10 Great Actors Who Had Early Roles In Bad Horror Movies

Every actor has to start somewhere, right? While some make a positive impression on audiences with their very first movies, there are others who have early acting roles in what can only be described as stinkers! And so it is with the actors on this list. They have all gone on to have very successful acting careers, despite starring in poorly made and forgettable horror movies at a time when they were looking for their big break.

Have you seen any of these movies? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below.

Paul Rudd

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

In 1978, Jamie Lee Curtis had an early starring role in John Carpenter’s Halloween, which proved that not every horror movie has to be a blight on an actor’s career resume.

The same wasn’t true for Paul Rudd, however, who in this movie, played a grown-up version of Tommy Doyle, the boy that Laurie Strode babysat in the first title. This is undoubtedly the worst picture he has ever starred in and for most people, ranks as the worst movie in the long-running Halloween franchise

Rudd manages to turn in a decent acting performance as Doyle, the Haddonfield resident who protects the life of a neighbour on Halloween night when Michael Myers returns to town. But the movie itself is a mess, with a muddled script that links Myers to a weird ancient cult, and a lack of scares in a movie that should have been full of them. Rudd’s career wasn’t cursed by this hopeless horror flick but it’s still a movie best left dead and buried, just like Michael Myers himself who has long since past his prime. 

Leonardo DiCaprio

Critters 3 (1991)

The original Critters movie was made off the back of Gremlins, the box office smash of 1984 that still stands as one of the best comedy horror movies ever made. None of the movies in the Critters franchise had the same amount of success, and the only notable thing about this third entry is the movie acting debut of Leo who stars as a young boy battling the alien furballs of the title. 

DiCaprio’s career wasn’t damaged by this monstrous misfire as he wisely took on more respectable roles in the years following this movie’s release. This Boy’s Life, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Romeo + Juliet, and Marvin’s Room are just a few of the celebrated pictures that he starred in before the decade was out. 

Angela Bassett

Critters 4 (1992)

In 1994, Angela Bassett received an Oscar nomination for her role as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It. She lost out to Holly Hunter who won the award for her role in The Piano but the lack of a win didn’t affect Bassett’s career as her performance as Turner showed the world what she was capable of as an actress. 

Two years before her Oscar-nominated role she starred in Critters 4 as a space pilot who manages to avoid being put on the Critters’ lunch menu when they awake from cryogenic suspension. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t receive any award nominations for her part in this film, but she is ‘simply the best’ thing about this lame movie that mercifully didn’t gobble up her career chances. 

Jack Black

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)

Jack Black is well-known for his starring roles in such hit movies as School of Rock, High Fidelity, Kung Fu Panda, and Jumanji. He is a much-loved actor who delights audiences in nearly every movie he stars in although there are some titles on his resume that are probably best avoided.

Despite early starring roles in such respectable movies as Bob Roberts and Dead Man Walking, he also appeared in a lot of bad pictures, including the abysmal Pauly Shore comedy Bio-Dome and this sequel to a lame 90s slasher movie that is only slightly better than this poor effort.

Black stars as Titus, an employee at a Bahaman resort where a series of murders takes place. He doesn’t give a bad performance, but like the characters he sells weed to in the film, we imagine he must have been high when he decided to star in this misfiring slasher movie.

Jennifer Aniston

Leprechaun (1993)

A year before Jennifer Aniston starred in the hit TV sitcom Friends she was making an early appearance in this terrible horror movie. She plays Tory, a gun-toting teen who is forced to face off against an evil, sadistic leprechaun (Warwick Davis) that goes on a killing rampage during its hunt for a pot of gold. 

This wasn’t the only bad movie Aniston acted in at the start of her career. Her first movie appearance was in Mac and Me, a cheap and cheerless ET clone that was more of a marketing tool for MacDonald’s than a fun alien movie for all the family. 

Thankfully, Aniston’s career went uphill after her roles in these early pictures. The same can’t be said of the Leprechaun franchise which went from bad to worse with each risible entry.

Renée Zellweger

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)

One of the scariest horror movies of the 70s was Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which likely deterred many road trippers from wandering through deserted Texas houses in fear of chainsaw-wielding maniacs.

