ENTERTAINMENT
12/17/2013 01:30 pm ET Updated Dec 18, 2013

19 Best Breakout Performances Of 2013

The past year wasn't just exceptional with regard to films, but also performances. Veteran stars like Tom Hanks, Robert Redford and Sandra Bullock turned in some of their best work ever, while a roster of new talent burst onto the scene with an exceptional grace that gives hope to the industry's future. Ahead, the 19 best breakout performances from 2013.

  • Elizabeth Debicki In "The Great Gatsby"
    Warner Bros.
    Newcomer Elizabeth Debicki played Jordan Baker in Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby," and made an impact even among A-list stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan. Great job, old sport. (Originally appeared on HuffPost's list of 31 best performances of the summer.)
  • Greta Gerwig In "Frances Ha"
    IFC
    If Greta Gerwig only danced down the street to David Bowie's "Modern Love," it would have been enough to make this list. (Originally appeared on HuffPost's list of 31 best performances of the summer.)
  • Amy Acker In "Much Ado About Nothing"
    AP
    Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing" was a hit-and-miss affair, but only a very dull fool would dare question the bona fides of Amy Acker's portrayal of Beatrice. In a just world, Acker (L) would be one of Hollywood's biggest actresses. (Originally appeared on HuffPost's list of 31 best performances of the summer.)
  • Emma Watson In "The Bling Ring"
    AP
    Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring" featured a transformative performance from Emma Watson, who succeeded in proving that she's a more interesting actress when placed outside the halls of Hogwarts. (Originally appeared on HuffPost's list of 31 best performances of the summer.)
  • Henry Cavill In "Man Of Steel"
    Warner Bros.
    "Man of Steel" star Henry Cavill gave Superman something he hasn't had in a long time: a personality. (Originally appeared on HuffPost's list of 31 best performances of the summer.)
  • Michael B. Jordan & Melonie Diaz In "Fruitvale Station"
    The Weinstein Company
    This is shaping up to be one of the most crowded awards seasons in recent memory, but Oscar voters would be wise to remember Michael B. Jordan and Melonie Diaz for their heartbreaking work in "Fruitvale Station." Jordan has received the lion's share of praise for his performance, but don't sleep on Diaz. She's a revelation and the beating heart of the film's third act. (Originally appeared on HuffPost's list of 31 best performances of the summer.)
  • Miles Teller & Shailene Woodley In "The Spectacular Now"
    AP
    There's a reason Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are two of the most sought-after young stars in Hollywood: they both project a natural, recognizable humanity that's so very hard to fake (or at least hard to fake this well). (Originally appeared on HuffPost's list of 31 best performances of the summer.)
  • Brie Larson In "Short Term 12"
    Cinedigm
    If the Best Actress category at the 2014 Oscars included Gerwig and Brie Larson, it would be a pretty great category. (Alas, if only we had Academy voting privileges.) "Short Term 12" is a heart-on-its-sleeve film, and Larson is the film's heart. (Kudos here to John Gallagher Jr. as well.) Expect her to be on the short list for every major female lead role for the foreseeable future. (Originally appeared on HuffPost's list of 31 best performances of the summer.)
  • Daniel Bruhl In "Rush"
    AP
    Rare is the actor willing to play such an ornery, unlikeable character, but there was Daniel Bruhl (R), all cocky and smug, casting a wide shadow over Ron Howard's underrated "Rush." As Niki Lauda, the real-life Formula 1 driver who survived a horrific crash during the 1976 racing season but never stopped competing (or acting like a jerk), Bruhl gave one of the year's most complex and satisfying performances. For the purposes of awards season, he's been pushed into the supporting actor categories, but that's not the worst thing: it's the same space that his former "Inglourious Basterds" co-star, Christoph Waltz, has made a career filling up with scene-stealing performances.
  • Barkhad Abdi In "Captain Phillips"
    AP
