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Actors Who Had Two Or More Great Movies In The Same Year

In Hollywood's turbulent cycle of box office smashes versus big-budget stinkers and every quiet little art film in between, even the most celebrated silver-screen legends can go through dry spells and periods of career ennui. But in the movies, just like in real life, when you get on a roll, you just gotta go with it. Things line up right and it's one success building upon another, one breakout role or masterful screenplay leading to that coveted gold Oscar statue, all within a single calendar year.

Whether it's pure luck, hard work, or having a really great agent, a number of Hollywood stars have had multiple successes in a 12-month period. George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, and Scarlett Johansson, to name a few, have all had years when at least two of their films have garnered critical praise combined with stunning box office numbers. Sometimes you need a superb script and an excellent director for that particular chemistry, sometimes you just need a starring role in a superhero mega-franchise. Let's take a closer look at some Hollywood favorites and the years when they knocked it out of the Tinseltown park multiple times.

Nicole Kidman

2001 was a big year for Nicole Kidman. After being part of one of Hollywood's high-profile marriages in the '90s, Kidman finalized her divorce from Tom Cruise, with paparazzi famously catching her celebrating her newly found singledom. With her career intrinsically intertwined with Cruise, both on-screen and off, Kidman was transitioning away from being, as Time magazine called her, "Mrs. Tom Cruise" into "simply, Nicole Kidman."

And Kidman did just that in the summer of 2001 with the release of two great films that established Kidman's talent in her own right. First, Kidman swung into the spotlight as courtesan Satine in director Baz Luhrmann's "spectacular, spectacular" movie musical extravaganza "Moulin Rouge!" Remixing pop music against a technicolor backdrop of turn-of-the-century Paris, "Moulin Rouge!" was praised by the Washington Post as "a postmodern hug of a movie." Kidman's performance was singled out by Variety, who said "Kidman's Satine evokes screen goddesses from Dietrich to Garbo to Monroe, and the actress's own iconic status is exalted in the process," and she was nominated for a best actress Oscar for her efforts.

Later that summer, Kidman starred in the eerie supernatural thriller "The Others." Kidman plays Grace, a mother who lives with her two children in a stately manor that may or may not be haunted. Kidman's restrained performance anchors this chilling ghost story, with the Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus heralding "The Others" as a "spooky thriller that reminds us that a movie doesn't need expensive special effects to be creepy."

Tom Hanks

Believe it or not, there was a time when Tom Hanks wasn't ranked as America's Most Beloved Movie Actor. While he had Hollywood success starring in a string of high-profile comedies in the 1980s, by the early '90s, his career was in transition. Hanks told the New York Times he was inspired by actor Tony Curtis to hunker down and get to work on becoming a movie star. Hanks says of this time in his career, "I ended up saying no to an awful lot of things, and the things I said yes to were pretty damn good, and I had a nice run." Hanks' "nice run" kicked off in 1993 with two films that would squarely plant Hanks as one of Tinseltown's top talents. He had a bona fide box office hit with Nora Ephron's "Sleepless In Seattle," playing widower Sam Baldwin. Later that year, Hanks starred in the drama "Philadelphia," earning his first Oscar for playing an attorney who faced workplace discrimination because of his AIDS diagnosis.

1993 isn't the only year that Tom Hanks had multiple superb movies. He had another triumphant year in 1999, again with two very different films. Hanks reprised his role as cowboy Woody in "Toy Story 2," which holds a coveted 100% on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer and he played death row prison officer Paul Edgecomb in the big-screen adaptation of Stephen King's "The Green Mile." More recently, Hanks, now an established statesman of Hollywood, had two celebrated film releases in 2019 with "Toy Story 4" and "A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood." 

George Clooney

George Clooney certainly has come a long way from the Caesar haircuts and Batsuit nipples that defined his look in the '90s. Moving from television heartthrob to full-fledged movie star was a journey for Clooney, but he solidified his Hollywood heavyweight status in 2005 with the release of two hard-hitting dramas: "Good Night and Good Luck" and "Syriana." Depicting the conflict between famed broadcaster Edward R. Murrow and U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, "Good Night and Good Luck" was directed, produced, and co-written by Clooney. Oh, and he played CBS producer Fred Friendly, too. For his efforts, Clooney was nominated for Oscars for best original screenplay and best director. While Clooney didn't win Oscar gold for "Good Night and Good Luck," he scored a best supporting actor Oscar statue for playing veteran CIA operative Robert Barnes in "Syriana," a film heralded by the Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus as "ambitious, complicated, intellectual, and demanding."

