Stars You Never Knew Started Out In Low-Budget Horror Movies

Everyone's gotta start somewhere, and for many actors that "somewhere" is low-budget horror movies. Some of your favorite A-listers and Oscar winners made their debuts or had their earliest cinematic roles in the genre, from Jack Nicholson, George Clooney, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Stanley Tucci to Haley Bennett, Jennifer Anniston, Paul Rudd, and so many more. 

The /Film team put their heads together and came up with this list of 25 mega stars and S-tier character actors who did some of their earliest work in the realm of low-budget horror. So sit down, grab some popcorn, and get ready to imitate the Leo pointing memelot.

Viggo Mortensen in Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

Despite a renewed look at the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" franchise due to both the advent of streaming and continued sequels and requels, horror fans remain divided on "Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III." To be fair, few would know how to follow up Tobe Hooper's zany, offbeat sequel to his own 1974 game-changing original, "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre." 

In the director's chair this time around is Jeff Burr who helmed sequels in the "Stepfather," "Pumpkinhead," and "Puppet Master" franchises. 

The year is 1990, and New Line Cinema has the reins on Leatherface and the dysfunctional Sawyer family, which now boasts new clan members. Among them is Tex, played by Viggo Mortensen with zeal. Tex nails the final girl's hands to a chair, threatens rape by Leatherface, and throws temper tantrums before understandably losing a fight with Ken Foree and getting overheated. But a little fire never hurt the American actor, who would later fight on behalf of the free creatures of Middle Earth in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and fight nude in a bathhouse in David Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises" among a slew of other memorable performances. 

If audiences are lucky, Mortensen might team up with Cronenberg again, this time for body horror. (Anya Stanley)

Jennifer Anniston in Leprechaun

Before "Friends" and "Office Space," American sweetheart Jennifer Aniston called upon the luck of the Irish to battle evil in "Leprechaun." Aniston starred opposite Warwick Davis in the 1993 horror film about a knee-high killer seeking his pot of gold at any cost. A man named O'Grady returns to the U.S. with the titular Leprechaun's treasure, the Leprechaun follows, gets trapped in a basement, and it's up to Aniston's Tory to somehow escape the jokey murderer's first of many sprees once he's released. Unfortunately, Aniston wouldn't make it into space as the franchise kept churning out sequels — one "Leprechaun" was enough.

How does Aniston remember the experience? "I watched it like, 8 years ago with our mutual friend Justin Theroux for shits and giggles," she told Howard Stern. "We were dating. It was one of those things when I tried to get that remote out of his hand, and there was just no having it. He was like, 'No, no, no, no, this is happening.'" Aniston isn't the only actor to find success in low-budget horror worlds but seems to have more of a reaction than others. 

"Leprechaun" is a cult classic now, but don't expect Aniston to list it atop her career accomplishments. (Matt Donato)

Christopher Lloyd in Schizoid

Not many people can say that their feature film debut took place in the second film in history to win all five of the major categories at the Academy Awards, but for Christopher Lloyd who played Max Taber in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," that is precisely what happened. Lloyd started out as a stage actor, winning multiple Drama Desk and Obie Awards for his work in the Northeastern theatre scene before being cast in what is now considered a classic. The sky was the limit for Lloyd, but five years after his cinematic debut, he seemingly took a step backward in the eyes of many by appearing in the ultra-low-budget horror film, "Schizoid."

Likely cast due to his "Cuckoo's Nest" connection, Lloyd played a creepy handyman named Gilbert attending group therapy hosted by Dr. Pieter Fales (Klaus Kinski) when suddenly all of his patients find themselves stalked by a scissor-wielding slasher. Written and directed by David Paulsen of "Dynasty" and "Dallas" fame, "Schizoid" was not well-received upon its release. During an episode of "Sneak Previews," legendary critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert lambasted the film's misogyny, going as far as to call it "gruesome and despicable." 

Lloyd spent the next five years acting in Westerns and forgettable dramas until 1985 when he would nab the role of Doc Brown in "Back to the Future" that would change his life forever. (BJ Colangelo)

John Travolta in The Devil's Rain

Before he was dancing into everyone's hearts in "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease," and even before he was the "Boy in the Bubble," John Travolta was in a low-budget horror movie starring William Shatner: 1975's "The Devil's Rain" directed by Robert Fuest. This B-movie featured a surprisingly stacked cast, including Ernest Borgnine, Tom Skerritt, and Ida Lupino. The founder of Satanism, Anton LaVey, was a technical advisor and even appears in a minor role, making this one truly devilish little movie.

