What do we mean when we say that an actor is making a comeback? Well, outside of the obvious, we’re talking about actors who we’re expecting to return to form, not necessarily just return from an absence. We don’t care how busy they are necessarily. What we’re interested in is quality of work. We’ve taken a look at the upcoming shows and movies and tried to pinpoint the actors who might do what we saw Winona Ryder do with Stranger Things in 2016. Maybe the actor used to be a household name but, while they have held steady work, they slipped off a bit in recent years. Maybe the star has kept their name in memories of film and TV fans but they haven’t done anything worth talking about in a few years. We’re not talking about decades of ineptitude here. All it takes is two or three years of sub par work for someone in Hollywood to drop off the face of the earth.
In case you didn’t know, 2017 looks like it’s going to be a phenomenal year for both television and film. We have so many amazing looking and sounding shows and movies upcoming that it’s going to be a big year for a lot of actors out there. It might seem impossible to predict who’s going to have a big year, but we can give it a college try. Whether it’s an actor who has been largely absent from the industry or a megastar looking for redemption, the actors on this list are the ones that will almost certainly be on the tongues on everyone in 2017. You heard it here first. Here are 15 actors set to make a huge comeback in 2017.
15. Dave Chappelle
By now you may have heard the news. Dave Chappelle is back. Maybe you saw him on Saturday Night Live where he hosted and performed really well. Maybe you even heard the Netflix news. Next year, in 2017, Netflix will release three comedy specials from Chappelle. So, no, he’s not back doing The Chappelle Show or even anything on a regular basis, but if you like funny things, you’ll be happy for just about anything from the comedy superstar. We may never get back the Chappelle who left to Africa, but even a little Chappelle is enough to tie us over until someone even half as funny as he once was comes along. We’re not expecting magic from Chappelle, but we’re super happy he’s back in our lives.
14. Johnny Depp
You might point to Black Mass and say that there was some critical redemption in that for Johnny Depp, but we beg to differ. Not only did it receive mix reviews, but it wasn’t even seen by that many people. What’s it going to take for Depp to get back in the critics’ good books? Well, maybe a classic story, an all-star cast and a brilliant director like he has upcoming on Murder on the Orient Express. Set to be released in November of 2017, this film might help Depp get some street cred back. There’s also the new Pirates film, Dead Men Tell No Tales, which looks like it could not only bring back Depp’s career from ridicule, but it might even save that lost film franchise. While it might only last for a short time, we expect that Depp will win back some of his harsher critics with a good year in 2017.
13. Chris Rock
While the details are still being released, we do know that Chris Rock will be dropping two new comedy specials on Netflix. At least one of them will be coming in 2017, and maybe even both. Outside of hosting the 88th Academy Awards and a couple of brief appearances here and there, Rock has been absent from the industry for almost a decade. Who knows how his comedy routine will stand up in this age, but we’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s at least earned that. Can you believe that there’s an entire generation of kids out there who don’t even know who Chris Rock is? He was a national treasure for a while. Like Chappelle, we don’t expect that these specials will be the best thing in the history of comedy, but any Chris Rock is a good thing.
12. Benicio del Toro
‘But what about Sicario in 2015?’ Yeah, that film was awesome and so was Benicio del Toro, but it was just another film in a long of them that had this amazing actor caught in the middle of the war on drugs. We saw this way back in 2001 with Traffic and del Toro was nominated for an Academy Award for it. Was Sicario any different? Yeah, del Toro’s role wasn’t as good in it. So what’s 2017 bringing that’s different? Okay, first, just ignore Soldado, the sequel to Sicario. That’s no different. But Star Wars: Episode VIII is new, and it’s going to showcase just how incredible del Toro is to an entirely different set of fans that are used to him. There’s also Terrence Malick‘s new film Tasteless, with Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman and Haley Bennett, as well as Harmony Korrine’s new movie The Trap, with Al Pacino. We’re calling it now; it’s going to be a huge year for del Toro.
11. Alexander Skarsgard
Unless you were a huge True Blood fan, it’s possible that Alexander Skarsgard has nothing to come back from, but he was a huge star on that show and it seemed like he was primed to make a big jump. Some people thought that was going to happen with The Legend of Tarzan, but it never happened that way. Still, don’t count Skarsgard out just yet. The guy’s got major acting chops and, if we had to make a prediction, 2017 is going to be his year. In film, he has the upcoming Mute, in which he stars alongside Justin Theroux, Paul Rudd and Sam Rockwell. On TV, he has Big Little Lies, a 2017 HBO show that stars Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Adam Scott. If you somehow didn’t know who he was already, you’ll know Skarsgard in next year.
10. Reese Witherspoon
Really, 2014 was a good year for Reese Witherspoon. She had Wild and Inherent Vice, but it didn’t exactly bring her back into hearts like she hoped it would. In 2017, she’ll star in Big Little Lies alongside the aforementioned Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Adam Scott. She’s also got an interesting film, A Wrinkle in Time coming, but that probably won’t be released until 2018. With Big Little Lies, Witherspoon and the all-star cast hope to show make a new-age Desperate Housewives one of TV’s most popular shows. Great actors bring out greatness in their peers, so a cast like this is bound to do well.
9. Neil Patrick Harris
Ever since How I Met Your Mother went off the air, Neil Patrick Harris has sort of lingered, not going away entirely but not doing anything worth noting either. But next year we have A Series of Unfortunate Events coming and NPH is playing Count Olaf. Only time will tell how this Netflix series stacks up, but the early images and trailers make it look incredible. NPH has shown that he has a wonderful gift for overacting and general silliness, so this show should be right up his alley. The director, Barry Sonnenfield, did The Addams Family, which is in the same lane as Unfortunate Events. This bodes well for the series.
