Buy, rent or watch 'Contact'. Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a middle-aged man who lives alone in an apartment overlooking a skyline of skyscrapers the film was partly shot in Shanghai and whose day job involves writing emotional handwritten letters on behalf of strangers. Theodore is going through a divorce and falls head over heels in love with an operating system, Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Rather than go heavy on developments in technology, Jonze prefers to use them to explore more timeless ideas about love, relationships and what we expect from a partner.
Buy, rent or watch 'Her'. No one saw this one coming. Buy, rent or watch 'District 9'. But is it all just a dream, a memory, a Messianic vision — or all of the above? The script is bursting at the seams with wild ideas. Buy, rent or watch 'Total Recall'. Never a critical favourite, the French filmmaking magnate Luc Besson has resolutely persisted in following his own idiosyncratic taste, and this wayward fantasy has an individuality distinct from Hollywood formula.
But boy, did Besson assemble a crack team to visualise it. Buy, rent or watch 'They Live'. Unable to manage their waste output, humans have evacuated Earth, leaving robots behind to clean up the mess. Soon enough, though, they have other problems to worry about, like the bouncy alien — who looks like a beach ball with claws — wandering the corridors, or the malfunctioning talking bomb that tries to existentially justify its need to explode and kill everyone onboard. Buy, rent or watch 'Dark Star'. The next time you hear a friend bemoaning the Hollywood remake factory, send them a link to this list.
As the film progresses, the clammy hand of paranoia tightens its grip — and the final shot is a sucker-punch like no other. Buy, rent or watch 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'. The film admirably credits the audience with the intelligence to decipher the clues in its elliptical narrative, gradually picking its way towards a state somewhere between paranoid anxiety and head-spinning dizziness.
Buy, rent or watch 'Primer'.
For this story, Page and co are employed on an upping-the-ante mission: to insert rather than remove an idea into the head of a corporate bigwig Cillian Murphy in order to sate the ambitions of a business rival Ken Watanabe. Most memorable are some jaw-dropping set pieces where Nolan and his team ostentatiously flex their special-effects muscles, most notably a scene that sees Page and DiCaprio walk through Paris as the streets appear to fold up and over before their eyes.
Buy, rent or watch 'Inception'. With his orange hair and a perceptible coked-up jitteriness, Bowie is perfect as the alien, Thomas Jerome Newton: spiky, awkward, uncomfortable in his own skin. But the real stranger in this strange land was cult director Nicolas Roeg, fascinated by the American Southwest — its listless nurses the brilliant Candy Clark and bored college professors a fearless Rip Torn. The movie is filled with daydreamers desperate for a sense of purpose. They instead find television, guns, alcohol and inertia. The result is wickedly smart and knowingly in-jokey without ever ahem alienating the non-nerds.
Buy, rent or watch 'Galaxy Quest'. In a future where plants have become extinct on earth, a handful of starships act as greenhouses, preserving the few remaining specimens in the hope of eventually reforesting the planet. He rebels, kills his co-workers and heads off to tend to his plants with a couple of trusty robots in tow. The film may not have aged perfectly we can live without those willowy Joan Baez numbers , and Lowell is a bit of a blowhard.
But the message is eternal: whatever the risks, man must be his own saviour. Buy, rent or watch 'Silent Running'. Buy, rent or watch 'Gattaca'.
best thrillers of all time | BFI
This being Hollywood, suave Michael Rennie was perfectly cast as the angular alien — after all, he came from the distant galaxy of Bradford. All well and good until the security system failsis tampered with and a T-Rex and friends go on a chomping rampage. The cast, led by Sam Neill as a gruff, kid-hating paleontologist and Jeff Goldblum as a chaos-theory rockstar, is an absolute delight.
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And Spielberg knows how to build a nail-biter of a set-piece, like the now iconic but ever so tense velociraptor kitchen sequence or the central tyrannosaurus attack that was a landmark showcase for then-nascent CGI technology and which, over 25 years later, still looks pretty impressive.
While the film's numerous sequels hagve varied in quality — definitely avoid the third outing — 'Jurassic Park' remains a gold standard when it comes to huge Hollywood blockbusters. Buy, rent or watch 'Jurassic Park'. Effectively, the film splits society into three species: warlike gorillas, intellectual orangutans and cautious chimpanzees what happened to the gibbons? A recent run of entertaining prequels have only served to enrich the original.
Buy, rent or watch 'Planet of the Apes'. Don't despair, struggling filmmakers: you can make your sci-fi classic without a James Cameron-sized budget or any budget, really. Nor do you need a feature-length running time or, amazingly, a motion-picture camera. In it, Paris is reduced to radioactive rubble, but scientists living underground hope to send a dreamer back in time via his strong memories of an alluring woman. The guy sees her in his mind, they begin to flirt and fall in love, and who can blame him if he never wants to return?
Kubrick and Burgess were satirising new forms of psychotherapy, while Cold War totalitarianism was also on their minds. Sci-fi fans will also appreciate that a minor character, Julian, is played by Dave Prowse, aka Darth Vader. Buy, rent or watch 'A Clockwork Orange'. Establishment scaremongering about the communist threat against American freedom of conscience seemingly underpins this drumhead-tight B-thriller about sinister extraterrestrial pods taking over small-town California in its sleep. Bruce Willis plays a low-level criminal in a future earth destroyed by disease, sent back in time to trace the roots of the plague.
In the process he manages to fall in love with Madeleine Stowe fair enough and gets banged up in a mental institution where he stumbles upon Brad Pitt in one of his first and finest roles as a demented, jittery environmental terrorist. But this is such a bizarre mind-fuck of a film that it hardly matters. Plus, you get to see our Bruce wearing a blonde wig and Hawaiian shirt, which is a huge bonus. Oscar Isaac chills as Nathan, the psychopathic yet charismatic billionaire founder of the search engine company that protagonist Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson, works for.
