A career that millions of people dream of attaining someday, if you are fortunate enough to make a living through acting, then you’ve defied the odds and beat out the masses. When you then look at the chances of becoming a big enough deal to become famous and receive roles in major projects, then the people that reach that level have to thank their lucky stars every night. Of course, just because you get there doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to stay there forever as many former celebrities will be able to attest to. Realizing all of this is what inspired us to put together this list of twenty actors whose glory days are long gone.
In order for someone to be up for possible inclusion on this list, he/she first and foremost needs to be an actor that at one time attained a certain level of fame. It doesn’t matter what medium he/she is most associated with so you could find people that have starred in movies, TV shows, or even online efforts as long as there are people that know their work. Finally, he/she needs to seem like his/her career is not going as well as it once was, and more than that, it is imperative that we feel there is very little hope that will ever turn around. We do want to make it clear, however, that we are not saying that these people will not continue to land roles as in some cases, their fame is enough to get them work. Finally, we have excluded all actors whose career ended due to abuse allegations as that is not what this list is about.
20 Liv Tyler
The daughter of a Rock N’ Roll legend, Liv Tyler’s career first took off when she appeared in a music video for her dad’s band, Aerosmith’s “Crazy.” Able to take advantage of that momentum in order to become a film star, she made an impact with Empire Records, That Thing You Do, and most of all, Armageddon. Of course, her biggest claim to fame today was being cast as Arwen Undómiel in all three of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. Unfortunately, since then, things have not gone overly well for her. For instance, she appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movie The Incredible Hulk, but because her co-star, Edward Norton, argued with the studio, he was replaced which left her in the lurch. Otherwise, her only other notable roles since 2003 have been in Reign Over Me as well as Robot & Frank. And while the latter film has a cult following, neither of them were a big deal at the box office.
19 Johnny Depp
Previously one of the most respected actors in the business because of his superstar status and artistic flair, things sure have changed for Johnny Depp as of late. Starting out his career on the show 21 Jump Street, he made the leap to the film industry and starred in movies like Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and Ed Wood. Turned into the kind of star that could have been in the running for Academy Awards with his work in movies like Donnie Brasco, Chocolat, Blow, and Black Mass, it seemed like he could do it all. Unfortunately, instead, he has mostly opted to take on franchise work in the Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice in Wonderland which erased his reputation as a cinephile’s favorite. No longer in the caliber of actor he once was, many people stopped anticipating his next film which is why he is on this list, but we’d be remiss to not mention his abuse allegations destroying his reputation.
18 Hilary Swank
One of the most respected actors of her generation, not too long ago, it seemed like Hilary Swank was going to spend her entire career near the top of the business. Sadly, that has not been the case as a few missteps have all but ruined her prospects going forward. Starting out in relatively lightweight flicks like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Next Karate Kid, when her film Boys Don’t Cry came out, everything changed for her. Winning an Academy Award for Best Actress, she ascended to that stage once more due to the performance she gave in the Clint Eastwood movie Million Dollar Baby. Subsequently trying her hand at being a movie star, she stepped away from prestige filmmaking with P.S. I Love You, and when she tried to return to her style of film with Amelia, it failed on every level. Never given the caliber of role she had received in the past since, even when she was in the critically-acclaimed film Logan Lucky, she barely received any attention.
17 Eddie Murphy
A true comedy legend, when Lorne Michaels stepped away from Saturday Night Live, the world thought it was done for, but the casting of Eddie Murphy made all the difference. Very much in demand, as a result, he would also become a movie star due to his hugely popular work in moves like 48 Hrs., Trading Places, Coming to America, and the Beverly Hills Cop franchise. Not content to be seen as someone whose star power dwindled after the eighties came to an end, when his movie The Nutty Professor was released, he seemed on top of the world again. On top of that, he received significant acclaim and an Oscar nomination for the film Dreamgirls and began voicing the character Donkey from the Shrek series of movies. Unfortunately, aside from those high spots, in recent years, he starred in one stinker after another and has yet to recover from the damage that it did to his career.
16 Geena Davis
One of the biggest female movie stars during much of the eighties and early nineties, Geena Davis was able to be a big part of the success of several movies that have stood the test of time. Best known for films like The Fly, Beetlejuice, A League of Their Own, as well as Thelma & Louise, she was killing it at one time, but things have really changed since then. Forever tarnished in the eyes of many Hollywood bigwigs because she starred in the movie Cutthroat Island, that film was such a failure at the box office that it was the last film ever released by Carlco Pictures. Since then only able to land a sampling of television gigs and supporting roles in movies like the Stuart Little series, at one point, she opted to turn her attention to archery instead.
