Hollywood Stars That You Didn't Know Got Their Start in Horror Movies

Leonardo DiCaprio (Josh) on the right posing next to one of the creatures from the movie Critters 3 (1991)

Well, it’s officially the Halloween season, which means it’s finally time to justifiably watch all of those iconically cliché horror movies. What we did find surprising is that many extremely well-known and highly acclaimed actors got their big-screen debut in scary movies—even Matthew McConaughey, who starred alongside Renee Zellweger in 1994's Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation! So for all of you movie (and horror) fans out there, we compiled a short list of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars who got their start in scary movies. 

Stephen King's 3 Levels of Horror

Johnny Depp - A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp) in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Before he was trimming hedges with his scissorhands or captaining the Black Pearl, Johnny Depp started off his career in one of the genre’s best movies of that decade. In Wes Craven’s 1984 classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Depp plays young Glen Lantz before he falls to the will of Freddy Krueger, providing one of the most memorable death scenes in the movie. 


Jennifer Aniston - Leprechaun (1993)

Tory Reding (Jennifer Aniston) and Nathan Murphy (Ken Olandt) in Leprechaun (1993)

Only a year before she took on her most iconic role as Rachel on the TV series Friends (1994-2004), Jennifer Aniston took on the role as lead heroine Tory Reding in the comedy horror movie Leprechaun (1993). Surprisingly, the movie pulled many sequels but was a project that Aniston wasn’t particularly proud of, hiding the fact that she took on the role from many of her friends and even her then-fiancé.


Paul Rudd - Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

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Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd) in Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

Long before he became an unlikely, yet highly amusing superhero, Rudd played a grown-up version of Tommy Doyle, the boy Laurie Strode babysat in the original Halloween (1978) movie. Ultimately, Rudd’s character becomes the hero as he "kills" Michael Myers (who can't be killed) at the end of the movie. 


Tom Hanks - He Knows You're Alone (1980)

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Nancy (Elizabeth Kemp) and Elliot (Tom Hanks) in He Knows You're Alone (1980)

In a movie that was (eerily) similar to the plot of Halloween, this move provided the big-screen debut to one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors. Recalling his audition, Hanks shared that the casting director indifferently decided, “We don't know who you're going to play, but you'll be in the movie.” He took on the role as Elliot, a lovable, friendly college student—a perfect fit for Hanks. 


Charlize Theron - Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

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Eli’s Follower (Charlize Theron) in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

In a much-forgotten sequel to one of the genre’s corniest (no pun intended) franchise of movies, you'll catch a glimpse of a young Charlize Theron as one of the followers of the creepy cult. Although it was a minor role, this landed her a career in acting that would eventually lead her to an Oscar® for Best Actress in Monster (2003).


Leonardo DiCaprio - Critters 3 (1991)

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Annie (Aimee Brooks) and Josh (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Critters 3 (1991)

Six years before he stole our hearts in Titanic (1997), we find a little Leo DiCaprio in the third installment of Critters. In a low-budget, Gremlins-esque horror movie, we find DiCaprio alongside other Los Angeles apartment tenants as they join forces to fight off an alien invasion of mischievous, carnivorous furballs.