Some lucky actors rose to popularity with their first role, but it rarely happens and most of them had to portray background people, supporting characters or star in movies that weren’t a hit before they were noticed and offered a role that changed their lives and raised them to stardom.

You may have not noticed them at the time you were watching those movies because their names weren’t known around the world, but they might have appeared in films and TV shows you liked to watch.

The online database IMDb gathered some now-famous actors’ early roles in movies that weren’t as successful or didn’t get as much recognition. While these movies might not have been the reason for which we know these celebrities, they were a step in their careers, bringing them closer to where they are now.

More info: IMDb

#1

Morgan Freeman In The Electric Company (1971)

Morgan Freeman In The Electric Company (1971)

Children's Television Workshop Report

It seems that our beloved actors were always famous because they get all the big roles and they not only appear on the screens in movie theaters, but they are so famous, they become brand ambassadors, they go to talk shows and are invited to participate in various projects.

However, they had to work hard to achieve this level of success, accepting roles that weren’t the main characters and taking part in movies that were complete flops. They had to polish their skills and talents to finally become the professionals that everyone admires.

#2

Tom Hanks In Bosom Buddies (1980)

Tom Hanks In Bosom Buddies (1980)

CBS Television Distribution Report

#3

Jason Momoa In Baywatch (1989)

Jason Momoa In Baywatch (1989)

LBS Communications Report

Nathaniel
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Straight male here, Jason Momoa now, I fancy, back then? Nope. He is looking better as he gets older.

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According to AV Installations, who conducted a little bit of research to find out how many roles it took for 2020’s favorite actors to get their breakthrough role, on average, it was 15. Almost half of them actually had to play more than 15 roles to get the one that made them famous and among those people are Robin Williams, Sean Connery and Tom Hanks.

The research also showed that on average, actors got their lucky roles at the age of 30, the youngest of them being 19-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio, and the oldest in the list was Morgan Freeman at the age of 50. 

If you are wondering if it is possible to immediately get famous with just one role, you should know that it does happen. Judi Dench, an eight-time Academy Award nominee, starred as Ophelia in Hamlet at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool for her first professional role in 1957. After this she got the important roles of Katherine in Henry V in 1958 and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet in 1960. The actress worked in the US and Canada, as well as appearing in Yugoslavia and at the Edinburgh Festival.

#4

Matthew Lillard And Angelina Jolie In Hackers (1995)

Matthew Lillard And Angelina Jolie In Hackers (1995)

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Report

#5

Henry Cavill In The Count Of Monte Cristo (2002)

Henry Cavill In The Count Of Monte Cristo (2002)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Report

B.Nelson
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Wait, Henry Cavill played the son! Dang...had no idea

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#6

Jason Bateman In Little House On The Prairie (1974)

Jason Bateman In Little House On The Prairie (1974)

NBCUniversal Television Distribution Report

Mabelbabel
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The girl with pigtails looks like the female version of Jake Gyllenhaal

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#7

Joaquin Phoenix In Spacecamp (1986)

Joaquin Phoenix In Spacecamp (1986)

20th Century Studios Report

Venom222
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

He was also in Parenthood the movie with Steve Martin.

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Becoming a successful actor definitely requires luck, but even if you’re lucky, but don’t put in the work and are not developing professionally, you can’t get to the top. Another important quality actors have is resilience.

The Guardian explains that “professionals are prepared to endure the daily ritual of humiliation, rejection, financial anguish and grinding unemployment. You have to be tough.” That is what sets professionals apart from amateurs.

Although perseverance is important, that doesn’t guarantee you will make a living from this profession as only 2% of actors achieve it. Sadly, most aspiring actors either have another profession or have to work random jobs like delivery driving. 

#8

Liv Tyler And Renée Zellweger In Empire Records (1995)

Liv Tyler And Renée Zellweger In Empire Records (1995)

Warner Bros. Report

Nathaniel
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is one of the greatest films ever made, everyone should watch.

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#9

Winona Ryder In Lucas (1986)

Winona Ryder In Lucas (1986)

20th Century Studios Report

#10

Chris Evans In Not Another Teen Movie (2001)

Chris Evans In Not Another Teen Movie (2001)

Sony Pictures Releasing Report

Helen Waight
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Have to watch this again, Ilove this movie. Especially the bit where he’s got whipped cream and a banana…which is kinda funny but I’m not going to show a picture of it because it’s raunchy.

