One thing was made crystal clear during NBC’s reunion special Saturday Night Live 40: the weekly sketch comedy show has launched an insane amount of massive movie stars. Many of them turned up as hosts, from Tom Hanks to Alec Baldwin. But others got their start as repertory players in the show’s cast, and used that exposure to kick start incredibly successful movie careers.

Usually, an SNL cast member tests the waters in an SNL movie. The Blues Brothers, Coneheads and Wayne’s World stand out as feature films that got their start on Saturday night. Not every SNL player who made the leap to the big screen managed to stay there. And some folks found movie success on their own, away from Saturday Night Live, even after logging a few years in front of or behind the camera on the incredibly well-received and long-running program.

Which explains why, when taking on the ridiculous task of ranking the greatest movie stars to emerge from the SNL scene, we eliminated incredible talents such as Ben Stiller, Billy Crystal, Chris Rock, Christopher Guest or Robert Downey Jr. All are enormous movie stars, and all have direct ties to the SNL community. But guys like Stiller and RDJ made their mark long after dabbling in SNL sketch comedy, and Rock’s more of a brilliant stand-up whose humor doesn’t always translate to movies. (Top Five aside.)

These are the 10 talents who took off while on Saturday Night Live, and used the show as a launch pad to have 10 of the most white-hot film careers the program has ever seen. (Note: This list was much harder to put together than I’d imagined, so I welcome your feedback on the rankings!)

Kristen Wiig
10. Kristen Wiig
Kristen Wiig currently has one HUGE movie under her belt (in Bridesmaids), one beloved cult classic (in Macgruber), and a boatload of impressive turns in a full range of experimental genres, from the coming-of-age comedies like Adventureland to the animated smash sequel Despicable Me 2. Kristen Wiig has an incredible versatility as a screen performer, and only just left SNL to give her movie career a full-time push. How big could she get? Well, Bridesmaids director Paul Feig just hired her to be a Ghostbuster, so yeah, the sky continues to be the limit for Ms. Wiig.

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