Horror films have always been a good starting point for actors trying to find their big breakthrough in Hollywood. Traditionally, acting has been looked down upon in horror films, especially in the 70s and 80s by the Hollywood elite, as it was considered just one step above acting in pornography. However, as we have seen throughout history, the horror genre was an important stepping stone in the careers of some of the most talented and famous actors of all time. Several actors made it from small appearances as extras in horror films to winning Best Actor at the Academy Awards. Check out these six high-profile actors who got their start in horror movies before getting their big breaks.
6 Jennifer Aniston – Leprechaun (1993)
Before Jennifer Aniston was Earn One Million Dollars Per Episode in possibly the most successful TV show of all time, Friends, her first major film role was the main character in the 1993 film Dwarf at just 24 years old. Dwarf had a budget of only $ 1 million dollars, and followed an evil, sadistic gnome (Warwick Davis) as he went on a deadly disaster while searching for his pot of gold. Although the film was not a huge success with its arrival, it became much more popular when Aniston in Friends, which inspires many viewers to go back and rent and buy the actress’ first film. Aniston would go on to win an outstanding actress Primetime Emmy for her role as Rachel in Friends, and has major roles in successful films such as Bruce Almighty, Horrible base, en We are the Millers.
5 Jared Leto – Urban Legend (1998)
Although Jared Leto had some big roles in small films before his appearance in Urban legend, his role in this 1998 slasher film showed the ability and scope that would land him in major films throughout his career. In Urban legend, Leto plays a university student who suspects a series of murders taking place are linked to a variety of different urban legends. He and his girlfriend Natalie (Alicia Witt) must work together to solve the mystery before they are killed themselves. Jared Leto would continue with his abominations in American Psycho (2000), then goes on to appear mostly in science fiction, drama and thriller films. In 2014, Leto won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club.
4 Matthew McConaughey – Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
In what is generally considered the worst in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, Matthew McConaughey takes on the role of an insane serial killer relative of the iconic Leatherface. The film was viewed several times by critics and received only $ 185K from its $ 600K budget. Although The next generation had a limited release and mostly not held by horror fans, the film produced not one but two Oscar-winning actors from its cast. McConaughey won an Oscar for Best Leading Actor for Dallas Buyer’s Club, a sight Next generation co-star Renée Zellweger would go on to win two, one in 2002 for Best Supporting Actress in Koue Berg and again in 2020 for Best Leading Actress in Judy.
3 Johnny Depp – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Glen Lantz in A nightmare on Elm Street is probably the most memorable of this group. Not necessarily because of his portrayal in the role, but because his death scene was one of the most amazing in horror movie history. In his famous death scene, Depp is pulled down into his mattress, and a volcanic eruption of blood flows from his bed to the ceiling. Depp has played numerous iconic characters since his first film role, such as Edward Scissorhands and Jack Sparrow, but has never brought home the gold of the Oscars, although he has been nominated three times throughout his career.
2 George Clooney – Return to Horror High (1987)
In one of the smaller roles of this group, George Clooney took on the role of Oliver in his first feature film, Return to Horror High. In this low-budget 80s slasher, a film crew goes back to a high school where gruesome murders take place to film a horror movie. Clooney plays one of the lead roles in the film crew’s production, but is unfortunately the first to face his death when he leaves the movie and becomes the first to be taken out by the killer. Since then, Clooney has appeared in several memorable roles, including putting on the batting suit Batman and Robin, and kill vampires in Van Dusk Til Dawn. He has won two Oscars. His first, for best actor in a supporting role in Syria (2005), and his second in 2012 as a producer for Argo.
1 Leonardo DiCaprio – Critters 3 (1991)
After auditions more than 100 times to know, Leonardo DiCaprio, just 17 years old, made his film debut in Animals 3, the 1991 sequel to the popular 80’s monster movies about space creatures trying to eat everything they see. DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar just 19 years later at the age of 19 What does Gilbert Grape eat?, and was nominated five more times, taking home one win in 2016 for The Revenant. DiCaprio is also an environmentalist, creating the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which supports organizations and initiatives dedicated to a sustainable future for planet Earth. He most recently appeared in Netflix’s environmental film, Do not look up.
Despite 90s movies that perfectly revive the slasher subgenre, many horror movies from the decade remain utterly hilarious.
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