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#11

Kirsten Dunst In Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

Kirsten Dunst In Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

Warner Bros. Report

Celebrities featured in this list managed to make being an actor a full-time career and their other jobs of being waiters, grave diggers, clowns or mascots wearing embarrassing costumes are now fun stories to remember.

Have you seen the movies in this list? Have you ever noticed that a now-famous actor had a role in one? Which one of these roles was the most surprising for you? Let us know your reactions in the comments and upvote the movies that you feel need more recognition.

#12

Elisabeth Moss In Girl, Interrupted (1999)

Elisabeth Moss In Girl, Interrupted (1999)

Columbia Pictures Report

#13

Laura Dern And Eric Stoltz In Mask (1985)

Laura Dern And Eric Stoltz In Mask (1985)

Universal Studios Report

#14

Harrison Ford And Jenny Sullivan In Love, American Style (1969)

Harrison Ford And Jenny Sullivan In Love, American Style (1969)

CBS Paramount Domestic Television Report

#15

Tom Hardy In Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

Tom Hardy In Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

Paramount Pictures Report

#16

Leonardo Dicaprio In Growing Pains (1985)

Leonardo Dicaprio In Growing Pains (1985)

Warner Bros. Television Distribution Report

TTorrest Author
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Yeah umm Growing Pains first aired in 1985 but Leo didn't join the cast until near the end of its run, 1990-1992

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#17

Courteney Cox In Misfits Of Science (1985)

Courteney Cox In Misfits Of Science (1985)

NBCUniversal Television Distribution Report

#18

Ryan Gosling In Young Hercules (1998)

Ryan Gosling In Young Hercules (1998)

NBCUniversal Syndication Studios Report

cadena kuhn
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Started on the Micky mouse club...he was also on a show b4 this called breaker high that I swear no one but me remembers

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#19

Scarlett Johansson In If Lucy Fell (1996)

Scarlett Johansson In If Lucy Fell (1996)

Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group Report

#20

Samuel L. Jackson In Do The Right Thing (1989)

Samuel L. Jackson In Do The Right Thing (1989)

Universal Studios Report

#21

Sebastian Stan In Law & Order (1990)

Sebastian Stan In Law & Order (1990)

NBCUniversal Syndication Studios Report

Emma S
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Love Sebastian Stan as the Winter Solider 😍

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#22

Juliette Lewis In Cape Fear (1991)

Juliette Lewis In Cape Fear (1991)

Universal Studios Report

Mrs.C
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Robert De Niro was amazing in this movie.

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See Also on Bored Panda
#24

Chris Pratt In The Extreme Team (2003)

Chris Pratt In The Extreme Team (2003)

Paramount Pictures Report

Reinaldo Fuentes
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

In this image, he is basically a 90's puka shell necklace with frosted tips in human form.

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#25

Saoirse Ronan In Atonement (2007)

Saoirse Ronan In Atonement (2007)

Universal Studios Report

Eva Kašu
Community Member
2 months ago (edited) Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Well, a lot of young actors starred in this movie...except Keira Knightley. She was already a star.

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#26

Jonathan Pryce In Brazil (1985)

Jonathan Pryce In Brazil (1985)

Universal Studios Report

N Gregory
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Far from his earliest screen appearance. IMDb lists his earliest screen credit in 1972, although it's acknowledged that this was his "break through role" after his success on stage.

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#27

Salma Hayek In Desperado (1995)

Salma Hayek In Desperado (1995)

Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group Report

Penny Kemper
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Pretty sure she was already famous. Like 10 years before this

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#28

Michael Caine In The Ipcress File (1965)

Michael Caine In The Ipcress File (1965)

Rank Organisation Report

Nathaniel
Community Member
2 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is a classic film. Do not bother with the sequels.

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#29

Maisie Williams And Florence Pugh In The Falling (2014)

Maisie Williams And Florence Pugh In The Falling (2014)

Metrodome UK Report

#30

Selena Gomez And Joey King In Ramona And Beezus (2010)

Selena Gomez And Joey King In Ramona And Beezus (2010)

20th Century Studios Report

Note: this post originally had 42 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.