It was tough picking 10 breakout stars compared to years past, highlighting the continuing fracturing of the media entertainment landscape and how much tougher it is to capture everyone’s attention as a performer. But what stars lack in zeitgeist-smashing power these days has been made up with diversity and more complex roles, and the following actors have risen to that occasion this year and appear primed to continue into the future. Who would you add to the list?

Saturday Night Live celebrates the premiere of its 40th season this weekend, and to celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of critically-acclaimed films featuring SNL alums. The movies listed here aren’t necessarily the best or the best-reviewed movies from these stars; rather, we wanted to give a sense of the range and versatility of the not-ready-for-primetime players. Featuring those who rose to prominence during their time on the show (Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Kristin Wiig) and a few you may have forgotten about (Robert Downey Jr., Julia Louis-Dreyfus), our list is a testament to SNL‘s continuing relevance as an incubator for some of the entertainment world’s brightest talents.


Adventureland
89%

Full of humor and nostalgia, and featuring wry supporting turns by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, Adventureland is a sweet, insightful coming-of-age comedy that will resonate with teens and adults alike.


Best in Show
93%

A fine example of writer-director-star Christopher Guest’s gift for improv comedy, Best in Show boasts an appealingly quirky premise and a brilliantly talented cast.


Bridesmaids
90%

A marriage of genuine characters, gross out gags, and pathos, Bridesmaids is a female-driven comedy features star-making performances from Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph.


City Slickers
90%

With a supremely talented cast (led by Billy Crystal) and just enough midlife drama to add weight to its wildly silly overtones, City Slickers uses universal themes to earn big laughs.


Elf
85%

A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell’s funny and charming performance as one of Santa’s biggest helpers.


Enough Said
95%

Wryly charming, impeccably acted, and ultimately quite bittersweet, Enough Said is a grown-up movie in the best possible way, and it offers a chance to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus play an intriguingly complex character.


48 Hrs.
93%

Marking an auspicious feature film debut for Eddie Murphy, 48 Hrs. is a briskly paced action comedy that succeeds largely due to the outstanding chemistry between its two leads.


Ghostbusters
97%

An infectiously fun blend of special effects and comedy, Ghostbusters derives many of its biggest laughs from Bill Murray’s hilarious deadpan wit and Dan Aykroyd’s enthusiastic geekiness.


God Said, Ha!
86%

God Said, Ha! plumbs poignant depths, but Julia Sweeney’s sharp, graceful wit makes this one-woman monologue a wise, big-hearted burst of uplifting — and perhaps therapeutic — entertainment.


Good Hair
95%

Funny, informative, and occasionally sad, Chris Rock’s Good Hair is a provocative look at the complex relationship between African Americans and their hair.


Groundhog Day
96%

Smart, sweet, and inventive, Groundhog Day highlights Bill Murray’s dramatic gifts while still leaving plenty of room for laughs.


Innerspace
82%

A manic, overstuffed blend of sci-fi, comedy, and romance, Innerspace nonetheless charms, thanks to Martin Short’s fine performance and the insistent zaniness of the plot.


Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
86%

Tongue-in-cheek satire blends well with entertaining action and a spot-on comic performance from Robert Downey Jr. in this dark, eccentric film noir homage.


Mean Girls
84%

Sharper and darker than the average teen comedy, Mean Girls benefits from refreshing honesty and a terrific cast that includes Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Tim Meadows.


National Lampoon’s Animal House
90%

The talents of director John Landis and Saturday Night Live‘s irrepressible John Belushi conspired to create a rambunctious, subversive college comedy that continues to resonate.


National Lampoon’s Vacation
93%

Blessed by a brilliantly befuddled star turn from Chevy Chase (as well as strong supporting work from Randy Quaid and a young Anthony Michael Hall), National Lampoon’s Vacation is one of the more consistent — and thoroughly quotable — screwball comedies of the 1980s.


Nebraska
91%

Elegant in its simplicity and poetic in its message, Nebraska is boosted by a poignant, bittersweet dramatic performance by Will Forte.