Travolta had only been in a handful of TV shows and made-for-TV movies when he played a satanic cult member in "The Devil's Rain," wearing prosthetic makeup that made his face look like it was melting. He is a mindless slave to his devilish master and doesn't even have any lines, but somehow he still earned a place in the opening credits. Unfortunately, "The Devil's Rain" is a convoluted mess of a movie that is more of an interesting footnote in the careers of its performers than anything else. 

Thankfully for horror fans, Travolta's next film role was in something a little more substantial: he starred as bully Billy Nolan in Brian De Palma's "Carrie." Shortly after that, he would star in "Saturday Night Fever" and his career would take off, relegating his role as a mindless cult member to the annals of history. (Danielle Ryan)

Brad Pitt in Cutting Class

A heartthrob like Brad Pitt is the perfect physical specimen for a killer-in-hiding like, say, Billy Loomis in "Scream." Would you believe me if I said he played that same type of role in 1989? 

"Cutting Class" features Pitt as "bad boy" Dwight, who competes with recently released mental hospital patient Brian (Donovan Leitch Jr.) for a young girl's affection. The film becomes a whodunit that wants you to guess the murderer between Dwight and Brian, especially since the production uses a body double during slasher sequences, so viewers can't detect Dwight or Brian's figure. We've all seen how "Scream" has been dissected to death by YouTube clippers theorizing Ghostface's identity during each kill — smart defense.

Pitt's not mentioned "Cutting Class" in quite some time, so there are no recent tidbits about whether or not starting in horror gave him any advantage. Pitt did become romantically coupled with co-star Jill Schoelen, leading to an engagement but no marriage. "Cutting Class" isn't exactly a classic of the horror-comedy subgenre, which might be why no one's clamoring for Pitt's decades-old opinion. Still, if you're curious enough, boutique restorationist company Vinegar Syndrome released a newer Blu-ray version of the film you can add to your collection. Not that Pitt needs the support, given that his career wound up in the A-list stardom stratosphere that few actors even glimpse. (Matt Donato)

Tom Hanks in He Knows You're Alone

He's saved Private Ryan, he's been a castaway, and he's been down the green mile on the road to perdition with bosom buddies for decades, picking up Oscars and accolades along the way. Before all of that, Tom Hanks was a potential victim in the 1980 slasher "He Knows You're Alone." 

Coming out of the shock waves sent by John Carpenter's "Halloween" just a couple of years prior, Armond Mastroianni's directorial debut capitalized on slasher formulas set around a single theme — in this case, weddings. As a bride-to-be is hunted by a blade-wielding maniac in the weeks before the big ceremony, Hanks appears as an aw-shucks acquaintance of hers named Elliot who goes on a tangent about the thrill of roller coasters and horror movies, calling them "One hell of a first-class rush." Slightly obnoxious but technically correct and likable, Hanks' Elliot predates the genre-knowledgable Randy Meeks of "Scream" by a decade and a half. Thankfully, he is spared the knife, but the same can't be said of his co-stars. 

Next up, Hanks is breaking out an accent and prosthetics in the role of Colonel Tom Parker in Baz Luhrman's "Elvis" biopic, in theaters on June 24, 2022. (Anya Stanley)

Leonardo DiCaprio in Critters 3

Leonardo DiCaprio may be one of Hollywood's premiere leading men, but the former teen heartthrob known for his early roles on the shows "Growing Pains" and "Parenthood" didn't actually have his feature film debut in the Academy Award-nominated "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" as many assume. That honor was reserved for the low-budget horror film "Critters 3." Currently boasting an impressive 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, "Critters 3" was directed by Kristine Peterson and was the first in the film's franchise to not take place in its usual setting of Grover's Bend.