In 2011, Clooney had another double-hitter year, starring in director Alexander Payne's family dramedy "The Descendants," and the political fable "The Ides of March." Clooney earned an Oscar nomination for playing troubled attorney Matt King in "The Descendants," a film celebrated by The Hollywood Reporter as a splendid high point in Clooney's career. "The Ides of March" was another Clooney passion project, seeing him direct, co-write, produce, and co-star in what the Los Angeles Times reviewed as an "intelligent, involving picture." Clooney also received an Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay for "Ides."

Octavia Spencer

Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer had a very good 2013, acting in two revered films. First, she appeared in Ryan Coogler's feature-length directorial debut, "Fruitvale Station." Winner of the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, "Fruitvale Station" tells the real-life story of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), who was killed in 2009 by a BART police officer in Oakland, California. Spencer plays Grant's tough-love mother, Wanda Johnson, a role she felt so passionately about that she became an executive producer on the film after it lost critical funding (via USA Today).

That same year, Spencer played another dedicated mother in Bong Joon-ho's sci-fi action film "Snowpiercer." As Snowpiercer passenger Tanya, Spencer circumnavigated the icy remnants of Earth with an all-star cast that included Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Ed Harris, John Hurt, and Tilda Swinton. Vanity Fair called "Snowpiercer" "a startling creative vision told with enough passion to rumble the seats" and its stylish meditations on social class, climate change, and political structures have earned it a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

2016 proved to be equally successful for Spencer, with the actor lending her talents to another pair of great films. In the adorable Disney animated feature "Zootopia," Spencer voiced Mrs. Otterton, who seeks help from Officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) to find her missing husband. Spencer also co-starred in "Hidden Figures," based on the true story of Black female NASA scientists during the Space Race. A "heartwarming" and "crowd-pleasing" movie celebrated for shining a light on a "pivotal moment in American history" (via Rotten Tomatoes). As mathematician Dorothy Vaughan, Spencer earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.

Timothée Chalamet

Timothée Chalamet's star was on the rise in 2017 when he starred in two celebrated coming-of-age independent films. Gaining prominence with featured roles in the TV series "Royal Pains" and "Homeland," Chalamet had a burgeoning film career with roles in "Men, Women, and Children" and "Interstellar" before launching into stardom with 2017's "Call Me By Your Name" and "Lady Bird." The poignant drama "Call Me By Your Name" has Chalamet starring as 17-year-old Elio Perlman, who falls for graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer) over the course of the summer of 1983. Praised by the Washington Post, "Call Me By Your Name" received numerous award nominations and solidified Chalamet as a star, garnering him a best actor Oscar nomination.

With a near-perfect Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score, Greta Gerwig's teen dramedy "Lady Bird" gave Chalamet another excellent turn at adolescent insight. In "Lady Bird," Chalamet plays cool-kid Kyle, whose nonchalant charm proves hard for high school senior Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) to resist. Recognized as one of the best films of 2017 by the New York Times and Rolling Stone, among others, "Lady Bird" was celebrated for its fresh take on the coming-of-age trope, with The Guardian celebrating the film as "gloriously funny." After 2017, there was no mistaking the fact that Chalamet was one of Hollywood's leading young male heartthrobs.

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson was far past her indie-darling days when she had a hat trick of great movies in 2019. That year, Johansson topped Forbes' list of the 10-highest paid actresses, reportedly earning $56 million mostly for her work as superhero Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Working for her payday, Johansson played Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow in the cinematic finale to Marvel's Infinity Saga, "Avengers: Endgame." Not only did "Avengers: Endgame" smash the global box office, becoming the second-highest grossing movie of all time (via Box Office Mojo), but it was a critical hit, with the Rotten Tomatoes Critical Consensus calling "Endgame" "exciting, entertaining, and emotionally impactful."