Circumstances send David on a dangerous journey to discover his maker, a nightmarish trek with many allusions to that other lost boy, Pinocchio that includes a sinister mechanical gigolo Law , a tech-phobic Flesh Fair, a visit to a half-submerged Manhattan and a controversial, highly emotional climax that lingers in the heart and the mind. Buy, rent or watch 'AI Artificial Intelligence'. Gondry became more capable than his usual craftsy music videos, and Charlie Kaufman, the screenwriter, proved himself deeper than his reputation suggested. The biggest revelation comes in the shape of Jim Carrey and his turn as the squirmingly uncomfortable Joel.
Meanwhile, Kate Winslet plays Clementine, one of the great sphinxes in modern movies: voluminous, punkish, soulful, cherishable. She would be hard to forget after a breakup. Buy, rent or watch 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'. Let it be stressed: at the root of every great sci-fi film is a killer script, not special effects or lasers.
It helps when your star is Michael J Fox, captured at the peak of his youthful heroism. Buy, rent or watch 'Back to the Future'. Add to this some still-impressive effects, a wonderful swooping electronic score and the dry, ironic presence of that mechanical icon Robbie the Robot, and the result is a film that stands up to modern scrutiny at every turn. Buy, rent or watch 'Forbidden Planet'. Buy, rent or watch 'The Fly'.
Everything in this nightmare vision of the future is recognisable. What qualifies it as sci-fi is the setting and global infertility crisis — no child has been born since Like the city, Clive Owen, a pen-pusher at the Ministry of Energy, is a shell of a man, talked by his ex, the leader of a terrorist guerrilla group, into aiding an African refugee. Buy, rent or watch 'Children of Men'. Our human protagonist is Kris Kelvin Donatas Banionis , a grief-stricken scientist still mourning his long-dead wife, Hari. After an earthbound prologue that culminates in a mesmerising drive through an otherworldly metropolis, Kelvin journeys to a space station orbiting Solaris, a sentient planet that apparently has the power to resurrect dead beings.
In the midst of investigating these claims, his spouse Natalya Bondarchuk miraculously reappears, and things only get stranger from there. Buy, rent or watch 'Solaris'. Forget all the time-hopping, helicopter-exploding and banging on about destiny — at heart, this is a story about people, whether real or fabricated: their loves, their friendships, their failings and their regrets.
Buy, rent or watch 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day'. Buy, rent or watch 'Stalker'. But it also deals with the sheer overwhelming monotony of everyday life and the crushing depression of solitude. We only wish that more contemporary sci-fi emphasised ideas over explosions.
Buy, rent or watch 'Moon'. Those pitiful sequels may have gone and ruined it all with impenetrable cod-philosophising and crusty rave chic, but for a moment this really did feel like the future of film. Buy, rent or watch 'The Matrix'. A helicopter flies in low over an American scientific research station in the Antarctic. The dog turns out to be a parasitic alien organism that can imitate any life form, and which proceeds to pick off the Yankees one by one.
John Carpenter prolongs this gut-twistingly tense paranoia throughout the whole film, and Kurt Russell leads an ensemble cast of totally believable, blue collar guys, bored to death and stir crazy. Not anymore. When the Frenchman found out that said family flick would also involve a stranded alien, he laughed out loud. Minute in scale, intimate in tone, it is one of the finest films ever made about how kids think and how families fit together. Buy, rent or watch 'ET the Extra-Terrestrial'. Nowhere is this more true than in the feisty Bogart-Bacall interactions between rakish rogue Harrison Ford and ice princess Carrie Fisher — their on-set dust-ups may be legendary, but their on-screen chemistry is unmistakable.
Buy, rent or watch 'The Empire Strikes Back'. While promoting that quickie horror sequel, a dream of a metallic torso pulling itself from an explosion sparked his imagination. The story is blissfully pulpy: a killer robot in synthetic skin Schwarzenegger, then best known for playing a sword-wielding comic-book barbarian is sent back in time from a ruined Earth to the present day.
His task is to murder Sarah Connor Hamilton , the mother of the future saviour of humanity. Buy, rent or watch 'The Terminator'. But over time it has become perhaps the most imitated sci-fi film ever. In a densely packed and towering city of the future, Freder, the son of a wealthy industrialist, falls in love with a girl from the hellish underground slum where workers toil to fuel the lives of those above. Buy, rent or watch 'Metropolis'. Lowry dreams of soaring high like a mechanical bird and sweeping a beautiful mystery woman Greist off her feet.
In reality, he finds himself at the heart of a confusing scandal involving presumed terrorists and a case of mistaken identity, reluctantly taking up a job at a government department called Information Retrieval so he can seek answers. But this is something altogether more majestic, ambitious and troubling. Buy, rent or watch 'Brazil'. Suffice it to say, the stakes were raised and the space blockbuster was born.
But chiefly, this was a film that launched a million toys — and, not insignificantly, a million dreams. Harrison Ford became a megastar overnight; ditto the black-masked Darth Vader, whose synthesised breathing noises entered the lexicon. Buy, rent or watch 'Star Wars'. This is usually the point at which a young actress starts buying into her own celebrity and the Internet turns on her.
But Jennifer Lawrence has somehow circumvented that backlash: Several months after that Oscar win, she remains as beloved as ever. It's no wonder that Lawrence has taken a turbo-charged leap into the Most Valuable Stars top three. All through Oscar season, Lawrence was a walking, joking counterpoint to Anne Hathaway's glahmorous campaigning, receiving just as much fan love as Hathaway seemed to earn disdain. Google Lawrence's name and "best friend" and you'll find countless people applying for the position. She did everything right, expressing disbelief and gratitude for her accolades but not at a Taylor Swift-ian level , all while acting like a starstruck stand-in, gawping at Jeff Bridges and Jack Nicholson and making awkward jokes about Meryl Streep.