As goofy as this direct-to-video sequel about furry aliens destroying the world is, DiCaprio delivers some genuine emotional depth as Josh, the stepson of a corrupt landlord who eventually gets eaten by the Krites, and the love interest of the film's protagonist, Annie (Aimee Brooks). When he discovers he's accidentally trapped his stepfather in a room with the aliens, his reaction gives the audience a preview of the superstardom awaiting him in the future. A good actor is a good actor regardless of the material, and while DiCaprio himself described his role as "your average, no-depth, standard kid with blond hair," his obvious talent added some unexpected nuance to the ridiculous world of "Critters 3." (BJ Colangelo)

Patricia Arquette in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Patricia Arquette has played a wide variety of roles over the years. She was terrifying as Dee Dee Blanchard on Hulu's "The Act," adorable as Alabama Whorley in "True Romance," and inspiring as ghost whisperer Allison on "Medium." Arquette has dabbled in the horror genre her entire career, working with David Cronenberg on "Inland Empire" and Martin Scorsese on his most terrifying film, "Bringing Out the Dead." But before she did any of those, she faced off against one of the scariest movie monsters of all: Freddy Krueger.

Arquette's very first role was in "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors," playing the lead role of Kristen Parker, a teenage girl whose nightmares are haunted by Freddy. She teams up with her new therapist and Freddy's former victim, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), to try and stop the murderous monster once and for all. "Dream Warriors" is beloved by both critics and fans alike, with two fabulous final girls teaming up to finally finish Freddy ... at least until the next sequel. Arquette is excellent in her film debut and shows exactly the kind of skill that she'll display throughout the rest of her prolific career. Even if slashers aren't your jam, "Dream Warriors" is one of the best. (Danielle Ryan)

Paul Steven Rudd in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

The same year he verbally sparred with Alicia Silverstone in "Clueless," Paul Rudd, a.k.a. Ant-Man, went toe-to-toe with the Boogeyman himself. 

"Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" came at a pivotal time in the slasher era. The sixth entry in the franchise came just a year before Wes Craven's "Scream" would shake up the formula for seasoned horror audiences, and a year after the same director would prime the pump for meta-horror with his own "Nightmare on Elm Street" chapter, "Wes Craven's New Nightmare." 

"Curse" sees Paul Steven Rudd (as he's credited) assuming the role of Tommy Doyle, the little boy who survived The Night He Came Home in 1978, which served as the events of John Carpenter's original film and the first "Halloween." Bright-eyed and neurotic, a clearly traumatized Doyle is the only person other than Dr. Loomis (played by Donald Pleasance) who understands just how evil Michael Myers is. "I was only eight years old when I saw him," Rudd trauma-dumps onto a radio deejay, "... and soon, very soon, he'll come home again." He spends the rest of the movie stalking his neighbor, taking care of a baby he found in a bathroom, and depending on which cut of the film is playing, beating the life out of Michael Myers with a pipe. No Pym Particles required. 

Now, the role of Tommy Doyle has passed onto Anthony Michael Hall, who plays the still-traumatized survivor in David Gordon Green's "Halloween Kills." (Anya Stanley)

George Clooney in Return to Horror High

Not only does George Clooney claim the honor of appearing on this list, but he dies a slasher victim's death in 1987's "Return to Horror High." It wouldn't be the only genre title an up-and-coming Clooney would take in the '80s — add "Return of the Killer Tomatoes!" and "Grizzly II: Revenge" to that list, although the latter wouldn't be released until 2021. 

"Return to Horror High" is Clooney's official low-budget horror debut, where he plays an actor starring in some filmmaker's exploitation thriller that uses the abandoned location of actual murders. Clooney's performer plays a cop investigating fake murders in the real Crippen High School, where he's offed by what most presume is the original killer's second act.

Clooney only makes it about twelve minutes into "Return to Horror High" before he's attacked off-screen and fatally dispatched. There's not much gore beyond Clooney's blood-stained face pressed against a classroom door's window, which speaks to the film's lower budget. He doesn't get an excessively gratuitous exit —just some yelps and gurgles before a stabbing noise clues viewers into the method of assassination. Who knew the actor who plays a failed actor, grizzly chow, and tomato chaser would eventually become one of Hollywood's most popular megastars? (Matt Donato)

Stephen Root and Stanley Tucci in Monkey Shines

While many horror fans remember the 1988 movie "Monkey Shines" for its offbeat direction by George Romero or its use of primate performers, it should also be known for introducing the world to two amazing character actors: Stanley Tucci and Stephen Root. The movie stars Jason Beghe as Allan Mann, a law student who is rendered quadriplegic after an accident. He eventually gets a service animal to help him: a capuchin monkey who has been given a special brain serum to make her as smart as a human. As Allan and his monkey begin to bond, things get really weird.

