Great "one off" acting performances

The quotes because the actors may or may not have had actually had acting roles before but weren’t full time actors at the time or known as “actors” such but scored good performances in a movie:

Richard Dawson in “Running Man”

Mick Jagger in “Freejack”

Tom Arnold in “True Lies”

Roddy Piper in “They Live”

And the most controversial one: I thought Brian Bosworth was awesome in “Stone Cold”
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Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple but what is Tom Arnold if he isn’t primarily an actor? I’m looking at his IMDB page and if someone with that many acting credits isn’t considered an actor then I’m not sure I understand the question.

Same goes for Dawson. Running Man is his last role in a long distinguished acting career.

Beatrice Straight in Network

Carrie Snodgress in Diary of a Mad Housewife

Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives. This movie came up in the thread about decades. Harold Russell had never acted before, he played an Army veteran who had lost his hands, exactly what he was. From this role he became the only actor to win two Oscars for the same role, one for Best Supporting Actor and another special Oscar for being an inspiration to returning WWII veterans.

Bosworth is a good choice, his first role, and even though the movie kind of sucked his performance wasn’t bad.

Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride. You could argue that it didn’t really require much acting, or that he’d been “acting” his way through his wrestling career, but this really was unlike anything he’d done before, and he really did do a good job (If he’d done a bad job, you’d have known it). He was immensely proud of his role, showing it off when he could. I just recently read Cary Elwes’ book As You Wish… about the making of the film, and Andre comes of as a sympathetic, gentle, and doomed creature (“We don’t get much time, us small and big guys,” he said, referring to the often short lives of the very large and the very big, plagued as they are with health problems.)

Mick Jagger was not good in Freejack. You could clearly see him reading his lines off of cue cards.

Mos Def in Something the Lord Made.

Even though he is primarily known for his music, dude held his own with Alan Rickman…that’s saying something.

Bjork in Dancer in the Dark.

She’s famous as an actor-turned-politician, but Helen Gahagan (later known as Helen Gahan Douglas) only had one movie role – as Ayesha* in the definitive 1935 version of H. Rider Haggard’s She[, where she played the evil powerful queen, the original “She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed”. Her appearance and style undoubtedly influenced the Evil Queen in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Drawfs two years later, and other Evil Queens years later.
*actually, for some reason they changed her name in the movie to “Hash-a-Motep,” but She’s “Ayesha” in Haggard and all other adaptations.

Dwight Yoakam made a great drunken, violent (stereotypical) redneck in Slinglblade.

ISTR being touched by Sean Combs’s (or whatever iteration of his name he was using at the time)performance in *Monster’s Ball.*It was really just a bit part, though it’s his story that is the catalyst for everything that follows. I don’t know, it really stuck with me long after the film ended.

Maybe the OP means “Wow. Where did that come from” acting performances.

Bob Geldof of course is great in The Wall.

You’d think musicians would be more adept at acting given how they channel performance into their songs…but music and speech are completely different parts of the brain.

I’m not sure how the OP is defining “one-off” performances, but all of those people had acting roles before and after their breakout performance (as did Tom Arnold, and Oprah had many roles after her first one).

If we are talking about non-actors who had a star performance, you have to include drill instructor F. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket, which led to a considerable film career.

Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element. It was an over-the-to version of himself, but it was an outstanding part.

Seems like many great one-offs are actors/performers essentially playing themselves.

Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it could be a reason you don’t get many other memorable roles out of them.

Some get lucky though, like Mark Whalberg, who consistently puts in good roles playing a version of himself, but falls on his face trying to play anything else.

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William Obanhein as Officer Obie in Alice’s Restaurant.

Yes, he was playing himself, but he got great reviews from those who saw the movie (the NY Times called him “marvelous,” and “maybe the most appealing villain since Captain Hook”).

After the movie was done, Obanhein went back to police work.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Roger Murdoch

Morris Day as Morris Day in Purple Rain.

I don’t know if he ever acted in any other productions, but he did a good comic job in PR and lightened up the sober mood of the movie.

Not quite. He was an Army veteran who lost his hands in a training accident (on D-Day, no less!) but the part he played, Homer Parrish, was a Navy veteran.

Thanks. Small detail but important to note for the quality of his performance.