Every year, a whole host of actors find themselves with the opportunity to make a splash and get noticed in the movies. Whether or not it takes depends upon a number of factors, but it primarily boils down to one thing: the talent. A performer being on this list doesn’t necessarily mean that 2016 marked their first foray into film; it means that they took advantage of their 2016 opportunity or opportunities to such a degree that the year will likely mark the beginning of their ascent towards the upper echelon of the business. (For reference, think Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone.) The only thing that each of the following people will need is the right role that combines mass exposure with memorability and they’re set. 2016 is the year where they called attention to themselves and, as a result, started the path towards getting that role. Remember these names, folks. It might not be this year. It might not be next year. But you’re going to be their fans sooner than you think. Because they are . . .
The Top 5 2016 Faces of The Future
5. Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen)
There are two reasons that Hailee Steinfeld isn’t higher on this list. The first is that she’s also currently diving into a popular music career, so that could potentially slow her progress in the film industry. The second is that it’s been six years since she was nominated for a whole host of awards – including an Oscar – for her role in the Coen Brothers’ True Grit. It seems like her profile would have skyrocketed at that point. But she was very young, then, and hadn’t yet gotten the chance to demonstrate consistency or versatility. With 2016’s tremendous The Edge of Seventeen, she did both. She provided one of the funniest performances of the year and demonstrated a charisma that will translate into any genre, earning a Golden Globe nomination for her efforts. Audiences mostly overlooked the film, but the industry did not (and neither did I; she’s my personal favorite on this list). Her time is coming.
4. Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply)
Lily Collins made her feature film debut in 2009’s audience-pleasing The Blind Side. But it’s 2016’s Rules Don’t Apply that will serve as her true launching pad. The film, itself, received mixed reviews (including one from me), but Ms. Collins, herself, did not. She was easily the highlight of the film, earning herself a Golden Globe nomination and the right to add “Cast by Warren Beatty” onto her résumé. Once the film’s focus shifted from her character of Marla to Beatty’s Howard Hughes, all the magic was gone and the film collapsed. She was the silver lining and it’s now just a matter of time before she gets the magic role that puts her name on the tongues of general audiences.
3. Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Free State of Jones, Kicks)
If you aren’t sure why he’s a Face of the Future, take a look at that 2016 résumé, up there beside his name. And that’s not even the entirety of his 2016 work. He first caught my attention in Marvel’s “Luke Cage” on Netflix. He was the standout amongst a litany of outstanding performers in that show. And then he did it again in Moonlight, this time securing a Golden Globes nomination. He didn’t have much to do in Hidden Figures and I didn’t catch Free State of Jones or Kicks but I feel supremely confident in saying that Ali isn’t going away anytime soon.
2. Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!, Rules Don’t Apply)
Okay, so this one is kind of a cheat. Why? Because Alden Ehrenreich has already landed that One Big Role. Ehrenreich will be playing a younger version of the iconic Han Solo in the upcoming Han Solo prequel film that’s coming in 2018. But, this choice is also still not – NOT! – a cheat because it was his ability to seize the year of 2016 that nabbed him that role. He shared the spotlight in Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply with the aforementioned Lily Collins but he stole the show in the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! from earlier in the year. His natural charisma radiated in both roles and he made the most of his opportunities in 2016. Look out, world, here he comes!
1. Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Morgan, Barry, Split)
2016 was the year of Anya-Taylor Joy. General audiences probably didn’t start to notice her until this weekend with the debut of Split (which I included on the list beside her name because it screened at film festivals towards the end of 2016). The other three films in which she was featured didn’t exactly break out (which is not necessarily an indicator of their quality). But it doesn’t matter. Take this in: these four films were her first four films. And she had a leading role in all four – including the titular role in Morgan. That’s remarkable and is a sure sign that people in the know have noticed her. I’ve seen three of her four films and she is a powerful performer who understands the subtleties of the craft. As of now, she has two smaller films on deck for 2017, so it’s impossible to know what film will eventually catapult her into true superstardom, but it seems inevitable. Learn the name. Avoid the bandwagon.
More 2016 Year-in-Review columns are on the way, including the 25 Best Films of the Year! Don’t miss them! Follow us on Facebook!