Sometimes, even when pondering a rather simple subject, you have an epiphany. And epiphanies, no matter how trivial the subject matter, are always refreshing. Our most recent example was seeing an incredible dramatic actor, let’s call him Michael Shannon, in a very famous movie, let’s call it Groundhog Day. This is a movie we’ve watched dozens of times — enough to almost feel we’ve lived old Phil Connors’ 72-plus years in Punxsutawney ourselves. But suddenly, there he was, in all his compelling, Michael Shannon glory.
That got us thinking: Who else have we missed in huge films throughout the years? So, we crowdsourced. We asked around the office, dug around on IMDB, and mined up 10 epic moments major stars appeared in big films that you all but assuredly missed the first time. Inside is the mother lode of lost superstars who showed up in famous movies, lovingly compiled for your pleasure. We hope you have as much fun reading it as we did making it.
Jack Gleeson, Batman Begins
If you blink, you’ll miss it, but before he was the most hated monarch to rule the airwaves, The Game of Thrones star played a lost little boy in the middle of Ducard’s (Liam Neeson) chaotic attack on Gotham City. While it’s barely a blip on the film’s radar, the hilarity of the evil “cop” lightly pushing his face away like he’s swatting a fly in slow motion is worth a rewind or two. It’s also just fun to see Gleeson out of his Joffrey chains, because, if you go by how well he treats his fans, he actually seems like a pretty rad dude. Acting!
Michael Shannon, Groundhog Day
Long before he was a brooding thespian in compelling flicks like The Shape of Water and Midnight Special, Shannon played the plucky other half of a young bride-to-be, who needed some help from the reformed Phil Connors (Bill Murray) to stoke the flames of their love. On his epic good-Samaritan kick, Connors gets the couple “WrestleMania tickets” after repairing their relationship, and Shannon just loses it. The twinkle in his eye as he shouts, “Thank you Mr. Connors, you’re a real pal,” was just foreshadowing for his prolific road ahead as one of Hollywood’s best dramatic actors.
Cuba Gooding, Jr., Coming to America
You may not remember Mr. Show-me-the-money in John Landis’ classic comedy starring Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy, and Eddie Murphy, mostly due to all the hilarity going on around him — and the fact that the best he can muster is a cheesy smile. The Cuba moment comes in the barbershop scene, where the young star-to-be plays a customer getting his mop chopped by Clarence (Eddie Murphy, caked in aging makeup). The key moment? Watch Murphy’s hands snip, but never come close to any of Cuba’s locks.
Samuel L. Jackson, Coming to America
They aren’t lying when they say Samuel L. is in almost everything. Jumping right back to the seminal comedy, here we see Jackson in one of his earliest high-profile roles, playing the criminal holding up the McDowell’s (you know, the place with the Big Mick). The hat and beard make a decent disguise, but if you re-watch the film, there’s no mistaking that commanding presence. Was this the role that eventually led to his groundbreaking turn in Pulp Fiction? We may never know.
Elijah Wood, Back to the Future Part II
In his first role ever, Wood slips into the film right as we’re being overwhelmed by Robert Zemeckis’ zany future tech, playing one of the two kids trying to use the “old school” arcade game. Maybe the most interesting thing about this moment is the clothes the future kids are wearing, including some kind of ridiculous colanders on their heads. While many of the film’s predictions have actually come true (we’re looking at you, Cubbies), there are no flying cars, and, yes, you still need to use your hands to play video games. Maybe in another 30 years?
Jack Black, Demolition Man
There are so many questions we have about this film, but most of them boil down to one word: Why? That said, it’s oddly rewatchable, so if you’ve spent enough time wondering about the “three seashells,” you may have noticed the prolific young Jack Black appear in a nothing role in the second act, alongside freedom-fighting Denis Leary. Black may not have much to say, but that may be because Leary says all the words. All of them.
Tom Hardy, Black Hawk Down
You’ve likely seen this movie, but you’d be forgiven for not remembering Hardy’s role. He was a virtual unknown back then, and even now, his acting prowess and lack of ego make him one of the most chameleonic stars on the silver screen. He only has a few lines anyway, and those Marine haircuts and helmets when they’re in the thick of it make each of the bigger names in the film seem to blend into the background. We promise, though, he’s in there.
Keira Knightley, Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace
Speaking of chameleons, Knightley spends all of her time in this film hiding in plain sight, made up as a near-identical body double for Portman’s Queen Amidala. Frankly, this one surprised us, as she really is the spitting image with all that makeup. You could always go back and watch the film again to see if you can make her out, but we wouldn’t recommend it.
John Hamm, The A-Team
While it may not be his most challenging role, John Hamm shows up at the end of this fun-but-forgettable remake alongside loads of other big stars. Hamm played a lot of bit parts on his way to the A-list, including moonlighting in movies while he rocked the anti-hero like a champ on his star-making AMC series, Mad Men. While Hamm may not have a gilded list of top-notch films under his belt, his turn as the bad guy on Baby Driver should help keep him in the running for more critically acclaimed fare in the future. Besides, how you could you not love that face?
Amy Adams, Catch Me If You Can
Another one that’s a lot easier to notice in hindsight, Adams absolutely electrified the screen alongside serious heavyweights like DiCaprio and Walken as the nurse who finally gets her braces off — and quickly starts making out with DiCaprio. There are no small roles, and Adams proved her skills by holding her own in this vicarious Spielberg masterpiece. She had to wait a good five more years before mesmerizing audiences with her breakout role in Enchanted, which launched her onto the A-list, but as we can probably all attest, it was well worth the wait.
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