You have to start somewhere, right? The biggest actors in Hollywood demand millions of dollars for a performance and can pick and choose their projects - but it wasn’t always that way. Before they were famous, many of today’s top stars took parts in some pretty ridiculous, sleazy movies. In this feature, we’ll spotlight ten oddball movies that gave A-list celebs their start.
Leonardo DiCaprio - Critters 3
Low-rent horror and sci-fi movies are often a good place to find famous actors in their first roles, but few are quite as lousy as "Critters 3." The original "Critters" was made as a "Gremlins" cash-in in 1986 that somehow managed to inspire multiple direct-to-video sequels. The third installment follows the McFadden family as they travel the country tracking down unhatched Critter eggs. When a new colony erupts in a tenement apartment building, Leonardo DiCaprio (as Josh, the slumlord’s son) must fight for survival against the ravenous furballs.
Angelina Jolie - Cyborg 2
This is actually a little bit of a fake-out, as Angelina Jolie actually had a brief role as a child in one of her dad’s movies, but it was more than a decade later that she actually starred in her first film, "Cyborg 2." It’s a sequel to 1989’s "Cyborg" in name only, sharing no characters or plot elements. What it has in their place is Jolie as a cyborg booby-trapped with an explosive called Glass Shadow and sent to suicide-bomb the Board of Directors of a Japanese robotics company. When she bails on her mission and escapes, the evil company sends Billy Drago to hunt her down. Will she survive? Who cares!
Jennifer Aniston - Leprechaun
The other famous romantic partner of Brad Pitt didn’t have such a great start in the movie business either. Jennifer Aniston started out with a bevy of TV roles on early-90s favorites like "Herman’s Head" and "Quantum Leap" before getting her big break playing the female lead in "Leprechaun," an absolutely idiotic horror film about a wee Irish sprite who really wants to get his pot of gold back. The movie managed to inspire several sequels, including the classic "Leprechaun: In the Hood," but Aniston’s experience filming the first one was so horrible she actually considered quitting acting forever.
Sylvester Stallone - The Party at Kitty and Stud’s
Before he came to worldwide fame as Rocky and Rambo, Sylvester Stallone was just another struggling actor and screenwriter living in New York City. After being evicted from his apartment and sleeping in the Port Authority bus station for three weeks, he took his first movie role in the softcore porn movie "The Party at Kitty and Stud’s" (also known under the title "Italian Stallion"). Stallone played the titular Stud, an oafish young man with a magic dinger who puts it to Kitty and a number of other ladies. Despite rumors, no hardcore scenes were ever shot, disappointing many.
Morgan Freeman - Who Says I Can’t Ride a Rainbow!
One of the most respected African-American actors of our time, Morgan Freeman adds gravitas and dignity to every role. But could even he redeem a goofy 1971 flick about a lonely old man who wants to have a pony farm in the middle of Manhattan? "Who Says I Can’t Ride a Rainbow!" stars Jack Klugman as Barney Marcovitz, a Greenwich Village lifer who opens a farm to teach city children to ride. When real estate developers buy him out, he gives the animals to the neighborhood children, causing all sorts of hijinks. Freeman plays a character named Afro. We’re not kidding.
Robert Downey, Jr. - Pound
When your father is a filmmaker, you have to expect that he’ll put you in a movie sooner or later. But Robert Downey, Sr. was one of the weirdest directors of the 70s, creating counter-culture classics like "Putney Swope" and "Greaser’s Palace." He waited until little Robert was five before using him in a movie, but "Pound" might be one of his oddest. This 1970 movie is set in a New York animal shelter where a group of dogs and cats are waiting to be adopted…or euthanized. Meanwhile, a serial killer is terrorizing the streets outside. Young Downey plays a puppy who is quickly adopted out of the system.
Patrick Swayze - Skatetown USA
If there’s one thing that Hollywood producers love, it’s knocking out quickie cash-in flicks about popular fads. This isn’t a new trend, though – it’s been going on for decades. Case in point: 1979’s "Skatetown USA," which tried to give the "Saturday Night Fever" treatment to roller boogie. Patrick Swayze stars as Ace, a champion dancer who must compete with stuck-up Stan Nelson to win a competition. The prize is $1,000 and a moped! Swayze had skated competitively and had dance training, so he did all of his own stunts. According to several actors, there was an insane amount of cocaine being done on set.
John Goodman - Jailbait Babysitter
In addition to sci-fi flicks, another film genre where struggling actors get work is sleazy sexploitation movies that promise all-out smut but deliver a lot of innuendo instead. For example, 1977’s "Jailbait Babysitter," a movie about a young woman named Vicki who won’t put out for her boyfriend. She doesn’t have any problem with other sexual shenanigans, though, hosting wild toga parties at her house and eventually doing the dirty with a bald old dude. The film is probably only notable for being the debut performance of John Goodman, years before he would break through as Dan Conner on "Roseanne."
Bryan Cranston - Amazon Women on the Moon
We know and love him as Walter White on "Breaking Bad," but Bryan Cranston hasn’t always taken such meaty roles. His first film was actually 1987 sleazeball comedy "Amazon Women on the Moon." The flick, directed by a rogues gallery of talent including John Landis and Joe Dante, was a paean to awful late-night movies shown on TV, and starred a wild assortment of talent, including Arsenio Hall, Ed Begley, Jr. and Michelle Pfeiffer. Cranston had a brief scene as a paramedic in the “Roast Your Loved One” bit.
Next: World's Craziest Festivals
Denzel Washington and Jeff Goldblum - Death Wish
Let’s do a twofer to close this list out. "Death Wish" is fondly remembered as one of the progenitors of the “vengeance movie” genre, starring Charles Bronson as an ordinary man who turns vigilante after his wife is murdered and his daughter is raped by street thugs in sleazy 70s New York. It’s on this list because not one, but two famous actors got their start in it. Jeff Goldblum was cast as Freak #1, one of the criminals that Bronson terminates, and Denzel Washington had his first film role (uncredited) as a mugger in an alleyway.