Submitted by SherbertEquivalent66 t3_11ah4j1 in movies

Every once in a while, a new actor/actress debuts with a really stunning performance that can't help but grab everyone's attention. Usually, it's the start of a significant career, though sometimes they never seem to reach that height again. What do you feel are some of the most impressive debut performances? A few of my favorites are:

Dustin Hoffman - The Graduate

Marlon Brando - A Streetcar Named Desire

Edward Norton - Primal Fear

Sissy Spacek - Badlands



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butterbean90 t1_j9s0zz7 wrote

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch, her career exploded after that strong first performance


Huevos___Rancheros t1_j9s20if wrote

Frankie Corio was excellent in Aftersun

Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber is a great shout as well


butterbean90 t1_j9s2quc wrote

Had no idea Die Hard was Alan Rickmans first movie. Good call!


Huevos___Rancheros t1_j9s32rf wrote

I didn’t know until about 5 minutes ago when I looked up more examples 🤣


Spankety-wank t1_j9s4pjz wrote

Corio was my first thought. It's rare to see a child actor be so natural on camera.

The last child actor I was equally impressed by was Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild, although she seems to be heading for only a decent career rather than superstardom.


Looper007 t1_j9smmsf wrote

It's going to be tough for young Corio to find anything as great as Aftersun even this early into her career. It's a damn shame she's not got any award buzz. I hope (also with Paul Mescal), they can be in good to great films and produce great performances. It be tougher for Corio as she's still pretty young and she's not going to get the chance straight away to do a bunch of films like Mescal can.

But excellent debut performance for sure.


Boobabycluebaby t1_j9v77z3 wrote

Alan Rickman is absolutely the correct answer. Such confidence in his acting and performance, for as villainous a character as he plays it honestly doesn't come across as scenery chewing as it so very well could have.


Whiteness88 t1_j9s6bzg wrote

In my eyes, nothing can top Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. He represented a significant shift from the traditional acting style you saw in cinema and it's very obvious once you see the film: everyone else has that style which incorporates a bit of overacting whereas Brando actually feels like a normal person.


Looper007 t1_j9smt1e wrote

Great performance, Wasn't his film debut though. He did a film called The Men a year before Streetcar. Not a great film but very good performance from Brando.


Whiteness88 t1_j9tvjte wrote

Oh wow, I thought it was his debut for the longest time!


Looper007 t1_j9u0fle wrote

You ain't the only one. I think many assume a lot of actors or actress break through performances on screen are their debuts (I've seen a bunch mentioned here already that think that).


SherbertEquivalent66 OP t1_j9sankx wrote

I agree. He played the role on Broadway first, so it wasn't his "debut" playing that part, but he was so good that it transformed movies.


ChrisEvansFan t1_j9sbbb9 wrote

I already asked this just yesterday. Which is odd because it is just yesterday? It is like people dont browse this sub or maybe they do but just rehash the idea -

But yeah Felix Kammerer for All Quiet on the Western Front and Christian Bale for Empire of the Sun.

Also in that thread I found out Ed Norton’s debut is Primal Fear and that is very impressive


SherbertEquivalent66 OP t1_j9sbl8d wrote

Sorry. I'll do a search next time. This is one of the ones I've thought about for years and I just started posting on Reddit. There's maybe only so many ideas out there.


MalignantFanAccount t1_j9s5o2t wrote

The trinity of child actresses in ultra-violent, adult oriented stuff, Natalie Portman in the Professional, Chloe Grace Moretz in Kick-Ass, and Maisie Williams in Game of Thrones.


WhyDidILogin t1_j9sbjyg wrote

Chloe Grace Moretz had dozens of acting credits ahead of Kick-Ass though. Definitely not a debut performance, for her at least.


Looper007 t1_j9smpnl wrote

She was even in a crappy Steven Sengal film before Kick Ass playing his daughter.


SherbertEquivalent66 OP t1_j9saeil wrote

You could add Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, but she'd already done some movies before that.


CTFX84 t1_j9s60bv wrote

Billy Bob Thornton - Sling Blade. This was his directorial debut, he wrote it, and starred in it. I know he was in a few other bit parts before this. But I think this one is equally as important


SherbertEquivalent66 OP t1_j9s9psa wrote

That's a good answer, though he had a leading role in One False Move before that, which is one of my favorite movies.


DarkReaper90 t1_j9sfqwr wrote

Natalie Portman in Leon the Professional

Edward Norton in Primal Fear


Spankety-wank t1_j9s5t53 wrote

Emily Blunt's first proper feature role was very interesting - My Summer of Love.

IIRC she plays someone who is subtly manipulative or duplicitous and does it really well, along with doing all of the straightforwardly dramatic stuff perfectly.


