Everyone loves a comeback. There’s something just inspirational about a person who seemed down and out suddenly returning to the top. In Hollywood, comebacks can vary but be amazing. John Travolta was on the lower rungs in 1994 when Pulp Fiction turned him back to the A-list. Robert Downey Jr. was a tabloid joke for years before Iron Man restored him to good graces. So many times, just when an actor looks long forgotten, something happens that gets them back on track and winning awards. Every celebrity has slumps, it’s how they handle them that proves their worth. That’s true in all ways and reality TV has helped, turning some forgotten stars into big names once more. It’s always great to see a comeback…and sadder when one fails.
The sad fact is, not all comebacks work out. Stars try to revive their careers in various ways but it quite often fails. For every hot actress who rides on top for years, there are many who flame out fast and never come back. Actors, singers and others can try their hardest to do well but it still fails. Some performers are stuck in the past, others overwhelmed by their personal issues and thus even their best isn’t good enough. There’s also have tastes change and too many stars finding out that modern fans don’t take to them as well. It’s sad but it’s all too common and thus some comebacks fail badly. Here are 15 celebrities who tried to revive their careers only to fail and sink further than ever.
16 Sharon Stone Can't Replicate The Past
Bouncing around a variety of cheap movies and TV shows, Sharon Stone got attention for her role in Total Recall. This led to her groundbreaking performance in Basic Instinct which made her a sex symbol. She balanced that in the next few years, a few flops but an Oscar nod for Casino and still regarded as a star. But her role as the villainess in the infamous Catwoman hurt her badly. So she tried to bounce back reprising her most famous role in a Basic sequel. Ravaged by critics, it was a box office flop and Stone never really recovered from it. Her movie roles became fewer and even though she’d won an Emmy for The Practice, she didn’t find much luck in TV (aside from a few episodes of Law & Order: SVU). In 2015, Stone made a big splash with the TNT series Agent X, playing the Vice-President of the United States who commands a secret agent. But the show lasted just one season and Stone hasn’t done much since.
15 Tori Spelling's Mystery Fail
As the daughter of one of the most successful producers in all of Hollywood, it was no wonder Tori Spelling would get into the business. She got her breakout on Beverly Hills 90210, winning over fans with her manner and a great vibe to her. But after the show ended, Spelling hit a bit of a rough patch with tabloid targets, slams on her weight and marital issues. She seemed ready to bounce back with a reality show in 2013 with husband Dean McDermott but by the time it aired, the two were split thanks to him cheating on her. In 2015, Spelling reunited with her old 90210 co-star Jennie Garth for the comedy Mystery Girls. It had them playing off their personas as stars of a ‘90s series who become private eyes and Spelling fun off her reputation as a vain woman living in the past. But the show lasted just ten episodes and Spelling since has gotten into financial trouble and other stuff. So a clear sign that without her dad’s influence, Spelling’s push in Hollywood ended fast.
14 Meg Ryan Losing Looks
All it took was one scene to make Meg Ryan a star. In When Harry Met Sally, her faking an orgasm in a diner had audiences howling and the movie’s success pushed her to stardom. With her lovely looks, bright smile and great manner, Ryan was soon the queen of rom-coms in the early ‘90s. Sleepless in Seattle, French Kiss, City of Angels, You’ve Got Mail, Ryan had it made. But in 2000, she got bad press for engaging in an affair with Russell Crowe on the set of Proof of Life while she was married to Dennis Quaid. It gave her a bad reputation not helped by her choice of poor movies. In 2008, Ryan tried to bounce back with The Women, a remake of the classic comedy notable for an all-female cast. Sadly, by this point, age and plastic surgery had marred Ryan’s great looks and the movie was a flop. Ryan has barely worked since as most love her older stuff but not the actress today.
