Have you ever been sitting there watching your favorite old movie or binging a TV show when suddenly you spot a familiar face? "Is that who I think it is?" you wonder as you bring up the film's IMDB page. Sure enough, it's a celebrity who now struts down red carpets playing a tiny role. Everyone had to start somewhere! This is super common if you look closely at TV series and movies from the 80s and 90s. People who are now the world's biggest stars had bit parts to get their faces out there in Hollywood or appeared as kids alongside other famous faces. There is nothing more fun than stumbling across a discovery like this! While it may seem like some celebs become famous out of nowhere, that's definitely not the case. Most stars have to slog through tons of smaller roles like those described below to build their resumes before they land their first big part. For example, did you know that a young Ryan Gosling appeared on your scary childhood favorite Are You Afraid of the Dark? Or that Alexander Skarsgard was one of the male models in Zoolander? Keep reading for more early roles of today's biggest celebs!
18 Adam Scott in Boy Meets World
If you're a 90s kid like me, you probably loved Boy Meets World. The wholesome family sitcom followed Cory Matthews and his family and friends as they navigated suburban life and the perils of growing up. Like many kids, Cory and his best friend Shawn encountered a group of bullies at school. We didn't realize it back then, but did you know that the second leader of the bullies, Griff Hawkins, was played by the hilarious Adam Scott? The Parks and Recreation star, who has gone on to star in tons of comedy films, played the school baddy who actually arranges a fight between one of his goons and Cory. It's hard to imagine Adam playing an actual villain after seeing him in so many funny roles, but this early role definitely shows his range as an actor!
17 Lin-Manuel Miranda in The Sopranos
Before he became a worldwide phenomenon for songwriting, Lin-Manuel Miranda was struggling to make it big in the entertainment business. For that reason, he found work where he could while still trying to get his face and name out there. In an episode of the last season of The Sopranos, the main characters visit a hotel in Florida when they are trying to lay low. And who should briefly appear as a bellhop but Mr. Miranda?! He has one line and is in the show for about 30 seconds. If he wasn't famous today, you'd never even remember this character interaction happening. Lucky for us, he soon went on to pen his first hit show In the Heights, followed of course by the smash Broadway hit Hamilton. And the movie Moana would probably sound much different without Lin-Manuel's music!
16 Jason Segel in Can't Hardly Wait
Jason Segel has kept us laughing and feeling all the emotions in the book for years now. While many people know him best for playing Marshall on How I Met Your Mother, he has also appeared as the big softie character in a number of other shows and movies. As a young man, he played his breakout role as Nick in the cult favorite Freaks and Geeks, followed by the goofy college comedy series Undeclared. He really became a household name, though, after appearing in the hilarious film hits Knocked Up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But before all this stardom, Segel played his first role in the 90s teen classic Can't Hardly Wait. Remember those stoners sitting outside at the party eating watermelon and talking about Velma from Scooby-Doo? Look closer and you'll see that one is a wee Jason Segel!
15 Jennifer Lawrence in Monk
Jennifer Lawrence is one of the most famous and lauded actresses in Hollywood today. She burst onto the show biz scene when she starred in the film Winter's Bone, followed by tons of critically-acclaimed roles like those in American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook, and Joy. Many of us first fell in love with the funny, relatable, and talented star when she starred as Katniss in the Hunger Games movie series, but played a bunch of bit parts to help build her resume and acting skills. The star's first credit is in an episode of Monk, where she played a high school mascot for a basketball team that Monk coaches. Lawrence was a teen at the time and looked majorly mid-00s, a far cry from the glamorous queen we see on red carpets today.
14 Michelle Williams in Home Improvement
Michelle Williams is everywhere these days. Her quiet, sweet personality is countered by her amazing and emotional performances in films year after year. We also see a lot of her at events with her BFF and fellow Dawson's Creek alum Busy Philipps. But before she starred in the classic teen series and way before her roles in movies like My Week With Marilyn and Brokeback Mountain, the star was doing small parts on TV shows as a young teen. She played lots of these roles before hitting it big as Jen on Dawson's Creek, but one notable appearance is on the family favorite Home Improvement. The actress played the family's oldest son Brad's date in one episode, where she has to reassure him that she still wants to go out even though he has a pimple. What a difference from Manchester By The Sea!
