During the Rifftrax of the movie Daredevil, Mike is briefly impressed by a moment of good acting from Affleck as he plays blind lawyer Matt Murdock, even if Mike tackles in a joke at the end.
Matt: What is your problem with our clients, we have good, respectable clients. What's your definition of better? Define better. Mike: Huh. Ben Affleck takes a stab at acting. And that's the last time we'll ever see him do that.
The Town is also an example of this. Also, Blake Lively reveals that she can do more than Gossip Girl, and Jeremy Renner, while not being considered anywhere near a bad actor, reveals that he has much more than The Hurt Locker in him, he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, his second nomination after his first for Best Actor in The Hurt Locker.
Gone Girl. While Rosamund Pike got a majority of the awards, likely because of the reveal that her character is a manipulative psychopath, Affleck's performance as the other half of a seriously messed up couple cannot be denied.
From the teaser footage that's been shown of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there are people who think he could have the part nailed in spite of suffering from some serious WTH, Casting Agency? backlash when he was announced for the part. Having seen the movie, many critics were completely sold on him as Bruce Wayne/Batman, despite the film's tepid reception.
Speaking of Affleck Brothers, Casey Affleck. After bit parts in comedies such as The Last Kiss and the Oceans Films, no one expected much. Then in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, he delivers an absolutely stunning and brilliantly understated performance as Bob Ford, the much-reviled murderer of Jesse James, who wants nothing more than to be famous and beloved like his icon. His role in Gone Baby Gone showed that he was only going to get better, and he is now an Oscar winner for Manchester by the Sea.
Woody Allen in The Front. Up until this point in his career, he had been known for playing silly, nebbishy nerds. Although there are traces of that here, it's a deeper and more dramatic performance than even his fans are used to.
Leila Arcieri in Kevin Hill. Before then she was thought of as more of a beauty than anything else. But her role in Kevin Hill proved she's very capable of doing dramatic roles and is more than just a pretty face.
Tom Arnold surprised a lot of people, including film critics, with his performance in True Lies, especially since beforehand he was pretty much known for being married to Rosanne Barr. The dramatic scene where he quietly tells Harry that he shouldn't be surprised that Helen might be cheating (because Harry's job keeps him away from home so much) is very well done. There's a lot of anguish on his face, which gives you a hint that his jokes about his own failed marriages are a defense mechanism he's using to mask a great deal of pain.
Arnold gained critical acclaim for his very against-type performance in Gardens Of The Night, playing a strangely compassionate child predator who seems to see love and manipulation as the exact same thing.
Trading Places. Say what you want about Aykroyd's acting, but he played his character pretty well. His character was going through depression because his life has been destroyed by a bet. And he played it very convincing.
And then he was vindicated by Oscar nomination via his stellar performance in Driving Miss Daisy, managing to hold his own in the company of screen legend Jessica Tandy.
Sacha Baron Cohen in Hugo gives a surprisingly good performance as the station inspector. You can feel the character's pathos when need be, it's awesome.
Judith Barsi's role as Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven. This was her final role before her tragic death, and she really gives it her all during some of the more emotional moments, specifically the very end of the film.
Kristen Bell surprised quite a few people, castmates included, that she could belt out one hell of a tune in Disney's Frozen. Some reviewers pointed out that the film let her unleash one of her best-kept secrets (since her singing before this had been minor things, such as the Reefer Madness parody Reefer Madness: The Musical).
John Belushi played completely against type in the sweet romantic comedy Continental Divide, which made a lot of people wonder What Could Have Been if he had managed to beat his drug demons before they took his life.
Jessica Biel found herself typecast as either a Ms. Fanservice or an Action Girl. When Liv Tyler dropped out of The Illusionist, she went to the audition in full costume, desperate to win the part of a 19th-century duchess in Austria. Her casting was met with a lot of criticism, which went away when the film was released. Easy Virtue was another one, also showing off some nice singing talents too.
Most people wrote Bloom off as worthless because of his Mr. Fanservice popularity until his Self-Deprecation appearance on an episode of Extras and his performance as a near-suicidal failed writer in the London play In Celebration. Fans could have told these people that all they needed to do was watch him in Ned Kelly or Haven to see what he can do. Or Elizabethtown.
To a lesser extent, some people believed that he proved his acting chops in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End when Will Turner dies. To quote a YouTube comment: "I never really considered Orlando Bloom to be like an amazing actor or anything, even when I had the biggest crush on him ever, like he was first and longest celebrity crush lol, but I think he handles this whole death scene very well. I think I cried the first time I saw it."
2009 seems to have been a special year for Uwe Boll. His Attack on Darfur came out the same year and is surprisingly good.
Assault on Wall Street and the Rampage sequels prove Uwe Boll can repeatedly defy his notorious track record and is able to put together competent thrillers. There's something about works centered on domestic terrorists that seems to click with him, which might be some cause for alarm in a different manner...
From the serious to the comic: David Bowie's mysterious, cool, sensual aura has bled into so many of his film/TV roles over the years that one can forget his genuine acting talent...so as a quick refresher, enjoy the short film/music video hybrid Jazzin' for Blue Jean, in which Acting for Two results in Adam Westing of the coolness and an Adorkable protagonist.
Lloyd Bridges came at it in the opposite direction, spending part of the '60s establishing himself as a dramatic, action hero actor on film and in television. And then came Airplane!, and his comedy career was born. More than ten years of parody films like Hot Shots! later, his son Jeff Bridges is doing Blown Away and needs someone to play his character's uncle. When Jeff suggested his dad for the role, the producers apparently responded with, "Doesn't he only do comedies?"
In one of his earliest films, Birdy, the then-20-year-old Cage gives a great performance as a Vietnam veteran whose face is covered in bandages after being horribly burned, and who is showing early signs of serious PTSD.
Foxcatcher, where he played the extremely creepy and terrifying millionaire John du Pont. He even managed to get nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Mariah Carey in Precious. She even holds her own while sharing scenes with Mo'Nique Parker's Oscar-winning acting.
Jim Carrey was largely known for his manic comedy roles such as The Mask and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, for which reviewers Siskel and Ebert declared that he should give up all aspirations of calling himself an actor instead of a glorified comedian. Then came The Truman Show, in which his pitch-perfect performance caused Siskel and Ebert to publicly recant their stance. Carrey won a Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Actor, and his failure to be nominated for an Academy Award caused quite a stir. He followed this up with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Majestic, Doing Time on Maple Drive and I Love You Phillip Morris, having firmly established himself as a trustworthy dramatic actor.
That Art Carney - best known as Jackie Gleason's goofy sidekick from The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show - won the Best Actor Oscar in 1974 over some of the best actors of the time - Nicholson, Pacino, Hoffman, and Finney - would probably surprise most casual film lovers even now. Watch his performance in Harry and Tonto and you're likely to have this reaction.
David Caruso is best known to audiences for putting on sunglasses and cheesy one-liners in CSI: Miami. Therefore seeing him in King of New York as the violent but well-intentioned police officer who is disgusted that a wealthy man can get off for murder is quite a shock. He not only plays the role extremely well, he easily holds his own alongside Christopher Walken.
Darlene Cates: While What's Eating Gilbert Grape is best known for being the film that proved that Leonardo DiCaprio's performances had prowess, Cates, the lady who played Gilbert's mother Bonnie, was not a professional actress. She was cast after appearing on a talk show because the filmmakers couldn't find a real actress who looked right enough to play the grossly overweight character. Despite no previous experience, her role was expanded when they found out about her surprising ability to act. For example, check the scene where she confronts the sheriff at the police station.
Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel. Although the movie got mixed reviews (as did the decision to make Superman largely filled with angst), Cavill's performance as Superman had several defenders cite it as one of the good things in the movie. All the more awesome since he gets to act alongside well-known actors such as Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon, and Russell Crowe.
For those who were less impressed with the movie or found that it offered him a limited range to work with, his performance in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. provided this trope, as it allowed him to play someone with a much smoother and more affable personality.
Retcons aside, some were relieved and glad that Cavill finally got to play a more traditional Superman in Justice League, a performance many thought Cavill nailed well despite the Uncanny Valley of the botched CGI that were used to hide his moustache.
