While this summer has been particularly dire for blockbuster fans, one thing you can say about film fans is that they are eternally optimistic. Maybe we have trained ourselves to be optimistic in order to shield ourselves from disappointment, but deep down our love of movies is rooted very much in a more innocent time. While you could easily go back and watch the same ten favorite movies over and over again, we always crave for something new. Movies have the possibility to transport us into different worlds and offer us ideas, feelings, and experiences we might not be exposed to otherwise.
Actors are kind of our guide through these adventures, so it’s no surprise that people get really attached to their favorite stars. Movie stars that endure are not always the ones that are the most transformative or even the best looking, they have that intangible “it” factor that helps us imagine ourselves on those adventures. In some cases, we are lucky enough that some of our brightest stars have decades worth of films to draw from. Fans of Harrison Ford, Al Pacino, Leonardo Dicaprio and Denzel Washington have over a dozen of good to great films to watch again and again, so much so that we are eternally forgiving of any duds they may appear in.
Then, on the other hand, there are those actors that you kinda fall in love with who don’t seem to get those same chances. Maybe it’s bad luck, maybe it’s because they are more of a character actor than anything else – but for one reason or another when you go back to revisit their work all you can think is, “I wish they were in more films.” This list is dedicated to those actors who we wish with all our hearts would appear in more films, in particular in more leading roles.
15. Eliza Dushku
Eliza Dushku may have had her fair share of chances to make it big, but none of them ever really came together. While most of us fell in love with her in the late 1990s with roles like the tempestuous Faith on Buffy and as a sexy cheerleader in Bring it On, after a string of canceled television shows she seems to have vanished from opportunities. Now with a lot of actresses finding a second career bump in their 40s, we really think Dushku deserves another shot. She has incredible energy and there just aren’t enough actresses who bring her soft roughness to life. While so far most of her success (or lack thereof) has come by way of television, maybe it’s time for her to burst back into film. With the right role we can easily see her joining the ranks of sexy brunettes with dramatic gravitas like Marisa Tomei.
14. Ben Foster
While Ben Foster may not be a household name, let’s be real, whenever you see him in a trailer for a new movie you perk up a bit. He’s that “guy” you love from movies like 3:10 to Yuma and Lone Survivor. While he does get more opportunities than some of the people on this list, it does seem that more often than not he is filling a supporting role or else bets on films with a lot of potential that don’t quite pan out (like Warcraft). Personally, we love the idea that Foster takes up the mantle of an action star because he has the charisma and acting prowess to really back up his athleticism. While he most recently appeared in the very good Hell or High Water, many of his films don’t get the rep they deserve. For all his talents, we really think Ben Foster should be given more lead roles and become a household name.
13. Christina Ricci
The heyday of Christina Ricci was well over a decade ago, until she started to grow up a little. Suffering the fate of many child stars, it seemed that people didn’t quite know how to fit the grown up Ricci into roles, in spite of the fact that she turned out to be smoking hot and her acting was still completely on point. One of the biggest stars of our childhood with roles in The Addams Family, Sleepy Hollow and The Ice Storm, she’s kinda been pushed back into the corner in the past ten years or so. We have to admit, we have yet to watch her new TV series where she plays the infamous Lizzie Borden, but it is on Lifetime… so you can’t blame us for being a bit apprehensive. While we’re happy she’s getting some work, we really feel she deserves bigger and greater opportunities than what she’s gotten. We also think more people should watch Black Snake Moan with Samuel L. Jackson that proves she’s both sexy and talented.
12. Tim Roth
This list could not be complete without Tim Roth. One of the most beloved actors of his generation, largely due to his excellent collaborations with Quentin Tarantino, he always finds a way to land his way in conversations about underrated actors. While he still finds a number of successful roles, he has yet to really command the presence or fame he deserves. We loved him on the short-lived series Lie to Me and were thrilled he was finally getting a role befitting of his talent, but it never quite took off in the way we would have liked. While he seems more than happy to take on interesting supporting roles over dull leading ones, we have to assume there are some great leading roles he could sink his teeth into. In a field oversaturated with low talent, low charisma leads, Tim Roth deserves a better chance.
