Year in Review
2016 Great Performances

2016 in Review: 20 Best Performances

We laughed. We cried. We felt things deep deep down. And now it’s time to give credit where credit is due.

PHOTOS 2016 in Review: The 20 Scenes We Desperately Wish We Could Unsee

As TVLine continues to review the best and worst the small screen had to offer this past year, we’re honoring the 20 most jaw-dropping performances of 2016.

Given the breadth of outstanding work that was done between January and December, culling this list was a mission: near impossible. But after much screaming and yelling, er, respectful discourse, we managed to agree that these 20 tour de forces demanded a second round of applause.

Check out the gallery to the right for our full lineup — or click here for direct access — then tell us which performances knocked your socks off in 2016.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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31 Comments
  1. Kevin says:

    Amy Acker deserves to be on the list. NO KATE McKINNON?!!

  2. spindae2 says:

    I know I’m starting to repeat myself but American Crime was so exceptional last season. Connor’s performance throughout was exceptional, especially in Chapter 2 (rape kit scene) and in Chapter 7 as U’ve mentioned.
    Minnie Driver is still killing it week after week.
    Melissa McBride in ep 13 I believe, when she played the innocent psycho with Negan’s people. Brilliant.

    • Gena says:

      “Minnie Driver is still killing it week after week.”

      She’s the main reason I started watching ‘Speechless,’ but since the pilot I think her character has become my least favorite on the show by default — I’m mean, she’s still pretty great (“I am being ridiculous with a purpose; that is my brand”), it’s just the rest of the cast has won me over that much. :)

  3. Eric7740 says:

    Kudos to Lauren Graham!!! She almost single handidly carried the Gilmore Girls revival on her back and she made it look effortless!
    Not only Connor Jessup but the entire cast of American Crime!!! Truly one of the best dramas of this year!!!

  4. Favorites include:
    Milo Ventimiglia and Sterling K. Brown in This Is Us
    Keri Russell and Alison Wright in The Americans
    Caitriona Balfe in Faith (Outlander)
    Sterling K. Brown and Sarah Paulson in The People vs OJ Simpson
    Millie Bobby Brown in Stranger Things
    John Turturro in The Night Of giving his closing remarks
    Hugh Dancy in The Path
    Anna Camp, Genevieve Angeleson, Erin Darke in Good Girls Revolt
    Sutton Foster in Younger
    The entire cast of Superstore
    Gina Rodriguez in the Season 2 finale and Season 3 Premiere of Jane the Virgin
    Rachel Bloom all the time in Crazy Ex. Girflriend
    The ladies of Westworld

  5. FYI – typo on Millie Bobby Brown’s page. She was in Stranger Things, not Speechless. So many great performances this year but she blew me away. Amazing and I hope she’s back in Season 2.

  6. cc says:

    You should have included Kerry Bishé and Mackenzie Davis. They stole the show once again in this season of Halt and Catch Fire.

  7. "Mother" says:

    Freddie and Vera (and the criminally under appreciated (at least by “awards snobs”)) for the win!

  8. Elizabeth says:

    No Caitroina Balfe for “Faith”? I don’t know about y’all, but my tears during that episode were enough to fill about forty water parks.

  9. MMD says:

    I had completely forgotten about Lori Petty’s performance in OITNB. I remember posting then something about her being remembered during award season. Time to rewatch the season again.

  10. mary says:

    I am begging you to stop with the non stop over hyping of the marginal at best Gilmore Girls Revival and if you are going to give someone from that show acknowledgment for their acting then it should be Liza Weil because she was amazing. The actual two stars were ok but not great. But for the love of GOD STOP please STOP. There were so many better shows and performances this year. STOP.

    • Erin says:

      But..it was incredible >.< get on the train

      • mary says:

        It wasn’t though, I loved the original and this was just horrible. The acting outside of Liza, Milo, Kelly and Matt’s was horrendous, the story was eh and don’t get me started on that weird musical.

        I love Lauren Grahm and usually think she is great this rival she had nothing to work it was horrible.

    • It was great, so it deserves all the praise! And Lauren’s performance in this scene was AMAZING, so i say it deserves all the hype!

  11. webly3 says:

    I’m so glad Lori Petty was recognized! Surprisingly, her work has been mostly ignored even though she’s on a big show. I would have to add though that Aden Young did phenomenal work on Rectify. And, Will Arnett does amazing voiceover work on BoJack Horseman that should still be acknowledged even though it’s an animated show.

  12. the whole cast on SKAM, Thandie Newton in westworld, Sterling K. Brown in this is us and Winona Ryder in stranger things.

  13. Apolonia says:

    Aden Young……Rectify. Just wrong that he is so overlooked…….

  14. Simon Jester says:

    Glad to see Alison Wright leading the field, and certainly there were a number of great performances included… but it’s incomprehensible how Eva Green was overlooked for her tour-de-force performance in PENNY DREADFUL’s “A Blade of Grass” (and, y’know, every *other* episode).

  15. Erin says:

    Lauren Graham, Kelly Bishop, Liza Weil – Amazing.
    Sutton Foster – Younger – seriously so happy to see her face on tv
    I though AHS Roanoke had some solid performances

  16. Inara says:

    Too bad you guys don’t watch Game of Thrones.

  17. kirads09 says:

    Best Performance Entire Series – Edi Gathegi – Start Up – Crackle. Rocked my world inside out.
    You MUST see.

    Best Performance Guest Star – Billy Boyd – Motive USA – Frampton Come Alive

  18. dude says:

    Look, I think Vanessa Hudgen’s performance was incredible given what she was undoubtedly going through at the time. BUT would we be calling it one of the best performances of the year had she not lost her father the night before? I highly doubt that.

  19. Philip says:

    Just had a comment about the “Performer of the week” section. I am looking big fan of the column, but I have noticed that the majority of the “winners” are the leads of their respective programmes (Lauren Graham, Catriona Balfe, Micheal Emerson, Taraji Henson, JLD..) while the supporting actors usually get honorable mentions. Not to demean any of these lead actors talents, I wouldn’t mind seeing a better mix of actors, lead and supporting as “Performers of the Week” in 2017. Sometimes supporting players deliver great performances as well. Just a small observation.

  20. Dz says:

    Yes yes yes to Alison Wright’s inclusion!
    I was absolutely blown away by that scene!

  21. Ally Oop says:

    So many good performances. Amirah Vann gets my vote of the actors you mentioned. Another standout was Kofi Siriboe on Queen Sugar.

  22. Briony says:

    Amy Acker absolutely destroyed me, she was so excellent, #1 performance of the year. Where her award nominations are, i don’t know.

    I think Chyler Leigh probably needs to be here too though.

  23. Yes to Sarah Paulson and Lauren Grahan! Lorelai’s talk with her mom on the phone had to be one of the most emotional and AMAZING scenes i’ve seen. I cried. Sarah Paulson is so great!! I’m glad she is being recognized! Her perfomance in American Crime Story is stellar! And also, big yes to Millie Bobby Brown and Freddie Highmore!!!!