14 Movies or TV Shows That Got Actors Bounce Back To Fame

There are many talented actors and actresses in Hollywood. Some of these have very famous families, parents, or siblings that have put them on the map today. Others were successful on their own, by putting in a lot of effort, studying, and attending audition after audition until they landed the perfect role to launch their careers.
True! What makes a true breakout performance, rather than one-off onscreen chemistry, is when the actors have experienced many different roles over and over again. Today, we've highlighted a few of these stars that needed a lot of time to truly establish themselves in Hollywood. We also take a look at some actors who rose to fame with just one memorable performance, compared to some of their lackluster roles before that. Scroll down for more details!

#1 Mayim Bialik in The Big Bang Theory

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Mayim Bialik often appeared on screen as a child. Her role in the series "Blossom" turned out to be a huge success. After that, the girl mainly stayed behind the scenes, voicing cartoon characters. Starting in 2009, the actress began to appear in this series, but the real breakthrough awaits her in 2010, when she joins the group Big Bang Theory. However, Bialik was quite successful outside of the film business.

#2 Alexis Bledel in The Handmaid’s Tale

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By being a straight-A student, Rory Gilmore served as a role model for all teenagers, and Alexis' portrayal of the character enhanced its notoriety in Gilmore Girls. With movies like The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants and its follow-up, she maintained her streak in the early 2000s. She hasn't made a splash with major films since then.
Fortunately, she got back on track when she reunited with her co-star Lauren Graham for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. A year later, she was chosen to play Emily Malek or Ofglen, one of the main characters in the dystopian TV series The Handmaid's Tale.

#3 Patrick Dempsey in Disenchanted

Source: © Grey's Anatomy / Shondaland and co-producers,  © Disenchanted / Walt Disney Pictures and co-producers

Grey's Anatomy fans will always refer to Patrick as "McDreamy" because of his role as Derek Shepherd, Dr. Meredith Grey's love interest. He was cast in rom-com roles in Maid of Honor and Enchanted as a result of his performance. The latter garnered favorable reviews from many audiences. Over the years, Patrick, who briefly abandoned the Entertainment industry, has concentrated more on his racing career.
Disenchanted, the Enchanted sequel, wasn't revealed until 2020. The return of Patrick and Amy Adams as Robert and Giselle thrilled fans.

#4 Joaquin Phoenix in Her

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Together with his dynamic on-screen brother River, Joaquin dominated the 1990s. They were mainstays of coming-of-age movies, and his charisma and adaptability persisted until Gladiator and Walk the Line, released in the early 2000s.
Joaquin's reputation waned for a while until his breakthrough role as lonesome Theodore in the 2013 film Her, co-starring with his wife, Rooney Mara. As a result, he was given a new position in Hollywood. He then continued to act in larger projects, which helped him win the Academy Award for Best Actor.

#5 Matthew McConaughey in True Detective

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Although Matthew is now frequently featured in big movies, that wasn't always the case for the actor. Due to a series of romcoms, Matthew's A-list ranking and acting ability declined. However, his performance of detective Rustin Cohle in True Detective brought him back into the public eye, bringing about what some refer to as his McConaissance.

#6 Sean Astin in Stranger Things

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The former child star had several encounters with fame, including playing Samwise the hobbit in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sadly, his impressive career only led to minor parts in lesser movies.
With the delightful Bob Newby part opposite Winona Ryder in Stranger Things' second season, he was given a second shot. His performance brought up so many recollections for the audience, and his character quickly became popular.

#7 Keanu Reeves in John Wick

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Keanu was one of the most in-demand performers in the 1990s, so landing the iconic part of Neo in The Matrix series wasn't difficult for him. However, with little to no blockbusters to his credit, his star began to decline in the late 2000s.
As the titular John Wick, Keanu finally received his next big break in 2014. His thrilling rendition of the role stunned both longtime and new admirers, ultimately launching his Keannaissance.

#8 Robin Wright in House of Cards

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In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Robin was honored with famous roles such as Princess Buttercup in The Princess Bride and Jenny from Forrest Gump. The actress, on the other hand, did not do well throughout the years. However, her Emmy-winning performance in the 2013 hit TV program House of Cards set the door for her to continue to provide Emmy-winning performances until 2018.

#9 Mandy Moore in This Is Us

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With teenage films like A Walk to Remember and The Princess Diaries, Mandy was a potential leading woman and pop star in the early 2000s. However, things turned nasty when she had some issues with her music career, which hindered her ability to feature in additional films.
She was about to leave Hollywood until she was hired as Rebecca Pearson, the lead in This Is Us. Fans of the program praised her performance as Rebecca. This renewed her love in acting and, later, in singing.

#10 Rob Lowe in Parks and Recreation

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Rob had a tremendous career as an adolescent heartthrob-turned-leading-man from the 1980s to the early 2000s, with hits including The Outsiders and The West Wing. However, he fell under the radar with minor appearances and projects before making a comeback in 2010 as Chris Traeger in the sitcom Parks and Recreation. Now, he is the executive producer of 9-1-1: Lone Star, directed by his son John Owen.

#11 Lucy Liu in Elementary

Source: © Charlie's Angels / Columbia Pictures and co-producers, © Elementary / CBS Television Studios and co-producers

Lucy's character, Alex Munday, was the femme fatale on Charlie's Angels in the 2000s. She followed her success with appearances in Chicago and Shanghai Noon, but she discovered her true destiny behind the camera by voicing characters in Kung Fu Panda and Tinker Bell.

#12 Sarah Michelle Gellar in Do Revenge

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Gellar was a teen queen in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with fan favorites including Buffy, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Scooby-Doo that became instant classics for nostalgia. Despite a slew of excellent opportunities, Gellar opted to prioritize her family over acting.
Years later, she repeated her adolescent drama role as an adult in the 2022 film Do Revenge, when she portrayed the headmaster of the fictional Rosehill Country Day High School.

#13 Jason Bateman in Juno

Source: © Teen Wolf Too / Atlantic Entertainment Group, © Juno / Fox Searchlight Pictures and co-producers

Who'd have guessed that the Emmy-winning actor and comedian had a short hiccup in his career? Jason was merely a teenager when he appeared in Valerie and Teen Wolf Too. His appearances were fewer in the 1990s, and his fame faded.
It wasn't until his cinematic return as singer Mark Loring in the Academy Award-nominated picture Juno and his appearance as Michael Bluth in the comedy Arrested Development that he was back for more. He now directs and produces the award-winning thriller TV series Ozark.

#14 Winona Ryder in Stranger Things

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Winona recovered her status as Halloween Queen when she featured as Joyce Byers, one of the series' primary characters, in the first season of Stranger Things. Fans of her work from the late 1980s and early 1990s binge-watched the episode and applauded her reappearance after a long hiatus from acting. She will continue her role in the final season of Stranger Things, which has been a big hit since its debut.
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