Twenty five years ago on Nov. 18, 1994, future Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman made her film debut in the action-crime drama "Léon: The Professional." In the movie, Natalie starred as Mathilda, a 12-year-old girl taken under the wing of an assassin (played by Jean Reno) after her family is killed. In honor of the film's big anniversary, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at the first movies of more Academy Award-winning stars through the years. Keep reading for more…
Technically speaking, three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep's first film role was a small part in 1977's "Julia" alongside Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. However, it was her second movie role as Linda in the 1978 war drama "The Deer Hunter" — a much larger part — with Robert De Niro that earned her critical acclaim and her first of many Oscar nominations. In the film, Meryl played a young woman torn between her desire for a man named Michael (played by Robert) and her loyalty to her fiancé, Michael's friend Nick.
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If you were scratching your head, trying to figure out where you've seen Oscar-winning "Bohemian Rhapsody" star Rami Malek before, here's your answer. Rami landed his first big screen role in the 2006 adventure-comedy flick "Night at the Museum," which he followed with sequels in 2009 and 2014 (seen here). In the films, Rami played Ahkmenrah, a fictional Egyptian pharaoh modeled after the real-life King Tutankhamun.
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Recognize the little girl standing in this picture from the 1982 comedy "Lookin' to Get Out"? That's none other than Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie, who's known today as Disney villain Maleficent. The young actress was just shy of turning 7 when she landed the role of Tosh Warner alongside her father, Jon Voight (right) and actress Ann-Margret (left). Angie fittingly played her dad's character's daughter.
After appearing in uncredited roles in three earlier films, Oscar-winning producer Brad Pitt made his feature film debut in 1988's "The Dark Side of the Sun." The interesting thing about this movie — in which Brad co-starred with actress Cheryl Pollak — is that it was only released in Hungary in '88 and didn't come out in America until 1999, eight years after the actor stripped down in the crime drama "Thelma & Louise."
Who would have known that the young woman sitting in the passenger seat of rapper Ice Cube's car in the 1991 film "Boyz n the Hood" would grow up to be an acclaimed Oscar-winning actress? That girl, of course, was Regina King, who starred as Cube's girlfriend, Shalika, in the movie. In 2019, Regina took home the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her performance as Sharon Rivers in "If Beale Street Could Talk."
Long before Oscar-winning star Tom Hanks became one of Hollywood's most beloved actors and producers, he was a young up-and-coming star with just few credits to his name. Tom's film debut happened in 1980 with the cheesy horror thriller "He Knows You're Alone." In the movie, Tom played Elliot, a psychology student who befriends a woman on the run from a serial killer.
To be fair, by the time Oscar-winning actress Allison Janney appeared in the 1996 dramatic comedy "Big Night," she'd already landed six micro-appearances in other films. However, "Big Night" starring Tony Shalhoub (right), Stanley Tucci and Minnie Driver marked Allison's true first supporting film role. In the movie, she played Ann, a flower shop owner who's wined and dined by Italian restaurant owner Primo (played by Tony).
Nine years before two-time Oscar-winning actor Mahershala Ali took home his first Academy Award in 2017 for his performance as Juan in the drama "Moonlight," he made his big screen debut in 2008's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." In the film, Mahershala (who was then billed as Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) played Tizzy Weathers, the love interest of Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), the woman who finds and raises Benjamin (Brad Pitt) despite his strange condition.
Not only was the 1984 crime thriller "Blood Simple" Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand's first feature film role — it was her first on-screen role ever. In the movie, Frances played Abby, a young woman caught having an affair by a jealous husband who sets in motion a plot to kill her and her lover, which ultimately backfires.
After spending four years in Hollywood working in TV, future two-time Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington landed his first feature film role in the 1981 dramatic comedy "Carbon Copy" starring George Segal (left). In the movie, Denzel stars as a young man named Roger who seeks out his long-lost father — who happens to be a well-to-do white man — after the death of his mother. Roger's father welcomes his mixed race son but finds his social circle isn't so excited about the new arrival.
You probably wouldn't guess that the teen in the center of this photo, the girl with blonde hair and a salmon-colored sweater, would grow up to become an Oscar-winning actress and one of the biggest superheroes in the Marvel Universe. That teen, of course, was a young Brie Larson, who appeared in 2004's "Sleepover" as Liz, a member of the popular girl clique that was attempting to beat a group of geeks in a scavenger hunt. The film wasn't Brie's first, but it was the first time a character she played had an actual name and relevant storyline throughout the film. Prior to "Sleepover," Brie was one of five characters called Six Chick in "13 Going on 30" and Racing Girl No. 2 in "Madison." She was also an unnamed angel in the 1999 indie comedy "Special Delivery."
You're looking at a picture of two major film stars, one in their prime and the other just starting what would become a long and esteemed career in Hollywood. The men are none other than Henry Fonda (left), the father of actress Jane Fonda and a silver screen legend in his own right, and a young and dashing Christopher Plummer, who, after spending years on Broadway and TV, managed to land his first feature film role alongside Henry in the 1958 romantic drama "Stage Struck." Christopher — the oldest actor to win an Oscar (at 82 in 2012) — is still hard at work with appearances on the series "Departure" as well as in the films "Cliffs of Freedom" and "Knives Out" in 2019.
