While cinematic titans from past generations such as Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro continue to deliver exceptional performances in mainstream productions, scores of younger talents have proven their worth in films and television series from the modern era that have positioned them as worthy successors to the more established performers.
These actors have excelled in comedy and drama with equal ease, and they have aided the film industry’s transition to the streaming format deftly enough to ensure that the medium will survive as theaters lose their relevance.
Of the young comedic actors whose careers were launched by the works of filmmaker Judd Apatow, Jonah Hill was the most successful at subsequently revolutionizing his public image with more dramatic and serious-minded works.
Performing alongside Brad Pitt in Moneyball and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, Hill proved himself as a skilled thespian with an evident ability to convey emotion to an extent that is unusual for those with backgrounds in low-brow comedy. Hill has additionally directed a film – the emotionally-resonant Mid-90s – suggesting that he may continue to pursue his interests that lie behind the camera.
Emma Stone has repeatedly demonstrated her ardent commitment to the craft of acting, dedicating equal effort to lighter fare such as Superbad and elaborate, critically-adored work such as the Academy Award-winning La La Land. Stone’s performances are effective while remaining unpretentious, a merit that many of her similarly-acclaimed peers do not share. Her turn in the 2014 epic Birdman elevated her to a level of prestige that the initial viewers of 2010’s amusing but unserious Easy A probably did not expect her to attain, and she has maintained such quality of performance into the following decade.
While Margot Robbie has portrayed more prominent and focal characters in other works, perhaps the most convincing example of her brilliance is her supporting role as Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. An iconic scene from the 2019 masterwork features Robbie’s Tate viewing a film in a theater, silent and expressing herself only through her emotive facial expressions – those interested in her verbal delivery can identify it in her best quotes from The Wolf of Wall Street. It is rare for an actor to be able to communicate silently with such effectiveness, making Robbie’s capability as a performer evident.
LaKeith Stanfield is one of the most captivating actors to achieve mainstream popularity in recent years, displaying his seemingly-effortless charm in unique and eccentric films such as Knives Out and Sorry to Bother You. Stanfield never overacts, and his subtlety has greatly contributed to the near-perfection of several of the projects with which he has been involved. His recent performance in Judas and the Black Messiahone of LaKeith Stanfield’s best movies, was captivating enough to suggest that his streak of success will continue indefinitely.
The Batman was nearly as beneficial to Zoe Kravitz’s reputation as it was to that of Robert Pattinson, as Kravitz portrayed Catwoman with a calm, effortless cool that enraptured audiences (many have deemed it one of Zoe Kravitz’s best roles.) One of the most notable productions in which Kravitz starred prior to the 2022 superhero film was Mad Max: Fury Roadwhich greatly elevated her profile and allowed fans of It’s Kind of a Funny Story and the Divergent series to view her in a different capacity. Warner Brothers Pictures would likely benefit from producing a later film in which Kravitz’s Catwoman is the central character.
While many film actors find wide-reaching success after portraying secondary characters in several projects, British phenom Dev Patel’s debut role was the protagonist in the 2008 classic Slumdog Millionaire. Patel charmed audiences globally with his earnest performance, in which he was youthful without the often-associated stiffness and immaturity. One of his most impressive credits is a starring role in an episode of the Prime Video anthology series Modern Lovethrough which viewers can observe Patel as a more seasoned actor who performs with greater comfort.
After serving in the military, Adam Driver established himself as one of the preeminent stars of the 2010s. Driver has notably worked with a wide array of acclaimed directors, ranging from Spike Lee on the set of The BlacKkKlansman to Noah Baumbach on the set of Marriage Story.
His character’s fierce confrontations with his estranged wife in the latter film exhibited a degree of emotional range that only elite actors are able to access, and the wit that he has displayed in comedies such as This Is Where I Leave You shows that his strength as a performer is multi-faceted.
Similarly to Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain treats acting as a proper vocation rather than a means to wealth and celebrity. This dedication is evident in her most laudable roles, such as those in the 2014 science fiction film Interstellar and Aaron Sorkin’s biographical piece Molly’s Game (two of Jessica Chastain’s best movies.) Chastain is able to emote clearly without reaching the point of excessiveness, allowing characters in a wide range of film genres to intrigue viewers without distracting them from the plot of the given production. Her recent Best Actress win at the Academy Awards solidifies her standing as an elite member of her generation of actors.
Emma Watson is the rare child star who has maintained their level of output and quality of performance well into adulthood. Following her multiple starring turns in the Harry Potter film franchise, Watson accepted more adult and three-dimensional roles, most notably in The Perks of Being A Wallflower and This Is the End.
Her most recent film appearance was in the critically-acclaimed 2019 adaptation of Little Women, in which she appeared as a sister of the protagonist, Jo March. Watson’s crisp performances in the aforementioned projects place her among the most effective and admirable actors of recent years.
Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the latest starring vehicle for British sensation Benedict Cumberbatch, who balances his Marvel Cinematic Universe performances with more dramatic and mature fare. Cumberbatch drew considerable attention and praise for his turn in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, donning a gruff, middle-American accent and replacing his natural charm with the cold aggressiveness that defined his character and anchored the film. Cumberbatch’s excellent reputation and near-constant presence in the public consciousness are justified by the meticulous work that he regularly provides to productions.
NEXT: 10 A-List Actors And Their Roles You Forgot About
Is Indiana Jones Actually Immortal?