11. Amy Acker
Joss Whedon fans will likely be the ones most familiar with Amy Acker, who played Fred on his television series Angel. Showcasing tremendous range, she elevated early impressions of merely an attractive waifish brunette by consistently being the funniest member of the cast. Far beyond that, however, she also brought tremendous depth to her character’s post traumatic stress after being entrapped as a slave in an alternate dimension, and similar nuance to romantic scenes. Even detractors can agree, she was also easily the best part of Joss Whedon’s backyard adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, where she played Beatrice. Since then she’s mostly been taking bit roles on television shows and we’re completely baffled since she’s one of the most talented actresses out there and incredibly beautiful. Acker deserves a real opportunity to shine as a leading lady since we truly believe she has what it takes to make it big.
10. William Petersen
For far too long William Petersen was tied up with the dying ship that was CSI as Gil Grissom. Long before that he was en route to be the next big thing of his generation when he played Will Graham in Michael Mann‘s adaptation of the Hannibal Lecter story, Manhunter. While there is little doubt that the massive success of CSI means that in theory William Petersen never has to work again, we hope that isn’t the case. With no real significant role since he left CSI and none on the horizon, we think it’s time for something to sweep him up and give him another role he can sink his teeth into. CSI, which was always more flash than anything else, largely succeeded because of the depth of emotion that Petersen brought to the role. Whatever was unfolding on the screen, he was mysteriously unscrupulous and channeled a scientific spirit with great panache. While other actors leave a major series to headline another one, Petersen doesn’t seem to have been given the chance, we’d love to see him return to the small screen or even the cinemas with another leading role.
9. Michael Shannon
We can’t be the only ones who consider Michael Shannon to be one of our very favorite actors. On the big screen, in interviews and even on the red carpet, he is a consummate entertainer who never seems to take the easy route. While Michael Shannon is gaining more mainstream success, he should easily be spoken about with the same reverence as actors like Steve Buscemi and Kevin Spacey (his sometimes co-stars). A once in a generation talent, he should (long ago) be a household name and he seems to be right on the precipitous of making that a reality. With roles in movies like Man of Steel and Midnight Special, he is making his way into the public eye, but we really feel there is one career-defining role that he needs to be cast in to give him his due. While for now, film fans fawn over him, casual movie goers are only just beginning to recognize him, it’s time for Hollywood to step up and give him the role of a lifetime.
8. John Hawkes
Not long ago John Hawkes seemed to be just on the edge of a big break. In 2010-12 he gave a series of spectacular performances that threatened to break him into the mainstream. In two very different roles for Winter’s Bone, The Sessions and Martha Marcy May Marlene, he not only demonstrated his enormous range but that he was a charismatic force to be reckoned with. That promise never quite came to be, and while he is still as good as ever, his career seems to have settled back down to what it was before. Casting directors are wedging him into supporting roles, and occasionally he’ll play the lead in a television movie. For fans of his work, this has been tremendously frustrating as he’s proven himself critically to be one of the best actors working today. Perhaps, like many actors on this list, he is typecast because he doesn’t fit the mold of leading man – but in the changing landscape of independent cinema and prestige television that is mattering less and less. Fans of his work can attest to how much of a force of nature he is, hopefully Hollywood will catch on.
7. Seann William Scott
We all more or less grew up with Sean William Scott when he seemed to be headlining every single one of our favourite teen movies. Whether it was American Pie, Dude Where’s My Car or Road Trip, Sean William Scott was a reliable anchor in the teen film universe. It’s not entirely surprising that his career took a dip when he became less and less credible as a teen, but that’s entirely too bad, since he’s actually great. If you don’t believe us, we can only assume you didn’t check him out in Goon back in 2011 where he played a loveable hockey enforcer. Scott has always had great comedic timing and is damn likeable, so it’s a real shame he doesn’t seem to get the same opportunities as he used to. Perfectly suited for that kind of larger than life jock who is maybe living in the past, we really feel he still has a lot to offer the world of movies and maybe even has a bit more experience to try out some more serious roles. Thankfully our dreams are kinda coming true since the new Goon movie is coming out, but not enough people know the series and that’s still one major role over the past five years… he deserves better.