While Johansson was co-starring in Hollywood blockbusters in 2019, she also got back to her independent film roots, acting in the World War II dramedy satire "Jojo Rabbit" and the heart-wrenching contemporary family drama "Marriage Story." In "Jojo Rabbit," Johansson plays Rosie Betzler, Jojo Betzler's (Roman Griffith Davis) mother, who is secretly a member of the German Nazi resistance. "Marriage Story" finds Johansson playing Nicole Barber, a woman who must balance her acting career ambitions and motherhood amidst her tempestuous divorce from playwright Charlie (Adam Driver). Both films won critical praise, with "Marriage Story" landing on numerous best movies of 2019 lists, including Time, the New York Times, and Esquire. Johannson's performances in both films were honored with Oscar nominations. She earned a best supporting actress nomination for "Jojo Rabbit" and a best actress nomination for "Marriage Story."

Jaime Foxx

In 2004, the multi-talented Jamie Foxx had a one-two cinematic punch with the great movies "Collateral" and "Ray." Starting in comedy, Foxx had already found fame in the '90s as a featured player on the sketch comedy series "In Living Color," and as the star of his own sitcom, "The Jamie Foxx Show." He also had a budding dramatic film career with roles in movies like "Toys," "Any Given Sunday," and "Ali." And to top it off, Foxx had success in the music game in 2003 with featured vocals on Twista's chart-topping song, "Slow Jamz."

Foxx was clearly an accomplished performer, but it's his roles in the crime thriller "Collateral" and the Ray Charles biopic "Ray" that launched him into the Hollywood stratosphere. In director Michael Mann's crime thriller "Collateral," Foxx plays Max, an ambitious taxi driver who becomes an inadvertent accomplice to a hitman, Vincent (Tom Cruise). Critics praised Mann's stylish elevation of the thriller genre, with the New York Times observing that "Collateral" bears little relation to the usual Hollywood blowout." Foxx's take on music legend Ray Charles in the film "Ray" earned him near-universal praise, with the Los Angeles Times reporting the movie "blaz[ed] like a comet, buoyed by stellar reviews, box-office success and a tidal wave of best actor Oscar buzz for Jamie Foxx's incandescent portrayal of the singer." And, as it turned out, the Oscar buzz wasn't just hype for Foxx. He was nominated for both his performance in "Collateral" for best supporting actor and he won best actor for "Ray."

Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain found her way into the Hollywood spotlight in 2011 with a series of high-profile supporting roles in four great films. That year, Chastain co-starred with Michael Shannon in the Sundance Film Festival darling "Take Shelter," a movie Vanity Fair celebrated as a "moving, poetic film," praising Chastain's performance as supportive wife Samantha for its "quiet power."

Chastain continued her success in independent film with a role in director Terrence Malick's epoch-spanning "The Tree of Life," playing the gracefully contemplative Mrs. O'Brien. A meditation on the nature of existence and God, "The Tree of Life" was celebrated as a cinematic triumph, receiving the Palme d'Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. It also earned three Oscar nominations and "The Tree of Life" has been recognized as the best film of the 2010s by RogerEbert.com.

In the film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's best-selling novel "The Help," Chastain played bullied 1960s housewife Celia Foote as part of a celebrated ensemble cast that included Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. A late-summer sleeper hit, "The Help" had the longest streak at number one at the box office since "The Sixth Sense" in 1999 (via Box Office Mojo). Chastain's work in "The Help" earned her mainstream Hollywood accolades, including an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress. To close out her very successful 2011, Chastain flexed her acting chops in the Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh film, "Coriolanus," actor and director Ralph Fiennes' modern take on the Shakespearean tragedy.

Emma Thompson

Dame Emma Thompson was already a film and television star in the UK when she had a breakout movie year in 1993, acting in a trio of celebrated films. Coming from an acting family, Thompson was a formidable talent, a deft performer at both comedy and drama, appearing in a diverse array of projects, from the sketch comedy series "Alfresco" to the World War II dramatic mini-series "Fortunes of War," and Merchant-Ivory's movie version of E.M. Forster's "Howard's End." 1993 saw Thompson's movie career play to both her comedic sensibilities and dramatic talents, with roles in "Much Ado About Nothing," "In The Name of the Father," and "The Remains of the Day."

