carefully built, somewhat narcissistic façade gives way as the movie does, telling us a story that fills in the blanks that she tries to keep anonymous. She’s engaged with the story, so we’re engaged, until the very end.


In another (somewhat) biopic, As the wife of Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) in “Vice” (2018) she’s astutely present, brazen, and her hardened performance within this satirical film is another among a long list of accolades.

amy sharp
Sharp Objects (2018)

In the HBO miniseries “Sharp Objects” (2018) based on the novel by Gillian Flynn and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, Amy compels us once again with an incredible, heartbreaking performance. In this portrayal, as a journalist reconnecting with her hometown to investigate a missing girl, she’s really stripped to her most fragile self. There’s a lot of history here, and a lot of pain, and it’s never lost. There isn’t a mannerism or line that doesn’t leave its mark. The story and direction are terrific, but Amy Adams make that series a truly spellbinding ordeal.

Add a jaunt to Ireland In “Leap Year” (2010), some of “The Muppets” (2011) a Jack Kerouac adapt in “On the Road” (2012) and a few other dramas, I’d say: Amy Adam’s not only shined in the last decade, she commanded it.

Is Amy Adams your favourite actress of the decade, and what’s your favourite performance from her? Let us know in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Best Actress of The Decade, Entry No. 5: Amy Adams

  1. “Amy Adam’s not only shined in the last decade, she commanded it.” I couldn’t agree more.

    The first film I have starring Amy Adams was enchanted and I was 5. I just remember it being my absolute favourite movie for a very long time.

    After I watched ‘The woman in the Window’ I decided that I needed her entire filmography, so I made a list of everything I could find from ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ (1999) to ‘Dear Even Hansen’ (2021) and I honestly was BLOWN AWAY.

    She bodied every role and manged to hold my attention and thus moved to the top of my list of most favourite actors. Her presence on screen is demanding yet not overwhelming if you know what I mean. I will never watch movies the same as I did before going on this journey.

    I am so excited for Disenchanted and any other upcoming projects to see what she has in store for us.


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