Root plays Dean Burbage, who pushes the scientist doing the monkey experiments to more extreme results. At the time, he was a relatively well-known stage performer but had never done much TV or film. Tucci plays Dr. John Wiseman, a spinal surgeon who gives Beghe a second opinion on his injury, plus an unsolicited one about the hair on his derriere! Both men would go on to have incredible careers. Seeing them show up in anything automatically makes that piece of media more entertaining, so it's pretty amazing that they both got their start in a weird little horror flick about a mind-melding monkey. (Danielle Ryan)

Haley Bennett in The Haunting of Molly Hartley

Haley Bennett's name isn't associated much with horror anymore. She's become a star attached to everything from awards contenders like "Cyrano" to blockbusters like the upcoming "Borderlands." That's after finding a career in horror titles like "The Hole" and "Kristy," only after facing her childhood fears by accepting the titular role in "The Haunting of Molly Hartley." Starring alongside a mop-haired Chace Crawford, Bennett tries to escape PTSD by starting over at a new school — then the supernatural interferes. Suffice it to say, the role of Molly Hartley was recast in 2015's extremely lesser-known sequel, "The Exorcism of Molly Hartley." Is no "franchise" safe from studio continuations?

"I'm pretty mad at horror films for ruining my childhood," Bennett told Interview Magazine in 2008. A single viewing of "It" (1990) caused Bennett to redecorate her bedroom without visible clowns. "Playing Molly in 'The Haunting of Molly Hartley' was the ultimate challenge," continued Bennett when asked why she chose horror-centric roles as a young professional. There's nothing like exposure therapy in the form of paranormal frights and bloody guts to shake your fears. Not to say Bennett's had any ideas about returning to horror since, but her path through slashers and hauntings has led to extraordinary heights. (Matt Donato)

Keira Knightley in The Hole

Keira Knightley has made a name for herself as the queen of the prestige period piece and big blockbuster pirate fare. But the same year she played a decoy for Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) in "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace," Knightley was cast in British indie horror "The Hole."

The project was an adaptation of Guy Burt's short YA horror novel "After the Hole" from 1993. Thora Birch ("Now & Then," "Ghost World") had been cast in the lead, so they needed some strong talent to star opposite her, which proved difficult. It took them nine months of searching to find their leads, eventually casting Desmond Harrington ("Dexter"), Laurence Fox ("Gosford Park"), Daniel Brocklebank ("Coronation Street," "The Hours") and a 16-year-old Keira Knightley as Frankie.

At that point in her career, Knightley was a relative unknown. She'd worked on a handful of other productions such as "Star Wars," but always in bit parts. This was her first major role, and she loved getting to explore the character's duality. "Frankie is a real b**** so she was fantastic to play," she said around the film's release, further describing her as "sparky, fun, and headstrong."

The movie is more than 20 years old at this point, but it's still worth going into it as fresh as possible. Suffice to say there are two sides to the story, and the twist is pitch black. Knightly is a big part of that. (Ariel Fisher)

Charlize Theron in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest

This is a blink-and-you'll-miss-her addition to this list, but yes, well before she was Furiosa in "Mad Max: Fury Road," Charlize Theron did appear in the direct-to-video sequel "Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest" in which the creepy corn children relocate from rural Nebraska to the mean streets of Chicago. That's a far cry from the intent of the original Stephen King story, but it was the '90s and video stores needed new material on their shelves, so what can you do?

Theron makes an appearance at the very end of the movie as one of many high schoolers who gets murdered by a giant corn monster in an abandoned warehouse. Her role is barely more than a featured extra, but she does get killed on camera as the corn growing in this Chicago warehouse comes alive, slashes her legs, and then proceeds to pull an "Evil Dead" vine move with one of its tentacles.

All that being said, even with only a couple of lines of dialogue and less than a minute of screen time, Theron stood out from her peers and even got to show off a good, cheesy horror movie scream. It's a small part, but you can tell that Theron was destined for bigger and better things. (Eric Vespe)

Demi Moore in Parasite

A gory, Cronenberg-esque relic of the VHS horror era, "Parasite" might not necessarily have an enduring legacy, though it was a moderate hit upon its 1982 release. There's plenty to love about this bloody post-apocalyptic creature feature — namely Demi Moore's second on-screen appearance. 

