The term one-hit wonder is normally associated with musicians from the ‘80s. However, one-hit wonders can be found in any medium. Many writers have only one “hit” book throughout their whole career, and it’s not unheard of for an artist to make a career off of one great painting or picture.
Over the past few decades we have seen a lot of actors and directors rise to the level of Hollywood royalty, only to be forgotten a few years later. These people star in high budget blockbuster and win awards for critically acclaimed indie films, and then are basically never heard from again. The reasons vary; sometimes the person merely got the role by luck of the draw, sometimes they just aren’t as talented as the public thought. There’s no real rhyme or reason as to who becomes one of these wonders. They are old and young, action stars and dramatic scene-stealers. Here is a list of 15 of Hollywood’s One Hit Wonders.
15 Taylor Lautner
Taylor Lautner was, for a minute, a household name. His role as the topless werewolf, Jacob, made him so popular that he was one of the biggest names in Hollywood. He was linked to a number of developmental blockbuster films and was even able to host SNL. But that was the highlight of his non-Twighlight career. His action thriller Abduction tanked, and more recently he starred in the Adam Sandler movie The Ridiculous Six in which he played the dumbest character to ever be featured in an Adam Sandler movie, which is oddly impressive. He landed a leading role in the BBC sitcom Cuckoo replacing Andy Samberg after he walked away from the show. While the rest of his Twilight co-stars have seen moderate success elsewhere, Lautner may be doomed as a one-hit wonder for the rest of his acting career.
14 Ashley Tisdale
This section could be titled “anyone from High School Musical not named Zac Efron,” but that gives Zac Efron too much credit. While Efron and his on-screen lover Vanessa Hudgens have seen some moderate success post-High School Musical (meaning they mostly stared in box office bombs), the same cannot be said about the rest of their co-stars from the musical. Ashley Tisdale was thought to be a star on the rise when she played Sharpay in the Disney movie, but never saw her career take off past this role. She had some brief stints on other Disney Channel sitcoms and even had her own stand alone movie as Sharpay in 2011 and starred in Scary Movie 5 in 2013. She has made steady work as a voice actor in children's TV shows, but overall has never achieved the success that she had back in 2006.
13 Keisha Castle-Hughes
Keisha Castle-Hughes stared in the highly acclaimed and beautifully shot Whale Rider when she was 13. The role garnered a Best Actress Oscar nomination, making her the youngest girl to receive such an accolade at the time. After that her career faded into obscurity. She held a small role in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and had a reoccurring role on The Walking Dead, but overall she failed to stay in the public eye. Her most recognizable work (besides Whale Rider) may be from Prince’s controversial music video for the song “Cinnamon Girl” where Keisha plays a young Muslim girl who is harassed following the attacks on September 11th, then fantasizes about killing hundreds of people. She recently joined the cast of Game of Thrones so watch for her there, but knowing the show her time may be short lived.
12 Michael Richards
It’s not unheard of for an iconic role to ruin an actor’s career, and that’s exactly what Kramer did to Richards. It may not have been a movie, but his time on Seinfeld basically made Richards Hollywood royalty. However after Seinfeld ended, so did Michael Richards’ career. Ignoring the racist tantrum he threw a few years back, Richards has been widely ignored and unsuccessful for over a decade. While his costars have gone on to star in their own shows, movies, or (in Jason Alexander’s case) as a guest star in seemingly every TV show, Richards has had no success. Jerry Seinfeld has thrown his old friend a couple small roles in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and Bee Movie, but it was not enough to save the comedians lost career.
11 Billy Bob Thornton
While Billy Bob Thornton may be a very well known actor who continuously finds himself cast in roles (averaging 3 movies a year since 2011), he is the true definition of a one hit wonder as a director. His directorial debut, Slingblade, earned him an Oscar nomination. Then the rest of the movies he directed didn’t even come close to seeing any sort of recognition from fans or critics. It’s too bad that he peaked so early as a good director. A successful directing career would make up for some of the terrible movies that he chose to star in over the past two decades.
10 Gabourey Sidibe
After giving an absolutely breathtaking performance as the young rape victim/mother in Precious, Gabourey Sidibe was thought to be a young actress on the rise. However every movie she has done since was panned by critics and she really only portrayed insensitive versions of larger women. While her post-Precious movie career has been overwhelmingly unsuccessful, Gabourey has seen some success on the small screen staring in multiple shows including Empire and American Horror Story. While other actors have bombed after their breakout role, at least Ms. Sidibe has been able to put together a solid career, though no role has ever come close to equaling Precious.
9 Paul Hogan
Crocodile Dundee made and destroyed Paul Hogan’s career. He’s best known for playing the original crocodile hunter, because that’s all his career really amounted to. He’s played the role three times, most recently in 2001, but he hasn’t found success in any other role. Before he took the mantle as Dundee, Paul Hogan did have a long-running sketch comedy show in Australia, but it never gained popularity over seas. Since his days as Dundee, he has appeared in a few low budget comedies, but he may be most well known for his legal disputes with the Australian Taxation Office when he allegedly hid earnings in 2008.
