9 Supporting Actors Who Stole The Movie

They weren’t the stars. But they shone brightest...


Last Tuesday, totalfilm.com’s DVD Club watched The Fugitive with the followers of @tfdvdclub on Twitter.

Given that the film features a scene – and, generally, movie – stealing performance from Tommy Lee Jones, we've rounded up our favourite film-thieves.

They weren't top of the bill, but once they appear, the show's all about them...

The Film: The Fugitive (1993)

The Film Thief: Tommy Lee Jones (Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard)

Heist Moment: That iconic, much imitated speech (see “memorable line”, below). All swagger and cool efficiency.

You just know this tough-as-old-boots Federal Marshall is a no-nonsense tracker dog in human form and from the minute he shows up, he dominates every scene he’s in.

Hell, he was so cool, they built the sequel around him.

Memorable Line: “What I want from each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area. Checkpoints go up at fifteen miles. Your fugitive's name is Dr. Richard Kimble. Go get him.”

Tea-Leaf Trivia: Jon Voight and Gene Hackman were both offered the Gerard role before Tommy Lee.

Next: Cuba Gooding Jr[page-break]


The Film: Jerry Maguire (1997)

The Film Thief: Cuba Gooding Jr (Rod Tidwell)

Heist Moment: Freshly fired sports agent Maguire (Tom Cruise) desperately thumbs through his Rolodex, trying to find clients who will stay with him.

One of the few who take his call is American football player Tidwell, who proceeds to draw out his agreement, forcing Maguire to prove both his loyalty and his ability to keep Tidwell earning.

It’s a comic, redemptive star turn - one that earned Cuba Gooding Jr an Oscar.

Memorable Line: “Anyone else would have left you by now, but I'm sticking with you, and if I have to ride your ass like Zorro, you're gonna show me the money!”

Tea-Leaf Trivia:Former football player Tim MacDonald (who played for the same team as the fictional Tidwell – the Arizona Cardinals) is credited with coining “show me the money”.

Next: Alec Baldwin[page-break]


The Film: Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

The Film Thief: Alec Baldwin (Blake)

Heist Moment: David Mamet’s brutal critique of cold-call sales culture is smart and compulsive before Baldwin shows up.

With Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey and Jack Lemmon in the cast, it's hardly hurting for solid talent.

But Baldwin’s cascading, incinerating cameo as the superstar salesman who 'motivates' the group of hangdog real-estate drones sucks in the rest of the movie like a black hole.

Memorable Line: “We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired.”

Tea-Leaf Trivia: The character wasn’t in the original, Pulitzer Prize-winning play – it was created especially for Baldwin.

Next: Ed Norton[page-break]


The Film: Primal Fear (1996)

The Film Thief: Ed Norton (Aaron Stampler)

Heist Moment: Switching between multiple personalities – mild Aaron and psycho 'Roy' (spoiler alert – he’s a liar, and Roy’s real!), Norton neatly nicks the pic from the fumbling hands of Richard Gere's defense attorney with a career-making turn as an accused murderer who's much more than meets the eye.

Memorable Line: "I got you. You the lawyer. Well, you sure fucked this one up, didn't you, counsellor? Looks to me like they're gonna shoot ol' Aaron so full o' poison it's gonna come out his eyes!”

Tea-Leaf Trivia: Norton, ever committed to character, turned up at the audition with the Stampler character fully formed, stutter and all.

Next: Tom Cruise[page-break]


The Film: Tropic Thunder (2008)

The Film Thief: Tom Cruise (Les Grossman)

Heist Moment: Tropic Thunder is full of great comic work – it’s tough to choose between Robert Downey Jr’s Kirk Lazarus or the mentalist effects expert Cody, played by Danny McBride.

But Cruise, as studio chief Grossman, swaggers through the film with bizarre, white-boy hip-hop attitude, in a fat suit and bald hairpiece, running away with every scene he invades.

Foul-mouthed and obsessed with the bottom line, he's easily the most effortlessly funny thing in a film that, elsewhere, is trying way too hard to be funny. And that’s before his dance in the credits...

Memorable Line: “Now I want you to take a step back... and literally fuck your own face!”

Tea-Leaf Trivia: While some believe Les is a parody of Viacom/Paramount honcho Sumner Redstone (who ditched Cruise’s production company from the studio), he looks more like Ben Stiller’s producing partner Stuart Cornfeld...

