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Oscars won in under 20 minutes of screen time

The ultimate dream for many actors is to one day win an Academy Award. For most, that means landing a big, meaty role with a whole lot of time in front of the camera. After all, the longer your scenes and the lengthier your monologues, the better your chances of taking home that little golden trophy. However, some actors have discovered that bigger isn't always better. There are some stars who've showed up onscreen for just a handful of minutes, yet still managed to snag acting's most prestigious prize. Often, these are supporting actors who manage to steal the spotlight in a few seconds, but at least one leading man won his Best Actor award for barely any scenes at all. From minuscule parts in legal thrillers to tiny roles in sharp-witted satires, these incredible actors all won their Oscars in under 20 minutes of screen time.

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Tilda Swinton was terrific for 18 minutes in Michael Clayton

Whether she's starring in horror movies like Suspiria, indies like Only Lovers Left Alive, or superhero blockbusters like Doctor Strange, Tilda Swinton brings her A-game to every movie she's in. But despite her impressive thespian powers, Swinton has only once been nominated for an Oscar. Fortunately, she walked away with that golden statue for her performance in Michael Clayton, a 2007 movie that finds Swinton as a vicious but anxious attorney named Karen Crowder.

Crowder is a lawyer for a major company that has knowingly produced a carcinogenic weedkiller. She'll do anything to cover for the company, even if that means murder, but while she's a cold-blooded killer, Crowder is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Swinton makes this villainous attorney both scary and sympathetic, whether she's ordering a hit or suffering a panic attack in a bathroom stall. She creates a fully rounded and completely realistic villain in just 18 minutes, and while she doesn't have much screen time, that didn't stop her from winning that Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

Hilariously, Swinton was underwhelmed when she showed up to the 80th Academy Awards. See, she'd never actually watched the Oscars before, and she told Rolling Stone, "I remember being a little bit disappointed that it wasn't more magnificent, [that] it wasn't in a bigger room." She then realized she was disappointed was because she'd expected the ceremony to be like the one in the Kevin Costner-Whitney Houston movie The Bodyguard — larger than life and full of assassins. Fortunately, the only killer that night was Swinton, when she murdered her competition.

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Lee Grant amazed audiences for 18 minutes in Shampoo

Some popular films stand the test of time, while others fade into obscurity. Sadly, Shampoo falls into the latter category. This 1975 satire tells the story of a hairdresser (Warren Beatty) who's juggling multiple women while trying to open his own salon. However, the movie was a major hit, raking in nearly $50 million at the box office (a huge deal at the time). It also impressed the members of the Academy, as it nabbed four Oscar nominations. However, the only one to go home with the gold was Lee Grant, an actress who was onscreen for just 18 minutes and a handful of seconds.

Grant won the Oscar for playing Felicia Karpf, a lonely housewife who's trying to keep her adulterous husband's attention while conducting her own affair with Beatty's hairdresser. (She doesn't know that both men are also involved with another woman, played by Julie Christie.) Felicia is a whiny yet desperate woman. She's wealthy, well-dressed, and simultaneously lustful and lonely. And even though she's only onscreen for about 17 percent of the film, it was enough to impress the Academy. This was Grant's third shot at Oscar gold — after getting nominations for Detective Story and The Landlord — and she finally won the prize that night. Sadly, despite her award-winning performance, it seems Shampoo has been scrubbed clean out of the pop culture consciousness.  

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Anthony Hopkins was electric for 16 minutes in The Silence of the Lambs

A story about a liver-eating serial killer, The Silence of the Lambs isn't your typical award-winning film, but it shattered all Oscar expectations. It was the first proper horror movie to win the Best Picture Oscar. It was released in February 1991, and 13 months later, it somehow crushed all the more award-friendly films released during Oscar season. Most importantly, it's one of only three films that have won the big five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Actor.

Crazier still, that Best Actor award went to a man who was in the film for a mere 16 minutes… but every second he's onscreen is absolutely electric. Anthony Hopkins beat the likes of Robert De Niro and Robin Williams to win the little gold man for his turn as the sophisticated psychopath, Hannibal Lecter. And years later, people still talk about his performance and quote that iconic line about census takers and chiantis. From the moment he comes on, Hopkins radiates pure evil. While he rarely raises his voice, he commands every scene he's in, and with his unblinking eyes and perfect posture, he totally unnerves Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) and audiences everywhere. Sure, Hopkins only shows up for 14 percent of the film, but every death-rattling, bone-chilling moment is worth its weight in Oscar gold.

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Anne Hathaway broke our hearts for 15 minutes in Les Miserables

After earning a Best Actress nomination for Rachel Getting Married, Anne Hathaway got her second shot at Oscar gold with Les Miserables, an epic musical set in 19th-century France. Hathaway shows up for a mere 15 minutes in a movie that runs nearly three hours long, but while she only appears in nine percent of the film, she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. And boy, did she ever deserve it.

