26 Of The Best Breakthrough Roles Of Our Beloved Hollywood Stars

Year after year, new actors break into the mainstream with performances that are so intense, charismatic, or daring that they are impossible to ignore. But, rather than one-off onscreen chemistry, what distinguishes a true breakout performance is the possibility of that lightning striking again, and again.
It's not always simple to choose an actor's breakthrough role, as we discovered while compiling this list. We frequently find ourselves tempted to choose their first role or the one we simply enjoy the most. It can be challenging to pinpoint the exact moment a star began to get the prefix "super". What we tried to do was choose the part that finally established an actor's spot in modern media; the performance that made it clear we'd be seeing a lot more of them.
Without any further ado, here are 26 of our favorite actors, along with the parts that launched them to superstardom. Which one is your favorite? The Best Breakthrough Role Of Hollywood Stars might be found here.

#1 Abigail Breslin as Olive Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine

Breakthrough Role Of Hollywood StarsSource: Little Miss Sunshine /, © David Shankbone / Wikimedia Commons

Breslin plays the youngest of a dysfunctional family and a beauty pageant contestant in this endearing film. When she was cast as Olive Hoover, she was only 6 years old. Even her co-stars, who claimed to be shocked by her seriousness of purpose during filming, praised her performance highly.

#2 Brad Pitt as J.D. in Thelma & Louise

Breakthrough Role Of Hollywood StarsSource: © Thelma & Louise / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, © Once Upon a Time in Hollywood / Sony Pictures Releasing

Thelma & Louise's shirtless scene with Brad Pitt made headlines in 1991. Along with the other important films he's worked on, such as Kalifornia, Se7en, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and many others, Pitt is still regarded as an icon because of this film.

#3 Bruce Willis as John McClane in the Die Hard movie series

Breakthrough Role Of Hollywood StarsSource: © Die Hard with a Vengeance / 20th Century Fox, © Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Many famous actors turned down the role of John McClane because it was made in a period when action films were not considered prestigious. Willis was initially hesitant when the role was offered to him, but the box office results for the film were nothing short of a miracle for him. Willis became a huge action star due to his ability to perform his own stunts and his perfect acting skills.

#4 Carrie-Anne-Moss as Trinity in The Matrix

Breakthrough Role Of Hollywood StarsSource: © The Matrix / Warner Bros. Pictures, © Snow Ball / Momentum Pictures

Moss underwent three physical tests and became acquainted with extreme acrobatic skills for her breakthrough role in The Matrix. Her career was launched by the film, which provided her with countless opportunities and awards.

#5 Christopher Mintz-Plasse as McLovin in Superbad

Breakthrough Role Of Hollywood StarsSource: © Superbad / Sony Pictures Releasing, © Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

McLovin, along with Emma Stone, Jonah Hill, and Michael Cera, was the most adored character in the coming-of-age film Superbad. It was due to his sassy bravery combined with his uber-geeky persona, not to mention the fact that he was a 25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor who was friends with police officers, Seth Rogen, and Bill Hader.

#6 Emma Stone as Jules in Superbad

Breakthrough Role Of Hollywood StarsSource: © Superbad / Sony Pictures Releasing, © Invision/Invision/East News

Superbad was certainly a boost for Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, but there was another superstar who made the list with this film: Emma Stone. In the film, her sweet and funny character plays Jonah Hill's lucky love interest.

#7 Haley Joel Osment as Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense

Breakthrough Role Of Hollywood StarsSource: © The Sixth Sense / Buena Vista Pictures Distributuon, © Bad Therapy / Gravitas Ventures

When Osment was 11, he landed his breakthrough role in the thriller The Sixth Sense. He played a boy who could "see dead people." He co-starred with Bruce Willis in the film, which was a huge success at the box office.

#8 Jaden Smith as Christopher Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness

Breakthrough Role Of Hollywood StarsSource: © The Pursuit of Happyness / Sony Pictures Releasing, © Jaden Smith / Instagram

Will Smith and his son Jaden star in one of the most favorite films, The Pursuit of Happiness. But it was more of a breakthrough role for Jaden. He plays Will Smith's 5-year-old son in the film, where they both overcome adversity and struggle together, leading to a truly happy ending.

#9 Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie Darko in Donnie Darko

Breakthrough Role Of Hollywood StarsSource: © Donnie Darko / Newmarket Films, © Gordon Correll / Wikimedia Commons

This film is considered a must-see because it combines sci-fi with a psychological thriller that will leave you speechless. Along with Jake's breakout performance, the film embraces humor, time travel, the butterfly effect, and an incredible cliffhanger.

#10 Jodie Foster as Iris in Taxi Driver

Source: © Taxi Driver / Columbia Pictures, © Elysium / Sony Pictures Releasing

Foster, like almost every other child actor, struggled in her prime. But everything changed when she starred in Martin Scorsese's masterpiece Taxi Driver. It was undoubtedly a risk for her, but her performance stood up to the other actors twice her age. Even today, she is known for taking on difficult roles.

#11 Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman

Source: © Pretty Woman / Buena Vista Pictures, © Julia Roberts / Instagram

Roberts had appeared in films such as Mystic Pizza, but Pretty Woman was her breakthrough role. Julia's wide-eyed smile and easy chemistry with Richard Gere were all she needed to become the movie's charm, and she did so flawlessly.

