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Top 10 Major Characters That Had Little Screen Time

VO: Matthew Wende WRITTEN BY: Clayton Martino

For legendary actors portraying iconic characters, sometimes a handful of minutes is all you need. From The Wicked Witch of the West to Bellatrix Lestrange, WatchMojo is counting down the classic film characters that appeared on-screen for only a small portion of the films in which they appeared.

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Script written by Clayton Martino

Top 10 Major Characters That Had Little Screen Time


For legendary actors portraying iconic characters, sometimes a handful of minutes is all you need. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Major Characters That Had Little Screen Time.

For this list, we are looking at several classic film characters that appeared on-screen for only a small portion of the films in which they appeared.

#10: Wicked Witch of the West

“The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
Considered to be one of the greatest cinematic villains of all time, there is no denying that the Wicked Witch of the West steals every scene she appears in. Only, she actually doesn’t appear in all that many. While many people likely remember the classic Witch-Dorothy showdown, the film actually spends the majority of the time following the journey of Dorothy and our other protagonists. In fact, the Witch only appears on-screen for 12 minutes of the film’s 101-minute runtime. The fact that she has left such a resounding legacy in such little screen time demonstrates how awesome she is.

#9: Bellatrix Lestrange

“Harry Potter” franchise (2001-11)
From one great villain to another, Bellatrix Lestrange is Voldemort’s right-hand witch, and one of the most sadistic characters in the entire franchise. She initially appears in the 5th film, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” after breaking out of Azkaban prison, and immediately begins causing problems for our protagonists, even destroying Hagrid’s hut at one point. And despite her baddie status, her screen time is extremely limited over the course of the final four films, putting her below characters like Uncle Vernon and Professor Slughorn.

#8: Princess Aurora

“Sleeping Beauty” (1959)
Perhaps it isn’t surprising that a character named Sleeping Beauty doesn’t have a ton of screen time. We bet you didn’t know that she is on-screen for less than a quarter of the entire movie. In fact, she doesn’t have a single line of dialogue following the 40-minute mark, even after Prince Phillip awakens her. That’s pretty shocking considering the film is named after her and, despite only having about 18 lines, is considered the main character. No wonder Disney went with a live-action remake focusing on Maleficent instead.

#7: Betelgeuse

“Beetlejuice” (1988)
Here’s another titular character who doesn’t appear on-screen anywhere near as much as you probably think. An Academy Award winning film, “Beetlejuice” is widely considered to be one of Tim Burton’s best movies. This is thanks in large part to Michael Keaton, who delivered an unbelievable performance as the obnoxious, devious ghost, but it takes awhile for him to actually make a grand entrance. In fact, Beetlejuice finishes the movie with just 17 minutes of screen time, an astonishingly low number considering how memorable of a performance Keaton delivers.

#6: Elizabeth I of England

“Shakespeare in Love” (1998)
“Shakespeare in Love” won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress. It was the legendary Judi Dench who took home the latter award thanks to her brilliant performance as Queen Elizabeth I. It could be argued that Dench set the standard for all future portrayals of the monarch, an even more impressive fact considering that she only appears on-screen for eight measly minutes. Only an icon like Dench could deliver such an impactful performance in such a short period of time.

#5: Mrs. Miller

“Doubt” (2008)
Similar to Judi Dench, Viola Davis was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress despite only appearing on-screen for roughly eight minutes. Although Davis didn’t win, it could be argued that she actually gave a stronger, much more emotional performance as the mother of a boy who may have been molested by a priest. In perhaps the most powerful scene of the film, Davis’ character is confronted with this information, but ultimately chooses to ignore it. Perhaps even more impressive is her ability to stand toe-to-toe with the iconic Meryl Streep.

#4: Louise Schumacher

“Network” (1976)
Who would have ever guessed that you could win an Academy Award after appearing on-screen for just over five minutes? When you deliver a powerful as performance as Beatrice Straight’s, however, it’s easy to see why she won. Straight gives a terrific performance as the wife of the unfaithful Max Schumacher. While we nearly went with Straight’s co-star Ned Beatty, who gave us one tremendous scene as corporate chairman Arthur Jensen, we figured the woman who holds the record for shortest performance to win an Oscar deserves a spot on this list.

#3: Darth Vader

“Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope” (1977)
The “Star Wars” franchise has given us a number of memorable characters over the years, and Darth Vader is among the most iconic. Although Vader is a walking embodiment of the Dark Side of the Force, he only has 12 minutes of screen time in “A New Hope.” Considering his role as the major antagonist in the entire franchise, it’s a pretty remarkable statistic. Of course, Vader isn’t the only memorable baddie to receive a small amount of screen time. Audiences only got to see Darth Maul for several minutes in “The Phantom Menace.”

#2: Fantine

“Les Misérables” (2012)
To say Anne Hathaway was committed to portraying Fantine as accurately as possible is an understatement. She not only shaved her head for the role, she also lost 25 pounds. This dedication is even more remarkable when you consider that she did it for a film in which she appears on-screen for just 15 minutes. She did win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her efforts, brilliantly capturing the seemingly endless suffering Fantine experiences and her numerous attempts to ensure a better life for her daughter. It is arguably Hathaway’s best performance to date.

#1: Dr. Hannibal Lecter

“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
To this point, we’ve seen iconic film villains and Academy Award winners earn spots on this list. What better way to end it then by combining the two? Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, the psychopathic cannibal from “The Silence of the Lambs,” made him one of the most terrifying characters in the history of cinema. Although the film is also terrific, when asked to name one aspect of it, we bet most people would identify Hannibal Lecter. Astoundingly, the character only appears on-screen for about 16 minutes, a true indication of Hopkins’ powerful performance.
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