your £$ support needed

part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

who — if anyone — has emerged as an indisputable movie star since the year 2000?


This week’s Question is stolen from my friend and fellow critic Ian Mantgani, who recently tweeted:

Fun challenge: Think of an indisputable film “star” who has emerged since the year 2000. Harder than u think. Is there one?

So there’s the challenge:

Who — if anyone — has emerged as a indisputable movie star since the year 2000?

A good working definition of “movie star”: someone who’s a household name even among those who don’t go to the movies much, and someone whose presence in a film is enough to get people talking about that movie (for better or worse). Indisputable movie stars who emerged pre-2000 (and who are still working today) are folks such as Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Sandra Bullock.

We’re nearly 15 years into the century — it shouldn’t be so hard to think of names to fill this roster. But the only one I can think of, potentially, is Daniel Radcliffe… but only because of Harry Potter, and Harry Potter is still more famous than he is. There are plenty of interesting young actors — we had no trouble filling out a list of them back in August — but I don’t think we can reasonably call any of them actual movie stars.

There’s been a lot of talk about the end of “movie stars”: that big names no longer open movies, for instance. Is that why we can’t think of any names here? Or is something else going on?

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

  • Karl Morton IV

    Maybe we’ve gotten over the limiting “movie star” thing and actors can be actors of varying degrees of success?

  • Robert Downey Jr has become a household name thanks to the Iron Man series.

  • Angelina Jolie is another one, career didn’t go stratospheric until the Lara Croft films.

  • How about Jennifer Lawrence?

  • Or Christian Bale with American Psycho (2000). Or Channing Tatum (probably Dear John in 2010). Or Hugh Jackman (X-Men, 2000). Or Bradley Cooper (The Hanover, 2009).

  • Rebecca Dalmas

    Carey Mulligan. Bradley Cooper. Kelly Reilly, Clive Owen, Ryan Gosling, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Amy Adams, Judi Dench. Many already had established careers, but it wasn’t till the 2000s that they began to be seen as cinematic stars.

  • Jurgan

    Johnny Depp used to be a quirky character actor, but since Pirates he has become a headliner.

  • Captain_Swing666

    Jean Dujardin? Daniel Craig? Jason Statham?

  • Jean Dujardin? Really? Not exactly Tom Cruise.

  • Bluejay

    I’d add Russell Crowe (since Gladiator in 2000).

    “A household name even among those who don’t go to the movies much” is a high bar to clear (and rightly so). My personal test would be: Is this actor someone my parents have heard of (or whose face they could immediately picture, just upon being mentioned)? And would this actor’s presence in a film be sufficient reason for my parents to consider seeing it? By that standard, many of the suggestions in the comments (Jason Statham, Carey Mulligan, Ryan Gosling, Kelly Reilly, Channing Tatum, even Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Bradley Cooper) wouldn’t pass muster.

    I agree on Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman, Robert Downey Jr, Angelina Jolie.

    I think it’s true that “star power” is no longer sufficient to get people (well, at least me) to see a movie. I won’t see every movie that Daniel Craig or RDJ or Tom Cruise or George Clooney is in. The film has to have more going for it than just “this person is in it.”

  • Bluejay

    Has Johnny Depp really only been a big star since Pirates? It seems to me he’s been visible/bankable ever since 21 Jump Street, Edward Scissorhands, Don Juan DeMarco, Sleepy Hollow, etc. But maybe that’s just me.

  • althea

    Who is Kelly Reilly?

  • althea

    Who is he?

  • althea

    You’ve said what I was thinking, on all counts. “Household name” has to go beyond your personal household and those of your peer group. It also involves getting your name recognized outside of the movies you’ve starred in. JDJ was surely recognized earlier than 2000, but in large part for getting drunk, high, and arrested, but at least it kept his name out there until he could get himself on Ally McBeal. Likewise, Angelina Jolie has been busy outside of her career, for activities that earned her the attention of the general public. (Compare with Paris Hilton and company.)

    I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt could be a household name in another 10 years or so. Our parents won’t likely have noticed him, but the maturing audience will have absorbed him. Likely Bradley Cooper too, if he continues his momentum.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Here are a few: Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, James Franco, Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johannson

  • singlestick

    I heartily concur with your nod to Jennifer Lawrence. Also agree with others about Christian Bale, Amy Adams. And maybe Hugh Jackman. Yeah, and Robert Downey Jr, who has been around, but now is definitely a recognizable star. Benedict Cumberbatch and possibly Idris Elba are also “up and coming” by this standard. Stars, not just good actors.

  • Elwood72

    I guess it depends on what makes someone an indisputable movie star, and whether their first film had to be after 2000, or just their stardom. My first thought was Scarlett Johannson, who’s an indisputable movie star, but she started acting pretty young and did have some roles in the 90s. I wouldn’t think having a role in “Home Alone 3” made her a “star” at the time . . .

