Every A-lister has to get their start somewhere, and that somewhere is usually terrifically crappy when you’re a young, nameless cog kicking around the vast Hollywood machine, just trying to find your own lucrative niche. While all of the stars on this list went on to thriving and, in some cases, award-winning careers, they too have their troubled pasts, which luckily for us are preserved for all time thanks to the miracle of modern technology. It’s kind of like if your parents posted all your childhood home movies to the internet, and they went viral – except these “films” were thought up by actual professional producers and actual professional writers.
The B-movie genre enjoys a flourishing audience thanks to the fact that humans have a pathological need to preside in smug judgment over a train wreck (see: reality TV), so you’ve probably heard of a few of these gems before. Some, however, have been relegated to the darkest depths of mankind’s subconscious, where we keep all our most humiliating failures. And cowering there in its own shame is probably precisely where the following celebs wish these unholy blots on their resumes would stay. But IMDb is a thing and so is Google Images, which means we can all follow along as the pre-millionaire versions of these famous faces slink their undignified way through CGI aliens, straight-to-video ignominy, and musical comedies about intergalactic lovin’.
15. Jennifer Aniston In Leprechaun
Before Friends, before all the pregnancy speculation, and before the Brangelina scandal that broke the world, Jennifer Aniston was just a bright-eyed nobody trying to wedge a foot in Hollywood’s gilded door. In order to help accomplish this, she took on a starring role in the first Leprechaun movie, a franchise that would go on to span seven increasingly abysmal films. Aniston plays Tory Redding, the teenage daughter of a hapless family of renters who occupy a house they are unknowingly sharing with an evil leprechaun. The film is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from anything starring an evil leprechaun, and features one of my personal favourites: a scene in which the villainous leprechaun, riding in one of those plastic cars with the little foot pedals you give your toddler child so they stop bothering mommy and daddy, is pulled over by a cop for speeding. Our wee little monster also uses a pogo stick to end a man’s life, and is defeated by a kid.
14. George Clooney In Batman And Robin
A movie so bad it almost ruined an entire franchise and prompted its title star George Clooney to actually apologize for it, 1997’s Batman & Robin features a punning Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, Chris O’Donnell with his underwear on the wrong side, and a couple of hilariously sculpted chest plates that make it look as if Batman and Robin are in a constant state of excitement. For some reason, Uma Thurman and Alicia Silverstone also both signed onto this movie as Batgirl and Poison Ivy. Despite this immense star power, nothing could save the movie from itself, especially when these stars are made to utter lines like, “No matter what they tell you, Mr. Bane, it is the size of your gun that counts,” because apparently Poison Ivy’s “My garden needs tending” wasn’t innuendo enough.
13. Leonardo DiCaprio In Critters 3
He’s now a multi-millionaire with an Oscar under his belt who’s left a string of Victoria’s Secret models in his puffy, bloated wake (that go-to constipation squint has not been kind to the baby-butt brow of his Titanic days), but in 1991, Leonardo DiCaprio was an unknown just making his film debut in a movie you might have consciously tried to forget called Critters 3. In it, DiCaprio plays the son of a jerk landlord plagued by a band of terrifying aliens/muppets which have hatched in their Los Angeles tenement. It’s a terribly far cry from The Revenant, but, hey, it did put him on the Hollywood scene, and you can’t feel too sorry for a guy who spends all his time dating supermodels and showering in vitamin C-infused water while the rest of us make do with the chloric stench of our own middle-class mediocrity.
12. Halle Berry In Dark Tide
The most embarrassing part of a movie in which you play a “shark whisperer” is that it actually came after Halle Berry won an Oscar in 2002. The film scored a whopping 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and follows a shark expert whose failing business gets a boost when a crazy millionaire wants to get his kicks in by shark diving without a cage. (It may have completely crashed and burned with its audience, but the film did manage to predict the future and its influx of cage-free diving that’s started popping up in places like Hawaii. I guess the newest trend is that being alive is for nerds and losers.) In some BTS footage of Dark Tide, Berry can actually be seen reaching out from the boat to touch a great white shark swimming nearby, so I guess she knew how bad the movie was and figured she really had nothing to lose.
