25 Actors Under 25 Who Have Definite Oscar Potential

Actor Nicholas Hoult arrives for the screening of the movie 'Equals' presented in competition at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival on September 5, 2015 at Venice Lido. AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images

Vulture has recently published a report bemoaning Hollywood's apparent "leading-man drought": In the past decade, 15 young women have received Oscar nominations for roles they filmed while under the age of 25. In the same amount of time, only three young men have achieved that milestone: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Ryan Gosling. According to Vulture, this is evidence that, "We’re in the middle of a pretty severe young-actor drought that could have unusual implications for the industry." But, before we go worrying about the underrepresentation of men in American cinema, let's remember the fact that, out of the top 100 highest-grossing films of 2014, only 28.1 percent of speaking roles were given to women.

Obviously, there are many, many, many male actors under the age of 25 in Hollywood — even if they're not getting nominated for Oscars. Whether they're starring in indie coming-of-age dramedies, web slinging in mega-budget Marvel movies, or glowering on soapy CW shows, young men are literally everywhere in this industry. The only question is: which of them have the potential to break out into more serious, Oscar-worthy fare?

Here's a list of 25 actors who are 25 or younger that prove not all hope is lost for the pre-middle age demographic. Yes, most of them have made names for themselves in action films or YA franchises — but that shouldn't stop them from turning in awards-worthy work. (Just look at Jennifer Lawrence, star of The Hunger Games and X-Men... and Oscar-winner at the ripe young age of 22.)

1. Abraham Attah, 14

The 14-year-old star of Netflix's upcoming drama Beasts Of No Nation has been getting rave reviews for his performance as a child soldier under Idris Elba's imposing Commandant. Netflix is aiming to be the first streaming service nominated for an Academy Award, which could help launch the young star to worldwide fame.

2. Douglas Booth, 23

This young brit has already worked with an eclectic bunch of filmmakers, from Darren Aronofsky (Noah) to the Wachowskis (Jupiter Ascending). He's played characters as iconic as Romeo and as bizarre as Titus Abrasax. And, of course, he's getting in on teen-targeted action in next year's Pride And Prejudice And Zombies.

3. John Boyega, 23

This actor, born in London to Nigerian parents, exploded onto the scene when he was only 19 with the British sci-fi action/comedy Attack The Block. Since then, he's appeared in a recurring role on a major American series (24: Live Another Day) and been in cast in the leading role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To say that Boyega's trip to a galaxy far, far away could do wonders for his career would be an understatement.

4. Asa Butterfield, 18

He's already starred in an Oscar-nominated Martin Scorsese film (Hugo) and an adaptation of a popular YA novel (Ender's Game). Although Butterfield lost out on the coveted role of Spider-Man in Marvel's upcoming reboot of the character, the young actor has plenty of time to find the next big thing... which might just be his starring role in 2016's adaptation of Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, directed by Tim Burton.

5. Emory Cohen, 25

Cohen was terrific as Bradley Cooper's son in 2012's The Place Beyond The Pines, and he's gaining Best Supporting Actor rumblings this year for his role in the acclaimed period drama Brooklyn from writer Nick Hornby (An Education).

6. Ellar Coltrane, 21

We all watched him grow from a precocious 6-year-old to a college-bound 19-year-old in Boyhood. Now, the only question that remains is: Will the young Texas native continue acting? Or was a movie that took 13 years to shoot enough experience for him?

7. Frank Dillane, 24

You may know him best as young Tom Riddle from Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince. But Dillane is everywhere this year, from a small part in Netflix's Sense8 to a main character in AMC's record-breaking spinoff Fear The Walking Dead (for which he personally received rave reviews), and next a role in Ron Howard's Oscar bait-y drama In The Heart Of The Sea, starring Chris Hemsworth.

8. Ansel Elgort, 21

To date, almost the entirety of Elgort's resumé has been devoted to teen-oriented films, from remakes (Carrie) to dystopia (Divergent) to tear-jerkers (The Fault In Our Stars). It remains to be seen if Elgort will be able to translate his appeal to adult audiences, but the young actor certainly has charisma to spare.

9. Taron Egerton, 25

The young Welshman made waves earlier this year with the fun spy flick Kingsman: The Secret Service. He also appeared opposite Game Of Thrones heartthrob and on-the-cusp-of fame Alicia Vikander in last year's Testament Of Youth. Next, he'll play Tom Hardy's gay lover in the gangster drama Legend, and then star in a biopic (an Academy-favorite genre) about British skiing champion Eddie the Eagle, alongside Hugh Jackman and Christopher Walken. Oh, and he's in talks to headline Lionsgate's upcoming action reboot of Robin Hood.

10. Freddie Highmore, 23

Highmore has been creeping us out for three years now on A&E's Bates Motel — a role which has garnered him two Critics' Choice Award nominations — but long before he ever went psycho, he was starring in Oscar-nominated dramas at the tender young age of 12 (as the boy who inspired Peter Pan in 2004's Finding Neverland). 

11. Tom Holland, 19

Starting on stage in the title role of Billy Elliot The Musical, Holland has worked his way up through acclaimed dramas (2012's The Impossible), prestigious miniseries (BBC's Wolf Hall), and Oscar bait (In The Heart Of The Sea, alongside Dillane) into one of the most lucrative gigs in town: as the newest friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, making his Marvel debut in next year's Captain America: Civil War.