13 Ryan Gosling in Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Canadian heartthrob Ryan Gosling has kept women and men alike swooning for over a decade. When he starred alongside real-life flame and fellow Canadian Rachel McAdams in The Notebook, the model for an ideal man was forever changed. But before he became a hottie leading man and talented actor, Gosling was a child actor in his native Great White North. Long before his roles in movies like Drive and La La Land, the star appeared in kids' and teen shows, with his first credit ever in an episode of the spooky series Are You Afraid of the Dark? He played an eerie kid who is obsessed with death and discovers a radio station that can take its listeners to the afterlife. Fun fact: 90s icon Gilbert Gotfried also appeared in the same episode!
12 Ben Affleck in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Long before he became an award-winning actor, writer, director, and producer, Ben Affleck was a California kid who dreamed of breaking into show business. He appeared in a lot of small roles as a youngster, including the science classroom staple The Voyage of the Mimi and even an ABC Afterschool Special about a boy who tries to help his single mom find love. But one place you may have seen this celeb where he wasn't even credited was on the 90s cult teen show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In one episode, Affleck appears as a high school basketball player. Even though he isn't credited, it's undeniably Affleck! It's crazy to think that someone of his level of fame would ever accept a job where he wasn't credited.
11 James Franco in Never Been Kissed
James Franco is one of the most polarizing celebrities on Earth. You either love his goofy, bad boy style or think he's a total idiot. But no one can deny that he works super hard. Besides appearing in tons of movies and TV shows year after year, Franco also fits charity work, modeling, writing, directing, teaching, and art into his schedule. One of the most versatile actors in Hollywood, this guy has had success in both comedic roles (like Pineapple Express and This Is The End) and serious parts (like 127 Hours and Milk). Long before he became a household name, though, this heartthrob made his film debut in the teen movie classic Never Been Kissed. Though we love to swoon over him as popular guy Jason when we rewatch the film now, this was before his breakout role playing Daniel in Freaks and Geeks.
10 Paul Rudd in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Paul Rudd is a rare breed in Hollywood. He's genuinely funny, a talented actor, and conventionally attractive. What a catch! He's been keeping us laughing for years now in films like Wet Hot American Summer and This Is 40 as well as playing Ant-Man in the recent Marvel movies. We all know that he played Cher's ex-stepbrother Josh in the movie Clueless, but did you know that Rudd also appeared in a horror film the same year? The actor starred in 1995's Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. It's hard to imagine such a funny celeb playing a serious role in a scary movie, but every actor has to start somewhere! Next Halloween, pop this film in to get your scares and to see a young, babe-licious Paul Rudd!
9 John Krasinski in Jarhead
John Krasinski has a great range as an actor. Most of us know him as Jim on The Office, but he has also appeared in more serious roles like in the films A Quiet Place and 13 Hours. Right before he hit it big on one of everyone's favorite shows, though, Krasinski played a small role in the war movie Jarhead. As Corporal Harrigan, the actor shed his signature luxurious hair for a close-cropped military cut and played a well-read Marine. Though the part was not big, it surely contributed to Krasinski landing other parts in action films later on in his career. His range of roles is so wide, everyone should honestly say they are a fan of this celeb; he does something for everyone!
8 Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Angels in the Outfield
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is everywhere these days. Whether you like action movies, comedies, or serious films, he's there on the screen. As a teen, he appeared as an alien in the 90s series Third Rock From The Sun. Since then, he's played a wide range of roles in films that both critics and audiences love. Some of his most popular roles as of late have been in Looper, Inception, and 50/50. But long before he had a resume the length of my arm, this cutie starred as Roger Bomman in the childhood favorite Angels in the Outfield. Though this was far from his first role, it's definitely the first movie I remember seeing him in. At just 13 years old, Gordon-Levitt held his own alongside more seasoned actors like Danny Glover and Christopher Lloyd.
7 Gwyneth Paltrow in Hook
Gwyneth Paltrow was born into a show business family, so it's no surprise that she got her acting start at an early age. Long before she showed off her acting chops in Shakespeare in Love and the Marvel universe movies, Paltrow appeared as Young Wendy in a little film called Hook. This twist on the classic Peter Pan tale featuring a grown-up version of the character was packed with talented actors including Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, and Maggie Smith. Though her role was small, this movie surely helped Paltrow network her way into better parts later in her career. It's kind of hard to believe that this waifish little girl would turn into the model, spokeswoman, cookbook author, and lifestyle blogger that she is today!