Several sequels followed that dark-as-hell movie, including this fourth movie in the franchise that gave early roles to Matthew McConaughey, who had his breakout role in Dazed and Confused the year before, and Zelwegger, who had an uncredited part in that coming-of-age movie.

This horror sequel isn’t as bad as some of the other movies on this list but it’s still far removed from the 1974 original in terms of sinister atmosphere and decent writing. Zelwegger is quite good in her role as Jenny, one of the unsuspecting teens who stumble upon Leatherface and his cannibalistic family. But in the years following, she starred in better movies more worthy of her acting talents, including Jerry Maguire in 1996, and the first Bridget Jones movie in 2001 for which she will always be most fondly remembered. 

George Clooney

Return To Horror High (1987)

A decade before Oscar-winning actor George Clooney starred in the second worst movie of his career – the headache-inducing Batman & Robin – he appeared in this spoof slasher film as a mullet-wearing policeman. His character is called upon to investigate the gruesome murders that are taking place on a film set at the abandoned Crippen High but the real crime is the bad scriptwriting which fails to provide scenes that tickle the funny bone. 

This wasn’t the only bad horror movie Clooney starred in during the 80s. One of his earlier film roles was in Grizzly II: The Revenge, a sequel that also has early acting credits for Laura Dern, Charlie Sheen, and John Rhys-Davies. He later starred in another lame horror comedy, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, before starring in a more accomplished movie within the horror genre, From Dusk Till Dawn, that helped to cement his Hollywood career. 

Clint Eastwood

Revenge Of The Creature (1955)

If we were to go ahead and make your day, we would recommend a Dirty Harry marathon for your weekend viewing, or a day spent watching the Man With No Name spaghetti western trilogy that propelled Eastwood’s career. If we wanted to ruin your day, we would recommend this disappointing sequel to Creature From the Black Lagoon that, while not completely awful, is still one of the weakest 50s B-pictures that were a big hit back in their day.

The movie marks the acting debut of Eastwood, who stars in an uncredited role as a lab technician who accuses a test subject cat of eating a lab rat. He then finds the rat in his pocket and presumably feels as sorry for his mistake as Eastwood did when he agreed to star in this film.

Eastwood went on to have a long and varied career so his first picture didn’t derail his career. He went on to star in a better creature feature, 1955’s Tarantula, and a few other cheap B-movies before making a name for himself in the Western genre. 

Brad Pitt

Cutting Class (1989)

Following an appearance in the Nightmare On Elm Street spin-off TV series Freddy’s Nightmares, Brad Pitt took another role within the horror genre when he starred in this black comedy slasher film that is a spoof of the high school horror flicks that were popular at the time.

We don’t imagine many teenagers cut class to see this D-grade effort, however, unless they were fans of heartthrob Pitt after seeing him in Head of the Class, Growing Pains, and the other television shows that he starred in during the early days of his career.

A few years after Pitt starred in this tongue-in-cheek whodunnit, he made a better acting impression in 1991’s Thelma and Louise where he proved he was more than just a pretty face. True Romance, 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, and many other acclaimed movies followed before the ’90s was out, and in the years since, he has gone on to become one of the most popular actors in Hollywood.

Nobody would have guessed his success after seeing Cutting Class, however, which remains one of the worst movies he has made in his long career. 

Tom Hanks

He Knows You’re Alone (1980)

In his feature film debut, Thomas Hanks (as he was credited at the time), stars as a student named Elliot who questions the claims of the movie’s protagonist that she is being stalked by a killer.

If we had gone back in time and spoken to you during the time of this movie’s release and told you that Hanks would go on to have an illustrious career, you would probably have questioned our claims too!

He Knows You’re Alone is one of many American slasher films that were made during the 80s and it’s undoubtedly one of the worst. Hanks made a better impression in the 1982 TV movie Mazes ‘n’ Monsters which capitalized on the Dungeons and Dragons craze of the time, but it was his role in 1984’s Splash that really showed the world what he was capable of as a performer.

Hank’s career took a bit of a dip in the years following, but he hit the big time again in 1988 when he starred in the aptly titled Big which helped him secure Hollywood stardom.

Which of these horror movies have you seen? Have you seen any other famous actors in terrible flicks like these? Let us know in the comments below.


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