Hollywood is a notoriously difficult industry to break into. This means that many of today’s biggest and brightest stars made their feature-length debuts in the type of films you find hiding in the bargain bins at entertainment stores, or within the depths of Netflix. These films are now entertaining to watch to see the youngster in their first role, and usually, it is the film and not their own performance which will leave them slightly red-faced. Everyone must start somewhere, and for these stars, it has been an impressive rise to the top after some cringeworthy debuts.
From Clint Eastwood playing a laboratory assistant to a BMX riding Nicole Kidman, here are 10 embarrassing film debuts from Hollywood’s biggest stars.
10. Patricia Arquette – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Patricia Arquette amazed the world with her unforgettable appearance in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, and she has also appeared in several other widely praised films and starred on the drama series Medium for seven seasons. She made her film debut in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, which took the franchise into a new area with an added comedic theme. Whilst some Nightmare on Elm Street fans enjoy this film and think it is the best sequel, you can’t help but think that Arquette would blush thanks to her role as the Final Girl in what is quite a silly and absurd film, which sees her half eaten by a gigantic snake. This appearance does make her popular amongst horror fans, however, but she had to drop out of the fourth film due to her pregnancy. Before long, Arquette landed a role in 1993’s True Romance.
9. Julianne Moore – Tales from the Darkside: The Movie
Few actresses command more respect than Julianne Moore, who has appeared in dozens of art house and Hollywood films and picked up plenty of awards along the way. She has enjoyed tremendous success in the last few years, particularly for Still Alice, which saw her win an Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA for her unforgettable performance as a linguistics professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Her long journey to becoming a highly respected and adored film performer started in 1990 with her appearance in horror anthology film Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. In this cheesy, clichéd supernatural film, Moore appears in the “Lot 249” chapter. In this story, Moore plays a student who frames a classmate for theft to ruin his chances of winning a scholarship (which she is competing for). The student then re-animates a mummy to murder her in a bizarre short story.
8. Clint Eastwood – Revenge of the Creature (1955)
Clint Eastwood is famed for having a commanding onscreen presence, and he has played some of the most iconic antihero characters of all time, including The Man with No Name from the Dollars trilogy and Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry. It didn’t all start out with cool, rogue tough guys, however, as his debut would come as an uncredited role as a laboratory assistant in 1955’s Revenge of the Creature, which was the sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon. Instead of a gun slinging, cigar smoking maverick delivering his own sense of justice, Eastwood plays a character who thinks that his experiment has gone wrong as one of his rats is missing. He then becomes flustered when he finds the rat in his lab coat. This is his only appearance in the film, and it was certainly onwards and upwards for Eastwood, who is now considered a cultural icon.
7. Julia Roberts – Firehouse (1987)
Julia Roberts is one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood, earning recognition for her roles in films such as Pretty Woman, Erin Brockovich, Notting Hill and Eat Pray Love. She will often play the lead role with powerful performances as complex and strong women, but this was not the case for her very first film appearance, which saw her in an uncredited role. This was 1987’s Firehouse, a raunchy comedy which sees three women become new recruits at the fire station. Here they are teased by the males and command no respect, but they soon stand up for themselves after solving the mystery of who is starting fires to old buildings around the neighborhood. It is packed full of stereotypes, clichés and is massively over the top, and Roberts is probably relieved that she only had a minor (and uncredited) role in the film.
6. Jennifer Aniston – Leprechaun (1993)
We all know Jennifer Aniston as Rachel from Friends, which was an enormously popular show that ran for 10 years. Over this period, Aniston became a huge star and even led girls around the world to copy her haircut, which became known as “The Rachel.” She has also starred in dozens of romantic comedies, and is widely considered to be one of the biggest names in Hollywood and is frequently in the headlines. Before taking up the role of Rachel, Aniston was trying to catch a break like many other young aspiring performers. After a few TV appearances, she landed the lead role in the 1993 horror comedy film, Leprechaun. This has since become a cult film and is a must-watch. The plot sees an evil Leprechaun (brilliantly played by Warwick Davis) who loses his beloved pot of gold, and he goes on a killing rampage to find it.
