In 2017, we needed entertainment more than ever — as both a way to make sense of the chaos going on in the world, and as a salve and means of escape. Some of the highlights: Jordan Peele's indie darling "Get Out," which did blockbuster numbers at the box office ($175 million, to be exact) and ushered in a robust year for indie films ("Lady Bird"! "Three Billboards"! "The Big Sick"!). We saw “around the way girls” Tiffany Haddish and Cardi B defy the odds and conquer 2017 armed with big dreams and a killer sense of humor. And women in both titular and in supporting roles stole the show in the year's biggest blockbusters (we're looking at you, Gal Gadot and Kelly Marie Tran). Here are our picks for the biggest breakouts of the year.
FILM AND TV
Following her hilarious turn in July's smash hit "Girls Trip," Haddish rose from relative obscurity to stardom in a matter of months. The 38-year-old made history as the first black female stand-up comic to host "Saturday Night Live" in the show's 42-year run, stepped into Phoebe Buffay's sticky shoes in Jay-Z's "Friends"-inspired "Moonlight" video, wrote a memoir ("The Last Black Unicorn"), befriended Taylor Swift and Barbra Streisand and managed to take Will and Jada Pinkett Smith on a Groupon swamp tour. Not to mention the South-Central native took home awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and African-American Film Critics Assn. for her supporting actress role as Dina in "Girls Trip," along with the rising icon award from the American Black Film Festival. Next up, Haddish is in production with Kevin Hart in the fall release "Night School" and joins Tracy Morgan in the TBS comedy series “The Last O.G.”
Proving once and for all that female superheroes are just as bankable as men, Gadot's "Wonder Woman" led the Patty Jenkins-directed blockbuster to $822 million in worldwide grosses for Warner Bros. Gadot was also crucial to the success of “Justice League,” which so far has grossed more than $638 million worldwide. That makes her 2017’s $1.5-billion woman.
After making her mark as an actress in independent films (“Frances Ha,” “Wiener-Dog,” “20th Century Women”), Gerwig made a splash with her directorial debut "Lady Bird." A semi-autobiographical take on her upbringing in Sacramento, the film enjoyed a brief reign as the best-reviewed movie of all time on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s received four Golden Globe nominations, including acting nods for Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, and is a best picture front-runner for the Oscar.
The massive success of Jordan Peele’s "Get Out" was due in large part to Kaluuya's portrayal of Chris Washington, a black man meeting his white girlfriend's parents (to disastrous results). A modern "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" with a horror-movie twist, the satire is nominated for best comedy or musical at this year's Golden Globes. Even before “Get Out” he’d gotten notice for his performance in “Sicario,” and his “Black Mirror” episode “Fifteen Million Merits” was an underground favorite. In February, though, he goes total blockbuster as he dons a bionic arm as W’Kabi in the highly anticipated “Black Panther.”
Chamalet emerged on the scene in two best picture front-runners this year, revealing chameleonic versatility first as pseudo-philosopher Kyle in "Lady Bird" before starring in Luca Guadagnino's "Call Me by Your Name." His performance as a 17-year-old who falls in love with a handsome friend of his father’s earned Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations. And Spain’s Pedro Almodovar called him "the revelation of the year."
Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford
Netflix's breakout teen drama "13 Reasons Why" brought suicide awareness to the fore. Starring Minnette and Langford as star-crossed would-be lovers, the show tackles tough subject matter like substance abuse, rape and suicide. Langford was nominated for a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Hannah Baker, a high school student who takes her own life, but not before leaving behind recorded audio cassettes for her bullies.
Waithe made history this year as the first black woman to win an Emmy for writing in a comedy series for the much-lauded "Thanksgiving" episode of "Master of None." The story was inspired by Waithe’s own experience coming out. Now she’s helming her own show, Showtime's "The Chi," as creator and executive producer with Common. She’s also joining the cast of Netflix's "Dear White People" for its second season.
Desus and Mero
Comedy duo Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, a.k.a. the Bodega Boys, parlayed a successful podcast into Viceland's first daily late-night show. The Bronx natives bring their signature wit to "Desus & Mero" and tackle all manner of topics from politics to sports and entertainment.
Highmore went from taking lives as Norman Bates in "Bates Motel" to saving lives in "The Good Doctor," ABC's drama about a young, autistic surgeon. The 25-year-old's performance in the Daniel Dae Kim-produced series earned him his first Golden Globe nomination.
Formerly the head writer of "The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore," Thede now has her own late-night talk show, BET's "The Rundown With Robin Thede." It’s currently the only late-night show hosted by a woman of color.
Amazon Video's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," which debuted in late November, has already been nominated for two Golden Globes — one for comedy series and one for actress thanks to Brosnahan's portrayal of Maisel, a soon-to-be single mother who discovers she has a knack for stand-up comedy.
The story seems unlikely: Cardi B, a former dancer, went from starring on VH1's reality series "Love & Hip Hop" to emerging as one of the top female MCs in the span of a year. The Bronx native's smash hit "Bodak Yellow" is nominated for two Grammys and spent time at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making her the first solo woman rapper in nearly two decades to do so. She’s also the first female rapper whose first three singles landed among the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Plus, her romance with Migos' Offset has made her one-half of rap's latest power couple.
The 27-year-old singer-songwriter SZA is up for five Grammy awards this year, including new artist and urban contemporary album for her debut studio album "Ctrl." Born Solána Rowe, she was the first female performer to sign with Top Dawg Entertainment, home to Kendrick Lamar. Her breakout single, "Love Galore,” went platinum and her songs were heard on Issa Rae’s HBO show “Insecure.”
Fonsi's crossover Latin track "Despacito" (featuring Daddy Yankee) became YouTube's most-watched video and was the consensus “song of the summer.” “Despacito” has already won four Latin Grammys, and will compete for three more Grammys on Jan. 28. If Fonsi and Daddy Yankee win for song of the year, “Despacito” would be the first Spanish-language song to win the honor.
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