Robert Downey Jr.
He orchestrated a much more believable comeback than Britney, while securing his spot as the number one sought-after actor in Hollywood. I personally charted his return back in 2005, when he turned Kiss Kiss Bang Bang—what could’ve been a corny comedic mystery—into an incredibly funny sleuth spoof. But by everyone else’s standards, it wasn’t until he donned the red and gold metal suit as Iron Man that anyone dared acknowledge his rebirth. What is a guy to do after experiencing more professional ups and downs than a stomach-churning roller coaster? Why, of course, test the waters. And what better way to do that than to slather on some black-face, tell jokes in a baritone African American voice, and aimlessly wander the jungles of Asia with a bunch of idiots in Tropic Thunder? Having conquered that mountain, it became clear that he could probably play a transsexual Nazi terrorist from Iraq and no one would complain.
Up next: Thankfully, he instead chose to team up with Jude Law and Rachel McAdams for Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes adaptation that’ll be in theaters in November. If you’re eager to see him on the big screen sooner, he’s also teamed up with Jamie Foxx for the musical drama The Soloist in theaters in April. And no worries comic fans, he’ll be suiting up again to play Iron Man in not only the sequel but the upcoming Avengers film.
I first saw him in 2006’s Alpha Dog, but I wasn’t impressed until I saw him in 2007’s hilarious high school dramedy Charlie Bartlett.
Up next: He may not have had any hits this year, but he has been shooting hit-makers all year long. In May, he’ll play Kyle Reese in McG’s Terminator Salvation alongside Christian Bale. A few weeks later, he’ll play Pavel Chekov in J.J. Abram’s Star Trek reboot. And in September, he’ll get back to his indie roots, starring in one of New York, I Love You’s romantic segments.
As one of Judd Apatow’s many protégés, it should be no surprise that this 27-year-old giant lug could bring the funny in his first writing venture Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Up next: In March, he’ll buddy-up with Paul Rudd for the bromance I Love You, Man. And before he joins a busload of comedians (Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Tropic Thunder’s Danny McBride, Kristen Wigg, and 30 Rock’s Jack MacBrayer) to voice characters for an animated film, he’ll finish up his next writing project Get Him to the Greek, starring Brand and Jonah Hill.
She’s been working her way up through Hollywood since the late 90s, but I didn’t quite notice her until 2006’s sports drama Invincible. However, she officially won me over with the romantic comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and scored huge critic points with her portrayal of Laura Bush in W.
Up next: This month she’ll venture into the horror genre with The Uninvited and soon she’ll start to shoot the comedy The H-Man Cometh with Vince Vaughn.
The perception of him has always been that he’s just pure eye candy, but this year he proved that he’s not only damn funny (Pineapple Express), but capable of holding his own in a bio drama (Milk).
Up next: He'll star in Howl, a drama about the Allen Ginsberg trial, and then the dramedy Sympathy for Delicious as soon as Mark Ruffalo, who’s suffered a devastating death in the family, feels up to starting his directorial debut.
The British comedian dipped his feet into the American comedic circuit this year with Jason Segel’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories.
Up next: He’s impressed enough Americans to score himself the lead in Segel’s next comedy Get Him to the Greek and a voice role in the animated film Despicable Me. Right now, he’s filming the Shakespearean romance The Tempest, adapted and directed by Julie Taymor (Frida and Across the Universe).
The 30-year-old British import first caught my eye playing the overly confident Lothario in the musical The History Boys. This year he was lucky enough to participate in the smash hit musical romantic comedy Mamma Mia!
Up next: He’ll soon start shooting the Nick Hornby drama An Education with Emma Thompson and Peter Sarsgaard, and John Krasinski’s adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.
The 22-year-old British heartthrob may have first started out as Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but he officially arrived when he starred as the beloved Edward in the supernatural teen romance Twilight.
Up next: While he does have the sequel New Moon set for a November release, you can catch him in the bio drama of Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel called Little Ashes before then.
The 22-year-old graduated from Nickelodeon’s “Drake & Josh” to star in his own raved-about indie The Wackness set in the 90s.
Up next: He just wrapped a drama—set in the 80s this time—called What Goes Up with Steve Coogan (Hamlet 2), Molly Shannon, Olivia Thirlby (The Wackness) and Hilary Duff.
The 26-year-old brooding hottie first broke out onto the Hollywood scene when he accidentally murdered Marissa on “The O.C.” This year he won an MTV Movie Award for pummeling Sean Faris in Never Back Down and then joined the whirlwind that was Twilight as the blood-thirsty villain James.
Up next: Next weekend, he’ll be Odette Yustman’s incredibly understanding boyfriend in The Unborn as she tries to exorcise her body of her twin brother’s soul. In September, he’ll star alongside Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma) and Dennis Quaid for the scifi-space thriller Pandorum. Soon he’ll start shooting Kid Cannabis, the biography of a teenage marijuana-selling millionaire, with Aaron Yoo (Disturbia) and Chris Marquette (Just Friends). And he’s rumored to be the lead in the action thriller adaptation of Adam Prince’s Kerosene Cowboys alongside Rachel Leigh Cook (She’s All That), Shane West (“ER”), Jacob Vargas (Death Race), and unfortunately former N’Syncer J.C. Chasez. But if that happens to ruin his street cred, his next project with Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum (Step Up), Woody Harrelson, and Michael Pena (Crash) called Pinkville will restore it.
Honorable Mention: Clark Duke
The uber geek of ABC Family’s “Greek” finally got a little big screen action this year with the teen comedy Sex Drive.
Up next: In October, he’ll get a little more in the dramedy A Thousand Words with Eddie Murphy. Right now, he’s shooting the dramedic comic adaptation of Kick-Ass with Nicholas Cage and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad).