1. Leo DiCaprio-Gets his choice of projects, astounds audiences, grows in every film. Even something like J. Edgar not being seen by audiences doesn't really tarnish his exemplary filmography.
2. Matt Damon-Being prolific helps. He's been with every director,
starred with nearly everybody, continues to be bold, and still well-liked even
in face of bombs.
3. Brad Pitt-Nearly got double-nominated last year. His
name above the marquee can probably automatically get a film in the Oscar
discussion at this point and that's not saying anything for his ability to increasingly turn in a great performance or his clout to get something greenlit.
4. Daniel Day-Lewis-Being less prolific makes him
hard to gauge
5. Johnny Depp-Tourist was a bust but he can still be exciting
and creative like no one else. Don't forgot the success of Rango if you're looking for recent
6. Christian Bale-Acknowledged as supremely talented by many in the industry. Did right
by Batman and Nolan, he has won an Oscar, and is capable of winning another without a doubt. Also, challenges himself outside of Nolan with collaborations with Terrence Malick and Warner Herzog and doing the Western 3:10 to Yuma.
7. Michael Fassbender-Of five films he made in 2011, three
("Shame", "Dangerous Method", "X-Men First Class") were big critical or commercial hits. He's like Jude Law in 2004 but nearly every film he made turned into gold one way or another. His Oscar snub was highly undeserved last year. In 2012, he had a solid supporting turn in Prometheus.
8. George Clooney-Going a little bit downhill but still viable as a leading man. By downhill, how many times can he reinvent the same variation of a pretty man who becomes disheveled. Some might be shocked I'm putting him this low, but I do think that in front of the camera, he's run out of his ways with his range to produce another Oscar-nominated performance. Behind the camera, that's another story and I think he could get nominated as a director. The truth is his box office receipts don't really keep up with how often he appears in People Magazine.
9. Ryan Gosling-Is in the conversation as the next Clooney and is
often in Oscar contention every year.
10. Robert Downey Jr.-Being behind
Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, two of the biggest franchises of the last few
years and delivering such a strong take on Sherlock Homes that it's worthy of acting buzz
says a lot on its own. He often gets talked about as if he's a comeback when, in my opinion, he should simply get talked about as one of the most talented stars in Hollywood.
11. Hugh Jackman-Les Miserables puts him near the top
now. It's a temporary ridge. I think he has to follow it with something great to
stay at the top of the A-list. His likability as a person is enormous. He's been a
little bigger in the world of theater than film.
12. Sean Penn-Won two
Oscars in the last 10 years, so he's not someone to ever count out in an Oscar race. Does not have box
office appeal but that's because he doesn't choose projects with box office potential.
(tie). Philip Seymour Hoffman-Once a character actor, now a capable lead. When
you think about it, he was the main star of "Doubt", "Before the Devil Knows
Youre Dead", "Synechdone, New York" and if I'm not mistaken "Pirate Radio."
That's pretty unique because the roles he had for the first ten years weren't even supporting roles. In terms of amount of screentime among cast members, he likely ranked 7th for Scent of a Woman, 7th for Big Lebowski, 6th for Talented Mr. Ripley, and 8th for Almost Famous.
13. (tie) Joaquin Phoenix-I think his stunt circa
2009/2010 where he decided to be crazy in character has likely helped him be
seen as a badass Daniel Day-Lewis type who can take method acting to new insane
levels. In short, it's likely boosted his credibility.
15. Bradley Cooper-I
can make his case in four words and a comma: Hangover, Silver Linings Playbook
16. Daniel Craig-The credibility of doing justice to the franchise of James
Bond combined with the classic training and ability to knock out supporting
parts out of the park ("Road to Perdition" "Infamous" "Munich). I can't see any course of action for Craig other than getting bigger and bigger every year.
17. Joseph Gordon Leavitt-Being in Christoper Nolan's last
two hits certainly helped make his case as an A-lister and allowed him to give
great performances, but his contributions to 500 Days of Summer and raising that
movie to Best Picture Oscar contention helped a lot too. He's clearly artistic
in his aims and earning credibility with his blockbusters. Looper got an AFI
award for top ten films of the year.
18. Denzel Washington-Up for Oscar #6
and while he hasn't branched out as much as DiCaprio or Damon (he's done most of his work with Spike Lee and the late Tony Scott), he's a surprisingly durable
brand. I was thinking he's a relic of the 90's, but double-checked and Unstoppable, Safe House,
Inside Man, the Book of Eli and American Gangster were all successful either
critically or commercially.
19. Andrew Garfield-I don't know if I like him
personally and I don't know why they made a new Spiderman Movie five years after
the last one ended, BUT if he is Spiderman, then he will be a big attraction for
the next few years.
20. Jamie Foxx-He hasn't quit his string of good
performances since Ray. In some cases, he was my favorite part of "The Soloist",
"Jarhead" "Dreamgirls" "Horrible Bosses" and while those performances are
underacknowledged, in my opinion, I think he easily has the potential to score
another Oscar nod at will (kind of like how Will Smith only really tried acting
twice and got nominated each time). Hopefully, Djanho Unchained will help rise
him to the core
21. Jeremy Renner-He was in the Avengers, on Saturday Night
Live, got two Oscar nods in quick succession and took over the Bourne role.
22. Liam Neeson-A talented actor who was cast in the lead in Battleship, The
Grey and starred in Wrath of the Titans. While none of these movies had any
cultural impact whatsoever and will likely be forgotten in a year's time, they
show that Neeson is still being cast in lead roles. He hasn't been the lead of
an Oscar-caliber film since Kinsey and it was really around Schindler's List
when he was at the peak of his stardom, but one good franchise or one good Oscar
winning film could land him back on top and I'm convinced that Hollywood is
willing to cast him in it.
23. Tom Cruise-For better or worse, Tom Cruise
has survived Oprahgate. He's no longer one of the top stars in the world but
he's still being given enormous amounts of money ($75 million for a musical and
$60 million for Jack Reacher, although Jack Reacher looks like it cost well over
$100 million) to be making action movies and they're not being seen as
frequently, but I think the fact that he's still able to do what he's always
been doing merits a place on the top 25. I also think he's still showing the
shrewdness in movie selection that he did before his fall from grace, especially
with Tropic Thunder but I even see the small stuff like how "Knight and Day"
does cast him in a slightly different light than his other films and was a good
move for him in his career.
24. Ben Kingsley-I don't think this guy is in
"old grandfather role" territory just yet and he did strike up a collaboration
with Scorsese for his last two films. He's also damn talented as everyone knows,
so I can see him being a pretty good asset to any movie, a viable Oscar
contender given the right role, and a name on a marquee that could sell a film.
25. Ben Affleck-He likes directing more than acting but that doesn't mean he
won't act, and he especially gives it his all when acting in his own projects.
He demonstrates with Hollywoodland that he can act very well, so I see no reason
why other directors wouldn't want to gobble him up like Kevin Costner and Mel
Gibson did in the years after they won directing Oscars.