FearlessRiOT’s Year-End Top 10: Favorite Actresses of 2016

#10. Emily Blunt10

Mary Poppins was one of my favorite films of my childhood; it’s one of those brilliant pieces of cinema that taught me never to limit my imagination just as much as it did get me on my feet to dance to its magnificently grand musical numbers. So I should feel insulted that Disney has decided to give it a new millennium sequel decades after the original, as I usually am whenever I hear that they’re giving one of their animated sequels a live action remake. In a shocking turn of events, however, I’m kind of on-board with the remake of the magical nanny’s big screen romp because of whose set to play her. I probably haven’t mentioned it often, but Emily Blunt, who I was first exposed to via the Oscar-nominated The Devil Wears Prada, is an actress who has always intrigued me, even if her movies often haven’t. I loved 2014’s Into the Woods, for example, but this year saw her show an icy performance in the disappointing The Huntsman: Winter’s War and the better received The Girl on the Train. She’s a strong actress and if anyone could introduce Mary Poppins to a new actress, let it be this English slice of awesome.

#9. Ming-Na Wen9

I want to like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Marvel has been on a role since launching the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that includes in the television properties. Jessica Jones was one of my favorite shows of 2015 and Daredevil has received high praise from critics and fans alike. But Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a show I go back and forth on whether or not I should tune in to it. In all honesty, if anything keeps me remotely interested in this show, it would be the actress behind Agent Melinda May, Ming-Na Wen. She already has eternal cool points with me for voicing my favorite heroine in the entire Disney animated movies canon, and keeping up her resume as one of the toughest people in S.H.I.E.L.D. Despite this, I heard rumblings that her character was going to be killed off this season. Oh, Nick wouldn’t like that decision. Sadly, she did die…..but was luckily brought back to life. They Dragon Ball Z’d her. But hey, the fact that the character I’m most invested in is still around means I may start watching more often, in awe of how amazing Ming-Na Wen truly is.

#8. Taraji P. Henson8

Can we just appreciate how much Taraji P. Henson has done in film over the last decade or so? The first movie I ever saw her in was Hustle & Flow with Terrence Howard, and that was in 2005. It is now 2016 and Henson is easily in the prime of her career. She started the year winning her very first Golden Globe, celebrating by passing out cookies like it was a Friday in kindergarten and not letting anyone shorten the moment she’s been waiting for due to time constraints. The Cookie Lyon character continues to be one of the most entertaining characters on Empire, and even though she doesn’t come across as the most evil and villainous person on it (that’s Luscious in a landslide), she is still ruthless and not to be messed with. But on the big screen, she took a different – albeit still pretty empowering – turn as a scientist in the film Hidden Figures alongside Janelle Monae (who is apparently an actress now because nothing will hold the Arch-Android down) and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer.

#7. Kate McKinnon7

Even after 40 years on the air, Saturday Night Live is still kind of must-see television. Even the president-elect watches SNL; that’s how he’s able to complain about SNL making his incompetence the butt of their Alec Baldwin-assisted jokes lately. Despite this, when was the last time they produced an honest-to-God movie star? Even Kristen Wiig hasn’t swung many W’s on the big screen since she left the show. Take Ghostbusters, for example; a controversial film in that while ending up only an average product in the end, drew outrage from sexist trolls and defense from soldiers of feminism leading up to its release. The one thing I remember most people praising was the performance of Kate McKinnon, which is no surprise because if you have been watching SNL lately, you’ll know she’s one of the best things about it. I don’t know if this means she’ll have big screen dollar signs after she departs, but as long as she’s able to give hilarious comedic performances on SNL, including her spot-on Hillary Clinton, she’ll always shine live from New York.

#6. Sabrina Carpenter6

The youngest person on this list at the age of 17, Sabrina Carpenter probably shouldn’t be on this list since her most high profile role of the last number of years has been as the best friend – not even the lead role – of Disney Channel spinoff series Girl Meets World, a show that has its moments, but can’t seem to escape it’s after school special feel. But I will praise Carpenter if I damn please because to be perfectly honest, she does deserve it as one of the modern Disney Channel stars these days whose talent is worth keeping your eyes on. Not only has she dropped two albums of underrated pop music into our laps, but she’s one of the pieces of the Girl Meets World puzzle that is admittedly pretty strong. Character development and charisma make for an interesting combination. She was also in Adventures in Babysitting with another young starlet coming up on the countdown, playing more of a stick in a mud kind of authority.

#5. Viola Davis5

The curious case of Suicide Squad, one of the most negatively received films of the year despite its brilliant, enticing marketing campaign. All of the characters had potential to be something great adapted to screen, but the incompetence in the material they were given just didn’t resonate with audiences for the most part. I say “for the most part” because two female performers in-particular did received some level of praise and they’ve both made the top five of this list. Viola Davis is no stranger to elevating average material; all you need to do is see her in the dramatic portions of Madea Goes to Jail to see that. So if anyone could make it out of the Suicide Squad mess completely unscathed, it’s her. And she did, playing a character who wasn’t exactly perfect seeing as her plan was way too overly-complicated for its own good, but she did it with such an authoritative presence that she’d end up one of the most memorable parts of the movie by default. She also joined acting legend Denzel Washington in the film adaptation of Fences and is still on the Shonda-land roster with How to Get Away With Murder. It sure is awesome when a great actress becomes so in-demand and retains all the talent we love her for to begin with.

