Drew Barrymore was a major star in as a child in the 1980s, headlining E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Firestarter, and then transitioned into a charismatic young adult icon with Ever After and Charlie's Angeles at the turn of the century. But although she's now a successful producer, her acting gigs over the last five years have only demanded that she be generically "nice" (Big Miracle, Blended). Drew Barrymore can do better.
Proof She's Amazing: Grey Gardens (2009)
Drew Barrymore earned an Emmy nomination for the acclaimed dramatization of the influential documentary about the Beale family, who lived in the ruins of their family mansion.
After turning heads in the Oscar-nominated Animal Kingdom, Joel Edgerton went to Hollywood, where he wound up in underwritten genre fare (The Thing), lousy family flicks (The Odd Life of Timothy Green) and overblown nonsense (Exodus: Gods and Kings). There's more to Joel Edgerton than a badass or a sensitive dad. He's proven he's one of the most talented actors of his generation.
Proof He's Amazing: Warrior (2011)
Edgerton's had a few great roles peppered into his mainstream career, acquitting himself admirably in The Great Gatsby and Zero Dark Thirty, but if you want proof that he should be a major star look no further than the breathtaking MMA acting showcase Warrior, where he holds his own against Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte, and wins our hearts.
As a TV star, Idris Elba has proved himself time and again. The Wire and Luther alone should cement his status as one of the greats. But most movies don't know what to do with him, relegating Elba to stern tough guys (Pacific Rim, Thor) or more stern tough guys (Prometheus, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Losers).
Proof He's Amazing: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)
You mean besides his TV work? Idris Elba played South African revolutionary-turned-President Nelson Mandela in a sweeping biopic, impressively tackling the complicated history of the man throughout all the major moments of his life.
He's blown us all away on Mad Men, and he's proven he has a great sense of humor in Children's Hospital and 30 Rock, but in movies Jon Hamm is usually just asked to be handsome and charismatic. He can do better than Million Dollar Arm and Sucker Punch.
Proof He's Amazing: The Town (2010)
Again, besides TV? Jon Hamm's film career hasn't featured too many highlights yet, but besides his memorable cameo in Bridesmaids the biggest standout is The Town. Hamm plays the cop determined to capture Ben Affleck's bank robbing gang, and although we never get to find out much about the character, Hamm imbues him with an impressive amount of depth.
His standup comedy is brilliant, but his movies? Not so much. So far, Kevin Hart has mostly been asked to scream a lot and make fun of how short he is. And that's a damned shame, because he's a smart comedian who's proven he's capable of more.
Proof He's Amazing: About Last Night (2014)
Kevin Hart brought his signature energy to the romantic dramedy About Last Night, making us laugh but also making us believe that the humor was coming from a real character, with unique ideas, hopes and values.
Breakout Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul has had a rough road to movie stardom. He wasn't the reason Need for Speed bombed, and no one can blame him for Exodus: Gods and Kings because he was barely in it. If audiences are going to accept him as more than just Jesse Pinkman, Hollywood needs to give him a good role in a good movie, fast.
Proof He's Amazing: Smashed (2012)
James Ponsoldt's emotionally charged addiction drama gave Paul his best film role to date as the alcoholic husband of a recovering alcoholic, who can't change fast enough to save their relationship. He's heartbreaking, and so is Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the lead role.
Swedish actress Noomi Rapace shot to the top of everyone's "It" list with her starring roles in the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. But since she started making American movies she hasn't found the right material. She did the best she could with the awkwardly written Prometheus, but made no impression with her generic character in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. Even her best films lately (The Drop, Dead Man Down) cast her as quiet, wounded women, and that's not a great way to become a star.
Proof She's Amazing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
Rapace's version of Lisbeth Salander is a volcano just waiting to blow, a powerful and enigmatic hero who defies the system and gets away with it. The American version of the character seems practically meek in comparison.
The handsome, deep-voiced Mark Strong usually gets asked to play handsome, deep-voiced people... and that's about it, really. He was asked to add gravitas to underwritten roles in Green Lantern, Robin Hood and John Carter, and sometimes add a touch of humor (Kick-Ass), but very rarely gets to prove what a rich and compelling actor he can really be.
Proof He's Amazing: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Mark Strong plays a spy hiding out as a mild-mannered schoolteacher in this sprawling, complicated and character-driven espionage saga. He absolutely nails it. He's extremely good in the underseen crime comedy The Guard as well.