The horror genre has a reputation for being low budget and unsophisticated. The blood, guts, and cheap scares aren’t usually winning any big Hollywood awards, but they still have their place, and usually a huge cult fan base. There are some big directors like Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, John Carpenter, Alfred Hitchcock, and George A. Romero who made the the horror genre what it is today.
Characters in horror films usually aren’t around for long. Except for franchise regulars like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, most characters are killed off at some point. That means it’s the perfect role for young actors looking to get some experience and break into the business. Not to mention, acting terrified isn’t easy, and it takes at least a bit of real acting skill.
These days, horror has become a lot more mainstream and even made its way into TV with series like MTV’s Scream and FX’s American Horror Story. Emma Roberts is one young actress who has made a name for herself in the latter, and the experience and exposure is sure to open her up to more projects in different genres. Here are 15 other celebs who got their start in horror movies.
15. Johnny Depp – A Nightmare on Elm Street
Johnny Depp is a certified A-lister these days thanks to huge roles in films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Edward Scissorhands, and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. But his first major film role was as Glen Lantz, the boyfriend of heroine Nancy Thompson in the very first A Nightmare on Elm Street. He made it half way through the film, only to fall asleep and be killed by Freddy Krueger in the unforgettable scene where he’s pulled through his own mattress and a geyser of blood shoots out drenching the ceiling and entire room in red.
14. Chloe Grace Moretz – The Amityville Horror
It’s hard to believe Chloe Grace Moretz is only 18-years-old because it seems like she’s been around forever. When she was eight she appeared in the remake of The Amityville Horror alongside Ryan Reynolds. Although it was only her second film role ever, she was nominated for a Young Artist Award. She went on to more TV roles and eventually landed the part of Hit Girl in Kick-Ass which showed that she was a lot more than just an innocent child star. At the age of 13 she was called the “busiest actress in Hollywood” and she’s currently working on Neighbors 2 with Zac Efron and Seth Rogen.
13. George Clooney – Return to Horror High
Hard to believe George Clooney was ever anything but a successful A-lister. But in 1987, his very first film role was as a high school security guard in Return to Horror High. It’s about a film crew who goes to a high school to shoot a movie about a series of murders that happened there years earlier, but it looks like the killer never left. A year later, Clooney also landed a role in the horror comedy Return of the Killer Tomatoes! It wasn’t until 1994 that he got his big break in the TV drama ER as Dr. Doug Ross.
12. Kevin Bacon – Friday the 13th
Although his first major movie role was in National Lampoon’s Animal House, Kevin Bacon didn’t make it big until 1984’s Footloose. But in 1980, he was cast in the very first film in the Friday the 13th franchise. His character Jack is a camp counselor who is killed when a mysterious murderer shoves an arrow through his chest from below. He doesn’t even see it coming. The killer tuns out the be Mrs. Vorhees, a mother bent on getting revenge on camp counselors after they let her son Jason drown while at camp. The franchise went on do add 12 more films and Kevin Bacon became a huge star.
11. Ryan Phillippe – Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare
You probably remember Ryan Phillippe from one of his first big movie roles, I Know What You Did Last Summer, but before that he was in a Fox Network TV movie called Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like– a family is trapped inside their home and terrorized by a swarm of killer bees and they have to find a way to survive. An insect version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Birds. The movie wasn’t very well received to say the least. But luckily Phillippe’s parts in I Know What You Did Last Summer and Cruel Intentions not long after put him on the map.
10. Brad Pitt- Cutting Class
Brad Pitt had a few TV roles in shows like Dallas, 21 Jump Street and Growing Pains before he landed a few movies roles. But his first movie to ever hit theaters was 1989 horror film Cutting Class. It’s classified as a slasher film and dark comedy and Pitt plays one of the main characters, Dwight, the popular guy. Throughout the movie, you think Dwight might actually be the killer, and his girlfriend thinks so too. Luckily, the entire movie is available on Youtube, so you can find out if it’s true for yourself. It wasn’t until 1991, that Pitt appeared in Thelma & Louise and his career finally started taking off.
9. Eva Mendes – Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror
Eva Mendes‘ first ever film role was in the straight to video fifth installment in the Children of the Corn franchise. She plays a teenager who is convinced by the cult of children who follow “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” to sacrifice herself to the God who dwells in the silo. Since it was only her first film role, she was understandably disappointed with her performance and decided to hire an acting coach. She also appeared in Urban Legends: Final Cut before getting her big break with a role in Training Day.
