Every year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selects who they consider to have given a notable performance in a qualifying film. The performances are usually emotionally-charged roles that challenge the viewer. The Best Actor Nominees for the 2009 81st Academy Awards included an array of roles.

  1. Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor”- Richard Jenkins plays Walter Vale, a widower going through the motions of life. On a reluctant trip back to New York City, he gets a chance to reinvent himself.

  2. Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon”- Taking on the role of the former president, Langella kept his Nixon persona even while not filming to create "a sort of separateness." His fellow acting crew even greeted him on set as "Mr. President."

  3. Sean Penn in “Milk”- Penn garnered the Oscar for his role as Harvey Milk, the San Francisco politician, most notably remembered for being the first openly homosexual politician elected to public office who succeeded in passing stringent rights for the gay community in the city.

  4. Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”- Brad Pitt's performance of F. Scott Fitzgerald's character is deep, thought-provoking and sorrowful.

  5. Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler”- Rourke plays a formerly ultra-popular professional wrestler who struggles to come to terms with the fact that his career is over. He grapples with the emptiness of his existence while attempting to repair the relationship with the daughter he never spent time with.