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8 Movies Every Actor Should Study to Improve the 5 Most Important Acting Techniques

February 13, 2023

8 Movies Every Actor Should Study to Improve the 5 Most Important Acting Techniques

No one becomes a great actor without studying for their masters. While different acting techniques work for different people, there are some commonalities that can be found in the best of the best. 

By watching and studying 8 classic films, you can improve your own five most important classical acting techniques. 

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been performing for years, these movies will help you to develop and hone your craft. So put on your thinking cap and get ready to learn from some of the greatest actors who have ever lived!

What Are the 5 Components of Acting?

To become a better actor, you should work to mimic famous actors’ acting techniques. You’ll need to master the following types of acting techniques:

  • Instinct 
  • Character development
  • Stage direction, blocking, and physicality 
  • Projection, diction, and breathing
  • Listening and reacting

Of course, there are more formal acting methods and techniques you’ll need to learn, too. You can learn all about these in acting technique classes. See an example in the video below: 

What Are the 8 Acting Methods?

No matter your level of experience, you’ve probably heard of the various acting methods. Each has its own approach and goals, but which one is right for you? We’ll explore the eight most common acting methods and help you decide which is best for you. So whether you’re a beginner or a veteran actor, read on to find out more!

Stanisklavksy’s System

One of the most influential act techniques is Stanislavski’s System. It was developed by Konstantin Stanislavski and first published in his book, An Actor Prepares. The system is based on the belief that if an actor can create believable and realistic emotions, then they will be able to convincingly portray their character on stage. 

The Stanislavski’s system has been used by some of the world’s most famous actors, including Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe. 

The technique relies on a number of different exercises and techniques, such as sense memory and emotional recall, to help the actor connect with their character. While it takes time and commitment to master the system, it can be an extremely powerful tool for any actor who wants to give a truly believable performance.

Lee Strasberg’s Method

Lee Strasberg’s Method is a well-known acting technique that has been used by some of the biggest names in Hollywood. The technique is based on the belief that actors should tap into their own emotions and personal experiences in order to create believable and convincing characters.

 Strasberg believed that by accessing these deep emotions, actors would be able to truly become their characters and give emotionally honest performances. While the Method has been criticized by some for being too emotionally demanding, there is no denying that it has produced some truly great performances over the years. 

Whether you love it or hate it, there is no denying that the Lee Strasberg’s Method is a technique that has had a major impact on the world of acting.

Stella Adler Technique 

Stella Adler was an influential American actress and teacher of acting technique. She is the founder of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City. The Stella Adler technique is based on the belief that all great actors must have a deep understanding of the human condition in order to portray their characters convincingly. 

This technique emphasizes the need for actors to use their imaginations to create rich inner lives for their characters. In addition, the Stella Adler technique focuses on the importance of making bold choices and taking risks in order to create truly compelling performances. If you are looking to improve your acting skills, studying the Stella Adler technique can provide you with invaluable insights into the art of dramatic storytelling.

Meisner Technique

The Meisner technique is a system of acting that was developed by Sanford Meisner in the 1940s. It is based on the principle of “reacting to the other.” This means that instead of simply memorizing lines and reciting them, actors must be present and responsive to their scene partners in order to create a believable performance. 

The Meisner technique is often used in improvisational exercises, as it helps actors to be spontaneous and react in the moment. It can also be used in more traditional scenes, as it helps to create a sense of realism. The Meisner technique is one of the most popular acting methods being taught today, and many successful actors have studied it.

Michael Chekhov Acting Technique

The Michael Chekhov Acting Technique is a system for training actors that was developed by the Russian theatre practitioner Michael Chekhov. The technique emphasizes the use of imagination and inner life to create characters and bring them to life on stage. It also makes use of physical and vocal exercises to help actors connect with their characters physically and emotionally. 

The goal of the technique is to help actors access their inner resources and spontaneity in order to create truthful and compelling performances. The Michael Chekhov Acting Technique is used by some of the world’s leading acting schools, including the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Juilliard School. It has also been used extensively in film and television, notably by directors such as Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, and Woody Allen.

Practical Aesthetics

The Practical Aesthetics acting technique was developed by William H. Macy and David Mamet at the Atlantic Theater Company in the early 1980s. Macy and Mamet were looking for a way to strip away the artificiality of traditional acting techniques and create a more naturalistic style of performance. 

The result was the Practical Aesthetics technique, which focuses on four core principles: actions, objectives, obstacles, and units of action. These principles are designed to help actors find their own unique way of approaching a scene, and to focus on the true objectives of their character. As a result, Practical Aesthetics has become one of the most popular acting techniques in the world, and has been used by some of the most respected actors in Hollywood.

Uta Hagen Acting Technique

Uta Hagen was a successful actress for many years before she began teaching acting, and her technique is informed by her own experience in the field. 

One of the most important aspects of the Uta Hagen Acting Technique is the focus on living truthfully in imaginary circumstances. This means that actors must be fully present in the moment and create an emotionally honest reaction to the situation they are pretending to be in. 

This can be achieved through a variety of exercises, such as improvisation and sense memory work. 

