It was a big year for our state’s Hollywood exports—especially if you expand the definition of “Texan” to include anyone who lives here, was born here, or had a house here when they were on Friday Night Lights (Texas forever, Six!). The biggest movie of the year had two Texans in key roles, one of our more enigmatic actors finally had a part in which he truly shined, and a superstar stayed a superstar. It was a good year, but who ended up on top? To properly assess the year, it’s time to bust out the power ranking.
Michael B. Jordan
Jordan, who won our hearts as Vince Howard on Friday Night Lights (and who reportedly still spends time in Austin), wouldn’t just top a list of Texans. After giving the super villain performance of a lifetime in Black Panther and recapturing lightning in a bottle with Creed 2, he might be the biggest star on the planet. In 2019 he’ll be partnering with Austin-based animation studio Rooster Teeth for the forthcoming Gen:Lock and taking on Oscar bait with the death row drama Just Mercy.
Ethan Hawke’s career has been up and down since he emerged as a star in the mid-nineties, but 2018 is certainly a peak. His directorial feature, Blaze, was a critical hit, and his lead role in First Reformed was the rare summer performance that garnered Oscar buzz. Hawke seems poised for a McConaughey-esque renaissance. The Hawkaissance?
Bullock’s 2018 has been relatively quiet: she only resurrected the dormant Ocean’s 11 franchise simply by deciding that she was interested in appearing in a sequel—scoring a smash hit and creating seven exciting roles for other actresses in the process—and then closed out the year by teaming up with Susanne Bier, one of the greatest living directors, for the Netflix thriller Bird Box.
Heard’s uneven career leveled out by costarring in Aquaman, which grossed $264 million before it even opened in the U.S. Aquaman defied critical expectations for a Warner Bros. superhero movie, thanks largely to Heard’s performance as Atlantean queen Mera.
There are few performers more reliable than Woody Harrelson, and he proved that once more in 2018 with supporting roles in Solo: A Star Wars Story and Venom, as well as a lead turn in the Gulf War journalism procedural Shock and Awe.
The University of Texas at Austin alum dazzled in his breakthrough role in 2016 best picture winner Moonlight and followed it up with a swerve into action movies, the winter Afghanistan war picture 12 Strong and the underwhelming fall blockbuster The Predator, as well as costarring with Bullock in Bird Box. The expansion into new genres suggests that Rhodes is built for any kind of career he wants to have.
After nearly a decade of being ignored by seemingly everyone in Hollywood except Robert Rodriguez and the Fast & Furious producers, Rodriguez got a chance to shine in Steve McQueen’s criminally underrated Widows. Next, she teams up (again) with Rodriguez for the high-profile blockbuster Alita: Battle Angel in February.
Whitaker regularly proves that he’s one of the steadiest screen presences working in both indies and blockbusters. This year, he affirmed that with a strong supporting role in Black Panther and an appearance in the mind-expanding sci-fi hit Sorry to Bother You.
He’ll always be Coach Taylor to us, but Chandler played both against type—as the fast-talking hustler Brooks in the winter comedy Game Night—and very much into his comfort zone as NASA chief Deke Slayton in First Man.
Rashad is one of Hollywood’s most underutilized talents, but what she accomplishes with just the occasional glance toward a boxing ring in Creed 2 allows entire emotional arcs to play out onscreen without a single word being spoken. Give her more to do and she could top any list.
Garner, who was born in Houston, gave a strong supporting performance in the well-received teen rom-com Love, Simon and was almost—but not quite—enough to make it worth sitting through the dour vigilante thriller Peppermint.
There’s a time for even the richest talents, a group into which Foxx surely fits, to indulge in over-the-top excess occasionally, and Foxx’s turn as Little John in the so-bad-it’s-actually-good Robin Hood definitely qualifies.
Hollywood hasn’t quite figured out what to do with Gomez, but her voice keeps popping up in Hotel Transylvania to remind us that she’s out there.
Tommy Lee Jones
Jones had a quiet year, appearing alongside Harrelson as part of the ensemble in Shock and Awe . . . and that was about it. We’re sure the next time someone needs a stern, authoritative, avuncular screen presence, we’ll see him in a larger role and a bigger film once again.
McConaughey was fine in White Boy Rick but didn’t appear in anything else, and with every passing year, the McConaissance seems further and further in the past.