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11 Actors That Totally Stole Movies From Their Co-Stars

Updated December 14, 2020 3.5k votes 616 voters 50.7k views11 items

List RulesVote up the best performances that totally stole the lead actor's thunder.

For the most part, everyone knows who a film's protagonist is; either they’re in the opening scene or the beginning ties heavily into their backstory, yada yada yada. When you see a lead actor on screen, something clicks. Then again, sometimes supporting actors do more than share the stage. How do actors steal scenes? Well, by somehow transcending the more limited role for which they are intended and dramatically standing out from the crowd - even overwhelming the presumptive leads.

These actors - typically built around the lead - overshadow the hero to such an extent that it becomes their movie instead. Think Jack Sparrow sailing in on a sinking ship and completely stealing William Turner’s show in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl or Furiosa being the real road warrior in Mad Max: Fury Road. This list will take a look at supporting actors who stole the movie. Vote up the actors and supporting players who contributed much more than an assist.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was intended to be an Orlando Bloom vehicle. Thanks to the Lord of the Rings franchise, Bloom was considered a rising star at the time - the kind of young heartthrob studios might want to build a franchise around. Depp, meanwhile, primarily had a niche audience.

    From the moment Elizabeth Swann, Joshamee Gibbs, and James Norrington recover a young, shipwrecked William Turner (Bloom), he becomes a surrogate for the audience. The supposed blacksmith, unaware of his pirate origins, is introduced to pirating through Depp’s eccentric Jack Sparrow. As the life of "yo ho, yo ho" absorbs Will, Depp's Sparrow confuses and captivates us. The screenplay may give Will Turner the grand romance and the self-discovery arc, but it's Captain Jack's show. Following that first film, which yielded Depp an Oscar nomination for best actor, Pirates of the Caribbean officially became Sparrow’s franchise, with Bloom relegated to supporting duty.

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  • The Hangover sees four men drive to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. When the groomsmen wake up in the morning, they can’t remember the events of the night before, nor can they find the groom. One of those groomsmen, the bride’s brother Alan (Zach Galifianakis), is quite the character (to say the least). Going into The Hangover, the most recognizable actor was Bradley Cooper as Phil, the cool teacher Alan admires (to say the least). He's also the obvious alpha of this wolf pack - the only bona fide "leading man" in the bunch.

    However, as Galifianakis straps a baby to his chest, gets tasered in the face, and admits to giving the pack roofies to make their night more fun, Alan becomes the true star of The Hangover. The film not only made Galifianakis an international superstar, but also set the character up as an inimitable force in the Hangover sequels.

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  • Chloe Moretz And Nicolas Cage Stole ‘Kick-Ass’ From Aaron Taylor-Johnson
    Photo: Lionsgate

    Kick-Ass follows comic book enthusiast Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) as he reinvents himself as a real-life superhero. With no actual superpowers or combat training, Dave befriends the father/daughter vigilante team of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz).

    While Kick-Ass is Dave’s story and Cage unsurprisingly steals scenes as the former cop turned Batman-esque crusader, it’s Big Daddy’s expertly trained 11-year-old daughter that takes center stage. Maybe there’s just something ridiculously entertaining about watching the young Moretz violently dismantle men twice her size, or maybe Hit Girl’s status as a child thrust into an unforgiving world (comic books/reality) makes her the definitive superhero in the Kick-Ass universe.

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  • George Lucas looked to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces when creating Star Wars. That book explores the archetypal “Hero’s Journey” seen in stories told for hundreds of years. With this in mind, Lucas built "a galaxy far, far away" around Luke Skywalker. Luke’s journey from farm boy to the hero of the rebel alliance is the story the original trilogy hinges upon. 

    Enter Harrison Ford’s Han Solo. Whether he's blasting Greedo or spitting quotable dialogue, Ford’s smuggler epitomizes the swashbuckling/gunslinger aspect of Star Wars: A New Hope. Han Solo has gone on to become perhaps the most iconic character in Star Wars, warranting a solo film in 2016 (albeit without Ford). While Hamill did more than an adequate job as Luke, it’s damn near impossible to compete with Ford’s swagger. His role as Han was the catalyst for his decades-long leading-man stardom.

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