8 Macaulay Culkin
The child star, best known for his role in Home Alone, never was able to separate himself from the childhood role. Over time Culkin became uncomfortable with his level of fame and attempted to retire young, at 14, a retirement that didn’t last long. Since his days as a child star, he is most known for his high profile relationship with the sexy starlet Mila Kunis, which ended with her leaving him for Ashton Kutcher. He attempted a comeback starring in movies like Party Monster and Saved!, but was never able to achieve much success. Since 2010 he has played himself in movies more often than playing other characters. This may be because the man looks more like an anti-smoking warning than the cute child we once knew.
7 Haley Joel Osment
Few remember that Haley Joel Osment had an Oscar nomination under his belt, before he even turned 13. After his Oscar nomination, things got a little rocky for the star of The Sixth Sense. His big budget movies Secondhand Lions and A.I. were box office failures. He stayed somewhat relevant as a voice-over actor, most prominently featured in the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Recently Osment has attempted a comeback appearing in the absurd comedy The Spoils of Babylon and Kevin Smith’s horror comedies Tusk and Yoga Hosers (coming out later this year). He’s never been able to achieve the popularity he had years ago.
6 Adrien Brody
Adrien Brody never seemed to be “leading man material. ” Then he starred in The Pianist and became the youngest man to win an Oscar for his portrayal of Władysław Szpilman, the Jewish pianist in Nazi occupied Poland. His preformace was moving and totally deserving of the award, but everything he has done since paled in comparison. He starred in big budget flops like Predators and King Kong and most recently in the mini series Houdini. It’s hard to say why the talented actor has failed to achieve additional success, but Brody has been noted as a man of many interests, acting as star, producer, and cinematographer on many movies he has worked on.
5 Jon Heder
Jon Heder represents not only himself, but the entire cast of the indie comedy Napoleon Dynamite. His role as the loveable loser shot him into stardom and let him star in high budget comedies with “A-list talent” like Will Ferrell and Billy Bob Thornton. None of his movies even neared the success of Napoleon Dynamite and Heder never separated himself from his first role. That’s more than the rest of the cast achieved with most of the other leads starring in low budget films for the rest of their careers and living off the royalties they earned simply by being in the movie.
4 Mira Sorvino
After taking home a slew of awards for her performance in Woody Allen’s The Mighty Aphrodite, Mira Sorvino seems to have fallen off the face of the Earth. She popped up in a couple movies in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, most notably Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, but few and far between and only in supporting roles. She continues to keep working, but only in low budget dramas that receive little to no critical attention. Even with an Oscar to her name, Mrs. Sorvino has struggled to gain any success and has been relegated to recurring roles in TV shows.
3 Barkhad Abdi
“Look at me, I am the Captain now.” Barkhad Abdi may go into the “Meme Hall of Fame” for his line in Captain Phillips. Unfortunately for the Oscar nominee, that may be the pinnacle of his career. It may have only been a couple years since Barkhad was the captain of the pirates, but he has been struggling to be cast ever since. He was not cast in anything during 2014, and was featured in very few things through 2015. He was expected to be involved in Amy Shumer’s Trainwreck but did not appear in the movie. Mr. Abdi has a very distinct look that may impede him from finding roles, but we are all hopeful to see the captain on the big screen in the future, and not just as a meme.
2 Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher
It’s impossible to mention one without the other when speaking about their post-Star Wars careers. It’s no secret that actors from Star Wars movies often have trouble finding work once they’re done with their trilogy. While Harrison Ford was able to take the role of Han Solo and turn it into a major payday starring in blockbuster and Oscar worthy movies, Mark and Carrie were left in the dust. While Hamill has seen success as a voice actor (most notably as The Joker), Fisher was relegated to playing side characters and guest roles on TV shows (often as herself). The actors have become so synonymous with their iconic roles that they could never be taken seriously in any other movie, even after they got old.
1 M. Night Shyamalan
The Sixth Sense is one of the most beloved movies of all time. At the time it was nothing like anyone had ever seen before and was nominated for almost every major award when it was released. M. Night capitalized on the movie’s popularity and made himself a star in Hollywood. The problem is that every movie Shyamalan has made since The Sixth Sense has gotten progressively worse, and worse. Signs and Unbreakable had their charm, but movies like Lady in the Water, and The Happening have made him a mainstay at the Razzie awards. It’s unclear to many why Shyamalan is still making movies year-after-year. They aren’t exactly the most successful movies and his rendition of The Last Airbender ticked off enough people to make it seem like he might finally become a Hollywood outcast, but it never happened.