Who to Watch: These Stars and Creatives Made 2023 Their Own

From the stars of 'The Bear' to the debut writer of 'May December', these 10 individuals were some of the biggest, brightest names in Hollywood this year.

The biggest names and brightest stars of film and TV in 2023 (Starting at top left) A24, Disney, A24, Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros., MGM and Amazon Studios, Chuck Hodes/FX

2023 has just about come and gone, but the movies and shows that came out this year are sure to stick in the cultural memory for quite some time. Though much of the year in show business was disrupted thanks to massive labor movements in Hollywood, keeping promotional opportunities and early awards campaigning to a minimum, these creatives staked their claim on the year in film and television. From undeniable on-screen stars to debut directors, 2023 has been massive for these 10 individuals, making them all ones to watch.

Sign Up For Our Daily Newsletter

By clicking submit, you agree to our <a rel="nofollow noreferer" href="http://observermedia.com/terms">terms of service</a> and acknowledge we may use your information to send you emails, product samples, and promotions on this website and other properties. You can opt out anytime.

See all of our newsletters
Ayo Edebiri as Sydney Adamu in The Bear. Frank Ockenfels/FX

Ayo Edebiri, star of The Bear and Bottoms

The Bear premiered about a year and a half ago, but between Emmy nominations for its first season and a stellar sophomore season, 2023 truly saw the show take off. Along for the ride on that stratospheric rise is star Ayo Edebiri, whose filmography from this year is something to behold. 

On the big screen, Edebiri led the fantastically funny Bottoms and turned in supporting and voice work on critically acclaimed films like Theater Camp, The Sweet East, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. As for her television success, she’s been Emmy, Golden Globe, and Critics Choice Award nominated for her work in The Bear, and she’s had parts on series like Abbott Elementary, History of the World, Part II and Black Mirror. Edebiri’s 2023 was all about quality and quantity, and few performers can claim the same kind of success within one year.

DP Menno Mans and writer/director Chloe Domont on the set of Fair Play. Sergej Radovic / Courtesy of Netflix

Chloe Domont, writer/director of Fair Play 

Not many movies can stick it out over the course of the year after a big Sundance premiere, but Chloe Domont’s Fair Play has held onto its hype. Domont is no stranger to the industry, nor to stories about manipulative financial power players; before her feature directorial debut, she spent plenty of time in TV, writing for Ballers and directing episodes of Suits and Billions

That experience maps directly onto Fair Play, which concerns a secretive relationship between two co-workers at a major hedge fund. When Emily, the girlfriend in the film, gets a promotion that her boyfriend was expecting instead, a thorny exploration of gender dynamics and corporate sexism ensues—along with some classic erotic thriller fare, thankfully updated from the genre’s more misogynistic entries of the ‘90s. Sexy and scathing, the movie was a critical standout at Sundance back in January, and it’s still circling the awards conversation all these months later.

Writer/director Cord Jefferson on the set of his film American Fiction. Claire Folger

Cord Jefferson, writer/director of American Fiction

It’s one thing for your feature directorial debut to be good, it’s another thing entirely for it to win the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. With American Fiction, writer and director Cord Jefferson has snagged a prize that’s gone to storied filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Kenneth Branagh, and Martin McDonagh—and it’s only his first movie.

Jefferson is hardly an amateur, with years of experience writing for some of television’s top shows under his belt (plus an Emmy and several major nominations). Clearly, though, he was just warming up with his work on Master of None, The Good Place, and Watchmen, because American Fiction is an instant classic. Observer’s review calls the movie singular, bittersweet, and biting, all while hailing Jefferson as a major cinematic voice. With one year and one film, he’s proven himself as one of the most exciting figures working in the industry today.

Greta Lee in Past Lives. Courtesy of A24

Greta Lee, star of Past Lives

Actress Greta Lee has been a familiar face on television thanks to stints on Girls, New Girl, and Russian Doll, but thanks to her memorable performance in Past Lives, she’s become a queen of the indie movie scene. As Nora, a woman who left South Korea (and her twin flame, Hae Sung) as a child only to reconnect with her past life via mid-’00s internet, Lee navigates an emotionally difficult story. It’s not a rom com nor a romantic drama; there’s no cliche love triangle or dramatic confession of feelings. Instead, it’s a quiet, moving film about how to juggle your past, present and future—and the complicated emotions you may have about all three.

Lee looks increasingly close to securing an Academy Award nomination for her work in the film, already having received nods from the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Awards, and the Independent Spirit Awards. She’s also got plenty of other laurels from this year, including a small voice part in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and a much-lauded supporting role in The Morning Show.

Jacob Elordi in Saltburn. Courtesy of MGM and Amazon Studios

Jacob Elordi, star of Priscilla and Saltburn

Euphoria has certainly kickstarted a fair share of careers, and while the likes of Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, and Sydney Sweeney have gone on to hit mainstream heights, Jacob Elordi set his sights on smaller projects this year. The Australian actor was not content to be known as a teen heartthrob, instead focusing on auteur-driven festival films. Most notably, he took on the tricky role of Elvis Presley in Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla—a challenge not only because the King is an American icon, but because Austin Butler played the man so spectacularly just one year ago. Elordi’s Elvis is different, taken off his pedestal and humanized in occasionally painful ways.

