Mandatory Top 10 of the 2010s: The Biggest Breakthrough Actors of the Decade
Every few years a new actor comes along that takes the world by storm and changes the future of the craft, like Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Benicio Del Toro. The list of all-time greats continues to grow and grow, similar to their egos. The last 10 years have been no different, producing tons of breakthrough actors that will, no doubt, become megastars for decades to come. But who’s the best? Well, we decided to end the debate and round up the top 10 breakthrough actors of the last 10 years!
Cover Photo: Universal Pictures
10. Timothée Chalamet
At only 23, he's managed to blow us away with his last four movies (including Netflix's The King). Now he's about to embark with some Little Women in what could be this year's best movie remake. Plus -- who are we kidding? -- the ladies love him.
9. Oscar Isaac
Oscar Isaac is one of the brightest new stars on the silver screen right now. In the last five years, he's landed major roles in the current Star Wars franchise, Triple Frontier, Suburbicon, X-Men: Apocalypse, Ex Machina, and A Most Violent Year. If you want to see a hidden gem from his past, check out 10 Years, where he plays a rock star returning home for his 10-year high school reunion. It's a hilarious, heartfelt comedy.
8. David Oyelowo
Oyelowo's accolades over the past decade have stacked up increasingly well. You'll recognize him from films such as The Help, Jack Reacher, The Butler, and Interstellar. Most recently, he hit his mark with his major defining role in Selma as Dr. Martin Luther King. He has five more major projects coming out in 2020, so prepare yourself for more of Oyelowo.
7. Michael Fassbender
So, Michael Fassbender has been around a little longer than the last 10 years, but he absolutely blew up as a leading man after his 2011 role in X-Men: First Class as Erik Lehnsherr, otherwise known as Magneto. He famously bared it all in Shame, where he played a sex addict who also happened to enjoy running in the rain and walking around the apartment naked. After that, he got on a serious hot streak, starring in Prometheus, 12 Years A Slave, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Slow West, Steve Jobs, X-Men: Apocalypse, Alien: Covenant, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Fassbender is crushing life in the 2010s.
6. Daniel Kaluuya
Kaluuya was a relatively unknown until around 2013, when he starred in Kick Ass 2. The casting director and producers must've like what he did because ever since then he's been crawling up that celebrity ladder of success. He moved on to the TV miniseries, Babylon, then Sicario, and then his blowout, smash hit role in Jordan Peele's film, Get Out. He then parlayed that into a major role in the Marvel world, appearing in Black Panther last year. He's got several big films in the hopper for the next two years already. His stock is certainly rising.
5. Benedict Cumberbatch
Just saying his name brings a smile to your face. Go ahead, say it out loud with a British accent. We'll wait. Before he was Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, his only real role of public note was as a necromancer in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. After Star Trek, he blew up into the leading man he is now. Now he seems to get at least two major leading man roles per year, not to mention gracing the Marvel world as Doctor Strange. He's in everything now. You can barely turn around without seeing him somewhere. His accent is cool, too.
4. J.K. Simmons
J.K. Simmons has been acting since the mid-'80s, but with marginal success. He made his way into decent-sized films as character parts, smaller roles that only the total movie nerd would recognize. He had a great run in the HBO series Oz but really it wasn't until the Spiderman series made him mildly recognizable, which led to his hilarious role as Juno's father in the film Juno. Simmons continued his climb to mediocre success on the big screen for many years, but it wasn't until Whiplash that we really saw his talent and hard work come together. He won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, proving that the Farmer's Insurance spokesperson was far more than just a typical insurance adjuster.
3. Michael B. Jordan
If you're a fan of The Wire, then you probably remember Jordan from his memorable role as Wallace. He was a great teen actor with tons of possibilities in front of him back when he represented the west side of Baltimore. Makes sense that now he's a mega-star leading man, landing roles in Fruitvale Station, Black Panther, the Creed franchise, and multiple other future big budget films. He's a beast on the rise.
2. Tom Hardy
Here's another actor who's been around for a little longer than the last 10 years, but he makes this list because he's basically owned the last decade. You ready? The highly notables from 2010 until now: Inception, Warrior, This Means War, Lawless, The Dark Knight Rises, Locke, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Dunkirk, Venom, Peaky Blinders (so, so good), and the FX series Taboo. He's signed on for the next Mad Max movie and god knows what else. He's an enigma of talent.
1. Mahershala Ali
Other than very small roles in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Predators, Ali wasn't really on the scene until his breakout role in The Place Beyond the Pines, which lead to the HBO hit series, Treme. That quickly turned into roles in The Hunger Games franchise, and the Netflix series House of Cards. Oh, and now he's a multiple Oscar winner, nabbing two Best Supporting Actor statues in the past two years for his roles in Moonlight and Green Book. Not bad for a guy who was a bench player on the St. Mary's University men's basketball team in the mid-'90s.