5. Nicole Kidman – BMX Bandits (1983)
Before becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest and most respected stars, Nicole Kidman was attempting to launch her career in her home country, Australia. The glamour of L.A. must have seemed like nothing more than a dream for Kidman in her career beginnings, which saw her appear in a number of low budget films in the early ’80s. Her debut film would be 1983’s adventure crime BMX Bandits. Kidman plays Judy, a 16-year-old who is part of a trio that is on the run (on their BMX’s) from criminals who are attempting to get their special walkie talkies back. The film is agonizingly ’80s, which only adds to the embarrassment. Although far from the greatest film, it was a fine performance from a very young Kidman. After finding popularity in Australia, she soon became a star thanks to her performances in Days of Thunder, Far and Away and Batman Forever.
4. Leonardo DiCaprio – Critters 3 (1991)
Leonardo DiCaprio is a fan favorite with both men and women and has put in unforgettable performances in many of the biggest films of the last decade. Before breaking into the industry and finding mainstream success with Romeo + Juliet and Titanic, a young DiCaprio performed in adverts and a few TV shows and got his film debut in 1991 with the sci-fi horror film Critters 3 (a direct-to-video release). This is a film that sees furry creatures attacking an apartment building in L.A., and is as terrible as it sounds, yet still quite entertaining. DiCaprio plays the role of Josh, who is the stepson of the landlord. DiCaprio has described his character as “your average, no-depth, standard kid with blonde hair.” Although it may cause him to blush, he was very shortly after on his path to stardom, with roles in This Boy’s Life and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
3. Angelina Jolie – Cyborg 2 (1993)
Most of the performers on this list will probably blush if they were to watch their big screen debuts, but they would also be able to laugh them off (the money surely helps too). You would be unlikely to get Jolie to watch back her debut appearance, which was 1993’s direct-to-video Cyborg 2. In this film, 17-year-old Jolie had the lead role, which was a near-human robot which had been designed for corporate espionage (through seduction) and assassination (through self-detonating). Jolie was so embarrassed by the film that she claims that she “went home and got sick,” and she was so disappointed that she did not audition again for another year. Things soon improved for her though, and before long she would be one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood and a global superstar thanks to films like Girl, Interrupted, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Mr. & Mrs. Smith.
2. Courteney Cox – Masters of the Universe (1987)
Jennifer Aniston can take comfort in knowing that out of all the Friends cast, she is not the one with the most embarrassing debut film. Courteney Cox takes home that prize with 1987’s enormous flop (both critically and commercially), Masters of the Universe. The film is based on the Mattel toy line of the same name and also stars Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella. Cox plays Julie Winston, who discovers a “cosmic key” which can open a portal to any point in time and space. She is then saved by He-Man (Lundgren) from Skeletor (Langella). The film was such a spectacular failure that it helped contribute to the collapses of Cannon Films, but fortunately for Cox, it did not damage her career. She made a few other film appearances before landing her role in Friends, which made her a global star and household name for her portrayal as Monica Geller.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Hercules in New York (1969)
After winning Mr. Universe at the age of 20, Arnold Schwarzenegger moved to the United States despite speaking very little English. Schwarzenegger decided that he wanted to move into the world of acting, and his huge size helped him to land the role of Hercules in 1969’s Hercules in New York. It would be an absolute disaster of a film, largely due to the fact that Schwarzenegger had zero acting skills and an accent so thick that he could not be understood. His accent was so thick that his lines were dubbed after production, and the poor acting makes for a challenging watch. Schwarzenegger was simply credited as “Arnold Strong ‘Mr. Universe.’” It was not until 1982’s Conan the Barbarian that he broke through and went on to become an iconic action superstar, and by this point, his accent was not as thick and he had developed some acting skills.