15 Bruce Willis
An entry that is going to be painful for many longstanding fans of this formerly massive action star, Bruce Willis finds himself here mostly due to his own choices and attitude. First coming to prominence when he played one of the main characters in the show Moonlighting for which he won a Golden Globe, before too long, he would make the leap to the big screen. Forever best known for playing the John McClane in Die Hard, he also killed it in other films like Pulp Fiction, 12 Monkeys, The Sixth Sense, Sin City, and Looper to name only a sampling. Unfortunately, for several years now, the guy has been mailing it in when he takes on a role and seems to not care about the quality of the project he’s part of. As a result, his involvement in horrible flicks like A Good Day to Die Hard and Marauders have tainted him.
14 Jessica Biel
First coming to the attention of many people when she played one of the main characters in the show 7th Heaven, it seems like the family-friendly nature of that series was stifling for her. Opting to focus on the film world after leaving the show, early on, Jessica Biel starred in movies like The Rules of Attraction, Blade: Trinity, and I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. However, despite the fact that it seemed like she had been chosen to become a huge deal in Hollywood, those would be the best days of her career. Never able to be a part of a blockbuster film after 2007, even when she was cast in the big-screen adaptation of The A-Team, it underperformed, and the caliber of roles she was in the running for has lessened.
13 Brendan Fraser
If you were a kid in the early nineties, there is a good chance that you loved the movie Encino Man and will always remember Brendan Fraser for playing its caveman awakened in modern times. However, that doesn’t mean that his abilities were limited to the comedy world as he also impressed as a big pivotal part of drama films including School Ties as well as Gods and Monsters. Turned into a major star when he played the lead in the action fantasy film The Mummy, he was also in other hit flicks like Bedazzled and Journey to the Center of the Earth. However, he turned down appearing in its sequel to the latter film which was a big mistake as it was a huge hit, and he was instead a part of flops like Furry Vengeance and Extraordinary Measures. His career has never recovered from these blunders, and sadly, it appears like it won’t anytime soon.
12 Alicia Silverstone
Previously on this list, we touched on the fact that Liv Tyler’s career really began as the star of an Aerosmith music video, but we left out that the clip did the same for another young actor. Appearing alongside Liv in that music video, as well as another one for the band’s song “Cryin”, Alicia Silverstone was on MTV when that channel was at the peak of its social relevance. Taking that momentum and using it to make the leap to movies, she starred in hit films like The Crush and Clueless and was even tapped to play Batgirl in Batman & Robin. While the last role listed there was a huge deal as it was a highly sought-after part, the movie has gone down in history as a joke, and it greatly damaged her career. Since then attempting to find success on TV, she landed the lead role in several shows that didn’t last which seems like the final nail in her time as a superstar’s coffin.
11 Adam Sandler
First becoming a sensation when he was a cast member of the show Saturday Night Live, during that time, Adam Sandler was able to create several lasting characters. Using that experience and applying it to his early film roles, his movies Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, and Big Daddy all have a loyal following. In fact, for a long time, there was a very good chance that those flicks were playing at parties and in dorm rooms across the world which made him a powerful figure in the entertainment industry. However, it seems as though he has used his position to pick out films to star in based on how fun it will be for him and his pals on set instead of worrying about making something worth watching. As such, he has mostly been in awful films over the last several years like Pixels, The Ridiculous 6, That’s My Boy, and Jack and Jill.
10 Amanda Bynes
A very disappointing Hollywood story, at one point, it seemed like Amanda Bynes was one of the best former child stars still doing her thing in the acting world. First made a star as the lead in the Nickelodeon shows All That and The Amanda Show, she would also go on to star in another show as a young adult called What I Like About You. Still, her biggest claim to fame came as the star of films like Big Fat Liar, What a Girl Wants, Hairspray, Sydney White, and most notably, the stellar teen movie Easy A. Sadly, she would then announce her retirement from acting and undergo what appears to be a mental breakdown of sorts. Committing several criminal acts as well as accusing her parents of horrible things, she later recounted her claims and tried to make amends, but her acting career appears unlikely to begin again.
9 Vince Vaughn
An actor that seemed to be everywhere in the business not too long ago and has since mostly disappeared, you’d be forgiven if you hadn’t taken note of Vince Vaughn’s absence. After all, unlike many people on this list, there wasn’t any major screw-up or explosive failure at the box office that led to his career winding down after being in huge hits like Old School or The Break-Up. Instead, he appeared in a series of movies that were increasingly ignored by audiences like Fred Claus, Four Christmases, The Dilemma, and The Watch. A guy who has the ability to be hilarious and give emotional performances in movies like Swingers, Return to Paradise, and Into the Wild, we have to say that we miss Vince, and wish he didn’t belong here. However, aside from a small and mostly forgotten part in Hacksaw Ridge, his recent films came and went with most people unaware they existed.
8 Renee Zellweger
Another performer that seemed to just disappear out of nowhere, unlike Vince Vaughn, it wasn’t any kind of a slow decline as Renee Zellweger wasn’t in anything for five years. Highly respected for her work in movies like White Oleander, Chicago, Cold Mountain, and Cinderella Man, for several years, she was a staple of prestige films. However, she also had the touch when it came to being in hit films as she led movies like the Bridget Jones films, Jerry Maguire, Shark Tale, as well as Me, Myself & Irene. Gone from the scene after a 2010 film, she didn’t return until 2016. And once she did, her face had been completely altered by plastic surgery, and between that and her departure, she isn’t seen the same way.
