7 Iconic Performances That Revolutionized The Structure Of Cinematic Characters

1 year ago By Marwan Omar


In any story, it’s the characters that are always the focal point, setting off the progression of movie plots. Within abundant movie productions, only a few actors have pulled off pivotal performances that impacted the chronicles of cinema. So buckle up as we go back in time to showcase 7 iconic characters that significantly echoed on the careers of its performers and set the bar for structured cinematic characters as we know them today. 


1- Audrey Hepburn – Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Old movies are usually categorized as the classiest among all cinematic productions, but it was in 1961 when Breakfast at Tiffany’s reached new heights through its lead actress Audrey Hepburn. Not only was she lovable, chic and very memorable, but she also encompassed appealing details that turned her character into an iconic figure known for her elegance that’s still referenced in conversations to this very day.


2- Robert De Niro – The Godfather II

With Marlon Brando’s iconic appearance in 1972’s The Godfather, it became almost impossible for any performance in the sequel to top Brando’s, let alone a younger portrayal of his own character by an unknown actor. However, Robert De Niro’s Oscar-winning role in The Godfather II defied all negative prophecies with one of the best embodiments ever displayed in cinema. Following this, filmmakers’ attention turned towards young talents for starring roles, regardless of the accompanying challenges.


3- Anthony Hopkins – The Silence Of The Lambs

After 1960’s classic Psycho, cinematic depictions of mentally-troubled antagonists became conventional until The Silence Of The Lambs hit the theatres. Through his 16 minute, non-blinking personification of Hannibal Lecter, Anthony Hopkins managed to take his psychotic portrayal to a new and captivating level, which secured him his first Oscar in the 1991 Academy Awards and raised the bar high regarding the psychology of villains.


4- Joe Pesci – Goodfellas

Martin Scorsese has always been known for his exceptional adaptations of the mafia’s felonious tales. Such films have repeatedly benefited from the charismatic presence of Joe Pesci in the cast, especially in 1990’s Goodfellas. In the acclaimed flick, Pesci’s character was the first in the genre to have a deep and intimate persona blended with plentiful violence, and inevitably crowned him with a well-deserved Oscar. 


5- Louise Fletcher – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

A strong villain makes a strong film, and amidst the numerous male antagonists, came Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest to deliver one of the most vicious villains of all time. Following her outstanding role that granted her an Oscar win, Fletcher’s portrayal paved the road for female roles to step into new zones, altering the typical romanticism of their characters and proving that their evil personifications can be just as effective as the men’s.


6- James Franco – 127 Hours

Starring in a movie that bases its plot on a single character can either deliver a memorable performance or a forgettable one, and luckily for James Franco, his role in 127 Hours was the former. As he solely dominated the screen for 90 minutes, Franco exquisitely carried out all the struggles, hopes and regrets of his character in an approach that perfectly portrayed its complexities to surpass all one-actor films.  


7- Ellar Coltrane – Boyhood

While the production of most films is often wrapped up in a couple of months, it took 12 years for Boyhood to overwhelm us with one of the most authentic stories and characters of all time. Through his subtlety, the film’s protagonist Ellar Coltrane demonstrated that rattling speeches aren’t the sole path to distinguished roles, and that smooth delivery and spontaneous dynamism can be just as effective. Although his performance wasn’t awarded with many titles, he was indeed a sensational testament to a genuine 12 year period, where we got to enjoy a unique experience that examined the journey of one’s life in the truest way possible.


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