13 Lindsay Lohan Hits Reality
It truly is sad to see how she fell. Lindsay Lohan seemed a star in the making with her dual role in The Parent Trap, cute as a button and very talented. In 2004, she burst out bigger with Mean Girls and other films. She also grew into a very sexy lady with a busty body and hailed as a great person so many thought a long and successful career was ahead of her. Instead, Lohan fell and fell big time. Her addictions caught up to her with multiple arrests and she soon started acting up big time with her ego and that led to bad movies. From her weight bouncing back and forth to arrests, Lohan turned from A-lister to joke virtually overnight. She tried to rebuild herself with rehab and then some layouts in Playboy that lacked the power she would have had a few years earlier.
Somehow, Lohan managed to con Oprah into giving her a reality TV show to focus on her comeback. It was ravaged by critics as Lohan has failed to make an impact or any major acting gigs since. Today, she remains known more as a tabloid favorite than her talent and thus her comeback falling fast.
12 Ja Rule Becomes Ja Who?
On an episode of Parks & Recreation, the gang are chaperoning a high school dance with Tom the DJ. A couple of kids come up asking him to stop the lame music and Tom says “ah, you want some Ja Rule!” One kid blankly asks “Who’s Ja Rule?” and Tom is horrified to realize that rapper isn’t cool anymore. In the 2000s, the rapper was among the hottest around with numerous hits, some top albums and looking great in his various interviews. He earned multiple Grammy nods and other awards and it looked like a great career was ahead. Ja took a hiatus in 2005 to recharge which lasted a bit longer than anticipated. In 2011, he returned with Pain is Love 2, a sequel to his first hit album. It debuted at number 197 with pitiful sales, critics not liking its self-absorbed manner. Not helping was Ja in jail at the time for tax evasion. Ja Rule has yet to recover, the latest blow his participation in the disastrous Frye Festival and no wonder he’s an easy punchline.
11 Paris Hilton Can't Find A Friend
Long before Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton was making a career out of "being famous for being famous.” The socialite was a star in the early 2000s with various public appearances and soon her own reality TV show with best friend Nicole Ritchie in The Simple Life. She even made movie appearances like House of Wax and others and was high in the spotlight. But as the 2000s drew to a close, Hilton’s fame faded as other celebrities came to the fore and took away her spotlight. She kept trying but the public had moved on and embraced newer faces. In 2009, she tried again with her own reality show Paris Hilton’s BFF, to try and get folks to become part of her posse. She tried it with a version in Dubai as well but viewers weren’t really interested. Hilton keeps going around, even a career as a DJ but it’s obvious she’s nowhere near the star she once was. It’s hard to call her a “has-been” totally as she’s still worth millions but as far as the public is concerned, she’s yesterday’s news.
10 Adam Sandler Becomes The Joke
For a while in the 1990s, anything Adam Sandler touched was box office gold. Moving from SNL, Sandler was a hit with his nutty persona of a grown-up with a boy’s mind and it worked well. Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, he was on a roll. Little Nicky bombed but Sandler won acclaim for a serious role in Punch-Drunk Love showing her could be more than just a comic guy. Many believe Judd Apatow was trying to tell Sandler something with his character in Funny People being a very good comic wasting his talents in incredibly dumb movies. Sadly, since then, Sandler has done nothing but movies even dumber than the fictional ones.
From twins in Jack & Jill to the odious That’s My Boy, Sandler has engaged in films that are loathed by critics and ignored by audiences. He made a big deal of signing an agreement with Netflix for exclusive movies. Sadly, those films are all pretty damn bad. The Ridiculous 6 was slammed for racist depictions of Native Americans while The Do Over and Sandy Wexler are likewise slammed. His only recent success are voice roles in Hotel Transylvania and it’s really sad a guy as actually talented as Sandler is blowing his chances at a career revival.
