You can return to being a no-name individual just as fast as you can become a celebrity, and this is especially true in Hollywood. Actors seem to come and go by the year, with only a select few remaining relevant for their entire career. However, there are some who had their time in the limelight, faded into obscurity whether by force or their own decision, and then returned with more gusto than ever. These are the most impressive comebacks in cinema history.
Neil Patrick Harris Was A Child Star
Some fans aren't aware that Neil Patrick Harris actually got his start as a child star in the sitcom Doogie Howser, M.D. Following that titular role, for the next many years, Harris didn't have the best of luck and worked on some less-than-impressive projects until he appeared on the web series Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.
It didn't take long for him to land his career-making role in How I Met Your Mother, and has been involved in countless successful films, musical, shows, and more ever since.
Drew Barrymore Had A Rocky Start
Drew Barrymore hit the ground running, starring in films from a young age and even publishing a memoir by the time she was 14. Before she could even reach adulthood, she had a fair amount of troubles of her own. In 1989, she was forced into rehab, bringing her career to a halt.
But Barrymore wasn't ready to call it quits and was back in action in 1995, with her appearance in Wes Craven's Scream being considered her true return to the big screen. She has been writing, producing, acting, and directing ever since.
Jason Bateman Basically Disappeared In The '90s
Making a name for himself in the early 1980s in Little House on the Prairie, Jason Bateman went on to accomplish even more in his youth on the show Valerie, becoming the Directors Guild of America's youngest director on a few episodes.
But then, in the 1990s, he almost completely disappeared, except for some less-than-impressive movies such as Teen Wolf Too. After starring in the hit comedy series Arrested Development, his career was back on course. Since then, he has been in several acclaimed projects such as Juno, Horrible Bosses, Ozark, and more.
Joaquin Phoenix Has Returned To Fame Several Times
Joaquin Phoenix was a child star in his own right. The tragic death of his brother, River, in 1993, led him to withdraw from the public. While he did some acting in his teenage years, his true adult breakthrough role came as Commodus in Ridley Scott's Gladiator.
After a series of other challenging roles, it appeared that Phoenix had gone off the deep end for a time, only to re-emerge in unforgettable performances in The Master, Her, Joker, and more.
Matthew McConaughey's Career Has Been Quite A Rollercoaster
First coming onto the scene with his performance in Dazed and Confused, McConaughey experienced some fame in the 1990s with roles in films such as A Time to Kill, and Amistad, among others.
He didn't particularly shine during the early 2000s, finding himself in B-move romantic comedies like How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days and Fool's Gold. Since then, he has taken on much more serious and complicated roles such as in Dallas Buyer's Club, Mud, and True Detective, and the public can't seem to get enough of him.
Rob Lowe Didn't Let A Scandal Get Him Down
A known member of the Hollywood "Brat Pack" in the 1980s, Rob Lowe gained popularity for his performances in Youngblood, The Outsiders, and other films. While his career seemed to be on an upwards trajectory, things went south when a video was leaked in 1988 of him having inappropriate relations with two women in a hotel room, with one just barely of legal age.
As if things couldn't get worse, another video was released not long after. Thankfully, he was able to get through the scandal and had a re-emergence as a star on the uber-successful comedy show Parks and Recreation.
Kiefer Sutherland Had A Brief Retirement In Montana
The son of legendary actor Donald Sutherland, Kiefer Sutherland made his first mark on cinema as the main antagonist Ace in Rob Reiner's Stand By Me in 1986. From there, he went on to star in a series of other films, most notably as a motorcycle-riding vampire in Lost Boys before going into retirement in the 1990s after moving to Montana.
This didn't last long, and Sutherland was back again in 2001 as Jack Bauer in the popular drama series 24, which today is considered his most recognizable role.
Winona Ryder Made A Reappearance In A Hit Show Taking Place In The Decade Of Her Heyday
In the 1980s and into the 1990s, Winona Ryder was a hot commodity, starring in hit films such as Beetlejuice, Heathers, Edward Scissorhands, and others. This continued into the early 2000s until she was arrested for shoplifting and possession of an illegal prescription.
After taking a break, she admitted that she didn't realize how important it was to stay relevant. Luckily for her, she became a leady actress once again after her performance in the hit series Stranger Things.
Ellen DeGeneres Wasn't Always A Hit
Ellen DeGeneres got her start as a stand-up comedian before making the transition into acting, starring in the 1990s sitcom Ellen. Just years later, her career began to suffer, as her other series The Ellen Show was canceled before the final season even finished.
Luckily for Ellen, her career was saved after voicing the character Dory in Pixar's Finding Nemo in 2003. This resulted in the creation of her talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and the rest is history. Since then, she is a household name, with a slew of awards to her name.
Mel Gibson Truly Crashed And Burned
Beginning with the Mad Max franchise, from the 1980s to the early 2000s, Mel Gibson was a seemingly unstoppable force as both an actor and director with films such as Lethal Weapon, Braveheart, The Patriot, and more to his name.
However, things took a turn for the worse after he was arrested for a DUI in 2006 along with a string of released recordings of him making horrible remarks, practically ending his time as a star. Nevertheless, he cleaned up his act in 2016, released his World War II film Hacksaw Ridge, which received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor.
Dave Chapelle Took A Break In The Mid-2000s
Through the 1990s, Dave Chappelle was one of the most successful comedians and comic-actors in the business, appearing in numerous films and starring in Chappelle's Show on Comedy Central.
