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Best Breakout Performances Of 2011

Every year it seems more and more films are being released, which of course means that more and more fantastic fresh faces are being discovered, who may start off as completely unknown actors but can grow to become household names in just one short year. 2011 has been a huge year for movies and a huge array of new stars have now taken the world by storm. From films like The Tree Of Life, The Artist, Drive, and many, many more, we have been introduced to a number of fantastic actors who will be sure to shape the world of cinema in the future.

Every year it seems more and more films are being released, which of course means that more and more fantastic fresh faces are being discovered, who may start off as completely unknown actors but can grow to become household names in just one short year.

2011 has been a huge year for movies and a huge array of new stars have now taken the world by storm. From films like The Tree Of Life, The Artist, Drive, and many, many more, we have been introduced to a number of fantastic actors who will be sure to shape the world of cinema in the future.

That being said, we decided that we would provide you with a list of some of the biggest breakout performances of 2011, telling you what brought them all the attention and where they are headed in 2012.

10. Hunter McCracken

Films in 2011:

This young actor captivated audiences as the troubled young Jack in Terrence Malick‘s The Tree Of Life. Surprisingly, the hype around his performance has been some what stunted, possibly because of the general attention surrounding the immaculate film itself. This was the first professional acting job for McCracken though who perfectly encapsulated the torn young man growing up in the challenging world of the 1950’s.

Future films:

It’s hard to believe, but at the moment it seems that he doesn’t have any other films lined up for the future, but somehow I doubt that this is the last we have heard from Hunter McCracken.


9. Elizabeth Olsen

Films in 2011:

When people hear Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen‘s sister, award winning actress aren’t exactly the first words that spring to mind, well at least not until this year. Elizabeth Olsen erupted onto the screen with her incredible performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene. With various awards to her name including a prestigious Satellite Award nomination, 2011 was a big year for the 22 year old.

Future films:

Next year will see Olsen star in Red Lights with Robert De Niro, Cillian MurphySigourney Weaver and Joely Richardson. The paranormal thriller from Buried director Rodrigo Cortes is already gaining some significant buzz. Aside from that, Olsen can also be seen seen in Liberal Arts with Zac Efron.

8. Sarah Gadon

Films in 2011:

Gadon stood out this year in David Cronenberg‘s A Dangerous Method playing the role of Emma Jung, the faithful wife of Michael Fassbender‘s Carl Jung. Gadon’s performance attracted the attention of many people, creating a character that most under estimated at first glance. Gadon also had a supporting role in Jim Sheridan‘s Dream House.

Future films:

Gadon has reunited with her Dangerous Method director David Cronenberg for his next film, Cosmopolis, in which she plays the second female lead opposite Robert Pattinson.

2012 will also have Sarah starring as the female lead in Cronenberg’s son, Brandon’s feature length directional debut Antirival. Lastly, she will also star in the mini-series World Without End, which is the sequel to the 2010 hit miniseries The Pillars Of The Earth. 

7. Chris Hemsworth

Films in 2011:

Chris Hemsworth burst into Hollywood this year as the mighty Thor. He instantly attracted attention of women everywhere the moment he took his shirt off and it didn’t take long for him to become a star. The Australian quickly jumped to fame as Thor went over fairly well with both critics and audiences, solidifying his place in Hollywood.

Future films:

Next year will be a big year for Hemsworth, with the release of the long anticipated Red Dawn remake which he leads opposite old flame, Isabel Lucas. He will also star in the horror film The Cabin In The Woods.

On top of that, Hemworth will reprise his role as The God Of Thunder in The Avengers. He’ll also show up in another big blockbuster, Snow White and The Huntsman, opposite Kristen Stewart‘s Snow White.

Lastly, Hemsworth will finish the year playing James Hunt in Ron Howard‘s Rush. The biopic about the relationship between Formula One drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt will also star Inglourious Basterds actor Daniel Bruhl.

That won’t be all though, with contracts for several more Thor and Avengers films, you can be sure Hemsworth will be around for a while.

6. Felicity Jones

Films in 2011:

Felicity Jones had several films released in 2011, but the one that started her notoriety was the Sundance hit Like Crazy, which also stars Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence. The film has picked up a number of awards, as has Jones. The actress also starred in a few other independent films, most notable was Chalet Girl with Gossip Girl star Ed Westwick.

Future films:

Jones has teamed up with Like Crazy director Drake Doremus for an untitled drama which also stars Guy Pearce and is set to be released some time in 2012. She also has another film titled Cheerful Weather For The Wedding which is currently in post production.

In addition to that, she will play Nelly Ternan in Ralph Fiennes‘ second directorial effort The Invisible Woman. The biopic is the story of author Charles Dickens’ secret mistress and their affair that ended Dickens’ marriage.

The other big film that Jones has is Warren Beatty‘s untitled Howard Hughes biopic in which Jones will be playing a young woman who starts a relationship with Hughes’s driver.

