10 Unrecognized, Unforgettable Performances In Movies

Well, another edition of the Emmy Awards is in the books and to no surprise, we walk away both proud and disappointed, depending on the outcome. When it comes to the annual Academy/Emmy Awards, I think there have been some well-deserving winners over the years; case in point, Jharrel Jerome (who just received an Emmy for Lead Actor In A Limited Series for his portrayal of Korey Wise in “When They See Us”. Congratulations, Jharrel! I KNEW you’d do it!).  Then again, there are times that I feel that 2 or 3 or 20 nominees were completely overlooked or just flat-out robbed (like Whoopi Goldberg in her role as Miss Celie Johnson in 1985’s “The Color Purple”).  I’m sure many would agree that some contenders may have been given that extra edge, due to the magnificence of the movie/show or the box office turnout or TV ratings.  Some winners are believed to have been awarded simply because they were snubbed for many years prior (Nominee Susan Lucci was passed over 18 different times before finally winning an Emmy Award in 1999 for her excellence on the daytime soap opera, “All My Children”). 

When it comes to movies, my disappointment stems from the fact the Academy has often overlooked some of the most AMAZING performances over the years.  Some you may remember and some you’ve never seen because the movie didn’t last 3 weeks in theaters. And then there are those brief moments that may not have been award-worthy, but for a moment, caught your attention with a 10 to 20-second flow of jaw-dropping awesomeness. 

Sooooo, I’m gonna share some of MY favorites. Mine. Mine-mine-mine-mine-mine!  I’ll try my best to keep them short without actually talking a great deal about the movie (cause you know I want to, oh so badly).  I’ll just focus on the scene(s) of note and include applicable photos or gifs whenever possible.

So sit back and enjoy, in no particular order, my…

10 Unrecognized, Unforgettable Performances In Movies 

(warning, serious spoilers ahead)

1. Sophie Okonedo as Tatiana in “Hotel Rwanda” (2004) – Loving, devoted wife of hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina who houses 1,000+ Tutsi refugees, hiding from the genocidal attempts of the Hutu militia.

Scene: Her shocked and frightened response/expressions as she unexpectedly learns her husband Paul would not flee the hotel with her, electing to stay behind to protect the hotel guests. I swear, the way she looked at him in sheer terror… …that’s LOVE!!

2. Sharon Warren as Aretha Robinson in “Ray” (2004) – Impoverished, single parent of young Ray (Charles) Robinson, struggling to support the family amidst the pain of the loss of one son and Ray’s diminishing vision.

Scene: Her response as she watches Ray (now blind) find his own way in the house for the first time. Particularly her efforts to remain silent and undetected as he catches a cricket and announces his awareness of her presence.

3. John Cazale as Fredo in “The Godfather” (1972) / “The Godfather Pt II” (1974) – The weaker and less intelligent brother of the Corleone crime family.

Scene: Actually two scenes. (1) “The Godfather”; his emotional breakdown after failing to protect his father Don Corleone during a mob assassination attempt. (2) “Godfather 2”; his outburst (after being revealed as the family traitor) about being “passed over” as successor to head of the family.

4. Art Evans as Private Wilkie in “A Soldier’s Story” (1984)

Scene: His slow and gradual crumbling under pressure while being interrogated during a murder investigation is topped only by his eventual cracking and confession, fueled by anger and a sense of betrayal.

5. Ernie Hudson as Solomon in “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” (1992)

Scene: (This scene is probably what inspired me to write this blog, years before the internet became a thing). Hudson’s portrayal of the kind-hearted, intellectually disabled help hits its peak when he is confronted by conniving nanny Mrs Mott (Rebecca De Mornay), whom he suspects of deception. After she threatens him, his resolve to protect his adopting family, despite the terrifying exchange, is a real heart-stealer. I actually forgot he was Ernie Hudson, the actor, and honestly believed his condition was real. So much so, it brought a tear to my eye (Oh HUSH!).

6. Tung Thanh Tran as Tuan in “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987)

Scene: Displaying powerful emotion while being decried by Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) for being a VC operative and responsible for the bombing of an American soldier-frequented club. His rationalized retort of how the war (specifically the U.S. army) has affected his family is as shocking as it is saddening.

7. Bill Duke as Duane/Abdullah in “Car Wash” (1976)

Scene: As Black Muslim revolutionary and frustrated employee, he delivers two serious and memorable scenes: (1) His physical outburst after termination from the job, especially when his boss calls him by his birth name “Duane” instead of “Abdullah”; and (2) his emotional breakdown after his thwarted robbery attempt. Both moments are, in my opinion, the two high points of the entire movie; which is bizarre, because it’s a comedy.

8. Hope Clarke as Sarah Thomas AND (then unknown) Sheryl Lee Ralph as Barbara in “A Piece Of The Action” (1977)

Scene: This classroom confrontation between teacher and student sent chills down my spine when I saw this as a young boy (especially, hearing things I never thought I’d hear in a Bill Cosby / Sidney Poitier movie). Both actresses gave incredibly stunning performances that made you think hard from both perspectives.

9. Burt Young as Paulie in “Rocky Balboa” (2006)

Scene: As moody friend and emotionally abusive brother (of Rocky’s wife, Adrian), Young completes his personal circle during his admission of experiencing pain and remorse for his treatment of his departed sister.

Classic Line: “You treated her good. You had the good times. I treated her bad. I don’t have to think about this…
…Sorry, Rocko, I can’t do this no more.”

There’s an even greater deleted scene where he completely breaks down after being terminated from his job and realizes that Rocky is all he has left. I don’t know why it was omitted from the final production, but you HAVE to watch this scene.

10. Billy Zane as The Collector in “Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight” (1995)

I have to apologize because I violated my own unspoken rule here for my final entry. It was my intention to not include anyone in a starring role, but Zane’s over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek antics keep you saying “WTH?” and fighting with laughter when you’re trying not to jump and scream. No one scene is mentioned here, I just gotta give him his. Because he’s Billy Zane.

And that’s all for now. 

You know what? I had a tremendous amount of fun, pulling out DVDs, downloading and creating gifs, sharing actors and talking about their extraordinary performances. I’m definitely going to do this again, maybe even a third time. Lord knows I have at least 40 more that I wanted to list here.

Until next time…

Got anyone you think should be on this list? Leave it in the comments.
I’d love to know who you loved in movies.
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  1. Some of those movies I didn’t see however, I know the actors. There are so many who unrecognized, the number is infinite. This was interesting….thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, it was kind of tough, trying to create a list of the more popular movies. I wanted to, but I thought I might have defeated my original purpose and intent, giving love to moments we often don’t know about. For the record, I already have my lists for a second and third post of the same title and you should recognize more from these. Thanks for reading and sharing, Lisa!


  3. #2 and #4: heck yeah all the way. I absolutely adore “A Soldiers Story” and watch it everytime I feel like it. In a movie chock full of great performances (Larry Riley, anyone?) I think that Small’s break down right before recounting the circumstances leading to the events that the plot is focused on is widely overlooked….dude was legit terrified of Peterson. Especially when him and the guard came crashing into the room at the end. I somehow forgot all about Ernie Hudson (possibly because I haven’t seen the movie in years) but it’s worth a rewatch because he’s a great actor. Good list!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You actually hit on one of my surprises. Private Smalls is in my next list. Yes, there is another list of 10, and then a 3rd list.

    He really surprised me since his last memorable performance was in The Warriors, a much different role for him as Cochise.

    And yeah, Ernie Hudson, like I said, was so good, even YOU forgot him as the actor. LOL

    Thank you for reading and your comment!

    Liked by 1 person

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