Every actor, even the biggest stars in Hollywood, start their careers somewhere. For some actors, they begin with highly acclaimed films right off the bat. However, most actors have to work their way up to this privilege. One of the biggest ways that actors earn their spot in Hollywood is through appearing in campy horror movies, often the poorly written sequels of cult classics. We’ve found 35 actors, many of whom went on to win Academy Awards, who got their start in horror—take a peek at our picks and let us know your favorite film from this list in the comments section on social media.
Katherine Heigl— “Bride of Chucky” 1998
Before becoming known for her role as Izzy in “Grey’s Anatomy,” Heigl played a runaway teen in the “Child’s Play” sequel.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt— “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later” 1998
Prior to becoming a teen heartthrob, Gordon-Levitt had a small role in this “Halloween” spinoff.
Michelle Williams— “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later” 1998
Another actor who appeared in this film was Michelle Williams, who in the same year got her start in “Dawson’s Creek.”
Jennifer Aniston— “Leprechaun” 1993
Jennifer Aniston may be known as Rachel from “Friends,” but her first major movie role was in “Leprechaun.”
Paul Rudd— “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” 1995
Paul Rudd never ages and in the same year “Clueless” hit theaters, he was in one of the “Halloween” sequels.
Chris Hemsworth— “The Cabin in the Woods” 2011
The same year “Thor” hit theaters, Chris Hemsworth flexed his horror chops in this acclaimed horror comedy.
Justin Long— “Jeepers Creepers” 2001
Justin Long has appeared in a number of horror movies over the years, but “Jeepers Creepers” was his first.
Amy Adams— “Psycho Beach Party” 2000
Before becoming one of the highest paid actors in the world, Adams had a role in a film called “Psycho Beach Party.”
George Clooney— “Grizzly II: The Concert” 1983
Just a year before gaining his breakout role in “ER,” Clooney appeared in a horror movie about a killer grizzly bear.
Brad Pitt— “Cutting Class” 1989
Many had their eyes on Brad Pitt after he appeared in “Thelma and Louise,” but a few years earlier he played the antagonist in an ’80s horror movie.
Ben Affleck— “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” 1992
Although his role was uncredited, Affleck did in fact appear in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” film.
Hilary Swank— “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” 1992
Hilary Swank made her film debut in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Demi Moore— “Parasite” 1982
Demi Moore’s first major film role was as a lemon grower attempting to take down a deadly parasite.
Elizabeth Olsen— “Silent House” 2011
While 2011’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene” was Olsen’s breakout role, she also appeared in a horror movie that same year.
Kristen Stewart— “Panic Room” 2002
As a 12-year-old, Kristen Stewart gained recognition for her portrayal of Jodie Foster’s daughter in this film.
Matthew McConaughey— “My Boyfriend’s Back” 1993
Before being one of Hollywood’s biggest romcom stars, McConaughey won the role of guy #2 in “My Boyfriend’s Back.”
Johnny Depp— “A Nightmare on Elm Street” 1984
Many horror fans remember Depp’s first film role, as a hunky teen in the OG “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Jon Stewart— “The Faculty” 1998
As hard to believe as it may be, the famed late night host had a gig in a horror movie back in the day.
Charlize Theron— “Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest” 1995
Charlize Theron may be an Oscar winner, but her first film role was in the third “Children of the Corn” film.
Naomi Watts— “Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering” 1996
Naomi Watts not only appeared in the fourth “Children of the Corn” film, she starred in it!
Renée Zellweger— “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” 1994
Believe it or not, but this Oscar winner’s first starring role was as Jenny in this “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” sequel.
Rooney Mara— “Urban Legends: Bloody Mary” 2005
Mara’s first film role was as a high school student in this direct-to-video horror movie.
Chloë Grace Moretz— “The Amityville Horror” 2005
As a child, Mortez appeared alongside Ryan Reynolds in this horror remake.
Octavia Spencer— “Drag Me to Hell” 2009
Octavia Spencer had many television and film roles before making it big in “The Help,” one of which being in “Drag Me to Hell.”
Matt Bomer— “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” 2006
Before he was featured in numerous seasons of “American Horror Story,” he played Eric Hill in this “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” film.
Dan Levy— “Cyberstalker” 2012
We all love Dan Levy in “Schitt’s Creek,” we were surprised to learn he appeared in this thriller film.
Patricia Arquette— “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” 1987
Did you know Patricia Arquette made her feature film debut in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3?” Well, now you do.
Leonardo DiCaprio— “Critters 3” 1991
Way before becoming a heartthrob in “Titanic,” DiCaprio was a cute kid in this horror sequel.
Idris Elba— “28 Weeks Later” 2007
Idris Elba has appeared in many oddball films over the years, “28 Weeks Later” is just one of them.
Eva Mendes— “Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror” 1998
One of Mendes first roles was as a victim of the fifth “Children of the Corn” film.
Adam Scott— “Hellraiser IV: Bloodline” 1996
Adam Scott has widely known for TV work, but long ago he played a character with long hair in a “Hellraiser” sequel.
Seth Rogen— “Donnie Darko” 2001
Seth Rogen’s very first film role was a brief cameo in “Donnie Darko.”
Patrick Dempsey— “The Stuff” 1985
Patrick Dempsey’s first film role was as Underground Stuff Buyer #2 in this 1985 horror movie.
Kevin Bacon— “Friday the 13th” 1980
Kevin Bacon was one of the only actors in this film to make it big.
Jessica Alba— “Idle Hands” 1999
In the same year she appeared in “Never Been Kissed,” Alba appeared in this horror flop.