Hathaway threw herself into the part completely, losing a shocking 25 pounds and cutting all her hair off (a decision that actually caused her to break down into tears afterward). She even went so far as to study prostitution, and hearing the sad stories of modern-day sex workers took a major toll. And then there's the performance itself. Whenever Hathaway opens her mouth, she's singing at the top of her lungs, and on top of hitting all those crazy notes, she's also acting her heart out. She's desperate and lost and trying to survive. She's angry and hyperventilating and falling apart. Once again, she's doing all of this while singing, and her rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" is absolutely devastating. It's tragic to learn that Hathaway was experiencing major emotional issues during Oscar season that kept her from enjoying her big moment, but at the end of the day, she definitely deserved that award for breaking our hearts in just 15 minutes.

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Kim Basinger wowed everyone for 15 minutes in L.A. Confidential

In the '80s and early '90s, Kim Basinger found frequent work in films like Never Say Never Again, The Natural, and Tim Burton's Batman. But in 1995, she took a break from acting for a couple of years until director Curtis Hanson tracked her down. Hanson was adapting James Ellroy's neo-noir novel L.A. Confidential, and he thought Basinger would be perfect for the part of Lynne Bracken, a hooker with a heart of gold who also looks a lot like Hollywood legend Veronica Lake.

Originally, Basinger wasn't interested in the part, as she was sick of playing characters defined by their sex appeal. But Hanson convinced her to take the role, and Basinger made Lynne Bracken more than just a blonde bombshell. Even though Basinger is only on for 15 minutes, she made the most of her limited time, sharing intimate moments with Russell Crowe and telling off Guy Pearce with a powerful monologue. It was a standout performance that caught the attention of the Academy and earned the star an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She also took advantage of her brief moment on the Oscar dais, seizing the moment to chastise the Academy for not nominating Do the Right Thing for Best Picture.

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Penelope Cruz was stunning for 15 minutes in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

During the 2000s, Woody Allen kept himself pretty busy, directing at least one movie every single year. Almost all of those films — The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Whatever Work, and Cassandra's Dream, to name a few — have been completely forgotten by time. Vicky Cristina Barcelona has pretty much suffered the same fate as the rest of Allen's films from that era, but there is one little detail that's saved the movie from total obscurity: it features an Oscar-winning performance from Penelope Cruz.

In fact, Cruz won a truckload of awards for her turn as María Elena, the fiery and suicidal ex-wife of a womanizing artist (Javier Bardem). She only shows up for 15 minutes, but she crushes it in every single one of her scenes. Whether she's defiantly speaking Spanish, wildly trying to shoot Bardem, or making out with Scarlett Johansson, Cruz is the star of the show. So even though she was up against some major competition from the likes of Amy Adams and Viola Davis, it should come as no surprise that Penelope cruised to victory thanks to those sexy and stunning moments.

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Alan Arkin killed it for 14 minutes in Little Miss Sunshine

Alan Arkin is one of those actors who should've won an Oscar long before he finally did. The man was nominated twice — for The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming — and he should've earned Oscar nods for incredible performances in movies like Wait Until Dark and Glengarry Glen Ross. Thankfully, Arkin got his well-deserved trophy at the 79th Academy Awards, beating out the likes of Eddie Murphy, Mark Wahlberg, and Jackie Earle Haley for his performance in Little Miss Sunshine.  

In a movie populated with amazing actors from Toni Collette to Abigail Breslin, Arkin stands out as the larger-than-life Edwin Hoover. He's a dirty old man with a foul mouth, a fondness for heroin, and an incredibly grumpy disposition. But while Arkin earns plenty of laughs with colorful language, he also tugs on the old heartstrings in scenes like the one when he tells his tearful granddaughter (Breslin) that she'll never be a loser so long as she tries to accomplish her dreams. Sadly, Arkin's great performance is cut short when his character dies of a drug overdose, but even though he's only in the film for a scant 14 minutes, he proved he was definitely a winner when he snagged that Oscar.

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Jason Robards commanded the screen for 14 minutes in All the President's Men

The year 1976 was an incredible one for film and an even better one for supporting actors. By the time the 49th Academy Awards rolled around, voters were faced with an almost impossible choice. Would they pick Ned Beatty for his mind-blowing monologue in Network? Would they go with Laurence Olivier as the world's scariest dentist in Marathon Man? Or would they vote for either Burgess Meredith or Burt Young for their performances in Rocky?

Well, when the votes were all tallied up, the little gold statuette actually went to Jason Robards for his commanding turn in All the President's Men. Compared to his competitors, Robards' performance as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee is incredibly understated. He's a prickly perfectionist, an editor who drives his reporters hard and callously edits their work. But the man's heart is in the right place. Sure, he's brash, but he just wants a solid story — reporting that'll withstand the scrutiny of everybody from Joe Schmoe to the president of the United States. Counting his "I hate trusting anybody" speech, Robards is only onscreen for about 14 minutes, but that was more than enough to impress the Academy.

