Terrence Howard: His preternatural cool swagger, honed in films like The Best Man, helped this actor own every single frame of Hustle & Flow. Witness more of his talent as a dirty bootlegger in Idlewild, which hits theaters March 10.

Chiwetel Ejiofor: We’ll take more of this versatile British cat any way we can, from his villainous performance in Four Brothers and Serenity last year to his compassionate transgender shero in next month’s import Kinky Boots.

Kimberly Elise: With only seven films under her belt, Elise has made every one count. Whether she’s working the gritty life of Michelle in Woman, Thou Art Loosed or the tragic yet comic trials of Helen in last year’s number one sleeper, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Elise’s skill is undeniable.

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Angela Bassett: This Yale-trained thespian’s name has become synonymous with fierce, intelligent portrayals of women on the edge, including her matriarchal lead role in the upcoming family drama Akeelah and the Bee.