11 thoughts on “What’s the Best Debut Film Performance in a Film You Watched When it First Came Out?

  1. Not his debut – but Morgan Freeman in Street Smart had the most absolutely electric performance by an actor with whom I was not familiar. And that film, it seems, made his subsequent career happen. For real debuts – I’d go with either Madeline Kahn (What’s Up Doc) or Diane Lane (A Little Romance).

  2. Ashley Judd in Ruby in Paradise. Low Key masterpiece by director Victor Nunez. Really good and interesting performances by everyone in the movie.

  3. If we’re limiting it to movies I saw during their initial theatrical run, I’m going with Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God.

  4. Was “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” a debut performance for DiCaprio? I remember seeing that when it first came on cable because I’d heard the reviews, and he was fantastic.

  5. Die Hard was Alan Rickman’s first film role and he just became one of the most memorable movie villains of all time. No big deal.

  6. It’s technically her third movie after an uncredited role and a tiny, tiny indie film but Kristen Stewart in Panic Room. I was sure she’d be in bigger things. it just took a while.

  7. McConaughey in Dazed and Confused – a huge ensemble cast with a lot of great firsts, but his charm and charisma took it over.

  8. As far as I am concerned, I think that Chris Reeve debut as Superman was so mind blowing I can still feel the amazement after almost 50 years and it is probably unsurpassed in my personal experience, but the fact he then suffered typecasting might diminish his performance.

    Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley also ranks high, but technically it was her second stint after a small part in Annie Hall.

  9. Most people I can think of that wowed me weren’t technically in their first movie, so I’m gonna assume it was her debut and go with Natalie Portman in Leon.

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