The 10 Best Movie Performances Under 10 Minutes

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The 10 Best Movie Performances Under 10 Minutes


Russian director Konstantin Stansivlavski famously said, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” While there have been definite exceptions, a select group of acting leviathans have cemented minuscule characters into the annals of cinema. It is no small feat to cast an imprint on the audience’s hearts and minds. A more extraordinary feat is when the time afforded to the actor is less than the amount of time it takes to boil an egg.


Some actors sit in hair and makeup all day, fully transforming themselves for less than five minutes of cinematic glory. Others get a call for a quick cameo and float in and off of the set like a cool breeze. And sometimes, impossibly small roles reveal giants. A lot can happen in ten minutes.


10 Matthew McConaughey in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013)

Performance Time: 8 minutes

Matthew McConaughey performs chest thumping mantra in 'The Wolf of Wall Street'
image via Paramount Pictures

Matthew McConaughey enters and exits in the first 15 minutes of this three-hour Martin Scorcese-directed Wall Street film based on actual events. Within that span, he delivers a primarily improvised, eight-minute cocaine-sniffing crash course on the rules of broker engagement to Leonardo DiCaprio‘s character, Jordan Belfort. One piece of this famous scene is borrowed from a real-life pre-performance ritual of McConaughey’s — a chest-thumping meditative chant.

McConaughey’s film catalog is an unexpected buffet of genres, characters, and wardrobes. He could have made a fortune in shirtless rom-com roles, but he chose to bare more than his chest through complex characters like Rust Cole from True Detective and Ron Woodruff from Dallas Buyers Club. The Texas native has charm and watchability that transcends labels. For this reason, he can walk onto a set and thump his chest while waxing on the definition of “Fugazi,” and audiences will hunger for more.

Watch on Netflix

9 Alfred Molina in ‘Boogie Nights’ (1997)

Performance Time: 9 minutes, 50 seconds

Alfred Molina as Rahad Jackson in a silver robe holding a gun in Boogie Nights
Image via New Line Cinema

In the film world of director Paul Thomas Anderson, possibilities abound. In Boogie Nights, Alfred Molina proved that it is possible to deliver lines without flinching in a scene where fireworks are going off all around him…while wearing bikini underwear and a satin robe. As unhinged drug dealer Rahad Jackson, Molina showed the world how to command an audience on a minute budget.

Nearly ten sweat-drenched minutes are rife with nervous energy due mainly in part to the drugs in and around the characters in the room — intensified by living room fireworks, Rahad’s mixtape enthusiasm, and a bit of Russian Roulette. Marky Mark (Mark Wahlberg) and his Funky Bunch (John C. Reilly and Thomas Jane) add to the tension as they anxiously wait, unsure if their baking soda-cocaine switcharoo will work, but it’s Molina’s party. When things inevitably take a turn, Rahad pairs a shotgun with his robe and underwear for a pump action jaunt down his neighborhood, firing at will.

Boogie Nights

Release Date
October 7, 1997

Director
Paul Thomas Anderson

Rating
R

Runtime
155

Watch on Showtime

8 Amy Poehler in ‘Mean Girls’ (2004)

Runtime: > 5 minutes

Amy Poehler as a
image via Paramount Pictures

In a movie where multiple Saturday Night Live alums contribute comedy and noteworthy performances, Amy Poehler’s “Cool Mom” stands out. As head Plastic, Regina George’s (Rachel McAdams) mother, Poehler sashayed onto the scene clad in a pink athleisure jumpsuit, youthfully inquiring about the “hot goss.” Armed with a pocket-sized (nipple-chewing) chihuahua and a tray of mocktails, she revealed herself to the teen-filled scene, the audience, and, ultimately, to the comedy criterion collection in cinema.

Incredibly, with minimal lines and less than 5 minutes on screen, Poehler’s June George is memorable because she fosters self-expression without condemnation. At the center of this “Cool Mom” is genuine concern and thoughtfulness for her children. She grapples with her fading youth and tries to ensure her children have a safe space to learn and grow. Poehler’s portrayal of a slang-versed, condom-dispensing mother with “Juicy” written across her bum is celebrated because she is funny, sure. She’s also a mom some viewers wish they’d had.

