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50 Best Breakout Film Performances Of The Decade

Many stars have been born in the last ten years of cinema. To mark this, Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge lists off his 50 favourite breakout performances of the decade.

Let us know your favourite breakout performances of the decade in the comment section below!


50. Henry Golding – Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Golding came from nowhere to star in one of the biggest rom-coms films of the decade. The role of Nick Young has launched the former TV host into Hollywood stardom as a highly in demand leading man.

49. Margaret Qualley – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

It only took a few scenes for Qualley to be a show-stealing force in Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film. The model turned actress, who also had a notable role in Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, was scintillating acting alongside the legendary Brad Pitt.

48. Dafne Keen – Logan (2017)

Keen arguably outshone Hugh Jackman in his final Wolverine film. It doesn’t Charles Xavier to work out that she is destined for big things in the future.

47. Tom Holland – The Impossible (2012)

It has been one heck of a decade for Holland. Aged 14 during filming, the British actor delivered in this challenging role and left Hollywood’s Spidey senses tingling.

46. Dane DeHaan – Chronicle (2012)

Josh Trank’s found footage superhero film showcased a few actors who would go onto great things in the following years. DeHaan’s performance as a teen who struggles to cope with his newfound powers set the path for him to star in big-budget films such as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets.

45. Zack Gottsagen – The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

Gottsagen and Shia LaBeouf displayed wonderful chemistry in this tale of friendship and strength. One can only hope that the two work together in the future, and that Gottsagen is given more opportunities to show his acting talent.

44. Adam Driver – Frances Ha (2012)

Driver effortlessly exudes charm and shows off his magnetic on-screen presence in Noah Baumbach’s comedy. It wouldn’t take long before he was picked out for a lead character in the new Star Wars films.

43. Dave Bautista – Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)

WWE superstars have enjoyed a record-busting decade in Hollywood. Following in the footsteps of Dwayne Johnson, Bautista showed that there is a lot more to him than muscle thanks to this role as Drax in Guardians Of The Galaxy. Bautista’s talents have also been recognised by director Denis Villeneuve who cast him in Blade Runner 2049 and Dune (set for release in 2020).

42. Ana de Armas – Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

She might have been playing a holographic companion, but Armas proved she is the real deal in Villeneuve’s highly anticipated follow up to the original Blade Runner. It’s no surprise that the Cuban actress has been incredibly busy ever since.

41. Jessie Buckley – Beast (2017)

Buckley’s rise in the past few years has been a joy to watch, but it really took off with this sinister role in Michael Pearce’s Beast. We’ve since witnessed her incredible on-screen spark in Wild Rose, and there are already more roles lined up to be excited about.

40. Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave (2014)

Nyong’o showed the world what she is capable of in Steve McQueen’s film about Solomon Northup. She has since gone on to have blockbuster success in Black Panther and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Not to forget a versatile and skin-crawling performance in Jordan Peele’s horror Us.

39. Lily Newman – Pin Cushion (2018)

Similar to Anya Joy-Taylor and Rooney Mara, Newman has an alien quality that brings so much to the screen. Deborah Haywood’s film puts it on display within the context of a dark tale of social outsiders and vicious bullying.

38. Vicky Krieps – Phantom Thread (2017)

In her first English-speaking film role, Krieps held her own with one of the greatest actors to have ever lived. Impressive and bewitching work.

37. Riz Ahmed – Four Lions (2010)

Chris Morris’ satire remains a contender of best comedy of the decade. The film, in which Ahmed plays an aspiring terrorist, helped launch the actor’s career in America. Ahmed later enjoyed parts in Rogue One, Nightcrawler, Jason Bourne, and Venom.

36. Jacob Tremblay – Room (2015)

Tremblay’s portrayal of a young boy trapped in a room with his mother (played by Brie Larson) won him praise from all quarters. The youngster’s star continues to rise with a role in the comedy Good Boy and an upcoming part in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

35. Daisy Ridley – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Ridley went from an unknown force to megastar Jedi in lightspeed time. The London-born actress was a highlight of Star Wars’ big-screen return, particularly her chemistry with fellow breakout performer John Boyega.

34. Lily Gladstone – Certain Women (2016)

Despite tired faces and modest settings, there is something quietly electric about the scenes between Lily Gladstone and Kristen Stewart in Certain Women. Gladstone certainly impressed opposite one of the best actors in the world.

33. Elle Fanning – Somewhere (2010)

Fanning’s decade opened with an endearing role as the daughter of a drifting and passionless Hollywood actor (played by Stephen Dorff). A year later, she would star in J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi mystery Super 8 (arguably her true breakout performance) and breakout as a mainstream star. It’s also worth noting that Fanning would reunite with Somewhere director Sofia Coppola later in the decade with a devilish performance in The Beguiled.