    He's the captain now. Barkhad Abdi plays Tom Hanks' onscreen kidnapper in "Captain Phillips," and the first-time actor infuses his ostensible villain with pathos and sympathy that belies his inexperience and his character's intentions. It's no wonder Abdi is in the thick of the Oscar race for Best Supporting Actor; he holds his own against Hanks, a two-time Oscar winner who gives one of his best performances ever in Paul Greengrass' fact-based film.
  • Lupita Nyong'o In "12 Years A Slave"
    AP
    "12 Years A Slave" director Steve McQueen compared his search for Patsey -- the abused, tortured and tormented slave who appears once the film's central character, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), is sent to the terrible plantation run by Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) -- to the hunt for Scarlett O'Hara. Fortunately, he made the right call: Lupita Nyong'o's performance in "12 Years A Slave" is one of the best debuts of all time. McQueen's searing portrait of the American institution of slavery is important cinema, but whenever Nyong'o is onscreen, "12 Years A Slave" transforms into art worthy of the film's surfeit of awards accolades. She's a true heartbreaker.
  • Adele Exarchopoulos In "Blue Is The Warmest Color"
    AP
    "Blue Is The Warmest Color" stands as one of 2013's most talked about films, a remarkable feat since it's an NC-17 French import that runs nearly three hours in length. Part of that, of course, has to do with the film's controversial lesbian sex scene between stars Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. That's good for headlines, but what people will remember about "Blue is the Warmest Color" in five, 10 and 20 years is that it provided Exarchopoulos with her first breakout role.
  • Domhnall Gleeson In "About Time"
    Getty Images
    Hollywood doesn't make romantic comedies anymore, but if it did -- and if those films were as wonderful as Richard Curtis' "About Time" -- Domhnall Gleeson would be the next Hugh Grant. Gleeson, the son of actor Brendan Gleeson and the erstwhile Bill Weasley of the "Harry Potter" franchise, has charm for days in "About Time," so much so that it's easy to believe people who look like Rachel McAdams and Margot Robbie want to hold his hand (and then some).
  • Will Forte In "Nebraska"
    AP
    Bruce Dern and June Squibb have been hailed for their performances in Alexander Payne's "Nebraska," but would either actor have done such a good job without Forte playing their straight man? What could have been a thankless role -- the son who accompanies his father on a wild goose chase for the prize money from a direct-mail sweepstakes -- is transformed by Forte into one of the year's smartest portrayals of everyday ennui. It's a true supporting performance in every sense of the word: Forte's base coat allows Dern and Squibb to pop off the screen.
  • Sam Claflin In "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"
    AP
    Before "Catching Fire," Claflin was that handsome and anonymous guy Hollywood kept casting in franchises ("Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," "Snow White and the Huntsman"). Who would have guessed that a franchise would then set him free? Blessed with an excellent role -- Finnick Odair is one of the crown jewels of Suzanne Collins' dystopian YA series -- Claflin hits all the right notes in "Catching Fire": he's arrogant and sexual, but also wounded and loyal. We're already tearing up thinking of what happens to him "Mockingjay."
  • Oscar Isaac In "Inside Llewyn Davis"
    AP
    Meet Hollywood's next great leading man. Oscar Isaac, with looks that recall a young Al Pacino and a gravitas to match, gives one of the best performances of 2013 in "Inside Llewyn Davis," turning a sad-sack, self-immolating musician into a guy we want to root for even as we know he's doomed to fail. Dude can sing, too.
  • Margot Robbie In "The Wolf Of Wall Street"
    Getty Images
    Like Adele Exarchopoulos, Margot Robbie's breakout role comes with the acknowledgement that much will be made of her onscreen sex scenes, which are as graphic as the rumors of an almost NC-17 rating for "The Wolf of Wall Street" promised. Beyond that, however, is Robbie's performance, a tight-rope walk of comedy and drama that lets her be lol funny (Robbie's Long Island accent is worthy of Marisa Tomei), but also furious at where her life ended up. The 23-year-old Australian native is about to get every role Hollywood once thought Blake Lively should play.

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