Movie Stars Who Became One-Hit Wonders
Very few things are more exciting for an up-and-coming actor than the moment they finally make it big. Going from a nobody to someone fans recognize on the streets as an A-list star is certainly life changing, but it’s actually the moment that the really hard work begins.
What's harder than landing the right role and becoming a star in the first place? Judging by the faltering careers of these once promising actors, the answer is simple: holding onto that sudden stardom. Some stars make it to the top and stay there. Others drop the ball somewhere along the way. Take a look!
Elijah Wood | Lord of the Rings Trilogy
When Peter Jackson's Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy came to a close in 2003, the name on everyone's mind was Elijah Wood. After starring as Frodo and racking up all kinds of recognition, it was natural to assume the actor would be relevant for years — maybe even decades.
Hayden Christensen | Star Wars Prequels (Episode II & Episode III)
After the conclusion of the Star Wars sequel trilogy in 2019, it remains to be seen if Daisy Ridley will be able to hold on to her sudden stardom. One thing is for sure, though. Hayden Christensen, the star of the last Star Wars prequel trilogy, wasn't able to do it.
Sarah Jessica Parker | Sex and the City
Despite leading a hit HBO comedy and being married to one of the most notable actors from the 1980s, Sarah Jessica Parker couldn't manage to hold on to her critical movie acclaim. With Sex and the City long over and two spinoff films in the books — with no third in sight — Parker's future as a star is muddled.
Rupert Grint | Harry Potter Series
The Harry Potter franchise was truly a cultural event that encompassed the entire planet. Throughout the series' seven novels, eight feature film adaptations and spinoff Fantastic Beasts prequel series, J.K. Rowling's magical creations changed the world.
Ralph Macchio | The Karate Kid Series
Decades later, The Karate Kid continues to be hailed as one of the most memorable films from the 1980s. Star Ralph Macchio perfectly embodied the charisma and the personality of a kid going from zero to hero, making his leading role an integral part of the film's lasting power.
Henry Thomas | E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Don't be fooled by Henry Thomas' reprisal of his famous character in a recent ad campaign for Comcast. The actor is not an A-list talent. He is known for starring alongside one of the most instantly recognizable aliens in the galaxy, E.T. from Steven Spielberg's E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in 1982.
Brandon Routh | Superman Returns
The fact that Brandon Routh was just recently brought back to reprise his role as Superman, despite the nearly 15 years that have passed since he first put on the suit just goes to show that the actor will always be seen as Kal-El and not much else.
Macaulay Culkin | Home Alone
It's quite rare for Home Alone actor Macaulay Culkin to talk about his childhood as a movie star. Not many are sure what he has been up to in the decades since appearing in two of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time, but one fact is certain: He hasn't been doing much acting.
Linda Blair | The Exorcist
Although she certainly had no idea at the time, securing the starring role in what eventually became one of the highest-rated horror films of all time was one of the most profoundly life-changing events in the life of Linda Blair. A St. Louis native, she starred in The Exorcist when she was just barely a teenager.
Nia Vardalos | My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Attaining overnight fame is one thing. Becoming a household name at a moment's notice because you starred in a movie that you also wrote? Well, that’s an entirely different phenomenon. Let’s just say it’s one that Nia Vardalos knows all too well.
Jon Heder | Napoleon Dynamite
Speaking of independent film stars who came and went with the utmost haste, Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder was poised to be the next big comedy star in the months following the release of the 2004 Sundance hit. Too bad it wasn’t meant to be.
Rachael Leigh Cook | She's All That
For a hot minute at the end of the 20th century, actress Rachael Leigh Cook really was all that. The titular "she" in 1999's She's All That, Cook was the standout star in an otherwise mundane teen drama. Across the nation, everyone wondered how she would follow up the breakout performance.
Alex Winter | Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
The year 2020 will see the return of Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as their infamous 80’s airheads, Bill and Ted. The two will reprise their roles from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure for a third film in the summer, but it's worth noting that the two actors couldn't have had more different career trajectories.
Edward Furlong | Terminator 2: Judgement Day
All kinds of hype surrounded producer James Cameron's return to the Terminator franchise with 2019's Terminator: Dark Fate. Another exciting aspect of the film was the return of actor Edward Furlong to the killer cyborg series (although Furlong barely made more than a cameo appearance in the end).
