The 10 Biggest Breakthrough Performances Of 2013



One of my favorite posts that I write at the end of each year is on the assessment of actors and actresses who have burst onto the scene, and the impact they may have in cinema for years to come. Sometimes their rise feels almost immediate (like previous actors who have appeared at the top of my list including Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain). Others may take a longer road to A-list status, but their time is imminent (as I feel will be the case with last year’s champ, Scoot McNairy).

The big debate always arises on what technically makes for a “breakthrough” performance. Is it someone who comes out of nowhere and stars in a few films, becoming more identifiable to the public eye? Is it someone who has been around for a long time but finally nails that one major role that catapults them from supporting player to leading man/lady? For the purpose of this post, I’m looking at both. I don’t believe you have to be new to the screen to have a breakthrough year. Sometimes you have to work from the bottom up. After all, not everyone can be as lucky (or talented) as Ms. Lawrence and Ms. Chastain.

Also, this list isn’t solely looking at the best performances of the year, as it pertains to breakthrough stars; it also is my projection of whose star will shine the brightest moving forward.

I’ve been doing this list since 2009. Here is a recap of who placed at the top of each list over the last four years:

2009: Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds)
2010: Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone)
2011: Jessica Chastain (The Help, Take Shelter, The Tree of Life)
2012: Scoot McNairy (Killing Them Softly, Argo, Promised Land)

Keep in mind that there are actors and actresses who might have continued their breakthroughs from previous years into 2013. For example, if you are looking for Dane DeHaan (The Place Beyond the Pines, Kill Your Darlings) or David Oyelowo (The Butler), you’d have to go back to last year’s list (Chronicle, Lincoln, and Lawless; and Red Tails, Middle of Nowhere, Lincoln, The Paperboy, and Jack Reacher, respectively).

So without further ado, here is my list of the ten actors and actresses who made big splashes in 2013, and that I believe we’ll be talking about for years to come.