50 Greatest Scene Stealing Performances

Jackie Earle Haley Shutter Island (2010)

The Performance: Appearing in just one chilling little scene, Haley plays George Noyce, a patient who (whisper it) could probably do with a good shower.

Though it’s a tiny moment, Haley completely owns it – and proves pivotal in pushing Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the right direction.

If They Had Their Own Movie:
It’d be a little like The Shawshank Redemption , only with less redemption.

Ray Charles The Blues Brothers (1980)

The Performance: Though other music luminaries like Aretha Franklin appear in Dan Aykroyd’s restless road movie, it’s Charles who steals the show, firing guns at kids who want to try out guitars in his store and generally swaggering like a badass.

If They Had Their Own Movie: There’d have been no need for Jamie Foxx to play him in biopic Ray .

John Goodman Flight (2013)

The Performance: Swooping in to inject Robert Zemeckis’ often morose drama with a little spunk, Goodman almost manages to act Denzel Washington off the screen as drug dealer Harling Mays.

See also: Argo and The Big Lebowski.

If They Had Their Own Movie: It would be called The Doctor and follow Mays as he ‘treats’ other junkies in his singularly brash manner.

Viola Davis Doubt (2008)

The Performance: Putting in a brief but shocking turn as the mother of a boy who’s alleged to have been abused by a priest, Viola Davis is nothing short of riveting.

She turns the narrative on its head as a woman who just wants her son to get through school – abuse or no.

If They Had Their Own Movie:
It would be a bruising look at racial tensions and domestic strife in the sixties.

David Bowie Zoolander (2001)

The Performance: Ben Stiller has blue steel and Owen Wilson has his underwear-removing trick, but David Bowie is – well – David Bowie ! Which is pretty much the reason he owns his scene in Zoolander , judging a walk-off between the rival models.

If They Had Their Own Movie: He’d preside over his own fashion-oriented version of fight club.

“The first rule of Fashion Club is be fabulous!”

Dean Stockwell Blue Velvet (1986)

The Performance: An unnerving pimp and druggy who only shows up for one scene of David Lynch’s film, Ben (Stockwell) nonetheless makes one heck of an impact – even Frank (Dennis Hopper) is afraid of him…

If They Had Their Own Movie: He shouldn’t – he’s a beautifully sinister enigma and we don’t want to know anything about him.

Mostly because we don’t think we’d sleep at night.

Vince Vaughn Swingers (1996)

The Performance: The party animal to end all party animals, Trent (Vince Vaughn) is just the kind of guy you need on your side if you’re looking to get over a bad break-up.

If They Had Their Own Movie: It would probably resemble Get Him To The Greek , only with less Russell Brand.

Will Ferrell Wedding Crashers (2005)

The Performance: Equipped with a silk robe and some really bad advice, Ferrell ignites Wedding Crashers ’ second act with a phenomenally funny turn as guru Chazz Reinhold, advising Owen Wilson to start crashing funerals instead…

If They Had Their Own Movie: It would rival Anchorman for laughs-per-minute.

John Hurt The Proposition (2009)

The Performance: Hurt crops up as brilliantly-named bounty hunter Jellon Lamb in The Proposition .

He’s a racist with zero faith, and absolutely annihilates the two scenes he appears in.

If They Had Their Own Movie:
It would be called Lamb Of God and watch Hurt depart Australia to cut a bloody swathe through America’s bible belt.

Sammy Davis Jr Sweet Charity (1969)

The Performance: Leading a trio of percussion-rattling backing singers, Sammy Davis Jr breathes life into this Bob Fosse musical for one of the film’s most vibrant sequences.

His rendition of ‘The Rhythm Of Life’ is nothing short of magical.

If They Had Their Own Movie:
We’d all be singing and dancing in the aisles.

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.