Hollywood’s Top Young Actresses

These actresses are the current and future leading-ladies in Hollywood. They represent the best young talent Tinseltown has right now, and they should eventually replace the Nicole Kidmans, Charlize Therons, and Halle Berrys of the world. Not all of them are going to rake in the big bucks, but like a Meryl Streep or a Hilary Swank, they will be well respected, both in terms of critical acclaim and audience recognition.

The résumés of all these actresses includes a combination of looks, acting talent, and overall star power. Appearing in TV is okay, but this is a list about film stars, so these ladies have all appeared in movies. Let me warn you that not any characteristic alone is enough to get on the list. So sorry Jessica Alba, you’re really hot, but it’s not enough. I need to see some acting chops before you crack this top ten. Many on this list have already made a mark in Hollywood, but all have a bright future ahead and should be recognized for years to come. For purposes of this list, we will define young as anyone under thirty years old. So here they are, the Top Ten Young Actresses of Hollywood, let’s take a look at these young stars of today and the future:

You can also check out our Top Up and Coming Hollywood Actresses for those that didn’t make this list but still have bright futures or our Top Television Actresses Destined for Movie Work.

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10. Rachel McAdams

McAdams barely cracks this list in two ways, first by being number ten and second by being born on November 17, 1978. At 29 years and change, she just fits under the age limit. No matter, McAdams has a bright future ahead of her with her good looks and choice of diverse roles. This Canadian has already show success in both the comedy and drama genres.

Breakout Role: The Notebook, where she plays the young Allie Hamilton in the adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks tearjerker. Mean Girls actually came out first and helped McAdams gets noticed, but The Notebook made her an instant sensation among young women and garnered her a record five nominations and three wins at the MTV Movie Awards.

Biggest Hit: Wedding Crashers, where she plays Owen Wilson’s love interest in the 2005 hit comedy.

Unappreciated Gem: Slings and Arrows, where she plays Kate McNab, an aspiring actress, in the Canadian TV series. The show revolves around a high brow theater company, and McAdams has a featured role in Season 1 of the series. If TV doesn’t float your boat, I’ll still put forth Mean Girls, a reasonably popular, but still under appreciated film, where she plays the leader of the titular “mean girls” opposite Lindsay Lohan in the Tina Fey penned comedy.

Upcoming Feature: State of Play, an adaptation of the popular British crime drama mini-series hits theaters in the spring of 2009.

ziyi9 230x3009. Ziyi Zhang

Or Zhang Ziyi, depending on whether you follow American or Chinese traditions. At 29, Zhang is already one of the best known Chinese actors or actresses, with a string of international hits coupled with a few Hollywood films under her belt. Included in her film career thus far are several martial arts films, a bonus for any action fans. It remains to be seen exactly how much work Zhang will do for American audiences, but many of her international roles have made waves in the U.S., and she has already won critical acclaim, including three British Academy nominations.

Breakout Role: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, in the Ang Lee action drama about two warriors in pursuit of a stolen sword , Zhang plays Jen Yu.

Biggest Hit: Rush Hour 2, where she appeared as the villainess Hu Li.

Unappreciated Gem: Hero, the martial arts epic is a mixture of action and fantastic cinematography. Already popular among some, it is one of the best films to come out in recent years. Also check out Kar Wai Wong’s 2046, a fantasy romance drama.

Upcoming Feature: The Horsemen, a mystery/thriller starring Dennis Quaid about a widowed detective who finds a link between some killings and the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

emily1 237x3008. Emily Blunt

This 25 year old British star has already won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her work in the BBC TV movie Gideon’s Daughter. At this point in her career, she’s moved over to full time feature film work and her star continues to be on the rise. Look for her to appear in more Hollywood movies in the coming years and for her name recognition to rise to the level of others on this list.

Breakout Role: My Summer Love, as Tamsin in the dark British movie, which depicted a story of deception and lesbian love in the English countryside.

Biggest Hit: The Devil Wears Prada, as Emily the first assistant to Meryl Streep’s fashion queen, the powerful and sophisticated Miranda Priestly.