Fame can be a hard needle to thread for famous women - bloggers, fans, and the media can relentlessly scrutinize every move for inauthenticity - but Lawrence has pulled it off expertly by remaining herself. Her former co-stars and directors can't get enough of her, which only cements her Best Friend Ever vibe. Simply put, Jennifer Lawrence is the biggest and most versatile young star we've got.
After a few years of lying low, she came back with a hit comedy and the best-reviewed movie of the year. It would be tough to top the year that Sandra Bullock had in - she had two giant hits in The Proposal and The Blind Side , and won an Oscar for the latter - but might just give a run for its money. And then came Gravity , which recently premiered to the best reviews she's ever had, and may well end up becoming her biggest hit and bring her another Oscar nod.
Gravity could also be a possible solution to Bullock's most vulnerable spot: her international appeal. But it seems safe to assume that Gravity , a 3-D effects extravaganza, won't have the same problem it's off to a strong start abroad, with most major territories still to open , so studios hope that audiences abroad recognize what we already know in the U. Brad Pitt has always seemed a bit like his Troy character Achilles, an infallible half-god with a weakness no one could discern. This summer, some thought his soft spot had finally been found: There was terrible advance buzz on the Pitt-produced World War Z , and the rewrites, reshoots, and director freeze-out had everyone expecting a big-budget bomb that would prove Pitt was human.
It's hard to find a negative with Pitt. He scores in dramas Moneyball , and even the smaller films that don't work get points for creative difficulty, like Killing Them Softly , which confounded those who expected a traditional hit-man thriller, not a vehicle for social commentary.
This could explain its CinemaScore grade of "F. And, like his Ocean's cohorts Clooney and Damon, Pitt has established himself as a star you can trust, someone great to stare at but who also seems invested in doing something interesting onscreen. He's content in supporting roles Burn After Reading , Ridley Scott's upcoming The Counselor and uses his celebrity impressively, taking a small part in 12 Years a Slave a film he also produced to make sure it gets attention.
It's a safe bet it'll work. Before Will Smith went on something of a hiatus from acting in - which he spent mostly launching the show-business careers of children Jaden and Willow, as well as getting mired in an endless Men in Black 3 shoot - he was at the very top of the A-list pack. But his return has probably been a little rockier than he might have hoped. Smith's studio value has dropped accordingly, down one point from last year, but he's still a strong 8 and remains a huge draw internationally After Earth made three times as much abroad. Still, between the very public script issues that pushed MIB3 way over budget, his decision not to star in Django Unchained , his new stage-parent image, and the public suspicions over his alleged links to Scientology, Smith is facing major image problems for the first time in his career.
It's as if his pal Tom Cruise's troubles were contagious, because they have the same feel - there are even breakup rumors plaguing his union with Jada Pinkett.
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Still, Smith undoubtedly remains a big star, and hopefully between con-man rom-com Focus and a possible Independence Day sequel, we will see the return of the fun star we first fell for. Best to leave the kids at home, though. Christian Bale is the rare actor who's able to step away from a superhero franchise with nothing more to prove.
While many other supersuited thespians suffer from typecasting, Bale used his breaks between Batman movies for projects that earned him critical raves and, with 's The Fighter , an Oscar. He has definitively declared that The Dark Knight Rises , which grossed over a billion dollars worldwide, would be his final outing as the DC character, and there's no reason to think he'll fade away.
Bale has got two films with solid pedigrees coming out this winter: the brother-against-brother thriller Out of the Furnace , directed by Crazy Heart 's Scott Cooper, and a reunion with his Fighter director, David O. Russell, American Hustle. He's also doing two films with Terrence Malick who directed him in ' s The New World , but lest you think Bale is pivoting away from Batman-size epics, he' s currently shooting Ridley Scott's story of Moses, Exodus , playing the big M himself. Bale's tabloid score is relatively low, which jibes with his quiet life and disinterest in the press, but his studio value is a solid 7.
He's got plenty of options, and there's also this: If Ben Affleck whiffs his turn as Batman in the Man of Steel sequel, Bale's legacy and mystique will only grow. When he's in his wheelhouse - mid-budget, muscular thrillers aimed at adults - studios know exactly what they're getting, and he's rated very highly by them as a result. The last year saw him tiptoe a little out of his comfort zone, and his gunplay-free drama Flight actually exceeded box-office expectations and won the star his fourth Oscar nomination; meanwhile, his recent action-comedy 2 Guns performed more middlingly, despite teaming Washington with the equally well-liked Mark Wahlberg.
It's also worth noting that Washington remains less of an international draw than some of his contemporaries, in part owing to his aversion to CGI and sequels. Still, Washington's star at home shows little sign of waning and should continue into next year's The Equalizer , which reteams him with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua. Over the past year, there has been talk of him teaming with Will Smith for a remake of the Sidney Poitier-Bill Cosby comedy Uptown Saturday Night , which would be a formidable twin bill; just as enticing is the idea that Washington hopes to direct himself and Viola Davis in a big-screen reprise of their Tony-winning Fences revival.
Tom Hanks has been famous and successful for so long that he can weather a few creative, low-grossing endeavors - like his last three movies, Larry Crowne , Cloud Atlas , and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - without taking too much of a hit to his image. He's still blessed with the highest likability score on this list, as well as a studio value that's second only to Brad Pitt's. It also got his highest Metacritic score for a live-action film since Saving Private Ryan. This winter's Mary Poppins origin story Saving Mr. Banks will likely add yet another crowd-pleasing winner to his slate.
That's how Hanks can get away with a domestic box-office score that's the lowest of any actor in our top The days of his giant grossers like Forrest Gump , Saving Private Ryan , and The Da Vinci Code are mostly behind him, and the animated Toy Story 3 was the only credit of recent vintage that brought him anything close to his box-office heyday. We're in a weird era in which the lack of significant young movie stars means that we have to rely even more on veterans like Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, and Sandra Bullock, and frankly, it's weird to have watched Hanks flounder at the box office in a period during which those peers are scoring the biggest hits of their careers.
