Elizabeth Olsen at the beach

Every superhero has an origin story, and every actor who’s played a superhero has had one too. While superhero origins typically involve escaping from a dying planet, training in the secret arts for decades, being blasted by space particles, or getting bitten by a radioactive super-whatever, the origin stories for superhero actors are much less dramatic. Usually, they involve waiting tables, going to auditions, and taking parts in movies so embarrassing that they hide them from their resume — not unlike a superhero hiding their secret identity. Hollywood may be glamorous, but getting there rarely is.

Take the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hollywood’s biggest franchise by far with $26 billion earned worldwide across 39 films. The series is also quite strong from a critical perspective, with most entries earning strong reviews across the board. While the MCU may be a sure thing at the box office and among critics, however, the franchise’s stars haven’t always been so consistent in their careers. As it turns out, some of Earth’s mightiest heroes started off in a few of Hollywood’s biggest turkeys. From super obscure straight-to-video C-list movies to idiotic indies and massive mainstream misfires, here are some early roles that MCU actors would like you to forget about.

Samuel L. Jackson

Nicolas Cage with Samuel L. Jackson

With films totaling over $27 billion in career box office earnings, Samuel L. Jackson is a Hollywood force to be reckoned with. He’s also the highest-grossing actor of all time, with MCU co-star Robert Downey Jr. a distant second. His movies have earned enough to buy a S.H.I.E.L.D. hovercraft with plenty left over. Of course, it helps that Jackson has played supporting roles in two of the biggest franchises ever, the MCU and "Star Wars." Make no mistake, Jackson is a movie star who makes bank — just not in "Amos and Andrew."

This 1993 comedy clearly had aspirations of being funny, but it fell way, way short of them, as its dismal reviews demonstrate. That’s a shame, as "Amos and Andrew" stars the promising duo of Nicolas Cage and Samuel L. Jackson as a low-rent criminal and the playwright he’s hired by the cops to kidnap, respectively. Satire is tough to pull off, and bad satire is hard to sit through. "Amos and Andrew" is the latter, with Jackson struggling to work within the limits of his two-dimensional straight man and Cage going only half-gonzo in an oddly muted performance. Jackson made plenty of bad movies early in his career, but as one of his first starring roles, "Amos and Andrew" is one he’d surely like you to forget about.

Chris Hemsworth

Chris Hemsworth pointing a pistol

Hollywood’s efforts to turn Chris Hemsworth into a movie star following his success as Thor have been pretty spotty, with his occasional hits consistently interspersed with box office disappointments. Hemsworth came onto the Hollywood stage relatively quickly, as "Thor" was only his fourth major film role (following an extended run on the Australian soap opera "Home and Away"). His film debut came via a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role as Captain Kirk’s father in J. J. Abrams’ "Star Trek." Ironically, Hemsworth’s biggest early career disaster (and arguably his biggest career disaster, period) was in 2010’s "Ca$h." Get it? They replaced the "s" with a dollar sign.

"Ca$h" is a Sean Bean star vehicle released before "Game of Thrones" premiered in 2011, with Hemsworth co-starring in a prominent role prior to "Thor," which was also released in 2011. Because of where both stars were in their careers at the time, the film didn’t end up earning much, well, cash – about $46,000 at the box office, or roughly how much it costs to do Hemsworth’s hair for a "Thor" movie. To be fair, "Ca$h" had a limited theatrical release and was released straight to DVD in the U.K. In the film, Hemsworth plays a guy who discovers a briefcase full of money, spends it all, and then finds out that it belonged to Sean Bean’s character, who wants his money back. Based on the film’s reception, a lot of moviegoers probably wanted the same thing.

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson as a child

Going from child star to movie star isn’t easy. That’s a lesson young actors have often learned the hard way. Scarlett Johansson managed to push through after her breakout role in Robert Redford’s "The Horse Whisperer" (1998), which she made when she was just 13. Over the course of her career, Johansson’s movies have made over $15 billion, with many of them featuring ScarJo in above-the-title roles. However, she may consider herself lucky to have made it to "The Horse Whisperer" in the first place, as her earlier roles showed promise, but not profit.

In 1994, she played John Ritter’s daughter in Rob Reiner’s "North," starring Elijah Wood as a kid searching the globe for the perfect mom and dad. "North" earned scathing reviews, including a rare zero stars from Roger Ebert, who famously wrote: "I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it." Tell us how you really feel, why don’t you? Moviegoers felt similarly, sinking "North" with just a $6.5 million take-home. After ScarJo’s next film, "Just Cause," didn’t fare much better, her agent probably thought a "Home Alone" movie was a slam dunk. Except that movie was "Home Alone 3," and it didn’t star Macaulay Culkin. The film’s bad reviews and a poor box office performance might have sent Johansson on the first bus back home, but she thankfully stuck around Hollywood long enough to film "The Horse Whisperer" instead, and the rest is history.