Obvious Child
90%

Tackling a sensitive subject with maturity, honesty, and wit, Obvious Child serves as both a showcase for Jenny Slate and a promising debut for writer-director Gillian Robespierre.


Punch-Drunk Love
79%

Odd, touching, and unique, Punch-Drunk Love is also delightfully funny, utilizing Adam Sandler’s comic persona to explore the life of a lonely guy who finds love.


School of Rock
92%

Full of high spirits and loads of heart School of Rock into a hilarious, rocking good time, thanks in part to sharp supporting work from Joan Cusack and Sarah Silverman.


Shrek 2
89%

Topical humor and exuberant vocal performances from Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy help to make Shrek 2 a funny, smart animated tale for audiences of all ages.


The Skeleton Twins
86%

Led by powerful performances from Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins effectively mines laughs and tears from family drama.


This Is Spinal Tap
95%

Smartly directed, brilliantly acted, and packed with endlessly quotable moments, This Is Spinal Tap is an all-time comedy classic, and represents a high water mark for stars Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer.


Trading Places
88%

Featuring deft interplay between Eddie Murphy and Dan Dan Aykroyd, Trading Places is an immensely appealing social satire.


The Truth About Cats and Dogs
85%

Sharp, witty, and charming, The Truth About Cats and Dogs features a standout performance from Janeane Garofalo.


Wayne’s World
78%

An oddball comedy that revels in its silliness and memorable catch phrases, Wayne’s World is also fondly regarded because of its endearing leads — played with infectious goofiness by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey.


Whip It
84%

Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut has enough charm, energy, and good-natured humor to transcend its many cliches — and it features fine supporting performances by Kristen Wiig and Jimmy Fallon.

This week, we learn that Chris Pratt will host SNL, Terry Crews will give directions on Waze, Gilmore Girls will head to Netflix, George Clooney will visit Downton, and Nurse Jackie will retire.

Chris Pratt will host the season premiere of Saturday Night Live.

As the box office numbers for Guardians of the Galaxy continue to rocket higher and higher, Chris Pratt‘s stock continues to rise as well. This week, NBC announced that Pratt will host the premiere of the 40th season of Saturday Night Live, airing Sept. 27. Pratt, who showed off his comedy chops on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, will be joined by musical guest Ariana Grande, a singer whose 2014 song “Problem” was the fourth largest single debut by a woman in history. NBC will celebrate the 40th anniversary of SNL with a three-hour special scheduled for Feb. 15 of next year.

All seven seasons of Gilmore Girls are coming to Netflix.

According to the entertainment website Decider.com, all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls will be available on Netflix, starting Oct. 1. For the uninitiated, that’s 153 episodes of Gilmore Girls. The series aired on The WB and eventually The CW from 2000 to 2007, and starred Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel — and also introduced us to Melissa McCarthy, who played Lorelai Gilmore’s best friend, Sookie St. James. All seasons of Gilmore Girls are also available on iTunes and DVD.

George Clooney will star in a Downton-themed short film.

Hold onto your exquisite hats. George Clooney is coming to Downton Abbey in a short film for charity, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. The short Downton-related film will air during the holiday season on ITV, the British home for Downton Abbey. Clooney, whose character is still unknown, is doing the project as part of the “Text Santa” campaign, ITV’s annual fundraiser that raises money for six U.K. charities. ITV will premiere season five of Downton later this month. We’ll see it here across the pond on PBS Jan. 4, 2015.

Nurse Jackie is retiring.

Nurse Jackie‘s seventh season, which begins production this week, will be its last. Showtime made the announcement on Wednesday, tweeting: “#NurseJackie is working one last shift! Join us in celebrating and bidding farewell to the 7th & FINAL season in 2015.” While the Emmys have continued to acknowledge Jackie throughout its run (and especially star Edie Falco), the show has dropped off the radars of viewers and critics alike, many of whom say it got a little too “been there, snorted that” in its most recent season.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Terry Crews will voice the Waze app.

Sitting in traffic is awful, but thanks to the crowdsourced GPS app Waze, you can circumnavigate jams with funnyman Terry Crews as your guide. Crews is the second celebrity to give directions on Waze (the first was Kevin Hart for his film Ride Along), promoting the second season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. To cruise with Crews, Waze users can update the app, select “Settings,” “Sound,” and “English (US) – Terry Crews.” Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine premieres Sunday, Sept. 28, at 8:30 pm.

