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Total Nerd

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

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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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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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.