Let's hope that Phillips and Banks are signs that he's gotten back on track. For most of the last decade, Johnny Depp was one of the biggest movie stars in the world, thanks to the monumental success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The latter two were particularly disappointing given that they paired him with Tim Burton and Gore Verbinski, the filmmakers with whom he's had his biggest successes. Depp is far from done - he remains well-liked by fans, he's still one of the most talked about actors on Twitter, and after his marriage split, he is newly attractive to the tabloids.
He's still a big draw abroad, and as long as there are sequels to be made to Alice in Wonderland and Pirates , he'll be in demand, even if the fifth film in the latter franchise was recently delayed. His upcoming slate looks a little more promising - he's got the Christopher Nolan-produced sci-fier Transcendence and the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods up next - but can you blame Hollywood for feeling a little wary?
He rises on this list by mixing genres and making blockbusters that are especially powerful overseas. It'd be hard to think of someone more deserving, since Jackman has had a pretty phenomenal twelve months. This summer, U. But there's more to draw from Jackman's last year than box-office receipts.
Few actors can prove so convincing in action, drama, and musicals, and Jackman pulled it all off within nine months, promoting each film with grinning brio. In an era during which new stars are hard to come by, he puts in the sort of globe-trotting promotional time that used to be the sole provenance of Will Smith and Tom Cruise. That's won him high awareness and likability scores; it's also prompted studio executives to assign the same points to Jackman that they do Sandra Bullock and Angelina Jolie.
Jackman always looked the part of an A-list superstar; now, it seems, his career has finally caught up with him. It might simply be an act of faith - or a testament to her charisma - to still consider Angelina Jolie one of our biggest movie stars, since she works so infrequently. Not counting her Kung Fu Panda voice work, she's only starred in four films within the post eligibility period for this year's Most Valuable Stars.
Other actors with this sparse a filmography would have their bankability in doubt, but the Angelina mystique is too powerful to discount. She remains a perennial object of fascination; her tabloid score is a 9. And yet, unlike the old days when people were fascinated by her scandals, now they're click-happy to catch glimpses of her in a formal gown and anywhere she's casually traveling with her giant, photogenic brood.
Plus, she climbed one rung closer to sainthood when she became a strong voice for breast cancer awareness after disclosing that she'd had a preventative double mastectomy. Oddly, she has a low Likability score of 50; this is likely the result of many clinging to her old tabloid reputation as the "other woman. In many ways, she is the distaff George Clooney, a glamorous red carpet fixture, an activist, and a director: While her debut behind the camera, In the Land of Blood and Honey , barely made a blip in the U.
And oh, turns out she hasn't quit acting after all: Next summer she'll star as Sleeping Beauty's antagonist in Maleficent. It's hard to imagine a giant spindle fight, but even without action, it seems like just the kind of vampy role one her kids can see that will reassure studio execs that they were right to believe in her star power all this time. Which actress was blessed with the highest studio score on this list?
It wasn't Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock, or Angelina Jolie whom our studio executives gave their highest marks to; instead, it was year-old Meryl Streep. And can you blame them? Simply put, Streep is the closest thing to a guarantee you can get in this business: If she's the star of a movie, it's smart, important, and bound to be a quality production.
Or it's Mamma Mia But though Streep is often referred to as the world's greatest actress, she cleverly plays against her reputation with charming acceptance speeches in which she fumbles for her glasses and drops self-deprecating bons mots. And she'll need every ounce of that likability for her next role as Violet Weston, the cruel and cancerous matriarch at the center of August: Osage County.
The family drama, adapted from the Pulitzer-winning play by Tracy Letts, has Streep tearing into Julia Roberts and her kin with a ferocious meanness; Streep also tears into the scenery, delivering a performance so big that some critics were moved to pan it at the film's Toronto Film Festival debut.
But even so, those same pundits took it as fact that Streep would earn an Oscar nod for the role, so beloved is she by the Academy. And Streep is pretty fun even when she's being bad, a quality she'll continue to mine as the Witch in the currently filming Into the Woods , where she'll get to sing onscreen for the first time since Mamma Mia. It's always hard to figure out whether Tom Cruise is in the middle of a comeback or not. All the couch jumping and Scientology proselytizing was forgotten, and our biggest movie star was back!
He even emerged from the abysmal Rock of Ages only slightly scathed: Though the movie bombed, many critics cited his Axl Rose-like rocker as the high point, and the very fact that he did it proved he had a sense of humor. But then, shortly after Rock of Ages opened, wife Katie Holmes "escaped" with their daughter, resurrecting the tabloid troubles that Cruise had recently kept at bay. His next two films, Jack Reacher and Oblivion , both underperformed, his likability plummeted again he's got one of the lowest scores on this list , and so, the conversational pendulum swung back to "That weirdo is over!
Hence his high studio value of 8. Given the subsequent careers of megafranchise leads Mark Hamill and Elijah Wood, you could be forgiven for assuming that Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe would never be heard from after the most successful film series in history wrapped up in But the year-old actor has spent the last couple of years making careful, considered choices that could pay off for him in the near future. After initially focusing on Broadway and TV roles, Radcliffe's taken tentative steps back into movie stardom, and his one post- Potter outing, The Woman in Black , proved to be a solid sleeper hit.
Radcliffe is popular enough with the tabloids to have remained highly visible since Potter wrapped, and he's wonderfully charming and likable in his public appearances. Next up, he'll begin to assert himself as a real actor in a series of well-received indie films - Kill Your Darlings , Horns and particularly the rom-com The F Word - that are just starting to roll out in theaters. The studios remain a touch wary of his star value away from Potter , but a return to tentpoles next year with Fox's Frankenstein could help to boost their confidence.
