7. Emma Stone, 'La La Land'
After all the furor died down around La La Land — Was it escapist pap, or a deft, melancholy salute to the challenges of balancing art and love? Was it a too much of a back-patting Hollywood throwback in the year of Moonlight? Did Ryan Gosling really save jazz? — what remained was Emma Stone’s performance as Mia. The big screen has been filled with stories of dreamers moving to Los Angeles to make their name, but Stone encapsulated them all in her giddy, dorky enthusiasm and sweet demeanor. Here's a character whose optimism is boundless, and you fear what will happen if the cruel crush of reality ever knocks her down. It's not easy to portray an indomitable spirit, but Stone reveals all the courage and faith that go into believing in love and dreams. She puts a song in your heart and a lump in your throat.