17 ’90s Movies Starring Celebrities Before They Became Hugely Famous

Even in Hollywood, everybody has to start somewhere, and though these stars are incredibly famous now, there was a time when they were just happy to be given any film roles at all. These ’90s movies have some seriously familiar faces before they were A-list stars, and it’s so sweet to look back on some of their earliest roles. Do any of them surprise you?!
Ben Affleck in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Ben Affleck, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
20th Century Fox
Few remember that before Buffy was a cult classic TV show, it was a 1992 movie starring Kristy Swanson, Luke Perry, and Donald Sutherland. A-list actor Ben Affleck had a brief, albeit memorable, role in the film as a high school basketball player who gets totally freaked out at the sight of a vampire on the court. He looks basically the same!
Gwyneth Paltrow in Hook
Gwyneth Paltrow, Hook
TriStar Pictures
Long before she "consciously uncoupled" from hubby Chris Martin, an 18-year-old Gwyneth played young Wendy Darling in the beloved classic. How sweet!
James Franco and Jessica Alba in Never Been Kissed
James Franco, Jessica Alba, Never Been Kissed
20th Century Fox via Everett Collection
Hey, they look familiar! Both James and Jessica went on to achieve massive stardom in Hollywood, but most people forget that one of their earliest roles came as high school students in the popular 1999 romantic comedy. Jessica played a notorious mean girl, and James had a small part as a fellow classmate. Fun fact: this was James' first-ever film role! Who knew?!
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Bryan Cranston in That Thing You Do!
Bryan Cranston, That Thing You Do!
20th Century Fox
Yep, it's true: the Breaking Bad star had an early film role in the 1996 musical, appearing as astronaut Gus Grissom in a "blink and you'll miss it" cameo appearance in the '60s set The Hollywood Television Showcase. Of course, Bryan has been in dozens of film and TV roles since, but way back then, he was simply a star on the rise.
Charlize Theron in That Thing You Do!
Charlize Theron, That Thing You Do!
20th Century Fox via Everett Collection
Another famous face got right past us in the 1996 Tom Hanks film! It was only her second credited film role ever, and the now-Oscar winner played the role of Tina. It's reported that after she auditioned, Tom (who directed and starred in the film) said, "She's got it! That girl is going to be somebody." Then, in a copy of her script, he wrote: "No matter what, I will always claim to have discovered you." Twenty years later, we all know that he was right, making for the sweetest story ever!
Mila Kunis in Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves
Mila Kunis, Honey We Shrunk Ourselves
Walt Disney Home Video
Aw, baby Mila! The Ukranian-born actress was a teenager when she began acting, and had a small role in the direct-to-video second sequel of the popular Disney series. Of course, she went on to star in That '70s Show and Family Guy, but she's proof that even the biggest stars have humble beginnings.
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Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures
Kate Winslet, Heavenly Creatures
Miramax via Everett Collection
Just before she shot to fame as Rose in Titanic, Kate made her big screen debut in Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, a 1994 drama about two teenage girls who murder the one girl's mother. Kate also made her musical debut in the movie, performing a song for the film's soundtrack.
Michelle Williams in Lassie
Michelle Williams, Lassie
Paramount via Everett Collection
In the late '90s, Michelle was most known for her heartbreaking role as Jen Lindley on Dawson's Creek, but her very first film role came as April Porter in the equally heartbreaking Lassie, just a few years before Creek shot her into complete superstardom. The rest was movie star history!
Jason Segel in Can't Hardly Wait
Jason Segel, Can't Hardly Wait
Columbia Pictures
OMG. Who knew that Jason Segel played a high school stoner chillin' with some watermelon in the 1998 teen classic?! He appeared in the film only briefly, but made quite the impression. He was credited merely as "watermelon guy" but went on to have a stellar career as one of the funniest guys in film, so we'd say it wasn't a bad start.
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Amy Adams in Drop Dead Gorgeous
Amy Adams, Drop Dead Gorgeous
New Line via Everett Collection
Long before she was being nominated for Academy Awards, Amy landed her first-ever film role as a sex-crazed cheerleader alongside some serious talent including Kirstie Alley, Ellen Barkin, Kirsten Dunst, Allison Janney, Denise Richards, and the late Brittany Murphy. Her role was small, but she's said in the past it was the moment she knew she was bit by the acting bug.
Renee Zellweger in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
Renee Zellweger, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
New Line Cinema
Before she was the queen of romantic comedies, Renee had her first major film role as Jenny in this poorly reviewed addition to the Texas Chainsaw franchise. She played Jenny, a high school senior whose prom night is memorable for all the wrong reasons. Yikes!
Matthew McConaughey in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
Matthew McConaughey, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
New Line Cinema
Yep, another wildly famous face joined Renee Zellweger in the 1994 slasher flick -- Matthew's career was also helped launch by the film, and he has a good sense of humor about it, even though it didn't receive positive reviews upon its release. He appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2015 and had a laugh at his own expense about the movie. It's alright, alright, alright, Matthew... you've moved on to bigger and better things!
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Paul Rudd in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Paul Rudd, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Dimension Films
Yet another massive star who got his start in a horror movie! Paul Rudd's first film role came in the sixth Halloween movie, which was widely panned by critics. This came immediately after Clueless, but thankfully he also moved on to more quality fare afterwards.
Christina Ricci in Mermaids
Christina Ricci, Mermaids
Orion Pictures via Everett Collection
Just before her breakthrough role as Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family, Christina starred as the precocious Kate Flax in this critically-acclaimed movie that also starred Winona Ryder and Cher. It was Christina's first-ever film role at the ripe old age of 10!
Kirsten Dunst in Jumanji
Kirsten Dunst, Jumanji
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
By the time Kirsten starred alongside the late Robin Williams in Jumanji, she was already a superstar on the rise: she slayed audiences with her cuteness a year earlier in Interview with the Vampire and played a little lady in Little Women, but her role in the board game come to life is one of the most fun to look back on. And with a forthcoming Jumanji reboot in 2017, the '90s nostalgia isn't going anywhere fast. No word on if Kirsten will appear in the reboot, but we secretly hope she will!
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Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Angels in the Outfield
Joseph Gordon Levitt, Angels in the Outfield
Buena Vista Pictures
Oh, how cute is he! Before Joseph won everyone's hearts as Tommy in 3rd Rock from the Sun, he starred as a foster child with a love of baseball in this 1994 Disney movie. Fun fact: Matthew McConaughey also appeared in this, too! So much star power!
Scarlett Johansson in Home Alone 3
Scarlett Johansson, Home Alone 3
20th Century Fox
The oft-forgotten third film in the iconic Home Alone series did have one bright spot: a young Scarlett Johansson played a small part as the older sister to mischievous Alex (played by Alex D. Linz). She looks so '90s!
Owen Wilson and Leslie Mann in The Cable Guy
Owen Wilson, Leslie Mann, The Cable Guy
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
Recognize them?! There are several famous faces in the 1996 black comedy, but these two stand out because they were barely on the brink of stardom... in fact, it was Owen's second appearance on the big screen.
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Jake Gyllenhaal in City Slickers
Jake Gyllenhaal, City Slickers
Columbia Pictures
Recognize that spiky-haired cutie?! At the ripe old age of 10, Jake landed his first film role in the 1991 Western comedy, alongside Billy Crystal. The film received rave reviews and acclaim from critics, which was merely the beginning of a slew of massive film roles for the Los Angeles native. Too cute!