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Horror is a genre that is often misunderstood — much like some of the monsters in those films. Normally we think that horror movies are filled with a bunch of no-name actors, but iIn some instances a couple of actors got their start in horror films, or at one point in their career decided they would go the horror route because something about that movie just tickled their fancy. In honor of the release of World War Z, we would like to go down the list of some of the big movie stars who at one point popped their head, and may have lost it, in a horror film.

Top Five Biggest Actors To Get Their Start In A Horror Film

5. Johnny Depp in A Nightmare on Elm Street

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This entry is probably the most obvious one that springs to mind, which is why I decided to throw it last on the list. Before A-list actor Johnny Depp turned into the mega movie star that we know him as now, he was some unknown teenager getting attacked by Freddy Krueger. Actually, his death is probably one of the most iconic ones to come out of A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. A couple of years later his boyish looks and acting landed him a lead role in the 21 Jump Street television series, and — along with a role in Platoon — it eventually turned him into the big named actor we know him as today.

4. Jennifer Aniston in Leprechaun

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Shortly before Jennifer Aniston became a household name due to her role as Rachel in Friends, she made herself known in the horror world as another beautiful youngster to appear in a random horror film. In 1993 she appeared in Leprechaun, the story of an evil Leprechaun that’s hellbent on killing everyone after he’s freed from his small prison. Aniston encounters the evil little creature in the silly horror movie. It may not have been her finest moment of acting, but it gave her the kind of attention she needed in order to get her name out there. Hey, it worked.

3. George Clooney in Return to Horror High/Return of the Killer Tomatoes

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We recognize George Clooney as a great actor/director, and that cute man we saw on ER, but before he hit that level of fame he appeared in a couple of awful horror films. He starred in Return to Horror High, a forgettable movie about a serial killer who resides in a small town causing all sorts of havoc for all of its inhabitants. A year later he starred in the cheesy Return of the Killer Tomatoes. Eventually Clooney moved onto bigger and better projects, minus Batman and Robin. I figure he looks back at these two ludicrous horror films that he was a part of and laughs about it.

2. Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th/Tremors

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Actor Kevin Bacon did appear in Animal House, which some people seem to forget, but his career didn’t start rising up until the 80s. He began the decade starring in a little horror movie that is now considered a slasher classic, which is Friday the 13th. He met a grizzly fate, one that a lot of horror fans remember. Bacon must have loved what the movie did for his career because a few years later he returned to horror, starring in the goofy but great Tremors. Kevin Bacon is probably one of the coolest actors out there and his filmography, including his early work, proves it.

1. Brad Pitt in Cutting Class

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Since we’re tipping our hats to the existence of World War Z, it makes sense that Brad Pitt would come up on this list sooner or later. Before Brad Pitt became the monstrous movie star that we know him to be, he leaned on horror to help him boost his career in any way possible. At one point he was a part of the short lived TV series Freddy’s Nightmares, but shortly afterwards he starred in a little horror movie called Cutting Class. The horror mystery film isn’t really all that memorable, but at least it got him exposure. Two years later he was capturing the hearts of women across the world when he appeared in Thelma and Louise. Looks like Cutting Class was a good move after all (pun not intended).

Top Five Biggest Actors To Star In A Horror Film

5. Charlton Heston in The Omega Man

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Okay, so The Omega Man isn’t a movie that most people refer to when somebody talks about any end of the human race movie. Most people tend to refer to the Will Smith movie I Am Legend which in some ways is a remake. The Omega Man centers on a man (Charlton Heston) who’s considered to be the last man alive, struggling to find a cure to the disease that’s taken over the remaining survivors that have turned into these awful creatures who hide under the cover of darkness. It may move a little slower than what audiences of today are used to, but Heston’s slightly campy performance in The Omega Man is enough to make anybody watch it.

4. Kurt Russell in The Thing

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A year after we were introduced to the awesome that is Snake Plissken in John Carpenter‘s Escape From New York, Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell won over horror fans across the globe with their creepy new remake The Thing. Based off the 1951 movie The Thing From Another World, the 80s update brought in the terror and yet another tough as nails performance from Kurt Russell playing our fully bearded hero. For many horror and movie fans in general, The Thing is still one of the best Carpenter movies in the man’s filmography.

3. Jeff Goldblum in The Fly

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At this point people were a little familiar with the likes of Jeff Goldblum. The actor made a great move when he snagged the lead role for David Cronenberg’s trippy horror film The Fly, one that is still engraved in the minds of many movie-goers, and partially due to the fantastic make-up work when we see his character slowly begin to morph into a grotesque combination of human and fly. From that point on Goldblum was a well-known actor and appeared in a flurry of movies including Steven Spielberg‘s classic film Jurassic Park.

2. Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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It’s no argument that Gary Oldman is one of the best working actors out there today. Throughout the years he’s taken on a number of random roles, proving how versatile of an actor he can be. A couple of years after he blew audiences away with his portrayal of Sid Vicious, he went the horror route taking on the most iconic vampire of them all, Dracula. Francis Ford Coppola‘s Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a gorgeous movie filled with gore, lust and a so-so British accent coming out of Keanu Reeves’ mouth. Gary Oldman shines as Count Dracula and you feel sympathy for the creature of the night as he tries to woo over the reincarnation of his beloved that died centuries ago. Watch it now if you haven’t already.

1.Jack Nicholson in The Shining

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It would be wrong not mentioning great acting performances in a horror film without bringing up Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining. At this point in his career, Jack Nicholson had starred in Chinatown and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He’s an acting force to be reckoned with, so when he teamed up with Stanley Kubrick for this horror mystery, it was a perfect marriage of talent between actor and director. The Shining is now considered to be one of Kubrick’s most iconic movies to date, though his entire filmography is fantastic, but it was Jack Nicholson’s great performance as Jack Torrance as he descended into madness that really makes the film.

What’s you favorite turn by a great actor in a horror movie?