Becoming a movie star isn’t easy – and staying one is just as difficult. A few bad career moves can send even a widely admired actor into professional free-fall. That kind of decline is an everyday occurrence in Hollywood, but a few lucky actors have managed to bring their careers back from the dead. In honour of Halloween, here they are.
13 movies that brought careers back from the dead
Pulp FictionThe one-two punch of Saturday Night Fever and Grease made John Travolta one of the world’s biggest stars, but by the mid-’90s he was a forgotten entity best known for talking baby movies. Ignoring the actor’s low stock in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino gave him the role of a lifetime in Pulp Fiction. The movie earned Travolta an Oscar nomination and a second lease on acting life.Alliance
ScreamFor the last 18 years, Drew Barrymore has been one of Hollywood’s most popular leading ladies, but before appearing in Scream, she was just another fading child star. Her resume until that point included disposable star vehicles and trashy TV movies. But in a twist even she couldn’t have seen coming, her career was suddenly resurrected by a glorified cameo that involved little more than talking on the phone, making popcorn, and getting murdered.Alliance
Iron ManFollowing a headline-making period of drug use and incarceration, Robert Downey Jr. delivered a string of memorable supporting performances in films like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Good Night, and Good Luck, and Zodiac. Still, it seemed that his career as a leading man was over – until Iron Man proved he was just warming up.Paramount
Requiem For a DreamAfter an impressive start in films like Labyrinth and Once Upon a Time in America, Jennifer Connelly spent most of the ’90s delivering competent performances in forgettable movies. By 2000, many had forgotten about the promising young actress, only to be wowed by her raw, unsettling performance in Requiem For a Dream. Within a few years, she had her first Oscar.Alliance
Magic MikeSurfer, Dude notwithstanding, Matthew McConaughey’s career never really went off the rails. However, some of his fans felt his potential was being undermined by a never-ending string of generic romcoms. In 2012, he abruptly changed course with a series of modest dramas, but his real re-birth took place in a strip club.Warner Bros.
Dallas Buyers ClubSometimes when a star disappears from movies, it’s voluntary. From 2009 to 2013, Jared Leto was busy being a rock star. Thanks to that long break – and a radical physical transformation – some didn’t even recognize the actor in his Oscar-winning turn as Rayon in last year’s Dallas Buyers Club.Universal
Boys Don’t CryThe Next Karate Kid was supposed to launch Hilary Swank's movie career, but all it really gave her was a recurring role in Beverly Hills, 90210. In Boys Don’t Cry, Swank ditched Hollywood expectations (and her female identity), a bold move that earned her an Oscar and turned her fortunes around.Fox
Boogie NightsYou have to go back pretty far to remember Burt Reynolds at his peak, but he was one of the biggest stars of the ’70s and ’80. The ’90s were a far more confusing time for Burt, resulting in mistakes like Striptease and the decision to fire his agent after seeing Boogie Nights, the film that later earned him his first Oscar nomination.Alliance
The MasterIn the chaos surrounding the bearded-rapper prank that was I’m Still Here, Joaquin Phoenix disappeared from movies for four years. When he finally returned in 2012’s The Master, he continued to puzzle some filmgoers, but he impressed enough Academy members to earn his third Oscar nomination.eOne
UnfaithfulLike several others on this list, Diane Lane managed the very difficult transition from child actor to adult star. While her career never really nose-dived, she had to cuckold Richard Gere onscreen before graduating to full-blown adult success.Fox
Little ChildrenYou still might not know who Jackie Earle Haley is, but his career enjoyed a massive shot-in-the-arm thanks to his Oscar-nominated turn in Little Children. Once best known for playing a motorcycle-riding teen baseball star in 1976’s The Bad News Bears, Haley has since spent time in the worlds of Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Freddy Krueger.Alliance
BronsonAfter early success in Black Hawk Down and Star Trek: Nemesis, Tom Hardy spent nearly a decade in movie jail, struggling to land another major role. It’s fitting, then, that he broke through playing a man who spent 34 years behind bars. Christopher Nolan was so impressed with Hardy’s unhinged performance in Bronson that he cast him in both Inception and The Dark Knight Rises.Alliance
Monster-in-LawJane Fonda bowed out of movies at the top of her game, but it seems she was troubled by her impeccable track record. At 67, she returned with Monster-in-Law, an undeniable career low – that once again made her a movie star.Alliance