Chris Evans

Scarlett Johansson with Chris Evans

Credit is due to director Joe Johnston for seeing nobility, honor, and leadership when he cast Chris Evans as Steve Rogers in 2011’s "Captain America: The First Avenger," as Evans had spent most of his career up to that point playing insufferable jerks. His feature debut was in 2001’s "Not Another Teen Movie," part of the rash of spoof films to come out following the success of "Scary Movie." As bad as that early role was, it wasn’t his worst. That dubious honor goes to his second film, "The Perfect Score."

In the film, Evans plays Kyle, the studly member of a group of high school friends who set out to steal SAT questions in preparation for the test. The group is led by Francesca, played by Scarlett Johansson, making "The Perfect Score" one of her worst early roles too. The premise of a teen comedy heist flick showed promise, but just like a high school slacker, it failed to live up to its potential, earning bad reviews from both critics and moviegoers. The box office return was likewise terrible, with only $10 million earned worldwide. Evans starred as Johnny Storm in "Fantastic Four" a few years later, but he didn’t fully hit his stride until he donned the stars and stripes.

Jeremy Renner

Jeremy Renner smiling

National Lampoon was once one of the most prestigious names in big-screen comedy, with such classics as "Animal House," "Vacation," and "Christmas Vacation." However, 1995’s "National Lampoon’s Senior Trip" doesn’t belong on that list, or on any list other than this one. Here, the MCU star in question is Jeremy Renner, the man behind Hawkeye. Nearly two decades before playing the world’s greatest marksman, Renner missed the mark with his big-screen film debut. To set the stage, know that the poster for the film featured the Lincoln Memorial with the tagline "Four Score and Seven Beers Ago." Yeah, it’s that kind of bad.

Renner stars as Mark "Dags" D’Agastino, a party dude teenager from the Ohio suburbs whose high school class gets invited to Washington D.C. as a ploy by a U.S. Senator. Renner gives a solid impression of Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," but "Senior Trip" trades that movie’s wit for bro-humor that’s about as subtle as a keg stand. Renner’s first movie is also arguably his worst, with bad reviews and an abysmal $4.6 million box office.

Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo smiling

Since becoming a famous actor-activist, Mark Ruffalo cares a lot about a lot of things, but he was slightly more laissez-faire with his early career choices. While his pre-fame roles have more rotten tomatoes than the produce aisle on Tuesday night, his biggest bust is probably 2006’s "All The King’s Men." Although that movie came out six years before Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton as the Hulk (who himself replaced Eric Bana as the Hulk), he was famous enough to get his name on the poster. For an even earlier career misstep, though, we’re going back 13 years before even that to "Mirror, Mirror II: Raven Dance."

The sequel to 1990’s "Mirror, Mirror," 1993’s "Raven Dance" the 1993 sequel follows the deadly events surrounding a magical mirror and the dark, demonic presence it contains. Ruffalo plays Christian — his first movie role, and luckily for him, not his last. "Mirror, Mirror II" has managed to earn an even worse reputation than "Mirror, Mirror" and "Mirror, Mirror 3: The Voyeur," making it the low-water mark (Ruffalo) for both the series and the star’s career as a whole. Ruffalo would go on to bigger, better, and greener things as the Hulk in the MCU, but if you ever meet him, probably don’t bring up "Mirror, Mirror II." You could end up making him angry, and you know what happens then.

Don Cheadle

Don Cheadle with Tony Little

If Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were a basketball team, Don Cheadle’s War Machine would be the sixth man, which, given how many Avengers there actually are in the MCU now, is still saying something. While Cheadle has never been the lead, his turn as Colonel James Rhodes has definitely been a valuable addition to the Avengers and the franchise. We won’t get into the behind-the-scenes scuttlebutt about why Cheadle replaced the original War Machine, Terrence Howard, but there’s no doubt that the former has done a great job in the role.

Cheadle wore his character’s titanium-alloy suit like a glove, which makes sense since "Iron Man 2" wasn’t actually his first foray into the superhero genre. That came 17 years earlier in 1993’s "The Meteor Man." In that film, Robert Townsend plays a high school teacher in a rough urban neighborhood who develops superpowers after being struck by a meteorite. Think "Dangerous Minds" meets … "Armageddon?" Anyway, Don Cheadle plays Goldilocks, a member of the community’s biggest gang. Though the movie isn’t good, Cheadle tweeted about the experience in 2020 and seemed to have a good sense of humor about his role in the film. That said, he still probably wouldn’t mind if you just forgot about "The Meteor Man."

Brie Larson

Brie Larson talking

With an Academy Award on her mantle for 2015’s "Room," Brie Larson was a big name before she became "Captain Marvel" in 2019. And with more than $1 billion in global grosses for "Captain Marvel," the second-best solo superhero debut in the MCU (behind only "Black Panther"), she’s become an even bigger star since. While she won her Oscar in her mid-twenties, Larson had been acting in Hollywood for more than a decade by then, including bit parts in several B-movies. But one of her biggest misses came via "The Trouble with Bliss," which sank like an Infinity Stone in 2011.

