While we commonly take in movie or watch TV in order to get away from the real world, we sometimes find ourselves relating to either the characters we see onscreen, or to something they’re going through. This helps us feel, actually, better about our own lives. And if we happen to fall in love with the character that’s being portrayed by a particular actor or actress – even better!
It’s usually a particular actor playing a role that draws us to these movies in the first place (well, that and the escape it provides), but sometimes, we walk out of the theater thinking about the character that ended up stealing the spotlight from everyone they shared a scene with. In the case of these 20 characters/actors, they did just that. A lot of the time, if an actor is able to steal the spotlight from the main attraction, it helps boost their career 10-fold, and in the case of Melissa McCarthy – skyrocket her to stardom indefinitely. In other cases, while the actor isn’t boosted, the character they ended up playing will live in infamy in the world of cinema. Take notice that we still quote most of these characters even though the movie came out decades before.
Here are 20 characters and the actors that portrayed them who managed to smuggle the spotlight away from the actor hired for the most money on the set.
20 Blunt & Lovable - Megan (Melissa McCarthy) Bridesmaids
A lot of people went to go see the 2011 hit Bridesmaids because the premise seemed hilarious and who doesn’t love Kristen Wiig? But what we weren’t expecting was the delightful and the extremely funny performance of Melissa McCarthy, who played the soon-to-be-sister-in-law of the main character’s best friend (played by Maya Rudolph), the bride. Megan was a vulgar and in-your-face character who would drop truth bombs like no other and McCarthy played her with actual physical grace in her comedy that she stole the entire movie and boosted her already rising star, even though she had been around the Hollywood scene for years.
19 Wonderfully Petty - Emily Charlton (Emily Blunt) The Devil Wears Prada
Sure, everyone knows who Emily Blunt is NOW, but they had no clue what they were in for when she appeared on screen with her fiery red hair and even more fiery attitude in the Anne Hathaway/Meryl Streep star vehicle, The Devil Wears Prada. Blunt played Meryl’s character’s snippy and pretentious assistant (pardon – FIRST assistant) at a Manhattan fashion magazine similar to Vogue. Even though she was considered the ultimate mean girl, her character, with her biting wit and emotional bent, started to grow on you, especially when Anne’s character started to grow on her. It was beautiful to watch Blunt’s range as an actress back then.
18 Overlooked, But Not Forgotten - Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) Gilmore Girls
Before Melissa McCarthy played Megan in Bridesmaids, she played Sookie St. James in the WB series Gilmore Girls. Sookie was a the bubbly chef who was friends with Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and her daughter Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) who were the main characters on the show. Though thanks to Lorelai often being snippy toward her friend, Sookie actually started stealing the show with her witty personality and the fact that she was a much better friend to Lorelai than Lorelai was to her. Their oil-and-water friendship often worked out for the best in the show itself, but nevertheless, Sookie would tend to steal the show, which help get McCarthy recognized more in Hollywood.
17 Everyone Vote For Pedro - Pedro Sanchez (Efren Ramirez) Napoleon Dynamite
No one in their right mind could have ever predicted that an independent film with a micro budget and a cast of virtual unknowns would be such a huge success and have such a cult following in the later years. That was the case with the 2004 comedy Napoleon Dynamite, a movie about a socially awkward teenager and his life in Preston, Idaho. Napoleon (Jon Heder) becomes friends with a transfer student from Juarez, Mexico named Pedro (Efren Ramirez) who quietly steals the entire movie with his deadpan expression and nonchalant lines. Napoleon attempts to get him to run for student president, which started the real life culture bomb of “Vote for Pedro” buttons and t-shirts.
16 Shake n' Bake - Cal Naughton (John C. Reilly) Talladega Nights
What drew audiences to the theaters to see Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, was the man himself – Will Ferrell. The story was about a NASCAR driver losing his fame and fortune when a man by the name of Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) comes in and steals his thunder. But the person who really actually steals Ferrell’s thunder is John C. Reilly, who plays Ricky’s best friend Cal Naughton. Cal is goofy and has played second fiddle to Ricky their entire lives, but what takes the cake is Reilly’s improv acting on the set that made it into the movie.