Photo: Alberto E. After the success of We're the Millers , Hollywood hopes her box-office value can finally match her tabloid appeal. For a long time, the take on Jennifer Aniston was that she was more of a celebrity than a movie star, and that view was furthered last year when her comedy Wanderlust was DOA at the box office. Her gossip value has not abated, especially after her recent engagement: Her score is still a perfect 10, right up there with Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake, and Jennifer Lawrence.
Like Horrible Bosses , Millers - in which Aniston played a stripper - also played up her sexiest and most skin-baring scenes. Hollywood really wants Aniston to succeed it would be a shame not to put all that press to good use , and her studio value has grown from a 6 to an 8. She popped up in Toronto in the ensemble of the Elmore Leonard adaptation Life of Crime reviews were mixed to positive , and her next two projects aren't sure things: the female-friendship weeper Miss You Already is directed by Brit Paul Andrew Williams, and Squirrels to the Nuts is Peter Bogdanovich's first movie in twelve years.
Yes, you might prefer her to work on smaller fare with great directors to show off her range, but she tried that with The Good Girl and Friends With Money and it didn't do much for her career. So perhaps the answer is more comedies that allow her to wear revealing outfits: It's sad to see that her crack comic timing is best served by bikini scenes, but it's better than people only talking about her possible baby bump.
How long will Daniel Craig stay enlisted as famed superspy James Bond? That success keeps him in the studios' crosshairs, though his non-Bond work has never quite broken through. Is it a personality problem? Unlike previous Bonds like Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan, Craig appears to be a very serious man trapped in a very popular franchise.
He is not the sort of star who smiles easily, and compared to his peer Hugh Jackman, with whom he recently shared the Broadway stage, Craig comes off as a bit of a grump. Then again, you could say the same of Daniel Day-Lewis, and like him, Craig seems to be far more interested in acting challenges than celebrity.
After that, Craig is reportedly signed on for two more Bond blockbusters and thus far nothing else; will he decide to try his hand at more Hollywood blockbusters, or will Betrayal inspire him to pursue more serious fare, leaving Bond to serve as his only nod to frivolity? He's an old-school mind with a contemporary sheen.
And he gets away with it because he's so damn charming. He's witty and dapper while also seeming like the best friend a middle-aged guy could ever have: He's the generation X male's Jennifer Lawrence, except you want to share a beer, not brunch. That doesn't make Clooney a tentpole powerhouse at the box office, but that's also because those aren't the kinds of movies he usually makes. Though that drought is now finally ending with Gravity. Clooney is much more interested in modest-budgeted vehicles for grown-ups, a niche today that only he and a few choice others are allowed to play in.
He has one of the highest studio values for this reason: It's hard for an exec to rationalize making a mid-range, serious movie in today's blockbuster-centric mind-set, but Clooney can earn a studio green light without breaking a sweat; basically, he makes them look good. This winter will see his next directorial and starring effort, The Monuments Men , with fellow lovable activist and good-movie hero Matt Damon; that'll be followed by Brad Bird's mysterious Tomorrowland. And then a beer?
Last year, Matt Damon was ranked sixth on our list, but this year, he tumbled to nineteen. What happened? Some of it simply couldn't have been helped - in part, he was supplanted by stars in the prime of their franchises, like Jennifer Lawrence - but Damon also hit a rough patch last winter with his fracking movie Promised Land , the lowest-grossing wide-release movie of his career. It's no wonder that rumors recently flew that Damon might be willing to come back to the Bourne franchise; he could use a pick-me-up. Still, Damon is a solid, hard-working star with a high studio rating, and he also has a high likability score, made all the more impressive owing to his potentially polarizing activist work for liberal causes.
Just compare him to Sean Penn, who's got one of the lowest likability ratings on this list. As a celebrity, Damon is an unshowy presence who's hardly blowing up Twitter, but that's part of what people appreciate about him: Unlike his occasionally polarizing cohort Ben Affleck, Damon really does seem unconcerned with his celebrity status.
Let's just hope that when it comes to the box office, he can right his ship and move up a few places. Mila Kunis is a strong runner-up to Jennifer Lawrence as "Hollywood's coolest gal," losing points only for being famous longer you can't really feign "I can't believe I'm among stars! Gorgeous, funny, and relatable, Kunis scored big viral video points this year with her adorable response to that incredibly awkward British first-time junket journalist: She blithely dispensed with her list of Oz the Great and Powerful talking points so she could quickly get to what she preferred, shooting the shit with her nervous interviewer, thereby puncturing the notion of her own celebrity in an appealingly self-deprecating way.
Kunis can also boast equal appeal to both sexes: Her Seth MacFarlane-stamped comedy bona fides make her an appealing dream date for dudes, while women are curious about her romance with Ashton Kutcher, earning her a remarkably high tabloid score of 9. Kunis starred in two of the past year's biggest hits, Ted and Oz the Great and Powerful , but her most recent string of indies seems to be stalled without domestic distribution The Angriest Man in Brooklyn , a comedy with Robin Williams; the period cop drama Blood Ties , with Clive Owen; and Paul Haggis's Third Person , which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival to divided reviews.
Perhaps that's why studio executives give her a wait-and-see value of 6. Whether that becomes her Matrix or her Speed Racer remains to be seen, but at least she'll be able to use its major PR push to remind people why she's so damn likable. Daniel Day-Lewis is often referred to as our greatest living actor, and this year he helped bolster that case when he became the first person in the history of the Academy Awards to win three Best Actor trophies. There have been misfires, certainly: The musical Nine did few of its creatives any favors, least of all a curiously muted Day-Lewis.
Though general audiences had never quite warmed to the actor, his likability score jumped a little this year, perhaps because of his role as the Great Anticipator and a series of charming, self-deprecating appearances on the awards circuit. But when Day-Lewis does take a role, it can't help but feel like an event, especially when he's paired with a top-tier director like Paul Thomas Anderson or Steven Spielberg. And maybe that's exactly how he wants it. Now that Gosling is taking an extended break from acting to work on his first directorial effort, How to Catch a Monster , it raises the question of what he should do when he comes back.
