A Star Is Born: Your Favorite Actors' Surprising Breakout Roles

Photo: Everett Collection/REX USA.
Every year, new actors are introduced to the mainstream by way of performances so intense, so charismatic, or so brave, that they become impossible to ignore. But, what makes a true breakout performance, rather than one-off onscreen chemistry, is the potential for that lightning to strike again, and again, and again.
Tom Cruise had it when, in a pair of briefs and shades, he slid across the floor of his fictional parents' home, and into our theaters for the next three decades. When we first saw a tough-as-nails ingenue named Jennifer Lawrence skin a squirrel in Winter's Bone, we knew it wouldn't be the last time we'd watch her expertly wield a weapon on the big screen. And, when a 12-year-old Natalie Portman fit right in with a bunch of assassins, sociopaths, and drug addicts in The Professional, she solidified herself as someone we would watch grow up on film.
But, picking an actor's breakout role isn't always easy, a hard truth we learned while putting together this list. Often times, we're tempted to pick their debut role, or the performance we just like the best. Singling out the exact moment a star earned the "super" prefix is hardly cut and dried. What we tried to do was select the role that finally made an actor a part of the zeitgeist; the turn that made it clear we'd be seeing a lot more of them.
Without further ado, here are 50 of your favorite actors, and the roles them made them stars.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics; Photo: Picture Perfect/REX USA.
Tilda Swinton, Orlando
The British thespian's gender-defying performance, as the titular character in a 1992 remake of the Virginia Woolf classic, truly heralded the arrival of a fearless new talent. Swinton is an artist in the truest sense of the word, and the unpredictable career she's embarked on since has been a thrill to watch.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures; Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Yes, we’re well aware everyone's new favorite young actor/wood elf was in The Secret Life of The American Teenager some time before she showed up in The Descendants. But, it was playing against George Clooney with Alexander Payne's direction that the girl's chops really shined through. In a role that could have come off as your average whiny teenager, Shailene was touching, real, and a bit of a revelation. All the wood-elf stuff was just a bonus.
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Photo: Courtesy of Artisan Entertainment; Photo: Rob Latour/REX USA.
Jared Leto, Requiem For a Dream
Anyone who saw Jared Leto’s gutsy, Oscar-winning performance in Dallas Buyers Club, was reminded that the 30 Seconds To Mars frontman can seriously act. Anyone who saw his gut-wrenching turn as a junkie with a heart of gold in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream probably never forgot in the first place.
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Photo: Courtesy of Miramax Films; Photo: David Fisher/REX USA.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma
Gwyneth Paltrow’s trademark elegance was on full display early on in her career, when she played the title character in this delightful adaptation of Jane Austen’s most lighthearted novel. It was a perfectly timed break from how audiences first saw Paltrow: with her head in a box in David Fincher’s grim serial-killer thriller Se7en.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures; Photo: Picture Perfect/REX USA.
Matthew McConaughey, Dazed and Confused
Alright, alright, alright. You know, if McConaughey had never appeared on film again after his performance as Wooderson in 1993’s stoner epic Dazed and Confused, it almost would have been enough. In just a few short scenes, he was able to embody that guy, that dude we’ve all met at a hundred parties, so well that his character is almost a work of pop art on its own. Of course, we’re glad he kept acting. We hear he’s done okay since.
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Photo: Courtesy of Focus Features; Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brick
Remember when Joseph Gordon-Levitt was that gawky little kid with the long hair on Third Rock From The Sun? It’s getting harder and harder to, partially thanks to his role in Brick. In the noir tale of high-school drug dealing, JGL was hyper real and emphatically adult. It was the first time he was truly compelling, tough, and, to be honest, a little scary. Without this dramatic break from sitcom fare, nothing he’s done since would've been possible.
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Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures; Photo: Matt Baron/BEImages.