Elordi also played one of the more memorable parts in Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, creating comedy and pathos in his performance as Felix, a pretentious poor-little-rich-boy. Opposite stars like Barry Keoghan and Rosamund Pike, Elordi shines just as brightly. He’s proven himself quite adept at picking projects this year (he also played a bit role in The Sweet East), with movies and shows from Paul Schrader and Justin Kurzel coming in the near future.

Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto in Season 2 of The Bear. Chuck Hodes/FX

Jeremy Allen White, star of The Bear and The Iron Claw 

A show about a man returning home to run his family’s Chicago sandwich shop doesn’t sound like it would become appointment television, but The Bear has dominated the world of TV just the same as the high-rolling Succession and the zombie-laden The Last of Us. Much of that success comes from Jeremy Allen White’s Golden Globe-winning performance as Carmy, as troubled emotionally as he is talented gastronomically. 

Of course, that’s not the only dish that White has served this year. Still to come is his performance in A24’s The Iron Claw, an emotional drama about the Von Erichs family, who were pioneers of professional wrestling in the early ‘80s. The actor got beefier than one of the sandwiches he’d make on The Bear for his role as one of the family’s prodigal sons, but his obvious on-screen talent tells you that you’re sure to witness a transformation that’s as emotional as it is physical.

Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and Margot Robbie on set during the making of Barbie. Jaap Buitendijk

Margot Robbie, producer of Barbie

Okay, yes, we all definitely knew who Margot Robbie the very famous actress was before 2023—but this year, she really showed her stuff as one of Hollywood’s smartest and hardest working producers. Though Greta Gerwig helmed Barbie and brought the dollhouse to life, the writer-director wouldn’t have been involved without Robbie’s insistence and keen eye for what would work. While her work on-screen may seem flashier, Robbie’s behind-the-scenes know-how was integral to Barbie becoming one of this year’s best movies (and its highest grossing). She even embraced the “Barbenheimer” of it all, recently admitting that she played a part in ensuring the two movies would have the same release date.

Robbie is no newbie when it comes to producing, having co-produced hits like I, Tonya, Promising Young Woman, and Maid through her company, LuckyChap Entertainment. She also a producer on the steamy, saucy Saltburn, stamping her name on a second awards contender this year.

Writer Samy Burch at the Los Angeles premiere of May December. Photo by Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images

Samy Burch, writer of May December

May December walks an impossible moral tightrope throughout its runtime, and while that’s due in part to Todd Haynes affinity for discomfiture, debut screenwriter Samy Burch can take plenty of credit for that compelling complexity. Her script handles a situation that could very easily give way to sensationalism, focusing on a Mary Kay Letourneau-adjacent relationship 20 years after it began. In a genius move, Burch throws an added wrench into the mix of this deeply uncomfortable story: an actress set to play the perpetrator in an upcoming indie arrives to do research, upsetting an already precarious balance. It’s an difficult story to get right, but Burch does that and then some.

The screenwriter also made headlines with her second script, Coyote vs. Acme, a film that was the subject of controversy when Warner Bros. Discovery suddenly shelved it for tax purposes. Creatives across the industry united to praise the movie and ask for its release, leading to Warner deciding to let the filmmakers shop it around to other studios. It’s a much-anticipated release, and Burch has fast become a much-anticipated writer.

Sandra Hüller stars in The Zone of Interest. Courtesy of A24

Sandra Hüller, star of Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest 

Sandra Hüller, a well-known German actress in the European film scene thanks to Toni Erdmann, truly broke out onto the world stage at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The actress stars in both the Palme d’Or-winning Anatomy of a Fall and the Grand Prix-winning The Zone of Interest, a massive feat of prestige. Both films are big awards contenders, but Hüller’s characters and performances couldn’t be more different.

In the riveting courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall, she plays a writer suspected of killing her husband. Hüller toes the line between innocence and guilt masterfully, as the film deals in the inevitable gray areas of messy marriages. With long stretches of dialogue (across multiple languages, no less), she’s a massive part of why the movie works so well. As for The Zone of Interest, she takes on the role of an esteemed and accomplished Nazi officer’s wife who’s beyond thrilled with the life that their family has built—directly next to Auschwitz. In a breathtakingly brutal film, Hüller represents the banality of evil in a profound and stomach-churning way.

Teyonah Parris in The Marvels. ©Disney

Teyonah Parris, star of They Cloned Tyrone and The Marvels

With multiple wickedly fun movies under her belt this year, Teyonah Parris was a standout for lovers of sci-fi and superheroes. While she debuted as Monica Rambeau in WandaVision, she brought the character to the big screen in The Marvels. Along with her fellow leads Brie Larson and Iman Vellani, Parris has been hailed as an magnetically likable on-screen presence, and the trio’s chemistry drives the movie. 

On the less high-budget end, Parris also starred in Netflix’s blaxploitation satire They Cloned Tyrone. The movie itself is fun and cool and smart, and her performance is key to that perfectly controlled chaos. Once again, she’s part of a trio (this time flanked by Jamie Foxx and John Boyega), and her ensemble work is sublime. Whether she’s flying around in a supersuit or solving mysteries in a stunning mustard yellow shrug, she’s a scene stealer with an affinity for fun genre fare. 

Who to Watch: These Stars and Creatives Made 2023 Their Own