1. Christian Bale
While he won’t be under 40 for much longer, the fact that he has had as much success as he has in the relatively short amount of time since his first major hit, American Psycho seems to indicate that Bale will continue to have success.
If his last film, Out of the Furnace, is any indication, Bale has a very bright future ahead of him.
2. Tom Hardy
At 36, this UK born actor is at the top of his game. Hardy proved that his cult appeal in movies like Bronson is no fluke.
While his most impressive acting was probably in the prohibition era film Lawless or Stuart: A Life Backwards, his greatest achievement may have been his ability to make a movie about mixed-martial-arts believable and compelling while playing an extremely sympathetic character.
3. Benedict Cumberbatch
Though he is not extremely selective with his choices of roles (he decided to play Khan in the latest Star Trek debacle), he is an outstanding actor. His role as Sherlock Holmes in the British television Sherlock has made for some of the most interesting television in years.
He also did extremely well in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as well as War Horse. Still, his best work to date was as Stephen Hawking in Hawking, a role which he was nominated for the BAFTA Best Actor Award for playing.
4. James McAvoy
This Scottish actor hit a grand slam in the action movie hit Wanted playing alongside Angelina Jolie. However, he was nominated for both a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award (his second nomination) for his work in the movie Atonement meaning it was probably his best work.
Still, his most entertaining role was probably as Max Lewinski in the fast paced thriller Welcome to the Punch. He also did respectable work in the Chronicles of Narnia and the X-Men.
5. Robert Pattinson
Don’t hold the Twilight Saga against him, Pattinson actually has a great deal of potential. Remember Me illustrates just how well Pattinson understands his roles. If the torn romantic isn’t your cup of tea, Pattinson’s role as an uber-rich contemporary in Cosmopolis is chilling. Few roles played by leading actors compared in 2012.
If Pattinson can deliver a few more performances of similar caliber, he might be able to ditch the fantasy-in-fangs stigma he’s currently stuck with.
6. Jack O’Connell
O’Connell is one of the very young, extremely talented UK actors that is quickly making an impression on Hollywood. While his best role to date was as ”Pukey Nicholls” in This is England, he is most recognized for his role as ”Marky” in Harry Brown.
With his talent and hard yet boyish good looks, O’Connell is sure to make an impact on the big screen in the future.
7. Cillian Murphy
Of the entire young crop of UK actors, the Irishman Murphy may show the most promise. While he may not jump off the screen the way some of the others do, he is a profound and precise actor.
His role in the box-office hit Inception may have been overshadowed by other great performances, it certainly illustrated his ability to hold his own. What he is accomplishing in the television series Peaky Blinders is proof that he is in a league of his own.
8. Orlando Bloom
It is almost silly to include him in a list of up-and-comers considering the success he has had, but considering he is only 36, it is easy to imagine more great things to come from him.
His best performance to date was in Kingdom of Heaven, though he was also memorable as ”Will Turner” in the first two Pirates of the Caribbean films.
9. Stephen Graham
The one actor on this list that is over 40, Graham has to be mentioned for two reasons: he started acting relatively late and he is phenomenal. In the super-star studded cast of Snatch, he may have stolen the show with his performance as ”Tommy”.
Now, his role as Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire may be the only thing keeping the series afloat aside from Steve Buscemi.