You’re watching the Oscars, and you spot a familiar face. Maybe it’s that famous person you follow on Instagram, or maybe it’s a celebrity you’ve seen featured in a gossip magazine. Either way, you know exactly who it is without having to be told. Suddenly, there’s a burst of applause and you realize that whoever it is has just won the Oscar. You might not know who they won for, but you know exactly what award they just won. It’s the same with the award for Best Picture. You see the name Leo, and you know it’s from the movie Leo the Lion. And then you remember that Leo is the nephew of Simba, the lion king, and that he’s been praised for his performance in the movie The Lion King.

That’s the way it is whenever one of the actors on the red carpet gives a memorable performance that influences pop culture. It might not seem like a big deal, but a few unforgettable moments can make a big difference. Here, we’ll take a look at five times when an actor’s surprising performance on the red carpet changed the way we thought about movies and entertainment.

Jackie Collins As Tania in The Undocumented Story

Who knew that the red carpet would be transformed by a performance that was nothing short of phenomenal? Although this performance didn’t win any awards, it certainly didn’t hurt Jackie Collins’ cause, as she walked away with the prize for Best Actress in the 1991 Oscar ceremony for her portrayal of Tania, a young woman who is illegally adopted by a white family and struggles to accept her new culture, language, and identity. In the decades since, this performance has not been forgotten, as it was cited by the Academy as one of the best acting performances of all time in a 2015 poll.

It’s often said that an Oscar winner can change the way we look at movies and entertainment in general. It’s not hard to see why. Not only did Collins dominate the Oscars that year, but her performance also inspired a character creator for Black Twitter, who named one of their animated characters after her. 

Ethan Hawke As Lionel in Before Midnight

Ethan Hawke is certainly no stranger to the red carpet. The 41-year-old actor has practically grown out of it. However, in 2012, he made headlines for something other than his movie attire. Hawke’s performance in Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight was so good that it caused fans and critics alike to proclaim that he’d discovered a new side to his acting talent. Hawke plays Lionel, an old friend of Celine (Marion Cotillard), who unexpectedly shows up in Celine’s Chicago in the middle of the night and insists on staying with her for a while. Although this friendship eventually develops into something more, before the night is over, they’ve both realized that their personal lives are getting in the way of what could have been a beautiful relationship.

Before Midnight is a haunting adaptation of Foucault’s The Last Emperor, which follows Emperor Chuang Xinping in the final months of his life. It’s an incredible story, but nothing will ever compare to Hawke’s amazing performance as the hapless Lionel. It’s one of the best character studies in recent memory. Unfortunately, the film didn’t fare well at the box office, probably due to its relatively limited release (101 theaters). Nevertheless, it’s still among the year’s best-reviewed films. 

Benedict Cumberbatch As Stephen Hawking In The Imitation Game

There are quite a few films and TV shows that deserve to be on this list, but it had to be Stephen Hawking’s The Imitation Game that ended up changing the way we look at movies and TV shows. In the film, Cumberbatch plays Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist who was inspired by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity to believe that the fabric of space and time is vibrating, and that our universe is just one of an infinite number of universes, all potentially existing simultaneously. 

What makes the performance so special is that it manages to emulate the theoretical physicist’s incredible intelligence without relying on special effects. For years, Hawking had used a computerized voice generator to communicate, and Cumberbatch had to train himself to emulate this unique and distinctive voice. In addition, for the film’s premiere, Hawkins invited several hundred friends and family members to his residence in Cambridge, England, and had them watch the movie with him. He also made the unusual decision to show the film to his grandchildren, whose reactions he documented for Ellie, his wife of more than three decades, in an interview posted to Facebook.

Despite its obvious prestige, The Imitation Game was largely ignored by the Academy Awards, as it wasn’t released in time for the award ceremony. However, it did win the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as numerous critics’ awards and honors. The Guardian credited it with changing the way we look at modern science fiction, while the BBC called it “a cinematic masterpiece.”

Helen Mirren As Marjorie Merriweather Post In The Philanthropist

It is no secret that Helen Mirren is one of the most stunning women in the world. It’s also no secret that she’s smart. In The Philanthropist, she plays the wealthy heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, who in 1897, founded the American Library Association and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, and spent the latter part of her life devoted to philanthropy, founding the Miss Mirren Foundation and the International Peace Exchange Program. 

The biopic is set in the 1970s, and focuses on Post’s life as she struggles to reconcile her personal demons – her tendency to obsess over her looks and her compulsive need for approval – with her desire to make the world a better place. The film was adapted by Peter Morgan from Arthur Morrison’s 1929 biography The Life and World of Marjorie Merriweather Post. It premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the prestigious U.S. Grand Jury Prize. The New York Times described it as a “master class in making viewers understand the complexity of social justice issues,” while A.O. Scott of The New York Times called it “a bold and ambitious adaptation” that “deserves to be celebrated.” 

The role of Marjorie Merriweather Post might not seem like an obvious choice for an Oscar-winner, but the actress dominated the award show scene as she received a total of five Oscar nominations, winning three times. She eventually won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall (2014).

Robert Pattinson In The Lighthouse

It was widely expected that Robert Pattinson would dominate the 2018 Oscar nominations with his portrayal of Charles Darwin in The Lighthouse. Indeed, the British actor was arguably one of the most in-demand at the moment, with Twilight part II due in theaters soon. His career had turned a corner, following a string of lackluster performances, which led to The Lighthouse. It’s not often that we get to watch an Oscar winner transform themselves before our very eyes, but it’s something special when it happens.

The Lighthouse is based on the true story of the Beachy Head Lighthouse in England, which was built in 1870 and is the oldest working lighthouse in the world. The light beam shines out to sea for eighteen hours a day, which helps guide ships away from danger. The light hasn’t been adapted for modern use, which is why it’s still emitting its original white light. The story centers around Chrissie, Darwin’s great-granddaughter, who sets out to restore the lighthouse after her father’s death. For years, she’s tried to get funding for the project, but to no avail. When Robert Pattinson arrives on the scene, she decides to let him help her in her quest for justice and equality for women.