About once a year, we take stock of all the exciting movies we’ve seen, and all the tantalizing announcements we’ve covered, and picked out the names that we’re most excited about in a variety of fields for a series we call On The Rise.
Covering actors, filmmakers, composers, cinematographers, screenwriters and more, we’ve been ahead of the curve on names including David Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, Daniel Kaluuya (back in 2012!), Brie Larson, Alicia Vikander, Colin Trevorrow, Benh Zeitlin, Dee Rees, Graham Moore, Bradford Young, Rachel Morrison, Steven Price, Jack Thorne, Pilou Asbaek, Emory Cohen, Will Poulter, Ruth Negga, Maika Monroe, Ryan Coogler, Sean Baker, Ava DuVernay, Natasha Braier, Mica Levi, Johan Johansson, Andre Holland, Jack O’Connell, Lisa Joy, Tessa Thompson, Katherine Waterston, LaKeith Stanfield, Damien Chazelle, Yann Demange, Taylor Sheridan, Bel Powley, Sterling K. Brown, Eric Heisserer and Anna Rose Holmer.
This year, we’re trying something a little different, and so below, we present the On The Rise 50, a ranked list of the fifty names who’ve wowed us in several fields in the last year, and who are clearly headed for big things. Don’t read too much into those rankings — it’s mostly for fun — but everyone here is a bright shining talent, and we can’t wait for you to discover them, if you haven’t already, and to see what they do next. Take a look below, and let us know who you’re tipping for the top in the comments.
50. Eiza González
It’s no small feat to shine as an unknown among a crew of character actor favorites, so we should certainly expect Eiza Gonzalez to go on to do great things after her eye-catching turn as Darling, the only-slightly-less-psychotic half of a double-act with Jon Hamm’s Buddy in Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver.” The 27-year-old Mexican actress and singer broke out in telenovelas at home before winning fans over the border taking over Salma Hayek’s role in the “From Dusk Til Dawn” TV series. Next up: re-teaming with Robert Rodriguez for a role in the James Cameron-produced sci-fi blockbuster “Alita: Battle Angel,” out next summer.
49. Nicolas Pesce
Opinion is divided internally over the efficacy of U.S. director Nicolas Pesce’s breakout black-and-white debut “The Eyes of My Mother,” but there’s no argument over whether it represented the work of a promising talent with a singularly shivery slant on genre horror. ‘Eyes’ also boasted a slightly alien, foreign-arthouse feel, so it’s appropriate that Pesce has gone to a foreign well for his follow-up — and what a well! Horror/thriller “Piercing,” due in 2017, will star Mia Wasikowska (making something of name for herself as an arthouse horror doyenne), Christopher Abbot and Wendell Pierce and is based on a novel by Japanese author Ryu Murakami whose work has been adapted often before, most notably by Takashi Miike‘s in his brilliantly unsettling “Audition.” Further out, Pesce is staying Japan-side and horror-based with the Sam Raimi-produced reboot of “The Grudge,” which, if nothing else, should be a sight more stylish than the dank but surprisingly successful 2004 US remake with Sarah Michelle Gellar.
48. Bear McCreary
It’s more common these days for a composer to break out in TV before switching over to some striking feature work — look at someone like Michael Giacchino, who started on “Lost” and “Alias” before becoming one of the most in-demand soundtrackers around. Bear McCreary is the latest to make that transition. He’s been well known on the small screen for a while, getting his start in his mid 20s as the composer of “Battlestar Galactica,” and going on to, most notably, “The Walking Dead.” He’s had a few film scores over time, but really made us pay attention with his playful, suspenseful work on “10 Cloverfield Lane” last year, followed more recently by the equally enjoyable “Colossal” score. Expect him to be everywhere, Giacchino-style, in a few years.
47. Marwan Kenzari
Disney‘s much-publicized and rather risible assertion that they were finding it hard to cast their live-action “Aladdin” with ethnically appropriate actors finally resolved itself with the announcement that Mena Massoud would take on the title role in the film, which will also star Will Smith as the Genie. But even better news for fans of faces and cheekbones, came when they announced Tunisian-Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari would take on the role of the villain, Jafar. The outrageously handsome Kenzari has had a rocky time with blockbusters of late — his most notable roles have been in the awful “The Mummy” and in recent lol-worthy sci-fi “What Happened to Monday,” but with “Murder on the Orient Express” coming up and the lead in Egyptian-spy true story “The Angel” due to roll out before he gets on Disney’s magic carpet ride, we can expect to see a lot more of him in the near future. And that’s fine by us because, in case we hadn’t mentioned, we like looking at him very much.