Jerry Seinfeld | The Bee Movie
It seems kind of obvious, but the simple truth of the matter is that stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld was never very good at playing any character, except the one that was based on himself.
Rainn Wilson | Juno
It's one of the most common occurrences in television these days: An actor plays a character who manages to transcend the show itself, eventually becoming a pop culture icon as big as the show itself. Take Rainn Wilson, for example. Even if you don't watch The Office, you know who Dwight Schrute is.
Patrick Fugit | Almost Famous
Remember Patrick Fugit? It seems that his first— and largest — feature film role in Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical film Almost Famous proved to be somewhat of a foreshadowing. Turns out Fugit himself was almost famous.
Piper Perabo | Coyote Ugly
As it stands, we're currently living in a time where there are more movies and TV shows than anyone could ever watch. As a result, we're challenged to keep track of far more stars than in decades past.
Peter Ostrum | Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Many child actors can't catch a break — beyond their initial big break, of course. Just look at Peter Ostrum, the boy who played Charlie in 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, still a widely viewed children’s classic. Beyond this first role, Ostrum never got the chance to act again.
Danny Lloyd | The Shining
While the character of Danny Torrance was recently revived for Doctor Sleep, original actor Danny Lloyd wasn’t lucky enough to play the role a second time. The sequel to 1980's The Shining follows the life of Jack Torrance's young son after the tragedy, with new horrors in play.
Paul Hogan | Crocodile Dundee
Sometimes, an actor comes along with such a specific set of skills that it becomes hard for future filmmakers to try and place them in their films. Look at Paul Hogan, for example. He was the creator and star of the hugely successful Crocodile Dundee films, but he never could transfer his comedic chops to any other parts.
Carrie Henn | Alien Series
The first two Alien films certainly divided fans in the decades following their respective releases. Many fans appreciate the claustrophobic horror of the first, while others prefer the large-scale action of 1986's Aliens. Those in the second camp definitely know all about Carrie Henn.
Peter Billingsley | A Christmas Story
In some cases, we see a child actor fade into the ether without them ever managing to work in showbusiness again. That's not always what happens when they seemingly "disappear." Occasionally, an actor will flip the switch and move to the other side of the camera: production.
Shannon Elizabeth | American Pie Series
In hindsight, the American Pie films feel like you’re looking at a time capsule. Could any of these films make it today? No one knows for certain, but it's obvious that they're a cultural touchstone for a generation of teens who reached adulthood in the late 1990s.
Sarah Michelle Gellar | Cruel Intentions, Scooby-Doo Series
Believe it or not, playing Daphne in a couple of live-action Scooby-Doo films isn’t enough to cement your status as a real Hollywood star. No one knows this better than Sarah Michelle Gellar, who rose to worldwide acclaim as the titular Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.
Jeff Cohen | Goonies
For Jeff Cohen, it's obvious that his Goonies character's most famous line has had more staying power than he himself ever had. First rising to stardom in 1985's The Goonies, Cohen never landed a movie role again.
Jonathan Bennett | Mean Girls
Can't earn yourself another big role in a feature film? Might as well make the switch to hosting baking competitions. This was apparently the logic employed by Jonathan Bennett, and it has worked out quite well for him. Despite not being a cook himself, he has done quite well on The Food Network and the Cooking Channel.
Alicia Silverstone | Clueless
Contrary to what many might think, Alicia Silverstone's performance as Batgirl in the much-criticized comic book film Batman & Robin does not count as the pinnacle of her career. She received an uncanny level of praise for her most famous film Clueless.
Margaret Hamilton | The Wizard of Oz
It wasn't until her late 30s that Old Hollywood actress Margaret Hamilton got her big break. Cast as the Wicked Witch of the West in one of the most beloved and acclaimed films in the history of the medium, The Wizard of Oz, Hamilton never stood a chance at topping this incredibly lucky break.
Nikki Blonsky | Hairspray
When word got out that John Waters' Hairspray would get the remake treatment in the mid-2000s, plenty of moviegoers were reasonably skeptical. How could anyone come close to replicating the strangeness of a Waters’ film? Thanks to Nikki Blonsky, the film actually did quite well.