Which funny ladies will win the Emmy on Aug. 25? If the Rotten Tomatoes critics we polled are correct, it’ll be a downright shocker if Julia Louis-Dreyfus doesn’t take Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. Two of our critics, however, have hope for Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation. As for Lena Dunham, Edie Falco, Melissa McCarthy, and Taylor Schilling, not one of the 12 Rotten Tomatoes critics we queried picked them for the win. Click over to the Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series tab to see a wider range of predictions.


She’s unstoppable. There’s no reason why she wouldn’t win. Season three was even more hilarious than the last two years.
Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times
I know it sounds like a re-run, but I think she was the stand out again.
David Hinckley, New York Daily News
She’s really transformed on that show. I think she’s going to go down as one of the great TV characters.Bonnie Stiernberg, Paste Magazine
You almost forget that she was Elaine in Seinfeld because she owns this role so well.
Kristian Harloff, Schmoes Know
I think it’s between Amy Poehler and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. But I really want Amy Poehler to win, and I’ll bet on her just for that sake. Parks and Rec deserves everything that it could possibly get.Ben Travers, IndieWire
It was her best season… I think she will win one more time and then Taylor Schilling will probably win next year.Todd VanDerWerff, Vox Media
Is it Orange is the New Black, or is it Veep? Man, that’s a coin toss. I wouldn’t be surprised by either. But I think people who love Orange recognize that it’s much more of an ensemble piece, whereas Veep is so driven by her, that I think she’ll win it.Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com
I always want her to win everything.Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe
She’s won the past two years; they love her. The show’s only getting better. Lori Rackl, Chicago Sun-Times
If I could be the comedy god, my pick would be Edie Falco because I’m a huge Nurse Jackie fan, but I think Julia Louis-Dreyfus will win again and you could make a strong case for why she should. That show’s been really good.Eric Deggans, NPR
She’s won four Emmys, including two for this role, and she has the single funniest scene of anybody in the category. Alan Sepinwall, HitFix
I would love to see Lena Dunham win. She would be my first choice… but I would say Julia Louis-Dreyfus is going to win.Drew Grant, New York Observer


More Emmy Predictions:

Which funny ladies will win the Emmy on Aug. 25? If the Rotten Tomatoes critics we polled are any indication, Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series is anybody’s game. This year’s nominees are: Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler in Big Bang Theory; Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy in Modern Family; Allison Janney as Bonnie in Mom; Kate Mulgrew as Galina “Red” Reznikov in Orange Is The New Black; Kate McKinnon in Saturday Night Live; Anna Chlumsky as Amy Brookheimer in Veep.


It’s either going to be Allison Janney or Kate Mulgrew. I would probably lay good odds on Allison Janney winning this — they love her, she’s really good on the show, and she gets to do dramatic things in a comic way.Alan Sepinwall, HitFix
I think Kate Mulgrew is going to take this for Orange is the New Black. Allison Janney would be a good pick as well. The Emmys love her; the TV Academy is a big fan of Allison. But I think Orange is the New Black is going to pick up a few trophies, and that will be one of them.Ben Travers, IndieWire
I’m a diehard SNL person. I love her. She’s probably my favorite person in the cast right now.Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media
I would love to see it go to Kate McKinnon for Saturday Night Live. She’s so funny. Since Kristen Wiig left the show, she’s done a really good job of stepping up and filling that void in the cast.Bonnie Stiernberg, Paste Magazine
I’m going to go Mulgrew. I think if Julia Louis-Dreyfus wins Lead, they might want to give one of the major ladies an award for Orange.Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com
I think she’s got some cachet and she’s better than the show she’s in, which I think always helps. Julie Bowen is terrific, but she’s won already, so I think maybe they’ll go with Allison this year.David Hinckley, New York Daily News
I would love to see Anna Chlumsky get it for Veep. She’s so incredible.Drew Grant, New York Observer
A consensus has formed among awards gurus who’ve probably never even watched Mom that this is Allison Janney’s award to lose. Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine
My pick would be Kate Mulgrew. My prediction is it’s going to be Allison Janney.Eric Deggans, NPR
Julie Bowen has deservedly won twice for her portrayal of Claire Dunphy, and she could repeat. But here’s a prediction that Mayim Bialik will score on her third nomination for her hilarious Amy Farrah Fowler portrayal.Joanne Ostrow, Denver Post
She is the brightest light in a very, very dark closet right now. She has no fear. She is very much on the Kristen Wiig and Will Farrell side of things… She is the stand-out star on that show.Kristian Harloff, Schmoes Know
She only joined the show in 2012, but I think she’s already elevated herself to the elite ranks of some of the best in the sketch show’s history.Lori Rackl, Chicago Sun-Times
Allison Janney will win for Mom… She’s the only thing that makes that show bearable for me.Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe
This is a pretty stacked category. I think Kate Mulgrew might win as a way to honor Orange Is the New Black without giving it everything.Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times
This is a crazy category because the person who won last year isn’t nominated… I think it’s probably going to be Allison Janney. Her getting two Emmys will be a nice little story and she’s great on Mom. She picked a really good submission. Todd VanDerWerff, Vox Media


