9 Actors Who Had Remarkable Breakout Roles

86th Annual Academy Awards - Show

It’s no secret that it can take a long time to break out in Hollywood. For many, the rise to stardom was exactly that – a rise. A gradual, developing recognition that has steadily led to more and more significant roles until finally their names can reliably be associated with talent, good choices and substantial performances.

But there are many other actors and actresses for whom the experience was very different. These are the people who early on in their careers struck upon a role that put them on the great movie-land radar immediately, and immovably.

Some of the roles on this list are not strictly debuts as such. Many of the entries have had minor appearances – some credited and some not – either on TV or in minor films – before the roles that are discussed here. On the other hand, we’re not talking about those who had been in the business for years before suddenly getting a role that really got them noticed. For example, we can’t talk about Liam Neeson, who had been making films since 1979 but only really burst into A-List desirability with Schindler’s List in 1993, 24 years later.

For actors such as these (Robert Downey Jr. – who worked since 1985 before his Iron Man reinvention arrived in 2008, and Bradley Cooper – who worked for 8 years before simulating the sort of hangover that made most of our own Sunday morning woes look like we just accidentally used someone else’s towel – are other examples), there are simply too many previous titles on their filmographies for their most remarkable roles to be considered their ‘breakouts.’

Instead, the criteria are simply that the role was either a genuine debut, or occurred within their first few feature-film onscreen appearances.

Also – and probably more crucially – the role in question doesn’t have to be a good one. Although plenty of entries on the list are there for their outstanding talent, the entries simply have to have something remarkable about them – something strange, something terrible, or (as is entertainingly easy to find, believe me) something just plain bizarre.

So, from the weird to the extraordinary, here are the most notable entrances into Hollywood land of nine of today’s most celebrated actors and actresses.