RANKED! 8 Stars Whose Career Comebacks Led To Massive Success
Everyone loves a good comeback story. And while many of the biggest stars on the planet have had their fair share of ups and downs, few have ascended from such legendary depths as this list of comeback heroes. Hang onto your hats for a rollercoaster ride through Tinseltown, as we celebrate the come-from-behind victories of these eight lovable stars, who (even Jay-Z would have to agree) made one helluva comeback.
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Natasha Lyonne is somewhat of an indie darling. Known for playing off-beat characters in idiosyncratic films, her role in The Slums of Beverley Hills pegged her as the next big thing.
Fifty films later, she still hadn't stepped in to fill those shoes. But her talents were never in question and when she landed the role of Nicky Nichols in the Netflix series, Orange Is the New Black, the world was reintroduced to a more brazen, more mature Lyonne. Now she's harnessing all her creative talents (including executive producing) in the new Netflix show, Russian Doll. You go girl!
Michael Keaton has always been a funny man with a dark streak. That quality is what made him so great in Batman and Beetlejuice. But when he turned down a $15 million offer to play the Caped Crusader for a third time, his career hit a lull. Though he never stopped working, Keaton could never achieve the same level of success he had as the Dark Knight.
It was another B-movie that ultimately gave his career a new set of wings, when he won a Golden Globe for his standout performance in 2014's Birdman. Since then, his performances have been nothing short of magnetic, showing that his talents as an actor have only increased with time.
Born to one of Hollywood's legendary families, Barrymore started acting in commercials before she had even turned 1 year old and quickly burst onto the big screen with the über classic, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial when she was just seven. Because it was the highest-grossing film of the '80s, Barrymore was thrust into the spotlight. The fame, however, also led Barrymore to rehab at the age of 13.
After a slow start to the '90s, Barrymore returned to theaters with an appearance in smash hit, Scream. Seeing the film's biggest star killed off in the first scene (spoiler alert) reminded movie-goers how much we had missed Barrymore on the silver screen. The epiphany opened the floodgates, leading to a run of successful rom-coms that continues to this day. Barrymore is now at the height of her powers, starring on Netflix's Santa Clarita Diet, opposite Timothy Olyphant.
Christian Slater made his acting debut on daytime soaps at the tender age of eight. After cutting his teeth on Broadway, he quickly rose to stardom as the anti-hero J.D. in the 1988 dark comedy, Heathers. Following a string of A-list movies, the hottie's career cooled off big time by the year 2000.
Cut to the summer of 2015, when Slater's appearance as the elder Alderson in the highly-acclaimed series Mr. Robot quickly reminded everyone why he had achieved such cult status in the past and proved once again the man could act.
Another Heathers alum, Winona Ryder was the "it" girl of the late '80s and early '90s. With a luminescent screen presence, a doe-eyed gleam, and just the right amount of spunk, Ryder captivated audiences worldwide. Unfortunately, her aura was shattered in 2001 when she was caught stealing from a department store. The media spun the story out of control, and left Ryder's public image tainted.
After a sabbatical from acting, Ryder returned in 2006, toiling to win roles for the next decade. Until the perfect vehicle for her on-screen resurrection came along in 2016. Stranger Things was an instant hit with critics and fans alike, and brought back many beloved things from the '80s, including the greatness of Winona Ryder. Thank you, Duffer Bros.
Neil Patrick Harris
Because N.P.H. was so good in the role of wide-eyed, precocious young doctor, Doogie Howser, M.D. he couldn't get another juicy role to save his life when the show ended after just four seasons. Harris floated around the television wading pool, taking bit parts on Murder She Wrote and Quantum Leap as he struggled to get past the buoys of his squeaky-clean image.
It wasn't until Harris played a lewd, drugged-out version of himself in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, that audiences rearranged their perception of the talented showman and the offers came rolling in. Who knew a stoner flick about craving fast-food would have such a reversal of fortune for on-screen womanizer, Neil Patrick Harris?
John Travolta was the oversexed, wise-cracking, dancing maniac heartthrob of the 1970s. But by the time Reagan left office in 1989, the man had all but disappeared. Thankfully, a young director by the name of Quentin Tarantino had a role in mind that would make Travolta a household name once more. Good thing too, otherwise we wouldn't have such gems as Battlefield Earth and Wild Hogs.
Robert Downey Jr.
Of all the comebacks in the history of Hollywood, Robert Downey Jr.'s is by far the biggest. Not only because he'd already beaten the curse of the child actor to earn an Oscar nod for his performance in Chaplin or because the man has acting chops and charisma coming out his ears. It's mostly due to the fact that he was able to overcome his personal demons to help kick-start the biggest franchise in movie history.
His collaboration with John Favreau on the first Iron Man movie built the foundation for the entire MCU that was to come. At the time, movie studios were still very leery of the actor who was once arrested (one of many times) in his car for possession of hard drugs and a firearm. Downey and Favreau even took a pay cut to get the gig. But the gamble paid off in ways nobody could have foreseen, building an empire that is now more than 20 movies high. Though he is brilliant as Tony Stark, Downey's comeback is more resemblant to the Phoenix rising. We salute you, sir. And are loving every minute of your just desserts.