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Decider Lists

The 14 Best Performances From Streaming Originals In 2014

2014…what a year, amirite? During each of the final 14 days of the year, the Decider staff will be counting down our favorite and most memorable moments of 2014. If you happen to miss an installment along the way, don’t fret! You can follow all the action on our official Best 14 Of ’14 hub page.

While the Golden Age of Television may still refer to the shows broadcast on traditional networks, 2014 offered, more than any other year before, a major alternative in original programming across streaming platforms, particularly on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. With a handful of streaming series getting a few awards and plenty of nominations this year, we thought it best to look at the performances across those streaming services that really stuck out as some of the acting of the year.

1

Chris O'Dowd, 'Moone Boy'

moone-boy-chris-odowd
Photo: Hulu

The Bridesmaids star writes and stars in his own series, now a Hulu Original. Young Martin Moone doesn’t connect with anyone his age, so he thinks up an imaginary friend (O’Dowd) to be the banjo-playing bestie he’s always wanted. O’Dowd blends About a Boy with Calvin and Hobbes in this adorable coming-of-age dramedy series. —Olivia Armstrong [Where to stream Moone Boy]

2

John Goodman, 'Alpha House'

john-goodman-alpha-house
Photo: Amazon

Just as Frank Underwood was scheming his way to make it to the top of the political food chain, Senator Gill John Biggs (Goodman) is wishing he explored other career paths. Goodman is always entertaining, but it’s so much fun to see him in a role where he seems out of control of his environment. — Olivia Armstrong [Where to stream Alpha House]

3

Alysia Reiner, 'Orange Is the New Black'

oitnb-alysia-reiner
Photo: Netflix

There are plenty of antagonists on Orange Is the New Black, and one of the most infuriating is Alysia Reiner’s Natalie “Fig” Figueroa, the tough-as-nails, crooked assistant warden at Litchfield Penitentiary. She’s ruthless and cruel at times, but like every character on the show, she also has her vulnerabilities and weak spots, and this revelation allowed Reiner truly shine as one of the second season’s stand-outs. —Tyler Coates [Where to stream Orange Is the New Black]

4

Joan Chen, 'Marco Polo'

joan-chen
Photo: Netflix

You probably already know that Joan Chen is a force of nature, but you may not know that she’s the number one reason why you should tune in to Marco Polo. While the story may be driven by powerful men like the eponymous Polo and the legendary Kublai Khan, Chen’s Empress Chabi is the one who controls those men. Chen brings exquisite subtlety to her performance and elevates every scene she’s in. Like a lot of powerful queens in historical dramas, she could come across as yet another scheming, back-stabbing Lady Macbeth, but Chen’s charm, warmth, and intelligence transform her into someone we would all like to bow down to. —Meghan O’Keefe [Where to stream Marco Polo]

5

Cillian Murphy, 'Peaky Blinders'

peaky-blinders-murphy
Photo: Netflix

You’ve seen Irish actor Cillian Murphy before but never quite like this. Murphy plays ruthless gang lead Tommy Shelby in the hit BBC series turned Netflix Original, Peaky Blinders. Forget the goofy title, this razor-brimmed badass is anything but. —Olivia Armstrong [Where to stream Peaky Blinders]

6

Yael Stone, 'Orange Is the New Black'

oitnb-yael-stone
Photo: Netflix

OITNB’s writers beffed up the role of Lorna Morello in the second season of the prison dramedy, giving actress Yael Stone the opportunity to stretch her muscles and show off her impressive talent. Through her very own flashbacks, Stone allowed Morello to evolve from a plucky sidekick to a fully formed character who’s as equally heartbreaking as she is hilarious and charming. —Tyler Coates [Where to stream Orange Is the New Black]

