Oscar Winners

Oscar Winners Who Won with Their Debut Film

Not many actors become Oscar winners immediately after making their acting debut. In fact, many go through decades of being nominated without ever winning a single award. Take Leonardo DiCaprio for example, the multitalented actor won his well-deserved Oscar on his sixth nomination. Viola Davis is yet another famous name who found herself winning an Oscar on the third time she was nominated.

But not all Oscar winners had to wait so long for that prestigious title. The actors you will find on this list had the ability to strike gold upon debuting as an actor. Here is a list of the most notable Oscar winners who won with their first-ever feature film.

Oscar Winners Who Won with Their Debut Performances

1. Haing S. Ngor (The Killing Fields)

Oscar Winners, Haing S Ngor

Haing S. Ngor‘s story was a bittersweet one. He was sent to live in a Cambodian prison during the Khmer Rouge regime. He was a gynecologist, but he was unable to take care of his own wife when she was pregnant. He was also forced to feed on insects to survive the prison’s harsh environment. As a refugee, he traveled to America to resume his medical practice where he was later cast by director Roland Joffé to play a Cambodian journalist for the war drama The Killing Fields. Ngor made history by becoming the only Asian actor to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

2. Anna Paquin (The Piano)

Anna Paquin in the Piano

Anna Paquin was only 11 years old when she was cast by director Jane Campion for the drama film The Piano. Unbeknownst to Paquin and her family, the movie became a hit among critics that even the Academy began to take notice. Paquin was not only nominated for her performance, but she also won the Best Supporting Actress award that year.

3. Jennifer Hudson (Dream Girls)

Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls 2006

It is not every day that Idols become Oscar winners, but Jennifer Hudson has truly overcome the odds for this rare feat. Hudson finished seventh in the third season of American Idol, and while many runner-ups fade into the dark, this talented actress reached for the stars. She starred in her first-ever film alongside Beyoncé and even managed to outshine the pop star for her role as Effie White in Dream Girls. 

4. Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Lupita Nyongo-12 Years a Slave, Oscar Winners

Lupita Nyong’o may have been under the radar when she got the role of Patsy in the period drama film 12 Years a Slave, but her performance was nothing short of amazing. Nyong’o went on to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and even gave one of the most moving speeches in Academy history.

5. Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins)


Julie Andrews may have had two Tony awards under her name, but Disney’s Mary Poppins was actually her first feature film. At that time, Andrews was only 29 years old, but her heartwarming performance as the magical nanny was truly unforgettable. She was up against legendary actresses Anne Bancroft, Sophia Loren, Debbie Reynolds, and Kim Stanley during the Oscars but eventually went home with the Best Actress award that night.