I love movies. But given the fact that I do the job that I do, perhaps that goes without saying. Why do I love movies? Well… how long have you got? I love them for many reasons: through them I can escape the banality of existence, I can project my desires and I can live vicariously through others. But perhaps what I love most about film is the fact that, even though I’ve seen so many, so often it still manages to surprise me.

When you sit down to a movie, you usually already have a preconceived notion of what you’re going to get, thanks to the trailers, reviews and even word of mouth. And often, if you know a certain actor is involved with the movie you’re about to watch, you’ll have a preconceived notion of what their performance is going to be like. But sometimes, that preconceived notion is wrong.

Now, Hollywood knows that we make these judgements about actors and actresses based on what we know of their previous filmography. That’s why they’ll try to market their performers effectively in the promo material; ‘hey, if you liked so and so in this, then you’ll love ‘em in this’. And in all honesty, a lot of the time they’re right, but that method of thinking can also hoist them on their own petard. If you didn’t like so and so in that movie they were in once, what’s motivating you to go see them in their newest vehicle?

But then sometimes, you can’t rely on these preconceived notions that you have. Sometimes, an actor who usually appears only in popcorn fodder will suddenly win a respectable role, or a universally disrespected actor will sometimes, from some unknown depths, pull something unexpectedly special out of their bag of tricks, yielding a completely awesome, if surprising, performance.

This article celebrates those moments in cinema, when you were completely caught off guard by an uncharacteristically awesome performance. So, let’s get right into it shall we?

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This article was first posted on September 27, 2012