It’s tricky for female actresses in Hollywood. They want to be taken seriously for their talent but this is a town that lives on looks and appearances and actresses are forced to keep up with that. Which means when a young talent is given their shot at the big time, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get attention and make nice. If the role calls for a nude scene, an actress feels like going along with it despite reservations.
Some actresses are trapped by this and star in “hot roles.” But others are able to rise and achieve true massive fame thanks to them. Over the decades, Hollywood has given us slews of breakout gals baring it all for their debut roles, some in movies that are bad, others in ones that are good. Some are forgotten until the actresses hit it big while others are what that star is best remembered for. Selecting the most notable, both star and scene, is tricky but there are plenty of examples to go from. Here are fifteen cases of actresses who debuted in movies with quite memorable nude scenes and how many of them used it to build equally fantastic careers.
15 Jaime Pressly
Jaime Pressly has stated she was a bit unsure of her rights as an actress when she made her debut in 1997’s Poison Ivy: The New Seduction. As such, she didn’t realize she could have said no to the movie’s nude scenes and wishes she had. The fact is, Pressly has nothing to be ashamed of.
As a seductress wreaking havoc on her friend’s family, she dominates the screen from a skinny-dip in the pool to sliding off a red dress to reveal a stunning body. For a while Pressly would be trapped in various other “blonde hottie” roles but in 2007, she earned massive acclaim for her role as the nutty Joy on My Name is Earl that earned her an Emmy and currently stars on the CBS hit Mom. While she’s toned down now, that debut showed a wild start for a lady who mixes great comic timing with one hell of a body.
14 Julie Warner
It’s a shame Julie Warner never got as far in Hollywood as she could have as from the start she showcased a terrific talent with nice bright humor and a great body. That was shown in her very first scene in the 1991 comedy Doc Hollywood as Michael J. Fox’s doctor, stuck in a small town, heads to a lake in the morning to clear his head.
Erupting from the water is Warner, stark naked and glistening, a true marvel that leaves Fox speechless. She calmly walks out, slides on her dress and walks away, throwing a “you can blink now” at Fox as she goes. She continues to pop up as Lou, the tomboy ambulance driver and love interest, sassy and tough but caring enough to win you over. Her career may not have gone far but that terrific opening truly helped Warner stand out with a debut that heated up even if she was soaked over.
13 Portia De Rossi
The Aussie actress is well known for her roles on TV hits like Ally McBeal, Arrested Development and Scandal as well as her marriage to Ellen DeGeneres. Her debut movie came in 1994’s Sirens, which got attention for two reasons: one, it was one of the first major films by Hugh Grant and the second, it marked the film debut of supermodel Elle Macpherson.
While Elle got the major attention for her stunning body on display, Portia De Rossi was also well served as they play two of the models of a notorious artist who soon seduce the wife of a preacher into opening up with them. De Rossi shows no shame over showing everything off from various artist modelings to a fantastic nighttime skinny dipping sequence. De Rossi is stunning with her blonde looks and cool demeanor that would serve her well in future TV roles.
12 Elizabeth Hurley
Long before she made her mark with her relationship with Hugh Grant and the Austin Powers movies, the former model debuted in the 1987 English film, Aria. A wild anthology marked with a mix of history and fantasy with operatic musical pieces, Elizabeth Hurley shows up in a five minute sequence as one of two lovers in a dead city.
It’s a bizarre movie to say the least, really artsy and mostly dull, but a then-blonde Hurley does liven it up, singing her heart out as she disrobes, showing off the body she’d make famous years later. It’s really the only reason to watch the movie, which does not hold up today but Hurley is a nice highlight; such a humble beginning would launch a career that’s now having her playing the Queen of England on The Royals.
11 Catherine Zeta-Jones
The 1990 French film 1001 Nights would be a completely forgettable, poor retelling of the classic Arabian myths if not for one thing: it marked the debut of future Oscar-winner and Mrs. Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones. She plays the iconic role of Scheherazade, a captive girl who bargains for her life by telling the emperor a new story every night.
Even young, Zeta-Jones is fantastic as she weaves herself into the stories, including going topless on a boat and a wild dream sequence and is a nice choice for a beauty who can seduce via her words. It took Zeta-Jones a while before she latched on with her breakout role in The Mask of Zorro and her later fame. While this movie isn’t that great, it does show the alluring beauty we know today and that alone makes it a good debut role.
10 Penelope Cruz
The living definition of “sexy sultry,” the Spanish star has been turning heads for a long time with her roles in various films that showcase her stunning full-figured body from Vanilla Sky to Nine and more. Her very first film, Jamon Jamon, showed that early talent in both body and acting amazingly well.
As a newly pregnant woman, she and her boyfriend handle it well but his mother doesn’t approve and hires a male model to try and seduce Cruz away. While young, Penelope Cruz takes on the role very well, especially in bits such as a nude scene on a beach showing that amazing body and a few stylish love scenes. Cruz has only gotten hotter as she’s aged and embarked on her Oscar-winning career that began with a role that made her an actress you couldn’t take your eyes off of.
9 Jessica Chastain
In only a few years, Jessica Chastain has amassed an incredible number of film credits from hits like Interstellar to Oscar nominations for The Help and Zero Dark Thirty. From the start, Chastain was a fantastic actress as her debut role in 2008’s Jolene well showed. She played a recent orphaned teen who wanders America, falling in with one rough situation after another but doing her best to survive it all.
