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The Best First Roles Played by Your Favorite Actresses

Updated November 9, 2020 6.1k votes 1.0k voters 80.2k views28 items

Do you remember your first job? Chances are it wasn’t glamorous, and it didn’t pay well. It’s hard to believe that the big movie stars on this list had to start at the bottom of the Hollywood ladder, and work their way up, but every famous actress had a first role, and they weren't always glamorous. Well, most of them weren't, unless you’re talking about Jennifer Hudson or Julie Andrews. Both of those lucky actresses actually won an Academy Award for their debut performances on the silver screen. But those are the exceptions, most of your favorite actresses got their start playing small parts on the big screen, or minor parts on television.

Think about it. Can you recall the first time you saw Jennifer Aniston? It wasn’t as Rachel Green on Friends, but as a girl fighting an evil leprechaun in a horror film that you most likely never even heard of. Sofia Vergara will probably not want you to see the clip of Stanley Tucci sucking her toes in the offbeat comedy Big Trouble. But she had to make her bones somehow, before landing the dream role of Gloria on the hilarious hit comedy Modern Family.

When coming up with this list, we may skipped over small parts in the way beginning of their careers, you know, the uncredited roles or characters that had little to no speaking parts. Instead, this list concentrates on the first time that we got to see these actresses in action. Think of this list as a "before they were famous" directory.

Let us know if we missed any of your favorite famous actresses first roles in the comment section and be sure to upvote the first roles played by famous female actors that you think were the best debuts below!
  • Photo: Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone / Warner Bros.

    Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

    Okay, so Emma Watson didn't win an Oscar for her first silver screen appearance like some of the lucky ladies on this list did. But, she did get to star in one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. Watson was just 11 years old when she played Hermione in the first Potter movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in 2001.

    The actress would go on to appear in all eight films of the series, and make a name for herself beyond the world of Potter as well.

    Was this a great role?

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  • Photo: Mary Poppins / Buena Vista Distribution

    Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins

    Okay, so some actresses do get the role of a lifetime right off the bat. Julie Andrews appeared in a few television movies before getting her first big screen role as the titular character Mary Poppins in the 1964 smash hit.

    To top it off, Andrews won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her supercalifragilistic performance.

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  • Photo: Léon: The Professional / Gaumont Buena Vista International


    Natalie Portman, Léon: The Professional 

    Natalie Portman has been cool since before she was a teenager. The Academy Award winner has over 40 acting credits to her name, but one of her most memorable performances will always be that of Mathilda in Luc Besson's thriller Léon: The Professional.

    Don't think a 12-year-old girl can be trained to become an assassin? Watch Mathilda become the perfect protege.

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  • Photo: I Am Sam / New Line Cinema

    Dakota Fanning, I Am Sam

    Young Fanning was only seven years old when she took on her first major role in a film. She played opposite Sean Penn in the weepie drama about a mentally challenged man fighting for custody of his young daughter. The wild part is that the child actor had already appeared on several hit television shows before I Am Sam hit theaters, including single episodes of ER, Ally McBeal, CSI, The Practice, Spin City, and Malcolm in the Middle. Talk about getting an early start!
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