In the film, Michael C. Hall plays Morris Bliss, a jobless and broke bloke in his mid-30s who begins a relationship with his former high school classmate’s 18-year daughter, played by Larson. Larson is in pure Manic Pixie Dream Girl mode here, in a performance so full of quirky charm she’d make Zooey Deschanel go goth. Based on its dreadful reviews, it’s clear "The Trouble With Bliss" in fact has many troubles, not least of which is that it tries so hard to be eccentric that it never bothers to be interesting. Within the decade, Larson would be winning the Academy Award and featuring in the highest-grossing film of all time, so it’d be a marvel if she remembers "The Trouble with Bliss."

Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt using a laptop

Before he shot to superstardom as part of the team in "Guardians of the Galaxy," Chris Pratt was part of another team: "The Extreme Team." Truth be told, there are quite a few options for Pratt’s worst early caree​​r misfire, including "Bride Wars" and "Movie 43." But since those came out after Pratt gained some fame in "Parks and Recreation," we decided to go back in time to find something more obscure.

Released in 2002, "The Extreme Team" is Pratt’s film debut. He plays Keenan, a member of a secret Black Ops team comprised of extreme sports athletes. The movie came out the same year as Vin Diesel’s "xXx," which makes it look pretty bad by comparison. Frankly, we’re surprised Pratt hasn’t paid to destroy the negatives, as the film certainly didn’t make many fans. While Pratt’s second movie, 2005’s "Paths of Destruction" — which tells the story of a cloud of evil nanotech robots – is arguably worse, we’d bet Pratt really wants you to forget his turn in "The Extreme Team."

Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch wearing glasses

Benedict Cumberbatch rose to stardom because of his "high-functioning sociopath" interpretation of Sherlock Holmes in "Sherlock," and he rose even higher as the eponymous Master of the Mystic Arts in "Doctor Strange." However, somewhere out there in the Multiverse of Madness, Cumberbatch’s career never recovered from his early role in the 2009 biopic "Creation." While arguably not the star’s worst movie, it’s his most noteworthy misfire before the premiere of "Sherlock" in 2010.

In "Creation," Paul Bettany plays Charles Darwin, whose faith in God is shattered after the death of his daughter. He then must decide whether or not to finish his landmark "On The Origin of Species" over the objections of his devout wife (Jennifer Connelly). Spoiler alert: He does. Cumberbatch plays Joseph Dalton Hooker, another prominent scientist of the time who encourages Darwin to complete his magnum opus. Fortunately for Cumberbatch, it’s a small role, so he didn’t suffer any major setbacks from starring in this 108-minute yawner. The film moves about as fast as evolution, and it earned bad reviews from critics and moviegoers alike. Fortunately, survival of the fittest was kind to Cumberbatch’s career, but he still probably wouldn’t mind if you just forgot about his role in "Creation."

Elizabeth Olsen

Dakota Fanning with Elizabeth Olsen

As Wanda Maximoff, AKA The Scarlet Witch, Elizabeth Olsen can craft magical hexes that bring pretty much any reality she wants into existence. If Olsen possessed those same kinds of powers in real life, she’d probably try to cast a spell to erase "Very Good Girls" from her filmography.

Released in 2013 — one year before "Godzilla" and two years before "Avengers: Age of Ultron" — "Very Good Girls" is a very bad movie that wastes its excellent cast. Olsen, Dakota Fanning, Demi Moore, Ellen Barkin, Peter Sarsgaard, and Richard Dreyfuss all feature in the film, but they can’t save it from itself. Olsen and Fanning play two teenagers whose friendship is tested when they both pledge to lose their virginity before college, then fall for the same guy. It’s basically like if "American Pie" were trying for indie drama vibes instead of gross-out raunchy comedy. Whatever the writers were going for, the result is arguably the worst movie of Olsen’s career.

Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. looking terrified

To be honest, we could put a lot of Robert Downey Jr.’s early movies here. Yes, he featured in a number of excellent movies, including "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang," "Natural Born Killers," "Wonder Boys," and "Chaplin" (for which he was nominated for an Oscar), but he also appeared in some real stinkers. In fact, the star developed something of a reputation for box office bombs (per Box Office Mojo). There are certainly a number of contenders for Downey’s worst movie, but only one really warrants the top spot –- "Johnny Be Goode." Don’t let the name fool you, it’s bad. Really, really bad.

Released in 1988, the film stars Downey as Leo Wiggins, best friend to hotshot quarterback Johnny Walker (Anthony Michal Hall), who’s being heavily recruited by elite colleges across the country. Unfortunately, the would-be comedy satire is neither funny nor thought-provoking. As Roger Ebert stated in his 0.5 star review, "The people who made this movie should be ashamed of themselves." Downey himself may feel the same way. Though he’s made plenty of bad movies both before and after "Iron Man" (looking at you, "Dolittle"), "Johnny Be Goode" takes the cake. It’s not only the worst movie of the star’s career, but also one of the worst to feature an MCU actor, period.