7 Al Pacino
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. At one time considered the best actor in the world by a lot of people, Al Pacino played the lead character in so many classic films that it is mind-boggling. Best known for his part in movies like The Godfather series, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Scarface, Heat, Donnie Brasco, and so many more, he also did stellar work in some less-celebrated films. However, when he finally was able to win an Oscar for his over-the-top acting in the movie Scent of a Woman, it seemed to encourage the worst of his instincts. Subsequently hamming it up in many other films, now, he has become a caricature of the actor we used to know that he even played a ridiculous version of himself in Jack & Jill.
6 Cameron Diaz
Someone that made her film debut in The Mask, that movie cemented Jim Carrey as one of the biggest actors in the world and was a great jumping-off point for the career of Cameron Diaz. However, it was when she played the lead character in the gross-out comedy There’s Something About Mary that she finally found a way to steal the spotlight. Since then starring in the Charlie’s Angels and Shrek franchises, Being John Malkovich, Any Given Sunday, and Gangs of New York, her charisma was nearly impossible to deny. Then, she began to attach her name to flicks like The Box, What Happens in Vegas, as well as Knight and Day, all of which damaged her reputation. Last seen in a hit film with 2011’s Bad Teacher, when she showed up in the remake of the musical Annie in 2014, it seemed to break her career as she hasn’t acted in a movie since.
5 Tobey Maguire
The first person to play a live-action version of Spider-Man on the big screen in North America, Tobey Maguire was a part of a series of films that helped change the movie industry. Far from the first comic book movie to make an impact, as Blade, X-Men, Superman, Batman, and others preceded it, his first Spidey film was so huge at the box office that it still sent shockwaves. Also the star of other well-received films like Pleasantville, The Cider House Rules, Wonder Boys, and Seabiscuit, he had everything it took to be among the biggest film stars alive. However, his third Spider-Man film was reviled by many, and his next films received mixed reviews from critics and audiences. Since then, it seems like he has given up on his former career as he has only been involved in a single movie since 2014, The Boss Baby which he narrated.
4 Katherine Heigl
A gorgeous woman that early on starred in a series called Roswell that had a very devoted following (most of whom loved her), Katherine Heigl seemed like she needed was a star-making role. Then, everything came together for her as she played the female lead in the movie Knocked Up and was cast in the popular medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. Unfortunately, she would proceed to publicly decry the writing of both of her characters in the following period of time which upset the people that gave her those parts. Seemingly biting that hands that fed her, she would leave Grey’s Anatomy and never work with the people behind Knocked Up again. A sad tale as she can be very enjoyable on the screen and seemed to want the roles for women to be more focused on, many power brokers no longer seem to be interested in working with her.
3 Michael Richards
Undeniably a comedy genius, Michael Richards’ unique brand of physical comedy and his expressive face made him a real sensation at one time. A forgotten part of movies like UHF, Problem Child, Coneheads, Airheads, as well as Trial and Error, throughout much of his career, he was no slouch in that department. However, there is no debating that his biggest claim to fame was his time starring in the groundbreaking and hilarious sitcom Seinfeld as Cosmo Kramer. So popular at that time that a print of the painting he posed for in that show became a mainstay of young people’s walls, many of us expected him to find another role like it at some point. However, he used the n-word to disgustingly rip into crowd members at a stand-up comedy show he was performing on, and aside from reruns of the show that made him a star, he is seen as toxic today.
2 Lindsay Lohan
Another prime example of what can go wrong for a former child star, Lindsay Lohan seemed like she had the movie world on a string but things have fallen apart. First becoming famous as the star of The Parent Trap, in it, she played a pair of twins as a kid and gave them each their own character. Able to eclipse that during her teens and early twenties, she would go on to be the star of films like Mean Girls, Freaky Friday, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and Herbie: Fully Loaded. Then, the scandals started to take effect, and in-between things like not showing up on set when she was supposed to and her legal troubles, her career took a massive hit. However, she isn’t the first star dogged by stories like those so it should have been possible to come back but she was so bad in films like Liz & Dick that there is little reason to put up with her.
1 Randy Quaid
One of the most notable comedy stars of the eighties and early to mid-nineties, Randy Quaid was never a star of the level of people like Bill Murray or Eddie Murphy, but he was a big deal nonetheless. Known early on for films like the Vacation series, Parents, Days of Thunder, Quick Change, The Paper, and more, it appeared like his career had peaked. However, he then popped up as one of the best parts of Independence Day and the uproarious comedy Kingpin, and he seemed like he was on top of the world. Things aren’t anywhere near that rosy for him any longer as he has not only been gone from the acting world since 2009, but from the outside looking in, his life looks insane. Arrested alongside his wife multiple times in recent years, he has also put out deranged statements about how forty million dollars have been stolen from him and that some group wants him dead.
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