12. Nicholas Hoult, 25

Like Highmore, Hoult started young (he was 13 when About A Boy came out in 2002) and then successfully navigated the transition to adulthood, weathering the occasional misfire (Jack The Giant Slayer) with roles in TV dramas (Skins), action franchises (X-Men: Days Of Future Past), and YA adaptations (Warm Bodies). His role in this summer's most critically-adored film, Mad Max: Fury Road should help him continue to cultivate his career in a promising direction.

13. Josh Hutcherson, 22

We don't hold The Hunger Games against Jennifer Lawrence when considering her "seriousness" as an actress, so why should we hold it against her co-star? His roles in 2010's The Kids Are All Right and this year's Escobar: Paradise Lost show he's capable of more than just dull-but-pretty Peeta, so let's all give him a chance to prove himself.

14. Jeremy Irvine, 25

This fall's Stonewall, in which Irvine stars as fictional protestor Danny Winters, has already garnered plenty of controversy over allegations of whitewashing. Whether those allegations prove to be true or false when the movie actually comes out, certainly none of it is Irvine's fault, who previously proved his chops in Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated War Horse and as Pip in 2012's adaptation of Great Expectations.

15. O'Shea Jackson, Jr., 24

Straight Outta Compton exploded straight outta nowhere to become one of the biggest movies of the summer, and that's thanks in no small part to Jackson, Jr.'s performance — playing his own father, more commonly known as Ice Cube. Could the film's mega-buzz translate into Oscar attention? Only time will tell.

16. Logan Lerman, 23

Although young audiences will likely know Lerman as Percy Jackson from the popular YA series, he's taken time to pad his resumé with prestigious films in between blockbuster paychecks. Some of his most acclaimed films include 2007's 3:10 To Yuma( alongside Christian Bale and Russell Crowe), 2012's The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (my personal favorite film of that year), 2014's Noah (alongside Russell again, as well as Douglas Booth), and 2014's Fury (alongside Brad Pitt).

17. Ezra Miller, 22

Lerman's Wallflower co-star Miller drew equal acclaim for his performance as melancholy Patrick. Recently, Miller has been cast in two major blockbuster franchises: as The Flash in D.C.'s cinematic universe (to make his debut in next year's Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice), and in Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them.

18. Dylan Minnette, 18

On the small screen, Minnette has built a career out of playing a series of sons: the main character's son in NBC's Awake, Jack's son in Lost, and the President's ill-fated son in Scandal. On the big screen, he's worked with a series of acclaimed directors, from Matt Reeves (Let Me In) to Dennis Villeneuve (Prisoners) and Jason Reitman (Labor Day).

19. Shameik Moore, 20

Dope drew raves when it premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and ultimately sold for $7 million — the biggest deal of the festival — after an intense bidding war. Moore carries the film on his young shoulders as Malcolm, a hip-hop obsessed self-professed geek. Sundance is often known to launch careers, so Moore is definitely one to watch.

20. Jack O'Connell, 25

Like Hoult, O'Connell started his young adult acting career on the British drama Skins before transitioning into film. He first drew international notice for his starring role in the intense prison drama Starred Up, then headlined Angelina Jolie's Unbroken as real-life WWII POW Louis Zamperini. Next he'll appear in two end-of-year dramas packed with stellar casts: Tulip Fever (with Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz, Alicia Vikander) and Money Monster (with George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Dominic West).

21. Dev Patel, 25

Born in London to Indian parents, Patel was only 18 when Slumdog Millionaire, in which he starred, won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2008. Since then, he has acted in everything from dramedy (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) to sci-fi (Chappie) and even an HBO series in between (The Newsroom).

22. Will Poulter, 22

After debuting in the 2007 British/French/German coming-of-age drama Son Of Rambow, Poulter got his obligation to YA franchises out of the way fast with appearances in The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader and The Maze Runner. Now Poulter is moving on to more prestigious projects, including this fall's The Revenant, from last year's Best Director winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu. 

23. Craig Roberts, 24

British coming-of-age drama Submarine, which starred Roberts as a 15-year-old desperate to lose his virginity, garnered very positive reviews when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010. This year, Roberts is back at TIFF with the dark comedy Kill Your Friends — which also stars Nicholas Hoult. You can catch Roberts on the small screen this fall: he stars in the new Amazon original series Red Oaks.

24. Kodi Smit-McPhee, 19

This young Australian actor came to notice when he played Viggo Mortensen's son in the 2009 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's acclaimed novel The Road. He followed that up with the lead in Matt Reeves' Let Me In (in which Dylan Minnette appeared as his bully) — the rare remake of a foreign horror film that actually worked. Now Smit-McPhee is joining the X-Men universe as blue-skinned mutant Nightcrawler in next summer's Apocalypse.

25. Nat Wolff, 20

Although Wolff's most visible roles to date exist within a rather small demographic — big screen adaptations of John Green novels — the young actor has attracted attention for both his roles as blind cancer survivor Isaac in The Fault In Our Stars and lovestruck teen Q in Paper Towns. You may also have seen in him the Tina Fey/Paul Rudd romcom Admission or the James Franco-starring Palo Alto. Wolff has a busy slate this fall, appearing in three films: the Anne Hathaway and Al Pacino vehicle The Intern, the Mickey Rourke drama Ashby, and the road trip dramedy Grandma, which is picking up Oscar chatter for star Lily Tomlin.

Will any of these actors be the next Leonardo DiCaprio, Heath Ledger, or Ryan Gosling? While their chances of landing an Oscar anytime soon are far from certain, they all have promising careers ahead of them. And they all certainly prove that the idea of there being too few young leading men in Hollywood is untrue. 

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