5. Brit Marling

Films in 2011:

Another actress who grabbed everyone’s attention at Sundance was Brit Marling. Marling who had two films at the festival, Sound Of My Voice, and the incredibly popular Another Earth. Marling not only acted in these two films but also co-wrote and produced them.

Future films:

Marling currently has three films due for release next year. The first is the dramatic thriller Arbitrage, in which she stars alongside Richard Gere, Tim Roth and Susan Sarandon. The second is The East, an original script that Marling co-wrote with her Sound Of My Voice director Zal Batmanglij, who is helming the film.

The last and most impressive of the three is Robert Redford‘s new thriller, The Company You Keep, which has a fantastic cast that consists of not only Redford himself, but also Shia LaBeouf, Stanley Tucci, Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Brendan Gleeson, Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie and Terrence Howard.

4. Oscar Isaac

Films in 2011:

Without a doubt Oscar Isaac has had one of the busiest schedules of 2011. He started off the year as Blue Jones in Zack Snyder‘s Sucker Punch. He then went on to play Standard in Nicolas Winding Refn‘s Drive. Then, he took on another two roles, Madona‘s W.E. and Ten Year.

Future films:

Isaac’s schedule looks to be just as busy in 2012, with the dramedy Revenge The Jolly, alongside Elijah Wood, Cristiada with Eva Longoria and Andy Garcia, Learning To Fly with Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal and The Bourne Legacy in which Isaac will star opposite Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton.

However, the biggest film that Isaac has coming up is The Coen Brother‘s Inside Llewyn Davis, in which Isaac will play the title character alongside Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman.

3. Rooney Mara

Films in 2011:

Rooney Mara is of course the star of David Fincher‘s adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. When Mara won the role of Libeth Salander, everyone in Hollywood’s attention was drawn to this almost completely unknown actress. After seeing Noomi Rapce‘s fantastic performance as Salander in the Swedish film, the bar for Mara was raised very high, and many people believe that she has done the part justice. The actress secured herself a Golden Globe nomination, though it is unclear how she will fare with the Oscars.

Future films:

If everything goes according to plan Mara will return as Salander in the following two parts of the trilogy, though nothing has been confirmed yet. Besides the future Millennium films, Mara has scored a role in a new Terrence Malick film titled Lawless, alongside Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Haley Bennett.

2. Jean Dujardin

Films in 2011:

Jean Durjardin is the star of what will likely win Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, The Artist. For an actor to star in a silent film in 2011 is an interesting concept, but for that actor to be a shoe in for the Oscars is something else entirely. Dujardin has received a ton of praise for his role as fictional 1927 silent movie star George Valentin and has shown that he is definitely one of the biggest stars to breakout in 2011.

Future films:

Dujardin only has one film on his schedule and it’s completed. Next year he will star in a film titled Players, which is a series of short films set around the theme of infidelity. The film will also contain a short featuring Guillaume Canet, and one directed by Dujardin’s The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius. Dujardins also wrote and directed the short he stars in.

1. Jessica Chastain

Films in 2011:

In 12 months Jessica Chastain went from unknown actress to an absolute powerhouse. Chastain was discovered by Al Pacino, who called her his inspiration for making his new film Wilde Salome. Meanwhile, Terrence Malick has described her as the greatest actress he has ever worked with.

This year alone Chastain released Malick’s The Tree Of Life, Jeff Nichol‘s Take ShelterThe Debt, The Help, Ralph FiennesCoriolanus, Texas Killing Fields and the aforementioned Wilde Salome. No one worked harder than her this year.

The thing about all of these performance is that every one is so different and methodical. You would never think that one actress could play all these roles. Chastain has had award after award thrown at her and if she doesn’t win an Academy Award this year, I think I may stop watching movies.

Future films:

Currently Chastain will have at least another three films out in 2012. First up will be Wettest County, which will see Chastain star opposite Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Shia LaBeouf, Mia Wasikowska, Guy Pearce and Jason Clarke. She also will star in Andres Muschietti‘s Mama, a horror film produced by Guillermo del Toro.

On top of this Chastain may end up in the new untiled Terrence Malick film. She will also star in Tar, which is a complation of short films about the life of poet C.K. Williams. Each short is directed by a class member of James Franco‘s NYU poetry and film class.

Next year Chastain will also film Joseph Kosinski‘s Horizons with Tom Cruise, for release in 2013. The actress is also said to be starring in Denis Villeneuve‘s adaptation of Russell Banks’ novel The Darling, as well as possible staring in Oliver Hirschbiegel‘s Princess Diana biopic, Caught In Flight.

Jessica Chastain has shown us in one year that she is a legitimate talent in the industry and she won’t be going away anytime soon.

So there you have it, our picks for best breakout stars of 2011, do you agree or disagree?

About the author

Blake Dew