Similarly, his turn in Mission: Impossible Fallout as the suave yet imposing Agent August Walker was also praised, especially since it entailed a rare villainous turn for Cavill.
Cher. When her name came up in the opening credits for Moonstruck, the audience laughed. She bagged an Oscar for it. By the time she appeared in Mask, people felt she should have bagged an Oscar for it. Cher had already established her dramatic credentials with supporting roles in Silkwood and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.
He got this reaction after Shattered Glass, suggesting that his wooden performance in the Star Wars prequels were at least partly a result of the director's lack of attention.
He proved his acting prowess in a drama called Life as a House, released shortly before Attack of the Clones, where he earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance as Sam Monroe.
All the points in Revenge of the Sith without dialogue managed to showcase Christensen's prowess through his facial expressions alone. And even then, he manages to deliver some of his lines in a very evil and badass manner.
Thomas Haden Church was best known as the goofy mechanic Lowell on the comedy series Wings. Then he appeared in Sideways in a role as far from Lowell as humanly possible and blew everyone away with his performance, earning an Academy Award nomination in the process. And as Sandman in Spider-Man 3. He even did the motion capture for his scene after first gaining his powers.
While Emilia Clarke had already proved her chops on Game of Thrones, her critically panned performance in Terminator Genisys led to many thinking she'd be a one-hit-wonder - typecast as Action Girls forever. Then came Me Before You and she accomplished three things: a) she went radically against type to play an AdorkableCute Clumsy Girl, b) opted for a smaller, more independent project that wasn't a guaranteed hit, and c) showed that she had the range to do so. She both shows off some great comic timing in the film's funnier parts, before breaking viewers' hearts as Cerebus Syndrome sets in.
Billy Connolly in a number of smaller roles, but the breakout is probably the film Mrs. Brown. As well as The Boondock Saints franchise in which he plays the stoic, aging yet ruthless Hitman with a Heart. Anyone who's surprised by Billy Connolly's acting ability obviously hasn't seen his stand-up, where he plays hundreds of characters of varying voices and accents. There's an early video of him playing a man doing a quiet Anguished Declaration of Love, only to let off a fart in the middle of it.
He was often derided as a creation of the Hollywood Hype Machine, with neither the charisma nor acting chops to properly headline a major blockbuster, to the point that it became a Running Gag in Honest Trailers and CinemaSins. Then came his role as Captain Boomerang in Suicide Squad, which has received a great deal of critical acclaim and audience support for his portrayal of a funny-yet-dickish career criminal. Especially impressive given this was a rather small role in a mostly panned movie. In fact, one of the many complaints leveled against the film was that Courtney shouldve had much more to do.
Some people argue that Courtney's strength as an actor lies better in supporting roles rather than headliners, which is why his portrayal in Suicide Squad, which features an ensemble cast, was so well-received. Those people also tend to point out to Spartacus: Blood and Sand, where he plays Spartacus's best friend, Varro, in one of the most adorable and heartbreaking bromances in recent memory. He played a Roman citizen who entered slavery to pay off his gambling debts, and he handled all the accompanying drama in a completely convincing way.
He gloriously played against type as a cowardly PR man forced into combat in Edge of Tomorrow.
Even amidst action movies he can still bring it. Mission: Impossible III has a fierce Cold Open that's just Cruise's Ethan Hunt having a dialogue with the Big Bad, played by Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman in his first post-Capote role. Cruise holds his own, resulting in one of the best cold opens in the franchise.
His performance as John Harrison (AKA Khan Noonien Singh) in Star Trek Into Darkness is downright chilling, going from a calm and composed officer to snarling psychopath. While his role as Sherlock Holmes is definitely of the sociopathic variety, it's still a stark contrast to him being an outright villain.
He has previously played an OCD-suffering genius mathematician in The Last Enemy.
Glimpses of his performance in The Fifth Estate biopic as Julian Assange further show his acting ability. It's possible he's just that good at playing flawed geniuses.
Speaking of flawed geniuses, there's also his work in Frankenstein. Not only did he play Dr. Victor Frankenstein, but he and co-star Jonny Lee Miller would also swap roles so they would play both Dr. Frankenstein and the Creature. It should come as no surprise that both Cumberbatch and Miller won the Olivier Award for their work.
Very rarely is it said that Benedict Cumberbatch is anything less than a great actor, but for anyone who says he's just a pretty face, look no further than his role as a terrifying rapist pedophile in Atonement, which is about the least sexy role a person could take on. Especially with his creepy Porn Stache.
Miley Cyrus in The Last Song, several critics, most notably Roger Ebert praised her acting in that film. But, she got a Razzie nomination for it. Most people that gave Hannah Montana a chance instead of automatically panning it just because it was a Disney show already knew that Cyrus had real charisma and a flair for comedy. Even in the first season where she clearly showed her inexperience, she had some moments of brilliance (watch the episode where she also plays her evil identical cousin).
Leo's iconic role of Jack Dawson in Titanic (1997) annoyed so many male viewers that it took him several following roles for them to begrudgingly admit that he's not just a pretty boy actor anymore. The first film to really win guys over after Titanic was probably Catch Me If You Can in which he portrayed Frank Abagnale with admirable aplomb.
Ellen DeGeneres's "I look at you, and I'm home" speech in Finding Nemo. The DVD commentary said that the take they used was her second one—by the end of recording the first one, she was crying so much because she thought she had ruined the line, and she had to take a break. By the second try, she was still distraught over the first take. An example of accidental method acting.
He is the kind of actor who plays the same type of character, regardless of what character he's supposed to be playing. And then he did Find Me Guilty, and suddenly people were quoting the trope name. Those few people who were paying attention (mostly Roger Ebert and a few other film critics) were talking about his performances in Boiler Room and The Iron Giant years before.
Also, he's pretty good in his self-directed, short film debut "MultiFacial".
Most people would be surprised to know that he started as a stage actor. A part of that is hinted at in The Pacifier where he helps a kid put on a play.
He received critical acclaim for providing the voices of both The Iron Giant and Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, particularly for his ability to pack a ton of emotion and meaning into simple, stoic phrases ("I go. You stay. No follow."). Furthermore, for Guardians, he committed to his role absolutely, saying his one line ("I am Groot") over a thousand times, committing facial and body language to give Groot's animators a base to work with, and furthermore providing the (translated) line in French, Russian, Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, and German (and maybe more).
A particular high point for his acting was the ending of Furious 7, where he managed to break the hearts of every viewer with his narration that contained a boatload of real-life subtext.
In an odd example, her performance seems to be the only thing in War, Inc. which the critics did like.
Raise Your Voice is a much earlier example. The only reason it bombed was because of the demographic issues. It was too mature for her pre-teen fans.
She took a massive step forward in Greta, both with fans and haters.
Kirsten Dunst was showered with nominations and awards for her lead role in Melancholia, and with good reason. Her portrayal of a woman with depression is partially based on her own experiences with the affliction, and it shows, particularly during the wedding scene. She'd dropped off the radar for several years, but this reminded everyone about her talents in the first place.
Fred Durst, commonly known as the backwards red cap-wearing mook from Limp Bizkit, surprised critics with his acting in the movie Population 436. Then with his directing of the drama The Education of Charlie Banks.
Zac Efron: A lot of viewers had this reaction to him in 17 Again. His acting really is much better in this film than it is in his more famous films, especially since he's a 22-year-old, playing a 37-year-old turned into a 17-year-old.
When it was announced he'd play Steven Rogers/Captain America in Captain America: The First Avenger, Evans was mostly known for goofy/sarcastic characters, including his previous experience with superhero movies, the much-panned Fantastic Four (2005), so many fans assumed this would be the Jumping the Shark moment for Marvel films. When the movie came out, Evans drew rave reviews from both critics and comics fans.
He's also received praise for his gut-wrenching performance as Curtis Everett in Snowpiercer.
Although Super 8 was built on great child actors, Fanning stands out as a true talent, especially in the Film Within a Film rehearsal scenes.
Now a grown-up woman, then there's The Neon Demon, which while divisive, her performance was greatly praised.
