15 Stars Hollywood Shunned Who Deserve a Comeback

The Hollywood star system is ever-changing. Peter Biskind’s successful biography of the late ’60s, Easy Riders and Raging Bulls, charts the era’s “changing of the guard,” which saw the traditional studio system disrupted by auteurs such as Martin Scorsese and others. It meant that the old star-driven system was being replaced by “the Bruce Aesthetic” — the switch to big-screen spectacles. Regardless of the changing movie industry, which may one day be driven by artificial intelligence, there’s always the rule that stars eventually stop shining and are replaced by new ones. Which stars of yesteryear deserve a comeback?

1. Steve Guttenberg

Ballers (2015) Steve Guttenberg
Image Credit: HBO Entertainment.

A charming grin, deadpan one-liners, and a naturally dry comedic presence are all traits ’80s stalwart Steve Guttenberg had in abundance. He is best known for the long-running Police Academy franchise, Short Circuit (1986), and the Three Men and a Baby movie series. He’s now in his sixties, but who would begrudge Guttenberg a funny uncle role in a box-office smash comedy?

2. Geena Davis

Thelma & Louise (1991) Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon
Image Credit: MGM-Pathé Communications.

The ’80s and ’90s were kind to the Massachusetts-born actress, who made dozens of good movie role decisions across the decades. These culminated in an Academy Award win for The Accidental Tourist (1988) and cult status as Thelma Dickinson in Ridley Scott’s smash hit adventure/tragedy Thelma and Louise (1991). My personal favorite Geena Davis vehicle is The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), where she plays an amnesiac retired former special agent who regains her memory in an existential crisis.

3. Rick Moranis

Spaceballs (1987) Rick Moranis
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Aw, Rick — this guy just made us smile, right? His string of comedy hits throughout the ’80s and ’90s typified American comedy movies of the age. Moranis took a hiatus from acting in the late ’70s and more recently turned down a chance to star in the Ghostbusters reboot. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in 2015, Moranis said, “I hope it’s terrific. But it just makes no sense to me. Why would I do just one day of shooting on something I did 30 years ago?”

4. Taylor Lautner

Abduction (2011) Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

Lautner wowed young female audiences in the late ’00s when he channeled his inner werewolf as Jacob Black for the Twilight series. Although Lautner’s career started years before Twilight‘s global success, his acting career later floundered with a string of average films. He did resurface in the popular BBC comedy series Cuckoo, but we need a Taylor Lautner movie comeback story. By all accounts, Lautner is a thoroughly decent human being, who speaks up for mental health awareness.

5. Bridget Fonda

Little Buddha (1993) Bridget Fonda
Image Credit: Buena Vista International.

Daughter of heritage Hollywood star Peter Fonda, ’90s pinup girl Bridget Fonda was an underrated actress. She appeared in several major films in the ’90s, although Single White Female (1992), The Godfather Part III (1990), and Jackie Brown (1997) stood out — especially the latter. Fonda is unlikely to make a comeback anytime soon — she made a rare public appearance recently, looking like she didn’t want a comeback.

6. Meg Ryan

When Harry Met Sally... (1989) Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Ryan was an ’80s icon and a ’90s darling, starring in a notable collection of movies, including When Harry Met Sally (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and French Kiss (1995). However, her good run fizzled out following her much-publicized extra-marital affair with Proof of Life co-star Russell Crowe. Her subsequent divorce from Dennis Quaid, followed by disastrous cosmetic surgery, put Ryan in movie limbo for a while. She made a comeback last year in What Happens Later (2023) opposite David Duchovny.

7. Emilio Estevez

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (2021) Emilio Estevez
Image Credit: ABC Signature.

Emilio Estevez and his brother Charlie Sheen grew up as Hollywood royalty. Their father, Martin Sheen, is still a generational movie icon. While brother Charlie made waves in the last decade with his overwrought public persona, Estevez was nowhere to be seen. The star of many Gen-Xers’ childhoods deserves a comeback for his contribution to the ’80s and ’90s — Young Guns (1988) and The Breakfast Club (1985) are all that need repeating.

8. Haley Joel Osment

The Sixth Sense (1999) Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Having rewatched M. Knight Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (1999) recently, I can confidently say Haley Joel Osment single-handedly outperforms a strong acting cast, including Bruce Willis and Toni Collette. His breakthrough period saw him also star in Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). Before that, he had a small part in Forrest Gump (1994). Surely he can repeat his success. Bring him back.

9. Alicia Silverstone

Vamps (2012) Alicia Silverstone
Image Credit: Anchor Bay Films.

Anyone who watched MTV in the ’90s will remember Aerosmith’s video for “Cryin'” featuring a young, beautiful Alicia Silverstone. Since that moment, Silverstone became a household name, and she appeared in several big-budget movies: her most iconic role was in Clueless (1995). A subsequent role in superhero turkey Batman and Robin (1997) followed, and other than small parts in several notable successes since, we haven’t seen much of Silverstone, who claimed last year in Outlook that she stepped away because she “wasn’t happy.”

10. Joseph Gordon Levitt

500 Days of Summer (2009) Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

The new millennium had several faces to call icons, including Jennifer Lawrence, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Joseph Gordon Levitt. The latter first made his name as a child star in the ’90s, then followed up with some classics, not least The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) where he gets arguably the greatest final scene in Batman canon — you know which one I mean.

11. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

Scarface (1983) Al Pacino, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

No discussion about the ’80s or early ’90s can be complete without the sizable tremor left behind by Mary Elizabeth Matrantonio. She may have peaked early; her feature film debut was Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1982), followed by a part in Scarface (1983). The actress peaked with an award-worthy support slot in The Color of Money (1986) alongside Paul Newman. She worked with James Cameron on The Abyss (1989) and broke hearts as Maid Marian in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).

12. Kim Basinger

Charlie St. Cloud (2010) Kim Basinger
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The last couple of roles I remember Kim Basinger playing were Eight Mile (2002) as Marshall Mathers’ mom and, before that, her Oscar and Golden Globe-winning L.A. Confidential (1997) performance as Lynn Bracken in Curtis Hanson’s remarkable ’50s noir crime drama. Those of us in our fourth decade will always be thankful for Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989).

13. David Hasselhoff

David Hasselhoff
Image Credit: CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.
Image Credit: Syfy Films.

The world is not ready to say goodbye to the Hoff. After a long career in television, it almost feels like we need a Hoff fix real soon. The young Gen-Xers and older millennials will always have Knight Rider (1982-1986) and Baywatch (1989-2001) to memorialize him. Let’s bring the Berlin Wall destroyer back for a movie reboot.

14. Macauley Culkin

Home Alone (1990) Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The star of Home Alone (1990), My Girl (1991), and Richie Rich (1994) is all grown up now. Not long ago, Culkin made his fans cry with a poignant acceptance speech on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The former child star has been through it all: parental divorce, substance abuse, and arrests for possession. However, he appears to have exorcized those Hollywood demons. I’m ready for Macauley Culkin, the grown-up star.

15. Lindsay Lohan

Irish Wish (2024) Lindsay Lohan
Image Credit: Netflix.

It wasn’t that Hollywood shunned Lindsay Lohan; she kind of shunned herself in some ways. Lohan became notoriously hard to work with, displaying all the traits of a burned-out child star in her twenties. The days of The Parent Trap (1998) and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004) are essential parts of the new-millennium zeitgeist. Who would disagree that Lohan has a good screen presence and star quality?


The Fugutive
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


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