Our Annual Report shines a spotlight on two very different, very impactful for performances by naming Margot Robbie and Cillian Murphy our 2023 Film Performers of the Year for their respective work in Barbie and Oppenheimer. For more of the best in this year’s music, film, and TV — including our lists of the 25 Best Films — check our full Annual Report here.
When people initially realized that the release dates of 2023’s Barbie and Oppenheimer aligned, it became instant meme fodder. Leaning hard into the concept of gender as a binary, the weekend of July 21st was defined by two colors — hot pink and grey — with an entire cultural phenomenon emerging around the unconventional double feature. It was a pop culture event, one that ultimately went far deeper than the memes.
The Barbenheimer moment, at the time, was a celebration of the contrasts between the two films. However, it’s what both movies have in common that leads to Consequence selecting Margot Robbie and Cillian Murphy as the two best film performers of the year. The expectations around both projects were quite different, as were the requirements and research required. Yet in considering their work, what both performances showcase is a theme almost too powerfully relevant to today: the quest for purpose in a world we struggle to grasp.
Both characters begin in a place of surety: As a resident of Barbie Land, Barbie (Robbie) has always known a perfect, flaw-free life, and has never had a reason to doubt any aspect of her existence. So when she’s first struck by thoughts of death, it has a seismic impact on her world, disrupting her usual routine and eventually forcing her to visit our reality for answers as to what’s happening to her.
J. Robert Oppenheimer (Murphy) is also looking for answers; however, while Oppie (as his limited supply of friends call him) struggles to unlock the scientific discoveries that will eventually lead to the atom bomb, he’s doing so as a scientist, a man who’s confident that thanks to the might of his magnificent brain, the secrets of the natural universe will eventually unfold for him.
Both Robbie and Murphy are remarkable at the level of commitment necessary to sell their characters’ belief that the universe can be understood. For Robbie, this means an ever-present smile, an unshakable cheer, a slightly flat affect that captures her calm acceptance of her circumstances. In the opening sequence, there’s a rigidity to her posture as she cruises through the neighborhood in her pink convertible; there’s nothing bland about her cheer, but it is steady and certain.