Throughout 2023, audiences have been treated to some exceptional theatrical experiences across the board. Those movies, which have featured larger-than-life characters and enchanting stories both big and small, introduced us to a crop of actors who all made an impact on the big screen, one way or another.
As we look back on the year and all our favorite movies, we just can’t help but highlight some of the breakout movie performances that introduced us to new actors or turned up-and-comers to stars overnight. Here are the actors who stole the show, and our hearts, in 2023.
In October, Sofia Coppola offered up a different perspective of the Elvis story with PRISCILLA, an A24 biographical drama not about the “King of Rock ‘n Roll,” but his wife, who was portrayed by Cailee Spaeny. A star in the making thanks to movies like BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE, VICE, and HOW IT ENDS, Spaenyreached new heights in 2023 with her triumphant and decorated take on one of the most recognizable names and faces in the history of American music.
After finding the balance between bringing a historical figure to life while also making the performance her own, Spaeny received a Golden Globe® nomination for her efforts, and there’s a good chance we’ll be hearing her name come up a lot more in the future..
Halle Bailey had her work cut out for her when she was cast as Ariel in the live-action remake of THE LITTLE MERMAID, and she excelled in bringing one of Disney’s most beloved characters to life on a grand scale. Rob Marshall’s live-action musical adaptation works as well as it does because of Bailey and her dynamic range, both as an actress and singer.
Bailey already had a great career thanks to her portrayal of Skylar “Sky” Foster on the hit dramedy series “Grown-ish,” but THE LITTLE MERMAID catapulted her into superstardom. The multi-talented performer will be given a chance to shine again when she takes on the role of the young Nettie Harris in THE COLOR PURPLE.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON was one of the most anticipated movies of the year and was anchored by two of director Martin Scorsese’s most prolific collaborators: Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Despite those two electric, menacing, and unforgettable performances, it was Lily Gladstone, who plays Mollie Burkhart, who ended up stealing the show and serving as the three-and-a-half-hour epic’s heart and soul.
Gladstone’s performance was a revelation and captured the dynamic nature and richness of a self-assured woman who stood up for herself and her people in the face of adversity, corruption, and brutality.
THE HOLDOVERS, Alexander Payne’s coming-of-age dramedy film about a teacher, a cook, and a student spending the holidays together at a New England boarding school, is getting a lot of praise as we close out the year, and rightfully so. Though we could go on and on about the brilliance and nuance of Paul Giamatti and Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s performances, we just can’t overlook the powerful breakout turn by Dominic Sessa, who plays Angus Tully.
THE HOLDOVERS is not only Sessa’s first movie, but it’s also his first time acting on screen, which is wild to think about after watching him hold his own with Giamatti and Randolph for over two hours. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long and fruitful career.