Oscar-Winning Actresses Who Began Their Careers In Horror Movies

Voting Rules
Vote up the terrifying turns that are the most surprising.

Every career starts somewhere. Before the esteemed actresses on this list became Oscar darlings, they got their start in the horror, suspense, and thriller genres. In some cases, even if it wasn't their very first film, it was the first time many of them were noticed, propelling them from those roles to greater glory. 

Many have reflected on their time making these movies fondly, and the films themselves have enjoyed a resurgence due to the fame of the actresses that took part in them. Now that they have a second life, will you check them out? 

Photo: Dimension Films/Miramax Films / Newmarket Films / Lionsgate

  • 1
    126 VOTES
    Charlize Theron
    Photo: Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest / Dimension Films/Miramax Films

    Oscar-Winning Performance: Aileen Wuornos - Monster (Best Actress, 2004) 

    Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest is the second sequel to Stephen King's Children of the Corn, but this movie bears no real relation the original. In it, two brothers from rural Nebraska (where the cult of evil kids originated) are adopted into a Chicago family. One of the brothers restarts the cult in the Windy City and summons its god, He Who Walks Behind the Rows, to do his evil bidding. Theron has a non-speaking role as one of the cult's followers.

    • Films Acted In: Prometheus, The Italian Job, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Devil's Advocate, Hancock
    • Birthplace: Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa
    • Nationality: United States of America, South Africa
    • Height: 5'9"
    • Parents: Gerda Jacoba Aletta Maritz, Charles Jacobus Theron
    • Children: Jackson Theron
    126 votes
  • 2
    79 VOTES
    Rachel Weisz
    Photo: Death Machine / Entertainment Film Distributors

    Oscar-Winning Performance: Tessa Abbott-Quayle - The Constant Gardener (Best Supporting Actress, 2005)

    Rachel Weisz has a small supporting role in 1994's Death Machine, in which she plays a nameless junior executive. The plot centers around a post-apocalyptic future and a company that makes robotic slaying machines. It was Weisz's debut role. 

    • Films Acted In: Oz the Great and Powerful, The Mummy, The Fountain, Constantine, The Constant Gardener
    • Birthplace: Westminster, London, United Kingdom
    • Nationality: United States of America, United Kingdom
    • Height: 5'6"
    • Parents: Edith Ruth Weisz, George Weisz
    • Children: Henry Aronofsky
    79 votes
  • 3
    81 VOTES
    Helen Hunt
    Photo: Trancers / Empire Pictures

    Oscar-Winning Performance: Carol Connelly - As Good As It Gets (Best Actress, 1998)

    Helen Hunt starred in 1985's Trancers as Santa's helper elf Leena, a punk-rocker who helps a cop from the future, Jack Deth. In the film, Jack possesses the body of his ancestor to slay an evil cult leader who has turned much of mankind into Trancers, or mindless, bloodthirsty zombies. 

    • Films Acted In: As Good as It Gets, Cast Away, Twister, Peggy Sue Got Married, Pay It Forward
    • Birthplace: Culver City, California, USA
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Height: 5'8"
    • Parents: Gordon Hunt, Jane Elizabeth Novis
    • Children: Makena Lei Gordon Carnahan
    81 votes
  • Julianne Moore
    Photo: Tales from the Darkside: The Movie / Paramount Pictures

    Oscar-Winning Performance: Alice Howland - Still Alice (Best Actress, 2015)

    In 1990, Julianne Moore starred in the horror anthology Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, in the short "Lot 249." In the story, Moore plays Susan, the snobby girlfriend of Lee (Robert Sedgwick). The two cheat and frame a fellow student (Steve Buscemi) at their college, only to end up the victims of a resurrected mummy.

    • Films Acted In: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, The Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights, Children of Men
    • Birthplace: Fort Bragg, North Carolina, United States of America
    • Nationality: United States of America, United Kingdom
    • Height: 5'2"
    • Parents: Anne Love Smith, Peter Moore Smith
    • Children: Liv Freundlich, Caleb Freundlich
    83 votes
  • 5
    89 VOTES
    Laura Dern
    Photo: Grizzly II: Revenge / Harlequin Pictures

    Oscar-Winning Performance: Nora Fanshaw - Marriage Story (Best Supporting Actress, 2020)

    In 1983, Dern starred in Grizzly II: Revenge as Tina, opposite George Clooney. They played teens who camp out for a concert and eventually become bear food.

    Dern remembers working on the film fondly: 

    One of my favorite memories is George Clooney, myself, and Charlie Sheen made a movie in Hungary together and they lost their financing and we were stuck in Hungary for a month waiting for them to get their money back to either send us home or continue shooting and that was an amazing, hilarious wild time.

    • Films Acted In: Jurassic Park, Blue Velvet, Jurassic Park III, Wild at Heart, The Master
    • Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States of America
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Height: 5'10"
    • Parents: Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd
    • Children: Ellery Walker Harper, Jaya Harper
    89 votes
  • Allison Janney
    Photo: Wolf / Columbia Pictures

    Oscar-Winning Performance: LaVona Golden - I, Tonya (Best Supporting Actress, 2018)

    Allison Janney appeared in 1994's Wolf in a blink-and-you'll-miss-her role as a party guest. The film centers around the editor-in-chief of a publishing house, played by Jack Nicholson, who gets bit by and eventually turns into a werewolf. 

    • Films Acted In: Finding Nemo, American Beauty, Juno, 10 Things I Hate About You, The Help
    • Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Height: 1.83
    • Parents: Macy Brooks Putnam, Jervis Spencer Janney, Jr.
    68 votes