Kerry Washington, Save The Last Dance
These days, Kerry Washington is everywhere all the time, and the world is better for it. But, once upon 2001, we met her as a tough-talking, generous single mother helping Julia Stiles’ character adapt to life in the ‘hood in Save The Last Dance. Sure, Julia was the star, but Kerry was the one we believed in (and remembered) thereafter.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fine Line Features; Photo: Perfect/REX USA.
Julianne Moore, Short Cuts
Julianne Moore entered our lives naked from the waist down and screaming. It may not be the usual way we meet a promising young actress, but in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, she gave us an intimate view of a real, heartbreaking domestic situation that was pretty unforgettable. It was an emotional performance impossible to ignore, and she's held our attention since.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures; Photo: Picture Perfect/REX USA.
Ellen Page, Juno
Page spent her teens kicking around the Canadian entertainment industry. TV, movies, you name it. Little of it made its way south, though. Then, in 2007, we got to see her up close and pregnant as the acerbic, fast-talking, but still-kinda-adorable title character of Juno. In retrospect, it was the kind of role only Ellen could have pulled off — sweet and angry — and a preview of all the impassioned work she’s done since.
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Photo: Courtesy of Miramax Films; Photo: Alex J. Berliner/BEImages.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting
Sorry, Lupita. Sorry, J Lawr. But, to this day, there has never been a Hollywood coming-out party quite like the one that went down at the 70th Academy Awards, when two relatively unknown Bostonians rode their little $10 million movie all the way into the Shrine Auditorium on the back of nine nominations to win for Best Original Screenplay. That the careers of both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have stood the test of time is a true testament to their freakish talent. Clearly, there’s something in the water in Boston.
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal; Picture Perfect/REX USA.
Drew Barrymore, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
There’s no getting around it, our Drew is the heir to Hollywood royalty. Thing is, she’s earned everything that’s come her way since she first hit the scene. Perhaps its because she basically grew up with a camera aimed her way. Here, at the age of seven, she did what she’s always done; played a version of her wonderful self. For audiences, it was love at first sight.
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox; Photo: Nils Jorgensen/REX USA.
Tom Hanks, Big
Thanks to TV’s Bosom Buddies as well as Splash! and Bachelor Party, Tom Hanks was a familiar face when Big rolled around in 1988. But, in creating the perfect image of a kid in a man’s body, he gave us a movie that parents and children alike could enjoy. He’s been a part of the American (film) family ever since.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures; Photo: REX USA.
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth
It was a bit of a controversy when Shekhar Kapur tapped an Australian for the lead in his gauzy, surreal biopic about England’s greatest monarch. Cate, however, had everyone changing their tune. Her ability to make the character age before our eyes, from a teen to a very adult queen, was magical. After taking on a role that could have spelled the end for most actors, she flourished.
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Photo: Courtesy of Miramax Films; Photo: Stewart Cook/REX USA.
Helen Mirren, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
Helen Mirren was already an established theater actress in London’s West End when she starred, in Peter Greenaway’s groundbreaking crime drama, as a soft-spoken gangster’s wife in the midst of a sexual awakening. It was a brave performance that remains one of the best of her long and storied career.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Weinstein Company; Photo: Gregory Pace/BEImages.
Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station
Fans of The Wire and Friday Night Lights knew that Michael B. Jordan was destined for stardom thanks to his brilliant performances as two troubled teens looking for a way out. So, when his gripping portrayal of another complex young man in Fruitvale Station took Sundance by storm in 2013, a collective “We told you so!” reverberated across the Internet. Jordan has since parlayed his breakout performance into major roles, in the upcoming Fantastic Four and Rocky reboots, as well as a one-way ticket to the A-list.
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures; Photo: REX USA.
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
It’s still hard to fathom that Jennifer Lawrence was only 19 when she took the film world by storm with her poignant performance as an unflinching Ozark teen in search of her drug-addict father in Winter’s Bone. The talented-beyond-her-years Kentucky native was nominated for her first Oscar, and Hollywood had discovered the rarest of breeds: a young, female action hero who could anchor her own blockbuster movies, and act the hell out of them, too. Just like that, an industry savior was born.