15 Yes, We Cried - Wilson (the volleyball) Castaway
It has to be insanely hard to steal the spotlight from Tom Hanks, especially if he’s literally the only person around. But an inanimate object found a way to do that in the movie Cast Away, but it was all thanks to Hanks’ stellar acting skills. When Hanks’ character, Chuck Noland, gets into a plane crash and is stranded on a deserted island for years, he befriends a volleyball named Wilson. Chuck becomes attached to the ball and creates entire conversations and scenarios with it to ease his loneliness on the island and audiences ended up breaking when he lost Wilson at sea during his escape back to civilization.
14 Gloriously Stinky - Donkey (Eddie Murphy) Shrek
Actor Mike Myers was often used to stealing the show in whatever screen he graced, but he wasn’t prepared for playing against Eddie Murphy, even though the two actors were never even on screen. Both actors voiced the characters Shrek and his sidekick Donkey in the animated feature Shrek. While both characters were hilarious in the feature, it was Murphy’s one liners and adorableness as Donkey stole the show and the hearts of children and adults everywhere. Sure, the character was made to be annoying, but for some reason, he was more charming. And he went on to star in the rest of the films in the franchise, because they wouldn’t be the same without Donkey.
13 Double Trouble - Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson)
The books are literally called Harry Potter, and not Harry Potter’s Friends, but nevertheless, both Rupert Grint and Emma Watson who played Ron Wesley and Hermione Granger more often than not stole the show during the movies (and, at times, the books). Both were as different as night and day, but they each brought something to the table when it came to Harry (Daniel Radcliff) and his personality. Hermione was a genius and Ron brought the much needed comic relief (along with his whining that either Hermione or Harry promptly shut down). Either way, the books or the movies wouldn’t be the same without them.
12 No Longer In The Cone Of Shame - Dug (Bob Peterson) Up
The Disney movie Up brutally ripped our hearts to shreds during its opening sequence, so we were delighted with its additional characters that helped ease THAT pain as the story went along. We’re all especially thankful for Dug (voiced by Bob Peterson) the lovable “talking” dog (no, he really didn’t talk – he had a device on him that was able to speak for him). He fell in love with his owners easily and just wanted to be loved and be helpful in return. Though, we all got a little misty eyed (and laughed a bit) when poor Dug was put in the “cone of shame” that all dogs hate with a passion.
11 Secret's Out Of The Bottle - Genie (Robin Williams) Aladdin
Aladdin was a classic staple movie in our childhoods, so we’re extra excited to see the live-action version of the Disney movie with Will Smith playing the Genie. Though, we have to say, no one could ever replace Robin Williams’ voiced Genie from the cartoon. He basically stole the entire movie with jokes that would tend to go over our heads as children (but we laughed at when we were old enough to understand). Sure, he wasn’t the reason why we all went to see the movie in the first place, but he’s the reason why we re-watch it over and over as we got older.
10 Power Comes In Many Forms - Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) Kick A**
The 2010 super hero action movie Kick A** was basically about a teenager who decides to become a real-life super hero and the actual heroes (and villains) he meets along the way. While Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) was the main character, the movie was hijacked from him by Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays the 11-year old Hit-Girl. Hit Girl is ruthless and deadly (she was trained by her father Big Daddy, a real life super hero cop (Nicolas Cage) and Moretz played her without bounds and restriction and basically MADE that entire franchise. She seemingly became the focus of the sequel after stealing the movie from Johnson.
9 Tragic Takeaway - Goose (Anthony Edwards) Top Gun
Everyone and their grandma knows who Maverick and Goose are. The movie Top Gun was about two navel officers named Pete “Mavericks” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. Even though Cruise’s Maverick is supposed to be the main character, his moral compass is Goose, which Anthony Edwards is always so good at playing (just watch ER if you don’t believe us). However, if you haven’t watched the film, you probably wouldn’t know that (spoiler alert) Goose dies midway through the movie which is the biggest bummer of all time, especially since Maverick blames himself for his tragic, and accidental, death.
