Most actors would consider themselves incredibly fortunate if they had the chance to star in a blockbuster movie even once. But there are a select few actors who have been blessed with the unbelievable opportunity to be a part of multiple successful films in just one year. It’s not a common occurrence, making it all the more impressive and awe-inspiring.
These actors have achieved their remarkable success in various ways. Some were fortunate enough to be a part of movies that received prestigious Academy Awards or became mega hits at the box office. Others managed to snag Oscars while also starring in films that captured the hearts of audiences everywhere. And then there are those who took an unconventional route, finding critical acclaim by working on independent films with limited budgets. It just goes to show that there are countless paths to success, and it’s all about discovering what works for you and seizing the opportunities that come your way.
1. Jim Carrey, 1994
Some actors take on roles to show their versatility, while others do it to establish themselves as artists. Jim Carrey’s 1994 was pretty much the latter, as he starred in three films that would become iconic performances for him – Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber. These movies were massive hits at the box office, proving that Carrey’s crazy comedic style could draw in audiences. The Mask, for instance, made back its entire budget in just one weekend and went on to gross over $350 million worldwide.
With his commercial success, Carrey had the freedom to explore more dramatic roles such as The Truman Show and Simon Birch a few years later.
However, in 2022, Carrey expressed a desire to slow down his film career. In an interview with Variety, he said, “I really enjoy my peaceful life. I love painting and spirituality. This might sound strange coming from a celebrity, but I feel like I have enough. I’ve done enough. I am enough.”
2. Joe Pesci, 1990
Joe Pesci had a remarkable start to the 1990s with his involvement in two films that have become classics.
In the highly acclaimed mob film Goodfellas, directed by Martin Scorsese, Pesci’s performance was so outstanding that he won the Oscar for best supporting actor. It was a well-deserved recognition for his talent.
Although Pesci’s other films that year didn’t receive the same level of awards attention, one of them made a significant cultural impact. Home Alone, a family film that was quite different from the mob genre, went on to achieve a staggering worldwide gross of $477 million. It captured the hearts of audiences around the globe.
Just two years later, Pesci had yet another extraordinary year. He starred in three notable films: My Cousin Vinny, Lethal Weapon 3, and Home Alone 2. These films showcased his versatility as an actor and further solidified his status as a prominent figure in the industry.
Overall, Joe Pesci’s contributions to the film industry during the early 1990s cannot be overlooked. His performances in Goodfellas and the success of Home Alone, along with his involvement in other notable films, have left a lasting impact on both the cinematic landscape and popular culture.
3. Gene Wilder, 1974
Three years after his role in the beloved family film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, actor Gene Wilder found himself in not one, but two classic movies in 1974. These films were none other than Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, both of which were the brainchild of the brilliant Mel Brooks. In fact, Wilder even shared a writing credit with Brooks for the latter.
Interestingly, Wilder almost didn’t make an appearance in Blazing Saddles. Initially, the role of the Waco Kid was given to actor Gig Young. However, Young’s struggle with alcoholism landed him in the hospital during filming, leading to a last-minute replacement with Wilder stepping in.
Both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein received critical acclaim and garnered multiple Academy Award nominations. However, despite the success of these films, Wilder himself was not individually recognized for his outstanding performances.
To cap off an eventful year, Wilder also starred in another film in 1974: an adaptation of the beloved children’s book, The Little Prince. Unfortunately, unlike the triumphs of Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles, The Little Prince failed to make a significant impact at the box office, struggling to find its footing.
4. Tom Hanks, 1998
Tom Hanks is known for his incredible charm, charisma, and talent as an actor. He has the ability to effortlessly transition between genres, taking on roles in romantic comedies and war films alike.
In 1998, Hanks showcased his versatility by starring in two very different movies. First, he delivered a powerful performance in Steven Spielberg’s WWII epic, Saving Private Ryan. This film received critical acclaim and went on to win numerous Academy Awards. Not only that, but it also achieved great success at the box office, raking in an impressive $482 million worldwide.
On the other hand, Hanks also showed his lighter side by appearing in Nora Ephron’s beloved romantic comedy, You’ve Got Mail, alongside Meg Ryan. This classic film resonated with audiences and became a commercial success, earning nearly $251 million.
These achievements highlight Hanks’ ability to captivate audiences in a wide range of genres, solidifying his status as a truly exceptional actor.
5. Jack Nicholson, 1975
In 1975, Jack Nicholson had already been nominated for an Oscar four times, but he hadn’t won yet. However, his luck changed when he delivered a remarkable performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a comedy-drama based on a novel with the same title.