Chastain throws herself into the role well and that includes several hot nude scenes from a girls’ shower to making love in a car to being in bed with Frances Fisher, not to mention a hot stripper number. It’s terrific in both her body and her talent and proof once more of how spicy redheads are when they let loose.
8 Marlee Matlin
Marlee Matlin is part of that elite club to win an Oscar for her debut role which also showcases her underrated body. In Children of a Lesser God, she plays a deaf woman who forges a romance with a new teacher (William Hurt). The two would gel together (even dating for a while in real life) and Matlin attacks her first movie with terrific passion, from her furious signing to real depth and making you feel for her character.
She shows no shame, especially with the memorable scene where she strips down to skinny-dip in front of Hurt and later a great love scene. Earning the Oscar, Matlin’s gone on to a good career as more than just a “deaf actress” with roles on The L Word and others to show you don’t have to hear to be sexy as hell.
7 Emily Blunt
Blunt got her big break in 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada but she first got attention with her debut in 2003’s BBC mini-series Henry VIII, playing Catherine Howard and going topless in a brief but memorable scene. Her first full movie was My Summer of Love, playing a young woman on a summer vacation with a friend (Natalie Press), the two forming a bond that soon becomes romantic. From frolicking in a pond to sunbathing topless, Blunt shows off her impressive breasts as well as the terrific talent that would launch her to later stardom. She’s quite comfortable with it all and the terrific talent and drive would serve her well with her toned body that enjoys some nice sun (and love) in her debut.
6 Kathleen Turner
In the 1981 classic Body Heat, Turner exploded onto the screen like a modern-day Lauren Bacall…only not as restricted by guidelines to not show off. As the temptress who pulls William Hurt into a dangerous game of seduction that leads to murder. Turner’s gorgeous looks and husky voice made you think she was a veteran but it was her very first role, astounding for someone a stranger to films to take to this so easily. She fired up the screen with a hot love scene with Hurt and helping to sell the movie’s twist ending. It was a fantastic start for Turner, an actress who could mix comedy with drama well and how a late start in movies can lead to a nice debut.
5 Salma Hayek
The first time we see Salma Hayek in Desperado, she’s sauntering down the street, hair billowing in slow motion, a sight so amazing that it’s no wonder traffic literally stops as she walks by. The Mexican starlet made the most of her debut role in Robert Rodriguez’s wild crime shoot-out as the bookstore owner who befriends Antonio Banderas, her gorgeous looks and husky voice instantly winning viewers over. It built up to a love scene with Banderas that was (literally) scorching to watch and Hayek showing off her breasts and rear during it all. It launched Hayek to instant stardom and she showed actually great talent with an Oscar nomination and a successful producer, proving brains to go along with that stunning body.
4 Phoebe Cates
In 1982, Cates made her movie debut in not one but two films that had her doffing it all. The first was Paradise, playing a teen left with a young man in the desert, the two soon bonding together as they check out an oasis. This showed Cates’ nice body off in full frolicking in the water and sand and a good love scene. The second film is more famous: Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The scene of Cates coming out of a pool before removing her top is one of the most iconic nude scenes in all of movies, no teen of the ‘80’s can possibly forget it. She never became as huge a star as promised, settling into a marriage with Kevin Kline but those two films made her a memorable part of ‘80’s film and that alone is a nice legacy for her to achieve.
3 Natasha Henstridge
As far as great film nude debuts go, few can approach Henstridge. A complete unknown, the former model was chosen to star in the1995 sci-fi thriller Species, where scientists use DNA sent from space to create a hybrid form (a young Michelle Williams played the child version) who grows to womanhood in days. If you wanted to create a “perfect form,” Henstridge sure lived up to that, showing off a fantastic nude form as her character matter of factly tries on human clothing and gets used to their ways while seducing guys. Of course, her murderous alien nature soon takes hold as she embarks on a killing spree but still looking hot as hell with it all. While Henstridge didn’t become as big a movie star (despite fun roles like The Whole Nine Yards), she has gone on to a good TV career, showing some good talent but that memorable debut is what we remember well of her.
2 Charlize Theron
A former model, the South African actress had no credits to her name before she was cast in 1996’s 2 Days in the Valley, a quirky mix of dark comedy and crime thriller, playing the moll to James Spader’s psycho gunman. She showcased her talent right off with a good turn, including a knock-down drag-out fight with Teri Hatcher. She also showed her terrific body off in a scene tearing off her thin nightie to mount Spader with great hot aggression. Theron would spend the next few years in various roles, some more hot nude scenes (Reindeer Games, The Devil’s Advocate) before remaking herself with her acclaimed Oscar-winning turn in Monster. Theron may have cut down on nudity as of late but from the start, she showed a hot streak that paved the way for her success.
1 Angelina Jolie
Jolie is certainly no stranger to showing her amazing body off on film. Her breakout roles in Hackers and Gia did that and she’s doffed it several times since as she’s continued on through her Oscar-winning career and moving on as a director and human rights activist. Before all that however, Jolie’s first film role was in 1993’s Cyborg 2. Yes, they actually thought Cyborg deserved a sequel. The film itself is a total mess of sic-fi “action” and bad ‘90s FX. Thankfully, the filmmakers allow Jolie to do some good work and doff it for a memorable love scene that showed her stunning body on full display. From humble beginnings rose one of the biggest stars of modern times, a wild gal who may be softened today but still a fantastic look and even this bad film shows the iconic figure she would become.