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From Jennifer Hudson to Christian Bale: 11 Most memorable debuts in Hollywood

Ryan Gomez

Ryan Gomez
Jul 20, 2021

An actor’s first break in Hollywood might not always go according to the plan. Some manage to take it in their stride more than others, and then there are some who put in a performance of a lifetime. The following, in no particular order, is a list of the best debut performances in Hollywood.

True Grit
7.7OTTplay Rating
Hailee Steinfeld - Hailee Steinfeld is a star on the rise. She has already starred in critically acclaimed roles in films like Edge of Seventeen and Bumblebee. She is also the sole lead in Dickinson, an Apple TV Original television show. Her breakthrough role was however in her feature film debut as a 13-year old in the critically acclaimed film, True Grit, alongside the legendary Jeff Bridges. Her performance earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress
The Witch
7.1OTTplay Rating
Anya Taylor-Joy - Anya Taylor-Joy has become one of the biggest names on television this past year, especially after the success of her role in the Netflix hit, The Queen’s Gambit. She also appeared in Peaky Blinders for the fifth season. In 2015 with the release of The Witch, Taylor-Joy received critical acclaim for her performances - it was also her feature film debut.
Captain Phillips
8.3OTTplay Rating
Barkhad Abdi - It is not often an actor receives more praise and recognition than the rest of the cast when it includes Tom Hanks. Barkhad Abdi did just that, for his portrayal of a Somali pirate whose crew hijacks a US cargo vessel. The movie is based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips, and it won several awards including six Oscar nominations. Abdi himself was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Primal Fear
7.9OTTplay Rating
Edward Norton - Edward Norton is often regarded as one of the greatest actors of his generation. His filmography includes some stellar titles including Fight Club, Birdman, American History X, and Primal Fear. What most people do not immediately realise is that Primal Fear was Norton’s feature film debut, simply because his performance resembled that of an experienced veteran who had been honing his craft for years.
Die Hard
8.3OTTplay Rating
Alan Rickman - The late Alan Rickman has enjoyed a decorated career and is one of the most respected actors of the generation. His popularity in recent years could be attributed to his portrayal of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. However, in the 80s, he shot to stardom on making his feature film debut as the villainous Hans Gruber in Die Hard. The film starring Bruce Willis as the lead is often considered to be one of the greatest action films, and Hans Gruber is also regarded as one of the greatest villains.
48 Hrs.
6.6OTTplay Rating
Eddie Murphy - Eddie Murphy became a bankable star in the 80s and 90s. His first appearance ever in a film or TV show was in the 80s feature film 48 Hrs. The film defined the buddy cop genre for future blockbusters in the 90s and 2000s. Eddie Murphy was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance alongside Nick Nolte.
Inglourious Basterds
8.4OTTplay Rating
Christoph Waltz – The German actor may not have been a rookie when he starred in Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece of a film, Inglourious Basterds, but it was his first film in Hollywood. His performance as SS Colonel Hans Landa earned him an Oscar. In fact, he won an Oscar again in 2012 for yet another Tarantino film, Django Unchained. He has since become one of the most recognisable names and one of the most sought after names in Hollywood.
12 Years a Slave
8.6OTTplay Rating
Lupita Nyong'o - Lupita Nyong’o earned universal praise for her performance in the film which also won Best Picture at the Oscars. She is only the second actor/actress on this particular líst to win an Oscar on a feature film debut. The film based on true events is not what most new actors would find smooth to transition into, to showcase their acting prowess, especially when the script is demanding and the other actors on the set include the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Alfre Woodard. Nyong’o however slotted in with ease to deliver a stunning performance.
Empire of the Sun
8OTTplay Rating
Christian Bale - When it comes to method-acting not many can do it better than Christian Bale. Arguably one of the best actors in the world today, the Englishman has amassed a vast collection of awards for his work in cinema over the years. The Golden Globe and Oscar winner’s first feature film role in Hollywood was at the age of 13 in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, released in 1987. It is evident from this performance that Bale was always destined for the very top.
6.9OTTplay Rating
Jennifer Hudson - One of the most talented actors on this list is Jeniffer Hudson. She is among the only few on the planet to win a Grammy and an Oscar. What is more impressive is the fact that she won her Oscar for her very first film, Dreamgirls. The 2006 film also featured other notable actors/musicians like Beyoncé and Jamie Foxx, as well as Hollywood legends such as Danny Glover and Eddie Murphy.
7.8OTTplay Rating
Jamie Lee Curtis - Halloween is often regarded as one of the pioneers of the slasher genre. The film went on to inspire countless other films in the same genre as well as spoof films. It has become a part of pop culture and still holds relevance. The film was Jamie Lee Curtis’ debut, the beginning of an illustrious career lasting over four decades. She returned for a sequel to the original in 2018, and a follow-up for the film titled Halloween Kills is expected to release sometime in 2021, possibly during the Halloween season this year.
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