Could he use another star vehicle like Crazy Stupid Love , the first and only movie he's made to truly capitalize on the romantic appeal he showed in The Notebook? Or would he be better off as an independent leading man with intermittent, smaller-scaled hits like Drive and Blue Valentine? One thing is for sure: Superheroes are off the table for Gosling, who's turned down offers to star as Green Lantern and Batman in the past.
Our guess is that Gosling stays his course, leading indies while taking the occasional juicy supporting role in a studio vehicle that he feels like he can trust. It's possible that one of his frequent collaborators like Derek Cianfrance or Nicolas Winding Refn will eventually be handed a megabudget studio movie and come calling for the Gos, but that backdoor approach is just about the only way we can see Ryan Gosling starring in a summer tentpole.
And that's fine: In the era of Twitter and TMZ, what's wrong with at least one leading man who stays elusive? But then came last year's Silver Linings Playbook and a Brad Pitt-style reevaluation occurred: Hey, this handsome blonde can act! Blessed with a face that sells magazines and a Sexiest Man Alive honor , Cooper seems determined to use his growing appeal and respect to reach for the highest tier of Hollywood projects.
He's carefully sticking close to his Playbook cohorts: This winter's American Hustle reteams him with director David O. Russell and co-star Jennifer Lawrence, and then there's an untitled romantic comedy from Cameron Crowe and a surprising voice role as a gun-toting raccoon in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.
It's hard to believe some never thought he'd go farther than that Wedding Crashers weasel. People on the Internet claim to loathe Anne Hathaway, but do they speak for everyone? But you have to remember in life that there's a positive to every negative and a negative to every positive. As such, studios rate her a 7. Just look at what Hathaway accomplished in Even Les Miz doubters had to grudgingly applaud her turn as Fantine, and fanboys approved her Catwoman in the year's biggest hit, The Dark Knight Rises.
Christopher Nolan is sticking with Hathaway, casting her in his Matthew McConaughey-led space epic Interstellar , and she'll delve back into the romantic drama genre for Song One , which she also produced and will reportedly sing in. Haters gonna hate, but they don't seem to be damaging her career any.
While he famously bailed on the Fast and the Furious franchise, his return after his career sputtered has been the best thing for it and him. Diesel's self-identified ethnic ambiguity reflects the Fast cast's diversity, making him a huge draw for both U. Keeping Diesel lower than other big box-office stars is his lack of non-Fast hits. A sequel that he's been discussing for years, though it still has no director attached. During his Riddick press rounds, Diesel also leaked details of how he was courted to voice supertree Groot in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy , though Marvel hasn't confirmed his participation.
Diesel is famous for his hyperbole and imagination when it comes to hyping himself, so who knows if we'll actually hear his voice when Guardians hits theaters next summer. You would never expect the star of tough-guy thrillers like Contraband and Max Payne to be so willing to play the straight man; it would seem like all that gun-waving indicated the kind of type-A actor who always wants to take charge.
But whether Mark Wahlberg is playing against a manic Will Ferrell in The Other Guys , a jittery Christian Bale in The Fighter , or a foul-mouthed bear in Ted , he has shown a surprising lack of ego in the way he cedes the more high-profile moments. He's even stepping into the Transformers series for its fourth installment, taking over from Shia LaBeouf; few actors would take an aging franchise from a young punk, but hey, Marky Mark don' t care.
Wahlberg doesn't need to have an ego, because he doesn't have anything left to prove. Considering his ignominious beginnings as a cheesy rapper, it's amazing that he has come of age as a popular movie star who can do action, comedy, and drama, and is a successful producer to boot Boardwalk Empire , Entourage. His studio value is a solid 7. This winter, Wahlberg will take on another macho action role in Peter Berg's ensemble war film Lone Survivor , then he may do a possible mercenary comedy with Jonah Hill. Hill will likely get most of the laughs, but that won't matter to Wahlberg at all.
This year, she's proven herself a sure thing, shooting up to No. Sure, The Heat had massive star Sandra Bullock as a co-lead, but when you consider that Identity Thief had appalling reviews and still hit big thanks to McCarthy's broad, anything-for-a-laugh antics, you have to give her major credit for both films.
That's why comedies The Hangover Part III and This Is 40 highlighted the actress in their trailers even though she had what amounted to little more than cameos. Her movies haven't quite caught on internationally, but that's a common problem for most comedy stars. Unlike Kristen Wiig, who backed away from Bridesmaids ' success into smaller films, McCarthy has spent new capital on high-profile future projects that are right in her wheelhouse. She started a production company with her husband and writing partner, Ben Falcone, with whom she's developing several projects, including Tammy , a raunchy comedy the two co-wrote and co-directed that is set for a big July 4, release.
Yes, she's also working to expand her range, beating out many other top actresses to get a role in St. But she's not neglecting her core appeal. But these are good problems to have, and assuming she keeps on proving herself a box-office good luck charm, expect to see her climb even higher on this list next year. It's hard to think of another comeback that has brought someone so high from such toxic depths: Ten years after Gigli , Ben Affleck received the Best Picture Oscar for Argo. The main impetus for his turnaround has been his directing career, but after the last few years of acting only in his own films or in tiny dramas like To the Wonder and Company Men , Affleck capitalized on his new heat to snag the lead in David Fincher's adaptation of the literary phenomenon Gone Girl , after which he'll famously don the Batman cowl in Batman vs.
Superman to the apoplexy of fanboys everywhere. This superhero face-off comes from Affleck's eager patron, Warner Bros. These films could make Affleck the new Clooney, albeit one who proves even more dependable behind the camera. Fanboy outrage over his Batman casting should not be read as stormclouds over his acting career, since the angry Internet crowd would have been enraged if the actual Bruce Wayne were cast.
