Best projects: Atonement (2007), The Way Back (2010), Hanna (2011)
It’s been no mystery that Saoirse Ronan can act her ass off. Back in 2007, the young Irish performer earned an Academy Award nomination at the wee age of 12 for her work in the period drama Atonement, signaling the arrival of a formidable little actress.
It wasn’t until last year’s singular action gem Hanna, though, that we learned just how well-rounded Ronan is in front of the camera. Playing the titular teenage assassin-in-training gone rogue, the small yet imposing Ronan throws kicks and punches like a champion prize fighter and sells each of the mentally conflicted character’s emotions with dramatic weight—it’s a seesaw act worthy of comparison to Matt Damon in those Bourne flicks.