But Nicholson’s success that year wasn’t limited to just one film. He also appeared in three other movies: Tommy, a rock opera; The Passenger, a drama about a journalist; and The Fortune, a comedy directed by Mike Nichols, where Nicholson portrayed a 1920s scammer.
Each of Nicholson’s films had a different level of success. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest won big with its Oscar wins. Tommy didn’t receive great reviews initially but went on to become a cult classic. On the other hand, The Passenger remains a somewhat underappreciated film that critics have praised, even if audiences didn’t fully embrace it. Lastly, The Fortune didn’t fare well critically or commercially, but at least Nicholson got the chance to collaborate with his friend Warren Beatty and director Mike Nichols.
6. Tom Hardy, 2015
When Tom Hardy got the role in Mad Max: Fury Road, he was a bit nervous because he knew that Mad Max was already a beloved character played by Mel Gibson. In 2022, he told Vulture, “Initially, I was daunted because obviously Mad Max is synonymous with Mel Gibson and a much-loved character by many people.”
However, despite his initial worries, Hardy received a lot of praise for his performance in the film. Mad Max: Fury Road was a huge success, making nearly $375 million worldwide and winning more Oscars than any other film that year.
In fact, 2015 turned out to be a fantastic year for Hardy. He was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Revenant.
While his other film that year, Legend, didn’t receive as much attention, critics still recognized Hardy’s standout performance. In the movie, he played both of the notorious Kray twin brothers in a real-life thriller about their crimes.
7. Denzel Washington, 1993
Denzel Washington is a truly versatile actor, capable of effortlessly delivering Shakespearean lines on stage or starring in thrilling blockbusters. This was evident in 1993, a year that showcased the breadth of his talent.
In Philadelphia, Washington portrayed a lawyer who aids a man living with HIV in suing his former employer. While Washington’s performance may not have been individually recognized, the film itself received numerous Academy Award nominations.
The Pelican Brief, a gripping legal thriller based on a John Grisham novel, may not have garnered awards attention, but it did receive critical acclaim. Renowned critic Roger Ebert specifically praised Washington’s performance, comparing him to the legendary Golden Age actor Spencer Tracy.
Additionally, Much Ado About Nothing may not have achieved the same commercial success as Philadelphia or The Pelican Brief, but it was highly regarded by critics and is considered a standout adaptation of the famous Shakespeare play.
It’s important to note that Washington entered 1993 with strong momentum, following an Oscar nomination for his outstanding portrayal of Malcolm X in 1992.
8. Scarlett Johansson, 2019
In 2019, Scarlett Johannson made headlines by achieving a rare feat – being nominated for not just one, but two Academy Awards. Her exceptional portrayal in Marriage Story, a heart-wrenching drama depicting the breakdown of a marriage, earned her a well-deserved nomination for Best Actress. Additionally, her remarkable performance in Jojo Rabbit, a unique coming-of-age story set during World War II, earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
But that’s not all – Johansson’s 2019 was even more impressive as she also graced the screen in the hugely successful Avengers: Endgame, a movie that shattered box office records by raking in a staggering $2.8 billion worldwide.
9. Robert De Niro, 1995
In 1995, Robert De Niro showcased his exceptional talent for tough-guy characters with two memorable performances. These performances, in the films Casino and Heat, were both huge hits at the box office, earning $116 million and $187 million worldwide, respectively. What’s even more impressive is that the films were released within weeks of each other in November and December of that year.
According to Jesse Hassenger, writing for Rotten Tomatoes, these two movies played a significant role in shaping De Niro’s career. They projected him as a serious and dedicated professional, which perfectly suited his stage as an actor. In fact, these films can be seen as the culmination of his reign as a leading man in the crime genre that brought him fame.
However, De Niro didn’t stop there. He later ventured into quirkier and lighter roles in movies like Meet the Parents, Stardust, and Analyze This. His filmography is vast and diverse, making it impossible to categorize every performance. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that Heat and Casino marked a turning point in his career, leading him to explore different genres and showcase his versatility as an actor.
10. Keanu Reeves, 1991
In 1991, Keanu Reeves, already an established Hollywood actor, had the chance to showcase his talents in three diverse films. These movies included Point Break, an action-packed flick directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, a laid-back comedy, and Gus Van Sant’s indie feature, My Own Private Idaho, where Reeves shared the screen with River Phoenix.
Point Break and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey managed to strike a chord with audiences and achieved respectable success at the box office. On the other hand, My Own Private Idaho went on to gain a devoted following and allowed Reeves to break free from the confines of being typecast as a heartthrob.