Unappreciated Gem: Charlie Wilson’s War, despite starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, this movie did not rake in the cash, plus it features Blunt in a great scene showing a lot of skin.

Upcoming Feature: The Wolfman, coming in 2009 a blockbuster concerning the story of a werewolf.

kirsten17 300x1877. Kirsten Dunst

It seems like she’s been around forever, and in part that’s true. Dunst began her career early, appearing as a child fashion model in television commercials at the age of three. At age seven she was appearing in feature films, with her breakout coming at the age of 12.  A series of leading roles would eventually follow, and Dunst has appeared in virtually any kind of movie in her young career. At only 26, she still has plenty of time to appear in many more.

Breakout Role: Interview with the Vampire, as the child vampire Claudia in a Golden Globe nominated performance.

Biggest Hit: The Spiderman trilogy, where Dunst plays Mary Jane, the love interest of Peter Parker/Spiderman.

Unappreciated Gem: The Virgin Suicides, a story that revolves around a group of mysterious sisters who are sheltered by their strict, religious parents after one of them commits suicide. Also, I can’t go with out mentioning the guilty pleasure cheerleader comedy Bring it On.

Upcoming Feature: All Good Things, coming in 2009, its a detective story concerning a missing persons case that may spell doom for the heir to a New York real estate dynasty.

natalie10 300x2256. Natalie Portman

Portman first started acting at a young age, and has appeared in a number of major hits ever since. Her turn in the Star Wars prequels helped cement her leading lady status, and now she has a full range of movies to choose from, varying from costume drama to action based stories. She’s at the point that she’s even begun a directorial career in tandem to her acting career.

Breakout Role: Léon aka The Professional, where Portman plays a young girl whose immediate family is killed by corrupt cops. In response, she befriend a neighbor who turns out to be a hitman. Only twelve at the time, Portman nonetheless became noticed as a result of Luc Besson’s critically acclaimed film.

Biggest Hit: The Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, where she received worldwide fame as Queen/Senator Amidala.

Unappreciated Gem: Beautiful Girls, the nostalgia drama features a ten year high school reunion, with Portman playing the impossibly cute next door neighbor to Timothy Hutton’s Willie Conway. Also V for Vendetta is a very strong film that has been overlooked by some and more prominently features Portman.

Upcoming Feature: Brothers, a remake of the 2004 Danish war drama, she will star opposite Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal.

evan1 300x2255. Evan Rachel Wood

Only 21, Evan Rachel Wood is just at the start of her Hollywood career. To this date she has mainly shunned larger films, opting to act mostly in independent films. But don’t overlook her. She has the talent to win an academy award, and soon if she can maintain her high level of acting. Plus a bonus for the guys, she has split from rocker Marilyn Manson. Yes, she was dating him. Maybe because she can sing a little and he’s a rock star, and well I really don’t know what she saw in him. Let’s just pretend that relationship never happened. It’s for the best. And we can forgive her since she young.

Breakout Role: Thirteen, Wood stars as Tracy Freeland (in a Golden Globe nominated role), a thirteen year old at odds with her mother after discovering drugs, sex, and petty crime.

Biggest Hit: The Missing, where she plays Cate Blanchett’s daughter in the Ron Howard directed Western about a child kidnapped by Navajos in the 1880s. Admittedly, pickings are slim in terms of “hits” with Wood thus far, but that should change with time.

Unappreciated Gem: Across the Universe, the Julie Taymor directed Beatles musical is filled with classic songs and a ton of style with Wood as the leading lady, Lucy (but not in the sky with diamonds). It’s one of the better films of 2007.

Upcoming Feature: The Wrestler, a Darren Aronofsky drama centered on a retired professional wrestler as he makes his way through the independent circuit. Wood play the wrestler’s daughter.

eva5 300x2944. Eva Green

This 28 year old French starlet burst onto the scene only a few years ago, but has already risen near the top of Hollywood’s most sought after actress list. She has what some describe as a gothic look, but not in a bad way. Her talent has already landed her in several big budget blockbusters despite a thin résumé.  She’s even multi-talented, composing some original music and recording several tracks for the film score of her 2003 debut, the Dreamers.

