Ignoring more pressing and stressing matters, a lot happened for celebs in 2018. The guy from Mr. Robot brought Freddie Mercury back to life in Bohemian Rhapsody. Roseanne Barr came back with Roseanne, and then Roseanne dumped her. Ed Sheeran continued to humbly warble love songs accompanied by his acoustic guitar. We all breathlessly followed every personal and professional decision made by Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande. Also, Scandal and Portlandia wrapped up long runs, and, what do you know, The Big Bang Theory announced its endgame.
Stars were born, careers were destroyed, and half of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s impressive roster of superheroes turned to dust in the highly anticipated Avengers: Infinity War.
But amidst all that, a relative handful of show business luminaries absolutely dominated what we listened to and watched. Here are all of the celebrities who were absolutely huge in 2018, forever cementing their place in entertainment history.
It’s a jolly holiday with Emily Blunt
Perhaps the truest sign of acting talent isn’t the ability to turn out one memorable, dramatic performance after another — it’s versatility. If that’s true, then Emily Blunt is one of the world’s most gifted actresses. The British-born star, a darling of both Hollywood and the guy who played Jim on The Office, acted in two of the year’s top movies which were about as different as could be. In the first part of the year, she starred as a pregnant mother who must not make any noise so as not to risk her family getting devoured by sound-sensitive monsters in the wildly original horror movie A Quiet Place. Blunt followed that up by taking on the gargantuan task of playing a role previously originated by Julie Andrews as the most magnificent, magical nanny in the long-awaited Mary Poppins Returns. Blunt managed to pull it off, charming viewers and getting a lot of end-of-the-year awards attention, too.
This year was the best Drake ever had
Musical superstar Drake, known to his parents as Aubrey Drake Graham and to Degrassi fans as Jimmy Brooks, has been a prolific hitmaker for nearly a decade. Not only are his solo singles and collaborations all over the place, but so is his influence — so much so that much of pop and hip-hop rocks that Drake sound, imitating his unique half-sung, half-rapped, short-phrasing style. While he’s recorded with Rihanna, Lil Wayne, and Nicki Minaj and has scored plenty of massive hits — like « Best I Ever Had, » « Take Care, » and « Hold On, We’re Going Home » — Drake somehow got even more popular in 2018.
Drizzy topped the Billboard Hot 100 with three songs in 2018: « God’s Plan, » « Nice for What, » and « In My Feelings. » Altogether, Drake songs spent 29 weeks at No. 1 this year, which is more than any other artist has ever spent atop the Hot 100 in a single calendar year. That’s impressive — plus « In My Feelings » spawned a popular meme, while his album Scorpion was among the year’s most-listened-to releases (via The New York Times).
Cardi B made money moves in 2018
Never mind some legal troubles and a prolonged, public breakup with estranged husband Offset — 2018 was the year Cardi B. solidified herself as a hip-hop icon who’s here to stay. After releasing the dazzling breakout hit « Bodak Yellow » in late 2017, the New York rapper’s vocally acrobatic and hypnotic jams were inescapable in 2018, which is totally fine because they were bangers. With « I Like It, » she became the first female rapper to score two Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hits — but she also impressed with other hits like « Ring, » « Money Bag, » and collaborations with G-Eazy, Bruno Mars, and even Maroon 5. Her first album, Invasion of Privacy, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and was soon certified double-platinum, and Cardi did it while spending most of the year either pregnant or tending to her newborn baby girl, Kulture. She showed off her bump while performing on Saturday Night Live in April 2018.
Ryan Murphy didn’t slow down
Ryan Murphy continues to beat the odds by efficiently getting multiple critically acclaimed shows out of his brain and onto the small screen. Perhaps once best known for Glee, Murphy is now synonymous with the co-creation of American Horror Story, a stylish show that’s horrifies viewers with gore and social and historical commentary. In 2018, Murphy brought out the eighth iteration of the show, Apocalypse, an ambitious endeavor that tied prior seasons of the show together.
Just being able to produce American Horror Story would make for a banner year for Murphy, but he still creates shows, writes episodes, and even directs on occasion. For instance, he created, wrote, and directed American Crime Story: The Murder of Gianni Versace, which earned 18 Emmy Award nominations and won seven, including the award for outstanding limited series. Oh, and Murphy also helped make the ’80s-set drama Pose and the hit Fox procedural 9-1-1. Needless to say, Murphy was busy this year — and he likely has the paychecks to prove it.
