10 Popular Actors Who Got Their Start In Horror Movies (First Movie Appearance)

Horror movies are not always appreciated by the Hollywood elite, and it is a rare sight to see slasher films represented at awards ceremonies like the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

There have only been six horror films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, with The Silence of the Lambs being the only movie to win the award in 1992.

Related: 8 Horror Films Where Actors Were Intentionally Harmed

And yet some of the greatest and most successful actors and actresses have worked in the genre, and some of Hollywood’s biggest stars even got their big break thanks to horror films.

10 Leonado DiCaprio – Critters 3 (1991)

Leonardo DiCaprio was just 16 years old when he made his Hollywood debut in Critters 3, the second sequel to the original horror classic from 1986. DiCaprio plays Josh, who joins Charlie McFadden in his ongoing fight against the alien creatures.

While Critters has become something of a cult classic over the years, the same cannot be said for Critters 3 and even the presence of a young Leonardo DiCaprio was not enough to save the movie from a terrible 0% rating on film review site Rotten Tomatoes.

9 Johnny Depp – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most successful horror franchises of all time, and it all started with Johnny Depp in 1984.

Playing opposite one of the most iconic horror villains of all time in Freddy Krueger, Depp played Glen Lantz, one of a group of teens menaced by the infamous Krueger as they slept. The film was written and directed by slasher film maestro Wes Craven, and horror fans consider the film a rite of passage, it even made it to the top ten in Empire’s list of the best horror movies of all time.

8 Tom Hanks – He Knows You’re Alone (1980)

Hollywood star Tom Hanks is best known these days for his family-friendly roles, so it may come as a surprise to learn that he got his big break in the 1980 horror film He Knows You’re Alone.

Related: Nightmare On Elm Street: The Actors Who Almost Played Johnny Depp’s Character

Hanks was 24 at that time, which is pretty late for a film debut compared to today’s stars, and he only played a supporting role in the movie. In fact, Hanks’ character Eliot was supposed to be killed off, but his death scene was cut from the film because the director liked him so much.

7 Jennifer Aniston – Leprechaun (1993)

One year before she was cast in sitcom sensation Friends, Jennifer Aniston made her big-screen debut in Leprechaun, a movie that was generously described as a comedy horror film. The movie received terrible reviews upon release, and this is certainly one film that Aniston herself wants to forget.

Amazingly, despite the negative reception from critics and moviegoers alike, director Mark Jones went on to make six more Leprechaun movies, though it will come as no surprise to learn that Jennifer Aniston didn’t appear in any of them.

6 Chloë Grace Moretz – The Amityville Horror (2005)

Chloë Grace Moretz wasn’t even old enough to go and see the remake of The Amityville Horror when she starred in the 2005 movie. If the reviews at the time were anything to go by, however, it seems that she had a lucky escape!

This was a remake of the classic 1979 film of the same name, which was itself based on a book that was supposed to be the true story of the Lutz family from New York. The Amityville Horror may have been a flop, but luckily it didn’t affect Chloë Grace Moretz’s Hollywood career.

5 Hilary Swank – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

The movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been overtaken in popularity by the successful TV series, but there would have been no demon-slaying Sarah Michelle Gellar without the original 1992 movie.

Related: 10 Times Comedy Actors Got Scary for Horror Movie Roles

Hilary Swank played one of Buffy’s friends in the film, which is much more intelligent than your average horror movie and even manages to include some genuinely funny moments. Swank wasn’t the only star who made her big-screen debut in Buffy; Ben Affleck also appeared in an uncredited role as one of the Hemery High basketball players.

4 Neve Campbell – The Dark (1993)

Scream queen Neve Campbell made her name as Sidney Prescott in the Scream franchise, but before she tangled with the mysterious masked slasher she made her debut in another horror film, The Dark.

Campbell only made a brief appearance in the low-budget horror film, about a rather unrealistic giant rat lurking under the graveyard of a small town. The movie may not have the most impressive special effects, but it has become something of a cult classic and is well worth checking out; just don’t expect to see Neve Campbell in a starring role.

3 Julia Louis-Dreyfus- Troll (1986)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is better known to a generation of comedy fans as Elaine from Seinfeld, but she got her big break in the 1986 film Troll, another comedy horror with fantasy elements thrown in for good measure.

Louis-Dreyfus only had a bit part in the movie which bombed on its release, playing a woman who has been possessed by the eponymous troll. However, the film has become one of those “so bad it’s good” films in recent years and there have even been a couple of Troll sequels, which Julia Louis-Dreyfus steered well clear of.

2 Jason Alexander- The Burning (1981)

Fellow Seinfeld star Jason Alexander also made his debut in a horror movie, though his first big-screen film, The Burning, was a much more conventional slasher flick. Based on a New York urban legend, the film had all the right ingredients for a slasher flick; a hideous villain, a summer camp full of defenseless teenagers, and a creepy score by prog rock band Yes.

The film was considered too violent and had to be censored before it could be released at the cinema. Fans could only see the movie and Jason Alexander in all their gory glory when an uncensored DVD version was released in 2003.

1 Patricia Arquette- A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

After the success of the original Nightmare on Elm Street, there were seven sequels, a crossover movie with fellow slasher villain Jason Voorhees, and a remake of the original in 2010.

Hollywood star Patricia Arquette got her first major movie role in the third film in the franchise, 1987’s Dream Warriors, in which slumbering teens continue to find themselves at the mercy of Freddy Krueger in their dreams. While none of the sequels lived up to the success of the original, Dream Warriors was praised for its vivid and imaginative dream sequences.

Next: 10 Excellent Horror Movies Starring Your Favorite MCU Actors

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Updated: November 8, 2020 — 9:30 pm

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