8 Last Memories - Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) Finding Nemo
We all sorta knew going into to seeing the Disney film Finding Nemo that the real draw would be Ellen DeGeneres, who plays the memory-impaired Dory. But we weren’t prepared for HOW MUCH we’d all fall in love with the character of Dory until we were introduced to her head first. Her delightful memory loss and constant confusion was nothing short of amazing and we teared up when she finally was able to remember at the end of the movie when separated from her friends. She stole the show so much that the sequel revolved around her and was even called Finding Dory.
7 Furry Companionship - Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) Star Wars
The George Lucas Star Wars franchise wouldn’t be the same without Peter Mayhew playing the Han Solo (Harrison Ford) sidekick Chewbacca in almost all the films. Sure, he never said much other than howling like a giant dog most of the time, but he provided some much needed back up to those he loved, like Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). He also came back in the latest round of movies and had to witness the death of his beloved partner in crime Solo (which basically shocked the world – poor Chewie). We’re lucky that we get to at least see Chewie again in the next installment.
6 Adorable Yet Powerful - Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) Guardians of the Galaxy
In the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, sure, we all adored Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and his snarky ways, but the real hero of the movie? That’s right – Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Groot was the one in the end who ended up sacrificing himself for the good of the entire group AND the universe. But! Thanks to his “death” we were blessed with Baby Groot who stole the show EVEN MORE SO in the second film. Yes, yes, Bradley Cooper and his Rocket are hilarious, but nothing compares to seeing Baby Groot dance all over the galaxy while helping save the entire universe more times than we can count.
5 Moody Teenage Angst - Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
When we first watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when we were younger, we probably thought Ferris’s (Matthew Broderick) best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) was an extreme buzzkill in so many ways. He was moody, a hypochondriac, and just an over all downer. But both the personalities of he and Ferris seemed to help balance each other out. Ferris gave Cameron a sense of adventure, while Cameron helped bring Ferris back to reality when he needed it. Sure, Cameron was the one who had to face the harshest music in the end of the movie, but Ferris had helped him come out of his shell so much so that it really didn’t matter.
4 Small Package - Mini Me (Verne Troyer) Austin Powers
Basically, Mike Myers played almost every single character in the Austin Powers movies, except for the women characters and one very important character – Mini Me, who was played by the late Verne Troyer. When Dr. Evil needed a side kick, he created a “mini-me” of sorts, and thus Verne’s character was instantly born. Of course, Mini Me seemed to be more evil that Dr. Evil himself and would attempt to pester Evil’s real son (played by Seth Green) every chance he got, he was hilariously sly about it and stole the scene from everyone he shared screen time with, including Myers – and that’s pretty hard to do.
3 Taking The Ring - Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) Lord of the Rings
The movie trilogy Lord of the Rings had a lot of characters that somehow managed to steal the show from the main character, Frodo Baggins, who was played by Elijah Wood. You had Aragon (Viggo Mortensen), Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Meriadoc (Dominic Monaghan) and finally Samwise (Sean Astin) who was Frodo’s best friend and voice of reason. Samwise was the one who really saved the kingdoms by keeping Frodo in line, and he also managed to steal the show with his wisdom and undying friendship. Poor Samwise seemed to get the short end of the stick at every turn. Luckily, he had a happy ending at the end of the movies.
2 Delightfully Cold - Olaf (Josh Gad) Frozen
Every character in the movie Frozen managed to win us over (with the exception of Hans, voiced by Santino Fontana) but there was one fun-loving little snowman who was so lovingly aloof that it was more charming than anything. That’s right, we’re talking about Olaf, the snowman that was built by Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) when they were kids who ended up coming to life when Elsa froze over her kingdom. Voiced by Josh Gad, Olaf became so essential to the story, that in the end, Elsa gave him his own personal storm cloud to keep him alive during the summer time.
1 "My Name Is..." - Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) The Princess Bride
If there’s only one line anyone knows from classic 80’s movie The Princess Bride, it’s said by Mandy Patinkin’s character Inigo Montoya: “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!” This is mainly from the fact that it’s said at least a dozen times throughout the entire movie. With a film packed with characters who tend to steal the spotlight from both Westley (Cary Elwes) and his love Buttercup (Robin Wright), it’s pretty hard to stand out in a pack. But Inigo manages to do it with his one liners and his huge heart (same can be said for Fezzik, played by Andre the Giant). But it’s that one line that makes him more iconic than the movie itself.