8. Demi Moore – Parasite
Demi Moore‘s first major role was in the 1982 film Parasite, which was in 3D before 3D became as popular as it is today. She played a young woman who was helping a scientist track down and destroy the killer parasite he was forced to create. Her husband at the time, Freddy Moore, also appeared in the movie. It’s a true B-movie and has an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Luckily, Moore later went on to land a part in General Hospital, and then a few film roles before her big break in 1985’s St. Elmo’s Fire.
7. Leonardo Dicaprio – Critters 3
We all know Leonardo Dicaprio was a child star before he became a heartthrob thanks to Romeo + Juliet and Titanic, and an Oscar contender thanks to Martin Scorsese. But his very first film role ever was as Josh, the son of an evil landlord in Critters 3. Dicaprio himself has described the role as “your average, no-depth standard kid with blond hair.” The movie went straight to video, and Dicaprio didn’t return for the fourth and final installment. He became a recurring cast member on Growing Pains not long after, and his big break came with Robert De Niro cast him in This Boy’s Life in 1992.
6. Henry Cavill – Hellraiser: Hellworld
In the eighth installment of the Hellraiser franchise, Pinhead and his Cenobites return. Henry Cavill may be known as Superman now, but in the straight to DVD Hellraiser: Hell World, he’s just another horror movie victim who never really had a chance. He had small film roles before Hellraiser, the biggest one being The Count of Monte Cristo, but his big break came when he starred in Showtime’s The Tudors. He was almost cast as Edward in the Twilight series, and James Bond in Casino Royale, but lost both roles. In 2011, he finally hit it big when he was cast as Superman in Man of Steel.
5. Matthew McConaughey – Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
Matthew McConaughey stars alongside Renee Zellweger in this loose remake/sequel of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Zellweger is the innocent girl who has to find a way to survive after all this friends are killed by Leatherface, and McConaughey is Leatherface’s crazy, homicidal older brother, Vilmer Slaughter. McConaughey appeared in Dazed and Confused in 1993, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation was filmed in 1994 only to be shelved for a few years. It was re-cut and released in 1997 after McConaughey and Zellweger both became huge stars.
4. Charlize Theron – Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest
Charlize Theron originally wanted to be a ballet dancer, but had to give up on that because of a knee injury. She moved to L.A and landed her first film role in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest. It was the last film in the Children of the Corn franchise to get a theater release. Although it was a non-speaking role, it helped launch her career and help her get roles in bigger movies like The Devil’s Advocate and Mighty Joe Young. 2000 was her biggest year, with four feature films, and she was called the new “It” girl. Only three years later she won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in Monster.
3. Jennifer Aniston – Leprechaun
Of course Jennifer Aniston will always be known as Rachel Green from Friends, but before she landed that role she struggled through four TV shows that were canceled early on. In 1993 she starred in the horror comedy Leprechaun, which is about, you guessed it, a killer leprechaun. Although it got bad reviews, it has become a cult favorite and was even named one of the top 10 scariest films for Halloween in a list on The Guardian. Luckily, Aniston was cast as Rachel shortly after Leprechaun came out so she wasn’t forced to appear in any sequels, or any other low-budget horror films for that matter.
2. Tom Hanks – He Knows You’re Alone
Tom Hanks‘ first ever film role was a small part in the 1980 slasher film He Knows You’re Alone which follows a soon-to-be bride who is stalked by a killer the weekend before her wedding. It is considered one of the first films to be inspired by the previous success of Halloween. A guest-appearance on Happy Days introduced Hanks to Ron Howard who was casting for the film Splash, about a mermaid who falls in love with a human. Hanks of course got the lead role and the rest is history.
1. Jamie Lee Curtis – Halloween
Last but not least, Jamie Lee Curtis made her film debut in John Carpenter‘s 1978 classic horror film, Halloween. Her character, Laurie Strode is considered one of the earliest examples of the “final girl” trope in horror films. Thanks to Halloween‘s immediate success, Curtis was cast in more horror movies, earning her the title of “scream queen”. Besides horror, she also had notable roles in films like True Lies and A Fish Called Wanda. But it was Halloween that launched her career out of nothing.