It’s always best to to stay on the sunny side of life. At least I’ve heard as much. I wouldn’t know, because I have the crabby heart of an old man and the entire world is my lawn and everyone is constantly on it. But I am familiar with the idea that positive thinking can yield positive results. So while you’re (secretly) watching the illest pops and the freshest locks in Step-Up 3D this weekend, keep in mind that every actor has to get his start somewhere. One of those background dancers gyrating his heart out to save the rec center (I assume that is the plot — it always is with these movies) may be the next Brando. Maybe one of them, like everyone below, will one day climb the Hollywood ranks and Step-Up 3D will be the skeleton in his closet.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Critters 3
Leonardo DiCaprio is known for great performances at a very young age, but forget What’s Eating Gilbert Grape; it’s all about Critters 3. Not only was the Critters franchise already a bit of a joke for being an even lower-rent version of Gremlins, but part three, a lazy attempt to make a horror/comedy version of Towering Inferno, was pretty bad even by the franchise’s standards. DiCaprio, unsurprisingly, is pretty decent as the stepson of the abusive apartment landlord, but the rest of the movie is exactly what you’d expect from a straight-to-video movie that was shot back-to-back with Critters 4, which is of course set in space.
Mark Ruffalo, Mirror, Mirror 2: Raven Dance; Mirror, Mirror 3: The Voyeur
Even though everyone on this list has been in some pretty bad movies early in their career, few went through what future Incredible Hulk Mark Ruffalo went through. He was in Mirror, Mirror 2: Raven Dance AND Mirror, Mirror 3: The Voyeur, two straight-to-video horror movies about people who get possessed by a mirror. The best(worst) part about it, though, is that Ruffalo plays two completely different people in both movies.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers, The Killer Tongue
I actually think Jonathan Rhys Meyers is a very under-utilized actor in Hollywood, but maybe I believe that because I haven’t actually seen The Killer Tongue, a Spanish-language sci-fi horror comedy about a crazy lady who is taken over by an alien. Meyers plays one of the titular character’s henchmen, er, henchwomen — I don’t know what the proper term is for a character that starts off the movie as a poodle (yes, a poodle) and ends up being a drag queen.
Angelina Jolie, Cyborg 2
It’s actually a toss-up trying to determine which early career movie Angelina Jolie is probably the most embarrassed by — Hackers or Cyborg 2. Ten years ago, Jolie’s seemingly free-spirited personality would have me believe she was embarrassed by neither film, but my gut tells me that 2010’s adoption-happy Jolie probably doesn’t bring up Cyborg 2 all that often. It might have something to do with her sex scene with Elias Kotea, who would have been twice her age at the time…
Jorge Garcia, Tales From the Crapper
Jorge Garcia is best recognized by most of the world as Hurley on Lost, but fans of C-grade horror comedies no doubt recognize him for his tiny role in Troma Films’ Tales From the Crapper. As with all Troma films, this Tales From the Crypt spoof has its charms and its fans, so I’m guessing Garcia isn’t all that embarrassed to have appeared in it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a terrible, terrible movie.
George Clooney, Return to Horror High
You know a movie is bad when the main reason people recognize its name is because they know it as “that awful horror movie George Clooney did in the ‘80s.” Worse yet, Clooney is only in this unfunny slasher comedy for about 20 minutes. Maybe he couldn’t take the longer, leading role in Return to Horror High because he was too busy filming another stinker from ‘87, Predator: The Concert, which is about a grizzly bear that gets a taste for the humans who throw a rock concert in his forest.
John Travolta, The Devil’s Rain
The worst thing about John Travolta appearing in The Devil’s Rain, a Satanic Panic movie from the ‘70s, is that he barely appears in it. He pops up throughout, sure, but the whole time his face is hidden underneath an ugly, waxy mask (you can glimpse a bit of him when his head melts at the end of the movie). Not a very sexy debut for a man who would go on to have a career built on being a sexual icon for an entire generation.
Jennifer Aniston, Leprechaun
I don’t care what anyone says, nobody actually likes Leprechaun in an unironic way. It’s often referred to as comedy these days, but the first film certainly wasn’t meant to be as hilarious as it is. There’s a reason people grew tired of the huckster, one-liner version of Freddy Krueger; it’s even worse to see that lameness brought to a Leprechaun. Sure, it made a nice profit at the box office (which is why it has five sequels), but that’s because it cost nothing to make. Fun fact: By the end of its run, Jennifer Aniston was getting paid $100,000 more per episode of Friends than it cost to make Leprechaun.
Demi Moore, Parasite
I love that Charles Band, a man who would eventually make a movie called Evil Bong II: King Bong, can take credit for helping launch the career of someone like Demi Moore. But before she was an ‘80s sex icon (hell, she still is one today), Moore was doing her part to save the already destitute human race from a manmade parasite designed to kill its host in 1982’s Parasite.
Jason Bateman, How Can I Tell If I’m Really in Love
All of the dreadful, straight-to-video horror movies on this list aren’t nearly as awkward as Jason Bateman appearing with his sister in How Can I Tell If I’m Really in Love, which is a series of PSA videos from the ‘80s about when it’s okay to have sex.