Next: Mark Wahlberg[page-break]


The Film: The Departed (2006)

The Film Thief: Mark Wahlberg (Sean Dignam)

Heist Moment: The focus was, understandably, on Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson, but Wahlberg made more of an impact with much less screen time.

Playing a pugnacious staff sergeant who helps recruit both Damon and DiCaprio into the undercover life, Wahlberg sustains a tirade of abuse and creative swearing that really, really ought to have won him the Oscar.

Memorable Line: “Your fuckin'' family's dug into the Southie projects like ticks. Three-decker men at best. You, however, grew up on the North Shore, huh? Well, la-di-fuckin'-da! You were kind of a double kid, I bet, right? Huh?”

Tea-Leaf Trivia: Wahlberg based his performance on coppers who had arrested him in his wild younger days.

Next: Penelope Cruz[page-break]


The Film: Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)

The Film Thief: Penelope Cruz (Maria Elena)

Heist Moment: With her arrival on the scene built up by ex-husband Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), Cruz’s Maria turns up fresh from a suicide attempt - fiery, doomed, unstoppable, impossibly glamorous and the sexual catalyst that sparks up a crowd-pleasing threesome with Bardem and Scarlett Johansson.

Memorable Line (To Bardem): “You'll always seek to duplicate what we had. You know it.”

Tea-Leaf Trivia: Cruz nabbed an Oscar for the role, making her the latest in a long line of Woody Allen supporting actresses to take home the gold (including Mira Sorvino and Dianne Wiest).

Next: Matt Damon[page-break]


The Film: Team America (2004)

The Film Thief: “Matt Damon"

Heist Moment: In Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s merciless puppet spoof of American political attitudes to war and "peace-keeping", there are plenty of indelible rubbery turns, including Alec Baldwin (as head of FAG – the Film Actors Guild) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (who gets his own song).

But, despite only having one repeated line of dialogue (see below) the strangely mutated Damon is the film.

Memorable Line: “Matt Damon!”

Tea-Leaf Trivia: The puppet wasn’t supposed to look so warped. It just arrived that way. Parker and Stone – who had planned to make him seem intelligent – decided, in their words, to send him “retarded”.

Next: Heath Ledger[page-break]


The Film:The Dark Knight (2008)

The Film Thief: Heath Ledger (The Joker)

Heist Moment: At the end of the opening bank-job, the single surviving robber tears off his mask to reveal a cadaverous, smirking creature seemingly oblivious to the death and danger. ("I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you... stranger.")

From then on, despite Christian Bale's conflicted Batman, despite Aaron Eckhart's complex Harvey Dent... the film is all Ledger's. Corrupting, subverting, forever dancing on the edge of panic and perversity...

The Oscar was a gimme and Ledger's cinematic legacy became immortal.

Memorable Line: "Madness is like gravity. All it takes is a little push..."

Tea-Leaf Trivia: Ledger based the Joker on a mix of Alex from A Clockwork Orange and Sex Pistol Sid Vicious.


Don't forget to check out next week's DVD Club movie, Ben-Hur. It kicks off at 8pm on Tuesday (May 19th). Full details here.

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    • nick1991

      May 12th 2009, 9:33

      Darth Vader? Samuel.L.Jackson's Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction)? Casey Affleck's Robert Ford (Jesse James)? Nicholson's Joker? Admiral Ackbar? (It's A Trap!) Marlon Brando - Apocalpse Now? Javier Bardem - No Country For Old Men?

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    • nick1991

      May 12th 2009, 9:35


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    • kindredvampyre

      May 12th 2009, 10:30

      OH NO YOU DIDN'T. doth my eyes deceive me? um hey. ever heard of a tiny little movie called Girl Interrupted? Supposed to be Winona Ryders SHINING moment and guess who stole it? Angelina Jolie that is who! Oh and she also kinda won the Oscar and showed up in her black morticia dress and kissed her brother. Could we not do a recount? Maybe add a TENTH?

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    • Neil1972

      May 12th 2009, 11:18

      Alan Rickman in 'Die Hard' ("I could talk about industrialisation and men's fashions all day") and 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves ("And call off Christmas!")

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    • BeckyM84

      May 12th 2009, 15:13

      I'd like to nominate Paul Bettany as Chaucer in A Knight's Tale. And I second Neil1972's suggestion of Alan Rickman in Robin Hood.