Michael Fassbender wasn't all that well known before X-Men: First Class, but he had been good. Then he promptly stole the already critically raved about film through a chilling performance as Magneto, which is quite something since he was essentially playing a younger version of one of Sir Ian McKellen's best performances.
Will Ferrell is mostly known for his comic roles, but damn if Stranger Than Fiction doesn't prove he can pull off a dramatic role. Crick's distress when he's told that he must accept his death in order to make Karen's book work feels strikingly genuine.
Sally Field. Light, fluffy, comedic sitcom actress, right? She was Gidget, she was The Flying Nun, she was The Girl With Something Extra — and then she was Sybil, and everybody sat down and shut up. Anyone left over was completely won by Norma Rae, or — for the last holdouts — Places in the Heart.
Colin Firth was known primarily for being a cute British guy in some fluffy romantic comedies, but then he was cast as George VI in The King's Speech, and nails a performance of a man who is both unprepared for the Crown and never wanted the job, to begin with. His friendship with his speech therapist is wonderfully heartwarming, but the scene in which he breaks into tears with his wife, under the pressure of The Chains of Commanding, is what shows he deserved that Oscar. He also received much critical praise only the year before for A Single Man, where his portrayal of a man's grief following the death of his lover was wonderfully sensitive and understated, showing a greater depth to Firth that had not yet been seen.
While Mamma Mia! is on the lighter side, Firth brings real depth to his character and does pretty well with his musical numbers. In the sequel, you'd think he was trying for another Oscar.
This had arguably happened earlier when he fully embodied the role of James Dean in a made-for-TV biopic and when he held his own in Milk. Earlier still in Freaks and Geeks as Daniel, the cool rebel deconstruction, who desperately wants to break out of the loser perception everyone has of him. His speech about being one of the "Dumb Kids" is heartbreaking, even if you know beforehand that it is setting up a final joke...
He actually improved a lot over the course of the Spider-Man movies, going from wooden in one movie, to "whiny and irritating" in the next, to very convincing in the third, as he plays Harry as evil and vengeful, with amnesia, in a moral dilemma, and dying all in the same film.
While Blast from the Past wasn't exactly the most serious fare of his career, he did play a sheltered, socially awkward gentleman very convincingly.
He also played a socially awkward character in the 2002 adaptation of The Quiet American. Bonus points for playing a character described in the book as being much shorter and less handsome than himself and still managing to sell it.
Audio Books? How about Inkspell? He's the vocal inspiration for one of the roles! (Mo. And he played him in the well-cast Inkheart movie.)
His portrayal of Fletcher Chase in Series/Trust was declared by some to be a Career Resurrection.
Gal Gadot: When Zack Snyder cast her as Wonder Woman in the DC Extended Universe, the reaction was almost universally negative with many dismissing her as just another talentless model stunt-casted for publicity. However, after her debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, she won over everyone including the film's most ardent haters. Then Gadot's leading performance in Wonder Woman (2017) gave her the chance to show off her range and prove her worth as an A-list actress, with some even positively comparing her to Christopher Reeve, who is regarded as the gold standard for superhero actors.
Zach Galifianakis' voice performance as The Joker in The LEGO Batman Movie. He manages to pull off funny ("I'm rubbing my butt all over your stuff!") and scary ("I always come to work with a smile").
Ricky Gervais: The Invention of Lying, despite being a comedy, features one very effective scene of Gervais's character improvising a description of Heaven to comfort his dying mother, which shows Gervais could easily start a career as a dramatic actor if he ever wanted to. Ghost Town is another dramedy like the film mentioned above where he demonstrates his ability to play a completely serious, humorless character.
Every review for Mysterious Skin has a sentence that is essentially "HOLY. COW. Didn't see that coming."
But nobody really noticed until he returned to acting after taking off a few years to go to college. And not only his acting chops but how fully committed he can be to any role or bit performed. His stint as host of Saturday Night Live had him perform the "Make Em' Laugh" number from Singin' in the Rain to near perfection on live television. To give some perspective, even stage performances of the number nowadays don't require the actor to perform all of the stunts because of the sheer amount of athleticism required to pull it off. The performance can be seen here. And yes, he does do the backflip off the wall. Twice.
His performance in Brick, which came out very soon after Mysterious Skin and starred Gordon-Levitt as a teenage hardboiled detective, had a similar effect. But for the grand majority of movie audiences, it was almost certainly Inception.
Hugh Grant: Rowing with the Wind isn't considered to be by any measure a good movie; not only is it the third movie in as many years to center around Mary Shelley conceiving of the plot of Frankenstein, its central plot (that the Shelley clique creates an allegorical monster that leads them all to their untimely deaths) is shamelessly stolen from Gothic. (It also has John Polidori, who was an English physician in his early twenties, portrayed as a middle-aged Spaniard). But what actually makes the movie worth seeing is Grant, who actually acts. Grant is one of those actors who had made a comfortable career of playing himself (or so we assume). His portrayal of Lord Byron is every bit as good as Gabriel Byrne's portrayal in Gothic, and Byrne was brilliant! The comparison is also unfair because Grant plays Byron over the course of many years, so we see many different aspects of his character, and the picture we get is a more complete one, while Byrne played Byron as a hedonistic madman, and since we only saw him on that particular night, we were never allowed to see that there was more
Some people feel that he plays the same character over and over again in some of the movies he's in. There's a very good chance that those same exact folks are also utterly shocked to see him play the cannibal in the post-apocalyptic segment of Cloud Atlas. Even Grant admitted he was having a lot of fun playing the roles he did.
His Playing Against Type as the sleazy MP Jeremy Thorpe in A Very British Scandal also won him a lot of plaudits.
Topher Grace's character in Predators at first seems like his usual role, an awkward wimp... until The Reveal that he's an extremely depraved serial killer who's been stringing the others along.
Believe it or not, in The Descendants she got this reaction. Go watch the scene where her character breaks down crying while forgiving Elizabeth for having an affair with her husband and try and remind yourself it's the same actress who said: "Say goodbye to these!" (her breasts) in Arrested Development. Talk about range.
Jackie Earle Haley was a child actor in the 1970s and 1980s who fell off the radar and took a long hiatus from acting. When he eventually made a return, he stunned a number of critics with his heartbreaking work in Little Children, earning an Oscar nomination and pulling off the impossible task of making audiences cry for the suffering of a convicted child molester. For variety, his work as Rorschach in Watchmen, was considered one of the best superhero casting choices ever.
While Bill Hader has proven himself he's a capable actor several times, particularly in Barry, his performance in It: Chapter Two is often praised as one of the best if not the best among the movie's adult cast. He not only potrays Richie as a character accuratelynote to be fair, Bill's profession and personality makes him top pick for the role already but also shows his range to act scared from Pennywise's terror and anguished after Eddie's death, greatly capturing the heartbreak of someone losing the love of their life, without being over the top.
Daryl Hannah had always been associated with lightweight roles but proved surprisingly convincing as a psychotic killer in the Kill Bill movies. There's also her heartbreaking performance as a drug-addicted hooker-turned-porn-star in The Last Days of Frankie the Fly.
When Teri Hatcher is cast as the Other Mother in Coraline, let's just say that most people didn't expect her to pull it off that well.
In The Dark Knight Rises she spends the first ten minutes or so playing a catering server who is in everything but name pre-Princess Mia. And then Bruce confronts her... and just through changing her posture, she becomes Catwoman before our eyes.
When she did Brokeback Mountain, people thought of it as a movie with three amazing thespians and Anne Hathaway. Arguably Hathaway has now eclipsed all of them (with the exception of Heath Ledger, who left us too soon).
Critics who saw him as a Hunk who can only be Mr. Fanservice in films and nothing else were proven wrong in Ron Howard's Rush (2013), where he manages to be both that and a charismatic and flawed human being.
Tom Holland depicts Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most agree that Holland nails both the nerdiness of the teen genius and the in-over-his-head confidence of the web-slinging superhero. However, something that many also praise him for is accurately portraying Peter Parker for the teenager he is. Spider-Man: Homecoming had its now-famous "rubble scene", in which Peter, crushed under debris and rubble from a building, calls out for help with the sheer terror and panic one would expect from a fifteen-year-old. But this scene was topped by his final scene in Avengers: Infinity War: His whimpers of "I don't want to go" as he clings to Tony Stark is cited by some as the film's most gut-punching moment. And the best part is that he improvised the entire scene, a true testament to his ability to act dramatically.