6. Aaron Paul
If you don’t love Aaron Paul, you don’t have a soul. Anyone who watches Breaking Bad has a soft spot for Aaron Paul and you’re probably not alone in wondering why he hasn’t had a better film career. Since Breaking Bad wrapped a few years ago Paul has made a few attempts at movies, but none have really quite worked. The projects just weren’t good enough and have not really captured what makes him so appealing. In movies like Need for Speed, they try to turn Aaron Paul into an action star, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but he’s more Chris Pratt than Jason Statham. Based on his most famous roles, Paul has a keen sense of comedy that so far has been underutilized in his film roles. Combine that with his painfully nice online persona, it just seems like the right role hasn’t come around. Here’s hoping Paul’s career takes off sooner rather than later.
5. Heather Graham
The amount of generations that have fallen over Heather Graham is now in the triple digits. Unbelievably hot since she made her big screen debut all the way back in 1988 for License to Drive, Graham has had a pretty good career working with some of the greatest filmmakers of the past thirty years. While still ridiculously hot and consistently talented, the roles have not been coming in for Graham over the past ten years. Since she is aging so well, maybe it’s an awkward situation of her being the mom age but still looking far too young for it. It’s such a shame that actresses after forty struggle so much to find roles, because it seems like the only people who are losing are audiences. As we’re getting older too, we’re totally into the sexy older woman thing! Please cast Heather Graham!
4. Alan Tudyk
Alan Tudyk might have a pretty solid career as a voice over artist in 2016, but we miss seeing him on the big screen. One of the ultimate geek favourites thanks to Firefly, Alan Tudyk has taken a handful of bit roles over the past five years but we really miss his screen presence. Charming, funny and so likeable, he’s just one of our favourite television stars who deserves another shot. Even in the grand scheme of things, while Firefly has turned into a cult program, it was canceled after just one season. While we’re happy that he’s not completely out of work, and we love most of the shows he currently does voice work for, we’re kinda selfish and just want more.
3. Michael B. Jordan
Michael B. Jordan, unlike many people on this list, is right at the beginning of his career. With two incredible roles in Fruitvale Station and Creed, he has already earned a lifetime of respect in our books. Those films were both made in collaboration with the same filmmaker, Ryan Coogler, who has been picked to adapt The Black Panther for Marvel. While Jordan will have a supporting role in that film, we’d like to see him go even bigger. The fact is much of Creed’s success fell on his shoulders as he channeled the original Rocky spirit to a new age and that is no small feat. Jordan has range, charisma and a lot of potential, we want to see him be given the opportunities befitting those talents.
2. Cillian Murphy
Cillian Murphy (pronounced with a hard C) was once posed to be one of the great actors of his generation. With defining roles in 28 Days Later and Batman Begins, it seemed like he could do no wrong. Since he filled the shoes of the Scarecrow, ultimately a pretty minor role in Christopher Nolan‘s Batman trilogy, he’s only had a handful of supporting roles and that’s it. In our eyes, he proved himself a decade ago as a more than capable leading man who appeals to men and women alike. Perhaps his unique look which we love so much has proved an obstacle in casting, but that hasn’t stopped Benedict Cumberbatch! He’s appearing in the upcoming film Free Fire, which looks insanely good, hopefully that will jumpstart his career.
1. Kyle Chandler
Fans of Friday Night Lights already know how underrated Kyle Chandler is as a leading man. While he’s quietly inhabited our imagination in a number of strong roles, he’s yet to really make his mark in the mainstream. With classic movie star looks, tremendous range and a likeable aura, we’re honestly shocked he’s not on the same level of fame as Brad Pitt. With a bit more success on television, he still manages to fly under the radar and on the big screen, more often than not, he fills a supporting role rather than a leading one. Kyle Chandler is just one of those actors that is nearly impossible to hate and so easy to love. While it’s unfortunate that Bloodline has been canceled, maybe this will give him some much free time for the right project to sweep him up and make him a star.