14 Major Movie Characters Who Don't Even Show Up Until The Second Half

Over 100 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of 14 Major Movie Characters Who Don't Even Show Up Until The Second Half
Voting Rules
Vote up the late-arriving characters who were worth the wait.

Sometimes the most important people don’t show up until late in the game. When we think we understand the story and all of its characters, someone often shows up and changes everything (often when we least expect it). This is as true in life as it is in film - we never know the who, what, where, when, and why of introductions until they've already happened. 

There are a surprising number of major movie characters who don't show up until fairly late in the film. To clarify, this does not include cameos or major stars who just show up for a bit part - the key here is that the characters themselves are hugely important, but the movies just take their sweet time introducing them. What’s that saying? Good (or bad) things come to those who wait... until the second half of the movie.

Remember to vote up your favorite late-arriving characters.

  • Since 1979, we’ve seen many different incarnations of the Xenomorph - but who can forget the first? Ridley Scott's classic sees the crew of the Nostromo investigating a distress call from an alien vessel, only to discover a chamber containing hundreds of egg-like objects. When Kane (John Hurt) touches one, a creature springs out and attaches itself to his face. Unfortunately, no one listens to Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) citing of quarantine regulations and they let Kane back aboard the Nostromo.

    Not long afterward, a small alien creature bursts through his chest and escapes into the ship. In its seclusion, it grows, and around the film's halfway mark, we finally meet the iconic, fully grown Xenomorph.

    77 votes
  • Steven Spielberg's WWII epic revolves around Captain John Miller and his squad's search behind enemy lines for Private James Francis Ryan - whose three brothers were all wiped out in combat. Unless you count the older version of Private Ryan at the beginning, Miller and his men don't find Privaye Ryan (that is, the young soldier played by Matt Damon) until the film's 105-minute mark (he's basically a MacGuffin up until that point).

    However, Private Ryan refuses to go home right away, prioritizing his group's mission to defend the key bridge against an imminent German attack - which catapults the film into its thrilling and poignant final act.

    86 votes
  • When adapting Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mel Stuart and company put "Willy Wonka" in the title for two reasons: Gene Wilder, and the larger-than-life enigmatic figure that is Wonka himself. As the eccentric recluse who hides five golden tickets inside chocolate bar wrappers, Wonka is shrouded in mystery the entire film - before, during, and after he emerges at around the 45-minute mark. We all have Wilder to thank for one of the most memorable character introductions in cinematic history. The actor agreed to star in the 1971 classic under one condition:

    When I make my first entrance, I'd like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp. After the crowd sees Willy Wonka is a cripple, they all whisper to themselves and then become deathly quiet. As I walk toward them, my cane sinks into one of the cobblestones I'm walking on and stands straight up, by itself; but I keep on walking until I realize that I no longer have my cane. I start to fall forward, and just before I hit the ground, I do a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applause... Because from that time on, no one will know if I'm lying or telling the truth.

    89 votes
Gollum, 'The Lord of the Rings' Trilogy
    Photo: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring / New Line Cinema

    Ignoring The Hobbit prequels, we don't meet Sméagol, AKA Gollum, until the second film in Peter Jackson The Lord of Rings trilogy. Yes, we’re told about how Bilbo Baggins encountered him in the Misty Mountains and found his "precious," but he remains in darkness for the duration of The Fellowship of the Ring.

    That said, Frodo does see and hear Gollum following behind the Fellowship on multiple occasions, but it isn't until Frodo and Sam venture off on their own in The Two Towers that Gollum nearly strangles Sam for the Ring - the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

    85 votes
  • Crime thrillers don’t get much better than David Fincher’s Se7en. Many things make the film great, not the least of which is its handling of John Doe, the serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his thematic framework. Someone once said (probably Stephen King), if you want to make a monster scary, put him in a closet... or just don't show its face until the 94-minute mark.

    The inability of our detectives Somerset and Mills (Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, respectively) to find John Doe until he wants to be found only adds to Se7en's looming sense of dread. When none other than Kevin Spacey turns himself in, shouting "Detectiiiiivve!" while covered in blood, it's far from a victory. It's exactly the opposite.

    71 votes
  • 6
    37 VOTES

    Clarence, 'It's a Wonderful Life'

    In It’s a Wonderful Life, Henry Travers' Angel Second Class, Clarence Odbody (who has yet to win his wings), famously convinces George Bailey (James Stewart) that the town of Bedford Falls is better off with him alive. However, it isn't until over an hour into the movie that Clarence finds George standing on a bridge about to leap into the river; the angel jumps in himself, prompting George to rescue him.

    After Clarence introduces himself, George then wishes he’d never been born - which is when Clarence grants that wish and shows him what the world would be like had he never existed.

    37 votes