#12 Kit Harrington as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones

Source: © Game of Thrones / Warner Bros. TV Distribution, © Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Despite how the final season played out, Jon Snow remained almost everyone's favorite among Game of Thrones fans. This breakthrough role brought him global fame, but it consumed him so much that he had to seek therapy later.

#13 Kristen Dunst as Claudia in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles

Source: © Interview With The Vampires / Warner Bros., © JEAN-BAPTISTE LACROIX/AFP/East News.

Dunst's big break came when she co-starred with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in the 1994 thriller Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles. She portrayed a tiny vampire who is taken under the wings of Cruise and Pitt. She rose to fame in her teens and was nominated for a Golden Globe for this role.

#14 Leonardo DiCaprio as Arnie Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Source: © What's Eating Gilbert Grape / Paramount Pictures, © U.S. Department of State / Wikimedia Commons

Although Titanic made Leo famous, his performance as the mentally challenged Arnie Grape in What's Eating Gilbert Grape drew the attention of many film critics and audiences. Because of the way he portrayed him, Arnie is also one of the most adored characters in his film career. This was also his first Academy Award nomination.

#15 Margot Robbie as Naomi Lapaglia in The Wolf of Wall Street

Source: © The Wolf of Wall Street / Paramount Pictures, © Margot Robbie / Instagram

This Australian actress got her big break in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, co-starring with Leonardo DiCaprio. Margot Robbie plays Jordan Belfort's wife and is charming throughout. She is now a huge Hollywood star and an Oscar nominee.

#16 Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose

Source: © La Vie En Rose / TFM Distribution, © Georges Biard / Wikimedia Commons

Cotillard was cast in La Vie En Rose because the director discovered a resemblance between Piaf's and Cotillard's eyes. The role earned her international recognition, including two Oscars, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a few others.

#17 Michael Fassbender as Brandon in Shame

Source: © Shame / Momentum Pictures, © Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Shame is a film about a successful New Yorker who struggles with addictions and a lack of ability to form relationships. His sharp eyes and acting skills make this role a huge success.

#18 Noah Centineo as Peter Kavinsky in the To All The Boys movie series

Source: © To All The Boys PS I Still Love You / Netflix, © Noah Centineo / Instagram

Centineo co-stars with Lara Condor in their latest teen rom-coms, To All the Boys I've Loved Before and To All the Boys: P.S. I'm still in love with you. The script is as complex as the adolescent mind, but Centineo plays Peter Kavinsky with ease.

#19 Rachel McAdams as Regina George in Mean Girls

Source: © Mean Girls / Paramount Pictures, © SpreePiX Berlin / Wikimedia Commons

McAdams' breakout role was as Regina George, the mean high school queen bee, alongside Lindsay Lohan, Lacey Chabert, and Amanda Seyfried. Apart from the amazing quotable dialogue, no matter how many times you watch this movie, you will always learn something new.

#20 Ralph Fiennes as Amon Göth in Schindler’s List

Source: © Schindler's List / Universal Pictures, © Spielberg / HBO

Before Voldemort made Ralph famous, Spielberg's Schindler's List was a must-see. Fiennes played war commandant Amon Göth, and his sharp eyes and chilling scenes earned him numerous awards and an Oscar nomination.

#21 Richard Gere as Edward Lewis in Pretty Woman

Source: © Pretty Woman / Buena Vista Pictures, © Arbitrage / Lionsgate

Pretty Woman influenced not only Julia Roberts but also Richard Gere. Everything about the film was flawless: the casting, the filming, and, of course, their chemistry. Although Gere was reaping the benefits of his fame from the film Gigolo, Pretty Woman was the icing on the cake.

#22 Salma Hayek as Carolina in Desperado

Source: © Desperado / Sony Pictures Releasing, © Salma Hayek / Instagram

In 1995, Salma's breakthrough role was Desperado. She portrayed Antonio Banderas's partner-in-crime. Aside from her incredible acting abilities, her wardrobe was flawless.

#23 Sandra Bullock as Annie Porter in Speed

Source: © Speed / 20th Century Fox, © Eva Rinaldi / Wikimedia Commons

Keanu Reeves was originally cast as the lead in Speed. But, after an incredible box-office run, Bullock eventually became the star. Despite screaming and driving, she demonstrated her sincerity. In the long run, it made a huge and very positive difference in Bullock's career.

#24 Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte in Lost in Translation

Source: © Lost in Translation / Focus Features, © The Academy / Instagram

Scarlett Johannson's breakthrough came at the age of 17 with Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation. She played Charlotte, co-starred with Bill Murray, and received many accolades and awards.

#25 Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes in the Marvel movies

Source: © Avengers: Endgame / Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures, © Sebastian Stan / Instagram

Bucky Barnes is one of the most underrated members of the Avengers. He broke free from Hydra and remained fiercely loyal to Captain America, who was a good person at heart. Sebastian Stan played the role, which is regarded as his breakthrough role.

#26 Zach Galifianakis as Alan in the Hangover movie series

Source: © The Hangover / Warner Bros. Pictures, © Between Two Ferns / Netflix

Zach Galifianakis is no exception to the Hangover movies' bizarre and crazy characters and series of events. In fact, he rules this insane state. Apart from pulling off the craziest stunts, his breakthrough role was truly off-base, which sets you up for a good laugh.
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