9 Macaulay Culkin Ends Up Alone
At just ten years old, Macaulay Culkin was launched to mega-stardom by Home Alone. His turn as the young kid handling burglars made the movie a surprise box office smash and Culkin a must-get young actor. He had a sequel and the surprising drama My Girl and looked set for a great career. But then came the fall: The Good Son, Richie Rich, The Pagemaster, all flops that hurt his standing. Puberty was not kind to him, his star sinking badly as his cute factor faded. Unlike other child stars, he couldn’t make the jump to more adult roles, soon fading and became more infamous for his behavior. From arrests to drug use to some frankly insane stuff, Culkin turned himself into an absolute joke. He’s tried some stuff like a recurring role on The Jim but that ended after one season. Today, Culkin is known better for being the classic case of a child star fallen hard despite attempts to rise up.
8 Denise Richards Twisted Fall
The amazingly hot actress burst onto the scene first as a pilot in the cult film Starship Troopers. Then, Richards made herself a fantastic starlet with her turn in the sexy thriller Wild Things that got huge attention and made her a sex symbol. She was soon on top of things with a variety of hot roles, even a Bond Girl, and also married to Charlie Sheen. But Richards’ star faded with some flops and bad press regarding her attitude. She had her own reality TV show, Denise Richards: It’s Complicated that only lasted 14 episodes. Her turn on the comedy Blue Mountain State got some good reviews but that was a brief respite. She played a mom on the ABC Family show Twisted but that was axed after just ten episodes. She’s bounced around with some guest star roles but nothing near what she once had in terms of stardom. It’s a shame as Richards still looks very sexy but lost amid other beauties and her comeback not exactly as great as hoped.
7 Mike Myers Can't Find Audience Love
For a time, Mike Myers was the king of movie comedy. From SNL, he moved to mega-hits like Wayne’s World and then the Austin Powers trilogy and voicing the main character of Shrek that made him a mega-star. However, Myers was slammed a lot for his ego and controlling behavior on set. He really did seem to think he was far more deserving of success and fame and his career took a severe hit with the disastrous The Cat in the Hat. In 2008, Myers made a big move to return in The Love Guru, which played off his usual “create a whacky character” formula. The movie was ravaged by critics and a huge flop to boot and Myers has yet to recover. He recently returned in a remake of The Gong Show under heavy makeup as a “British host” but the show didn’t make much of a rise in the ratings and it speaks volumes the only major role Myers can get nowadays is one where fans don’t know who he is.
6 Mischa Barton's Ugly Life
Mischa Barton first came to attention as the sickly ghost girl in The Sixth Sense. Various small roles followed before 2003, when The O.C. premiered. Instantly, Barton was a star with her strong performance as Marissa, on magazine covers and hugely popular. But reports grew of Barton causing trouble behind the scenes, including some drinking and drugs. She thus left the show at the end of its third season and the series never recovered. Barton herself fell into problems, including arrested for a DUI and other issues that soon led to her career stalled.
In 2009, she made a big return in the CW series The Beautiful Life and it seemed set for a big push. But the show was canceled after just two episodes due to bad ratings. There was also speculation that Barton’s addictions were out of control and if the show had continued, she would have been fired. Barton made another try with Dancing With the Stars but that failed to do much as she was found screaming in a neighbor’s yard and arrested. Today, Barton seems lost and a gorgeous young woman derailed by her problems.
5 Arnold Schwarzenegger Can't Come Back
Think “action stars” in the late 1980s and early ‘90s and Arnold Schwarzenegger was the first name to pop to mind. His credentials are epic: The Terminator, Commando, Predator, T2, True Lies and many more. Sure, he had his flops (Last Action Hero, Batman & Robin) but could follow it up with a success to remain tops. In 2003, after a few bombs, Arnie shocked everyone but becoming governor of California and doing a good job of it. By the time it was done, he seemed ready to bounce back into the movie biz with projects. Entertainment Weekly did a big cover story on a planned cartoon series of Arnie playing off himself as a super-hero. But then word came of Schwarzenegger having cheated on his wife with a maid and separating. The scandal rocked him bad as that cartoon was canceled and his action films since were vanishing from theaters fast. Even a return to the Terminator franchise was a disaster. In 2017, Arnie made a move as the new host for The Celebrity Apprentice but that was also a flop. Maybe a return to politics would be a better move for this one-time star now fallen.