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Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures; Photo: Picture Perfect/REX USA.
Jodie Foster, Taxi Driver
Like so many child actors, Foster spent much of her youth doing mostly upbeat fare. But, at the age of 14, she jumped on a project that would prove to be a bloody, sweaty classic. Her previous experience in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore must have prepared her well for her turn as Iris, a child prostitute without a heart of gold. It was dangerous territory, but Foster's depiction stood up to actors twice her age. It earned her a rep for the studied, challenging performances she still carries out almost 40 years later.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures; Photo: Stewart Cook/REX USA.
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Okay, this one’s kind of unfair. We all know that Nyong’o exploded after her Academy-Award-winning turn as the devastating, but still fiery, Patsey. Those who’ve seen it know how complex and harrowing her performance is. To her credit, Lupita’s reaction to her sudden fame has been both graceful and playful. While the movie was somber, Nyong’o is anything but — something that suggests she’ll find herself in a wide range of roles soon.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Brothers; Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Tom Cruise, Risky Business
Tom Cruise’s breakout performance in the 1983 hit Risky Business is remembered for a lot of things. The way he helped transform what could’ve been a generic teen comedy into a biting satire. Or, the way his performance hovered from steely confidence to baby-faced innocence with ease. But, what we’ll remember most from the role that gave birth to our generation's biggest movie star is far simpler: That shirt, those briefs, that song, those Ray-Bans, and the perfectly waxed floor.
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Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Vantage; Photo: John P. De Graeve/REX USA.
Kristen Stewart, Into the Wild
Although the future Bella Swan was first introduced to audiences as Jodie Foster’s tomboy daughter in David Fincher’s Panic Room, it wasn’t until Sean Penn cast her years later, as Emile Hirsch’s love interest in the wilderness drama Into The Wild, that we got our first glimpse of Stewart as a seductress. At the time, Penn had high praise for his young star, calling her “a truth machine,” and adding that the then-17-year-old was, “a real force with terrific instincts."
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox; Photo: David Fisher/REX USA.
Sigourney Weaver, Alien
Essentially a haunted-house film set in space, Alien's director Ridley Scott pulled off a cool Psycho move by killing off the male lead, Tom Skerritt, and leaving the audience with Weaver, an unknown at the time. Her combination of grit and vulnerability worked like gangbusters, creating a film classic and legendary careers for both Weaver and Scott.
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal; Photo: Willi Schneider/REX USA.
Denzel Washington, Cry Freedom
Denzel Washington got his big break as Dr. Phillip Chandler on NBC’s hit hospital drama St. Elsewhere, but it was his mesmerizing performance as the black nationalist leader Steven Biko in the 1987 historical drama Cry Freedom that hinted at his potential. Washington’s ability to command the big screen was apparent from the opening frame and, one Oscar nomination later, Hollywood’s newest leading man was born.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Brothers; Photo: Gregory Pace/BEImages.
Christian Bale, Empire Of The Sun
Child actors don’t normally get starts like this. Not only was Empire Of The Sun completely hinged on Bale’s abilities, it was a massive Steven Spielberg production. In it, Bale avoided that common child-actor pitfall of coming off cutesy to give a tough, striking performance. And, 27 years later, he’s still doing just that.
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Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Vantage; Photo: John P. De Graeve/REX USA.
Kirsten Dunst, Interview with the Vampire
Guys, this was supposed to be Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise’s film. What happened? Well, we guess when you get a 12-year-old girl who can really make you believe she’s somewhere in her upper 30s, star power just doesn’t matter. Playing a vampire who comes of age in a little girl’s body, Dunst was eerie and perfect. Thing is, she’d already been acting for eleven years by the time Neil Jordan cast her for this pic. Practice makes perfect.
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox; Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Sandra Bullock, Speed
When the producers put Speed together, Keanu Reeves was the star. By the time it had finished its spectacular box-office run, Bullock was. With little more to do than scream and drive, Sandra was able to capture the audience while making us believe that, despite the ludicrous plot, she was a real person. It was a stark difference from Hollywood's everyday action heroines and a career-maker for Sandy.