However, Chappelle went underground in 2005, staying mostly out of the spotlight except for a few stand-up comedy appearances here and there. Then, in 2017, he released four specials on Netflix, winning Grammys for the first two. He even appeared in a serious role in A Star is Born.
Michael Keaton Is A Star Again
In the late 1980s, Michael Keaton launched into popularity after teaming up with Tim Burton in Beetlejuice, following Burton's other films Batman and Batman Returns. He would then make appearances in other notable films such as Jackie Brown, but not much anything worth after that.
Yet, he was back on top after his Oscar nomination or his performance in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). He then saw himself in starring roles in The Founder and Spiderman: Homecoming.
Brendan Fraser Pretty Much Left Hollywood
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Brendan Fraser was pretty much an action movie icon, starring in films such as George of the Jungle and The Mummy franchise. Sadly, after everything was said and done, he left Hollywood behind, and fans didn't anticipate him coming back.
Thankfully, he proved everyone wrong, coming back in the spotlight with his starring role in The Whale. For his performance, Fraser won the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Mandy Moore Came Back Out Of The Blue
Mandy Moore may have reached celebrity status as a singer with her debut single "Candy," but it didn't take long for her to get involved in the movie business. After prominent roles in A Walk to Remember and The Princess Diaries, Moore showed promise, although nothing after that was terribly interesting.
After some time to herself, Moore was the voice of Rapunzel in the 2010 Disney animated film of the same name and receive a Golden Globe nomination for the TV series This Is Us.
Christian Slater Had A Rough Time
Christian Slater was a top star in the 1980s following his roles in films such as Heathers, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and Interview With the Vampire. Nevertheless, it didn't take long for things to begin to spiral after he was arrested for driving under the influence, harassing a woman on the street, and attempting to board an airplane with a weapon.
During that time he appeared in a number of canceled television series and failed movies until his resurgence in Mr. Robot in 2015, taking home a Golden Globe.
Robert Downey Jr. Cleaned Up His Act
In his youth, Robert Downey Jr. was a notorious bad boy. Also part of the '80s "Brat Pack," he gained a reputation through his films such as Less Than Zero. Unfortunately, however, during the 1990s, Downey's public image was tainted by his obvious substance problem coupled along with multiple arrests.
At one point, he was even sentenced to a three-year prison term that was reduced to one year and a fine. Somehow, he managed to rise from the ashes and today is one of the most successful stars in the business, mostly for his character Iron Man.
Linda Cardellini's Career Went Stagnant After Scooby-Doo
Linda Cardellini rose to fame for her role in Freaks and Geeks, and then for her depiction of Velma in the live-action Scooby-Doo franchise. However, she pretty much disappeared after that.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she became one of Hollywood's most desired actresses after starring in 2018's Oscar-winning Green Book, and as Laura Barton in Avengers: Endgame. She would also go on to star in the hit television show Dead to Me alongside Christina Applegate.
Jennifer Lopez Never Totally Went Away
Being an actress, singer, dancer, and all-around celebrity beauty, Jennifer Lopez never completely disappeared off the radar, although her acting career took a bit of a downturn following the 2003 film, Gigli.
Yet that all changed when she took on the role of Ramona in 2019's highly anticipated film Hustlers. In the film, Lopex stars alongside Constance Wu, Cardi B, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, and Lili Reinhart. Now, it appears that her acting career is back on track and bigger than ever.
Ke Huy Quan Struggled After Being A Child Actor
Actor Ke Huy Quan was in some big-name movies back in the 1980s, including The Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. As Quan said, "I was so worried because I was experiencing everything I experienced as a kid, when I was auditioning, and I couldn't get a job. When you work with Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, and George Lucas, you can't go anywhere but downhill from there. And that's exactly what happened!"
Everything changed when he landed a role as Waymond Wang in Everything Everywhere All At Once. For his performance, Quan made the ultimate comeback, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Natasha Lyonne Managed To Return After Her American Pie Days
Natasha Lyonne is another one of those teenage actresses that became recognizable in the 1990s in movies like the American Pie franchise, only for her career to slowly but surely fizzle out.
Regardless, almost 20 years after the first American Pie was released, Lyonne came back onto the scene. Her comeback was in the acclaimed show Orange is the New Back. She also took on a more serious role in Netflix's Russian Doll, which she co-created and writes.
Keanu Reeves is Now One Of The Most Talked-About People In Hollywood
Keanu Reeves may have started his career as an action film star in '90s classics such as Point Break and Speed, although he took a different direction with his role of Neo in The Matrix films.
After a series of unmentionable films in the 2000s, his career took off once again with the sleeper-hit John Wick, which turned into a majorly successful series. Without a doubt, we'll be seeing more of Reeves as the years go on. Plus, the public has an interesting obsession with his life off-screen, which doesn't hurt.
Alec Baldwin Struggled In The Public Eye
Actor Alec Baldwin rose to prominence in the 1980s and '90s with successful films such as The Hunt For Red October and Beetlejuice under his belt. yet, his anger issues soon came to light. Videos and other recordings surfaced of him being physically and verbally abusive to journalists and even his daughter.
Baldwin managed to earn his respect back as an actor on the award-winning show 30 Rock, later co-hosting the Oscars, and performing unforgettable skits as Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.