More often than not, when an actor becomes famous, they’re best known for their most iconic roles. But everyone has to start somewhere. Even if their early performances aren’t necessarily their best, it’s still fun to go back and see how a big movie star’s career all got started. At the very least, you’ll probably be able to laugh at whatever hairstyle they were rocking at the time of their first big break.
10. Kevin Bacon – Animal House (1978)
Kevin Bacon’s career took off in the ’80s after the release of Footloose, but he got his start in the ’70s starring in the smash-hit comedy Animal House. Bacon plays Omega pledge, Chip Diller. The memorable scene with him getting spanked at the Omega initiation and shouting, “Thank you, sir! May I have another?” has been re-enacted in countless frat houses for decades and has even inspired Bacon to create the charitable social network SixDegrees.org.
9. Jack Black – The NeverEnding Story III (1994)
Jack Black had a few minor roles before this—including a part as a taxi driver in the Golden Girls spin-off, Golden Palace—but by far, his most significant early-career role was when he played the despicable leader of a crew school bullies in The NeverEnding Story III. Although the movie itself is pretty bad, even for a second sequel, there is some charm in seeing Jack Black’s character, Slip, get beat up at the end by the kid from Free Willy.
8. Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Roseanne (1993)
A lot of people might remember Joseph Gordon-Levitt from his early roles in Disney’s Angels in the Outfield, and the popular TV show 3rd Rock From the Sun. But even before those parts, one of Gordon-Levitt’s first high-profile roles was a four-episode run on Roseanne where he played an annoying, penny-pinching neighbor by the name of George.
Of course, now Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a straight-up Hollywood star who’s got a lot going for him with significant parts in big-budget Christopher Nolan movies like Inception and The Dark Knight Rises and several other lead roles on the horizon.
7. Paul Rudd – Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Surely Paul Rudd is hoping we would all forget that time he went up against a doughy-looking, pale-faced Michael Myers, but thanks to the internet that memory can now live on in infamy forever. Playing a grown-up version of Tommy Doyle, the haunted boy from the original Halloween movie, it’s a little strange to go back now and watch Rudd in a non-comedy role. Still, he manages to bring a severe creepiness and plausibility to what now seems like a pretty silly premise as far as horror movies go. The best part of the film is at the end where Rudd finally does what you would think every character in a Halloween movie would have done from the start—bludgeon the living hell out of Michael Myers with a lead pipe until he’s nothing more than a gooey puddle on the floor.
6. Jennifer Aniston – Leprechaun (1993)
Even though she grew up in a Hollywood family with her parents both being veteran actors, Jennifer Aniston still had to work her way up the showbiz ladder. While she worked on failed TV shows in the early ’90s, she made ends meet by working jobs as a waitress and telemarketer. Finally, in 1993, she landed her very first film role as Tory Reding in the very cheesy horror movie Leprechaun. The film didn’t receive much critical acclaim, though (it has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of only 27 percent). The scariest part of the whole movie is seeing Jennifer Aniston perform with her original nose. But we all know that hard work early on in her career paid off as she’s remained a Hollywood A-lister ever since her days on Friends.
5. Jason Bateman – Teen Wolf Too (1987)
Teen Wolf Too marked Jason Bateman’s first big-screen role as Todd Howard—the furry adolescent cousin of the original teen wolf. This time around, another coach wants to capitalize on the apparent superhuman sports prowess of werewolves and encourages Todd to join the high school’s boxing team, where he immediately begins delivering a pasting to his other teenage opponents. The movie was almost universally disliked with Siskel and Ebert both giving it two emphatic thumbs down and a Los Angeles Times review headline stating “Teen Wolf Too Deserves a Silver Bullet.” Luckily, Bateman would never see such lows again, ultimately landing on the popular show Arrested Development, where he hit his stride playing the ever-exasperated straight-man character.
4. Jake Gyllenhaal – City Slickers (1991)
Jake Gyllenhaal is another actor who came from a Hollywood family. His father, Stephen Gyllenhaal, is a film producer, and his mother, Naomi Foner, is a screenwriter, so it might not come as a huge surprise that his first role was alongside Billy Crystal in City Slickers. Gyllenhaal plays Crystal’s son in the movie, who’s so embarrassed by his father’s tedious job that he makes up a story for his classmates and tells them all that he’s a submarine captain. However, after this initial role, apparently, Jake’s parents wouldn’t let him act in any movies that weren’t produced or directed by his father, despite having auditioned for and won a number of other parts. This is probably the reason why he didn’t resurface again until almost a decade later when he was finally able to make his own choices and star in movies like October Sky and Donnie Darko.
3. Elijah Wood – Back to the Future Part II (1989)
Since starring in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, Elijah Wood is probably destined to forever be remembered as the fabled hobbit Frodo Baggins. But Wood was a pretty busy child actor who began his career at a very young age, starring in television commercials and music videos by the age of seven. His first film role was actually in the blockbuster Back to the Future Part II. You know the scene when Marty McFly enters that futuristic 2015 diner? At that moment, he sees two kids playing what’s supposed to be a classic arcade game in the corner. The one kid that’s wearing what looks like some sort of green construction helmet-hat is Elijah Wood. It’s funny because he’s not that hard to recognize considering he pretty much looks the same today.
2. Aaron Paul – Beverly Hills, 90210 (1999)
Everyone knows him for his portrayal of a meth-cooking drug dealer on Breaking Bad. Still, long before Aaron Paul was toppling drug lords with Walter White, he was getting tips on how to perform Shakespeare on the original Beverly Hills, 90210. As the character Chad, Paul was supposed to be playing the lead in the high school’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, which meant he was afforded the opportunity to plant a genuinely cringeworthy kiss on his female co-star.
1. Ben Affleck – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Aside from a couple of flops, Ben Affleck has had a pretty darn successful career in Hollywood. He’s won a Best Director Oscar for Argo, a Best Screenwriter Oscar for Good Will Hunting, and he’s set to be the next Batman. But when he looks back on all his career milestones, one role that will surely have a special place in his heart is that of Basketball Player #10 in the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. Who would have guessed back then that Ben Affleck would one day be a bigger star than the likes of Luke Perry and Kristy Swanson?