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The Decade That Was: Stars who broke out in the 2000s

Posted Friday, December 11, 2009 at 5:03 PM Central

by John Couture

So, it's the end of another year which means that it's time to sit back and reflect upon all the wonderful and not-so wonderful things that have transpired over the last 365. Of course, this month not only marks the end of 2009, but also the end of the first decade in the 2000 millennium.

If that's not a reason to celebrate, then I don't know what is.

Everyone and their sister are coming up with "end of decade lists" and while we also figured that we should honor the decade that was, we wanted to add our own little spin and not just follow the rest of the lemmings off the cliff.

So, over the next few Fridays, we hope to present to you something different that sheds some light on some of the forgotten areas of the last 10 years.

With all of that said, I think you'll enjoy this week's list. We wanted to showcase all of the new talent that has blossomed (some quite literally) before our cinematic eyes in the last decade. With that in mind, we present our top 10 breakout actors/actresses of the 2000s.

  1. Shia LaBeouf - Few would argue that he's had quite the magical little run this decade. From his breakout role on the second season of Project Greenlight to his star making turns in the latest Indiana Jones and Transformers movies, Shia has been on a steady upward climb and not even a small car accident hiccup could derail his success.
  2. Steve Carell - I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't a big Steve fan, but even I can't argue this guy's breakout to superstardom in the last 10 years. He started his assault on the small screen in The Office and finally made it to the big time with his starring turn in The 40 Year-Old Virgin. He's made quite a niche for himself in the comedy market and that's definitely a very lucrative one to be in.
  3. Keira Knightley - She got her start playing Natalie Portman's double in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace at the end of the last decade and she completely stepped out of Nat's shadow these past 10 years. She was the female lead in one of the decade's highest grossing franchise (Pirates of the Caribbean) and she went on to prove that she can handle all different genres from heavy drama to comedy to action.
  4. Daniel Craig - A British actor who wasn't too familiar with American audiences before the year 2000, Danny boy sure made a household name for himself as the first "Blonde Bond." Even had James Bond not come calling, there's a pretty good chance that Dan would've achieved a fair amount of success given his notable turns in Layer Cake and Tomb Raider.
  5. Kate Hudson - There was a moment there in the last decade where it seemed like Kate's fame would even eclipse that of her mothers. Well, she did cool off a bit at the end, which is why she is this far down the list, but her early work, including her breakout in 2000's Almost Famous more than made up for it. While it was a rollercoaster decade for her, we see no reason why Kate can't regain the success from her earlier days.
  6. Robert Pattinson - And all the teen girls reading this screamed out in pain. Sorry gals, but while Rob Pat has had quite a run, we still want to see more consistency before we move him to the top of the list. His involvement in two of the biggest youth, crossover franchises in the decade (Harry Potter and Twilight) already has him among elite company in average box office gross of each film.
  7. Amy Adams - Wow, would you have guessed that Amy is 35? Me neither. She's experienced a relatively quick ascension to fame, but don't let that fool you. She earned her success with plenty of work before hitting it big with 2005's Indie darling Junebug. Since then, she's continually picked both challenging and mainstream successful roles. She still has the goods to carry a small pic like this year's Sunshine Cleaning and be an A-list star.
  8. Clive Owen - Is there anything that Clive can't do? Ever since he made a splash on this side of the pond in the decade opener Croupier, he's gone up, up and away in terms of star power. His movies in the last decade are veritable sign posts of the decade's most intriguing movies. Both big and small, Clive hits a home run in every role and the sky is certainly the limit for him.
  9. Reese Witherspoon - While her body of work spans the last two decades, Reese didn't reach megastardom until her role in 2001's Legally Blonde. The world was introduced to Reese and they liked what they saw. She quickly established herself at the top of the list for America's next leading lady and she can play both the serious and funny stuff both to high marks. Her luster might have faded a bit towards the end when her personal life started to interfere a bit, but if her upcoming slate is any indication, she will reclaim her crown soon enough.
  10. Seth Rogen/Judd Apatow - Technically, this is only a list of actors/actresses, but it would be impossible to list Seth without mentioning Judd. The two have pretty much been attached to the hip in this decade and we, as film aficionados, are lucky for it. The pair found their stride on the small screen, but really turned up the heat on the big screen. With successive hits such as The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad, they were the very definition of comedy in this decade and for that they get the brass ring of our little list.
  11. So, how did we do? Who did we leave out that needs recognition here?