Kate Hudson got an Oscar nomination for Almost Famous but a series of romantic comedies that did middling business caused people to forget what they liked about her in the first place. The Skeleton Key, where she goes against type to play a hospice nurse, sparks this reaction from fans even to this day. In a different vein for this trope, Nine (Musical) had critics praising her for her singing and dancing.
Tom Hulce made his first big acting mark as goofy Delta frat member Pinto in Animal House. Then along came a movie called Amadeus, which earned him an Academy Award nomination (he ironically lost to co-star F. Murray Abraham). And then, a movie called The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where it turns out he really can sing as well.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is a supermodel who made her acting debut in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Michael Bay, who isn't known for his strong female characters, essentially used her as Ms. Fanservice with no character whatsoever and Huntington-Whiteley was no better than anyone. Then came the critically acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road in which she plays a pregnant sex slave, with critics agreeing that she gave a sympathetic, strong performance.
Anna Hutchison, probably best known for her role as Lily, the Yellow Cheetah Ranger on Power Rangers Jungle Fury has a fantastic performance in The Cabin in the Woods, in which she gives a truly frightening performance right until her character is brutally killed.
The triple role of Tomas/Tommy/Tom in The Fountain. It was amazing.
Another example is him portraying the double of a manwho is also played by him in The Prestige. Up until the double starts "acting" as him, they actually look, sound, and move like different people and the transformation is genuinely astonishing. The skill in portraying such a morally ambiguous yet still somewhat sympathetic character in The Prestige that makes the viewer forget that they're even watching Wolverine's actor also shows his skill.
And of course, there was a time when Jackman was just this random Australian who was cast as Wolverine, one of Marvel's most iconic characters. He didn't just steal the film, he stole the series.
Anyone who saw Hugh performing in Australian theatre before he went to Hollywood will tell you, "That guy's going to be a star".
Angelina Jolie: People only familiar with her from the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie would do well to watch such films as Life or Something Like It, where she gives a powerful performance as a TV reporter who discovers she is doomed to die in a week. Her role in Girl, Interrupted cemented her status as a great actress, and that was before Tomb Raider.
Harvey Keitel was always a good supporting actor, proving he could hold his own alongside Robert De Niro but never getting the big parts. Then in Bad Lieutenant he gives a brilliant performance as a man we should detest but we pity due to his intense self-hatred and despair.
She has an Oscar for Best Actress sitting on her shelf at home, as well as a room full of other awards, so it's hard to imagine this ever applying to her. But for the first half of the Nineties, she was best known for being Mrs. Tom Cruise. Then came To Die For, which won her a Golden Globe award, and which is still considered by many to be among her best work. Then, when good roles started to cool off again despite that film's success, before people would wonder if it was a fluke, Kidman went into a tear with back-to-back roles in Eyes Wide Shut, Moulin Rouge!, The Others, and The Hours, the latter being the one for which she won her Oscar.
Pre-Tom Cruise, there was Bangkok Hilton, in which she plays a young woman framed by her boyfriend for heroin smuggling. The scene where she starts to go into an asthma attack when the heroin is discovered will impress anyone.
Post-Transformers, he had taken on a role in David Ayer's WWII film Fury. He had gone into an intense Dyeing for Your Art phase, to the extent that he actually cut his face to get into the character. Many had worried about such dedication, but his performance was praised when the film came out.
Nathan Lane's sinister turn as Preed from Titan A.E. may come as a surprise to people who know him best as Timon.
Brie Larson earned much praise as a rising actress in the late 2000s and early 2010s, largely through supporting roles in comedies like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and 21 Jump Street. However, she then ended up taking on a much larger amount of notability as the lead in indie dramas like Short Term 12 and Room, each of which required her to portray characters with immense emotional trauma. Larson managed to pull off both feats, earning critical acclaim and winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for Room.
Brandon Lee, holy shit. Most of his movies prior to this play him as a skilled martial artist, yet with a laid-back comedic personality. The Crow, on the other hand, shows him Playing Against Type as the deeply hurt and revenge-driven Eric Draven, and not only is it successful, it is scary. The fact that he died in the making of this movie makes his performance more haunting.
A man who's best known as a pint-sized badass martial artist, in Ocean Heaven. The romantic drama, proudly touted as his "first non-martial-arts film", has Li play a terminally-ill father of a 22-year-old autistic child.
Or Danny the Dog. The martial arts are used in service of the story (i.e., the fights express emotion just as clearly as the dialogue), and his mannerisms when playing a man raised as a dog are uncanny.
As to his martial arts movies, it is worth pointing out that Li delivered a terrific performance in Hero and Fearless (2006). He managed to carry an all-around mediocre The One with his acting as well. You gotta give the man some credit — even when he knows that the audience just wants to see asses kicked and kung fu done, he still makes an effort to act well.
Don't forget his role as Wong Fei Hung in the Once Upon a Time in China series, arguably his most famous role and the one that is synonymous with the image of Wong Fei Hung. Also his role in The Warlords as the conflicted Anti-Hero Panq Qinqyun, the role was critically praised, earning Jet his second Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actor nomination and his first win (the first nomination on which he did not win was for the aforementioned Fearless).
Interesting fact about The One: After Dwayne Johnson passed on the role in favor of The Scorpion King, the character was rewritten for Jet Li... with a lot fewer lines. Jet Li doesn't need to speak to show a lot of emotion. The scene during the final fight where he sees his empty ring finger and finds his center, allowing him to beat the bad guy, is done without any words at all, but they're not necessary there. Add to that the fact that he's Acting for Two (the crazy and power-mad Yulaw and the good-hearted and desperate Gabe), and you can see why he got the role.
Lillard is usually known as a Large Ham actor who played Shaggy in the live-action Scooby-Doo films. In The Descendants, he displays surprising restraint and emotion that some were not aware he was capable of.
The signs were there even earlier: pay attention to him as "Maniac" Marshall in Wing Commander and be stunned by the nuanced performance he gives as a 'mere' supporting character.
Georgia Rule. Although it received mostly negative reviews, most critics praised her acting and said that her performance was the best part of the film.
Lohan has shown that she's pretty good at playing more than one character, in such films as her debut The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday. Her impression of Jamie Lee Curtis in the latter is uncanny. However, the winning streak ended with I Know Who Killed Me — Lohan appeared to have a lot of trouble working with prosthetic special-effects makeup.
It's more that people forgot she could act. She gained praise for her very first movie, The Parent Trap. Being that her performance in her last major movie, I Know Who Killed Me was still pretty fresh in people's minds.
In The Neon Demon, she takes a cue from the previously mentioned Benedict Cumberbatch in Atonement and plays a lesbian vampire who almost rapes the female lead and is also a necrophiliac. Suffice it to say, it's disturbing. Hard to believe it's the same woman who played a young Jodie Foster in Contact.
Then, of course, there's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, where many viewers declared she completely stole the show as Johanna Mason. One commentator even said: "The next Hunger Games movie could just be Johanna axing a bitch and I'd still love it."
One final film to note is the indie horror film The Ruins. An actress in a low-budget horror film shouldn't be that good at crying.
He played completely against type as Arthur Parker in the film version of Pennies from Heaven, only his second film after The Jerk. He proved there that he can act (and dance, too).
He also does some first-rate work in Parenthood as a father facing the challenges of raising children with deep emotional problems that he realizes he can't fix. The scene where he lashes out at his boss for giving a promotion to a less deserving, morally bankrupt colleague and when his wife reveals that she is pregnant show just how angry his character is at the world.
Sienna Miller was never deemed a bad actress, but she was initially best known for a really tabloid fodder-worthy relationship with Jude Law and secondly for her role as the Baroness in the infamous G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Imagine the surprise critics and audiences felt when they recognized her in her small role as David's wife in Foxcatcher, and later on when she starred in American Sniper, where she was even liked by that film's haters.