#4. Sofia Carson4

Before last year, the only Evie I ever had to think about was a wrestler from New Zealand who (BREAKING NEWS!) will be heading to NXT very, very soon. But then Descendants came along, and a blue-haired princess joined the fold, played by previous Austin & Ally guest star Sofia Carson. The role was the breakthrough that the gorgeous Latina needed, and it landed her even more roles, albeit roles that would make her more “teen magazine famous” than anything. In between dropping one of the catchiest pop jams of the entire year, she found time to film one other Disney Channel movie and another Cinderella film that no one really asked for. In Adventures in Babysitting, she played a carefree art enthusiast who lies about her babysitting credentials to get some money and everything goes awry. In Another Cinderella Story: If The Shoe Fits, she plays…..Cinderella. If you’ve seen the versions with Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez, and Lucy Hale, you know how these movies go. But still, she was entertaining enough in the former film that she was granted entry onto the list.

#3. Eve Torres-Gracie3

Wrestlers heading to the big screen are nothing new; last year, John Cena’s big screen career began to take off after his hilarious appearance in Trainwreck, and The Rock has been at it since the early 2000s, but I’ll get to him on the Actors list. However, usually when the women of the squared circle decide to have a go at the cinema, the results aren’t all that stellar. Whether it was Trish Stratus’ B-movie Bounty Hunter (though it was fun to watch her fight scenes) or Sable in Corky Romano, it seems like the female wrestler-turned-actors are doomed to fail, and I’m not saying all of Eve Torres-Gracie’s projects have been great, but she manages to make quite an impression in whatever she’s in. Check out The Scorpion King 4 for example, or her two acting appearances from this year. After briefly taking on Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl in Season One, she stood toe-to-toe with Jackie Chan in Skiptrace. Maybe the 3-time former WWE Divas Champion could be the one to break the women’s wrestler-turned-actress curse and become a big screen star.

#2. Margot Robbie2

How many people dressed up as Harley Quinn for Halloween this year? Only rapper Trina, models Barbie Blank and Bregje Heinen, and more than a handful of non-celebs. It was like a Harley Army was forming and anyone who didn’t join along had no choice but to deal with it. It should be weird that a character from a largely mocked and disappointing film caught on with so many people, but this case was different. Not only was Harley Quinn an established and beloved character from comic book and 90’s cartoon lore, but the actress they got to play her was easily one of the highlights of the film. Margot Robbie, previously most famous for playing the apple to Jordan Belfort’s eye in the chaotic The Wolf of Wall Street, MADE Harley Quinn with this movie; sure, it’s another movie where she has to swap out her Australian accent for a New York one, but pretty much every aspect of Harley Quinn’s personality were embodied by the blonde beauty. Sadly, Karen Fukuhara got the short end of the stick as Katana had promise, but was largely given nothing, and Viola Davis did fine as Amanda Waller, as previously mentioned. But Robbie as Quinn is easily the aspect of this film most will leave the theatre remembering…well, aside from Jared Leto’s Joker, but albeit for completely different reasons. By the way, she was also in Legend of Tarzan and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, but you’d be forgiven if Harley made you forget that.

#1. Dove Cameron1

I almost feel like bragging about the fact that I knew what Dove Cameron was capable of before she joined the cast of NBC’s Hairspray Live. Luckily, this one time I plan to remain humble; this is all about the 20-year old blonde whose acting career was actually building up before she joined the Disney Channel sitcom Liv & Maddie. She already had acting credits on TV shows like The Mentalist, something called Malibu Country, and Shameless, the latter of which became kind of famous for being kind of revealing. Of course she’ll never get this risqué on Liv & Maddie, especially not with the show ending in 2017, Cali Style serving as the fourth and final season for the show. But as mentioned earlier, she joined her Descendants mom Kristen Chenoweth in another role that saw them take on a mother-daughter portrayal. She joined the ranks of Brittany Snow and Vitamin C (yes, the “Graduation” singer, believe it or not) on the list of actresses who portrayed Amber Von Tussle in an on-screen version of Hairspray. Wouldn’t you know it? Her performance was highly praised, even moreso than the performance of pop megastar Ariana Grande. And though she’s not completely done with Disney yet, with Descendants 2 coming in 2017, once she leaves the network, her career will only rise.

Honorable Mentions:

+ Ginnifer Goodwin – So while I’m way behind on my Once Upon A Time viewing, I did watch and was mesmerized by her sole film project of the year, Zootopia. She knocked it out the park as Judy Hopps, the small rabbit with the never-say-die attitude.

+ Danielle Brooks – I never did get around to seeing the Orange is the New Black finale (i was spoiled one who died, however), but I did watch a few episodes of the latest season. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be this lovely, positive role model.

+ Chloë Grace Moretz – This one may draw a few groans; her feud with the Kardashians has caused many to antagonize her as an annoying, irrelevant, hypocritical prude. I’m not one of those people, and I will give her credit for her performances in The 5th Wave and Neighbors 2.

+ Jessica Chastain – Aside from The Huntsman: Winters War, I feeling like Jessica Chastain always shows up in Oscar fodder, from The Help to Zero Dark Thirty to Interstellar to Miss Sloane. But maybe if we’re lucky, either her or pro wrestler Taeler Hendrix will be Poison Ivy in the upcoming Gotham City Sirens movie, instead of, say, Megan Fox.

+ Christina Hendricks – Mainly here because with her appearances on Comedy Central’s Another Period, the former Mad Men star surprised me by being pretty good at comedy. Now if only she appeared in better comedies; Bad Santa 2 and Zoolander 2 aren’t cutting it.

+ Melissa Benoist – There’s a number of reasons to watch SuperGirl; the storytelling, the humor, the relatability, the chances of Eve Torres showing up as Maxima again. And of course, the actress playing the titular character. She really is a lot of fun to watch.

+ Lupita Nyong’o – Nyong’o, who’s often praised as a goddess, is really starting to appear in more voiceover roles (specifically for Disney) where she doesn’t appear on-camera, like in this year’s The Jungle Book and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But we did get to see her in all her glistening glory by way of another Disney film, Queen of Katwe.

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