The equation for breakthrough star is quite simple: one part charisma, two parts talent and just a whole lot of luck. (Well, our formula might not be precise but you get the picture.) And the breakout performer must connect with an audience with a role that leaps off the screen.

2009 was a great year for breakout stars; here's our list of actors for whom 2009 will be just the beginning of a long, fruitful career.


The equation for breakthrough star is quite simple: one part charisma, two parts talent and just a whole lot of luck. (Well, our formula might not be precise but you get the picture.) And the breakout performer must connect with an audience with a role that leaps off the screen.

2009 was a great year for breakout stars; here's our list of actors for whom 2009 will be just the beginning of a long, fruitful career.


10. Sharlto Copley
Making his feature film debut as the prawn-wrangler Wikus Van De Merwe in the sci-fi, sleeper-hit of the summer 'District 9,' South African-born Sharlto Copley proves a truly gifted action-comedian while dealing with the most absurd, Kafkaesque transformation. In his absolute commitment to character, Copley brings this outlandish predicament to life with such humorous desperation and unease, it feels shockingly real.
Next Up: The role of Captain Murdock in the cinematic reworking of the '70s TV staple 'The A-Team.'


9. Jeremy Renner
Largely known as a supporting player in TV and features throughout the past decade, Jeremy Renner literally exploded onto the scene this year as a bomb-defusing sergeant in Kathryn Bigelow's gritty, heart-stopper 'The Hurt Locker.' Renner's stoic yet devastating performance has lifted this once-benchwarmer into the big leagues. We're not the only big fans of Renner's star-making turn; the National Board of Review just handed him the nod for breakthrough male performer of the year.
Next Up: Starring in Ben Affleck's sophomore directorial effort 'The Town.'


8. Zoe Saldana
You might recognize the stunning actress Zoe Saldana -- star of this year's mega-blockbuster 'Star Trek' and James Cameron's hotly anticipated 'Avatar' -- but you soon won't forget her name. Initially making her film debut as a hard-working ballerina in 2000's 'Center Stage,' Saldana utterly dazzles as the headstrong Uhura in J.J. Abrams's modern reboot of the sci-fi cult classic. Saldana has a great energy on the screen, which is further bolstered by her out-of-this-world looks.
Next Up: Cameron's 3D intergalactic epic 'Avatar' and the 2010-slated heist film 'Takers.'


7. Anna Kendrick
Anna Kendrick has a lot going for her. She co-stars in that hit film series 'Twilight,' and just snagged a National Board of Review prize for her naively overconfident, quick-witted turn as a newbie firing-agent in Jason Reitman's 'Up in the Air.' At only 24, Kendrick has proved to be a mighty talent in both comedy and drama, garnering a heap of Oscar buzz going toe-to-toe with George Clooney in 'Air.'
Next Up: Edgar Wright's 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' and, of course, reprising her role as Jessica in 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.'


6. Chris Pine
Alongside Saldana, the heartily charismatic Chris Pine boldly goes where no man has gone before in Abrams' 2009 hit 'Star Trek.' Stepping into what many would consider an iconic role, Pine undeniably surprises as the stubbornly courageous, and handsome, Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise. Having only co-starred in a handful or so of feature film roles before taking on 'Trek,' Pine fills William Shatner's shoes quite handily, and that's no easy task. (Trust me, no one wants to face the wrath of a Trekkie.)
Next up: Starring opposite Denzel Washington in Tony Scott's 'Unstoppable.'


5. Sam Worthington
Anchoring both McG's blockbuster-sequel 'Terminator: Salvation' and the upcoming 'Avatar,' the ridiculously swoon-worthy Australian Sam Worthington is clearly having a great year. In his breakthrough role as the cyborg-with-a-heart Marcus Wright, Worthington manages to overshadow Christian Bale and utterly humanizes the nuts-and-bolts character. Worthington is not just a pretty face, he has a great cinematic presence, clearly one that commands much more dramatic work than just action fluff.
Next Up: The mythic role of Perseus in another mega blockbuster-in-waiting, the remake of 'Clash of the Titans.'


4. Carey Mulligan
Oozing endless charm in her break-out performance in this year's Sundance hit 'An Education,' British actress Carey Mulligan has tinsel town talking Oscar. It's all due to her wonderfully nuanced performance. With the recent best actress honor bestowed upon her by the National Board of Review, Mulligan lands the enviable role of front-runner. Her film debut may have been somewhat innocuous as Keira Knightley's younger sibling in 'Pride & Prejudice,' but Mulligan's mature handling of such a tricky part in 'An Education' has landed her on the A-list of talented British actresses
Next Up: Reteaming with Knightley for 2010's 'Never Let Me Go' as well as Oliver Stone's 'Wall Street 2'


3. Zach Galfianakis
At 40, Zach Galfianakis is quite a known commodity in the comedy and YouTube world, but it wasn't until his breakthrough performance as the awkwardly zany, baby-strapped Alan in 'The Hangover' that he was introduced to a mainstream film audience. Honing his routine for years in the comedy circuit, Galfianakis's unique brand of uncomfortable humor perfectly suits the film's off-kilter sense of comedy. Galfianakis may be the unlikeliest person on the list, but his boundless gifts as a comedy specialist place him tightly snug in the top three.
Next Up: The action-thriller 'Rogue's Gallery' and co-starring with Steve Carell in 2010's 'Dinner for Schmucks.'


2. Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe
Since someone had to take the unenviable position of number 2, it seemed fitting to give it to Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe, whose fearless performance as the down-and-out, struggling -- yet still hopeful -- Clareece 'Precious' Jones continues to amaze long after her celebrated Sundance premiere of 'Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.' Sidibe is unquestionably spellbinding in the role, and snagged a National Board of Review for breakthrough performance. Clearly, our decision to place Sidibe near the top of the list was an easy one; her positively devastating debut is one of the most moving portrayals we've seen in years.
Next Up: The family drama 'Yelling to the Sky.'


1. Taylor Lautner
Royally buffing up as the shapeshifting werewolf Jacob Black in the sequel 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon,' Taylor Lautner redefines teenage hunk in his breakout role. Graduating from Bella's long-haired admirer in the first film, Lautner is able to flex his muscles, quite literally, with a much larger, brooding part in the second vampire flick. There is a reason why Taylor beat out the rest of the notable names on this list for the top spot: sheer box office brawn. The Twihards have spoken: Team Jacob all the way -- well, for now at least.
Next Up: Reprising his role as Jacob Black in 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.'