Set after an atomic event in the not-too-distant future, "Parasite" tells the story of a shady government entity called "the Merchants," who employ Dr. Paul Dean (Robert Glaudini) to genetically engineer parasitic creatures to feed off of the humans that survived. This allows the Merchants to take control of the remaining citizens, reducing the risk of apocalyptic lawlessness — that is, until the parasites, themselves, become too dangerous to be controlled. Moore plays Patricia, a lemon farmer who teams up with a newly-infected Dean to try and stop the parasitic spread. Her occupation and the constant visual motif of lemons tease that the citric fruit could have factored into the defeat of the blood-sucking entities, but it turns out that good old-fashioned sonic blasts and red-hot flames will do the trick. 

While the plot of "Parasite" might not be the most creative form of horror pastiche, its gnarly practical effects and no-holds-barred attitude towards blood and guts make it worth seeking out. After all, who isn't curious about the prospect of Demi Moore as a lemon farmer in a veritable nuclear wasteland? (Natalia Keogan)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Troll

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is one funny lady, but before she was yukking it up as Elaine on "Seinfeld" or making politics palatable as the Vice President of the United States on "Veep," she had a bit role in a 1980s cult horror classic. Her very first movie role was in "Troll" in 1986, playing a young woman who becomes possessed by the spirit of an ancient troll and starts behaving like a wood nymph. She dances around her apartment in the nude, with some carefully placed leaves to keep things PG-13, but doesn't really do much else. She's one of the many characters in the apartment complex who fall under the spell of the troll, but the main focus is on the Potter family, whose daughter Wendy Anne is the first to be bewitched. Eventually son Harry Potter (no, not that one!) finds a good witch in the building, and they are able to fight the troll's malicious magic.

"Troll" is a wild and weird B-movie that's as much fantasy as it is horror, and it's perfect for Louis-Dreyfus because it also has plenty of laughs. Though her career would almost entirely stick to comedy after she found fame, "Troll" proves that she can do a little bit of everything. (Danielle Ryan)

Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter, and Fisher Stevens in The Burning

So, there are a lot of ... let's say "not-great" horror movies on this list, but "The Burning" is actually pretty brutal and effective. This camp slasher has its own problematic connections that helped it stay fairly obscure thanks to sporting a screenplay written in part by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, but overlooking that, it's one of the better "Friday the 13th" ripoffs and sports a cast full of future stars.

You have the great Holly Hunter, Fisher Stevens, and most notably, one Mr. Jason Alexander. He's shocking in this movie for a number of reasons. His summer camp wardrobe for one (short-cut tees and even shorter shorts), but it's also weird to see him with a full head of hair. Ah, youth!

The movie follows a group of young folks in a camp being systematically slaughtered by a mysterious killer wielding shears who slices and dices everybody he can because of a prank gone wrong that disfigured him.

This one hits every slasher trope of its time, but since it was made in 1981, it was out around the same time as "Friday the 13th Part 2." The tropes were brand new! Cropsy is a hell of a villain, looking like a combination of both Jason and Freddy, and his pool of victims being filled out with future stars really helps make "The Burning" a solid, overlooked horror movie.

Also, The Weinsteins were embarrassed by this movie and did everything they could to keep it out of circulation for many years, so that's another win for "The Burning." (Eric Vespe)

Crispin Glover in Friday the 13th IV: The Final Chapter

One year before cutting a rug and breaking jaws at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance in "Back to the Future," Crispin Glover was body rocking to "Love is a Lie" and body dropping at the hands of one of horror's most iconic killers. Pamela Voorhees' hockey mask-wearing undead son Jason is four films deep into the extensive "Friday the 13th" franchise by this point, and while it was meant to be "The Final Chapter," it's only the second film where Jason resembles the hulking revenant that audiences recognize today. 