Watch on Showtime

7 Billy Crystal and Carol Kane in ‘The Princess Bride’ (1987)

Performance Time: 4 minutes

Billy Crystal as Miracle Max and Carol Kane as his wife, Valerie, in 'The Princess Bride'
image via 20th Century Studios

The specific pronunciation of “true love” (“tchwoooo wuuv“) is synonymous with a classic movie scene in The Princess Bride, delivered by a “mostly dead” lovelorn man, Cary Elwes. Elwes’ Westley requires resuscitation via miracle, and Billy Crystal and Carol Kane endured hours of prosthetic makeup to make this wish a reality. The pair of comedy stalwarts are an integral part of this beloved movie, from their exaggerated facial features to their hilarious marital bickering.

Various scenes and characters from the movie have become crucial threads in the pop culture tapestry since its release in 1987. Wallace Shawn will forever be associated with the word “inconceivable!” Mandy Patinkin‘s vengeance will live in infamy, and Rodents Of Unusual Size might still exist. However, Crystal’s Miracle Max and Kane’s Valerie succinctly gifted bespoke performances in one short scene. The audience never saw them again — but knew where to find them, viewing after repeated viewing.

Watch on Disney+

6 Donnie Wahlberg in ‘The Sixth Sense’ (1999)

Performance Time: 3 minutes

Donnie Wahlberg as Vincent Grey in 'The Sixth Sense'
image via Buena Vista 

For his breakout three-minute performance in M. Night Shyamalan‘s mega-hit The Sixth Sense, Donnie Wahlberg was determined to get into the mind of the character Vincent Grey, a former child patient of Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), a child psychologist. Now a grown man with illegal access to Willis’ personal residence via breaking and entering, Grey has come to air his grievances with the doctor.

To physically commune with the role, Wahlberg reportedly withdrew from his family and starved himself, losing 43 pounds in the process. His dedication to the work proved fruitful. Although Vincent was only on-screen for a few minutes, his haunting figure and profound sadness were fully realized, and Wahlberg’s shocking performance handily conveyed this.

The Sixth Sense

Release Date
August 6, 1999

Director
M. Night Shyamalan

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
115

Rent on Amazon

5 Frances McDormand in ‘Raising Arizona’ (1987)

Performance Time: 2 minutes

Frances McDormand and Holly Hunter look at a baby in 'Raising Arizona'
image via 20th Century Fox

In the kidnapping cult classic, Raising Arizona, Frances McDormand’s opinionated, multi-child mother, Dot, barrels onto the scene like a dust devil, pushing past Nicolas Cage’s H.I. and Holly Hunter’s Ed and into their desert home. Although Dot is a hands-off absentee parent of an innumerable number of offspring (throughout the scene, feral, dirty, bandaged children run around unsupervised), she is bursting with frenetic enthusiasm to meet H.I. and Ed’s child.

McDormand (outrageously) delivers hundreds of words a minute at a breakneck clip, most declarative statements that prevent interjection from other characters. She informs Ed rather than asks when she says, “He’s got to go to Arizona State,” referring to Ed’s kidnapped infant. Her anxiety-inducing vaccination demands and (hilarious) worst-case scenarios overwhelm the new parents. The juxtaposition of the decidedly slower rates of speech from everyone else in the scene adds to the high-stakes level of Dot’s play: Ed replies in tentative stammers, and H.I. stares blankly. Though audiences would eventually find McDormand in most Coen Brothers films, this appearance would be her most brief — and iconic.

Watch on Hulu

4 Philip Seymour Hoffman in ‘Hard Eight’ (1996)

Performance Time: 2 minutes, 55 seconds

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Young Craps Player in 'Hard Eight'
image via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios

Paul Thomas Anderson experienced a few hiccups during his first directorial feature, Hard Eight. Debates with distributors over artistic license and the film’s final cut threatened to undermine Anderson’s vision. However, one decision made by Anderson would remain; he cast Philip Seymour Hoffman in the role after seeing him in Scent of a Woman.