The fact is, Affleck has everything going for him: Not only is he well-respected as an artist, but supermarket magazines love to highlight what adorable parents he and Jennifer Garner make, a complete turnaround from the days when Affleck's relationship with Jennifer Lopez made him a tabloid target. The only speedbump he's hit lately is the poorly reviewed Runner Runner ; though he himself got good notices, audiences and critics seemed impatient with it, as if they were ready to move on to Affleck's major next offerings.
One can imagine Affleck himself is just as eager to get started. It's been five years since Taken reinvented him as the new Charles Bronson, and he's only picking up speed.
Liam Neeson seems to leap between two genres: supporting roles in big-budget cheesy blockbusters Battleship , Clash of the Titans and the lower-budgeted man-with-a-gun action thrillers that have been his stock-in-trade since Taken , five years ago. Hence Neeson's high studio value of 8. Film lovers would probably like to see him dig into a more meaty, nuanced dramatic role again; Kinsey , after all, was nine years ago. Moving forward, Neeson seems to only be working more. He's got two more collaborations with his Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra: Non-Stop , where he plays an air marshal trapped in a plane with terrorists, and Run All Night , playing a hit man who has to - all together now!
And in a switch, in A Walk Among the Tombstones , he'll play a private detective trying to find who kidnapped a drug kingpin's family. He has a few projects that veer from the formula: Paul Haggis's interlocking-love-stories project Third Person got mixed reviews at the Toronto film festival, and he'll also co-star in Seth MacFarlane's comedy Western A Million Ways to Die in the West.
When it comes to value, that's what really matters. Elegance, glamour, and raw talent still have a place in Hollywood, as evidenced by the sterling career of Cate Blanchett. The best directors want to work with her so far, she's collaborated with Scorsese, Peter Jackson, Todd Haynes, David Fincher, Wes Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, and Steven Spielberg , and she always delivers a performance everyone is talking about at the end of the year.
She barely makes a blip on Twitter and the tabloids, but she doesn't need them to keep her career racing forward. Instead, Blanchett simply shows up in a movie and dazzles: Her role in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine is already touted as 's Best Actress front-runner. Unlike Naomi Watts, another actress who gravitates toward serious material with impressive imprimaturs, Blanchett avoids seeming too precious and impenetrable because she also likes to have fun, whether it's with her one-mustache-short-of-a-mustache-twirler villain in the last Indiana Jones movie, or her upcoming dive into the George Clooney boys'-club WWII art heist piece Monuments Men.
From there, she'll bounce back and forth between moods: a no doubt ethereal piece from Terrence Malick Knight of Cups ; two more Hobbit films; the HBO adaptation of the memoir Cancer Vixen ; a reteam with Todd Haynes for the fifties period piece Carol ; a David Mamet thriller, Blackbird ; and then a new version of Cinderella , in which she'll play the wicked stepmother. One can only assume that this will be the kind of delightfully hammy portrayal that would make Angelina Jolie's Maleficent back away slowly.
Oh, and somewhere in all that, she'll make her directing debut adapting the dark international best seller The Dinner. The only way she'll ever be idle is if she chooses to, because everyone wants a piece of the great Cate. It was this summer's greatest mystery: Last year America decided to start loving Channing Tatum, so why didn't they go see White House Down , his would-be movie-star coronation?
Tatum scholars will ponder this question for years, but let's hope it was a fluke, since his box-office record is otherwise solid, his tabloid exposure is growing thanks, People 's Sexiest Man Alive , and he's one of a precious few young male stars we actually grew here in the States instead of importing. It's no wonder that his Twitter score is off the charts: He's appealing to both genders and he's willing to go the extra mile - or doff an extra bit of clothing - if that's what the movie calls for.
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Fortunately, Tatum has an incredible that seems designed to restore whatever luster he may have lost: There's Foxcatcher , a prestige biopic with Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo, the Wachowskis' Jupiter Ascending , and, of course, 22 Jump Street 2: A Guaranteed Moneymaker. That's our working title. Let's hope that some or all of those work so that we can keep Tatum where we want him and try to forget the summer that his White House action movie came in second to Gerard Butler's.
Really, audiences? She had a slow , but the likable star has a packed with blockbusters and prestige flicks. The streak had to end somewhere for Emma Stone. After a killer run in teen comedies like Superbad , Zombieland , and Easy A , a lead in the Oscar-nominated smash The Help , and a well-reviewed love interest role in the superhero reboot The Amazing Spider-Man , it was inevitable that Emma Stone would hit something of a speed bump. A stylish two-hander , simmering with tension. Gene Hackman is exceptional as a paranoid surveillance expert, while Walter Murch and Art Rochester were Oscar-nominated for the evocative sound design.
Fred Zinnemann was likely more famous for his westerns and romantic dramas than his thrillers, but he tackled big material in this political drama: the attempted assassination of French president Charles De Gaulle. Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill play the grieving couple whose recuperative sailing trip takes a deadly turn after they rescue a marooned man. Full of vertiginous peril, guess-the-psycho gameplay and fish-out-of-water fun, Deadly Pursuit was once the stuff that video-rental dreams were made of.
The daddy of all weekend-gone-wrong survival thrillers stars Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds as Atlanta businessmen who get more than they bargained for on a canoe trip through the wilderness. Harrowing stuff, and a haunting film about our desecration of the land. The wife and mistress of a repulsive man team up to remove their mutual problem, but disposing of the corpse is more difficult than they anticipate. A crime movie that encourages the audience to side with the murderers.
Famed for its audacious, rapid dialogue, dripping with sexual innuendo, Double Indemnity places insurance salesman Fred MacMurray in the path of ice-blonde aspiring widow Barbara Stanwyck. Directed by Billy Wilder as a series of confessional flashbacks, from a script co-written by Raymond Chandler and adapted from a James M. Cain story, this is film noir at its finest. Nothing can be trusted and nothing stays still for long in this slick, excessive and hugely influential paranoid thriller.