Mo'Nique, whose entire filmography up until this point had consisted of low-brow comedies, shocked everyone with her portrayal of an abusive, mentally unstable mother in Precious, a role which earned her a much-deserved Oscar.
Moore is best known for playing suave, charming international playboy types. Seeing him in The Man Who Haunted Himself, in which he plays an uptight exec who thinks he's being stalked by his own double and ultimately has a nervous breakdown, is a jaw-dropping experience. Partly because his performance is so good, and partly because seeing Roger Moore going realistically insane is genuinely disturbing.
Right in the middle of his stint as James Bond, he starred in The Wild Geese as Daniel Craig's version of Bond, ie a hard, cold badass. His first scene where he forces a drug dealer to overdose on his own product is quite unnerving to people used to his foppish, debonair Bond.
Not forgetting For Your Eyes Only, are we? You know, the one with him acting as ruthless as Connery, Dalton, and Craig at their coldest.
Besides being one of the many examples of this for Kevin Bacon, The Woodsman also had a terrific example in Mos Def. His monologue about the child who had been torn apart by a rapist is both chilling and a Tear Jerker.
Carrie-Anne Moss performance in Memento, as the film gave her a character slightly more acerbic and manipulative than Trinity. Moss acted her ass off in, of all things, Fido.
Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead's dramatic scenes. A comedy actor shouldn't be that good at crying. While the entire Cornetto Trilogy is stealthily full of this, Gary and Andy's final confrontation in the titular pub of The World's End is reaffirmation for Simon's dramatic talents, and puts Nick Frost squarely and firmly in this category as well. (Heck, the entire movie is arguably one long He Can Really Act for Frost.) Not to mention Benji's rant to Ethan in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation.
Perry has always been very divisive because of the Madea films he has directed and starred in, but his movie Good Deeds proved to be very surprising. With nary a Madea in sight, it was very low-key, sweet, and disarming, with him turning a lot of his own film cliches over on their head. He proved that by playing a subdued, withdrawn sort of character that yes, He Really Can Act.
Perry was also praised for his acting-only turns in Gone Girl as attorney Tanner Bolt and Alex Cross as the titular investigator, which much like Good Deeds were low-key yet good. Much like people tend to say that Ben Affleck seems to be a better director than actor, some people have started to say the opposite about Perry.
While he was hardly bad in Star Trek (2009), he didn't exactly get a chance to show off his acting chops, and his prior work consisted mainly of romantic comedies. Then came a little play called Farragut North...
But then, anyone who saw Bottle Shock knew that he could act already...
Anybody saw Carriers, was spot on being a jerk, but with other implications... heartbreaking actually...
And then Hell or High Water was released. Any naysayers about his acting abilities were silenced for good.
To say nothing of his role as Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman (2017), with special mention going to his character's heart-breaking Heroic Sacrifice, which is conveyed without a single word, no less.. You will believe that Chris Pine is a phenomenal actor by the movie's end.
For Brad Pitt, 12 Monkeys was one of the first roles where his looks were seriously downplayed and he had to succeed on pure ability. And he aced it. Of course, anyone who had seen Pitt in Kalifornia had also known what he was worth long before he became a household name. Many people had this reaction to his performance in Fight Club, while others weren't converted until his performances in Babel, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. In the second in particular, Pitt really proved his talent as the violent, psychotic, but self-loathing, and deeply remorseful Jesse, who has to live with the guilt of the bloodshed he has caused.
Ryan Potter's performance in Big Hero 6 counts as this. He had previously been best known for working on the Nickelodeon show Supah Ninjas, and many people went into Big Hero 6 not expecting much out of him. He proved everyone wrong, especially in any moment involving Hiro grieving over Tadashi, and when Baymax makes his Heroic Sacrifice. A shame that the 2015 Kids Choice Award nominees (announced a few months after the film's release) didn't have the "Favorite Voice in an Animated Movie" category this time aroundnote though the movie itself was nominated (and eventually won) in the Favorite Animated Movie category the same year, and BH6 didn't get a single Annie nomination in the voice-acting category; Ryan would have won both by a landslide.
He is normally thought of a quite a Large Ham, more campy than generally scary. Even in straight-up horror suspense pictures like House on Haunted Hill (1959), there's a fun quality to his character. Until you watch Witchfinder General (aka The Conquerer Worm), where he's utterly terrifying.
Or if you watch Dragonwyk where he deftly pulls off the charming leading man, capable of seducing Gene Tierney. It's a role Gregory Peck was originally supposed to play.
Or listen to some of his old radio acting, especially his appearances on Suspense.
Richard Pryor. Anyone who has only seen a small portion of his standup and his movies with Gene Wilder can be forgiven for assuming that he was not a particularly great actor. Funny yes, but not a great actor. And then in some of his performances, he pulled out the Mudbone character, or some other similar characters (junkies and such) that are both amazingly well-performed and a serious bit of Mood Whiplash compared to his usual energetic comedic style. He also gave an excellent straight dramatic performance in Blue Collar. And listen to the fear in his voice in this scene in The Mack.
Sir Michael Redgrave became an international star with his debut film role as Gilbert Redman in Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, but it was his extraordinary performance as deranged ventriloquist Maxwell Frere in Cavalcanti's horror film Dead of Night that convinced critics that he really could act as well in films as he could on the stage. Redgrave's subsequent portrayal of the frigid classics master Andrew Crocker-Harris in The Browning Version (1951) is counted as one of the greatest film performances of all time.
Nikki Reed previously had good performances in Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown but she's mostly known for her role as Rosalie Hale in the Twilight films. For the first two films, the character is about as flat as a pancake. Then in the third, we get to see Rosalie explain her past. And she delivers a shockingly powerful performance in the fourth with her line to Alice about Bella's unborn daughter.
Rosalie Hale: Say the word, Alice. Say it! Baby! It's just a little baby!
Reeve was an unknown in 1978, although an unknown who'd gone to Julliard (where he was Robin Williams' classmate and friend). Rejected three times before he finally got the part, he came to define Superman for at least one generation, and on the strength of his acting, made us believe not only that a man could fly but that Clark Kenting was entirely possible.
And lest you think his talents are limited to filling out blue spandex or wearing glasses convincingly, go watch Deathtrap, where he plays an earnest young writer and murderous sociopath, or Somewhere in Time, but for the latter be prepared to cry. A lot.
Then there's him as Hank in The Neon Demon, where he plays Jesse's landlord and almost stalker turned rapist.
In "The Gift" (co-written by Billy Bob Thornton, directed by Sam Raimi) he plays a wife-beating redneck who casually drops the N-word and is genuinely menacing in the role. Who'd have thought he had it in him?
He went for a sort of meta example of this in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story since we already knew he was a good actor, but in character, he has a lot of Oscar Bait-style "deep acting moments", like pulling the sinks off the wall a la Walk the Line. Also stretching the idea of playing the character from the youngest age possible (in this case, 14) to oldest (late 70s).
His role in the movie Chicago. He can really sing and dance!
It was Boogie Nights (1997) that gave him the opportunity to serve notice on how versatile and intelligent a character actor he really was (as it also did for Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Burt Reynolds in Deliverance. Little more than beefcake at the time, he proved his chops in John Boorman's infamous adaptation of the weekend trip whose ecological anvil somehow got drowned out by "squeal like a piggy!". See also Boogie Nights, which earned him an Oscar nomination
Emma Roberts: Going back to Scream 4, she turns in a downright frightening performance as a psychotic teen killer. Think about how girls her age can be and you'll see her performance is one of the most underrated of the past 5 years.
It seems odd to say this considering she's an Oscar-winning actress, but Julia Roberts does a fantastic job voicing the titular character of Charlotte's Web. Listen to her voice in her final scene — it legitimately sounds like she's at death's door.
Chris Rock, primarily known for being a comedian, does a good job in a serious role in Spiral.
Seth Rogen's performance in Funny People was praised even in negative reviews of the film. While few critics consider him a bad actor, he was never much of a critical darling as a leading man.
His supporting roles in Jobs and The Disaster Artist were also well received.
