Jamie Lee Curtis): Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980), Prom Night (1980), Terror Train (1980), Halloween II (1981).
The original "scream queen," Jamie Lee Curtis was practically born into horror movies, as her mother, Janet Leigh, famously starred in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho — a fact that wasn't lost on Halloween director John Carpenter. Curtis was only 19 when she was cast in Halloween, and she would spend her early twenties predominantly starring in the genre, continuing to work with Carpenter on The Fog and the Hallowwen sequel (which Carpenter wrote), while also appearing in Prom Night and Terror Train. It wasn't until 1983's Trading Places that Curtis would land another hit that pushed her away from genre movies, but it is likely her work in horror that requires her to now consume daily amounts of pro-biotic yogurt, though that has not been medically verified.
Chris Hemsworth: A Perfect Getaway (2009), Cabin in the Woods (2012)
After a series of Australian TV shows, the 2010 crime thriller Ca$h was technically the first movie that Hemsworth shot upon arriving in the United States, but he would quickly move on to A Perfect Getaway and then The Cabin in the Woods, which was shot in 2009 but sat on a shelf until it was finally released last April. Playing football "jock" Curt, Cabin in the Woods was where Hemsworth would meet his future The Avengers director Joss Whedon, who would recommend him to director Kenneth Branagh for the title role in 2011's Thor. The rest, as they say, is history.
Jeremy Renner: Dahmer (2002), 28 Weeks Later (2007).
Before becoming a multiple Academy Award nominee (The Hurt Locker and The Town) or the next Bourne or teaming up with Hemsworth to play superhero in The Avengers, Renner made his big screen debut in 1995's National Lampoon's Senior Trip. The critically-lambasted movie didn't end up serving as Renner's "big break," so the actor continued to work as a makeup artist while finding supporting roles in various TV shows and movies, but found lead roles in horror movies. Dahmer gave Renner some notoriety, as well as a nomination for an Independent Spirit Award for his portrayal of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, while 28 Weeks Later saw Renner team up with fellow future comic book movie star Rose Byrne (X-Men: First Class) as two U.S. soldiers that protect two kids from the infected hordes. Renner must still enjoy the genre, since his next movie is Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.
Johnny Depp: Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
Before becoming Disney's billion dollar boy with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Depp was a musician who had moved to Los Angeles with dreams of a career in music. Reportedly prompted by Nicolas Cage to pursue acting, Depp auditioned and landed a role in director Wes Craven's classic horror movie A Nightmare on Elm Street, where he would eventually perish into a literal pool of blood that poured out of his bed. Did his character ever find out who won Miss Nude America? Hard to say. While 21 Jump Street would be the project that landed Depp on every teen magazine, his death scene left an indelible impression, and is still mentioned as one of the goriest death scenes ever to take place in a horror movie.
Jennifer Aniston: Leprechaun (1993).
Prior to audiences ever wondering when Ross and Rachel might finally get together, Jennifer Aniston made her big screen debut in Leprechaun, playing a teenager whose father rents a farmhouse for the summer only to discover that it's also the home to a pesky, centuries-old Leprechaun who will stop at nothing (especially murder) to get back his gold. While the actress would soon be laughing all the way to the bank on Friends, audiences couldn't help but laugh at Leprechaun, particularly during scenes where Aniston and her friends throw shoes at the leprechaun (Warwick Davis) in order to distract him because, apparently, a leprechaun can't help but want to shine them.
Kevin Bacon: Friday the 13th (1980).
Bacon's first movie was technically 1978's National Lampoon's Animal House, but, only a couple years later, the actor would find himself playing one of the first of many teenage victims of Camp Crystal Lake. Not to say they weren't warned — the town crazy usually took care of that — but, as was common among slasher movies of that era, victims would often get their comeuppance after committing some kind of dubious act. Bacon is no exception to the rule, learning the hard way that one should never smoke in bed.
Bacon would continue to appear in horror movies over the years, including 1990's Tremors, 1990's Flatliners and 2000's Hollow Man.
Tom Hanks: He Knows You're Alone (1980).
Thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis and Halloween, the 1980s was filled with "slasher" horror movies, but only one holds the Academy Award–winning Hanks' big screen debut. He Knows You're Alone arrived four months after Friday the 13th and followed a bride-to-be (Caitlin O'Heaney) whose friends are slowly being murdered by a knife-wielding killer. Hanks plays a psychology student friend who shows up long enough to deliver a brief dissertation about fear. Reportedly, Hanks' character was supposed to be killed in the movie, but he was so well liked the filmmakers decided to remove his death scene. That seems fitting, since Hanks' movie star potential was already on display in his few scenes in the movie, but if the producers were hoping to keep him for a sequel, it never happened.
Jessica Alba: Idle Hands (1999).