46. Tracy Oliver
Even more so than “Baby Driver,” the sleeper-smash of the summer was “Girls Trip,” the raucous comedy hit that few saw coming. In a year where most comedies have fallen flat on their faces, this benefitted from a screenplay that weaved together some inventively outrageous set pieces with authenticity and more than a little heart, and Tracy Oliver deserves a bit part of that. Oliver collaborated with Issa Rae on her “Adventures Of Awkward Black Girl” web series, and went on to work on TV shows including “Survivor’s Remorse,” but it’s a big-screen partnership with “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris on first the surprisingly decent “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” and then on “Girls Trip,” that have made her name in a big way.
45. Danielle Macdonald
When you see Sundance hit “Patti Cake$” when it opens this weekend, you will be utterly stunned to find out that Danielle Macdonald, who plays the title role, an unlikely New Jersey rap star in the making, is Australian, so transformative and lived-in her performance seems. You might half-recognize the 25-year-old actress: she had stand-out roles in Zal Batmanglij’s “The East” and in a movie-stealing turn Amy Berg’s underseen “Every Secret Thing,” but stardom truly beckons once “Patti Cake$” opens, especially with a turn in Greta Gerwig’s hotly-tipped “Lady Bird” coming in fall festival season too.
44. Rungano Nyoni
It’s rare that a first time director goes into Cannes with as much buzz as was generated for Rungano Nyoni (born in Zambia, raised in Wales). And it’s even rarer that the hype turns out to be well-founded: her Directors’ Fortnight title, “I Am Not A Witch,” while not completely avoiding the pitfalls of the first feature, is a unique and fascinating film, detailing the extraordinary practise, still in evidence in parts of Africa, of deeming certain young women “witches” and then both ostracizing and exploiting them. Also a terrific showcase for magnetic, self-possessed young star Maggie Mulubwa, ‘Witch’ combines authentic insight into a barbaric cultural practice with a borderline magical realist sensibility and a surprisingly sly sense of ironic humor. It’s a pretty intoxicating mixture, and we can’t wait to see what Nyoni lines up next.
43. Juho Kuosmanen
Aside from Renny Harlin and Aki Kaurismaki (and boy are those two polar opposites), it’s hard to think of many Finnish filmmakers who’ve gotten international attention, but expect that to change with Juho Kuosmanen, whose gorgeous “The Happiest Day In The Life Of Olli Maki” won the top prize at Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2016. Finding new life in the boxing genre with real warmth, wit and gorgeous black-and-white 16mm photography, Kuosmanen’s first feature bodes extremely well for his future, as does his charming acceptance speech at Cannes: “Thank you for your weird taste in cinema.” Thank you, indeed.
42. Algee Smith
A self-proclaimed entrepreneur, a singer/artist/musician and an actor, Algee Smith is having a good 2017. His album “Listen” is a hip hop, soul, R&B hybrid that’s making noise and of course he’s one of the lead characters in Kathyrn Bigelow’s ensemble picture, “Detroit.” Known for playing Ralph Tresvant in BET’s “The New Edition Story” mini-series, he gets an even meatier role in Bigelow’s Detroit riots drama. And while there’s many “name” actors billed ahead of him, John Boyega, Will Poulter, Jack Reynor, Anthony Mackie and the fact that “Detroit” doesn’t really feature a lead character. If Smith’s real-life Larry Reed character— an aspiring soul singer and member of the Dramatics caught up in the hate and violence—arguably is the lead protagonist, Smith runs away with the part, but without showy flair. He’s a confident kid on the verge of making it, but he’s caught in the crosshairs of an incident that will define his life. And even if Smith doesn’t have that much screentime per se (it’s divided pretty equally among several characters), he makes the most of it with an bruising performance lamenting the loss of his innocence. Up next, “Sons To Grave” co-starring Mykelti Williamson) and YA adaptation “The Hate U Give,” so there’s clearly more to keep a watchful eye on.
41. Michael Abels
Jordan Peele broke a lot of rules with his smash-hit debut feature “Get Out,” and among them was using a first-time film composer for the music to the horror-thriller. Fortunately, Michael Abels, whose day job is at the director of music at a Santa Monica school, delivered one of the most interesting scores of 2017 so far. Abels gained a reputation for his composition work over several decades before Peele heard his piece “Urban Legends” on YouTube, and asked him to work on “Get Out,” a score that combines classic suspense work with Swahili-language choirs in a way that makes it almost a character in the movie. He’s also contributed some ambient music to the “Detroit” soundtrack, but hopefully there’ll be a reteam with Peele happening in the near-future too.