8. Anna Torv
If you never watched Fringe, you probably don’t know who Anna Torv is, which means you’ve missed out on an excellent show and a wonderful actress. Picture a better looking, Australian Laura Prepon; now you’ve met Torv. Either way, she’s been doing an Australian TV show, Secret City, for the last year, but really she’s been non-existent since Fringe went off the air in 2013. Next year, however, there’s a new Netflix show coming along that’s produced by David Fincher called Mindhunter. It sounds like a new-age Silence of the Lambs. Expect to be impressed with Torv playing in a role that she’s pretty familiar with. Even if the show doesn’t attract huge audiences, it’ll be nice to have Torv back in the mainstream.
7. Drew Barrymore
For the most part, Drew Barrymore hasn’t done anything special for a long time, but, if you’re like us, you know she is special; she just needs the right vehicle to prove it again. Well, it’s possible that she found it. It’s another Netflix series, which shows just how huge Netflix is going to be in 2017, but it stars Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant as real estate agents in Santa Clarita, California. While the details have been kept under lock and key, the early description makes it sound a little like Fargo, which makes sense after the success that show had recently. This pair of actors is an excellent match and a dark comedy is exactly what Barrymore needs to get her acting career back on track for the masses.
6. Kyle MacLachlan
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans may want to give an argument for how Kyle MacLachlan never went away, but compared to the heights he was at with early David Lynch films, he’s been basically invisible lately. That’s all about to change in 2017 with the Twin Peaks revival. Returning to a role that he played in 1990 in the original Twin Peaks, MacLachlan (and Lynch) will attempt to catch lightning in a bottle twice. It may not be as popular as the original show was, but this continuation will certainly have its fans. Lynch has a massive cult following that eat up whatever he does with pleasure, and we’ve been waiting a long time for Lynch to give us something new. We will wait impatiently for this to be released so that we, too, can devour it and love it, no matter what.
5. Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy has done a lot of incredible work in Hollywood, so suggesting that he could make a “comeback” might sound silly. BUT! There’s an argument to be made that he has never got the recognition he deserves. All that could change in 2017. Hardy is teaming up, once again, with Christopher Nolan in Dunkirk. Sure, it’s an ensemble cast and that could camouflage Hardy once more, but he is getting the top billing at this point, so there’s a really solid chance that he finally shines through. Again, we don’t want to suggest that Hardy hasn’t been incredible over the past few years, but this is a guy that could probably be considered one of the very best actors in the world, and there’s a large portion of movie-goers out there who don’t even consider him a leading man.
4. Elizabeth Moss
People were talking about Elizabeth Moss when she was playing Peggy Olsen on Mad Men, but ever since that show finished in 2015, we haven’t heard a whisper from her fans. Yeah, there is Top of Lake, which she’s been a part of, but in 2017, Moss is set to start making news again with The Handmaid’s Tale. This is meant to be one of Hulu’s big answers to the massive amount of original content that Netflix is creating next year, and we’re hoping that it lives up to the hype because the material from legendary author Margaret Atwood is outstanding. Moss has been cast as the lead Offred and the series is set for release in early 2017, so mark it on your calendars.
3. Dan Stevens
It was his role on Downton Abbey that put Dan Stevens on the map for most people. He quickly become a fan favorite and, when he left, there was a huge hole, both in the show and in our hearts. That was back in 2012 and, since then, we’ve not seen nor heard from Stevens, with the very small exception here and there. In 2017, Stevens will be back in our lives with two big booms. One is in the Beauty and the Beast live-action film in which Stevens plays Beast alongside the stunning Emma Watson. The other is the upcoming TV show Legion, a Marvel series that follows Stevens as David Haller (Professor X’s son) as he comes to terms with his powers. Both should be insanely popular and Dan Stevens should be a popular name once more.
2. Ian McShane
Ian McShane has done a lot of good in the industry in recent years, but he’s not a household name anymore. Really, it hasn’t been since Deadwood that McShane has been a part of anything major. Before that was his biggest and best work, Lovejoy, and that finished way back in 1994. In 2017, we’re getting the very highly anticipated American Gods, a TV series based on the Neil Gaiman novel. This show is about a man who becomes a bodyguard for the Norse god Odin/Mr. Wednesday, played by McShane. He soon finds that many old gods are pretending to be humans while they try to take down the new gods or technology and the media. McShane is such a treat to watch when he’s at the top of his game, so we will be eagerly awaiting his return.
1. Maggie Gyllenhaal
For a long time, Maggie Gyllenhaal has been on the verge of greatness. She’s done quality work, but she rarely, if ever, has had the opportunity to fully capture the hearts of American audiences. It might not be fair that she’s constantly been in the shadow of her brother, Jake, but it’s a reality that she’s been living for a long time now. Next year, Maggie’s got the chance to star in a show that could be huge, The Deuce. It’s got a strong cast that includes James Franco and the subject matter, the p*rn industry in 1970s New York, should be something that fans eat up. Without knowing anything else about the show, we can still work off of our knowledge of Maggie Gyllenhaal. She’s never really done anything bad, even a lot of her work goes unseen by most, so we expect more of the same from her. Last time we saw Gyllenhaal, she was working on The Honourable Woman and she was absolutely fantastic. Maybe with more eyes on her this time around, people will begin to see what Maggie Gyllenhaal fans have known for a long time; this woman is brilliant.