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Top 10 Movies That Made An Actor A Household Name

VO: Matthew Wende WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Written by Nathan Sharp Before these movies came out, the actors on this list were pretty much unheard of! WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Movies That Made Actors a Household Name! But what will take the top spot on our list? Will it be Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, or Arnold Schwarzenegger? Watch to find out! Watch on WatchMojo: Big thanks to Jacob Koopmann for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Movies+That+Made+An+Actor/Actress+A+Household+Name

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Believe it or not, there once was a time when these guys weren’t the hottest things in Hollywood. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movies that Made an Actor a Household Name.

For this list, we’ll be looking at various movies that are responsible for catapulting a now-notable and famous actor into the mainstream. We’ll be ranking our list based on a variety of factors, including the present-day fame of the actor, the popularity of the movie in question, and the impact it had on the actor’s career.

#10: “Big” (1988)
Tom Hanks

In the late 1980s, no one knew that this funny guy would go on to become one of the most acclaimed actors of all time. Before his big break, Hanks saw moderate success on television and in film. He starred in two seasons of the popular sitcom “Bosom Buddies”, and secured the lead in Ron Howard’s “Splash.” However, it was “Big” that catapulted Hanks to super-stardom. The movie earned big money at the box office and earned Hanks his first of many Academy Award nominations. You could say that it was a “big” stepping stone in his career, but he never got “big” headed about it. We’ll stop now.

#9: “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (2001)
Daniel Radcliffe

Once you play Harry Potter, you will always be Harry Potter. It’s just one of those roles, and no matter what Daniel Radcliffe does from now on, to many, he will always be the Boy Who Lived. But at the same time, Radcliffe has escaped the immense pressure and fame of his childhood, and come out the other end an intelligent man with a good head on his shoulders. He also has a host of non-Potter roles to prove he has some proper acting talent and star-power. While he has focused on smaller projects since the conclusion of “Harry Potter”, he will always be in the public eye.

#8: “The Godfather Part II” (1974)
Robert De Niro

The first two “Godfather” films are considered two of the greatest movies of all time, and they made much of their casts – including Al Pacino and Robert De Niro – two of the biggest actors in Hollywood. In the 70s, De Niro had a few minor roles under his belt, including appearances in “Bang the Drum Slowly” and “Mean Streets,” but it was his star-turning role as Vito Corleone that changed everything. He was nominated for – and won – an Academy Award, birthing a career full of some of the greatest characters to ever grace the silver screen.

#7: “The Graduate” (1967)
Dustin Hoffman

Like most aspiring actors, Dustin Hoffman’s career began…modestly, to say the least. Hoffman began his “acting” career unemployed, with a few non-acting jobs and commercials in between. And then he was cast against type in “The Graduate”. Hoffman received immense amounts of acclaim, and many retrospective critics consider the role of Benjamin Braddock to be one of the most important in movie history. He was complex, he spoke to a generation of lost young adults, and he was actually considered ugly – or at least unhandsome – which some believe signaled an end to the conventionally good-looking Hollywood hero.

#6: “Good Will Hunting” (1997)
Matt Damon & Ben Affleck

The story behind “Good Will Hunting” is one that every aspiring actor and screenwriter dreams of. Ben Affleck saw modest success before “Good Will Hunting”, but Damon was a relative unknown, who, unlike Affleck, had only appeared in bit roles. However, Damon soon moved in with Affleck, and they both wrote and eventually starred in “Good Will Hunting”, a movie which earned $225 million and two Academy Awards, including Original Screenplay. Affleck was only 25 when he won, making him the youngest person to ever win the Screenplay award, and making he and Damon both stars to watch.

#5: “Risky Business” (1983)
Tom Cruise

1983 was an enormous year for Tom Cruise. Cruise appeared in several films throughout the early 80s, but his life-changing year began with a role in “The Outsiders” in which he briefly appeared as Steve Randle. He also appeared in “All the Right Moves,” which released in October, but it was August’s “Risky Business” which made him a star. It was immediately praised by critics for its satire, and it is now regarded as one of the greatest high school movies of all time. While “Top Gun” made Cruise the blockbuster star he is today, “Risky Business” cemented him as a notable Hollywood heartthrob.

#4: “Dr. No” (1962)
Sean Connery

Starring as the coolest man in the known universe is certainly a good career move, as Daniel Craig could tell you. But it's Sean Connery we owe for Bond's big screen legacy, and Bond we owe for Connery's. “Dr. No” wasn't a critical darling out of the gate, but it proved to be enormously popular, made Connery a household name, and kickstarted the Bond franchise. The Scottish actor would don the tux four more times before parting ways, only to be coaxed back for one more go with 1971's “Diamonds Are Forever”. And then another last go in “Never Say Never Again

#3: “Rocky” (1976)
Sylvester Stallone

While Stallone is one of the biggest and most notable action stars in history, his acting career began…um…rather unconventionally. By 1970, Stallone found himself homeless, so he appeared in a porno called “The Party at Kitty and Stud’s” to earn some money. He then acted in an erotic off-Broadway play called “Score” and appeared in a few proper roles before writing “Rocky”. Inspired by the famous Ali-Wepner fight, the film was an enormous success, grossing $225 million and earning ten Academy Award nominations. While he went in a more action-oriented direction later in his career, it all started with the restrained and dramatic “Rocky.”

#2: “The Terminator” (1984)
Arnold Schwarzenegger

A lot of Arnie's early filmography was... flimsy, at best. However, James Cameron’s “The Terminator” proved to the world that he could be one nasty and scary dude, and it's a wave he's still riding. A bodybuilder turned actor, Schwarzenegger faced setbacks due to his distinct accent, physique, and unmarketable name. He saw some success with “Stay Hungry” and “Conan the Barbarian,” but it was his turn as the eponymous Terminator that truly made him a star. It became his signature role, his lines have become iconic, and it cemented his status as a bankable action star.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Thelma & Louise” (1991)
Brad Pitt

“Home Alone” (1990)
Macaulay Culkin

“Footloose” (1984)
Kevin Bacon

#1: "Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope" (1977)
Harrison Ford

Talk about a career rollercoaster. Ford initially appeared in very small roles in various movies and television shows, before packing it in and become a carpenter to support his family. However, he soon got back into acting, appearing in “American Graffiti” and “The Conversation.” George Lucas then had Ford do line reads for his upcoming movie, a little project called “Star Wars”, and ultimately decided to cast him as Han Solo instead of the actors he was filling in for. The movie ended up changing cinema forever, Han Solo became a timeless character, and Harrison Ford’s life was never the same.

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