21 of the Best Debut Performances in Movie History

21 of the Best Debut Performances in Movie History

A lot of actors spend decades honing their craft, toiling away in bit parts to the point that your Ian McKellans and Judi Denches don’t land on the global pop-culture radar until they’re well into their golden years. It must be real annoying for them when your Natalie Portmans and Jennifer Lawrences knock it out of the park on their first try. Then again, there are hidden gems known off-Broadway or on Australian soap operas as heavy hitters but don’t make their film debuts later in life, prompting everyone to cry, “Holy shit, where did this guy come from?”

For example, as Redditor Helloimafanoffiction recently pointed out, Richard E. Grant, who was 30 by the time he made his debut in Withnail & I, “brought the perfect amount of arrogance to the role but was still likable so we didn’t hate the character.” They then asked r/Movies, “What’s the best acting debut you’ve ever seen in a movie?” and Reddit reminisced about child prodigies, many future Oscar-winners and one so nice he debuted twice.

Edward Norton in Primal Fear

Alan Rickman in Die Hard

Matthew McConaghey in Dazed and Confused

Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins

Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon

Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun

Natalie Portman in The Professional

Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee

Charlize Theron in 2 Days in the Valley

Jacob Tremblay in Room

Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries

Kirsten Dunst in Interview With the Vampire

Tom Cruise in Taps

Kevin Kline in Sophie’s Choice

Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone

Glenn Close in The World According to Garp

Sharlto Copley in District 9

Dane DeHaan in Chronicle

Ke Huy Quan in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom/Everything Everywhere All At Once

Tommy Wiseau in The Room

Vincent D’Onofrio in Full Metal Jacket

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