The Best Young Talent of 2016

By  · Published on December 12th, 2016

These actors and actresses are the next generation of Hollywood stars.

There are plenty of performances that define cinema in 2016. Showstopping performances from Isabelle Huppert, Viola Davis, and Casey Affleck are among some of the many highlights. Not to be overshadowed, a new generation of performers are making statements that are equal and superior to those many times their age.

The problem for many child actors is that they are a product of the movie and fail to have the chops required to make the transition to future roles. Some of the greatest childhood performances from Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon and Jackie Coogan in The Kid brought those children attention, but never saw them achieve the same measure of success as their signature roles. For the sake of this list, we are sticking with child as defined as eighteen and younger. That is why you won’t see Lucas Hedges, Anna Taylor-Joy, or Hailee Steinfeld included. This group of talent makes their possibilities limitless and some of more cherished performances this year.

Angourie Rice, The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys might not be Angourie Rice’s first appearance in film, but it will certainly be the one to bring her to super stardom. Rice plays Holly March, the Penny to Ryan Gosling’s Inspector Gadget, who actually solves the mysteries for her bumbling father. She’s extremely witty in the role and holds her own against Gosling and Crowe in scenes where they are shown together. In more ways than one she’s the glue that holds the movie together. This is just the beginning for Angourie Rice as she is appearing in Spider-Man Homecoming and Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled in 2017.

Julian Dennison, Hunt for the Wilderpeople

New Zealand has had this young talent to themselves, but he is undiscovered no more. Julian Dennison won a Best Supporting Actor award for his role in 2013’s, Shopping, but the film never got a wide release in America. Working with director Taika Waititi, has certainly increased his profile quiet a bit. Not to mention he is the heart and soul of Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Julian plays opposite Jurassic Park’s Sam Neill as a foster child who had been bounced around many families. Just when he has found his forever home, tragedy strikes leaving him alone in the wilderness. When speaking with Metro, Dennison revealed he would love to be a director some day, but hopefully he appears in a few more films first.

Theo Taplitz, Little Men

Another aspiring director, Theo Taplitz mostly did acting for his short films. One of those short films must’ve drawn the attention of director Ira Sachs who casted Theo as the lead performance in Little Men. Little Men shows how two best friends (Theo and his co-star Michael Barbieri) are torn apart by their parents feuding over New York real estate. There’s a subtly to Theo’s performance that conceals much more than the loss of friendship. While Theo isn’t set for another acting performance as of now, his short films are available on his Vimeo page.

The Best New Movie Characters of 2016

Royalty Hightower, The Fits

There is little question that Royalty Hightower belongs in some the strongest performances of the year. Discovered on YouTube by The Fits director Anna Rose Holmer, the 11-year old dancer holds the focus of the camera and never lets go. In The Fits, Royalty Hightower plays Toni, who desperately wants to join the in crowd of the dance troop. When a mysterious illness starts infiltrating the group, fear is spreading that these Fits might be contagious. There’s a desperate feeling of wanting to fit in once again, as Toni wonders if she will get The Fits herself. Since The Fits premiered Hightower has been receiving plenty of calls. She has two upcoming films; Ruby in Murdertown with Laurence Fishburne, and the film And Then I Go.

Markees Christmas, Morris From America

From being pressured into performing in a school play, to starring in his own film, Markees Christmas created his own path to stardom. After appearing in an school adaptation of Raisin in the Sun, Christmas performed in some short videos that were distributed to Channel 101. Director Chad Hartigan was alerted to Christmas’ performances and knew he had his lead for Morris From America. The film features Christmas as an outsider who moves Germany, he doesn’t know the language and is the only person of color around, but that is only the start of his problems. Since the film’s premier at Sundance, Christmas signed a contract with Paradigm and should be appearing in more films soon.

Sunny Pawar, Lion

Few actors his age have had to carry a picture for as long. Sunny Pawar, 8, is the protagonist in Lion for a good portion of the film. The search for young Saroo certainly wasn’t easy. Casting director Kirsty McGregor watched over 2,000 audition tapes, and conducted 200 in-person workshops all to make sure the right Saroo ended up on screen. Lion tells the heartbreaking story of Saroo Brierly, who got lost far way from his hometown and later was adopted by an Australian couple. It would take him years before he got a way to find home again. The future is bright for Sunny Pawar after his premier in Lion, as he is being hailed for his performance.

While every year seems to have some great young performances, 2016 was a year filled with them. We are absolutely looking forward to what they have in store next.

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News Writer/Columnist for Film School Rejects. It’s the Pictures Co-host. Bylines Playboy, ZAM, Paste Magazine and more.