The latest crop of fresh blood is made up of more sexed-up teens looking to party, plus a baby-faced Corey Feldman. Director Frank Zito pulled from his Rolodex and brought in "The Prowler" SFX makeup maestro Tom Savini to handle the body count and kill his own SFX creation of Jason Voorhees (Savini served as an SFX makeup artist on the 1980 original, as well). Among Savini's gorier works is the death of Crispin Glover's fumbling character, Jimmy, who ventures into the kitchen for a bottle of wine. In a scene shot in reverse for more effect on the impact, Jimmy takes a corkscrew to the hand and a cleaver to the face, twitching and all. (Anya Stanley)

Dan Levy in Cyberstalker

Thanks to his run on the Emmy Award-winning "Schitt's Creek," Dan Levy has become one of the most well-liked actors in the industry. The son of legendary Canadian comedy actor Eugene Levy, Dan obviously had some advantages breaking into the industry, but the former host of Canada's "MTV Live" got his start in film the way so many others do — by starring in a low-budget horror movie. 

In 2012, Levy starred alongside Mischa Barton in the Lifetime thriller, "Cyberstalker." Barton plays a woman named Aiden Ashley whose life was ripped apart when an online stalker showed up at her home and murdered her parents thirteen years earlier. After that, she wisely stays offline for a long time, but when she ends up promoting a showing of her work at an art gallery online, the stalking begins again and she hires Dan Levy's character Jack Dayton, a cyber-security professional, to investigate.

In a not-so-shocking turn of events, the wheelchair-using Jack Dayton is revealed to have been the cyberstalker all along, and the person responsible for killing Aiden Ashley's family and friends. Yes, that means that David "Excuse me, I haven't bedazzled anything since I was 22" Rose of "Schitt's Creek" made his film debut playing a slasher villain. When asked for a short review of his film debut on an episode of the popular web series "Hot Ones," Levy said, "It's bad, how 'bout that? And if I was allowed a third word, it's very bad." (BJ Colangelo)

Seth Rogen in Donnie Darko

Funnily enough, seasoned comedian Seth Rogen's first film role was in "Donnie Darko," the 2001 surrealist horror drama that would make his co-star Jake Gyllenhaal a household name. 

While the actor technically had his debut as Ken on the Judd Apatow-produced TV show "Freaks and Geeks" back in 1999, his small role in "Donnie Darko" heralded the first of many film performances for Rogen. He played Ricky Danforth, one of the titular character's many prep school bullies, but his part ended up taking a back seat to the demented Frank, a man in a very sinister-looking bunny suit who follows Donnie around. Whether Frank is a mere figment of Donnie's imagination or a personal, tragic omen remains unclear.

Don't turn to Rogen for deeper insight, though. In an interview with Collider ahead of the release of 2007's "Knocked Up," Rogen admits to still not grasping what exactly went down in "Donnie Darko." He claims he didn't know back then and still doesn't know now, but all that matters is that he "had a good time." So, "Donnie Darko" may have been one of Rogen's rare dramatic pursuits, but his ability to have fun on set was one and the same with his subsequent comedic ventures. (Natalia Keogan)

Jack Nicholson in The Little Shop of Horrors

Jack Nicholson has played many horrific characters over the years, from Jack Torrance in "The Shining" to the actual devil in "The Witches of Eastwick," so it shouldn't be all that much of a surprise that he got his start in horror. It also shouldn't be any more surprising to find out that it was the great Roger Corman who gave the future A-list star his start.

While Corman was notorious for being cheap, he also gave many folks their first shot; James Cameron, Frances Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante. The list goes on and on, and one Mr. Jack Nicholson is right at the top.

Nicholson fell into the Roger Corman group in the late '50s and early '60s and went on to star in some of their films, but one of his first appearances was as the masochistic dental patient, Wilbur Force, in the original "The Little Shop of Horrors." He brought eager, manic energy to the guy who gets off on dental pain. It's quite an off-putting performance, by the way. It might be an early indicator of the madman we see in "The Shining." Bill Murray would later go on to play this part in the remake.

Nicholson would then star in "The Terror" for Roger Corman, but it was his less than three minutes on screen in "The Little Shop of Horrors" that really made audiences sit up and take notice for the first time. (Eric Vespe)

Rooney Mara in Urban Legends: Bloody Mary

It's worth noting that Rooney Mara wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to appear in the teen horror flick "Urban Legends: Bloody Mary." The direct-to-video third installment of the "Urban Legend" film franchise focuses on a vengeful spirit that terrorizes a group of high schoolers, with Rooney's older sister, Kate Mara ("The Martian"), in the lead role. She plays Sam, a curious student who assumes she can get to the bottom of the ghostly mystery with some deep-digging. Directed by Mary Lambert (who helmed 1989's "Pet Sematary"), it's a shame that this film has been relegated to a life of obscurity.

