It’s an inescapable part of being a movie fan: the year-end retrospectives of our favorite (and least favorite) films and performances of the year. It’s easy to get caught up in celebrating the best of the best and roasting the worst of the worst); we bond when we come together to mourn the loss of actors and actresses that passed on during a year (and ugh, there were so many in 2016). We rarely take a look at the actors that fall off the radar, though.
One of the most surprising things about 2016 was that many of the actors that were so much a part of making the preceding years a success were so hard to find in the last 12 months. Many of the biggest stars of 2015 – the ones that dominated the award circuit, broke box office records, and went from bit players to bonafide movie stars – were largely absent from the public eye last year. Sure, some were active on social media; maybe they appeared in a commercial here, or a political ad there. If you went to the movies, though, you didn’t see them, and for the most part, that’s a bummer. Here are 15 Actors That Disappeared On Us In 2016.
15 John Boyega
Star Wars: The Force Awakens didn’t just introduce a whole new generation to George Lucas’ incredible galaxy far, far away. The movie's release, and subsequent blockbuster success, also catapulted the film’s main actors into international stardom. As Finn, the Stormtrooper-turned-Rebel, John Boyega turned in a charismatic performance that was equal parts dramatic and comedic. Since the force woke up, though, we haven’t had a chance to enjoy any new films from him.
That’s not because he’s been relaxing and enjoying his newfound fame, though. In fact, Boyega has been busier than ever in 2016. In addition to filming Episode VIII, he’s been working on the sci-fi thriller The Circle, with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, and Kathryn Bigelow’s still-untitled film about the Detroit riots. All three of those films should hit theaters in 2017 – and in 2018, we’ll get a chance to see him take the lead yet again in Pacific Rim: Uprising. Fear not, moviegoers; his absence from the big screen in 2016 was merely a flash in the pan.
14 Daisy Ridley
In the span of just over a year, Daisy Ridley went from being a virtual unknown to one of the most recognizable faces in the world. Thanks to her stellar performance as Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, she has accomplished a pretty rare feat and secured a place in cinema history with a single role. Moviegoers didn’t hear from her in 2016, unless you count a voiceover role in a recent English re-release of the Japanese animated drama, Only Yesterday (it was awesome, but flew pretty far under the radar). That’s because, like her co-star John Boyega, she’s been crazy busy filming the next Star Wars installment.
While we’ve had to wait a while, we will get a chance to see her in non-Rey roles, too, by the way, and in some pretty cool movies to boot. She was recently cast in an animation/live-action hybrid Peter Rabbit production, and in 2017, she’ll appear in Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Murder on the Orient Express.
13 Domhnall Gleeson
In 2015, Domhnall Gleeson was everywhere. He appeared in two of the year’s Best Picture nominees, Brooklyn and The Revenant. He starred as the computer genius at the center of a peculiar Turing test in Alex Garland’s psychological sci-fi drama, Ex Machina. Then there was his turn as the surly First Order commander, General Hux, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Seriously, we couldn’t escape the guy.
In turn, Gleeson had a considerably quieter 2016. Maybe he just needed a break from the nonstop press junketing that comes along with promoting four high-profile films? Or maybe he was just busy filming the six (yes, six) movies he has lined up for 2017, including a return to Star Wars and Doug Liman’s American Made. He’ll also co-star with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Barden in Darren Aronofky’s Mother. In other words, 2017 could basically be the Year of Gleeson Part II.
12 Elizabeth Banks
Elizabeth Banks has been a reliable staple in Hollywood for the last several years, thanks to her involvement in multiple popular franchises. In 2015, she was all over the place; she gave us one last look at the eccentric Effie Trinkett in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2, showed up in the crowd-pleasing Magic Mike XXL, and both co-starred in and directed Pitch Perfect 2. She definitely earned a break from the limelight, which she most certainly took in 2016.
Aside from a speaking appearance at the Democratic National Convention in the summer, Banks spent most of the year entirely out of the spotlight. Her reprieve will be pretty short-lived, though. In 2017, she’ll be in Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, where she’ll reprise her role as Lindsay. Plus, we’ll get to see her in all her kooky glory as the iconic villain, Rita Repulsa, in the big-screen Power Rangers reboot, which hits theaters on March 24, 2017.
11 Josh Hutcherson
For four years, he won the hearts and minds of Panem’s citizens, and millions of moviegoers, as the latter third of the Katniss/Gale/Peeta love triangle in The Hunger Games series. After Mockingjay Part 2 was released last November and his time as a rebellious tribute came to an end, it looks like Josh Hutcherson has opted to let his career cool off a bit. The 24-year-old waited to line up any post-Hunger Games projects, so he went off the radar completely in 2016.
