By Eric Eidelstein | Indiewire February 24, 2014 at 8:45AM
Following one of the most competitive Best Actor races in recent history, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to nominate Christian Bale, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey for their spectacular performances. In honor of the nominees, Indiewire decided to compile a list of film roles that initially got these actors on the map. Here they are in their debut roles:
Christian Bale, Nominated for "American Hustle" - "Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna" (1986)
Normally we wouldn't cover a TV movie, but "Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna" (deserving of a prize for worst title?) was well-received and was really the first film that Christian Bale ever appeared in. Bale plays Alexei Nikolaevich, younger brother of Anastasia and the heir-apparent of the Russian throne. The familiar story chronicles the end of the Romanov reign and the subsequent theories that surrounded the fate of Anastasia. Plus, it's pretty cool to see what Batman looked like before he was Batman.
Bruce Dern, Nominated for "Nebraska" - "Marnie" (1964)
Although Bruce Dern was first seen in an uncredited role in the Elia Kazan film "Wild River," his first real role was a short one in the Alfred Hitchcock film "Marnie." "Marnie," played by Tippi Hedren, follows the life of a fearful thief with an irrational fear of men, the color red and thunderstorms. Dern plays a sailor who is also a client of Hedren's mother in the film, who is a prostitute. He is vile and off-putting -- a perfect Hitchcock character.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Nominated for "The Wolf of Wall Street" - "Critters 3" (1991)
A young Leo DiCaprio was probably most known for his Oscar-nominated role in the drama "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," but before he got there he starred in sci-fi horror "Critters 3." "Critters 3", the third film in a four film series, follows Charlie MacFadden who is on a journey to destroy the murderous alien creatures, appropriately named "Critters." DiCaprio stars as Josh, the stepson of a corrupt landlord in the town where the film takes place. "Critters 3" did poorly critically, which is probably why it was a direct-to-video. Still, watch DiCaprio get his angst on.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nominated for "12 Years a Slave" - "Amistad" (1997)
Having only appeared in a small role on a television movie, British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor hit it big after landing a role in Steven Spielberg's historical drama "Amistad." The film follows a slave ship mutiny and the subsequent international conflict that ensues to determine whether or not the captured men are to be free or enslaved. Ejiofor plays a sailor in the British army who speaks the African language spoken by one of the slaves, and decides to act as a translator to give the African men a voice in court.
Matthew McConaughey, Nominated for "Dallas Buyers Club" - "Dazed and Confused" (1993)
Before "Mud" and "Killer Joe" and even more before "Fool's Gold" and "Failure to Launch," Matthew McConaughey appeared in Richard Linklater's third feature, the much adored "Dazed and Confused," which follows a group of students and the adventures they get into right before their last day of school. Rocking a blonde version of Javier Bardem's "No Country For Old Men" hairdo, McConaughey plays a 20-something slacker who enjoys hanging out with high school students. It's a pretty awesome role, one that everyone is familiar with -- and really was a great start for the Texas actor.