A frequent collaborator with her then-husband Kenneth Branagh, Thompson starred as Beatrice in Branagh's big-screen "exuberant adaptation" (via Rotten Tomatoes) of Shakespeare's romantic comedy "Much Ado About Nothing." Thompson followed up her performance as a sharp-witted Shakespearean heroine with a much more subdued role in Merchant-Ivory's sumptuous 1930s period drama "The Remains of the Day" as housekeeper Miss Sally Kenton. Revered as "beautiful to look at and deeply moving" by The Hollywood Reporter, "The Remains of the Day" was celebrated with eight Oscar nominations, including best supporting actress for Thompson. Equally lauded by critics and similarly recognized for excellence by the Academy Awards, the Irish crime drama "In The Name of the Father" earned Thompson another Oscar nomination for best supporting actress for her portrayal of real-life attorney Gareth Peirce, who helped exonerate the wrongly-accused Guildford Four.

Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore delivered two powerhouse performances in 2002, both about women navigating repressive circumstances in "Far From Heaven" and "The Hours." Re-teaming with director Todd Haynes, who guided Moore through her first starring role in 1995's "Safe," Moore pays homage to the heroines of 1950s Douglas Sirk melodramas in "Far From Heaven." Playing suburban housewife Cathy Whitaker, whose life of conformity is thrown into disarray when her husband, Frank (Dennis Quaid) falls in love with another man and Cathy develops feelings for her Black gardener, Raymond (Dennis Haysbert). A weepy that, according to Rotten Tomatoes' Critics Consensus, "earns its viewers' tears with sincerity and intelligence," "Far From Heaven's" evocatively interpreted mid-century social restraints, and Moore's contributions were honored with a best actress Oscar nomination.

Moore didn't go too far from "Far From Heaven" for her portrayal of another oppressed housewife in "The Hours." This time, Moore plays Laura Brown, who escapes her dissatisfying 1951 suburban Los Angeles life by reading the Virginia Woolf novel "Mrs. Dalloway." Told from the perspective of three women, including author Woolf (Nicole Kidman), "The Hours" delicately weaves their lives together by examining their longings, regrets, and life choices. Called "deeply moving" by the New York Times, "The Hours" packs dramatic heft, and for their efforts, the film earned nine Academy Award nominations, including Moore for best supporting actress.

Holly Hunter

Holly Hunter appeared in two very different, yet quite excellent movies in 1993. Having already worked with notable directors like the Cohen Brothers, James L. Brooks, and Steven Spielberg, Hunter teamed up with two powerhouse filmmakers for "The Piano" and "The Firm." Directed by Jane Campion, "The Piano" sees Hunter portraying Ada McGrath, a 19th-century Scotswoman who is sold into marriage and moves to remote New Zealand with her new husband, Alisdair (Sam Neill) and her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin). Choosing not to speak, Ada telegraphs emotions by playing the piano, and she eventually has a torrid love affair with George (Harvey Keitel). Erotically charged and visually stunning, "The Piano" was celebrated as a triumph for both Campion and Hunter, with Hunter winning a best actress Oscar for her quietly powerful performance.

Shifting from brooding 19th-century brooding sensuality to contemporary legal intrigue, Hunter shifted gears to play chain-smoking secretary Tammy Hemphill in director Sydney Pollack's adaptation of John Grisham's blockbuster novel "The Firm." Tammy's sassy Southern ways are a complete departure from Ada in "The Piano." With her short skirts, curly 'dos, and a perpetually lit cigarette in hand, Hunter's brief appearance in "The Firm" made so much of an impact that she was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar. A box office hit and praised as being a "summer genre film for grown-ups" (via Newsweek), "The Firm" was the first in a series of Grisham novels to get the Hollywood big screen treatment during the 1990s.

