17 Breakout Movie Stars of 2019, From Jodie Turner Smith to Florence Pugh (Photos)

Julia Butters, Roman Griffin Davis, Lashana Lynch and more had standout, critically acclaimed roles this year


The breakout movie stars of 2019 took on major franchises, earned massive critical acclaim, held the screen with A-listers and are themselves poised to be the next big thing. If you don’t know their name just yet, you will. Here are the 17 newcomers we couldn’t take our eyes off of this year.

Florence PughIn the most recent AwardsWrap Magazine, Florence Pugh graces our cover story as the biggest breakout star of 2019. After her powerful performance in “Lady Macbeth” a few years back, Pugh had a knockout trio of movies, including the indie “Fighting With My Family,” Ari Aster’s horror film “Midsommar” and Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” opening this Christmas. Next, she’s going Marvel, starring as Scarlett Johansson’s sister in “Black Widow.”

Jodie Turner-SmithDaniel Kaluuya told TheWrap that his co-star on “Queen & Slim” Jodie Turner-Smith had remarkable “grace” and had an ability to command the camera, and the two developed great chemistry on and off-screen. She’ll next star in the indie film “After Yang.” 

Noah JupeNoah Jupe arguably broke out last year as one of the two kids who didn’t get to talk much in John Krasinski’s horror film “A Quiet Place,” but he had a real star turn as effectively a young Shia LaBeouf in the drama “Honey Boy,” where he acted alongside the real LaBeouf. He also had a role in “Ford v. Ferrari” this fall and will be back for “A Quiet Place: Part II.”

Shahadi Wright JosephShahadi Wright Joseph made her acting debut with “Hairspray Live!” in 2016, but the 14-year-old star made her feature film debut in Jordan Peele’s “Us” earlier this year and voiced the young Nala in Disney’s remake of “The Lion King.” Her next film is the drama “Come Find Me.”

George MacKay and Dean-Charles ChapmanThe two stars of Sam Mendes’ “1917” went through an arduous, physical shoot to capture the feeling of the movie being done in a single take. MacKay you’d recognize from “Captain Fantastic,” and Chapman was briefly the King of Westeros when he played Tommen Baratheon on “Game of Thrones.”

Zack GottsagenDown syndrome didn’t stop Zack Gottsagen from pursuing a dream of acting, and he even said in an interview that he watched Shia LaBeouf on “Even Stevens” when they were both kids and dreamed he’d one day get the chance to work with him. Gottsagen’s debut film role in “The Peanut Butter Falcon” cast him as a man who runs away from a nursing home with dreams of learning professional wrestling from a former local TV star, and his charisma even inspired LaBeouf after he was arrested while shooting the movie.

Lashana LynchLashana Lynch demonstrated great chemistry, strength and camaraderie with her onscreen BFF Brie Larson in this year’s “Captain Marvel” as a fighter pilot. Before she became Maria Rambeau, she starred in the drama “Brotherhood” and the series “Bulletproof,” but she next has a mysterious role in the next James Bond film, “No Time to Die.”

Mena MassoudEven though he was the face and the winning smile behind Disney’s billion-dollar remake of its animated hit “Aladdin,” Mena Massoud says he hasn’t gotten a single audition opportunity since starring in the blockbuster this past summer. He currently stars on the Hulu series “Reprisal.”

Naomi ScottHopefully Naomi Scott does not have the same troubles as her “Aladdin” co-star Mena Massoud in finding future opportunities. After starring in “Power Rangers” last year, Scott played Princess Jasmine in “Aladdin” and one of the new “Charlie’s Angels” in Sony’s reboot of the classic TV show in 2019.

Isabela MercedIsabela Merced, billed originally as Isabela Moner, broke out this year as a live-action, teenage version of Dora the Explorer in “Dora and the Lost City of Gold.” Her peppy optimism and energy made for one of the more charming family films of the year.

Roman Griffin DavisIn his only acting role, the 12-year-old Roman Griffin Davis played the lead in Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit,” playing a boy whose best friend is an imaginary Adolf Hitler during the downfall era of Nazi Germany. Davis even scored a Golden Globe acting nomination for his work.

Maya HawkeThough she’s the child of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, Maya Hawke is making a name all for herself. Her breakout role came as Robin on “Stranger Things” Season 3, but she also had a small part as a Manson Family member in “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” and in the drama “Human Capital” that played at TIFF. She’ll next be seen in Gia Coppola’s “Mainstream.”

Kelvin Harrison Jr.The 25-year-old Kelvin Harrison Jr. had an incredibly busy 2019, starring in six films including “JT Leroy,” “The Wolf Hour,” “Luce,” “Gully,” “Bolden” and most notably, “Waves.” He also starred opposite Forest Whitaker in the Epix series “Godfather of Harlem,” and he’s currently filming “The Trial of Chicago 7” from director Aaron Sorkin.

Kaitlyn DeverThough she’s appeared on over 100 episodes of “Last Man Standing,” Kaitlyn Dever proved herself as a leading star and someone to watch as she became besties with Beanie Feldstein in Olivia Wilde’s raunchy teen comedy “Booksmart.” Dever also has a stellar role in the Golden Globe-nominated series “Unbelievable” and was seen in the indie “Them That Follow.”

Julia ButtersThis 10-year-old star held her own with Leonardo DiCaprio, delivering one of the more emotional, standout scenes from Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” as an almost method child actress who is so committed to her craft. “That was some of the best acting I’ve ever seen,” her character says to DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton after a particularly intense run-through on set. Butters also had a recurring role on “Transparent” and can be seen in the series “American Housewife.”

Jonathan MajorsTheWrap named Jonathan Majors one of our favorite Dark Horses in this year’s Oscar race for his standout performance in the indie “The Last Black Man In San Francisco.” The 30-year-old actor instantly got the attention of Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams for their show “Lovecraft Country,” Spike Lee for his next movie “Da 5 Bloods” and will also star opposite Idris Elba in “The Harder They Fall.”
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