Top 10 Breakout Stars of 2014

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2014 was most certainly a renaissance year, with everyone from Matthew McConaughey to Reese Witherspoon to Chris Rock reviving their careers in new and interesting ways. That being said, it was also a year full of fresh faces who made big waves, leading us all into an exciting 2015 as we eagerly await whatever they’re doing next. Without further ado, here are the best of the best.



Photo Credit: T.J. Miller (Silicon ValleyBig Hero 6)

Making the move from Chelsea Handler’s roundtable to starring in an HBO series is no simple feat, and yet T.J. Miller has transitioned with ease. His brash, candid humor has translated quite well into the tech-obsessed world of Silicon Valley. As the Steve Jobs wannabe Erlich, Miller steals nearly every scene. To top it all off, he’s ended the year by voicing the comic relief in the charming Big Hero 6. His post-credits scene is totally worth the wait.


Photo Credit: Jack Falahee (How to Get Away with Murder)

LGBT characters on TV are often subjected to stories that play up their stereotypes, but Jack Falahee’s role on How to Get Away with Murder broke through the mold. His character Connor is abrasive, shrewd, and owns his sexuality with total confidence. Not only is this something we rarely get to see, it also makes for some truly great television. In a group of people full of dark secrets, Connor is instantly the most interesting, and this is thanks in no small part to Falahee’s committed performance.


Photo Credit: Grant Gustin (The Flash)

You may recognize him from Glee as the scheming Sebastian, but it wasn’t until his role as the titular Flash that Grant Gustin truly became a household name. Comic book stories are a dime a dozen these days, but what makes this series so entertaining is its well-rounded cast, which is anchored by Gustin’s charismatic portrayal. As Barry Allen, he excels the art of being extremely relatable, despite his extraordinary abilities. In other words, he makes for a pretty awesome superhero.


Photo Credit: Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin)

How do you make a show about a pregnant virgin both fun and believable? Cast the perfect actress as your virtuous, but flawed lead. Jane the Virgin might get into some pretty dramatic business, but Jane the character is always levelheaded and compassionate. Gina Rodriguez takes what could’ve easily been a soap opera performance, and makes it into something warm and self-aware. Jane is a virgin, but not a saint, and through Rodriguez we get to watch a very real girl’s very surreal journey.


Photo Credit: Gugu Mbatha-Raw (BelleBeyond the Lights)

Gugu Mbatha-Raw was born to be in the limelight. First, she starred in this past summer’s criminally underrated Belle as a mixed race woman raised in 18th century aristocracy. Then, she made a captivating turn as a popstar in peril in the recent Beyond the Lights. The settings may have been different, but the performances were both electrifying, allowing Mbatha-Raw to give her characters several complex layers. If these films are any indication, this is one actress with a bright future ahead of her.


Photo Credit: Abbi Jacobson & Ilana Glazer (Broad City)

Okay, so I might be cheating by putting two people in one, but when it comes to Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, you really can’t have one without the other. The duo’s impressive television debut features a refreshingly silly take on life in the big city, but it’s no surprise that these ladies were able to find their comedic voice so quickly. The two have had time to hone their skills on their web series of the same name, along with years spent working together in the Upright Citizens Brigade. They’ve perfected their weird and wonderful brand of humor so well, it’s easy to see why Amy Poehler wanted to produce their show.


Photo Credit: Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)

There are countless biopics about great men and the women who stand behind them, but far too few of them examine each party with equal weight. That’s what makes The Theory of Everything so special, and why it was so necessary to leave the role of Jane Hawking in capable hands. Felicity Jones was the perfect choice. Stephen Hawking’s struggle to cope with his disease is powerful, but his wife’s tenacity in the face of utter hopelessness is equally as impressive. Jones, however, doesn’t make her into a victim or a saint. Instead, she’s a troubled, but caring woman with an uphill battle to climb. Watching her get to the top is a real marvel.


Photo Credit: Jenny Slate (Obvious Child)

After famously dropping an f-bomb on SNL— and creating the adorable cult character Marcel the Shell—Jenny Slate seems to have finally hit her stride. Obvious Child was this past summer’s indie-comedy gem, and Slate is the very funny lady at its center. She’s part of a new wave of female characters who embrace their flaws and mistakes, instead of trying to hide them. Above all, her bubbly personality and droll humor help make the film’s heavy topics feel light as air and totally of the ordinary.


Photo Credit: Jack O’Connell (Starred UpUnbroken)

Starred Up is the rough-and-tumble prison drama you probably didn’t get to see this year, but its star Jack O’Connell gave an explosive and engaging performance. For his next trick, he took a role in Angelina Jolie’s upcoming directorial effort Unbroken, playing real-life WWII fighter pilot Louis Zamborini. His portrayal is already earning raves, which is no surprise. O’Connell’s wildly unpredictable screen presence is mesmerizing, ensuring that we’ll be paying close attention to him in the new year.


Photo Credit: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

It’s a slight stretch to call Rosamund Pike a “breakout star” since she’s been steadily working in movies like Pride & PrejudiceDie Another Day, and Jack Reacher for years now. Still, even if you’re familiar with her films, you’ve never seen anything like her turn as Amy Dunne in Gone Girl. Her voice is simultaneously soothing and haunting, and every time she appears onscreen it’s impossible to look at anything else. Amy Dunne is a fierce, manipulative, and complicated character, and Pike’s take on her is masterful. Simply put, it’s the one role this year that you just can’t miss.



So, what did you think of our list? Were we spot-on or dead wrong? Which stars were you most impressed by this year? Sound off in the comments below!


By Mike Papirmeister

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