Have a craving to watch a horror movie, but don’t know what to choose? We have you covered! Though horror movies don’t usually win prestigious awards (The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby being a few exceptions, both winning Oscars), that doesn’t mean big name famous actors haven’t had a few roles in these films.
Some famous actors indeed starred in low-budget horror movies before they were famous. These are often their very first roles and they used them as stepping stones to gain footing in the film industry. Other actors are willing to step into the horror genre long after they’ve proven themselves in the business, and are often a part of the higher-budget flicks.
Read on for our list of 10 horror movies featuring your favorite actors. You may even be surprised by a few of the famous actors and their early horror roles. There’s a good mix of low-budget movies and high-quality films. Some can even currently be found on Netflix and other streaming services.
10. Watch Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween
Like many of the actors on this list, Jamie Lee Curtis‘ very first role was in a horror movie. In this case, she had the lead role in the 1978 horror classic, Halloween. As Laurie Strode, she battled with the escaped mental patient and tenacious murderer of promiscuous teens, Michael Myers. The events of the movie happen over the course of one day–Halloween–making it a perfect movie to watch during the Halloween holiday season. Jamie did such a good job in this first role that she became known as the “Scream Queen” and starred in several other horror movies in the years following its release, including Prom Night and The Fog. She has also reprised her role as Laurie Strode in many Halloween sequels over the years.
9. Watch Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th is one of the most famous horror movie franchises, and it all started with the first movie in 1980. In it, a group of twenty-somethings meet up at an old summer camp, Camp Crystal Lake, to help get it ready for the new season of campers. In true horror movie fashion, a psychotic killer is on the loose and no one is safe. Among the young people fixing up the camp is Kevin Bacon in one of his very first roles. We won’t spoil the movie for you, but he has a very interesting scene in the bunk house. Later in his career, Kevin starred in another horror movie: 1999’s Stir of Echoes.
8. Watch Naomi Watts in The Ring
While most of the actors on this list had their horror movies at the beginning of their careers, that’s not the case for Naomi Watts. Though most Americans first met her in the 2002 horror movie, The Ring, she was already an accomplished actress well known by British and Australian audiences. But, with The Ring, she was introduced to the world. Fans love the unique and modern aspect to this ghost story: anyone who watches a haunted VHS tape will die in seven days. Watch this movie if you’d like to see if–and and–Naomi can stop the ghostly threat before the seven days are up. This role won Naomi several awards, including a Fangoria Chainsaw Award and a Hollywood Film Festival Award.
7. Watch Leonardo DiCaprio in Critters 3
You can’t get much cheesier than the Critters horror movie franchise. In this horror-comedy series, little furry ball-shaped aliens attack and eat just about anything–and anyone–in their way. Critters 3 had two things going for it: the critters were now attacking downtown Los Angeles, and it featured the film debut of young Leonardo DiCaprio. Before this, he had only been in small roles in a few TV shows. While Critters 3 didn’t exactly show off his skills, it was still a stepping stone. Leo told Express of his role, “I admit I’ve done a few lousy roles at the beginning of my career [Critters 3]. But at that age, you’ll do anything for attention.”
6. Watch Jennifer Aniston in Leprechaun
Before she ever stepped foot on the Friends’ Central Perk set, Jennifer Aniston had to get through all the little low-budget roles to prove herself in the acting world. Her very first onscreen role was the epitome of B-movie horror: the 1993 cheesy horror-comedy Leprechaun. Jennifer and her costars had to dodge the murderous rage of a rampaging leprechaun, all while trying to stay alive. Since this was Jennifer’s first role, she was relatively unknown at the time. Since then, though, she has become an A-list star. Because of this, the producers are cashing in by using Jennifer’s image–it now takes up most of the space on the DVD covers of Leprechaun.
5. Watch Johnny Depp in A Nightmare on Elm Street
During the beginning credits of A Nightmare on Elm Street, the first in the long-running horror franchise, you’ll see something special: “Introducing Johnny Depp.” Yep, the first Freddy Kreuger movie has the distinction of being the Golden Globe winner’s first movie role. Not only that, but he has a large role in the film as the main character Nancy’s boyfriend, Glen. He sports a fresh face, belly shirts and fluffy feathered hair as he helps Nancy try to stay awake and defeat the fire-deformed nightmare killer. The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise is well-known for its creative death scenes, and this one’s no exception.
4. Watch Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
Some movies are just terrible, despite having an all-star cast. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is one of those movies. It has a 17% Rotten Tomato rating and it only grossed just over $90,000 at the box office compared to the $600,000 film budget. While it had a wide cinematic release in 1997, it was actually filmed and first released in small theaters in 1994. What’s the difference between these years? Two of the film’s actors, Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey, were well-known names in 1997, but not 1994. Between those release dates, Renee starred in Jerry Maguire and Matthew starred in A Time to Kill. Despite Matthew trying to halt the re-release, it came out again in 1997 with extra billing for its new stars. Still, all that publicity and rebranding didn’t help this terrible movie make any more money. Watch this if you want to see these two Oscar-winning actors prove that acting talent can’t save a bad script and terrible direction.
3. Watch Brad Pitt in Cutting Class
The 1980s was a great time for horror movies. One of the most popular sub-genres was the slasher horror movie, especially when the killer is a mystery that’s only revealed at the end of the movie. Cutting Class, a 1989 slasher horror with a comedic edge, is one of those movies. A teenaged girl is getting terrorized at her high school, and she needs to figure out who in her life could be the killer. One important person on her list of suspects? Her boyfriend, Dwight, played by Brad Pitt. This was one of his very first movie roles and he reportedly got paid only $12,000 for the work, according to IMDB.
2. Watch Sarah Michelle Gellar in The Grudge
Like The Ring on this list, The Grudge was an American remake of a Japanese horror movie. Rather than setting it in America, however, it kept its Japanese setting and many of the original Japanese actors. One American addition to the list of actors for this 2004 film was Sarah Michelle Gellar. Her character is tasked with figuring out the origins of a trio of angry ghosts haunting the house of her elder-care client. Now that she stepped foot in the house, she’s haunted, too! Sarah is no stranger to horror movies, though. Unlike other actors on this list, she didn’t shy away from the genre. You can also see her in I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Return and Scream 2.
1. Watch George Clooney in Return to Horror High
Before Academy Award-winning actor and director George Clooney became known for his serious roles and rugged good looks, he started his career on less substantial roles. One of those roles was in the 1987 horror spoof movie Return to Horror High. In the movie, a film crew is making a movie in an old high school that was once the site of a series of murders. George plays an actor in the movie who’s playing a cop in the movie-within-a-movie. Confusing, right? Later on in his career, he starred in another horror movie: the 1996 Quentin Tarantino-written flick From Dusk Till Dawn.