It's the role all actors dream of -- the one that puts them on the map. Breakout movie moments are born from a combination of factors, including raw talent, the movie's reception, and a little bit of showbiz luck. When the elements are all there and the sun is shining just right, an actor can go from "Hey, didn't I see her in ...?" to household-name status in no time.
These performances are examples of movies that hit the "launch" button on an actor's career. A couple of these performers may have had credits stretching back years before that defining role, but this was the one that made the entire industry and the movie-going public sit up and take notice. Read on to remember when six of the most bankable actors saw their careers take off.
Tom Cruise in 'Risky Business' (1983)
There's a reason every Halloween party ever brings out one or more revelers in tighty-whities, a button-down shirt, and black Ray-Bans. "Risky Business" remains iconic more than three decades later. Tom Cruise was just 21 when he hit the big-time playing entrepreneurial Chicago teenager Joel Goodsen. The sexy dramedy established the persona that continued for much of the actor's early career: mischievous, charming, and out to have a good time.
John Boyega in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' (2015)
There aren't many roles an actor can be offered that come with a guarantee of super-stardom. Star Wars movies create the exception to the rule. British actor John Boyega won the role of Finn, the defecting Stormtrooper with a heart of gold in the franchise reboot, "The Force Awakens." He instantly became a hero to every kid (little and big) who ever sat in the front seat of a parked car and played "Millennium Falcon."
Jodie Foster in 'Taxi Driver' (1976)
At 14, future Oscar winner Jodie Foster took on the role of Iris, an underage sex worker and object of the troubled Travis Bickle's fixation in Martin Scorcese's classic noir "Taxi Driver." With her beguiling combination of maturity and vulnerability, Foster's performance earned her a spot in the hall of fame of gritty '70s movie-making and jump-started a long and prestigious career both in front of and behind the camera.
Sandra Bullock in 'Speed' (1994)
For better or for worse, the "America's Sweetheart" designation fell on the shoulders of Sandra Bullock after one master class in defensive driving in "Speed." As civilian Annie Porter, she helped SWAT officer Jack Traven navigate a speeding city bus through the streets of Los Angeles. Annie's world-weary wise-cracking is the perfect complement to the characteristically understated delivery of co-star Keanu Reeves. And the joyride presented a strong enough case for reigning '90s sweetheart Julia Roberts to share custody of her crown.
Edward Norton in 'Primal Fear' (1996)
Edward Norton's overwhelmed altar boy accused of the murder of a priest in "Primal Fear" seems like a perfectly respectable role ... until his other side comes out. At 27, Norton earned his first Oscar nomination for unsettling audiences with the dual personality of Aaron Stampler. It's the kind of showy part that lets an actor's training and natural skill really shine through, and that shocker of an ending kept audiences talking about the film long after the credits rolled.
Viola Davis in 'Doubt' (2008)
Now earning accolades for teaching a group of coeds "How to Get Away with Murder," Viola Davis only appears in the tense drama "Doubt" for a few minutes. But what a few minutes it is. As the mother of a child who may be receiving undue attention from a priest, Davis makes the most of her single scene. The Academy Awards recognized her unflinching performance with a nomination, and experienced actor Davis earned the name recognition necessary to send her to the front of the class.