Alba would eventually catch her break with the James Cameron-produced TV show Dark Angel, but not before appearing in the horror comedy Idle Hands as the love interest of a teenage slacker (Devon Sawa) who kills his parents and best friends because his hand is, you guessed it, possessed by an evil spirit. It may sound ridiculous, but, really, it wasn't much worse than the Fantastic Four movies that would follow.
Leonardo DiCaprio: Critters 3 (1991).
For those that missed both Critters and Critters 2: The Main Course, the third installment needs little backstory as the sequel is yet another chance to see tiny round alien creatures devour humans. To be fair, the movie is intending to be a comedy/sci-fi/horror mashup, but, whatever the intent, Critters 3 will forever have its place in film trivia as being the big screen debut of Leonardo DiCaprio. In just a few short years, DiCaprio went from Critters 3 to joining the cast of the ABC sitcom Growing Pains in its final season to co-starring with Robert De Niro in 1993's This Boy's Life to earning his first Academy Award nomination for 1993's What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
Peter Jackson: Bad Taste (1988)
Those that only think of Jackson as the director of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movies never saw his acting debut in Bad Taste, Jackson's directorial debut as well. Playing a member of "The Boys," aka New Zealand's Alien Investigation and Defense Service, Jackson played Derek, the clumsiest and nerdiest member of an elite squad brought in by the New Zealand government to investigate an alien invasion (Jackson also played an alien named Robert and ends up fighting himself in one scene). The low-budget affair took Jackson 4 years to complete, cutting corners by distinguishing the human-looking aliens by giving them a blue jeans and blue shirt appearance, yet impressing with flashes of gore that including a scene where Jackson keeps his brain inside his exposed head by using his belt.
Jackson would continue to work in the horror genre for the next few years, directing 1990's psychotic puppet movie Meet the Feebles and the gory, zombie comedy Dead Alive. It was 1994's Heavenly Creatures that first took Jackson away from genre movies, and earned him his first Academy Award nomination. Jackson would return to the genre with the 1996 horror-comedy The Frighteners.
Jennifer Connelly: Creepers, aka Phenomena (1985).
Connelly's first big screen appearance was technically in 1984's Once Upon a Time in America, but her first lead role came in Italian director Donald Pleasence (on loan from his psychiatrist role in the Halloween movies), though the newfound abilities do not keep her from being able to avoid falling into a gory pit of victims.
While Creepers was Connelly's first big role, after winning an Academy Award for 2001's A Beautiful Mind, Creepers was omitted from Connelly's episode of Inside The Actor's Studio. Still, Connelly wouldn't entirely dismiss the genre, following up her Oscar–winning role with 2005's Dark Water.
Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995).
While still living in his native Texas, McConaughey had made his debut in 1993's Dazed and Confused, and had also played a tiny role as a disgruntled movie theater attendee in 1993's My Boyfriend's Back (Zellweger's tiny role was cut, but the movie featured Philip Seymour Hoffman and Matthew Fox in supporting roles). Stardom still alluded the two Austin-based actors, which is why they probably said "yes" to the dismal Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, their first lead roles. Outside of a screening at SXSW in 1995, Texas Chainsaw: The Next Generation wasn't officially released until 1997, after both actors had become stars.
While McConaughey has mostly stayed away from the genre ever since, Zellweger appeared in the oft-delayed horror-thriller Case 39.
Brad Pitt: Cutting Class (1989).
In the late 1980s, Pitt was working in small roles in TV shows and soap operas and uncredited roles in movies before finally landing his first significant part in 1991's Thelma & Louise, which often remembered as Pitt's first movie role. However, Pitt's first lead movie role to reach theaters was Cutting Class, a slasher movie about a high school with a killer on the loose. But who is the killer? The angry basketball star (Pitt) or the kid who was just released from a mental institution (Donovan Leitch)? We don't want to spoil anything, so we'll let you figure it out.
Pitt hasn't exactly stayed away from horror movies after his beginnings either. After 1994's Interview With a Vampire, Pitt starred in the gristly horror-thriller Se7en and will return to the genre this summer with World War Z.
George Clooney: Return to Horror High (1987), Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988).
Pitt's good buddy, George Clooney, was also a struggling TV actor in the 1980s, having been a cast member of The Facts of Life for its last two seasons, a recurring role on Roseanne and a short-lived sitcom (ironically) called E/R. Clooney's early movie roles, however, were mostly in horror, notably the cult sequel Return of the Killer Tomatoes, where Clooney played the ladies' man Matt. Even after Clooney broke through on the hour-long drama ER, Clooney's first movie role was in 1996's From Dursk 'Til Dawn.
But Clooney's first horror movie role? That distinction belongs to 1987's Return to Horror High. Not a lead role, the movie was set at a high school where a series of brutal murders had occurred years earlier, with Clooney playing the lead actor in the movie-within-the-movie about the murders that was being shot on the school grounds. As the killer had never been found, is it any surprise that he shows up again? It is to Clooney, who goes down as the killer's first (new) victim.