Hutcherson does have some work coming in the next year -- he’ll be appearing in a few indie projects, including James Franco's In Dubious Battle and The Masterpiece. He’ll also be turning his attention to the small screen, starring in Hulu’s sci-fi comedy, Future Man. There’s no word on when any of these projects will see the light of day, but they should give the former child star’s fans a glimmer of hope that he hasn’t gone off the grid forever.
10 Sandra Bullock
When most actors take time off, it could be viewed as a career gamble. Sandra Bullock is the rare Hollywood star that can disappear completely and still be just as sought-after when she returns with a new film. In fact, in recent years, she has been pretty selective with her projects, and tends to only take on a film every couple of years. That’s probably because she has a pretty freaking solid record of getting butts in seats.
In 2015, she lent her voice to the Despicable Me spinoff, Minions. She also appeared in Our Brand is Crisis, a film she executive produced, but since, then we haven’t heard much from her. 2017 will be equally quiet for Bullock fans, because we likely won’t get to see her again on the big screen until 2018’s Ocean’s Eight. Given that heist movie’s all-star cast (Cate Blanchett! Helena Bonham Carter! Rihanna?!), we can only hope it’s worth the wait.
9 Joaquin Phoenix
In the past few years, Joaquin Phoenix has paved a unique path for himself in Hollywood. With celebrated turns in films like Walk the Line, The Master, Her, and Inherent Vice, he’s proven himself to be an ambitious and sometimes opaque actor, one not afraid of taking on more irreverent topics and complicated characters.
In 2015, he once again earned rave reviews for his work in Woody Allen’s Irrational Man. He wasn’t in much of a hurry to repeat his success, though. Phoenix laid low in 2016, if only to prepare for a couple of busy years ahead. In 2017, he’ll appear in the sex-trafficking thriller You Were Never Really Here. Then, because he clearly has no problem with controversy, he’ll portray Jesus Christ in Mary Magdalene. In 2018, he’ll re-team with his I’m Not Here director (and current Oscar hopeful) Casey Affleck in a Pancho Villa-themed drama, Far Bright Star.
8 Saoirse Ronan
Though she’s not exactly a household name, Saoirse Ronan is one of the most successful actresses of her generation. At 22 years old, she already has two Oscar nominations to her name. One is for her supporting role in the 2008 romantic drama, Atonement. The other is for her stirring turn in 2015’s Brooklyn, about a young Irish immigrant torn between her family back home and her exciting new life in the United States.
Ronan has been working pretty much non-stop for nearly a decade, appearing in at least one film since 2007. She broke that trend in 2016, though her non-movie endeavor was nonetheless pretty impressive. She appeared on Broadway for the first time as Abigail Williams in a revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Her hiatus from Hollywood will be short-lived, too. In 2017, she’ll appear in four films, including an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s legendary play, The Seagull.
7 Benicio Del Toro
Since the late 1980s, Benicio Del Toro has been a relatively constant presence in multiplexes and arthouse cinemas alike. His eccentric personality and unforgettable on-screen presence have afforded him some pretty incredible opportunities in some of the most beloved films of the last few decades, including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Usual Suspects. He’s had his share of widespread success, too, though, and enjoyed a couple pretty big years in 2013 and 2014 after he joined forces with Marvel to bring The Collector to the big screen in Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Del Toro was busy in 2015 promoting Sicario and The Little Prince, so 2016 was pretty quiet for him, all things considered. We’ll give him a pass, though, since he does have a pretty high profile gig lined up in 2017 – an as-yet-to-be-determined role in Star Wars: Episode VIII.
6 Carey Mulligan
Over the past decade or so, moviegoers have gotten used to seeing Carey Mulligan on the big screen. In the last few years, she’s wooed Ryan Gosling in Drive, brought Daisy, an iconic literary character, to life in The Great Gatsby, and sang alongside Oscar Isaac and Justin Timberlake in Inside Llewyn Davis – in other words, she’s living her best life. In 2015, she teamed up with Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter to star as real-life voters rights activist Maud Watts in Suffragette and spent some time on Broadway starring in Skylight. She took some time off in 2016, though she did work for a few weeks on Mudbound, a period drama set to premiere at 2017’s Sundance Film Festival.
Mulligan has also been hard at work on some deeply personal matters: she gave birth to her first daughter in September 2015, and was appointed as the Alzheimer’s Society first United Kingdom Global Dementia Friends Ambassador, a role she took on because she has witnessed her grandmother’s struggle with the disease.