4 Eddie Murphy's Dream Fades
It’s hard to describe just how huge a deal Eddie Murphy was in the 1980s. Exploding onto the scene with his fantastic humor and vibrant energy, Murphy soon jumped from SNL to mega-hits like Trading Places, 48 Hrs, Beverly Hills Cop and more. He was a star, on top of his game and could command any script he wanted. But the ‘90s were rough on Murphy as he made far too many flops with the only real success The Nutty Professor. It seemed to continue in the 2000s, marked by the mega-bomb The Adventures of Pluto Nash. But in 2006, Murphy looked to be on the brink of a fantastic comeback with his role in Dreamgirls. Critics raved about it and he appeared a lock for the Oscar. But right in the middle of the voting period, Murphy released the odious Norbit where he played a 300-pound black woman. He lost the Oscar with many feeling Norbit was the cause and he’s yet to find success since. Even an attempt to make Cop into a TV show failed and thus one of the hottest comics ever is now a forgotten note to fans.
3 Charlie Sheen's Anger Issues
For a while, Charlie Sheen seemed to prove himself a fantastic comeback king. After years of being a tabloid joke for his drug behavior, womanizing and arrests, Sheen hit the big time again with the sitcom Two and a Half Men. The show was a huge hit and boosted Sheen to the A-list and one of the highest paid actors on TV. Then, in 2010, Sheen began an outrageous string of behavior from slamming his bosses to his bizarre “tiger blood” rants that soon made him a joke. He was fired and killed off on the show and Sheen was soon a tabloid fave all over again. On paper his show Anger Management sounded successful with 100 episodes but that was because of a major deal made that got it all those episodes before the show aired. Thus, it was just pushed hard on a public with ratings declining constantly. Sheen did get some sympathy revealing he was HIV positive in 2015 but his big movie comeback, 9/11, was trashed by critics and a flop so it’s hard to see how Sheen recovers after all this.
2 Whitney Houston's Sad Decline
It’s sad that it took death to finally redeem Whitney Houston's legacy. When she burst on the scene in the 1980s, she wowed with her stunning voice and very sexy manner, one hit song after another. In the ‘90s, she became a movie star with The Bodyguard, rocking fans with her astounding vocals and truly talented. The first blows came in 2001 when she was seen at a concert looking shockingly thin. Soon, Houston was getting bad press for her relationship with husband Bobby Brown that led to drug issues and some bad stuff in public. Their reality show Being Bobby Brown made Houston out to look like a lunatic shrew and more of a joke. She did bounce back with a hit album in 2009 and then a concert tour.
However, the tour contained several shows where Houston appeared completely out of it, forgetting the lyrics, out of breath, unable to reach her old notes and audiences booing loudly. She slumped a bit more afterward although still somewhat in demand based on her old stuff. Her death in 2012 redeemed her legacy with many mourning her and willing to forgive the washed up way her life ended in favor of the great years that preceded it.
1 Steven Seagal's Lethal Career
Breaking out in the late 1980s, Steven Seagal impressed fans with his fast martial arts moves and cool demeanor. He really came to the fore in the early 1990s with hits like Hard to Kill and Under Siege. The wheels started to come off with On Deadly Ground, laughed at for how Seagal attempted to push environmental messages into a nutty action flick. He hit another rough patch in the later part of the decade, still had a couple of theatrical success in the 2000s but soon found himself in the direct-to-video world. Not helping was Seagal’s wild ego and often…offbeat political views. He tried a comeback with a reality TV show following his act as a reserve deputy sheriff but that didn’t last long. Then he played the bad guy in Machete but that likewise didn’t help him out. Seagal just pops up making some odd statements and still acting like an A-lister when he’s far beyond that.