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Jack Palance loomed larger than life for 12 minutes in City Slickers

They say good things come to those who wait, and that's especially true for Jack Palance. The Hollywood veteran was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1952 for his performance as a murderous husband in Sudden Fear. Sadly, Palance didn't win that year, but he got a second chance in 1953, earning another nomination for his work as a black-clad gunslinger in Shane. But once again, Palance was robbed of Oscar glory, and he would have to wait nearly 40 more years before getting that gold.

Palance would finally get his due thanks to his performance in City Slickers, a 1991 comedy that follows three city dwellers (Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby) who spend a vacation at a dude ranch. During their quest to become cowboys, they meet the toughest man in the world, a grizzled old ranch hand by the name of Curly Washburn (Palance). He's meaner than sin and has no patience for fools, but when he's not brandishing Bowie knives or birthing calves, he just might teach you the secret of life.

Palance is only onscreen for around 12 minutes, but his tough-as-nails performance would nab him that Best Supporting Actor Oscar. But while his turn as Curly is incredibly memorable, what happened at the awards ceremony is even more iconic. When Palance went to accept his Oscar, he dropped to the ground and started doing one-armed pushups, proving that he was indeed the toughest guy in the world.

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Ingrid Bergman snags a third Oscar for 14 minutes in Murder on the Orient Express

Ingrid Bergman was no stranger to the Academy Awards. By the early 1970s, she'd already picked up two Oscars for Best Actress (one for Gaslight, another for Anastasia), so after starring in Murder on the Orient Express, it wasn't surprising that she earned another Oscar nod. However, what was surprising was the fact that Bergman only showed up in the film for 14 minutes… and she still went home with the gold.

Directed by Sidney Lumet, Murder on the Orient Express is a who's who of 1970s Hollywood. The film stars everyone from Anthony Perkins and Lauren Bacall to Vanessa Redgrave and Sean Connery. As for Bergman, Lumet originally wanted her to play an aging Russian princess, but the star had her sights set on the role of Greta Ohlsson, a quiet Swedish missionary who's hiding a horrible secret. Bergman's longest scene lasts for about five minutes as she's interrogated by detective Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney). She runs the emotional gamut here, showing everything from an earnest faith to a guilty conscience to a struggle to hold back the tears. It's the moment that probably won Bergman her Oscar, and while it's not an especially flashy performance, it is a solid turn from a Hollywood legend.

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Judi Dench was incredibly royal for 8 minutes in Shakespeare in Love

Judi Dench is perhaps the most British woman who's ever lived. Everything about her just radiates nobility. So it's no wonder that Dench won an Oscar for her performance as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love. Even though she's only onscreen for three scenes, it's a role she was born to play. Whenever she stands, every knee bows. She's commanding and demanding. Her humor is biting, and her words cut to the bone. But beneath that powdered, powerful exterior, there's a woman with a love for theater and a sympathy for our star-crossed and crossdressed lovers, William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) and Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow). Alternately hilarious and powerful — her line about "a woman in a man's profession" is quite poignant — Dench owns every single minute she's in front of the camera, all eight of them. A complicated royal and a deus ex machina rolled into one, Dench's Queen Elizabeth is worthy of both allegiance and awards.  

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Beatrice Straight made Oscar history in 5 minutes with Network

In 1976, director Sidney Lumet and writer Paddy Chayefsky teamed up for one of the darkest, most brilliant satires ever created: Network. A brutal takedown of the mainstream media, the film feels even more relevant today — though far less over the top — than it did in the '70s. One of the reasons that Network holds up is thanks to its brilliant cast, which includes an impressive list of names like Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, and Robert Duvall. And while Finch won a posthumous Oscar for his performance of a raving newsman, it was Beatrice Straight who made Academy Award history by winning Best Supporting Actress with just five minutes of screen time.

Straight plays Louise Schumacher, the jilted wife of a TV executive (Holden). When her husband confesses to having an affair with a younger woman, Louise gives a hell-and-brimstone sermon that no preacher will ever match. Both embarrassed and filled with righteous anger, she lays into her husband hard, ripping him apart for his philandering before breaking down and admitting how much he's hurting her. And as icing on the acting cake, she ends the scene actually feeling sorry for her husband, knowing that his new affair will just leave him feeling a lot of grief.

It's a tour de force performance, and while Straight does appear earlier in the film, the bulk of her work is in this scene. All in all, Straight only shows up in Network for five minutes and 40 seconds, but it was enough for her to beat the likes of Piper Laurie (Carrie) and Jodie Foster (Taxi Driver) and claim that little gold statue. To this day, no one has beaten Straight's incredible record, and chances are good she'll hold onto that honor for a long, long time.