50 Greatest Scene Stealing Performances

Val Kilmer Tombstone (1993)

The Performance: As eccentric but lovable ex-dentist Doc Holliday, Kilmer brings true grit to a gift of a character, fearlessly taking down any bad guy who crosses his path.

We could watch that drunken poker game scene on repeat for hours…

If They Had Their Own Movie: It’d be called Doc Takes A Holliday.

Or something.

Orson Welles The Third Man (1949)

The Performance: He only has three scenes in the entire film, but Welles is spellbinding as Harry Lime, coming equipped with a truly iconic entrance and effortlessly oozing menace.

If They Had Their Own Movie:
We imagine there would be a lot of scenes of Harry hiding out and talking to his imaginary friends.

Eugene Levy American Pie (1999)

The Performance: Awkward but adorable, Jim’s dad (Levy) just wants to do right by his son, but his remarkable frankness merely makes Jim even more uncomfortable.

Easily one of the best screen dads ever.

If They Had Their Own Movie: It would be called American Dad and he’d work for the CIA, live with his wife, two kids, a goldfish and an alien refugee.

Wait, that sounds familiar…

Sam Elliot The Big Lebowski (1998)

The Performance: Though he narrates the entire film in a thick, Texan drawl, Elliot only appears in one scene as ‘The Stranger’, offering advice to The Dude (Jeff Bridges).

Other notable scene-stealer: John Turturro as evil bowler Jesus.

If They Had Their Own Movie:
It’d be the best-sounding movie ever. What a voice.

Chloe Grace Moretz Kick-Ass (2010)

The Performance: Foul-mouthed and more flexible than a Romanian gymnast, Hit Girl (Moretz) is, somewhat ironically, the most kick-ass character in Kick-Ass.

We bet she steals every scene in the upcoming Kick-Ass 2, as well.

If They Had Their Own Movie:
She already has her own comic and Mark Millar’s talked-up a solo movie – watch this space.

Dustin Hoffman Rain Man (1988)

The Performance: While Tom Cruise put in one of his finest performances in this sibling drama, it’s Hoffman who steals every scene he’s in, flawlessly and believably playing an autistic man.

If They Had Their Own Movie:
The whole point of Rain Man is the relationship between Cruise and Hoffman’s characters, so we don’t see it working with just Hoffman…

Peter Finch Network (1976)

The Performance: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Finch’s irate, unsettling outbursts punctuate Sidney Lumet’s outstanding drama, going off like mini incendiary devices that leave you as breathless and exhausted as he is. His catchphrase is our motto for life.

If They Had Their Own Movie: It’d get a bit repetitive, and probably be the most depressing film ever made.

Marisa Tomei My Cousin Vinny (1992)

The Performance: With outfits like this, how can she not steal every scene she’s in?

Gobby. Opinionated. LOUD. But gorgeous as hell, Mona Lisa Vito (Tomei) is the kind of ballsy New Yorker you can’t help but love.

If They Had Their Own Movie: It would be called My Cousin Vinny’s Girlfriend and involve Mona Lisa Vito’s hunt for the perfect pair of shoes.

Lee J. Cobb 12 Angry Men (1957)

The Performance: Otherwise known as Juror #3, Lee J. Cobb is unforgettable in this classic courtroom drama.

He’s an opinionated businessman who doesn’t worry about how his world views affect others – and his temper is terrifying to behold.

If They Had Their Own Movie:
We’d get to see how he operates inside his messenger service business, Beck and Call.

It probably wouldn’t be pretty.

Bill Murray Caddyshack (1980)

The Performance: An assistant at the Bushwood Country Club, Carl’s (Murray) quest to kill a gopher that’s running rampant at the club acts as this film’s finest running gag – think Scrat in human form.

If They Had Their Own Movie:
Carl’s gopher hunt would take on epic proportions as he attempts to take down the Queen Gopher and eradicate the critters forever.

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.