Few stars win Oscars for their first film and even fewer do so when they are children, but a young Anna Paquin managed to beat the odds and do both. In 1994, Anna took home the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her first film role as Flora McGrath in the 1993 romantic drama "The Piano." The movie co-starred Holly Hunter — who also took home an Oscar for her performance that year — and Harvey Keitel in a story about a selectively mute woman who is sold into an arranged marriage by her father and must move to New Zealand with her young daughter and their prized piano.
Another actress who won an Oscar with her first ever film role was Marlee Matlin, who took home the gold trophy for her portrayal of deaf janitor Sarah in the 1986 romantic drama "Children of a Lesser God." Marlee made history as she became the first disabled actor or actress to ever win the prize. As of 2019, no other disabled actor or actress has won an Oscar.
After appearing as an extra in two unreleased films and starring in more TV series and specials than we can count (including "Facts of Life"), Oscar-winning actor and producer George Clooney finally made it to the big screen — albeit for a short time — in the 1987 thriller "Return to Horror High." In the film, George played a cop named Oliver who meets his bloody end while investigating a dark and mysterious hallway at Crippen High.
Legendary stage and screen star Rita Moreno made her feature film debut at the tender age of 18 with three major motion pictures in 1950. The first was the drama "So Bad So Young" in which Rita — then billed as Rosita Moreno — starred as Dolores Guererro (center, playing guitar), a young woman living in an abusive correctional institute for wayward girls who later dies by suicide. Months later, Rita returned to the big screen in "The Toast of New Orleans" and "Pagan Love Song," films that showcased the actress's remarkable singing and dancing talents, opening the door for her future Oscar-winning film role as Anita in 1961's "West Side Story."
English Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman made both his on-screen feature film debuts in the 1982 drama "Remembrance." In the film, Gary played Daniel, a young Royal Naval enlistee who's brutally mauled by a bouncer at a nightclub, leading to his hospitalization and eventual death, which creates a domino effect of emotional drama for the friends he leaves behind.
After appearing in four TV shows and one made-for-TV movie, Oscar-winning actress Emma Stone landed her first feature film role in the 2007 comedy "Superbad." In the movie — which was written by actor Seth Rogen and his best friend, Evan Goldberg — Emma played Jules, the pretty high school senior and crush of Seth (played by Jonah Hill) who invites him to her party, leading Seth and his friends on a hilarious adventure to score alcohol in hopes of impressing her.
History never looked hotter thanks to hunky Oscar-winning producer and director Clint Eastwood's first credited film role in the 1955 fantasy comedy "Francis in the Navy." In the movie, Clint played Jonesy (back center), a sailor and friend to Army Lt. Sterling, who embarks on yet another hilarious adventure with his talking mule, Francis, after being mistaken for a popular sailor. That same year, Clint also appeared briefly in the sci-fi horror flick "Revenge of the Creature" as an extra but wasn't given a credit in the film.
It's hard to believe that this is the same guy who went on to write and star in the Oscar-winning film "Good Will Hunting" and play an amnesiac assassin in "The Bourne Identity" franchise. Before he was an Academy Award-winning screenwriter, Matt Damon made his film debut in the 1988 romantic comedy "Mystic Pizza" with a small role as Steamer, the younger brother of a boy named Charles who brings girlfriend Daisy (Julia Roberts) home for a disastrous family dinner.
Speaking of Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts… In 1988 — just before she starred in "Mystic Pizza" — she made her feature film debut in the romantic musical comedy "Satisfaction." In the movie, Julia starred as Daryle, a bass guitarist in the band The Mystery who travels with her friends and bandmates to Florida for one last adventure. Prior to scoring this role, Julia's only other film experience was as an extra in the 1987 comedy "Firehouse."
Although the 1993 biographical coming-of-age drama "This Boy's Life" wasn't Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio's first film, technically — he'd previously landed tiny parts in "Critters 3" and "Poison Ivy" — it was his first major film role following nearly five years of nonstop work in Hollywood. In the movie, Leo played a young Tobias Wolff who was struggling to overcome his circumstances after his mother married an abusive man.
After working for six years in Hollywood and appearing on three separate TV series, British actor Ben Kingsley (back left) made his film debut in the 1972 action-crime drama "Fear is the Key." In the movie, Ben — who went on to win an Oscar for best lead actor for his work in the 1982 biopic "Gandhi" — starred as a henchman named Royale who works for the criminals who shot down a plane with John Talbot's (Barry Newman, right) family on board.
Before Halle Berry made history as the first African American woman to win a best lead actress Oscar (in 2002 for her performance in "Monster's Ball"), she was a young TV star trying to break into movies. In 1991, she got her chance, playing crackhead Vivian in Spike Lee's romantic drama "Jungle Fever." The movie — about married black architect Flipper (Wesley Snipes), who engages in an extramarital affair with his Italian secretary — helped showcase Halle's talent, opening the door to her next film, "Strictly Business."