11. Demi Moore In Parasite
Like a lot of terrible horror films, the 1982 film Parasite teaches us an important life lesson about not creating things in science labs that can mutate into a badly-animated cannibal. In a post-apocalyptic America, the government has been taken over by a criminal organization “who exploit the degenerate remains of society,” which doesn’t sound like a very far cry from our actual government, so I wonder if future us even noticed a difference. Amidst this nuclear wasteland, a young Demi Moore plays a lemon-grower who steps up to help the scientist who created this flesh-eating parasite reverse his most monstrous mistake. None of the rest of the cast is at all recognizable, meaning their careers went exactly where they should after a movie like this, and Moore made some kind of back alley deal in which souls exchanged hands.
10. Eva Mendes In Children Of The Corn V
Any horror franchise in its fifth instalment doesn’t really need any elaboration on why it’s terrible. Eva Mendes, however, probably wasn’t much concerned with the quality of Children of the Corn V, since she was only 24 at the time and still finding her footing in Hollywood. In it, she plays one of a group of teenagers who become lost in middle America and wind up in Divinity Falls, where “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” has an army of forgotten children at his creepy command. Even the first movie earned only a 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, so you can imagine how well its fourth sequel went over. Throwing in some sentient flames that kill two firefighters probably didn’t help matters. Or that time the sole survivor destroyed the almighty corn god by throwing a bunch of fertilizer into a silo. On the bright side: Mendes was actually so embarrassed by her performance in it that she afterward hired an acting coach.
9. Amy Adams In Cruel Intentions 2
The star of every chick flick you’ve ever been forced to see, Amy Adams wasn’t always worth enough money to make it on my Future Spouses list. In 1999, she took over Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s role as the scheming Kathryn Merteuil in the straight-to-video Cruel Intentions 2. A prequel to the first movie, it was originally supposed to be a Fox-produced TV show called Manchester Prep, but was cancelled prior to actual broadcast. The first three episodes were edited together into a film and released straight to these things known as a “Blockbuster,” a primitive streaming service that forced people to actually leave their houses to rent videos. Like dumping chamber pots out the window onto the heads of our fellow mankind, it’s a thing we don’t talk about anymore.
8. Angelina Jolie In Cyborg 2
When asked whether or not you’d recommend a movie, instead of just answering, have you ever started to projectile barf as the full horror of the fact that yes, you actually just subjected yourself to a singing martial arts musical starring American Idol’s favourite failure William Hung suddenly hits home? (Hold on; I’m having a flashback.) Well, then you’re not alone, because apparently Angelina Jolie went home and got sick after seeing her performance in Cyborg 2, a 1993 science fiction action film in which a 17-year-old Jolie can be seen in her first starring role. Jolie plays a spy assassin robot full of a liquid explosive called “Glass Shadow,” so I probably don’t need to elaborate any further on why it’s awful. I will, however, mention that this robot answers to the name Cash and that she and her robot combat trainer escape the Evil Cyber Company Overlords by running away to Africa together, where the bounty hunter tracking them meets his end at the hands of a fan.
7. Matthew McConnaughey In Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
We now know him as the muscular protagonist of every chick flick that Amy Adams wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Matthew McConnaughey, however, also has some serious acting chops which have managed to snag him multiple awards, including an Oscar in 2014. But before all that, once upon a time, in a land far distant, there was an unknown young man who took a role in the fourth instalment of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise as a psycho tow truck driver who spends his time merrily running people over. Originally titled The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and shot on a mere $600,000 budget, it hung in production limbo for three years before its eventual release, which netted a measly $185,898 at the box office. Of it, one critic said, “The kind of cinematic endeavor where you suspect both cast and crew were obligated to bring their own beer.”
6. Mark Ruffalo In The Dentist
Today Mark Ruffalo is better known as one of the main characters in the MCU’s titanic franchise which has obliterated all other Hulks that came before, because you wouldn’t like Disney when it’s money-grubbing. But Ruffalo had to start somewhere, and that somewhere was the B-film The Dentist. In 1996 he played the manager of a successful dentist who goes absolutely crackers when he discovers his wife cheating on him the night of their wedding anniversary. Which is fair; nobody likes a floozy. Ruffalo heroically punches Dr. Demented after finding out that he violated and choked a patient while they were unconscious… and that’s about the extent of his contribution. Which is probably for the best, because there’s nowhere to go but down when your premise is “dentist with too many bats in the belfry.”
