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2017's most unforgettable breakout performances


Each passing year brings with it exciting breakout performances from actors who promise to blossom into the stars of tomorrow.

Of course, a breakout performance need not necessarily be a big screen debut. Some actors toil in many a small supporting role before finally being given an opportunity to make us sit up and say: "Wow!" Here are some of the performances that did this for us in 2017. Let us know who we've missed.

Barry Keoghan in Dunkirk and The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Wisely, Christopher Nolan made a point of casting fresh-faced unknowns as the inexperienced soldiers in his brilliant Dunkirk. They all acquitted themselves exceptionally well, so we could have chosen Fionn Whitehead or even Harry Styles.

But Barry Keoghan, who plays the ill-fated George Mills, had a really exceptional year, as he also made a huge impression as creepy and mysterious teenager Martin in Yorgos Lanthimos's acclaimed The Killing of a Sacred Deer. So in the space of just 12 months, we've seen him directed by the great Christopher Nolan and cast opposite Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman. It's safe to say we'll be seeing a lot more of Barry Keoghan.

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman

We'd seen Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot on screen before of course, notably as Gisele in the Fast & Furious franchise. But if ever there was a real breakout performance, this is surely it.

As the first female-led superhero movie in more than a decade, Wonder Woman was bound to attract attention, especially as it was also directed by a woman – Patty Jenkins. All of which would have been just so much hype if Gadot hadn't completely nailed the role, giving us a heartfelt, heroic and inspirational Wonder Woman.

Danielle Macdonald in Patti Cake$

A huge hit at the Sundance film festival, Geremy Jasper's triumph-of-the-underdog tale sparked a bidding war among distributors. The storyline might be a little familiar, but the film's beating heart is a riveting performance by Australian actress Danielle Macdonald. She elevates every scene she in as overweight aspiring rapper Patti, helping to deliver one of the year's most charming crowd-pleasers.

Dafne Keen in Logan

Understandably, much of Logan's advance publicity centred on Hugh Jackman's swan song in the role of Wolverine. But when we saw the movie, we were also blown away by pre-teen Dafne Keen as mutant child Laura (X-23) – something of a female Wolverine mini-me.

Her performance was compared to that of the young Natalie Portman in Leon. She also bagged 17th place on The Hollywood Reporter's list of the 50 greatest superhero movie performances of all time, where she was acclaimed for "undoubtedly delivering the finest performance by a child in a superhero movie ever". Not bad going for a girl who was just 11 years old when the film was shot.

Ali Fazal in Victoria & Abdul

Already well known to Bollywood audiences, thanks to his roles in such films as Fukrey and the hit comedy 3 Idiots, Ali Fazal crossed over to Hollywood with a small role in Fast & Furious 7.

But it was in Stephen Frears' period drama Victoria & Abdul that he really made his mark internationally. The film might have been criticised for being cosy and playing it safe, but Fazal more than held his own against a typically magisterial Judi Dench, reprising her role as an ageing Queen Victoria with Fazal as the monarch's language teacher, Abdul Karim.

Zendaya in Spider-Man: Homecoming

We could have chosen Tom Holland for his breakout performance in the lead role of the Spidey reboot, but mononymous popstrel and Disney Channel star Zendaya really grabbed our attention. She shook things up considerably with her scene-stealing performance as Peter Parker's African-American classmate and potential new love interest with the teasing initials MJ. She's back on our screens from today in musical epic The Greatest Showman opposite Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams and Zac Efron.

Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick

This charming, unpredictable and intelligent tale of a Muslim comedian's relationship with a non-Muslim white woman was one of the year's most likaeble romantic comedies. That Kumail Nanjiani was so convincing as the male lead may have something to do with the fact that he co-wrote the script, which is based on events in his own life.

Timothee Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name

Best known for his role in TV sensation Homeland, Timothee Chalamet went from relative obscurity to serious Oscar buzz with his affecting performance as the bookish teen who falls for Armie Hammer's older research assistant in Luca Guadagnino’s widely acclaimed gay romance.

Multi-talented and multi-lingual Chalamet, now the recipient of a Golden Globe nomination, has already been cast in a string of high-profile upcoming films, inlcuding Woody Allen's A Rainy Day in New York and Greta Gerwig's Golden Globe-nominated Lady Bird, starring opposite Saoirse Ronan.

Brooklynn Prince in The Florida Project

One of the most impressive independent movies of the year, Sean Baker's follow-up to Tangerine is a tremendous coming-of-age film in which a single mother struggles to raise her daughter in a welfare motel in the shadow of Disney World. Its breakout performance was by precociously talented seven-year-old Brooklynn Prince as Moonee, the mischievous little girl who's often left to fend for herself with a couple of playmates.

Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out

British actor and writer Daniel Kaluuya is already well-known on this side of the Atlantic for his roles in Skins and Black Mirror, and as Tealeaf in the black comedy Psychoville. He's also been seen in Johnny English Reborn and Kick-Ass 2.

But 2017 was the year in which the world sat up and took notice of his nuanced lead performance in Jordan Peele's bracing, superbly orchestrated blend of racial satire and horror, Get Out. His awards cabinet is already filling up, he's been nominated for a Golden Globe, and we'll next see him in Marvel's upcoming Black Panther.

Who were your favourite breakout stars of 2017? Tweet us your choices @Cineworld.