The American actor’s star has been on the rise for several years now thanks to unforgettable supporting work in films like Get Out and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. But with his performance in the Australian drama Nitram, Jones has proven himself one of the most thrillingly unpredictable actors of his generation. Based on the events leading up to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, the deadliest mass shooting in Australian history, Nitram stars Jones as a fictionalized version of the gunman Martin Bryant. Despite some early controversy, Nitram stunned audiences at Cannes with its moving exploration of familial trauma and mental illness. Jones took home the best actor award for his turn in the film, which ends in the seconds before Bryant begins his shooting spree at the former convict colony.
Simon Rex, Red Rocket
There’s a layer of meta-commentary in the casting of Rex as a washed-up porn star who returns to his Texas hometown in Sean Baker’s Red Rocket. The former MTV VJ and D-list actor has lived many lives as a performer, his most notable acting gigs including the Scary Movie franchise, four episodes of Felicity, and Kesha’s music video for “TiK ToK.” But before all of that, Rex was a Hollywood hopeful cropping up in titles like Young, Hard, & Solo #2 under the alias “Sebastian” for a gay porn company. Baker cold-called Rex and convinced him to send in an audition tape for the part, the resulting film becoming one of the most-talked-about titles at the festival. With A24 set to release Red Rocket later this year, the actor is practically a shoo-in for an Indie Spirit Award—and may well ride his buzz all the way to the Oscars.