As for Rooney's involvement, it turns out that there was a last-minute vacancy in the cast. They desperately needed someone to play the mostly non-descript role of Classroom Girl #2, and Kate knew just the burgeoning actress to ask. In a 2013 interview on "George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight," Kate stated that she successfully convinced Lambert and the rest of the crew to fly Rooney out for the shoot. But according to Rooney, she just happened to be on-set visiting her sister for the weekend, making her casting a convenient coincidence. 

In that initial interview with Stroumboulopoulos, Kate said that while Rooney might not entirely forgive her for the break-out role, she's certainly "done alright for herself" as an actress since then. Basically, it all boils down to a sisterly version of no harm, no foul. (Natalia Keogan)

Bill Paxton in Mortuary

Bill Paxton's first starring role was in a 1983 cheapo horror movie called "Mortuary" which sees the charismatic young actor playing the bad guy, a creepy young man who works as an embalmer for the local mortuary. He's weird even when he's just himself, but he's also depicted as a ghoulish hooded figure stalking the main character, played by Mary Beth McDonough.

It should be noted that before he ended up fighting "Aliens" alongside Sigourney Weaver, Paxton starred in a few horror movies. "Mortuary" is his biggest role, but there's also the much better, and far weirder, "Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker" where Paxton plays a jock who bullies Jimmy McNichol all while Susan Tyrrell turns in quite possibly the most unhinged performance ever captured on film.

Horror once again underlines its importance in being Hollywood's talent scout here as Paxton was given all the room to be broad, theatrical and effectively creepy in these early outings. Considering he always seemed to have a foot in both the comedy and genre worlds it makes sense that Paxton's talents were well-suited for these low-budget horror pictures. This $850,000 movie might not be regarded as a classic, but it is an early showcase for Paxton who really swings for the fences, leaning full-on into the camp movie he's in. (Eric Vespe)

Hilary Swank in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In 1999, Hilary Swank impressed the world with her performance as transgender man Brandon Teena in Kimberly Peirce's harrowing "Boys Don't Cry," a performance that shocked many who only knew Swank for her roles on the teen drama "Beverly Hills, 90210" or her breakout performance in "The Next Karate Kid." While Swank is known now as a remarkably talented dramatic actor, many forget that she got her cinematic start playing comedy as the Valley Girl best friend of Kristy Swanson's titular "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The 1992 feature-length predecessor of the popular television series of the same name, "Buffy" leaned heavily into the world of camp cinema, with Swank's performance as Kimberly Hannah being one of the stand-out roles.

Swank was joined by other future megastars like Luke Perry, Ben Affleck, David Arquette, and Thomas Jane, in addition to already established names like Rutger Hauer, Paul Reubens, and the brilliant Donald Sutherland. As one of Buffy's sidekick best friends, Swank doesn't get a whole lot of screen time, but she absolutely made the best of every second she was given. One of the best line deliveries in the film belongs to Swank, who desperately whines, "But they're seniors!" as her defense for why she allowed a gaggle of vampires entry to the school dance. (BJ Colangelo)

Sharon Stone in Deadly Blessing

Sure, "Deadly Blessing" may not be Wes Craven's most acclaimed horror film, but it is distinct for two glorious things. For starters, it's the first prominent film role of future Hollywood femme fatale Sharon Stone. It also features a wardrobe that New York Times critic Janet Maslin described as "six months' worth of lounging pajamas." Honestly, what more can one possibly desire from their viewing experience?

As it turns out, critics still aren't entirely satisfied by an abundance of negligees and beautiful women. 

The 1981 horror film focuses on an isolated community of people known as "Hittites," a sect so conservative they allegedly make the Amish "look like swingers." Martha (Maren Jensen) married a former Hittite, but they still live in close proximity to the community on their farm. When Martha's husband is mysteriously killed, her L.A. friends (Stone, Susan Buckner) arrive for the funeral and an extended visit. As it turns out, an ancient Hittite incubus might just be the cause of the recent violence, and the arrival of these beautiful women might just exacerbate things.

Stone's role is minor, but her stunning looks make her on-screen presence totally magnetic. It would be over a decade before she played the salacious, white dress-donning Catherine Tramell in Paul Verhoeven's 1992 erotic thriller "Basic Instinct." As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait. (Natalia Keogan)