Promotional portrait of Jennifer Aniston for 'Friends,' 1995. 1999 Jamie Lee Curtis In The Movie "Virus." Matthew McConaughey.

Before many actors made it big, their first shot on the big screen began in a horror movie. Some of our favorite actors who starred in some laughable excuses for horror flicks went on to become some of the most world-renowned actors of all time. However, to see them in such a raw state can be just as entertaining as a critically acclaimed film.

Many people don’t know that Leonardo DiCaprio’s very first movie role was as Josh in Critters 3 in 1991. The movie was a direct-to-video release. It also happens to be the only sequel Leo has ever taken part in. The following year, he appeared in another horror film alongside Drew Barrymore titled Poison Ivy. DiCaprio commented on his first film role, stating: “I admit I’ve done a few lousy roles in the beginning of my career, like my role in Critters 3. But at that age, you’ll do anything for attention!” Two years later, he landed his breakout role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

Then, Angela Bassett took a shot at the Critters franchise, appearing in the fourth installment, which was filmed simultaneously with DiCaprio’s. Unlike Leo, she was already an adult trying to get her big break in the entertainment industry. Though 1992’s Critters 4 was even worse than the third one, Bassett thankfully made a statement with Boyz n the Hood, which came out the same year. Bassett didn’t get her fill of horror flicks, going on to star in two horror films in 1995: Strange Days with Ralph Fiennes, then in Vampire in Brooklyn with Eddie Murphy.

1995 ANGELA BASSETT IN VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, 7 Actors Who Starred In Horror Movies Before They Got Famous

The same year he starred in Clueless, Paul Rudd also starred in a horrible horror sequel: Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers. Just two months after Clueless premiered in 1995, Rudd starred as the grown-up version of Tommy Doyle in this confusing Halloween sequel.

Before Brad Pitt oozed sex appeal in 1999’s Fight Club as Tyler Durden, he starred in this comical slasher flick a decade prior called Cutting Class. His character’s name is Dwight Ingalls in the “whodunit” movie that takes place in a high school. Young Brad’s Dwight is one of the suspects/potential victims.

Take a look below at 7 actors who starred in horror before fame:

  • Jennifer Aniston

    Aniston’s first acting credits were in television shows that were quickly cancelled in 1990. Three years later, she starred in her first movie. At 24 years old, Aniston starred as Tory Redding in the comical horror film Leprechaun. She has expressed embarrassment over her role saying, “There’s loads of movies where you’re thinking: ‘Oh god, this is just… how am I going to survive this in my future?’ And then it’s a cult… ‘something’ because it’s so embarrassing.” Aniston shared that when she and Justin Theroux were dating, they watched the movie together, and she found it tough to watch. As cringe as Leprechaun was for Jen, it did lead to her her breakout role as Rachel in Friends for the next ten years.

  • Johnny Depp

    In the first installment in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Depp set the high bar of being a hottie in a horror film. In the 1984 classic slasher film, who could forget that Johnny wore that cropped football jersey?! When crop tops became a thing in recent years, photos of young Johnny in this film circulated online having women gushing over the sex appeal of a man being able to pull it off. However, his character in the film was famously eaten by the bed, so we didn’t see him for long in the film. Depp would go on and star in some of our favorite dark and horror films in his career, including Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Edward Scissorhands.

  • Tom Hanks

    The critically-acclaimed actor had a long way to go before reaching success as an actor. Eight years before Hanks made his first big splash in 1988’s Big, his very first role was starring in a horror slasher film. Titled He Knows You’re Alone, Hanks shows off his charisma in a small role as a psychology college student named Elliot. This film has been referenced to as a Halloween knockoff, sharing many similarities with the classic horror series. The plot follows a woman who is stalked by a killer targeting soon-to-be brides the weekend before her wedding.

  • Matthew McConaughey

    Before Matthew McConaughey became our beloved “Rust” in True Detective, the actor starred in a 1995 sequel in the Texas Chainsaw series. He starred alongside another newcomer to the acting scene, Renee Zellweger in The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre which was later re-edited and re-titled two years later to Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. McConaughey played the role of a villain named Vilmer Slaughter, working together with Leatherface. He made his film debut in Dazed and Confused a year prior, but wasn’t widely recognized yet.

  • Jamie Lee Curtis

    The “Scream Queen” that we all know and love followed in her mother's footsteps. Janet Leigh famously met a grisly end in the shower in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic horror film, Psycho. Curtis made her film debut as Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). The film was a major success and was the highest-grossing independent film of its time, earning accolades as a classic horror film. Since then, Curtis has reprised the role for over forty years in sequels Halloween II (1981), Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), Halloween: Resurrection (2002), Halloween (2018), Halloween Kills (2021), and Halloween Ends (2022). Curtis landed other horror roles in films like 1980’s The Fog, Prom Night and Terror Train and 1981’s Roadgames. And of course, she recently won an Oscar for her role in Everything Everywhere All At Once.

  • Elizabeth Olsen

    Before the youngest Olsen sister became Marvel’s Wanda Maximoff, she made her film debut in 2011 in Silent House. Olsen starred as Sarah, who is working with her father and uncle to renovate an old family home to prepare it for sale. Long vacant, the house has no utilities, forcing the trio to rely on battery-operated lanterns to light their way. Sarah becomes separated from her relatives and soon finds she is trapped inside the cabin, with no contact with the outside world. The movie premiered at Sundance at the same time as the thriller Martha Marcy May Marlene, which earned her critical acclaim.

  • Anya Taylor-Joy

    Anya Taylor-Joy’s very first film credit was as Thomasin in the acclaimed folk horror film, A24’s The Witch in 2015. Set in 1630s New England; its plot follows a Puritan family who encounters forces of evil in the woods beyond their farm. She received critical acclaim at just 18 years old and went on to star in the horror film Split a year later, and its sequel Glass (2019), before landing her most widely recognized roles in Emma, The Queen’s Gambit, and The Menu.

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