9 First-Time Oscar Nominees' Best Early & Lesser-Known Roles

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 13: Actors Michael Keaton and Emma Stone attend 'Birdman, Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance' at the 92nd Street Y on October 13, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/FilmMagic)
Source: Mark Sagliocco/FilmMagic/Getty Images

The 2015 Oscar nominees are filled with familiar faces, but you'd be surprised how many of them are first-time nominees. Longtime actors like Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons, and Michael Keaton received their first Academy Award nods, and newcomers Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike joined the award nominee party. 

To celebrate all of the first-timers, I've rounded up one movie from the actors' pasts that you should check out. I tried avoiding cliches and popular flicks and instead focused on lesser-known films, like Emma Stone in The Rocker and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Other Boleyn Girl. As you can tell, some of the movies are Oscar-worthy, too, and some are just plain fun.

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Felicity Jones

Jones is nominated for her lead role as Jane Wilde-Hawking in The Theory of Everything. One of her memorable early roles was the completely-improvised Like Crazy in 2011, in which she plays a deported British student whose long distance relationship with her American boyfriend (Anton Yelchin) makes for an emotional and complicated life. Jennifer Lawrence also co-stars, and it’s definitely one to check out.

J.K. Simmons

Are you shocked that Simmons has never been nominated? Me too, but it’s because his career has featured many big television roles. In addition to watching Whiplash to discover why he deserves an Oscar, check out The Vicious Kind, in which he plays Adam Scott’s father in the dark drama.

Rosamund Pike

Before she was crazy sociopath Amy in Gone Girl, she was Ryan Gosling’s lover in Fracture. There’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to her character, Nikki, in the movie. Hmm, sound familiar?

Benedict Cumberbatch

Cumberbatch has gained notoriety through the years, culminating in his Oscar nomination for portraying Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, but an early role you have to see is him in The Other Boleyn Girl. He plays Scarlett Johansson’s husband… well, until her eyes wander, at least.

Emma Stone

Stone first won our hearts in Superbad, but one of my favorite films of hers is The Rocker. No, it isn’t an award-winning film, but she’s charming and she sings with Teddy Geiger, and it’s a fun movie. It’s also a complete 180 from her Oscar-nominated role in Birdman.

Michael Keaton

Keaton scored his first Oscar nod for Birdman, and we’re all excited. He has a huge catalog of films from his long career, including Batman, but one of my favorites is the underrated movie The Dream Team. It’s not politically correct — it has psychiatric patients solving a crime in NYC after their field trip goes awry — but it’s a lot of fun. Also, Jack Frost. Always Jack Frost.

Eddie Redmayne

Redmayne is great at playing real people, so to celebrate his nomination for portraying Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, check out My Week With Marilyn. He’s absolutely captivating as Colin.

Patricia Arquette

Arquette’s 12-year spanning role as Claire in Boyhood deserves recognition and a win at the Oscars, but before the ceremony, you can catch up with her 2003 role in Holes. Yes, the Shia LaBeouf movie in which she plays schoolteacher-turned-fugitive Kate. I have a soft spot for it.

Steve Carell

Carell has done a lot of great comedies and won awards for his time as Michael Scott on The Office, but it’s his dramatic side that nabbed him an Oscar nomination for Foxcatcher. To celebrate, watch Little Miss Sunshine, or for a lesser-known, more recent film, check out The Way Way Back.