50 Greatest Scene Stealing Performances

Slim Pickens Dr Strangelove (1964)

The Performance : Stepping into Peter Sellers’ shoes is no small task, but character actor Slim Pickens was more than up to the challenge in Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy.

Though he reportedly didn’t know the film was a satire, Pickens is amazing as Major Kong – not least in that thrilling moment he rides a bomb like a bucking bronco.

If They Had Their Own Movie: It would, in a word, be mental.

Bette Davis What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)

The Performance: The film’s about the rocky relationship between two sisters, but it’s Bette Davis as former child star Jane who comes out on top.

Unnerving, ghoulish and, totally cuckoo, she’s a devastatingly human movie monster.

If They Had Their Own Movie: We’d see everything from Jane’s warped perspective – cue loads of dreamy musical segments and rampant weirdness.

Christoph Waltz Inglourious Basterds (2009)

The Performance: A performance that deservedly earned Waltz an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, he’s mesmerising and menacing as SD Colonel Hans Landa – and totally owns that ball-busting opening scene.

If They Had Their Own Movie : It would be the best movie ever.

Ralph Brown Withnail And I (1987)

The Performance: A drug dealer that we actually care about? Ralph Brown pulls off the impossible in Withnail And I as Danny, a shaggy-haired shades-wearer who talks like his jaw’s been wired shut.

See also: Wayne’s World 2.

If They Had Their Own Movie: We’d follow him as he attempts to take down hairdressers – they’re all working for the government as spies, after all.

Robert Carlyle Trainspotting (1996)

The Performance: Unstable and terrifying because of it, Carlyle’s Begbie is a car crash of a character who just can’t seem to help inciting chaos anywhere he goes.

Which makes him the perfect embodiment of a scene-stealer.

If They Had Their Own Movie : It would be a symphony of carnage.

Robert Shaw Jaws (1975)

The Performance: Crotchety and no-nonsense, Shaw’s turn as shark hunter Quint brings serious bite to Spielberg’s watery drama.

His chemistry with Richard Dreyfuss is fantastic.

If They Had Their Own Movie: We’d get to see if Quint’s stories were all true – including the Hiroshima one.

Jack Nicholson A Few Good Men (1992)

The Performance: “You can’t handle the truth!” Jack Nicholson seethes as Col Nathan R. Jessep, jaw set, eyes like a shark’s.

He owns the courtroom scene, one of the greatest moments in cinema history.

If They Had Their Own Movie:
It would be very shouty.

Heath Ledger The Dark Knight (2008)

The Performance: Ledger showed audiences what he was made of despite overwhelming initial negativity over his casting as The Joker in Chris Nolan’s Bat sequel.

Heavily mannered but never hammy, it’s a lived-in, robust performance that completely overshadows The Bat.

If They Had Their Own Movie:
We’d probably come out of it still not knowing any personal details about The Joker – which is as it should be.

Alec Baldwin Glengarry Glenn Ross (1992)

The Performance: Though he only appears in one scene, Alec Baldwin’s frenzied performance as ‘motivator’ Blake leaves the rest of the film in tatters.

Aggressive, confrontational and expletive-loving, it’s a career-defining turn for the 30 Rock star.

If They Had Their Own Movie: It would be a really fuckin’ angry movie.

Harrison Ford Star Wars (1977-1983)

The Performance: A space cowboy, Harrison Ford’s Han Solo single-handedly ensured that George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy had snap and snark – but also surprising pathos.

Thank God Lucas refused to kill him off in Return Of The Jedi ; we’re weak at the knees at the thought of seeing Solo’s comeback in Episode VII.

If They Had Their Own Movie: Solo Wars ? Bring it.

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.