  • Steve Taylor

    Amy Adams was completely unknown until “Junebug” (2002). Bradley Cooper likewise has no film credits before 2000, and can certainly open a film these days.. Anne Hathaway’s debut was “Princess Diaries” (2001), so she certainly qualifies. I think many of the others mentioned – Depp (“Gilbert Grape,” “Ed Wood,” “Dead Man,” all before 2000), Downey (“Home for the Holidays,” 1995; Crowe (“Romper Stomper,” 1992) – were well known to cineastes, if not to the general public, before the century turned. Good question!

  • AA

    Miley Cyrus? Chris Hemsworth? Tom Hiddleston? Joss Whedon? Nathan Fillion?

    I can’t really tell — Miley seems to have by far the biggest household recognition (i.e. my grandmother knows who she is) and the other four might just be my hetero-female side showing. I totally agree with everyone on Dr. Rocketscience’s list.

  • Tony Richards

    I’m surprised no one mentioned Vin diesel yet.

  • Rebecca Dalmas

    Is this a rhetorical question? ;)

  • Cautia

    I would say, probably not. I had no idea who she was, and after looking her up on Wikipedia, I still have little idea who she is. I wouldn’t call her a household name, at least not in the US.

  • Cautia

    Hugh Jackman for sure, and maybe Jennifer Lawrence. Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, and Chris Hemsworth are a few others who come to mind, though I suppose the more uncertain I am about someone the less fitting the label ‘indisputable’ is.

  • Rebecca Dalmas

    Well to a mere offscreen mortal like me, she has “star quality” and has appeared as a leading lady onscreen, hence why I consider her a movie star.

  • althea

    No. Who is she?

  • althea

    Right. I’d guess most of these names have been in films before 2000, including major films, but they didn’t warrant notice until they had developed their skill and worked their way up past 3rd banana status.

  • althea

    Re Anne Hathaway, you and Dr R are dead on. She’s big enough to be pursued by the press pretty much everywhere. And it makes me think of an element that could be added as cred for movie star status: You’re a fixture at the Oscars and in demand on red carpets.

  • If you’re talking about an actor whose name you put on the marquee will bring people in regardless of the film, I’d probably suggest Will Smith. Problem with a lot of the films today is that the marquee name means less and the character – Batman, Iron Man, Biblo Baggins, Katniss, Wolverine – means more. And as we’re seeing with Batman, the actors are interchangeable.

  • Bluejay

    Will Smith was a marquee name before 2000, though.

  • MisterAntrobus

    And did anybody actually pay to see After Earth?

  • MisterAntrobus

    Nobody’s mentioned Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart yet? I would venture to guess that many more people know who they are than have ever seen any of their movies. That seems to meet your key criterion.

  • Rebecca Dalmas

    She played the lead female role opposite Denzel Washington in Flight, very impressively, her first leading role was in a British horror film in 2008, played one of the costars in the French film L’Auberge Espagnole and its sequel Les Poupees Russes: She was also an acclaimed actress and star of the British stage and television. She also played Carolyn Bingley perfectly in P&P in 2005–extra points…

  • Patrick

    Miley Virus is not an actor fool, she’s never been in a movie and she still wore nappies in 2000.

  • Bluejay

    Yes, she has been in movies.


  • Kirk Aplin

    Being in the movies makes one neither an actor nor a star

  • Bluejay

    I never claimed otherwise.

  • Reservoir bitch

    Yes, but we’re talking about a household name, that’s what a star is. Everyone knows Will Smith, yet most people would have no idea who the actors on your list are, except maybe for Clive Owen. We’re not talking about actors appreciated by film lovers, we’re talking about people everyone knows about, including the very casual movie-goer.

  • Rebecca Dalmas

    I guess I’m taking the contrarian position, then, challenging the assumed definition by going with this one: someone who appears in a leading role in cinema who does so exceptionally well. As for me I think that is a better useful definition, atleast if we want to see more movies with exceptional leads, which we would more likely see if we talked about “these” stars, like MJ appears to be making an effort to do on this site, in addition to the other exceptional contributers to film: directors, screenwriters, supporting cast, and so forth.

  • Reservoir bitch

    I don’t disagree with you, but this still does not refer to “stars”. The concept of star reflects an exceptional level of popularity. I definitely agree that our culture should move away from star worshipping and focus instead on quality, skill, etc. However, in this case we are not talking about “stars”, but great/charismatic actors.

  • Captain_Swing666

    Best Actor Oscar winner 2012

    Sorry did you mean only American actors could apply?

  • althea

    Oh, sorry, I didn”t recognize him from all the other worldwide major motion pictures he’s starred in.

    But seriously, among the non-Americans already mentioned we have Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman, Judi Dench, and Christian Bale. None from non-English-speaking countries, true, but that’s the movie industry for you. The industry is overwhelmingly dominated by Hollywood, and the idea of a household name emerging from outside the system is unlikely, more’s the pity. Further, given the elements we’ve been discussing – including that “big names no longer open pictures”, as MaryAnne suggested, it’s even harder to achieve household name status.

    DuJardin didn’t win that Oscar on popularity and he couldn’t open that picture – which also earned its Oscar recognition on quality, not popularity – based on his name.

Pin It on Pinterest