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    • Desperation

      May 12th 2009, 17:18

      How about Clancy Brown in Shawshank? Michael Ironside in Starship Troopers?

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    • Aeghast

      May 13th 2009, 2:35

      "Javier Bardem - No Country For Old Men"??? Big shiny facepalm for you.

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    • timisstupid

      May 13th 2009, 3:28

      Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction. SLJ is THE supporting actor.

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    • Desperation

      May 14th 2009, 17:45

      I've got another one. Michael Gross in Tremors.

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    • FilmFan1971

      May 14th 2009, 20:38

      Another great one is Steve Buscemi in the otherwise rubbish Domestic Disturbance. I especially like the way he goes around saying "I s**t you NOT!" and expecting people to react to it, like he's quoting the catchphrase from a TV show that only he's seen.

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    • zarvos

      May 15th 2009, 13:56

      Who could forget Sean Connery in "The Untouchables"? "They pull a knife, you pull a gun. THAT'S the Chicago way!" He Jim Malone character was the best thing in the movie.

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    • Revson72

      May 15th 2009, 16:01

      Samuel L. Jackson, not in Pulp Fiction, but Jungle Love... most overlooked suporting role in history

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    • LauraStewart121

      May 15th 2009, 17:23

      Michael Wincott in "What Just Happened" as cockney crackin film director Jeremy Brunnel. He stole the scenes right out from under Robert DeNiro, his acting mentor. How cool is that?

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    • alowe

      May 15th 2009, 18:04

      @zarvos Great shout! Connery completely robs the movie from Costner. Shame about the dodgy accent, mind.

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    • zarvos

      May 15th 2009, 20:12

      @alowe Yes, the accent was dodgy, wasn't it? DePalma should've written him as a Scot, cause he sure didn't sound full on Irish. SC still got the deserved Oscar though, for the part.

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    • filmbuffvidiot

      May 16th 2009, 22:18

      Girl Interrupted is the first film that came to my mind too.Howza bout Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls. Lindsay who ?

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    • eatyourbeets

      May 16th 2009, 22:47

      Cruise was good, but did he really steal the film from the brilliant Downey? Also, where is John Belushi? He was like the sixth or seventh lead and the only one you remember from Animal House. As far as Pulp Fiction, Willis and Walken had far smaller roles and were quite thief-like.

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    • LochNisMonster

      May 16th 2009, 23:54

      Val Kilmer in Tombstone

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    • youridol

      May 17th 2009, 2:27

      The Ruts - Rutger Hauer in BLADE RUNNER. R. Lee Ermey in FULL METAL JACKET. Sherman Howard in DAY OF THE DEAD. Charles Laughton in THE BRIBE. Peter Lorre in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. Bill Murray in KINGPIN. Jack Nicholson in THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Jack Palance in COMTEMPT. Rod Steiger in THE BIG KNIFE. Christopher Walken in TRUE ROMANCE.

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    • kewrock

      May 17th 2009, 4:13

      Come on, Gene Hackman, What movie did't he steal?

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    • Yonatan

      May 17th 2009, 11:57

      Nine performances I won't argue with. But I was disappointed the list doesn't include a movie released before 1992 (like most movie lists on the 'Net these days). And of the nine actors, six were Oscar-nominated for their role, including four winners. Unfortunately, a somewhat uninspired list.

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    • Midnight

      May 17th 2009, 13:30

      Dustin Hoffman (as Ratso) in Midnight Cowboy(1969) Orson Welles (Harry Lime) in The third man (1949) Robert De Niro (Vito Corleone)- Godfather part 2 ((1974) lol even if he was acknowledged for it with his oscar If I think of anymore I'll add some more. I agree with a lot of the people mentioned before.

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    • LeisSuit

      May 17th 2009, 13:35

      When reading the title for this list, I immediately thought of 2, neither of which made the list. First, Albert Brooks in Broadcast News. I defy anyone to watch the "sweating scene" and tell me he didn't steal that movie right then, lol. The second is K-k-k-en from A Fish Called Wanda, my favorite Michael Palin performance...although Kline won for his, in the same film, Ken is just such an endearing character.

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    • flint80

      May 18th 2009, 0:11

      Brad Pitt- 12 Monkeys Gene Hackman- The Unforgiven

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