Michael Rooker in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Most of the film's target audience would know Rooker as Merle from The Walking Dead if they recognized him. Rooker gives an Oscar buzz-worthy performance as Yondu and steals the film right out from under the eponymous guardians and the film's villain.
Diana Ross brilliantly played the troubled music legend Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues. She won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for the role. Given it was her first movie role, many people were impressed.
Click is one of the best examples of him mixing a restrained form of his normal brand of humor with his dramatic side, leading to a level of Absurdity Ascendant. It's a rare film that can make a scene of a guy crying over a stuffed duck his dog would hump legitimately heartbreaking.
Uncut Gems is one of the current high points of this trend, being largely a serious, very stressful movie, which people pretty widely agree received a massive Award Snub when Sandler wasn't nominated for Best Actor.
Aside from the below entry in Maze Runner: The Death Cure, Thomas Brodie-Sangster gives a commendable performance as Paul McCartney in Nowhere Boy. His chemistry with Aaron Johnson is excellent, and he does a pretty good job emoting in the scene where John Lennon hits him. He also did his own singing and left-handed guitar playing and was probably one of the better singers in the film.
J. K. Simmons is likely best known to the public for his scene-stealing role as J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man, getting all the best lines. But anyone who saw him in Oz knew him as the depraved Nazi Vern Schillinger, a man who is in turns absolutely loathsome and at the same time filled with self-hatred and regret. It's a complex role and Simmons absolutely nails it, giving arguably the best performance in the whole series. And then he showed his phenomenally wide range when he played a completely likable, sympathetic character in Juno. And now he's taken it to a new level with Whiplash, as a sadistic musical conductor intent on pushing his students to perfection. Numerous critics have made comparisons to R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket, and they're warranted. Most have even gone as far as to call it the best role of his career, which, when you look at his resume, is very high praise indeed. It actually was enough for Simmons to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He also won praise for The Legend of Korra, where he gives a subtler and extremely well-done performance as Tenzin. His HRCA factor is upped considerably when you realize that he began as a song-and-dance man on Broadway. Among his roles was that of Benny Southstreet in Guys and Dolls. You would be hard-pressed to find a character far from his more well-known persona.
Will Smith's rising career was down to a series of steps where he would set himself up with fans with his winning smiling, slightly goofy, and fun personality and then use a dose of serious acting to establish his credibility and then open himself up to a bigger audience:
The 1993 film adaptation of the play Six Degrees of Separation, his first movie role, in which he had the very challenging role of a very sweet, complicated con artist and aced it.
In The Legend of Bagger Vance and Ali, in a mentor role and as the larger-than-life Muhammad Ali himself respectively, Smith brought himself much needed cred after the huge dud of Wild Wild West. If he didn't prove himself as an actor, it is likely that no one could have respected him after that. This was crystallized by his role in the utterly emotional The Pursuit of Happyness.
I Am Legend wasn't perfect, but this scene solidified it:
Smith's casting as Deadshot in Suicide Squad was met with skepticism, as many thought he would be unable to pull off a villainous, cynical anti-hero like Floyd Lawton. In the end, however, his performance was the most consistently praised element of the film.
Then came Aladdin (2019), where he was working against severe backlash both against his casting itself in a role made iconic by the late, great Robin Williams, as well as the first look of the genie both in human and in CGI form, in addition to skepticism as to the need for a live-action remake of the movie in the first place. Come release day, and Smith's performance was lauded for bringing all his trademark charm, wit, and humor to the role and was unanimously considered the best thing about the movie, with fans agreeing that he'd made the character his own; staying faithful to Williams' legacy while lending his own inimitable flair to the genie and avoiding a shallow copy of the original.
Brenda Song does as well in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and the sequel series The Suite Life on Deck as anyone can be expected to do in a Disney Channel series. She'd played the same character in everything she'd done: dumb, spoiled rich girl with a penchant for snobbery. These series turned that Up to Eleven and she's gone with it. Everyone who has seen her act before is therefore in for a very pleasant surprise should they see The Social Network; Christy's a slutty, jealous, and sometimes downright scary bitch, and you will respect her for it.
Sylvester Stallone: Interestingly, Stallone was wildly praised for his performance in the original Rocky movie, with Roger Ebert comparing him to Marlon Brando. Same thing with First Blood, whose ending showed with raw clarity how much of a Shell-Shocked Veteran John Rambo was, should convince anyone that he can act, only for both franchises to turn into simpler, more stereotypical action movies. Same for Rocky Balboa, which, after a failed attempt to do so in Rocky V, went closer to the feel of the first film. And then there is Creed, a spin-off of the Rocky series, for which he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, for his most famous role, no less. Call this He STILL Really Can Act. Prior to Creed, his performance in Cop Land was also highly acclaimed, with many critics considering it his best performance.
A lesser-known case in the Lifetime movie Amy & Isabelle in which she plays a repressed spinster and borderline abusive mother. Her performance was highly praised. It also helped that she went down the Beauty Inversion route.
Most see the man as a one-dimensional comedy actor. Those people haven't seen Greenberg. In Greenberg Stiller's a 40 something who hasn't really figured out what he wants to do with his life and is completely fine with that. He arrives at a crossroads when he gets involved with his brother's much younger secretary. Stiller's character is probably the least flat character he has played by a long shot.
He also impressed in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Most of Stiller's characters have been arrogant, sarcastic, and short-tempered. His performance here shows that he can not only play completely against type but he gives an astonishingly understated performance and makes the audience fall in love with a character who could easily have been portrayed as hopelessly dull or delusional in another actor's hands.
His performance in Tropic Thunder is also very impressive, especially the earlier scenes where he just portrays the former action star. Even the fake trailer where he plays the mentally handicapped farmboy is actually an amazing performance, considering that he plays an action star, who is trying to play drama and failing at it. It lends extra weight to the statement by Robert Downey Jr.'s character that the problem was not his performance, but that he showed the public something they didn't want to see.
Despite being mostly known for being reasonably hot and dancing in Step Up and after being a critical punching bag for some time (one nickname for him? "The Charming Potato"), actually pulled off a really powerful and tragic performance in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, even going so far as to have a Method moment and throwing a table through a window in an unscripted and highly emotional scene.
In a different vein, he showed in 21 Jump Street that he has some excellent comedic chops — some even claiming that he stole the movie from Jonah Hill.
Even Dear John. Watch the scene where he's reading the letter to his father who dies while he's reading it and try not to cry.
And later he received critical acclaim for playing the lead in the true-crime drama Foxcatcher.
Charlize Theron: Not a whole lot of people remember that she was at first dismissed as yet another vacuous pretty face who was to be regarded as nothing more than a flash-in-the-pan screen ingenue who would fade away when she turned 30. Then she transformed herself into serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster and jaws dropped across the land. Then she won an Academy Award and people knew to take her seriously.
Watch the video for Elton John's 'This Train Don't Stop There Anymore', especially the part where Elton's against the wall and sinking. Then notice where this entry is on the list, and that Sir Elton doesn't look like that these days ... and look at how accurate it was.
Jacob Tremblay in Room, one of the best and most acclaimed child performances in recent memory. And at the age of 9.
Just watch Doom or The Chronicles of Riddick, where he plays characters written to have the same exact expression for the entire film. Then watch him as "Bones" McCoy and be amazed (Leonard Nimoy certainly was). However, if you happen to recognize him as Éomer from The Lord of the Rings films, then it won't be much of a surprise to you.
He has also shown off some real chops, not to mention versatility, by selling the title character of Dredd solely by voice and body language — throughout the entire film, the only bits of him visible are his mouth and chin.
before his movie roles, he showed considerable versatility playing both Julius Ceasar and Cupid on Xena.
Jean-Claude Van Damme playing a fictionalized version of himself in JCVD, particularly the scene where he gives a very long uncut and impassioned monologue to the camera/audience/God, talking about his life and career.
Usually one for fast-talking and foul-mouthed comedic roles, he surprised a lot of fans in Hacksaw Ridge as Sergeant Howell. While he still provided good humor, he managed to sell several intimidating and dramatic scenes.
Similarly, his brother Donnie Wahlberg was just that dude from New Kids on the Block until he showed up in Ransom. Later performances in The Sixth Sense and Band of Brothers cemented his status as a solid, talented character actor.