5 Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett is, in every sense of the word, a star. She has a regal quality (maybe because she played Queen Elizabeth?) and a commanding presence, one that has more or less ensured that she can appear in whatever she wants and still maintain a reputation as one of Hollywood’s finest actors. In 2015, she moved the needle even further on her legacy with her stellar portrayal of Lady Tremaine, the cruel-hearted stepmother in Cinderella. Oh, yeah, she also won an Oscar nomination for what may have been a career-best performance as a repressed high society housewife in Carol.
Where does an actress of her caliber go from there? If you ask Blanchett – take a year off from Hollywood and try something new. Blanchett didn’t have any big movie projects in 2016, but she still stayed busy. She’ll appear in Terrence Malick’s Weightless and Thor: Ragnarok, and she lent her voice to the video game Mafia III, because why not? She even showed up in Massive Attack’s awesome music video for the song “The Spoils.” Blanchett also returned to her thespian roots this year, making her Broadway debut in Anton Chekhov’s The Present, which opened on December 17.
4 Christian Bale
If your past career highlights include three Oscar nominations (and one win) in five years, and playing Batman, you can afford to be a little choosy when it comes to your next move. That’s pretty much how Christian Bale has operated over the past few years. Aside from the travesty that was Exodus: Gods and Kings, he’s focused on staying away from the big budget fare and diving into some pretty eccentric roles in American Hustle and Terrence Malick’s experimental film, Knight of Cups. In 2015, he once again enjoyed a wave of accolades thanks to his performance in the financial crisis-themed comedy-drama, The Big Short.
Bale was pretty much invisible in 2016, but he’s got several projects hitting theaters in the next couple of years: The Promise, a period drama with Oscar Isaac, Weightless, with Ryan Gosling, and he’ll be playing Bagheera in Andy Serkis’ adaptation-we’re-not-sure-we-need-yet of The Jungle Book, which hits theaters in 2018.
3 Amanda Seyfried
Look, no actor has a perfect track record. If you look at the filmography of just about any Hollywood star, you’ll find a few crappy movies and a box office bomb or two. Unfortunately for Amanda Seyfried, four of her worst movies ever all hit theaters in 2015. There was Pan, the ill-conceived Neverland-themed adventure, and Ted 2, a completely unnecessary sequel to Seth McFarland’s raunchy teddy bear comedy. She also appeared in the so-bad-we-didn’t-even-realize-it-came-out comedy Love the Coopers and the overwrought drama Fathers & Daughters.
In that way, it’s probably for the best that Seyfried shuffled off the big screen for most of 2016 – because it means that she got a chance to get away from the non-stop onslaught of bad reviews. In 2017, she’ll get another chance at glory, though, with appearances in three films, including The Last Word and Anon, as well as a role in the highly anticipated Twin Peaks reboot.
2 Tom Hardy
2015 was a good year for a lot of actors, but it’s hard to argue that anyone had a better one than Tom Hardy. He starred in the mind-blowing actioner Mad Max: Fury Road, earned rave reviews for his portrayal of twin gangsters in Legend, and nabbed his first Oscar nomination for his killer performance in The Revenant.
By comparison, Hardy was insanely quiet, and, sadly, completely absent from our movie screens, in 2016. In all fairness, he did turn up briefly in Netflix’s Peaky Blinders -- a series he’s played a supporting role in since 2013 -- and he charmed Brits nationwide on New Years Eve by reading bedtime stories on the children’s TV show, CBeebies (seriously). Still, the radio silence from Hardy was pretty noticeable, given what a tremendous presence he had in the months before.
We can forgive him for taking a break, though; especially since he’s teaming up with Christopher Nolan, who directed him in The Dark Knight Rises, for the upcoming World War II drama, Dunkirk.
1 Brie Larson
In 2015, Brie Larson moved swiftly from the “indie darling” to “Hollywood royalty” categories on the strength of a single performance. With her haunting and remarkable portrayal of a mother held hostage in Room, she not only won an Oscar (and just about every other award you can imagine), she changed the course of her career forever.
For the early part of 2016, it was easy to find Larson on the red carpet or giving interviews, but amazingly, she still hasn’t given us a shot to see her in a post-Room role. That’s not for lack of trying, though. Larson has five films slated for release in 2017, including the retro crime caper Free Fire and Kong: Skull Island. We’ll have to wait even longer to see her in her biggest role to date, though; Larson’s first crack at the iconic Captain Marvel won’t hit theaters until 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. Expect the actress' star to shine even brighter when the character gets her own solo movie in 2019.
Which actor did you miss the most in 2016? Which of the stars on our list do you think will bounce back the strongest this year? Let us know in the comments.