Eighteen Brilliant But Unawarded Acting Performances


4. Emily Watson – Breaking the Waves

In a role almost filled by Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson gives it all, quite literally, to portray her character in this film about God, love, sex, and sickness.

Bess McNeil, Watson’s character, opens up a Pandora’s box of questions about morality, leaving the audience to wonder what they would do in her almost unthinkable situation.

When Bess’ new husband becomes paralyzed after an accident at work, Bess blames herself for asking God to bring him home to stay.

The plot thickens when her husband, unable to have sex with his wife, asks her to have an affair and tell him about the details. Given the extremely voyeuristic style in which the film was made, you get to feel the raw intensity and stunning beauty of her performance in a way that more traditional filming could never have captured.

The passionate R-rated scenes are intense but not distasteful, and even fully clothed Watson is beautiful and touchingly real. Watson has played in several equally emotional and deep films since, but none have managed to leave us with an almost permanent chill like “Breaking the Waves”, and it was Watson’s heart-wrenching debut performance that made it so memorable. She earned an Oscar nomination for the film, but no award.