More Emmy Predictions:

Movie City News shares with us a press release from the London Film Critics Group in which their various nominations are announced. Keep in mind that the Brit crits use their own release dates as criteria, so don’t be surprised to see a few 2004 releases in the mix.

The Attenborough Award for British Film of the Year

Pride and Prejudice
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
The Constant Gardener
The Descent
Mrs. Henderson Presents

Film of the Year

Crash
A History of Violence
Brokeback Mountain
King Kong
The Constant Gardener

Foreign Film

Downfall
Hidden
The Sea Inside
The Beat That My Heart Skipped
The Chorus

British Newcomer

Joe Wright (director, Pride and Prejudice)
Kelly Reilly (actress, Mrs. Henderson Presents)
Annie Griffin (writer-director, Festival)
Julian Fellowes (director, Separate Lies)
Matthew MacFadyen (Pride and Prejudice)

Screenwriter

Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana (Brokeback Mountain)
Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco (Crash)
Jeffrey Caine (The Constant Gardener)
Shane Black (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang)
Bernd Eichinger (Downfall)

British Producer

Peter Lord (Wallace & Gromit:The Curse of the Were-Rabbit)
Simon Channing-Williams (The Constant Gardener)
Andrew Eaton and Michael Winterbottom (A Cock and Bull Story)
Christian Colson (The Descent – Pathe and Separate Lies)
Mark Boothe and Ruth Caleb (Bullet Boy)

British Actress in Supporting Role

Thandie Newton (Crash)
Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda)
Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
Rosamund Pike (Pride and Prejudice)
Brenda Blethyn (Pride and Prejudice)

British Actor in Supporting Role

Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
James McAvoy (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
Paddy Considine (Cinderella Man)
Tom Hollander (Pride and Prejudice)
Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins)

British Actress

Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener)
Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents)
Keira Knightley (Pride and Prejudice)
Emily Watson (Separate Lies)
Kristin Scott Thomas (Keeping Mum)

British Actor

Ralph Fiennes (The Constant Gardener)
Christian Bale (The Machinist)
Liam Neeson (Kinsey)
Chiwetl Ejiofor (Kinky Boots)
Tom Wilkinson (Separate Lies)

British Director of the Year

Joe Wright – (Pride and Prejudic)
Terry George – (Hotel Rwanda)
Neil Marshall – (The Descent)
Christopher Nolan – (Batman Begins)
Stephen Frears – (Mrs. Henderson Presents)

Actress of the Year

Juliette Binoche (Hidden)
Naomi Watts (King Kong)
Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace)
Laura Linney (Kinsey)
Maria Bello (A History of Violence)

Actor of the Year

Bruno Ganz (Downfall)
Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain)
Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda; Crash)
Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence)
Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Director

Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener)
Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
Paul Haggis (Crash)
Peter Jackson (King Kong)
David Cronenberg (A History of Violence)

(Thanks to MCN for the info.)

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