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal; Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Sean Penn, Fast Times At Ridgemont High
It’s hard to believe that the most straight-faced actor in Hollywood first made his mark by walking into class with a bagel in his pants. As the surfer burnout Jeff Spicoli in Amy Heckerling’s cult classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a young Sean Penn took what could have been a cardboard cutout performance and made it his own. We haven’t seen him flex his comedic muscle since, but with the Oscar-winning career he's gone on to have, we don’t care.
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Photo: Courtesy of New Line Cinema; Photo: Everett Collection/REX USA.
Cameron Diaz, The Mask
As the leggy love interest to Jim Carrey’s manic superhero in the '90s blockbuster, a lesser actress might have left it at that. Not Cameron Diaz. The 21-year-old former model didn’t let her lack of acting experience stop her from making the role of Tina Carlyle her own. Equal parts smart and sexy, Cameron was quickly lauded as a sure-fire leading lady — a formula we've seen pay off time and again.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Samuel Goldwyn Company; Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Julia Roberts, Mystic Pizza
Forget Pretty Woman. While that blockbuster '90s rom-com turned the Georgia Native into America’s undisputed Sweetheart, it was her highly underrated work in the charming coming-of-age story Mystic Pizza that first showcased the range that would earn her an Oscar for Erin Brockovich two decades later. As Daisy, the sexually charged hustler, Roberts was both explosive and meticulous, and proved to the world that she was more than just a million-dollar smile.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures; Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Amy Adams, Junebug
Amy Adams is one of those young Hollywood personalities that seems like she’s been around for decades. But, really, she’s a newbie. After years of bit roles in The West Wing, Smallville, and the like, she made a huge impact with her role as an excitable, pregnant housewife in Junebug. People weren’t buzzing about the indie film — they were buzzing about her. With a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination, she arrived on the A-list seemingly out of nowhere while looking as if she completely belonged.
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures; Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Johnny Depp, Cry Baby
Desperate to escape the teen-idol status he’d cultivated as a result of his work on 21 Jump Street, Johnny Depp gravitated to weirder roles when he finally decided to embark on his film career. First up was the lead in John Waters’ musical rom-com Cry Baby, in which Depp played the leader of a band of suburban outliers with an uncanny ability to shed a tear. While it may not get much weirder than that, Depp has certainly spent the intervening years trying.
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Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures; Photo: Unimedia International/REX USA.
Emma Stone, Superbad
In a meager, pretty much thankless role as Jonah Hill’s crush in Superbad, Emma Stone managed the neat trick of creating, with just a few appearances, a character that made us understand why a high-school kid might be pining after her. She wasn’t just “hot.” She was cool. Like, let’s-be-best-friends-right-now cool. Just to give you an idea of how big an accomplishment that was, think about this: Can you remember who Michael Cera’s love interest was? No. Sorry. You can’t.
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Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures; Photo: REX USA.
Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted
Prior to her turn as the unhinged mental patient, Lisa, in Girl, Interrupted, Angelina Jolie made waves as the title character in Gia, the made-for-TV movie that tracked the tragic life of model Gia Carangi. Though her tour-de-force performance earned Jolie raves and jump-started her movie career, it wasn’t until she took home the Academy Award for Girl, Interrupted that the rebellious Jolie was finally embraced by studios and audiences alike.
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Photo: Courtesy of MGM; Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Brad Pitt, Thelma & Louise
George Clooney likes to tell the story of how he lost out to another young heartthrob for the role of J.D., the sexy con man in Ridley Scott’s 1991 smash hit Thelma & Louise. While the casting directors could have easily been kicking themselves for passing on a star in the making, they just so happened to stumble upon another one. His name was Brad Pitt. Enough said.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures; Photo: Nicolas Khayat/REX USA.
Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life
Producers and casting agents first took note of the elegant, talented Chastain after her starring role in Jolene. But, few others saw it. Things really took off for her when directing genius Terrence Malick tapped her for The Tree of Life. Even before the film — which brought out Chastain’s beautifully sad side — hit theaters, she’d been cast in four or five other killer projects (which all made it to the public first because Terrence Malick is Terrence Malick). In any case, most people who saw The Tree of Life left wondering what the film was about and who that gorgeous redhead was.
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Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures; Photo: MediaPunch Inc/REX USA.
James Franco, Spider-Man
James Franco had already shown us his considerable acting chops in Judd Apatow’s cult series Freaks and Geeks, and the made-for-TV movie James Dean, when mainstream audiences were introduced to him via his supporting role as Harry Osborne in the mega-blockbuster Spider-Man. Franco’s performance didn’t earn him universal acclaim, but it did earn him the clout he needed to pursue one of the most versatile careers Hollywood has ever seen.
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Photo: Courtesy of New Line Cinema; Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Basketball Diaries
Okay, before you even start, we know that by the time he appeared in 1995’s The Basketball Diaries, Leo had already been nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. But, let’s remember, before The Basketball Diaries he was considered a precious — if talented — teen actor. In the heroin-addled Basketball Diaries, he became what he is now: a solid-gold hottie. Sure, Gilbert Grape (or Growing Pains) was where everyone met him. The Basketball Diaries is when everyone started wanting him.
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Photo: Courtesy of United Artists; Photo: Everett Collection/REX USA.
Scarlett Johansson, Ghost World
In Ghost World, Terry Zwigoff’s seminal exploration of suburban teenage ennui, Scarlett Johansson played Rebecca, a social outsider preparing for the unknown next stage of her life. Johansson was the film’s breakout star, earning The Toronto Film Critics' Best Supporting Actress award, which cemented the next stage of her actual life: being Hollywood’s newest ingenue.
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Photo: Courtesy of New Line Cinema; Photo: David Fisher/REX USA.
Dakota Fanning, I Am Sam
Fanning has grown up in front of our eyes, from an appearance as a 5-year-old Ally McBeal to her role in the Twilight saga. But, it was here, as the child of Sean Penn’s developmentally challenged character in I Am Sam, that moviegoers first met the acting prodigy. She’s rarely let go of our heartstrings since. While the Homecoming Queen has slowed down a bit for school, we’re expecting HUGE things for her in the next two years.
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Photo: Courtesy of Miramax Films; Photo: MBBImages/BEImages.
Anna Paquin, The Piano
When casting her 1993 masterpiece The Piano, director Jane Campion saw 5,000 young girls for the part of Fiona McGrath, the bright young daughter of Holly Hunter’s Ada McGrath. But, it was an 11-year-old New Zealander named Anna Paquin who caught Campion’s eye. Paquin’s performance as the strong-willed girl was revelatory, and earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, making her the second youngest Oscar winner ever.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate; Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Though Gabourey Sidibe may not fit the typical mold of a Hollywood starlet, after her devastatingly haunting performance as an overweight, illiterate African-American teen in Precious wowed critics and audiences alike, no one seemed to care. Tapping into such pain and vulnerability, Sidibe showed a skill level uncommon for a first-time actress. And, she earned an Academy Award nomination as a result.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Samuel Goldwyn Company; Photo: Matt Baron/BEImages.
Laura Dern, Wild at Heart
The child of Hollywood actors, Dern had been on sets and on screen for years before she blazed into this 1990 David Lynch classic. With moments both terrifying and sensual, her turn as the simultaneously childlike and sexually mature Lula not only made her career, it arguably helped launch Nic Cage and Lynch into mainstream success. Not bad for a 23-year-old newbie.
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Photo: Courtesy of Miramax Films; Photo: Picture Perfect/REX USA.
Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jane Eyre
The very existence of Gainsbourg — the daughter of French pop legend Serge Gainsbourg and the almost equally legendary model Jane Birkin — was completely lost on American audiences until Franco Zeffirelli’s 1996 adaptation of the Brontë classic. For the first time in cinema history, Jane Eyre appeared just as odd and haunted as she does in the novel, and a strange, sexy, unforgettable star was born.
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Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures; Photo: Picture Perfect/REX USA.
Natalie Portman, The Professional
Director Luc Besson knew he would have to discover a once-in-a-generation talent to play Mathilda, the 12-year-old apprentice of a New York City hitman in his stylish action noir The Professional (aka Léon). And, discover he did. He found Natalie Portman, a relatively inexperienced little girl from Long Island, who gave a performance wildly beyond her years. As a modern-day Lolita, Portman exuded just the right mix of innocence and sexuality that was as equal parts alluring and disturbing. Portman’s uncanny ability to tap into the darker side of her character's psyche was a prelude to her Oscar-winning performance years later in Black Swan.
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures; Photo: REX USA.
Meryl Streep, Deer Hunter
Before there was Meryl Streep, the actress with 18 Oscar nominations, there was Meryl Streep, the tireless New York stage actress fresh out of Yale. But, after accepting a role as the woman who comes in between two friends in Michael Cimino’s brutal Vietnam saga, The Deer Hunter, just so she could spend time with her terminally ill boyfriend John Cazale (who also starred), everything changed. Cazale passed away nine months before the film hit theaters, and Streep went on to earn her first Oscar nod, en route to becoming the most celebrated actress ever.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures; Photo: Rob Latour/REX USA.
Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects
Director Bryan Singer's dark masterpiece featured a stellar ensemble of eccentric character actors at the top of their games. But, it was Kevin Spacey's virtuoso performance as Verbal Kint, that will go down as one of the most compelling creations in American Film. And, for the star of Se7en, American Beauty, and L.A. Confidential, it was the first of many more to come.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dimension Films; Photo: Rob Latour/REX USA.
Salma Hayek, From Dusk Till Dawn
Mexican telenovela star Salma Hayek had been in several U.S. features and was making a bit of a name for herself already as a beautiful actor with sharp comedic timing in the early ‘90s. But, it really wasn’t until she swung a boa constrictor around her neck and did a seductive dance in this 1996 vamp flick that her star really started to shine. Fame is funny that way.
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Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures; Photo: David Fisher/REX USA.
Penelope Cruz, All the Pretty Horses
Already a star in her native Spain, Penelope Cruz got her first big break stateside when Billy Bob Thornton cast her as Matt Damon's love interest in his adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's prize-winning novel All the Pretty Horses. Though the film received mixed reviews, Cruz proved she could go toe to toe with an American movie star of Damon's caliber. That paved the way for her upcoming roles opposite Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky, and Johnny Depp in Blow, making Cruz Spain's greatest export since, well, ever.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fine Line Features; Photo: David Fisher/REX USA.
Javier Bardem, Before Night Falls
For his performance as Reinaldo Arenas, one of Cuba's most vital literary voices, Javier Bardem received international acclaim, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. That was pretty high praise for what was the Spaniard's first major English-speaking role. However, nothing compared to a congratulatory voicemail Bardem received from his idol, Al Pacino. Our guess is Bardem's now the one leaving messages.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures; Photo: David Fisher/REX USA.
Freida Pinto, Slumdog Millionaire
It takes a lot to stand out in Danny Boyle's exuberant thrillride Slumdog Millionaire, which many considered to be the best film of 2008. But, with an uncommon combination of beauty, grace, and talent, Freida Pinto managed to do just that. And, while most actresses from her native India have trouble finding success outside of the Bollywood genre, Pinto's undeniable star quality proved too much for Hollywood to ignore.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Brothers; Photo: Stewart Cook/REX USA.
Bradley Cooper, The Hangover
After his scene-stealing turns in The Wedding Crashers and Yes Man, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood started taking Bradley Cooper seriously. But, who would've guessed his slap-happy performance in a raunchy comedy about a debauched weekend in Vegas that would do it?

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