Everyone wanted to take another look at Lady Gaga
Like other massively popular singers Madonna and Cher, who’ve tackled careers in both music and film, Lady Gaga was far too talented and fabulous to be confined to one field forever. She’s one of the biggest stars and personalities of the past decade, and 2018 might have been her biggest year yet … and she didn’t even release a solo album.
The year 2018 was when Lady Gaga became a movie star, after taking on a role for which she was perfectly cast. She portrayed Ally, a talented bar singer who becomes a superstar in director/co-star Bradley Cooper’s touching, beloved remake of A Star is Born. And her character experiences a lot of romance and tragedy along the way. With her performance, Gaga proved that she could act as well as she could sing, and, by December 2018, she received nominations for her gig from both the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes. She might even win herself an Oscar for the role, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Michael B. Jordan might be the most famous Michael Jordan now
Michael Jordan has been a working actor for nearly two decades, having had his breakout role playing the teen drug dealer Wallace on HBO’s The Wire. Viewers also took notice of the rising star on All My Children, Friday Night Lights, and Parenthood. When he starred in the tragic, truth-based 2013 film Fruitvale Station, it seemed Jordan was headed for the A-list. He finally won himself a spot there just two years later, starring as aspiring boxer Adonis Johnson in the Rocky film Creed. And yet 2018 was actually the year that Jordan truly became a superstar.
The actor had three huge roles in 2018. He portrayed Adonis Johnson once again in Creed II, Guy Montag in a big-budget adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, and, of course, Erik Killmonger in Black Panther. Jordan both elevated and stole the movie with his thoughtful, nuanced work as a complex, often-sympathetic villain. We’d bet that his presence and performance certainly had something to do with Black Panther earning a stunning $700 million at the box office.
Donald Glover: Is there anything he can’t do?
It’s easy to love Donald Glover because he’s so incredibly talented in so many different ways and he’s been so successful — particularly in 2018 — at basically everything he’s tried. Early in the year, Glover unveiled the second season of Atlanta, his genre-defying, totally original, and often-surreal series. One episode in particular was even more ambitious than usual, as Glover portrayed not only main character Earn but also Teddy Perkins, a reclusive and bizarre Michael Jackson-esque figure. Glover personally received four Emmy nominations for Atlanta this year — one each for acting, directing, writing, and producing.
In 2018, Glover also emerged unscathed from Solo, the Han Solo origin movie. Glover was a charming delight as the young Lando Calrissian, a debonair gambler and smuggler originally played in The Empire Strikes Back by Billy Dee Williams. Critics from publications like Time and Vulture thought Solo would have been a better movie had there been more Lando/Glover in it.
The multi-hyphenate promoted Solo with a guest-hosting gig on Saturday Night Live, for which Glover brought not only comic chops but also music. He performed as his rap/soul alter ego Childish Gambino, debuting the song « This is America. » Thanks in part to a shocking, compelling music video, that song hit No. 1 on the charts a few weeks later (via NPR).
Amy Adams had a particularly ‘sharp’ year
Amy Adams just keeps putting out stellar work, year after year. And unlike a lot of Hollywood big-shots, she seems to avoid being typecast completely, able to excel in everything from dark comedies (American Hustle) to stark dramas (Doubt), to boxing movies (The Fighter). Those films represent three of the five movies for which Adams has earned Oscar nominations.
She hasn’t won an Oscar yet, but she just might early next year for her work in 2018’s Vice. She plays Lynne Cheney, wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney in the Adam McKay-directed production, and Adams has already earned a Golden Globe nomination for her work. She also received a nomination for her 2018 TV gig. Yeah, Adams isn’t afraid to do a little TV if the project is good, and boy was it: She produced and starred in HBO’s miniseries Sharp Objects, written by Gillian Flynn of Gone Girl fame.
