Ahhh, to be 21 again.
While most of us were enjoying college life or entering the working world, some of Hollywood's biggest names were already scoring big-time film roles, climbing the charts, or nabbing award nominations by the time they could legally drink. These photos, snapped when each celeb was the ripe old age of 21, give a glimpse into the lives of some of the world's biggest stars as they came of age—from moments captured behind the scenes on set or on the red carpet.
Scroll through for 40 photos of celebrities working, playing, and living it up at age 21.
Jack Nicholson (1958)
Nicholson poses for a publicity still for his debut film, The Cry Baby Killer.
Nicole Kidman (1988)
The Australian actress is all smiles during a shoot for a local newspaper. Kidman starred in several Australian TV shows and movies before her big break in the United States in the 1990s.
Jason Bateman (1990)
Bateman sports a Dodgers uniform at a Hollywood All Stars charity baseball game at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. At the time, Bateman was best-known for his role on the sitcom The Hogan Family.
Mick Jagger (1964)
The Rolling Stones frontman vamps while trying on hats at a men's store in Hollywood during the band's first trip to America in June 1964.
Leonardo DiCaprio (1995)
DiCaprio catches the camera at the 1995 Los Angeles premiere of The Basketball Diaries, his first film after his Oscar-nominated turn in What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
Madonna, who had moved to New York City to study dance several years earlier, applies lipstick before a performance. She worked as a backup dancer and was a member of several bands before releasing her first solo single in 1982.
Diana Ross (1965)
Ross spent the day shopping in New York City with fellow members of the Supremes before performing on Hullabaloo, a short-lived variety series.
Kieran Culkin (2003)
The future Succession star accepts the award for Best Young Actor at the Critics Choice Awards, winning for his role in the dramedy Igby Goes Down.
Elton John (1968)
Already showing off his penchant for fur coats and a bold pattern, John takes promotional photos to celebrate his first album in Hampstead Heath, England.
Meg Ryan (1982)
Ryan sports an '80s-esque patchwork sweater in a promotional photo for As The World Turns. The actress left the soap opera in 1984 after a two-year stint playing Betsy Stewart.
Dolly Parton (1967)
Parton, pictured here with fellow country crooner Porter Wagoner, smiles before performing on The Porter Wagoner Show. After her 1967 debut on the show, the two performed as a country duo through the early 1970s.
Jake Gyllenhaal (2001)
Gyllenhaal smiles for a snapshot with his sister, Maggie, at the Sundance Film Festival, where the siblings were celebrating the premiere of Donnie Darko.
Marilyn Monroe (1947)
A newly minted Monroe (she had adopted her stage name just the year before) celebrates the signing of her 20th Century Fox contract with a studio photo shoot.
Billy Joel (1971)
Joel strikes a somber pose during a riverside photo shoot. The singer would sign his first solo record deal and release his first album, Cold Spring Harbor, later that year.
Jennifer Aniston (1990)
Aniston takes a Ferris Bueller promotional shot four years before Friends fame.
Eddie Murphy (1982)
Murphy sports his love for New York on his sweatshirt during a photo shoot at his mother's Long Island home. Later that year, Murphy would release his first comedy album, which went platinum.
Rob Lowe (1985)
Lowe loosens his tie while filming About Last Night in Chicago.
Gwenyth Paltrow (1993)
Paltrow rocks a leather blazer and combat boots at the Hollywood premiere of Flesh and Bone, in which she played the younger girlfriend of James Caan's character.
Christian Bale (1995)
Bale delivers remarks during Steven Spielberg's American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony. The duo worked together in 1987's Empire of the Sun when Bale was just 12 years old.
John Travolta (1975)
Travolta kicks back during an interview in his New York hotel room. The actor rose to fame that year for his role as Vinnie Barbarino in the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter.
Ryan Gosling (2001)
Long before "I'm Just Ken," Gosling strums a guitar at a charity event in Los Angeles.
Drew Barrymore (1996)
Barrymore shows off a rubber duck at the Kids for Kids Carnival benefiting the Elizabeth Glasser Pediatric Aids Foundation in New York City.
Elvis Presley (1956)
Presley grins next to a CBS camera before making his first television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. He went on to perform for Sullivan's show three times, with his final performance in 1957 notably stoking controversy for his hip-swiveling dance moves.
Will Smith (1989)
Smith is pictured here with his rap counterpart DJ Jazzy Jeff and their "Best Rap Video" award after the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards. The duo took home the prize for their "Parents Just Don't Understand" music video.
Paul McCartney (1963)
McCartney reads the latest issue of Disc magazine while spending time backstage with his Beatles bandmates before a performance in Doncaster, England.
Tom Cruise (1983)
Cruise is all smiles during what is considered to be his star-making year. The actor was featured in four movies in 1983: The Outsiders, Losin' It, Risky Business, and All The Right Moves.
Cameron Diaz (1994)
Diaz strikes a seaside pose in a white gown at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, just weeks before making her Hollywood debut in The Mask.
Courteney Cox (1985)
Cox smiles backstage while filming Misfits of Science. The future Friends star was discovered the year before while dancing on stage with Bruce Springsteen, a moment that was immortalized in his "Dancing in the Dark" music video.
Queen Bey dons a Yankees cap during an appearance on MTV's Total Request Live in New York City.
Brooke Shields (1986)
Shields stops for a photo on the red carpet at the premiere of Vamp in July 1986, just weeks before she was due to head back to Princeton University for her senior year.
John Lennon (1971)
Lennon performs alongside his Beatles bandmates at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. The band would release their first single, "Love Me Do," the following year after replacing drummer Pete Best with Ringo Starr.
David Beckham (1996)
Beckham celebrates after scoring a goal for Manchester United during a 1996 FA Charity Shield match against Newcastle United.
Jodie Foster (1983)
Foster lounges in a field during a break on the set of the French film Le Sang des Autres (The Blood of Others).
Barbra Streisand (1963)
Streisand speaks to President John F. Kennedy after her performance at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in May 1963, just six months before the president's assassination.
Reese Witherspoon (1997)
Witherspoon shows off her signature smile while attending the 1997 Vanity Fair Oscars Party.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (2002)
The actor sports his best normcore look (before normcore was even a thing) in a puffer and sensible sweater at the premiere of 25th Hour in New York City.
Matthew Broderick (1983)
Broderick smiles backstage after winning a Tony for his performance in Brighton Beach Memoirs. Later that year, he would go on to star in WarGames, his first film to become a commercial success.
Kate Hudson (2000)
Hudson beams on the red carpet at the MTV Video Music Awards in September 2000. Later that month, her film Almost Famous premiered to critical praise and earned her an Oscar nomination.
Rihanna sports a puff-sleeve satin tuxedo at the 2009 Met Gala. The star-studded event's theme was "The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion."
Kirsten Dunst (2003)
Dunst climbs into a cab while filming Spider-Man 2 in Queens.
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