Marlon Brando

Acting legend Marlon Brando delivered two iconic performances in 1972, but before the release of "The Godfather" and "Last Tango In Paris," he was considered a Hollywood has-been whose best days were long behind him. Before being cast in "The Godfather" at Don Vito Corleone, Brando had become persona non grata in Hollywood. With his reputation tarnished by his abhorrent on-set behavior and his films flopping at the box office, Brando was, as producer Robert Evans put it, "as dead as he could be" (via Vanity Fair). Luckily for Brando, he didn't refuse the offer to play the aging patriarch of the Corleone family, and his career was resurrected. "The Godfather" is ranked as one of the greatest movies of all time, thanks to Brando's stunning, Academy Award-winning transformation into Don Vito Corleone.

Brando followed up "The Godfather" by starring in director Bernardo Bertolucci's erotic drama "Last Tango In Paris." Brando plays Paul, a widower in mourning who starts a clandestine sexual relationship with Jeanne (Maria Schneider). At the time of its release, "Last Tango In Paris" was declared a cinematic sensation, with film critic Pauline Kael heralding the film as a cinematic breakthrough and its premiere an essential moment in movie history. Earning an Oscar nomination for playing the emotionally distraught Paul, Brando's career was back in full swing. But as for the film itself, it has been reassessed in recent years, with the revelation that Brando and Bertolucci filmed a sexually violent scene without Maria Schneider's consent.

Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro has been a Hollywood stalwart for almost half a century, so it's no surprise that his career has had multiple years with multiple great movies. On the precipice of fame, De Niro scored two great films in 1973 with breakout roles in director Martin Scorsese's crime drama "Mean Streets" and the baseball tear-jerker "Bang the Drum Slowly." Both films found critical acclaim.

"Mean Streets" was the first of many collaborations between Scorsese and De Niro, with two of those films released in multi-hit years for De Niro. First, in 1990, he played smooth-talking Jimmy Conway in the Scorsese gangster classic "Goodfellas," the same year he portrayed Leonard Lowe in "Awakenings." De Niro secured an Oscar nomination for his performance in "Awakenings," earning praise from Entertainment Weekly for his "emotionally eloquent" and "daring" acting. Then, in 1995, Scorsese and De Niro teamed up once again for the glitzy Mafia epic "Casino," the same year that De Niro collaborated with another noted auteur, Michael Mann, in the lauded crime-thriller "Heat."

De Niro had yet another year with multiple great movie releases in 1997 with a trio of celebrated films. He co-starred as investigator Moe Tilden in the star-studded drama "Cop Land," director James Mangold's meditation on police corruption. De Niro also played criminal Louis Gara in director Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown," the witty adaptation of Elmore Leonard's crime caper novel "Rum Punch." He rounded out 1997 by co-starring with Dustin Hoffman in the political satire "Wag The Dog," as top-notch spin doctor Conrad Brean, who is tasked by the White House to deflect a sex scandal by creating a fictional war.

Brad Pitt

Fresh off of playing rustic hunk Tristan in "Legends of the Fall," Brad Pitt moved from heartthrob to heartache with turns in a pair of seriously dark films in 1995. In the psychological thriller "Seven," Pitt plays Detective David Mills, who, along with his partner Detective Lieutenant William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), is in hot pursuit of serial killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey). Gruesomely violent and unrelenting grim, Roger Ebert, in his four-star review, declared "Seven" "one of the darkest and most merciless films ever made in the Hollywood mainstream." Keeping with the bleak tone of "Seven," Pitt starred in director Terry Gilliam's dystopian sci-fi flick "12 Monkeys" that same year. As the Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus notes, the plot might be a bit of a jumble, but the performances and plot twists make "12 Monkeys" Certified Fresh. Pitt's portrayal of conspiracy-minded psychiatric patient Jeffrey Goines scored him his first Oscar nomination.

Pitt had another year with multiple great movies in 2011, acting in "The Tree of Life" and "Moneyball." In "The Tree of Life," director Terrence Malick's Palme d'Or-winning cinematic meditation on existence, Pitt keeps the film grounded as volatile patriarch Mr. O'Brien. In the fact-based baseball drama "Moneyball," Pitt played Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, who adopted sabermetrics methodologies to build a winning baseball team. Sports statistics might not seem like a riveting film subject, but "Moneyball" hit a home run with critics and earned six Academy Award nominations.