Christopher Walken: Something of a retro example; he has never been regarded as a bad actor, but his persona is so famous that it can often overshadow his talent. He was brilliant in King of New York as the drug kingpin who knows that his dreams of redemption are futile and he cannot escape the burden of guilt and in The Funeral as a man who is fully aware that his bloodlust will only cause more destruction for everyone and who believes that he will go to Hell when he dies. And if you can get through Catch Me If You Can without shedding a tear, there's a fiver here with your name on it. If you need further convincing, check out this behind-the-scenes clip of Walken from Catch Me If You Can (at about the 2:20 mark). This guy's the real deal. And there's The Deer Hunter from earlier in his career, which earned him an Academy Award.
In One Hour Photo gives a restrained and finely-nuanced performance as the photo store guy who's (probably) stalking a family with sinister intent. Who knew, eh?
He has had several other sedate, respectable roles before One Hour Photo, though (perhaps most notably in Good Will Hunting, which got him an Oscar).
Dead Poets Society. Earlier than that, there was the TV movie adaptation of Seize The Day (no relation to DPS), and The World According To Garp... but people weren't really paying attention to those when they came out. They wanted wacky Mork-Robin. How times change...
Bruce Willis? Eh, we'd already seen Pulp Fiction. The Sixth Sense proves just how much range he really has. Death Becomes Her. Who knew that he could be goofy too? (Well, anyone who remembered Moonlighting, but such films as Die Hard had overshadowed his earlier comedy career.) Anyone who thinks he can only play wisecracking action heroes is advised to see him as a disabled Vietnam vet in In Country. This has happened to Bruce a few times. He started off as a comedic actor in Moonlighting (winning an Emmy in the process) and when it came time for him to do action roles like Die Hard, people laughed and couldn't believe this comedian could ever be an action star. Once those movies took off, he was known as an action star and when it came time for him to do comedic roles again, they couldn't believe this action star could ever be a comedian. Once he dipped back and forth for a while, he started doing more dramatic roles, and again... people didn't think this guy could pull it off. Also a movie no one remembers Willis did call The Kid (2000).
A lot of people would've dismissed her after starring in light-hearted fares such as Legally Blonde and Just Like Heaven as only a vapid, romcom actress who is more known for looks than talent, even to the point when there was an outrage when it was announced that she was to play June Carter Cash in the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line. But when they saw the movie and her heartbreaking performance in it, particularly in the climatic proposal scene, she shut the doubters up and proved to everyone that she's a brilliant actress (and singer, too) and even winning a plethora of awards for the performance, including a more-than-deserved Academy Award.
With Wild, she again proved to everyone that she's still a great actress after being in many critically panned films after her Oscar win, giving a tearful and subtle performance that garnered her a second Oscar nomination.
While we always knew Richard Gere could act, no one thought he could sing. Or dance. Then came Chicago and he did both, and blew the world away, putting in a show-stopping performance as Amoral Attorney Billy Flynn.
The same could be said for Catherine Zeta-Jones, who did all her own singing and dancing. While she was a trained both singer and dancer, she had never really shown that on-screen before. Oh, and she was three months pregnant at the time.
Eddie Murphy's performance has been described as this. In fact, it's said that he could've won an Oscar for his performance had Norbit not been released before the Academy voted.
Beyoncé Knowles really shone. Just when it had been so easy to write her off, too... She received praise for her work in Cadillac Records as well.
Ferdinand: John Cena's casting as the lead character was initially considered Stunt Casting by some people, but critics ended up praising his performance as charming and surprisingly sensitive. It makes sense when you realize that prior to becoming a professional wrestler, Cena had actually attempted to become a voice actor.
Jeff Goldblum had been consistently working in film and television for over a decade by 1985, but mainly as a supporting/ensemble player best known for comic roles. (He wouldn't topline a theatrical film until that year, and Into the Night bombed.) He wasn't even on the producers' shortlist for the role of Seth Brundle, but the performers they were considering were uncomfortable with the prospect of acting through layers of increasingly hideous makeup. Goldblum, however, wanted the challenge upon reading and loving David Cronenberg's screenplay, and Cronenberg decided to go with him. The then-head of 20th Century Fox, Larry Gordon, warned the producers they were making a mistake with the casting even as he said they could go ahead with it. Goldblum's performance ended up being so heartfelt, moving, and funny that even many critics who blanched at the film's Body Horror were willing to praise it, and those who loved the movie — including Gene Siskel, who was generally NOT a fan of gruesome horror films — argued that he should have been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for it. From there, Goldblum started getting lead roles and movie-stealing supporting turns on a regular basis.
Geena Davis had primarily worked in television as a comic supporting actress save for an unsuccessful Sitcom lead (Sara) and had only three feature film credits by the time she sought the role of Veronica Quaife upon reading the screenplay — which she did because she was helping her lover Goldblum learn his lines. The producers were highly doubtful about casting an actual couple as the romantic leads of the film and (since she was first to read for the part) convinced Cronenberg to audition other actresses after he loved her reading, but it soon became clear Cronenberg had the right idea. Her performance was so acclaimed that her career took off even faster than Goldblum's did — two years later she was in both Beetlejuice and The Accidental Tourist, the latter of which won her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
Peter Mayhew has always been a very talented and well-respected actor, but his roar of pure agony and later grieving in the Falcon after Han's death are...hard to watch.
Mark Hamill has always been a fan-beloved cult icon of an actor, but he never really got to show his dramatic chops in live-action for a mass audience until The Last Jedi, where critics were totally blown away by his portrayal of a bitter, angry Luke Skywalker struggling with the mistakes of his past. This from a man who hadn't had a live-action starring role since the 1990s, being asked to play much the same role as Sir Alec Guinness, and he succeeds spectacularly.
Dave Bautista as Drax. As a professional wrestler, Bautista had acted in some minor roles before (always in roles where they were looking for a wrestler), but nothing this big. His timing as the Comically SeriousLiteral-Minded Drax was hilarious, but he was also able to effectively portray his character's grief over the loss of his family and later the guilt he felt over alerting the villains to the Guardians' whereabouts. Most critics praised his performance. Even The New York Times critic referred to him in passing as "the terrific Dave Bautista". This is reinforced in Vol II, where Drax's action scenes are minimized and Bautista carries the role almost solely on his (by then unquestionable) comic and thespian talents.
Much of the young adult cast (the "Golden Trio", in particular) of the Harry Potter franchise has been receiving relieved sighs from critics, who recognize that, as they've grown, they've all truly grown into their characters. Daniel Radcliffe, who starred (nude, yes) in Equus in London's West End (and other places afterwards), also received positive reviews overall... And come to think of it, there are plenty of child actors that developed into, you know, actual actors. (Speaking of, according to Radcliffe the three of them were given various kinds of training once they were selected for the first film. One thing they didn't receive? Acting classes. Given that, one is even more minded to be forgiving of their earlier performances, and impressed at their maturing into skilled actors.)
Emma Watson's crying after Hermione's fight with Ron in Goblet Of Fire? Passable but seriously over the top. Her crying in Half-Blood Prince when Harry is comforting her after seeing Ron kissing Lavender? Genuine Tear Jerker.
Seth MacFarlane definitely deserves this (with the rest of the fair amount of praise he's gotten) for his effort as Johann Krauss, considering how well he holds his own alongside big names like Ron Perlman and Selma Blair. He is undeniably a good VA, but this is a gamble that definitely paid off.
David Hyde Pierce said that Doug Jones could play both the voice and body of Abe Sapien, not just the body. Pierce even refused credit for the character in the first film. The second film just uses straight Jones.
Luke Evans's performance as Bard impressed not only fans but also critics. He'd previously had roles in Clash of the Titans and Immortals, both of which were thrashed by critics. Cue The Hobbit, where he not only proves he can act but he can hold his own against actors like Ian McKellen and Lee Pace.
Evangeline Lilly also impressed quite a lot of people as Tauriel, especially in the third film when she's grieving over Kíli's body. You will believe an Elf can make you cry.