Dwayne Johnson rocked this year
It doesn’t feel like Dwayne Johnson has ever had a bad year, but he’s had some rough times. In 2018, he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that, when he as in college, he didn’t have a bed, so he took « the mattress that looked the cleanest » he found behind a seedy « hourly-rates motel. » But because of character-building experiences like that, Johnson never forgets where he came from, and he gives thanks often and effusively. « Tears, laughter, and boundless gratitude, » he captioned on a Thanksgiving Instagram post, demonstrating a bit of the earnestness that makes him so likable and that makes him a social media juggernaut (more than 125 million people follow the man forever known as « The Rock » on Instagram alone).
Johnson is the first WWE performer to make his way from the ring to the absolute top echelon of Hollywood. John Cena has been doing pretty well for himself, but he’s got a ways to go before he can smell what the Rock is cooking. In 2018, Forbes named Johnson Hollywood’s highest-paid actor, estimating that he’d earned $124 million over the the course of 12 months. Johnson showed up in big, loud, entertaining movies twice this year, appearing in the old-school, action-hero epics Rampage and Skyscraper. Plus, Johnson made another season of Ballers. How does he find the time?
It was a good year for playing bad guys for Josh Brolin
A teen idol in the mid-’80s thanks to his role as Brand in the classic kids adventure flick The Goonies, Josh Brolin was more or less washed up by the early 2000s, reduced to starring in a short-lived 2003 political drama called Mister Sterling. Brolin’s career soon rallied in a big way, when one major film director after another rediscovered the actor and cast him in major roles. The Coen brothers used him in No Country for Old Men and True Grit, Oliver Stone selected him to play George W. Bush in W., and Gus Van Sant directed Brolin to an Academy Award nomination for his work in Milk.
Securing interesting roles and critical acclaim, Brolin went a bit more commercial in 2018. He played a big, bad villain in two of the year’s biggest superhero movies — Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 — which also happened to be mega-hits at the box office. In the former, Brolin voiced and provided motion capture for the role of Thanos, who, in the biggest film moment of 2018, snapped his fingers and erased half of existence, including half of Marvel’s beloved band of superheroes. And in Deadpool 2, Brolin starred as Cable, a time-traveling, nearly indestructible adversary with a tragic backstory. Brolin also co-starred in the drug drama Sicario: Day of the Soldado, albeit without the assistance of any computerized appearance-altering software or elaborate makeup.
Awkwafina made fun movies even more fun
Two of the year’s biggest box office successes of 2018 were the comedies Ocean’s Eight and Crazy Rich Asians. Both were full of huge ensemble casts of well-known stars, such as Sandra Bullock and Rihanna in the former, and Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh in the latter. And rapper, actress, and writer Awkwafina provided comic relief in both of these films, delivering all the best lines.
In Ocean’s Eight, Awkwafina landed the part of Constance, a crafty criminal with a special skill for pickpocketing. In Crazy Rich Asians, the first major Hollywood film with a primarily Asian cast in 25 years (via Time), she played Goh Peik Lin, friend and confidant of romantic lead Rachel (Wu). In back-to-back performances in big summer movies, the relatively little-known Awkwafina stole the audience’s attention in most of the scenes she was in (via Rolling Stone). When Saturday Night Live started up again in the fall of 2018, who’d they book as a host from Crazy Rich Asians, the breakout hit of the summer? Not Constance Wu or Henry Golding — Awkwafina scored the gig.
Jodie Whittaker’s career became almost as big as the TARDIS
Doctor Who is a science-fiction institution, having debuted back in 1963. Every few years, the show cycles in new actors to portray « The Doctor, » a genius and sympathetic alien who traverses time and space in what appears to be a blue police box called the TARDIS. Over the decades, 13 men have played the role, with the most recent star being Peter Capaldi. In 2017, however, the BBC announced that Jodie Whittaker would take over the gig, making her the first female Doctor in the show’s long history.
That could have been a tall order for Whittaker, though she is a veteran actress with a lot of British TV to her name, but critics in both the U.S. and the U.K. think the celeb is fantastic. In reviewing her first appearances on Doctor Who in 2018, Mike Hale of The New York Times said Whittaker’s Doctor is « friendlier, less angsty, » and « more of a straightforward action hero, » while Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times found her portrayal to be « instantly engaging. »
Viewers have also taken to Whittaker. Ratings went up by a brilliant 46 percent in the sought-after 18 to 49 demographic, according to The Wrap.