Winning an Academy Award is an achievement some actors and actresses wait their whole lives and careers for. And then there are these performers who were so impressive in their first ever film roles that they took home Oscars for it.
Born in Mexico to a Kenyan family, Nyong’o built up an impressive resume in film and TV before she made her silver screen debut in the 2013 Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave. After working as a production assistant on Hollywood films, she starred in the MTV Kenya soap Shuga for three seasons and then wrote and directed a documentary called In My Genes. Only then after training at the prestigious Yale School of Drama did she land a movie role — Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, for which she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
Today, Paquin is best known for two massive successes: starring as Sookie Stackhouse on HBO’s long-running Southern gothic vampire show True Blood, and for playing superhero Rogue in three X-Men movies. She’s also an Academy Award winner, and one of the youngest ever. After an auspicious debut as a skunk in an elementary school play, Paquin auditioned for the role of Floria in the 1993 Australian period drama The Piano. She got the role over 5,000 other child actresses, and at the age of 11, won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
Streisand is certainly one of our greatest and most popular entertainers, and she dazzled audiences right out of the gate. In 1964, the singer-actresses starred as Fanny Brice in the original production of Funny Girl, but lost the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical to Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly! Streisand moved over to film, with her first role a reprisal of Fanny Brice in the movie adaptation of Funny Girl. This time she won the Oscar for Best Actress. (Actually, in one of the rare ties in Academy Award history, she shared the prize with Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter.)
The darling of the 1947 Academy Awards: The Best Years of Our Lives. The striking, empathetic drama examined the lives of several World War II veterans struggling to reintegrate themselves into civilian life. Harold Russell played Homer Parrish, a man who’d lost both of his hands in combat; Russell had suffered the same casualties. Russell won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, his previous onscreen work consisting of a 1945 short film about his wartime experiences called “Diary of a Sergeant.”