7

Gaby Hoffman, 'Transparent'

transparent ali
Photo: Amazon

Gaby Hoffmann rose of out a post-child star obscurity in the last couple of years and made surprising turns as “quirky” women. It’d be easy to write off Hoffmann’s Ali Pfefferman as another one of those women, but through the brilliant writing on this show, and Hoffmann’s deep, nuanced performance, she’s more than that. Of all the Pfefferman children, she seems to be the most listless — at least on paper. But she’s also the most likable, and there’s something lovely in watching her try to find her own way while the people around her seem to fail her. She’s messy and complicated, just like any real person, and Hoffmann’s own personality shines through to the surface to craft an incredible performance. —Tyler Coates [Where to stream Transparent]

8

Helen McCrory, 'Peaky Blinders'

peaky-blinders-helen-mccrory
Photo: Netflix

Sure, Cillian Murphy is the star of the show, but the breakout of the gangster drama is Helen McCrory, also known as Aunt Polly. McCrory is a tour de force, and one can always tell exactly what her character is thinking and just how she’s feeling without much dialogue, but through pure expression. —Olivia Armstrong [Where to stream Peaky Blinders]

9

Kevin Spacey, 'House of Cards'

house-of-cards-kevin-spacey copy
Photo: Netflix

House of Cards is all about Frank Underwood, and we can’t imagine any other actor filling the crooked politician’s shoes. Sure, the series is at times a trashy beltway soap, but Spacey always up the ante with his Shakespearean fourth wall-breaking complete with a silver-tongued Southern accent that just broad enough to fit the show’s slightly campy style. —Tyler Coates [Where to stream House of Cards]

10

Sarah Lancashire, 'Happy Valley'

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Photo: Netflix

Lancashire plays Catherine Cawood, a 47-year-old detective and divorcée whose still reeling from the death of her daughter while raising her grandson, whom was left behind. A feminist role model, Catherine is able to laugh through the tears and tragedy plaguing her small valley of Yorkshire after drug mules are using it as a pit stop on their way through England. —Olivia Armstrong [Where to stream Happy Valley]

11

Ben Sinclair, 'High Maintenance'

high-maintenance-2
Photo: Janky Clown Productions

We don’t know much about Sinclair’s character in the acclaimed web series, simply referred to as “The Guy,” but like his customers, we’re always excited to see him when he briefly pops up in each episode. Sinclair could very well steer his Guy into the realm of stereotypical Brooklyn hipster, but he adds something completely genuine, which adds to what makes High Maintenance so darn good. — Olivia Armstrong [Where to stream High Maintenance]

12

Uzo Aduba, 'Orange Is the New Black'

oitnb-uzo-aduba
Photo: Netflix

Despite the stellar ensemble cast, OITNB‘s break-out star was really Uzo Aduba, who won an Emmy for her performance as Crazy Eyes last year. She followed that up with a more substantial role in the show’s second season, earning both SAG and Golden Globe nominations. While we’re still hoping she’ll be able to handle different roles in the future, we’re pretty happy with what she’s done here — equal parts comic and dramatic. —Tyler Coates [Where to stream Orange Is the New Black]

13

Lorraine Toussaint, 'Orange Is the New Black'

oitnb-lorraine-toussaint
Photo: Netflix

She may very well have had the most courageous scene in television this year, but Lorraine Toussaint is more than just a bold actress — she created nuance and genuinely terrifying layers to what could have been just a cut-and-dry villain. As Vee, a prisoner at Litchfield who stepped over everybody to make herself the top dog, Toussaint was at times both scary and endearing. In a show with an impressive ensemble cast, Toussaint’s talent and presence should not go overlooked. —Tyler Coates [Where to stream Orange Is the New Black]

14

Jeffrey Tambor, 'Transparent'

transparent-jeffrey-tambor
Photo: Amazon

Not only is Transparent possibly the best new show of 2014, it also features the best performance of the year from seasoned vet Jeffrey Tambor. As Maura, Tambor brings a quiet subtlety to a role that, in any other time, would be played as over-the-top as possible. With a brilliant team of writers and the delicate, compassionate Tambor behind her, Maura is one of the most complicated characters on television — she’s empathetic, tragic, and at times infuriating. Tambor’s quiet performance relies on a physicality not seen in any of his peers this year. —Tyler Coates [Where to stream Transparent]

 

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