NoirPochette t1_j9scb00 wrote

Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls

She was amazing. I can't think of like any top debuts off the top of my head really.


rroz_dirvilha t1_j9ss6lg wrote

Edward Furlong in Terminator 2 Judgement Day


Parking_Mall_1384 t1_j9tcmry wrote

Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey in Heavenly Creatures.


jonah379 t1_j9wnjti wrote

Haven’t seen The Piano yet but Anna Paquin won the Oscar for it and was like 10 years old, pretty crazy


sparkymiddlefinger t1_j9s3798 wrote

Natalie Portman in Beautiful Girls.


SherbertEquivalent66 OP t1_j9s3lg5 wrote

You should get points for thinking of something instead of looking it up, but her first movie was actually The Professional.


sparkymiddlefinger t1_j9s6onq wrote

Sorry. I thought I remembered reading that was her debut. Plus, she was so young.


TheDaysKing t1_j9strga wrote

Sharlto Copley as Wikus in District 9. Pretty sure he'd only been a producer until then.


Derkanator t1_j9uos1t wrote

Great choice. I remember him in Hardcore Henry and Elysium. He was great in Beast too.


TheDaysKing t1_j9wjc9v wrote

Yeah, he's a standout actor in pretty much everything I've seen him in. But his first major performance in District 9 was Oscar-worthy, in my opinion. And for movies like Elysium or that stupid Oldboy remake, I'd say he's half the reason either of those are worth watching.


Mr_Tough_Guy t1_j9t8v6u wrote

Catherine Clinch - An Cailín Ciúin (2022, The Quiet Girl) Best performance of 2022, Really looking forward to seeing more of her.


FoxOntheRun99 t1_j9u1lay wrote

Hmm lately, I was impressed with The Fablemanns Gabriel LaBelle and Jeremy Allen White in The Bear (hes probably done other stuff before, but I've never seen him)

And Emma Stone in Superbad (probably the whole cast tbf, but I just knew she had something)


Looper007 t1_j9vgt6s wrote

Jeremy Allen White has been acting since 2006 when he was 15 , he was even in that awful film Movie 43 playing Naomi Watts/Liev Schreiber's kid in their segment.

And even before the Bear he was in Shameless for years. Guys got a ton of experience under him.

It was indeed Emma's first film. She done a lot of TV before that.


dhriggs t1_j9vglow wrote

Yeah Norton is always the first thing that comes to mind.

Would perhaps add Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone.


andro_7 t1_j9s2jzy wrote

Sasha Lane in American Honey


Meagz4 t1_j9t020z wrote

Leonardo di caprio in Gilbert Grape


FredererPower t1_j9t3bvd wrote

He did This Boy’s Life with Robert De Niro before Gilbert Grape though


Meagz4 t1_j9verpi wrote

Oh that’s true and he was amazing in that too!


RagsTTiger t1_j9t1y66 wrote

Judy Davis and Sam Neill both in My Brilliant Career

Mel Gibson in Mad Max


Looper007 t1_j9tdpn1 wrote

Not his debut to be fair, he did a film called Summer City before Mad Max.

Sam Neill did like 5 or 6 films before My Brilliant Career, also one amazing one in Sleeping Dogs. He's great in the film I give you that but nowhere near his debut.

Not Judy Davis debut either, she did a film two years before that was her debut.


FredererPower t1_j9t39qj wrote

Wasn’t Rocky Sylvester Stallone’s first ever performance?


Looper007 t1_j9tduxf wrote

No way, he was acting all the way back in 1969. It's his first lead role for sure.


SherbertEquivalent66 OP t1_j9ude7w wrote

Maybe his first leading role. I remember that he was one of the thugs that beat up Charles Bronson or his wife in Death Wish.


TheMadLurker17 t1_j9uhhbz wrote

He had major roles in Death Race 2000 and Lords of Flatbush before Rocky.


alwayssoupy t1_j9vftvf wrote

Two of the earliest I remember people talking about were Tatum ONeal in Paper Moon and Mayim Bialek in Beaches.


HumberBumummumum t1_j9vqao9 wrote

Not sure if it’s his first role, but remember seeing an unknown Ben Wishaw in a film called “My brother Ben” or “my friend Ben” YEARS ago on tv late at night. Remembered his name for years in case he went on to do anything more or any theatre I could see. He was magnetic and super intense, really standout performance.


PMzyox t1_j9wjwnj wrote

Ben in Lost.


[deleted] t1_j9s1tlv wrote



Spankety-wank t1_j9s40i8 wrote

I found that I could see the acting, one of the least impressive performances in the series imo. Glad you enjoyed her though.