In addition, Hagen placed a strong emphasis on practical skills, such as vocal production and stage movement. She believed that actors should have a solid understanding of these basics before attempting to tackle more complex emotions. As a result, the Uta Hagen Acting Technique is a well-rounded approach that can help actors to give truthful and powerful performances.

Viola Spolin Acting Technique 

Viola Spolin was a pioneer in the field of improvisational theater, and her techniques have been widely influential. One of her key contributions was the concept of “flow,” or the state of being fully immersed in an activity. For Spolin, flow was essential for creating successful improvisational scenes. 

To achieve flow, actors need to be completely present in the moment and responsive to their fellow performers. This requires a high level of concentration and focus. In addition, actors must be willing to take risks and experiment with new ideas. By following these guidelines, performers can create scenes that are spontaneous, creative, and full of energy. 

The Viola Spolin Acting Technique has helped to shape the course of American theater, and it continues to be a valuable tool for actors today.

5 Important Acting Techniques – and Movies to Watch to Improve Them

Do you love acting and want to improve your skills? Acting lessons are a great place to start — but you can also learn a lot simply from curling up on the couch for movie night! Take a look at these eight movies you can study to learn about important acting techniques from your favorite on-screen actors and actresses.

1. Instinct

Instinct is a natural tendency to, in character, behave in a certain way. All actors have a bit of instinct – some more than others. For example, Peter Sellers’ success in the lead role of the 1963 film The Pink Panther is often attributed to his improvisation and strong instincts for the role of Inspector Clouseau – including the well-known (and hilarious) globe-spinning scene.

Too young for years of training to hone their skills, many child actors also have excellent instincts. An example is the youngest-ever Best Actress Oscar nominee (2013) Quvenzhané Wallis. In Beasts of the Southern Wild, six-year-old Wallis held audiences spellbound with her poise, charisma, and natural talent. Her instincts are inspiring for anyone hoping to improve their acting techniques.

2. Character Development

Beyond instinct, most actors spend a lot of time developing the character they’re playing. Some actors even go as far as dropping everything in their day-to-day life to “become” the character, using method acting techniques. In the making of the 2005 film Walk the Line, actor Joaquin Phoenix immersed himself in his character to successfully portray famed country singer Johnny Cash. For the role of June Carter Cash, Reese Witherspoon learned to sing and play the autoharp in order to perform live in the film. Witherspoon won numerous awards for the role, including an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

3. Stage Direction, Blocking, and Physicality

Acting involves paying attention to stage directions and blocking – your positioning, movement, and body language – some of which are outlined in the script, while others are not. These stage directions often convey a character’s emotional and physical state. For example, poor posture could mean insecurity, or a stumbling gait could mean the character is intoxicated, old, or injured.

In the 2003 film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, actor Johnny Depp showed off this acting technique in various scenes, from his mischievous swagger to his quick-thinking rescue of the fainting Elizabeth.

The 2006 comedy-drama The Devil Wears Prada is another great film to observe this technique. Meryl Streep’s role as an ego-centric and cold magazine editor is defined and then reinforced by her demeanor, walk, and gestures. Anne Hathaway’s initially insecure character evolves throughout the film to become a confident but stressed young professional; Hathaway’s role relies heavily on physicality to show this transformation.

4. Projection, Diction, and Breathing

It isn’t just singers that need vocal training! Actors need to learn how to project and enunciate, and some roles require additional training in learning specific accents or vocal tics. For example, in the 1980 biographical film Coal Miner’s Daughter, Sissy Spacek plays a convincing Loretta Lynn based on her ability to incorporate the singer’s speaking style.

The 2005 film Brokeback Mountain demonstrates the skills of actors Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Randy Quaid in assuming their characters’ physicality and speaking styles. Ledger’s character has a quiet nature and a distinct rural Wyoming accent, and his spot-on performance earned him several award nominations.

5. Listening and Reacting

Acting is rarely a monologue. During your acting lessons or performance practice, you’ll learn to hone the skills of listening and reacting to acting partners. Think of the spark between acting duos like Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. One particular performance that epitomizes good listening and reacting is Robert Redford and Paul Newman co-starring in the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. They skillfully play off each other like old friends, especially during the ambush scene when they’re working as guards at a mining company.

Which is the Best Acting Technique?

Out of all of the different acting techniques available to actors, which one is the best? This is a difficult question to answer, as each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages. 

For example, the Stanislavski system emphasizes inner emotion and mental preparation, while the Meisner technique focuses on reacting in the moment. 

Some actors prefer to rely on their natural instincts, while others find that they need to put in more effort to achieve success. Ultimately, there is no single answer to this question. Every actor is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. 

The best acting technique is the one that helps an actor to feel most comfortable and confident in their own skin. The best way to find the right acting technique is to work with a qualified acting instructor – and to watch plenty of movies for inspiration.

As an aspiring actor, there’s something you can learn in just about any movie you watch. What movies are your favorites? Leave a comment and let us know!


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Photos by, Movie NationSlant Magazine, Madison.comRogerEbert.comthe ace black blog, RogerEbert.comSan Francisco International Film Festival


Suzy S.