32. Iko Uwais – The Raid (2012)

One of the great cinema surprise stories of the decade, Uwais took the world of action films by storm with his fast-paced and audacious performance in The Raid. The Indonesian actor has gone on to work on big-budget Hollywood films as an actor and choreographer.

31. Angourie Rice – These Final Hours (2013)

Rice was excellent in her role as a young girl caught up in nihilistic chaos. Zak Hilditch’s apocalyptic horror was just the start of an eye-catching decade for the rising Aussie actress who also shone in The Nice Guys, The Beguiled, Every Day, and Spider-Man: Far From Home.

30. Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name (2018)

Chalamet showed he is more than just a charismatic teen heartthrob with this thoughtful performance opposite Armie Hammer. The world is at his feet with lots of exciting roles already in the works for the next decade.

29. Bethany Whitmore – Girl Asleep (2015)

Whitmore’s outstanding lead performance helped bring Rosemary Myers’ ambitious coming-of-age fantasy tale to life. There is no doubt that Whitmore, who has since had TV roles in Picnic At Hanging Rock and The Family Law, will be presented with plenty more opportunities to shine in the coming decade.

28. Madeline Brewer – Cam (2018)

The identity of an ambitious cam girl is dragged into crisis by the appearance of a doppelgänger in Daniel Goldhaber’s horror. Brewer’s lead performance expertly captures this crisis and the film’s intense closing scenes.

27. Taron Egerton – Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Undoubtedly one of the biggest success stories of the decade, Egerton has risen to become one of Hollywood’s most admired actors after his breakout role in Kingsman. Egerton, who recently shone as Elton John in Rocketman, must now realise that the sky is the limit.

26. Isabela Merced – Instant Family (2018)

Following an impressive role in Sicario 2, Merced fully announced herself in Sean Anders’ family comedy. Her surprisingly layered performance as a protective and emotionally guarded older sister proved she could hang with the stars such as Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne. Merced would then follow up this breakout role with a risker one (she could have been meme’d to retirement) in Dora And The Lost City Of Gold. Fortunately, the 18 year old passed this hazardous jungle adventure with charm.

Bonus Pick. Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips (2013)

Abdi went from a limo driver to an Oscar nominee thanks to his performance in Captain Phillips. The Somali-American actor has built on that success with appearances in Eye In The Sky and Blade Runner 2049.

25. Tony Revolori – The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Revolori went from zero to Zero as he played the bellhop and sidekick of M. Gustave (played by Ralph Fiennes). The California-born actor has followed up this delightful role with prominent appearances in Marvel’s recent Spider-Man films.

24. Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele’s conversation-stirring horror put Kaluuya’s big-screen talents into focus. The film also woke up Hollywood to Allison Williams, Betty Gabriel, LaKeith Stanfield and Lil Rel Howery.

23. Jessica Chastain – The Tree of Life (2011)

Chastain is a leading light in Terrence Malick’s experimental film. It would be the beginning of a tremendous decade for Chastain, which included highly acclaimed performances in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty and J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year.

22. Jessica Rothe – Happy Death Day (2017)

Rothe’s highly affable and charismatic on-screen presence was a key factor in the surprise success of Christopher Landon’s slasher-comedy. Expect (and hope) to see her lead more films in the coming decade.

21. Lady Gaga – A Star Is Born (2018)

A lot of expectation surrounded Lady Gaga heading into this film, but the world famous singer showed she belongs on the big-screen. Gaga proved to be a revelation alongside co-star and director Bradley Cooper.

20. Maria-Victoria Dragus – Graduation (2016)

Dragus wowed critics at Cannes with her performance opposite experienced actor Adrian Titieni. The Romanian actress was rewarded with a role working with Margot Robbie in Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen Of Scots.

19. Quvenzhané Wallis – Beasts Of The Southern Wild (2012)

Aged 9, Wallis became the youngest Best Actress nominee at the Academy Awards following her outstanding lead performance in Benh Zeitlin’s drama. The youngster, who had no previous acting experience, delivered a fierce and charismatic performance to marvel at.

18. Odessa Young – The Daughter (2015)

Another Aussie set to make a lasting impact on Hollywood. Young stood out among an acclaimed cast – including Sam Neill and Geoffrey Rush – in Simon Stone’s twisted tale of family secrets. A few years on, the young Australian actress would make her stamp on America by leading Sam Levinson’s provocative film, Assassination Nation.

17. Trevante Rhodes – Moonlight (2016)

Rhodes and Andre Holland make the closing scenes of Moonlight some of the most compelling cinematic moments of the decade.

16. Samara Weaving – Ready Or Not (2019)

Following up from a brief but memorable comedy appearance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Weaving proved she was more than ready to carry bigger roles with a fierce lead performance in Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet’s horror-comedy. The Aussie actress demonstrated that she has all the tools to be a huge big-screen force in the coming decade.