In under three minutes, Hoffman’s “Angry Craps Player” provides the scene’s tension. He taunts Sydney, played by Phillip Baker Hall (another multi-picture favorite of Anderson’s), repeatedly calling him an “old timer,” daring him to place a bet by the time it takes Hoffman to light a cigarette and roll his dice (the goal being a “hard eight”). Hoffman’s performance was almost entirely improvised, earning Hall’s reported awe. This brief cinematic moment connected Anderson and Hoffman in repeated tour-de-force performances until Hoffman’s untimely death.

Hard Eight

Release Date
February 28, 1996

Director
Paul Thomas Anderson

Rating
R

Runtime
102

Rent on Apple TV+

3 John Turturro in ‘The Big Lebowski’ (1998)

Performance Time: > 4 minutes

John Turturro as
image via Polygram

The Coen Brothers are famous for creating quirky characters in their movies (Frances McDormand’s appearance in this list is a testament to this fact). Enter Jesus Quintana (John Turturro), the trash-talking bowling league opponent of “The Dude” (Jeff Bridges) in The Big Lebowski. This passionate Latin man with a very long pinky nail is serious about the game and the color purple.

To make him even more odd, he refers to himself as “The Jesus,” not pronounced with a Spanish inflection but like a religious icon. Jesus isn’t interested in losing and gives his bowling ball more attention than his manicured goatee. Elaborate ball shining, pre-bowl licking, and signature dances were mere tricks up his purple sleeve. Turturro is effortless in the role. “No one f***s with The Jesus,” indeed.

The Big Lebowski

Release Date
March 6, 1998

Director
Joel Coen , Ethan Coen

Rating
R

Runtime
117 minutes

Watch on Netflix

2 Will Ferrell in ‘Wedding Crashers’ (2005)

Performance Time: 4 minutes, 30 seconds

Will Ferrell as Chazz Reinhold in 'Wedding Crashers.'
image via Warner Bros.

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn were workshopping ideas for Wilson’s character John Beckwith’s “rock bottom” in Wedding Crashers, when the concept of crashing funerals came into play. Off-screen Master Crasher Chazz Reinhold had been referenced by Vaughn’s character but not seen. In a last-minute, uncredited cameo scene, Will Ferrell entered the frame wearing a silk kimono and nunchucks, hungry for meatloaf.

As a middle-aged man living with his mother, Ferrell’s Chazz is “living the dream,” capitalizing on the vulnerability of grief-stricken women, securing dates at funerals. He is eager to instruct Wilson’s character in this practice and is more than willing to share the meatloaf his mother made – if she would stop whatever she’s “doing back there” and bring it to them… Wedding Crashers’is wildly inappropriate and tremendously fun. However, without the addition of Ferrell’s Chazz, viewers would’ve been robbed of one of the most incredible cameo performances ever.

Wedding Crashers

Release Date
July 13, 2005

Rating
R

Runtime
119

Rent on Amazon

1 Viola Davis in ‘Doubt’ (2008)

Performance Time: 10 minutes

Viola Davis and Meryl Streep have a discussion in 'Doubt'
image via Miramax

When her son’s all-white private Catholic school summoned her to discuss a troubling issue involving a priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Viola Davis‘ Mrs. Miller had an impassioned exchange with the school principal, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep). In ten minutes, Davis had to formulate a compelling argument for her son to remain in school, and she convinced Aloysius/Streep and audiences around the world.

As a working mother on a brief break, Davis’s character dealt with a time constraint. But as Viola Davis, the actor standing opposite decorated screen legend Meryl Streep, time ceased to exist. A studio film with wide distribution and gargantuan names attached brought cinema-goers to the box office, but it was a relatively unknown actor that audiences would remember. Irrespective of studio billing, Davis’ name is now synonymous with the movie Doubt.

Doubt

Release Date
February 27, 2008

Director
John Patrick Shanley

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
104

Watch on Showtime

NEXT: 10 Great Short Films Under 10 Minutes Long, Ranked



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