Amy Poehler's performance as Joy is mostly just her being...well, Amy Poehler. But then we get to Joy breaking down at the bottom of the Memory Dump, holding forgotten memories. You will believe that Amy Poehler can make you cry.
The normally comedic Richard Kind as Bing Bong. Even Kind himself was tearing up during his character's Heroic Sacrifice.
Matthew McConaughey completely destroys his goofy rom-com image, buries it in a coffin ten feet deep and pours concrete on it. He absolutely owns every single scene he is in and manages to be both completely compelling and seductive and completely terrifying and unpredictable, able to switch from oily charm to explosive violence in an instant.
Juno Temple creates a very unique character that combines childlike wonder and mature sexuality mixed with deep mental instability.
Art Parkinson's most famous role is Rickon Stark in Game of Thrones, where he was infamously given almost nothing to do across the four seasons he appeared in. This caused some fans to wonder if this meant the crew was disappointed in his acting skills, but his performance in this film definitely shows he has real chops.
Rooney Mara's sinister turn. Even people who don't like the film find her performance intimidating.
When she was eleven years old, Dafne Keen played Laura in only her second role. She was praised as the best thing in an excellent movie. Not only was she acting opposite veterans Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, but she had no lines for the first half of the movie and had to act with her expressions alone.
In contrast to most models-turned-actors, Boyd Holbrook was praised for playing a genuinely threatening and charismatic villain, with many calling his performance superior to that of Richard E. Grant. Many viewers were actually disappointed when it turned out he wasn't the film's main antagonist.
Well, if the Academy Award she already won hadn't convinced you that Charlize Theron was more than a glamorous Ms. Fanservice actress, well, just watch her fight scene with Tom Hardy. Really, any of her scenes would do just as well. She plays one of the most unglamorous action heroines of all time, to the extent that many people have called her the Ellen Ripley of her generation. Some people have even cried foul that she didn't get a second Oscar nom for the movie.
All of the Wives, but it's probably safe to say that no one should be deriding Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as just another talentless model-turned-actor after this movie. She expertly sells Angharad's intelligence, compassion, and bravery as the charismatic natural leader of the Wives, the mentor reminding all of them that surviving the cruelty of the apocalypse is worth nothing if they sacrifice their humanity to do so. She remains one of the most passionate and sympathetic members of the cast, which is especially impressive considering the fact that she dies only halfway through the movie.
To a lesser extent, no one's going to be calling Nicholas Hoult just another bland pretty boy actor anymore, as he not only plays Nux as a believable (and hilariously insane gibbering glorified suicide bomber, but then breaks the image that he himself established earlier in the movie by making the audience sympathize with Nux's humiliation and failure. His MookFace Turn is totally believable as a result, to the point that many people called his final Heroic Sacrifice one of the saddest moments of the movie.
Dylan O'Brien has surprised a lot of people with his performance as Thomas, even the series's own director, Wes Ball, proving Teen Wolf isn't all he can do. Many are calling him the next great action star. His take on the role is especially impressive considering he filmed the final movie with a physically and emotionally damaging injury. He does a particularly good job in Chuck's and Newt's death scenes.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as fan favorite Newt also deserves a mention, possibly more than anyone else in the cast. While he's never been regarded as a bad actor, he's usually cast in calm/stoic roles without much meat (possibly due to the fact that he was the voice of Ferb) and hasn't gotten much critical attention since his Love Actually days. He doesn't get much to work with for these movies either...that is, until The Death Cure. GOSH. His performance as a Flare-infected Newt is just gut-wrenching, portraying all of Newt's selflessness, resignation, and deep fear of losing himself, and seeing Newt get sicker and sicker, slowly losing his humanity is every bit as difficult as it was in the book. Here's hoping he gets some long-deserved trophies for this one.
Kaya Scodelario sadly hasn't gotten much critical attention yet either, but she also does a great job in the final film as Teresa, selling the character's complexity extremely well. She's particularly good in her death scene and the highly underrated scene with the Crank child. And Dylan O'Brien wasn't the only one going through a major physical battle during Death Cure; she filmed it WHILE BREASTFEEDING HER NEWBORN SON.
Muppet fans were unsure of how well Steve Whitmire would take over performing Kermit the Frog following Jim Henson's death, but his great performance in The Muppet Christmas Carol was a solid reassurance that Henson's legacy would live on (before he even died, Henson said that he was planning on having Whitmire take over for him - if even the man himself had faith in Whitmire's abilities, then nobody should've worried.)
Henson himself also deserves props for the scene where Kermit gives himself a pep talk under the stars in The Muppet Movie.
Kermit: I guess I was wrong when I never promised anyone. I promised me.
It goes without saying but Andy Serkis performance as Caesar is nothing short of brilliant though if you watched The Lord of the Rings, King Kong (2005) and The Prestige this isn't surprising. He manages to sell Caesar's character growth and conflict superbly. There's been more than a few pleas for him to get nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor/Best Supporting Actor or at the very least a Special Achievement Oscar. One fan even compared him to Daniel Day-Lewis. Wow.
Amiah Miller in War for the Planet of the Apes. The fact that she's able to hold her own against motion-captured apes is impressive enough but she has literally no dialogue for the entire movie. In her film debut no less!
Some critics were really impressed with Will Poulter's performance as Jim Bridger, especially considering some of the other films he's been in. Even Jeremy Jahns was impressed.
All of the Native American actors and actresses in the film. Not only did the film do the right thing in casting the correct ethnicity of the actors, but almost none of them had ever even acted in a film before. And they gave fantastic performances. Doubles as Crowning Moment of Awesome.
Owen Wilson as Eli Cash, the Tenenbaums' neighbor, and Richie Tenenbaum's best friend. It seems like one of his many dimes-a-dozen whimsical roles until it's revealed that he has an affair with Margot, with whom Richie is in love with, and later has a drug-fueled breakdown.
Typically sophomoric movie actor Ben Stiller convincingly plays a grieving, tightly-wound widower.
Matt Lucas is known on both sides of the Atlantic for his role on the comedy series Little Britain and Bridesmaids. But he proved his dramatic talent in this film as a middle-aged Manchild lacking in almost any survival skills and completely lost without the brother who once helped him get by. The scene where he finds out his brother has died of a brain tumor that he never told him about is utterly heartbreaking.
The film also has Jackass star Johnny Knoxville, best known for... erm... exploring new boundaries of pain endurance, do great work as a convenience store clerk desperate to convince himself that he isn't wasting his life. He is especially good in a scene where he tells a young stripper the bitter reality of life as a topless dancer in Las Vegas and how people will view her.
The performances of the main protagonist and antagonist of Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) have been widely acclaimed by critics and fans alike:
After the re-design of Sonic, Ben Schwartz was praised for his voice work as the titular hedgehog. Not only does he manage to be genuinely badass and funny, but he even carries the more emotional moments (like the psychiatrist scene and the baseball diamond scene) and manages to sound legitimately heartbreaking.
Likewise, Jim Carrey absolutely nailed the role of Dr. Robotnik thanks to his manic and over-the-top energy from his film roles in the '90s fitting well with the character. On top of being utterly hilarious, he also manages to be legitimately threatening at some points. The post-credits scene in particular is where Carrey kills it as he manages to perfectly sound like Mike Pollock's version of Eggman (Mike Pollock is Eggman's current voice actor).
In a much more subdued, yet possibly even more poignant scene, Shatner's reaction to the death of Kirk's son in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is heartbreaking in how he's so traumatized that he stumbles over his chair trying to sit down, followed by him angrily repeating how the "Klingon bastards killed [his] son."
And again in Star Trek: Generations. Few people would put William Shatner in the same category as Patrick Stewart as an actor, but he easily holds his own in the scenes they have together.
Bill Paxton, playing Morgan Earp alongside Sam Elliot as Virgil and Kurt Russell as Wyatt, proved once and for all that he could leave the Sci Fi Ghetto and filled the role with just the right amounts of childish enthusiasm and naïvite.
Fellow Sci Fi Ghetto inhabitant and Aliens-cast member Michael Biehn also delivered a bravura performance, turning Johnny Ringo into a genuinely charismatic, believably sociopathic, and absolutely terrifying villain.