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26 Actors and the Breakout Roles That Made Them Stars

Every actor has a humble start. Many create a breakthrough as child artists, while some take their time, like Leo’s Titanic is usually considered his break-out movie, but it was actually What’s Eating Gilbert Grape that bestowed him more success in Hollywood. With Bruce Willis, who was reluctant to become an action star, he still took the risk to take the lead role in Die Hard.

We at Bright Side highlighted some of the best breakthrough roles of our beloved Hollywood stars, from Kirsten Dunst to Margot Robbie, we got them all covered, just for you.

1. Kristen Dunst as Claudia in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles

It was Dunst’s big break to star beside Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in a 1994 thriller called Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles. She portrayed the role of a tiny vampire who is taken under the wings of Cruise and Pitt. In her teens, she became a huge star and was also nominated for a Golden Globe for this very role.

2. Bruce Willis as John McClane in the Die Hard movie series

The role of John McClane was rejected by so many prolific actors because it was made in an era where action movies weren’t deemed prestigious. When it was offered to Willis, he was reluctant at first, but the box-office results for the movie were more than a miracle for him. His ability to perform his own stunts and his flawless acting skills made Willis a huge action star.

3. Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman

Before Pretty Woman, Roberts was still a part of famous movies like Mystic Pizza, but Pretty Woman was the ultimate breakout role in her career. Her wide-eyed smile and easy chemistry with Richard Gere are all she needed to become the charm of the movie and Julia portrayed that flawlessly.

4. Richard Gere as Edward Lewis in Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman was not only fruitful for Julia Roberts, but Richard Gere as well. Everything about the movie was perfect: the casting, the filming, and let’s not forget their chemistry. Although Gere was enjoying the fruits of his fame from the movie Gigolo too, Pretty Woman was the cherry on top.

5. Brad Pitt as J.D. in Thelma & Louise

Brad Pitt’s shirtless scene in Thelma & Louise was the talk of the town in 1991. And because of this movie, Pitt is still deemed an icon even today, along with the major movies he’s worked on, like Kalifornia, Se7en, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and many more.

6. Leonardo DiCaprio as Arnie Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Even though Titanic brought Leo to fame, his role as the mentally-challenged Arnie Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape caught the attention of many film critics and audiences. Arnie is also one of the more adored characters in his filming career because of the way he portrayed him. This was also the first Oscar nomination of his life.

7. Ralph Fiennes as Amon Göth in Schindler’s List

Before Voldemort could bring Ralph to fame, Spielberg’s Schindler’s List was a movie to behold. Fiennes played the role of war commandant Amon Göth, where his sharp eyes and the chilling scenes he was in bagged him a lot of awards and an Oscar nomination.

8. Carrie-Anne-Moss as Trinity in The Matrix

For her breakthrough role in The Matrix, Moss underwent 3 physical tests and got acquainted with extreme acrobatic skills. The movie set her career off with a lot of opportunities and awards too.

9. Haley Joel Osment as Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense

When Osment was 11, Hollywood bestowed him his breakthrough role in a thriller called The Sixth Sense. He portrayed the role of a boy who could “see dead people.” He starred opposite Bruce Willis, and the movie had phenomenal box office results as well.

10. Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie Darko in Donnie Darko

This movie is deemed a must-watch because it mixes sci-fi with a psychological thriller that stupefies you to the core. Along with Jake’s breakthrough performance, the movie also embraces humor, time-travel, the concept of the butterfly effect, and an unforgettable cliffhanger that thrills you immensely.

11. Noah Centineo as Peter Kavinsky in the To All The Boys movie series

Centineo stars with Lara Condor in the latest release of their teen rom-coms named To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. The script is just as complicated as the adolescent mind, but Centineo portrays Peter Kavinsky like a pro.

12. Emma Stone as Jules in Superbad

Certainly, Superbad was an amp up for Jonah Hill and Michael Cera too, but there was another celebrity who made it to the list with this movie: Emma Stone. Her funny and sweet character plays Jonah Hill’s lucky love interest in the movie.

13. Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte in Lost in Translation

Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation was the ultimate breakthrough for Scarlett Johannson when she was just 17. She played the role of Charlotte, starred alongside Bill Murray, and received a lot of accolades and awards.

14. Rachel McAdams as Regina George in Mean Girls

McAdams’s break-out role was when she played the mean high school queen bee, Regina George, along with Lindsay Lohan, Lacey Chabert, and Amanda Seyfried. Apart from the amazing quotable dialogue, you can always learn a thing or 2 from this movie, no matter how many times you watch it.

15. Salma Hayek as Carolina in Desperado

Desperado was Salma’s ultimate breakthrough role in the year 1995. She portrayed the role of Antonio Banderas’ partner-in-crime. Besides her marvelous acting skills, her wardrobe was perfection.

16. Jaden Smith as Christopher Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness

The Pursuit of Happyness is one of the most adored movies starring Will Smith and his son Jaden. It was more of a breakthrough role for Jaden though. He plays Will Smith’s 5-year-old son in the movie where they both make it through their hardships and struggles together, which further leads to a really happy ending.

17. Abigail Breslin as Olive Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine

In this adorable movie, Breslin plays a beauty pageant contestant who is also the youngest member of a dysfunctional family. She was only 6 when she was cast as Olive Hoover. Her performance was highly praised, even among her co-stars who claimed that they were appalled by her seriousness of purpose during shooting.

18. Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose

Cotillard was chosen for her breakthrough role in La Vie En Rose because the director noticed a similarity between Piaf and Cotillard’s eyes. The role gave her international accolades along with 2 Oscars, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a few others.

19. Christopher Mintz-Plasse as McLovin in Superbad

Apart from Emma Stone, Jonah Hill, and Michael Cera, McLovin was the most beloved character in the coming-of-age movie Superbad. It was because of his sassy courage mixed with his uber-geeky persona, not to mention that he was a 25-year old Hawaiian organ donor who was friends with police officers, Seth Rogen and Bill Hader.

20. Zach Galifianakis as Alan in the Hangover movie series

The Hangover movies are known for their bizarre and crazy characters and series of events, and Zach Galifianakis is no exception to this. In fact, he is the king of this very insanity. Apart from pulling off the craziest of stunts, his breakthrough role was off-base indeed, which sets you off on your way to a really good laugh.

21. Jodie Foster as Iris in Taxi Driver

Like almost every child actor, Foster also had a hard time in her prime. But it all changed when she starred in Taxi Driver, which was a masterpiece by Martin Scorsese. It was surely a risk for her, but her role stood up to the other actors who were twice her age. She is still renowned for portraying challenging roles, even today.

22. Sandra Bullock as Annie Porter in Speed

When Speed was planned, Keanu Reeves was slated as the lead actor. But eventually, after an amazing box-office run, Bullock became the star. Despite screaming and driving, she proved that she was a genuine person. It made a huge and very positive difference in Bullock’s career in the long run.

23. Michael Fassbender as Brandon in Shame

Shame is a movie based on a successful New Yorker who struggles with his addictions and his inability to form relationships. His sharp eyes and acting make this very role a breakthrough indeed.

24. Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes in the Marvel movies

Bucky Barnes is one of the most underrated Avengers. He set himself free from Hydra and stayed incredibly loyal to Captain America, who was indeed a good person at heart. The role was portrayed by Sebastian Stan and is considered his breakthrough character.

25. Kit Harrington as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones

Jon Snow remained almost everyone’s favorite among Game of Thrones’ fans, no matter how the last season went down. This breakthrough role bestowed global fame upon him, but it engulfed him so much that he had to go to therapy later.

26. Margot Robbie as Naomi Lapaglia in The Wolf of Wall Street

This Australian actress got a major break in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, acting beside the one and only, Leonardo DiCaprio. Margot Robbie plays the wife of Jordan Belfort and is a charmer throughout. Now she is a huge Hollywood star and an Oscar nominee too.

Which of these actors and their roles are your favorite? Share with us in the comments below.