Not many people had a fun 2017 — it's been the most depressing year since, well, 2016 — but hey, at least the movies were solid. The past 12 months gave us a ton of modern film classics and, what's more, a bunch of newly minted movie stars. Some of them were complete unknowns who delivered unmissable debuts; others were B-list celebs who moved up a letter grade. Either way, we can't wait to see what they do next. Here are the breakout movie performances of 2017:
Gal Gadot — 'Wonder Woman'
We already met Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman last year in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it was just a promising cameo. Wonder Woman fulfilled that promise with the best superhero origin story in ages, instantly making Gal Gadot a household name and an inspiration to millions of women and girls all over the world. While Justice League had plenty of problems, Gadot was one of the few bright spots — and let's be honest, she's the primary reason why Warner Bros. is forging ahead with the DCEU.
Harry Styles — 'Dunkirk'
When Christopher Nolan cast former One Direction singer Harry Styles in the World War II epic Dunkirk, fans were skeptical. (Nolan fans, I mean.) It seemed like a gimmicky move to sell tickets ... but Nolan was unaware that Styles had a massive music career; the singer auditioned just like anybody else. Turns out, Styles is equally talented at acting. His performance as Alex, a young British soldier stranded during a German bombardment, added significantly to the film's tension. He's done with movie roles for now, but maybe Nolan can pull him out of retirement for a future project?
Dafne Keen — 'Logan'
Logan gave us three incredible performances: Hugh Jackman's final, definitive appearance as Wolverine; Patrick Stewart's heartbreaking take on an elderly Charles Xavier; and 11-year-old newcomer Dafne Keen as Laura (a.k.a. X-23), a young clone of Logan on the run from anti-mutant forces. Director James Mangold told Digital Spy, "[I]t was a huge risk for Fox to allow me to make a movie where the third point of the triangle was built upon someone so young," but the risk paid off. X-Men fans hope Keen returns to join the team, even if some time travel would be required. Yo, Cable?
Ansel Elgort — 'Baby Driver'
Ansel Elgort had already starred in the Divergent series and The Fault in Our Stars, so he wasn't a stranger to millions of movie fans. Still, Edgar Wright's Baby Driver — an original, music-driven crime caper filled with non-CGI car stunts — shot Elgort to a new level of fame. His performance as a young getaway driver had heart and humor, scoring Elgort a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy ... and maybe an Oscar nom too?
Kumail Nanjiani — 'The Big Sick'
Speaking of Golden Globes, The Big Sick was snubbed AF. Its total lack of nominations came as a shock to many observers, because Kumail Nanjiani's autobiographical rom-com was one of 2017's funniest and most endearing films. The good news is that Nanjiani is now one of Hollywood's most in-demand talents, and we'll get to enjoy him in another season of Silicon Valley when the acclaimed HBO series returns next year.
Ana de Armas And Sylvia Hoeks — 'Blade Runner 2049'
Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford were both great in Blade Runner 2049 — even if the latter's stupid t-shirt distracted from all of his scenes — but two actresses stole the show: Ana de Armas as Gosling's holographic girlfriend Joi and Sylvia Hoeks as the replicant enforcer Luv. The former brought a tragic warmth to the film, and the latter brought cold, lethal menace. Unfortunately, Blade Runner 2049 wasn't the box office smash that the studio expected, but most fans of the 1982 original consider it a worthy (and perhaps even superior) sequel, and that's in large part due to these two breakout performances.
Sophia Lillis — 'IT'
While everyone's attention pre-release was on Bill Skarsgård and how he'd fare stepping into Tim Curry's venerated shoes as Pennywise the Clown in IT, the post-release buzz was all about newcomer Sophia Lillis. As Beverly Marsh, 15-year-old Lillis infused a complicated role with a spirited defiance that did not undermine Bev's inherent compassion and kindness. Lillis' portrayal of the tomboyish outsider drew our eyes every time she was on the screen as she handled heavy scenes with the skill of a seasoned veteran. We can't wait to see what she does next. -by Alisha Grauso
Tiffany Haddish — 'Girls Trip'
Tiffany Haddish has been working steadily for the last decade, and fans might recognize her from her work on Keanu and The Carmichael Show, but it took Girls Trip to show just how hilarious and dynamic Haddish is. In a movie that was studded with A-list talent, including Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah, it was Haddish who got the lion's share of the best lines and made the biggest comedic impact. As the wild child of the group, Haddish's performance was as hilarious physically as it was in her line delivery. It's no wonder that her first ever standup special debuted on Showtime shortly after release, because Haddish is one comedic talent that can't possibly continue to fly under the radar after this year. -by Alisha Grauso
Daniel Kaluuya — 'Get Out'
Daniel Kaluuya already had some major TV credits — most notably the British version of Skins and the memorable "Fifteen Million Merits" episode of Black Mirror — plus a role in 2015's Sicario. But Jordan Peele's Get Out, a socially conscious horror film perfectly suited for 2017, skyrocketed Kaluuya to international renown. His performance as Chris Washington, whose girlfriend's family isn't what it seems on the surface, ranks among the best horror leads of all time. Kaluuya will appear next in Marvel's Black Panther, opening on February 16, 2018.