When we look back at the year in movies, we're faced with a number of high-profile disappointments. Remember 'Prince of Persia,' 'Knight and Day' or 'Clash of the Titans'? Us neither.

But despite lukewarm enthusiasm at the box office, 2010 wasn't all bad.

The past 12 months have brought us some of the best animated fare in recent history, with 'Toy Story 3' and 'How to Train Your Dragon' enthralling audiences of all ages, while our digital age and all its eccentricities were placed under a microscope like never before with the release of two equally compelling "Facebook" movies, 'The Social Network' and 'Catfish.'

But even more importantly, 2010 gave us 'Inception,' and with it, Christopher Nolan gave us the gift that keeps on giving: Tom Hardy.

'Inception' was a masterful, visual tour de force from Nolan and his entire cast (and if we were to give a runner-up prize for breakout star, we're fairly sure that co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt would've been a shoo-in too), but when considering actors who have made the greatest impact over the past 365 days, it's hard to hone in on anyone but Hardy, whose career has gone from zero to 60 in the time it takes to utter one immortal line: "You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling."

The talented thespian has been steadily working his way up the food chain in his native Britain for the better part of a decade, turning scene-stealing into an art form in everything from Guy Ritchie's 'RocknRolla' to TV adaptations of 'Oliver Twist,' 'The Virgin Queen' and 'Wuthering Heights,' but it wasn't until Nolan's 'Inception' came along that international audiences started to take notice.

After his star turn as the suave, sardonic forger Eames in the big budget brain-teaser, Hardy went from sixth billing to being Hollywood's hottest commodity, and now it seems as though your movie just isn't cool unless Hardy's in negotiations for a role.

'Inception' Trailer

In the past three months alone, the handsome 33-year-old has been linked to 'The Dark Knight Rises,' 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,' 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,' 'Snow White and the Huntsman' and a 'Total Recall' remake, all while filming 'This Means War' (pictured) with Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine, and with the titular role in a 'Mad Max' reboot still lined up for next year. As recently as Wednesday, the rumor mill started churning again, linking Hardy and Shia LaBeouf with 'The Wettest Country in the World'.

But we wouldn't bestow such an illustrious title as Moviefone's Breakout Star of 2010 on someone undeserving of its glory -- Hardy might be in demand, but we think it's rightfully so.

Hard-working Hardy comes across as genuinely modest in interviews -- which makes a refreshing change from some ego-driven attitudes in Hollywood -- but he also has the talent to back up his success.

Those who've witnessed the actor's metamorphosis from a violent, muscle-bound psychopath in 'Bronson' to an emaciated man afflicted with muscular dystrophy in 'Stuart: A Life Backwards' can attest that Hardy thoroughly immerses himself in his roles, seemingly set to follow in the footsteps of some of our finest method actors, such as Daniel Day-Lewis, Johnny Depp and Christian Bale (who will soon star opposite Hardy in 'The Dark Knight Rises').

And while other 2010 breakouts such as 'Kick-Ass' star Aaron Johnson and soon-to-be 'Spider-Man' Andrew Garfield might boast more than one attention-grabbing role this year, none have yet succeeded in capturing public attention (not to mention the miles of column inches speculating his next career move) quite as decisively as Hardy, who not only managed to eclipse some of the brighter stars surrounding him in 'Inception,' but also managed to become The Next Big Thing without even headlining The Last Big Thing.

Could all this fanfare be premature? Sure; after 'Avatar,' it seemed as though every magazine, website and entertainment show in the world was singing Sam Worthington's praises ... and then he went and made 'Clash of the Titans.' Hardy is definitely not immune from making a similar career misstep.

It remains to be seen whether 'This Means War' will be more 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith' or 'Killers,' but with Nolan supposedly banking on Hardy's talent to create a worthy successor to Heath Ledger's Joker and become Batman's newest nemesis, not to mention every noteworthy movie in production currently courting his skills, we're not afraid to dream a lot bigger for our breakout star of 2010 -- we have a feeling that he'll be stealing his way into our subconscious for many years to come.

Do you agree with our choice for Hardy as Breakout Star of 2010? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA.
CATEGORIES Features, Hot Topic