Star power amidst the blood: the big names in our favorite horror franchises

They’ve all been microwaved, reheated to the point of tasting like rubber, and they’ve all been given the remake treatment.  But before things got really goofy (I’m talking Busta Rhymes, Tom Arnold and going off to space goofy), the truth remains- Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees cemented their status as the icons of legendary nightmares.

While the Myers mask, the Freddy glove and the Jason mask are some of the most recognizable symbols in horror history, the films also featured quite a few faces that are quite easy to recognize some thirty-plus years after the films’ release.  Some were just starting what would be illustrious careers while others were practically doing the director a favor by joining in on the gruesome fun.  In the case of Donald Pleasence taking on the role of Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween, it was simply and truly an incredible actor who agreed to play an incredible character.  Considering Christopher Lee passed on the role before Pleasence accepted it, it just goes to show that John Carpenter knew there needed to be a bit of fire power in his spook show.

I thought it would be fun to look back at the big names in these films, and to see if one franchise truly reigned supreme over the others.  Some of the names escaped me upon first brainstorm while a few I had completely forgotten about.  It was a fun stroll own Nightmare Lane.  From teen stars to rappers, fashion icons to comedic powerhouses, this list is impressive.

With all due respect to Leatherface and Pinhead, their franchises either simply don’t possess the big names to hold up in this conversation and in Leatherface’s case, the small amount of installments in the franchise also doesn’t help.  It’s also important to keep in mind that I’m not referring to the remakes in this article.  Far too often, the remake machine demands superstar blood to really get the box office movin’ and groovin’, and this is a celebration of films, especially the first installments of each franchise, that are all about terror, big names be damned.  With every film in these franchises, I never felt that the star power outweighed the story.

So with that being said, let’s dig in to the awesome roster of celebrities and familiar faces that (mostly) made for some really attractive corpses in a grand total of twenty-five films that spanned three franchises.





Aside from the dynamic duo of Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence, the Halloween franchise boasts a robust fifteen big names in the eight original films.  From PJ Soles to Thomas Ian Nicholas, the roster is a stellar one.  Paul Rudd, Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams and a punky Joseph Gordon-Levitt highlight the group.  Bonus points must be administered for Janet Leigh’s cameo in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.  While Busta Rhymes duking it out with Michael in Halloween: Resurrection wasn’t a shining moment of the franchise, watching Tyra Banks get snuffed out made up for it to a degree.

The names:  Pleasence, Curtis, Soles, Tom Atkins, Danielle Harris, Rudd, Hartnett, Williams, Leigh, LL Cool J, Gordon-Levitt, Rhymes, Sean Patrick Thomas, Banks, Nicholas.




  • Best ratio of stars to film (1.875/1)
  • 3 horror icons (Curtis, Pleasence and Leigh)
  • Longevity is also in Halloween’s favor- Curtis and Pleasence appeared in more films in this franchise than any other actors (not counting villains) in any of the other two franchises.




A Nightmare on Elm Street produced seven films and the first one alone introduced us to the ultimate horror villain in Freddy Krueger, played by the incomparable Robert Englund, as well as Heather Langenkamp, who is arguably the second-best final girl in horror history.  Oh yeah, and then there was a handsome young man by the name of Johnny Depp who was washed away in a funnel of blood.  This series had the best comedic cameos, and considering the context of the franchise, that should come as no surprise- Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dick Cavett, Tom Arnold and Roseanne round out the peculiar cameos.  Patricia Arquette and Laurence Fishburne are the heavy hitters from ANOES 3: Dream Warriors.

The names:  Langenkamp, Depp, Englund, Clu Gulager, Arquette, Fishburne, Cavett, Gabor, Breckin Meyer, Arnold, Roseanne.

Oh Johnny, er, Glen... it's not gonna end well for you, bud...

Oh Johnny, er, Glen… it’s not gonna end well for you, bud…


  • 1.57 stars to film (11 in 7 films)
  • Best horror villain (Freddy Krueger) based on longevity and iconic status of character and actor who portrayed him




Friday the 13th was always the horror franchise that could, the most homemade looking of the three big franchises, but that doesn’t take away from its amazing fright factor and staying power.  Thirty-five years after the original film was released, Jason Vorhees is still one of the most memorable horror villains of all time, even if he did get horribly mangled through the sequel ringer as the franchise continued forward.  Of the massive ten-film collection in the franchise, there were only seven significantly familiar faces in the series.  A young Kevin Bacon quickly learns that premarital sex is bad, mmmkay, in the first installment of the franchise, while David Cronenberg makes a cameo in Jason X.  Kane Hodder also would be second to only Mr. Englund when it comes to portraying a villain, having played Jason four times while also playing Freddy’s arm in Jason Goes to Hell.

The names:  Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Bacon, Crispin Glover, Corey Feldman, Hodder, Cronenberg.


Bacon gets bled out

Bacon gets bled out

  • 0.7 stars to film (7 in 10 films)





So who is your favorite celebrity cameo/role in a horror franchise?



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