As commuter David Mann Dennis Weaver is randomly targeted by an unseen trucker, Spielberg utilises the isolated location and universal fear of the unknown to deliver a tense David and Goliath-esque thriller. Sniffy, but — with hindsight — dead right. The thrill of his revolution, however phony, endures.
One is one of the best thrillers of all time, the other stars Steven Seagal. Rebecca De Mornay is suitably unhinged as the nanny wreaking bloody havoc on the family she believes responsible for the death of her husband and unborn child. With Lemming to follow, director Dominik Moll looked peerless for a brief spell in the early s. No cliffhangers or races-against-the-clock here. No beheadings either.
The Headless Woman unfolds in a state of foggy concussion, with the facts hanging tantalisingly out of reach. Echoes of They Drive by Night and The Wages of Fear reverberate around this testosterone-fuelled study of the risks taken by pittance-paid truckers.
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Seething with macho resentment, Stanley Baker leads an exceptional cast of British acting stalwarts including Sean Connery and Patrick McGoohan who ably square up to the reckless action sequences and no-nonsense realism. Someone is sending them surveillance videos of their Paris apartment. High and Low , set in s Yokohama, offers a true test of nobility. The adventure lies in seeing which way a good man will turn, and whether he can retain his goodness, despite its absence around him. A race against the clock. The final shootout romps through the town, leaving a trail of burned out barns and panicked horses in its wake.
A psychopath takes two friends captive after they offer him a ride, tormenting them mentally and turning them against each other, on a trip across the Mexican border. Inspired by the story of spree killer Billy Cook, The Hitch-hiker is a brutally chilling movie, and the first film noir to be directed by a woman, former actor Ida Lupino. The girl cried wolf, the pack turned on its own. A textbook example of the all-star conspiracy thriller. Director and co-writer Erik Skjoldbjaerg expertly utilises his atmospheric Norwegian location for this tense murder mystery.
Stellan Skarsgard is Swedish murder investigator Jonas Engstrom, who, struggling to cope with the 24 hours of daylight, makes a terrible mistake that has dramatic implications on the case. Christopher Nolan helmed an English language remake in A veteran Italian star of spaghetti westerns, Gian Maria Volonte plays a nasty, calculating police chief in this vicious satire of police corruption. When the chief kills his mistress, he leaves a trail of clues in his wake to see if he can actually get arrested for his crime.
Petri and Volonte shared a leftist sensibility, and here they work to ferociously indict the endemic hypocrisy of the Italian powers-that-be. Due for an imminent remake, Ittefaq — shot by Yash Chopra in 28 days as a distraction from a postponed project — was not typical Bollywood. It opts for sleuthy fun over noirish brooding every time, fired up by a feverish Rajesh Khanna performance that kickstarted his career. Vidya Balan — who already had a strong track record of female-centric works — turns Kolkata upside-down as a pregnant woman searching for her husband in the wake of a terrorist attack.
Ambiguity is the name of the game in the first of Alan J. In Klute , he combines old-timey noir tropes and a thoroughly liberated attitude towards sex in the story of a high-class call girl Jane Fonda who helps a careworn detective Donald Sutherland to solve a mysterious homicide.
Set during a weekend sailing trip, it claustrophobically exploits its setting to expose the paranoia, cruelty and folly of a middle-aged sportswriter seeking to impress his wife by humiliating a teenage student. In this pre-war Hitchcock thriller , Margaret Lockwood is a tourist crossing Europe by train who suddenly notices that one of her travelling companions, an eccentric old lady, is missing. None of the other passengers recall having seen her friend before. Is she going mad, or is there a wider conspiracy at work?
Tierney is Laura, a beautiful Madison Avenue advertising executive. When she is found dead, the detective investigating her murder Dana Andrews becomes the latest man to fall in love with her, and to be betrayed by her. A paranoid New York murder mystery with a twist… in the middle. The set-up is that of classic film noir: a wealthy husband, a conniving wife and a criminal lover willing to do her spouse in. He counters the jumpy suspense of the situation with percussive cuts and a celebrated, sensual jazz score by Miles Davis.
This realistic depiction of German Democratic Republic-era spy tactics on civilians and the trauma it caused is a poignant character study as well as a thriller. Taken with the dismal settings of East Germany and its grey-green colour palette, this is a thriller of unusual historical specificity. An inaction thriller , set entirely on the drive from Birmingham to London.
Ivan Locke Tom Hardy has bunked off a job laying foundations to attend the birth of his baby, conceived during an extramarital affair. Absolutely riveting. As The Avenger slaughters blonde women in foggy London, a landlady suspects that her genteel tenant, Ivor Novello , has a dark and terrible secret. That she is embroiled in a plot to murder him adds a level of double-crossing intrigue to an already powerful emotional thriller. Peter Lorre gives an unforgettable, humane performance as a child killer stalking Berlin. His crimes are presented elliptically, but Lang lingers on the hysteria surrounding them, and the epic police manhunt.
For a film with themes drilled into its times, The Manchurian Candidate flopped surprisingly hard on release. Frank Sinatra plays Captain Bennett Marco, on the trail of a platoon-mate, who, when triggered by the queen of diamonds playing card, becomes a mindless killing machine. The idea was insidious. Mind control has commandeered the plots of everything from the Bourne franchise to Zoolander since. With no ability to create short-term memories, he tries to outfox his broken recall in order to find her killer. Their incompetence and brutality supplies black comedy, which mutates into an indictment of s South Korean nationalism, then fades finally into a mute fatalism that scars each protagonist.
Ray Milland steps out of an asylum and into a whole heap of trouble in this delirious espionage thriller. In the topsy-turvy setting of London during the Blitz completely imagined on Hollywood soundstages , cakes conceal microfilm, suitcases conceal bombs, and doorframes and windows constrain the characters in a dread world where nothing is as it seems.