There's nothing more exciting than a performance by an actor that catches you off-guard. With 2016 rolling to a close, we're taking a look back at those sensational breakouts from a host of rising stars, plus a delightful surprise from an already established star. In chronological order from the start of the year, here they are.
The movie: The Witch
There are many things to love about Robert Eggers' deliciously creepy period horror, from its visceral, muddy design to its richly authentic dialogue (derived from actual sources) to its slow-burning sense of psychological terror. However it's all held together by Anya Taylor-Joy's deeply empathetic and believable performance as eldest daughter Thomasin, whose emergence into adolescence plays directly into the film's themes of womanhood and witchcraft.
It's amazing to think that the actress had done relatively little before this: her confidence with both the tricky dialogue and the physically gruelling aspects of the storyline helps transform an already engrossing story into something truly spellbinding.
The movie: Hail Caesar!
"Would that it 'twere so simple." Soon to be taking up Harrison Ford's mantle as the young Han Solo, Ehrenreich defines the term scene-stealer in the Coen brothers' heart-warmingly nostalgic ode to the Hollywood studio system. As hapless, tongue-tied and one-dimensional cowboy actor Hobie, Ehrenreich brings the house down when his character is enlisted to appear in a formal parlour room drama, the dialogue intricacies of which he is not able to comprehend, let alone pronounce.
The funniest scene of 2016? It's right here, and the actor's impeccable comic timing surely bodes well for the tongue-in-cheek qualities needed for Han Solo.
The movie: Captain America: Civil War
Prior to his Marvel debut as the web-slinging Spider-Man, young Brit Tom had impressed on stage (Billy Elliot) and in film (The Impossible; In the Heart of the Sea). However, it was his infectiously upbeat and loveably naive take on the web-crawler that brought him global fame, doing what many thought was impossible in eking out new territory from predecessors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, and taking Spidey back to his youthful, wisecracking roots.
Immediately establishing a hilarious, sort-of-paternal relationship with the acerbic Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), by the time Holland's Spider-Man swung into action during the film's showstopping airport action sequence, delivering several huge laughs along the way, it was all we could do from crying: more! Luckily, Tom gets his much-deserved spin-off in next year's Spider-Man: Homecoming.
The movie: Sing Street
Already something of a musical star in his native Ireland, young Ferdia won the hearts of a global audience off the back of his infectious lead role in John Carney's joyous comedy-drama.
Set in 1985 Dublin, Sing Street is the story of Conor (played by Walsh-Peelo) who forms a band to impress the alluring Raphina (Sophie Boynton), his delightful performance resounding with pitch-perfect adolescent angst and wide-eyed idealism. Both the actor and movie are careful to undercut the proceedings with just enough grit to keep things believable, ensuring that the movie packs as much of an emotional punch as it does toe-tapping eighties hits.
The movie: The Nice Guys
It might seem odd, wrong even, to credit one of Hollywood's biggest A-list stars with a breakout performance. But the truth is that prior to the release of Shane Black's terrific buddy comedy The Nice Guys, no-one knew how bloody funny Gosling could be on-screen.
Sure he had done oddball dysfunctional humour in 2007's Lars and the Real Girl but there are extended, sublimely hilarious stretches in Black's film where Gosling's penchant for going full Charlie Chaplin has us in bits. His character Holland March, a hopeless, hapless private eye just about holding himself and his daughter together, is a classic creation: deluded, dim but utterly loveable. You can put all the Drive's of this world to one side: there's only one genre Gosling ought to focus on from here on out.
The movie: Hunt for the Wilderpeople
It can't be easy stealing an entire movie from under the nose of a veteran co-star like Sam Neill, but cheeky and irrepressible newcomer Julian makes it look effortless in Taika Waititi's warm-hearted and hilarious wilderness comedy.
As city boy Ricky, Julian brings just the right amount of smart-alec charm to make us laugh, and just enough vulnerability to make us care. Fashioning great chemistry with Neill (here playing grumpy foster-uncle Hec), Julian holds the screen with the ease of a pro, to the extent that we wonder why we haven't seen him in a dozen movies already. Fingers crossed those dozen movies and indeed many more will materialise over the coming years: Julian is far too good a talent to forget about in a hurry.
Check out our interview with Sam and Julian below. (Contains gang signs.)
The movie: The Girl With All the Gifts
One of the finest zombie movies we've come across in recent years, this gritty and compelling adaptation of M.R. Carey's bestseller resonates largely thanks to the outstanding performance of newcomer, Sennia. As the young girl who may potentially hold the clue to saving mankind, the actress resonates with both ferocious, savage energy and heartbreaking tenderness, in the process helping to coax superb performances from heavyweight co-stars Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and Glenn Close. Oh yes, we imagine we'll be seeing a lot more from Sennia in future.
Got some favourite breakout performances of your own from this year? Tweet us your choices @Cineworld.