Everybody loves a good comeback story whether its in sports or not. There are some times where some major Hollywood talent can lose their way. It only takes a few bad projects for you to completely lose their way and fade into obscurity. Few actors and directors are able to win their fans back as many don’t get another major chance to shine. Here are some movies where they got a second chance to shine and did. The top 10 movie comebacks. These are in no particular order.
Michael Keaton: Birdman (2014)
Michael Keaton is one of the most versatile actors in the world. He started out primarily in comedy movies and got a great reputation through the 80s with movies like Mr. Mom, Beetlejuice and Night Shift. Keaton got a big break when Tim Burton cast him as Batman for the first big screen adaptation in 1989 but after 2 Batman movies and Burton decided to leave the franchise Keaton went with him and his film offers seemed to dry up from there. I don’t remember seeing much of Keaton during the early 2000s. I remember him in that awful Herbie movie with Lindsay Lohan and he was in The Other Guys and the Robocop remake but was hardly memorable in either. It was in 2014’s Birdman that he finally started to win people back in a film that somewhat biographical. Keaton got an Oscar nomination for the role but was surprisingly upset by Eddie Redmayne in the Best Actor category. The Birdman film did end up winning Best Picture though. Ever since his appearance in Birdman Keaton has come back to the forefront and may be held in higher regard than ever before. He appeared in Spotlight in 2015 which also won Best Picture, he scored a great role in The Founder and he becomes one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe villains as Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The future looks bright for Keaton as he already attached to star in a Dumbo adaptation from frequent collaborator Tim Burton.
M. Night Shyamalan: Split (2017)
M. Night Shyamalan used to be considered as the next Spielberg after a great start to his career in the late 90s and early 2000s. The Sixth Sense was a huge success and a beloved film and Unbreakable is one of the more underrated movies of its era. Signs and The Village took a bit of a dip but fans still expected a great career from Shyamalan who had developed a great reputation. However, the praise started to go to his head and it got to the point where Shyamalan’s films started to get a bit pretentious and he began to isolate his audience. He hit rock bottom after a complete trilogy of garbage in The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth. It reached a point where he became a joke among film fans. He finally showed signs of life in 2015 with the found footage style film The Visit but it was Split from this year that proved that M. Night was worth watching once again. It may be a little too quick to say if Split is a true comeback because M. Night still needs to follow it up but the film received high praise for M. Night’s direction and James McAvoy’s unhinged performance. Next up for Shyamalan is Glass, a return to the Unbreakable universe with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson returning.
John Travolta: Pulp Fiction
Quentin Tarantino got a reputation for bringing back irrelevant talent because of John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. After breaking out with Saturday Night Fever in 1977 Travolta made several solid movies in the early 80s before a trilogy of Look Who’s Talking movies nearly ruined his career. The role as Vincent Vega alongside Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction was all he needed to redeem himself. Suddenly Travolta was a huge action star appearing in Broken Arrow and Face/Off. He has occasionally done some garbage (Wild Hogs, Battlefield Earth) but he still finds a way to stay relevant all these years later. He’s started to explore television with a well received performance in The People vs. OJ Simpson.
Robert Downey Jr.: Iron Man (2008)
Endless amounts of drug use and a stint in prison ended in 2003 and the Academy Award nominee had gotten a reputation for wild behavior. Who would’ve thought that 5 years later he’d be on his way to becoming on of the biggest movies stars in the world? Downey was working regularly since the early 1980s. He was in Weird Science. Playing Charlie Chaplin got him an Oscar nomination in 1992 and he was pretty great in Natural Born Killers but I’m sure substance abuse issues kept him from becoming a star for a lot of his career. After hitting rock bottom in the early 2000s Downey got back on his feet with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, A Scanner Darkly and Zodiac. Even though his performances in those movies are pretty great Iron Man director Jon Favreau basically had to beg Marvel Studios to hire RDJ for Iron Man. When they caved and gave him the role he impressed everyone launching the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. Downey has appeared in 7 Marvel movies since the first Iron Man and the role opened the door and allowed him to play Sherlock Holmes in the two Guy Ritchie movies. Downey could be the biggest movie star in the world at this point in time. That’s quite a feat.