5. Jim Carrey In Earth Girls Are Easy
Jim Carrey is now a famous comedian who has built a career out of morphing his face into weird shapes rather than putting any effort into actually being funny. In 1988, however, he was just a furry alien called Wiploc trying to make it with earth girls, who I guess really know what they’re doing if Jim Carrey was willing to come all the way from space just to get some canoodling. In this musical romantic-comedy science fiction film which is already awful based on that mash-up of genres alone, three aliens crash land in the pool of Geena Davis, who is pissed enough at her cheating fiancé that she decides to befriend a couple of shaggy ETs. While Carrey doesn’t get the girl in the end, his blue alien friend Mac (played by Jeff Goldblum) does, and everybody jets off to their happily ever after in the starry beyond.
4. Courtney Cox In Masters Of The Universe
Another Friends star with an embarrassing beginning, Courtney Cox got her start in the He-Man film Masters of the Universe based on a line of toys, meaning this movie had about as much chance as any video game to movie adaptation in terms of not being offensively bad. But it is, and in fact it’s so offensively bad that it partially contributed to the bankruptcy of the production company that distributed it. After a thorough chorus of backlash from critics and a $17 million return on its $22 million budget (somebody paid $22 million to play with toys in space?), it was declared a clear failure and everyone in it went on to obscurity until Cox became Monica Geller and no one anywhere could forget about her even if they wanted to, thanks to syndication.
3. Nicole Kidman In BMX Bandits
A plucky group of kids find a box full of walkie-talkies that happen to pick up on police radio frequencies (as you do) and in the process get themselves mixed up with a couple of bank robbers. (You shouldn’t, however, worry too much about their safety, since these bank robbers just left the walkie-talkies they were hoping to use to monitor police movement sitting out in a box where children and their bikes could randomly stumble upon them.) Among these kids: Nicole Kidman, future Oscar winner and wife of Xenu’s Chosen One Tom Cruise. But before she could be deemed worthy, Kidman had to put in her time starring in cheesy Australian teen movies. Kidman, unlike Eastwood, actually gave a decent enough performance that upon BMX Bandit’s release The Guardian remarked, ‘There’s a girl called Nicole Kidman who’s rather good.”
2. Arnold Scwarzenegger In Hercules In New York
Arnold Schwarzenegger has had a varied career spanning politics, acting, and bodybuilding, but prior to all that he was just a really jacked-up Austrian fresh from customs looking for some work. He got it in the 1970 fantasy comedy Hercules In New York, which for some reason has the mythical hero butting heads with daddy Zeus over not getting to walk with the mortals. I don’t know why people keep using this as a plot; humans don’t even want to hang out with humans. There’s no way mythical creatures think we’re cool enough to risk a lighting bolt to the head. But anyway, Olympus’ biggest cheese relents and sends “Ahnold” down to New York where he becomes a professional wrestler. Zeus immediately regrets this, due to the fact that Hercules is kind of making them all look like ridiculous dummies. And Zeus wasn’t the only one with regrets. Schwarzenegger later admitted that the film was so bad, we ought to use it as an interrogation technique in place of water-boarding.
1. Clint Eastwood In Revenge Of The Creature
Even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably heard of The Creature From the Black Lagoon; you probably, however, haven’t heard of Revenge of the Creature. I like to think that’s because Clint Eastwood used his immense Hollywood clout to suppress all traces of this sequel to the famous 1954 Universal film. In it, a very young Eastwood plays an uncredited scientist who gets about 3.5 seconds of screen time, which he spends not squinting at anyone; that technique would be honed later on in his career. The movie was actually mocked on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, during which Crow said of Eastwood, “This guy’s bad; this is his first and last movie.” I wonder what Josey Wales, Walt Kowalski or Sergeant Highway think of that?