20 Celebrities Who Never Finished High School

POSTED BY Tayyab Khalil, UPDATED ON November 14th, 2023
Celebrities Who Never Finished High School

Without a shadow of a doubt, education is one of the most important and valued prerequisites for following dreams yet as the crazy world unfolds, it is surprising to see how many well-established actors and billionaires barely had any and still managed to make a name for themselves by other means. The following are a few of the many esteemed celebrities who never finished high school:


20. Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton didnt finish high school

After continuously moving from one school to another, Paris Hilton finally settled in Dwight School but dropped out in a couple of months. Beginning a modeling career soon afterward, Hilton never looked back as several doors of opportunities opened for her.

Though never properly attended high school, Hilton is now living her life to the fullest as a supermodel, actress, singer, author, and above all, the heiress of the luxurious Hilton Hotels.


19. Al Pacino

Al Pacino

Nicknamed “The Actor” during his youth because of his love for performing arts, Al Pacino dropped out at age 17 and left home following an argument with his mother over the decision. In order to pay for his acting classes, Pacino did some low-paying jobs such as messenger, busboy, janitor, and postal clerk.

Beginning his career in a few basement plays in New York’s theatrical underground, Pacino soon polished his skills under the wing of Charlie Laughton and got his big break when he was offered the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather – his third film.


18. Daniel Radcliffe

Daniel Radcliffe As Harry Potter

Co-star Emma Watson recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Brown University but the same cannot be said about Daniel Radcliffe.

The star of the Harry Potter franchise began acting at the age of 10 and the scheduling conflicts never allowed him to finish school. After facing immense bullying, the actor finally decided to drop out at the age of 17.


17. James Cameron

James Cameron

As the director of two of the highest-grossing movies of all time – Avatar and Titanic – it is definitely a big surprise that the man who pioneered science fiction never graduated from high school.

After dropping out of Sonora High School, James Cameron became a truck driver and studied any special effects-related thesis he could get his hands on during his free time.

He found giant success after utilizing his self-taught experience to direct his first film The Terminator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and that was only the beginning of his illustrious career as a filmmaker. 


16. Katy Perry

Katy Perry

Who needs brains when you got an amazing singing voice? Not Katy Perry! Leaving Dos Pueblos High School to pursue a musical career, the road was not an easy one in the beginning.

When her 2001 debut album Katy Hudson hardly sold 200 copies, Perry was motivated to further improve herself and it was not until 2008 with her second album One of the Boys she became a musical icon.


15. Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise Hollywood Actor

Despite being one of the most well-established actors in Hollywood, it is shocking to know that Tom Cruise didn’t leave high school to pursue acting but – of all professions – to become a priest!

For better or worse, Cruise shortly changed his career path towards acting and has starred in numerous blockbuster films such as A Few Good Men, Top Gun, and most notably the Mission: Impossible installments.


14. Cameron Diaz

Cameron Diaz never finished high school

Certainly not one of the brightest students of Long Beach Polytechnic High School, Cameron Diaz left high school at the age of 16 to pursue a modeling career and also ended up as an actress.

Additionally, it is interesting to note that Diaz attended high school with none other than rapper Snoop Dogg – who surprisingly graduated.


13. Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino

Responsible for directing many critically acclaimed films such as Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino has gained quite a cult following for himself. The esteemed filmmaker not only quit school in ninth grade but also never went to a film school.

Surely surprising for a director of his caliber, the two-time Academy Award winner has explained that:

“When people ask me if I went to film school, I tell them, ‘No, I went to films.’”


12. Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey

Life was not at all kind to Jim Carrey during childhood. After his father lost his job, the family had to face several hardships and Carrey was forced to quit school at age 15 to support his family.

Before establishing himself as one of the greatest comedy actors, Carrey worked as a janitor while also taking some time to look after his terminally ill mother.


11. Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan

While many Hollywood directors were relying on numerous action sequences, explosions, and profanity, Christopher Nolan was making The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, and Interstellar. Possibly the best director of this generation, it is amazing to know that Nolan never even attended high school.

Nolan has never even stepped foot in a film school but the direction was always in his blood, and has successfully made quite a name for himself in a considerably short time.


10. Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen

Due to Charlie Sheen’s personal life problems including three failed marriages, professionally difficult to negotiate, frequent alcohol consumption, drug abuse, and bad-boy antics, it is no surprise that Charlie Sheen never finished high school.

Only weeks before graduation, Sheen was expelled due to poor grades and short attendance but that did not hurt his morale as he quickly pursued a successful career in acting.


9. Robert Downey, Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man

Best known for portraying Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Robert Downey, Jr. is one of the best and most iconic actors in Hollywood today.

At age 16, the ambitious teenager left Santa Monica High School to move back to New York City to follow in his father’s footsteps of acting – only to achieve far better results.


8. Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

The original dumb blonde had all the talent necessary to star in motion pictures and beautiful looks to become a supermodel. From money to fame, Marilyn Monroe had it all except for proper education.

Two years after joining Van Nuys High School in 1941, Monroe left her school altogether to marry her first husband, policeman James Dougherty.


7. Nicholas Cage

Nicholas Cage

At one point in his life, Nicolas Cage was one of the most promising actors in Hollywood to the point of winning an Academy Award for Best Actor.

With his career going down the drain in recent years, the actor might be wishing that he never quit Beverly Hills High at age 16.


6. Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne

The pop-punk princess is one of the most popular musicians of the present generation. Impressing the head of Arista Records, Avril Lavigne was offered a deal worth $1.25 million for two albums and an extra $900,000 for a publishing advance.

The offer was too much for the excited Lavigne and without a second thought, she immediately quit school to pursue her lifelong dream of singing.


5. Walt Disney

Walt Disney dropped out of school

As the pioneer of animation, millions of people around the world owe a great deal to Walt Disney for making their childhood special. After receiving poor grades since most of his time was spent delivering newspapers, Disney quit high school.

Things could have been entirely different for then-sixteen-year-old Disney as he wanted to join the army but was rejected due to being underage. Starting a career in animation afterward, Disney became a cultural icon.


4. Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro The Irishman

After playing the Cowardly Lion in his school’s production of The Wizard of Oz, Robert De Niro finally realized his dream of acting.

Six years later, the young D Niro dropped out of high school and studied acting at Stella Adler Conservatory and Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio.


3. Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales

Despite being one of the most revered actors of his generation, acting was not at all of Johnny Depp’s goal. Leaving school at the age of 15 to pursue a music career, Depp soon found out that he could perform better in acting.

However, the actor can play a mean guitar and has collaborated with several musicians now and then including Marilyn Manson and the rock band Oasis.


2. Eminem

Eminem high school dropout

It is safe to assume that the music genres of rap and hip hop would be entirely different if Marshal Bruce Mathers III performed well in his educational endeavors.

Eminem was so bad that he had to repeat the ninth grade three times before eventually dropping out. Keeping his hopes high, Slim Shady tried his luck in rapping and became one of the greatest entertainers in his industry.


1. Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando

Arguably the greatest actor of all time, Marlon Brando’s refusal to respect authority dates back to his youth. Due to his interest in dramatics and sports, Brando failed in all of his educational subjects.

Afterward, his father enrolled him in a military school but was expelled during his senior year. His dismissal proved to be a blessing in disguise as Brando soon moved to New York to pursue an acting career and the rest is history.

Do you know of any more celebrities who never finished high school? Share with us in the comments below!

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