Breakout Role: Kingdom of Heaven, where she plays Queen Sibylla in Ridley Scott’s Crusades War epic.

Biggest Hit: Casino Royale, as the Bond girl Vesper Lynd in the relaunch of the long running Bond franchise.

Unappreciated Gem: The Dreamers, an erotic drama about three young film lovers set in 1968 Paris.

Upcoming Feature: Franklyn, the story of four lost souls in a futuristic London society where there is no separation between Church and State.

anne13 234x3003. Anne Hathaway

The former Disney princess seemed to keep her roles squeaky clean for a while after her breakout 2001 hit. That is until she did Havoc, which was a complete 180 from her previous sappy PG-rated work. Almost like she wanted to change her image. Since then she’s accepted roles in a wide range of genres, including a supporting role in the gay cowboy drama Brokeback Mountain and her first big budget Hollywood production with Get Smart.

Breakout Role: The Princess Diaries, Disney’s 2001 hit where Hathaway plays the lead role of Mia Thermopolis, a socially awkward teenager who discovers that she is the princess of a small European country.

Biggest Hit: Get Smart, the 2008 remake of the 1960s spy themed TV series just edges the fashion drama The Devil Wears Prada.

Unappreciated Gem: Nicholas Nickleby, Hathaway plays Madeline Bray in this Charles Dickens adaptation.

Upcoming Feature: Rachel Getting Married, already in limited release, Hathaway has garnered Oscar buzz for her role as Kym in the romantic drama.

keira10 300x2252. Keira Knightley

Yes, she does look like Natalie Portman. So much so that she played Portman’s double in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. But in many respects she’s surpassed Portman as a movie star. The 23 year old British star has done a magnificent job of mixing summer blockbusters with smaller, serious films. Plus, she’s already garnered one Academy Award nomination, and has received critical acclaim for many of her other roles.

Breakout Role: Bend it Like Beckham, the 2002 sleeper hit about the world of women’s soccer where Knightley plays the best friend and teammate of Parminder Nagra’s Jess character.

Biggest Hit: The Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, where she plays Elizabeth Swann, a high society lady who has a fascination with pirates in the summer blockbuster trilogy.

Unappreciated Gem: The Jacket, a mindbending thriller where Knightley plays Adrien Brody’s love interest. Love Actually is also a great nominee here, except that it’s pretty well appreciated and Knightley’s role is fairly minimal.

Upcoming Feature: Last Night, a modern romantic drama about a married couple in which she will co-star with Eva Mendes, Sam Worthington, and Guillaume Canet.

scarlett1 211x3001. Scarlett Johansson

This raspy voiced twenty-three year old vixen has already garnered three Golden Globe nominations, as well as two British Academy nominations, for her various roles thus far. Her film choices have largely been of the offbeat, independent type, although she was cast in Mission Impossible 3 before dropping out after the project was retooled and postponed. Still, despite the lack of big budget or high profile movies to her resume, she’s draw the attention of critics and audiences alike.

Breakout Role: Ghost World, the 2001 critically acclaimed Terry Zwigoff cult dramedy, where she plays the best friend of Thora Birch’s Enid. The two social outsiders play a prank on an older gentlemen, after which Enid befriends the strange fellow.

Biggest Hit: The Prestige, the Christopher Nolan directed film about rival magicians where Johansson gets caught up in the middle of the high stakes rivalry. First as an assistant to Hugh Jackman’s Robert Angier, and then later as assistant/spy to Christian Bale’s Alfred Borden.

Unappreciated Gem: Match Point, this Woody Allen film is a very un-Woody Allen-like crime drama, where Johansson plays the sexy mistress of Johnathan Rys-Meyers, a gold-digging former tennis pro.

Upcoming Feature: The Spirit, a crime drama based on a comic book series of the same name hits theaters this Christmas season.

That’s your Top ten.

Apologies to the following: Zooey Deschannel, Ellen Page, Christina Ricci, Kristen Stewart, Abbie Cornish, Alison Lohman