Ben Affleck: Gone Baby Gone (2007)
The public got sick of hearing about Ben Affleck after a very publicized relationship with Jennifer Lopez. Lopez was at the peak of her fame and Affleck was forced to latch on for a ride. After showing some potential with Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy and writing and starring in Good Will Hunting people started to lose faith in him after Gigli, Pearl Harbor and the failed Daredevil movie. This was all while buddy Matt Damon was having a lot of success with Jason Bourne. He finally won people’s hearts back with Gone Baby Gone, a film he wrote and directed himself with his brother Casey starring. After following the film up with The Town and the Best Picture winner Argo Ben Affleck has been able to keep his reputation as a movie star thanks to Batman and Gone Girl but also be considered one of the better directors available.
Matthew McConaughey: The Lincoln Lawyer
Matthew McConaughey caught eyes in his breakout role in Dazed and Confused and he continued to ride the wave through most of the 1990s with Contact, Amistad and A Time to Kill but he was demoted to a romantic comedy love interest in the early 2000s alongside Jennifer Lopez and Kate Hudson on multiple occasions. The Lincoln Lawyer was the first film where McConaughey started to get his groove back and it kickstared several great roles including an Oscar win for Dallas Buyers Club and one of the best television performances of all time in the first season of True Detective. Intersellar came next and he established himself as a legitimate A-list talent once again. He went from being a rom com heartthrob to a universally liked talent. Stewie Griffin can’t make fun of him anymore.
Marlon Brando: The Godfather
Marlon Brando is probably one of the most influential actors of all time. He won his first Oscar early for the 1954 movie On the Waterfront but when the 1960s began he started to lose steam. Brando never really got a reputation for being easy to deal with and he eventually reached a point where he needed to audition for the part of Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Brando’s performance was considered one of the best in the history of film and it still is to this day. After winning an Oscar for the movie (an award he famously refused to accept) he made a couple more high profile appearances in Superman and Apocalypse Now before backing away for the rest of his career. He worked off and on until he died in 2004.
Mickey Rourke: The Wrestler
Mickey Rourke intentionally took some steps back from acting and returned to a boxing career in 1991. He turned down several high profile roles including Rain Man, Silence of the Lambs and Pulp Fiction. Rourke basically only acted when he wanted to and most of his roles were limited to play supporting characters. A great performance in Sin City as Marv turned some heads but it was his performance in The Wrestler that proved he was still more than capable of carrying a film. Rourke lost out on the Oscar in favor of Sean Penn in Milk, but it was widely believed that he had earned the award. Rourke continues to work regularly including roles in Iron Man 2 and The Expendables but Rourke still tends to chose the roles he is passionate about rather than what will pay.
Sylvester Stallone: Rocky Balboa (2006)
Sly has always been a bit of an underdog from the start of his career. He had to push to get his original script for Rocky to get picked up and actually took a pay cut on the script so he could star in the movie. Rocky made a mint and generated award buzz so Stallone quickly started to gain success as an action star. Stallone’s style eventually faded in the mid 1990s and it took a reboot of the character who made him famous to win over the hearts of fans again. Everyone thought that Rocky V had completely destroyed the franchise but Stallone was able to bring Rocky back in a believable way even though he was 60 years old when Rocky Balboa came out. The success of the reboot allowed him to return to Rambo as well and launch a fairly successful Expendables franchise. He returned to Rocky once again for Creed in 2015 and scored an Oscar nomination. Stallone continues to thrive and has lots of projects in the works. Its a shame that Arnie hasn’t had as much success.
Kurt Russell: The Hateful Eight (2015)
Kurt Russell was always a badass. Even when he was starring in Disney movies at ten years old. Russell turned into a cult favorite thanks to John Carpenter’s direction with Escape from New York, The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China. In the late 90s the action roles started to disappear and he began appearing in more family oriented movies as his fans had aged and started to have children. Quentin Tarantino kept Russell cool with Death Proof but The Hateful Eight was when he became a badass again. The Russell resurgence is still really only just beginning but appearances in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Fast and Furious makes me think he’s here to stay.
Can you think of any great comeback stories for actors? Who do you think will attempt a comeback next?