Successful acting careers usually result from a series of well-calculated risks -- indie breakouts, guest spots, once-in-a-lifetime franchise gambles. But nobody attains true stardom without saying "yes" to weird shit along the way. (Remember Hugh Grant in The Lair of the White Worm? Sean Connery's Zardoz? Everyone in the current Twin Peaks revival? Wonderfully unforgettable.)
Read on for more fine examples of A-list actors appearing in peculiar projects, all worth a watch ASAP.
Released: March 31, 1995 Famous people: Naomi Watts Why you should watch it: Great for if you need a break from Marvel and DC's earnest offerings. This take on the popular comic plays like a rambunctious compilation of rejected Mad Max ideas -- in the best way. A gloomy Watts and testy Ice-T (here as a kangaroo-human hybrid) join the title character (Lori Petty) to kick a water-hogging tyrant's dystopian ass. Musical and animated interludes, corny jokes, and an endless string of pop culture winks abound. I guess you could also say it's like Louise Belcher got to make a movie in the '90s: unabashedly kooky fun. Where to watch: Rent on Amazon
The Midnight Meat Train
Released: August 7, 2008 A-lister: Bradley Cooper Why you should watch it: In this 100-minute horror movie, adapted from Clive Barker's short story of the same name, Cooper plays a street photographer investigating subway deaths. It's a strange role for The Hangover star, but he hardly falters, even when he has to participate in an art show, use a severed arm as a bludgeon, and deadpan, "I got a train to catch." The train to which Coop refers is a slaughterhouse on wheels, one that goes on an unrelentingly blood-soaked ride through the final act. The whole of this cult fave might not be as good as, say, Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer, but it's thrilling and surprising in ways you have to see to believe. (Also, Easter egg alert.) Where to watch: Stream on Netflix
Released: August 4, 1995 A-listers: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Kaley Cuoco Why you should watch it: Mainly, because this sci-fi actioner is a thinly plotted excuse to watch young Washington's trigger-happy cop hunt young Crowe's VR psycho-turned-android in near-future LA. In other words, cyberpunk maestro Brett Leonard has Washington be a hero while Crowe auditions for the part of The Joker with less makeup. The stars feel wildly miscast, the movie's effects haven't aged well, and the lines are cheesy as hell -- all qualities that have helped Virtuosity live on as a surreal but highly entertaining watch. (Cuoco plays a little kid who needs saving.) Where to watch: Buy on Amazon
Psycho Beach Party
Released: January 23, 2000 A-lister: Amy Adams Why you should watch it: A nerdy surfer girl with a split personality. A rash of mysterious murders in Malibu. Tons of self-aware camp. This insane stage-to-screen adaptation parodies '60s teen movies and slashers with dark glee. Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) plays the suspicious square, and she's an obvious suspect for the killings until you meet the other oddballs here, including Adams' boy-crazy Marvel Ann. (Not a big role. But one that comes with a memorable luau dance-off.) Best of all: Laugh-out-loud innuendo punctuates every scene, as repressed violence and sexual frustration bubble underneath Psycho Beach Party's guise of innocence. Where to watch: Rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes
Released: October 21, 1995 A-listers: Renée Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey Why you should watch it: This sequel has everything: original Texas Chainsaw cameos, a Kenny Powers prototype, and a Texas Leg Koozie -- you know, that thing of when McConaughey has to use an electronic brace and remote control to operate his bum knee. Really! The vibe of The Next Generation is dumb, otherworldly even. But you still get to witness McConaughey and Zellweger -- both unknowns at the time -- yell incoherently at each other and show hints of their talents while Leatherface waits very patiently for a new mask. You'll enjoy counting how many times you say, "What? Why?" as this illogical horror farce makes fun of itself and the genre. (Spoiler: Lots!!) Where to watch: Rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes
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Sean Fitz-Gerald is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. Find him on Twitter: @srkfitzgerald.