6 Jake Gyllenhaal in City Slickers
Oh, Jake Gyllenhaal. He is one of the most swoon-worthy actors in Hollywood and arguably one of the most talented as well. His work has helped him earn nominations for tons of awards including Oscars, BAFTAs, and Golden Globes. The heartthrob has made us laugh, cry, and gasp in films like Brokeback Mountain, Nightcrawler, and Donnie Darko. Because he is the child of a director and a producer/screenwriter, it's no wonder that Gyllenhaal started his acting career as a little kid. At the ripe old age of 11 he played Billy Crystal's son in the movie City Slickers. It's hard to recognize him without the beard! His adorable looks and snappy dialogue delivery should have clued us in that Gyllenhaal was destined for greatness.
5 Elijah Wood in Back to the Future Part II
Another Hollywood cutie who started working as just a tot is Elijah Wood. Though most of us know him as Frodo Baggins from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Wood actually played many roles before that. His first ever acting credit, a blink and you'll miss it tiny part, was in Back To The Future Part II. At just 8 years old, the actor played a young boy in the future sequence playing a video game in the diner. He looks absolutely precious in his futuristic gear! Though he only had one line, Wood looked adorable and acting alongside Michael J. Fox probably wasn't bad for his career, either. The next time you're having a Marty McFly marathon, keep your eyes peeled for one of today's most revered actors!
4 Alexander Skarsgard in Zoolander
Swedish hottie Alexander Skarsgard first stole many of our hearts in the vampire drama series True Blood. But that was far from his first role. After doing a bit of acting as a youngster in his native Sweden, Skarsgard moved on to American roles. One of his first parts here was in the hilarious Ben Stiller comedy Zoolander. Remember Zoolander's brood of not-so-smart male model roommates? This actor played the blonde one, Meekus! It is hard to imagine him playing such a goofy part after seeing him in more serious roles, but that was the perfect way to build his resume and show off his good looks. He's certainly moved up in the world nowadays with parts on Big Little Lies and The Legend of Tarzan!
3 Johnny Depp in Nightmare on Elm Street
Mega babe Johnny Depp has been making hearts flutter for decades now. He's one of the few guys in Hollywood that you and your mom probably both love. As hard as it is to believe, Depp actually got started late in show business. He's in about a billion movies these days, but he didn't earn his first acting credit until 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street. The then 21 year old portrayed Glen Lantz, one of the teens terrorized by Freddy Krueger. Because he loves to appear in weird and spooky films like Dark Shadows and Edward Scissorhands, it's really no surprise that this acclaimed actor got his start in a horror classic. Who would have thought back then that he would go on to be an Oscar nominee?
2 Kerry Washington in Save the Last Dance
Style icon and super cool lady Kerry Washington always looks like a queen. Before she became the iconic Olivia Pope on Scandal and showed off her chops on Boston Legal, Washington appeared in a little film called Save the Last Dance. She played the street smart Chenille, who taught the super sheltered Sara (played by Julia Stiles) how to get by in Chicago. Though some might want to brush this movie off as a teen drama, it allowed Washington to show off just how great of an actress she is. Her ability to show a wide range of emotions and make the viewers feel them too definitely helped her get her bigger, more famous roles. Next time you have a girl's night, break out this classic to enjoy this awesome woman before she was a household name.
1 Sandra Oh in The Princess Diaries
Sandra Oh graced us with her talent and beauty for nearly a decade on the series Grey's Anatomy. But before we all knew her as Dr. Cristina Yang, you may have seen this Canadian actress in a less serious role. Remember the sassy Vice Principal Gupta in The Princess Diaries? That's her, arguing about punishments with the queen Julie Andrews! Though she had been acting for 12 years prior to her role in the film, appearing alongside Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews is surely one of the reasons she hit it big a few years later. This woman has done it all, honestly. From kids' shows to family films, dramas to comedies, you can spot her in a lot of unexpected places. She's even done a bunch of voice work!