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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
7 Emily Blunt
6 Kathleen Turner
5 Salma Hayek
4 Phoebe Cates
3 Natasha Henstridge
2 Charlize Theron
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.
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