In Malcolm X Denzel Washington captured the changing man, from coy delinquent to disciplined sage. Angela Bassett's Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It almost outshook the lady herself. Best newcomer was Karina Lombard, whose wrenching Antoinette in Wide Sargasso Sea showed she's worth far more than that bikini role in The Firm.
The best performances involved holding something back. For Tim Roth, in Reservoir Dogs, it was his guts: you believed his insides were about to pour out as his voice leapt an agonised octave. For Anthony Hopkins in The Remains of the Day, it was his emotions: they'd been crushed under layers of self-discipline - only his louche walk suggested a more dissolute self. Daniel Auteuil displayed a similar atrophy in Un Coeur en Hiver, magnetising his mystery with a few masterly twitches.
Holly Hunter, in The Piano, held back her voice. In other hands (Meryl Streep's, say) the role of Ada might have been absurd, but Hunter played it with unselfconscious conviction. Her power was crystallised in two contrasting moments: the joy surging over her chalky face as she played the piano on the beach; and the agony as she slumped brutalised into the mud. No one else matched those twin peaks.