15. Lucas Hedges – Manchester By The Sea (2016)

Hedges is tremendous as a troubled teen dealing with the sudden death of his father. For all the sad moments, some of the highlights of the film arrive with his character’s clumsy sexual encounters with Sandy (Anna Baryshnikov).

14. Bria Vinaite – The Florida Project (2017)

Found by director Sean Baker on Instagram, Vinaite brought an authentic energy to her role as a single mother living in a budget motel. A standout debut performance alongside young Brooklynn Prince and Mela Murder.

13. Beanie Feldstein – Booksmart (2019)

The irresistibly charming friendship at the heart of Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut has turned Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever into must-see lead star. Feldstein, who also had a notable role in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, was recently announced as a cast member in Richard Linklater 20-year film project.

12. Thomasin McKenzie – Leave No Trace (2018)

Acting alongside Ben Foster, McKenzie turned in one of the best performances of 2018. The young Kiwi actress played the daughter of a military veteran who keeps a distance from normal society to help cope with his posttraumatic stress disorder. McKenzie has lots of exciting roles to look forward to in the coming years, including a lead role in Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit.

11. Laia Costa – Victoria (2015)

Costa was introduced to audiences with a remarkable central performance in Sebastian Schipper’s exhilarating and technically ambitious thriller. Her work on the film has led to roles in Harry Wootliff’s Only You and Dan Fogelman’s Life Itself.

Bonus Pick. Joanna Kulig – Cold War (2018)

Audiences outside of Poland were alerted to the diverse talents of Joanna Kulig thanks to Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War. She is now set to star in Damien Chazelle’s upcoming Netflix series The Eddy.

10. Victoria Carmen Sonne – Holiday (2018)

Sonne turned in a captivating lead performance in Isabella Eklöf’s thriller about the trophy wife of a drug lord. This Danish actress is destined for big things in 2020 and beyond.

9. Anya Taylor-Joy – The Witch (2015)

Is there another current actor that inspires the on-screen intrigue that Taylor-Joy does? It is a unique presence that was utilised beguilingly in Robert Eggers’ stark horror.

8. Jeon Jong-seo – Burning (2018)

Jong-seo’s first ever film audition led to a role in Lee Chang-dong’s thriller Burning. The South Korean’s actress drew international acclaim with her remarkable debut performance, including a place on The Hollywood Reporter Critics’ 15 International Breakout Talents Of 2018. She will soon make her first appearance in an English-language film with Ana Lily Amirpur’s Mona Lisa And The Blood Moon.

7. Adèle Exarchopoulos – Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013)

Exarchopoulos won a host of international awards for her raw and passionate performance in Abdellatif Kechiche’s hotly discussed film. The French actress, who became the youngest person to be awarded the Palme d’Or, has since worked with the likes of Ralph Fiennes and Charlize Theron.

6. Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone (2010)

Lawrence became the second youngest person to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress after her role as a poverty-stricken teenager. This stripped back and bruising role would act as a springboard into The Hunger Games franchise and a number of big-budget films. Lawrence is undoubtedly one of the most successful and beloved stars to emerge this decade.

5. Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit (2010)

A stunning introduction to Hailee Steinfeld saw her go toe-to-toe with the likes of Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Playing the determined and bright Mattie Ross, Steinfeld delighted audiences and critics in this Coen Brothers adaptation of Charlie Portis’ 1968 novel. Steinfeld has since gone on to display her incredible talent and range, including an engaging lead role to help make a huge success of Bumblebee.

4. Sasha Lane – American Honey (2016)

A debut performance to cherish, Lane is a captivating and unpredictable force of nature in Andrea Arnold’s American Honey. The Texas-born actress has a distinctive on-screen presence that suggests she’ll be involved in lots of interesting projects in the coming years.

3. Florence Pugh – Lady Macbeth (2016)

Pugh has emerged as one of Hollywood’s most promising talents in the second half of the decade, but her breakout performance came in William Oldroyd’s dark and raunchy film. Set in 19th century rural Britain, Lady Macbeth acted as the perfect platform for Pugh to display her transformative big-screen capabilities. The Oxford-born actress has since gone on to charm in Fighting With My Family and stun in Midsommar. As good as the last few years have been, it feels as though Pugh is only just getting warmed up.

2. Samantha Robinson – The Love Witch (2016)

With one of the most unique performances of the decade, Robinson helps light up Anna Biller’s utterly beguiling film with bewitching confidence and remarkable skill. Robinson, who recently starred in Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, is destined for the top in the next decade.

1. Garance Marillier – Raw (2016)

Julia Ducournau’s Raw gave Marillier plenty to dig her teeth into in her debut feature role. The French actress turned in a riveting and transformative performance that won acclaim from international audiences. The film also gave a spotlight to rising talents Ella Rumpf and Rabah Nait Oufella.


Let us know your favourite breakout performances of the decade in the comment section below!

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