Hollywood can be a tricky place. One minute, a star is at the top of his or her game — with plenty of roles to choose from — but one bad choice can mean the end of that celeb’s career. After all, movies are backed by producers and studios, and they likely want to make money. If an actor or actress starred in a terrible flick, Hollywood big shots are less likely to take a chance on them again. Of course everyone loves a comeback — including a star once blacklisted by Hollywood who makes a triumphant return.
(Just ask John Travolta.)
But others aren’t so lucky and struggle for years to break into the Hollywood’s elite ranks again — which is even harder the second time around, because the actor has a bad reputation to shake off. While there are some sad stories, there are plenty of success stories, too. For instance, Halle Berry totally owned her terrible role as Catwoman but kept on pushing through the criticism — and even got nominated for an Emmy a year later for Their Eyes Were Watching God. We can all learn a lesson from Ms. Berry on quieting the haters. This is especially true for the actors on this list.
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Elizabeth Berkley – ‘Showgirls’
Elizabeth Berkley had a squeaky-clean image playing Jessie Spano on Saved by the Bell, but all that changed when she took on the role of Nomi Malone, a stripper who works her way to becoming a Las Vegas showgirl. After the film premiered, Berkley was essentially blacklisted and dropped by her agency.
Showgirls did, however, go on to become a cult classic.
Madonna – ‘Swept Away’
While the Queen of Pop has some successful roles in movies — like Desperately Seeking Susan, and Evita — this remake, which she worked on with her husband (Guy Ritchie) at the time, was a disaster from start to finish. While Madonna is still considered a colossal success, and has appeared in film and television since this flop, she has not had a starring role as an actress since.
Jake Lloyd – ‘Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace’
This is actually quite sad.
Jake was only 9 when he played young Anakin Skywalker. While he did a great job in the part, the film was met with poor reviews, and Lloyd received a lot of backlash in the form of bullying. He swore off show business and was later arrested and subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Brandon Routh – ‘Superman Returns’
Brandon had one shot at playing Superman, and while his performance was OK, it would also be his last time playing the iconic character. Critics canned the film for being boring. The story was rebooted several years later with Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel. Routh found a home in television on the show Legends of Tomorrow.
Demi Moore – ‘Striptease’
While Demi earned a record-breaking $12.5 million for her role as a stripper, as soon as the film hit theaters, she received a ton of backlash. She stayed primarily low-key until her comeback in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle in 2003. Since then, Demi Moore has reclaimed her place as one of Hollywood’s elite.
Geena Davis – ‘Cutthroat Island’
Critics slammed this film for its terrible script, acting, and overall unrealistic feel. Geena Davis, who was known for her stellar roles in Thelma and Louise and A League of Their Own, took a major hit as a result of this flop. Davis recently had roles in television on Commander In Chief and Grey’s Anatomy, though she’s yet to make a big-screen comeback.
Topher Grace – ‘Spider-Man 3’
Topher gained notoriety as Eric Forman on That ’70s Show and even made a few successful films during the run of the show. However, his first film after the show wrapped, Spider-Man 3, wasn’t received well by audiences or critics. It took a bit of time for him to regain his audience with films — such as Valentine’s Day and Interstellar.
Freddie Prinze Jr. – ‘Scooby-Doo’
We can divide Freddie Prinze Jr.’s career into two parts: before Scooby Doo, and after. Before this movie version of the cartoon, Freddie was a Hollywood heartthrob who had a successful run in films such as She’s All That and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
It doesn’t look too good. He had some arcs on television shows like 24 and Boston Legal, but never really conquered the box office again.
Taylor Lautner – ‘Abduction’
After his role as Jacob in the Twilight series, fans really haven’t heard much from Taylor, and that might be due to this film. "Taylor Lautner proves again he has the acting chops of Bert from Sesame Street," a critic once said about Abduction. "A slight scowl is all he can muster in this junior-varsity Bourne Identity in which Lautner plays a hard-partying high school student named Nathan …"
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Vin Diesel – ‘The Pacifier’
When people think of Vin Diesel, it’s easy to imagine a hard-bodied, tough-talking action star — not a babysitter, which is most likely why this film didn’t work … at all!
Vin Diesel’s career was on a downward spiral, but thankfully he had his Fast and Furious films to fall back on.
Scarlett Johansson – ‘Ghost in the Shell’
White-washing in Hollywood occurs way too often, and is totally unacceptable — even for A-list actors. Scarlett Johansson took a major hit after she played Major Motoko Kusanagi in this film. (Audiences even started a petition for her to be recast.) As for the actress, she responded by saying, "I would never attempt to play a person of a different race, obviously. Hopefully, any question that comes up of my casting will be answered by audiences when they see the film."
Probably not the response many were hoping for.
Mike Meyers – ‘The Love Guru’
Mike Meyers ruled the box office for many years and is responsible for giving us hits like Austin Powers and Wayne’s World. That’s why this film, The Love Guru, is so disappointing. In fact, it was so poorly received, Meyers hasn’t had a starring role in a film since.
Bruce Willis – ‘Precious Cargo’
This film was so bad, it scored a 0 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Bruce Willis has had a hard time recovering and has yet to replicate the success from his past films — like Die Hard, and The Fifth Element.
Maybe he should go back to voicing babies?
Just a thought.
Diyah Pera/Twentieth Century Fox/Walden Media
The Rock – ‘Tooth Fairy’
It’s hard to imagine a time before Dwayne Johnson ruled the box office and was the most successful man in Hollywood. But there was such a time. While the Tooth Fairy did garner commercial success, it was not received well by critics, leaving Johnson to work really hard to regain any traction he had made as an actor. With films like Moana and Jumanji under his belt now, it’s safe to say he did it!
Lindsay Lohan – ‘I Know Who Killed Me’
Lindsay Lohan was one of the most successful child actors ever. Things were looking really good for her as she transitioned to adulthood with films like Mean Girls. However, her personal life went on a downward spiral. (She was arrested several times.) I Know Who Killed Me did terribly, and even Lohan herself regrets taking the part!
Ben Affleck – ‘Gigli’
This film is considered one of the worst ever and created a media frenzy for Ben Affleck and costar Jennifer Lopez, who were dating at the time. For Affleck’s part, it was quite some time before he found himself in another starring role, so he transitioned to directing — probably to stay out of the spotlight a bit.
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Jennifer Love Hewitt – ‘Jewtopia’
Jennifer Love Hewitt was a ’90s teen idol and had starring roles in films like Can’t Hardly Wait. She was on track to become a major star, but it was her role in the 2012 film Jewtopia that set her back in a big way. The Hollywood Reporter said the film felt like a "failed sitcom pilot."
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Chris Klein – ‘Rollerball’
Chris Klein’s star was on the rise until 2002, when Rollerball was slammed by critics and audiences. Roger Ebert called the film, "an incoherent mess, a jumble of footage in search of plot." Many felt Klein was just too bland for the part. He’s only had some bit parts in TV and movies since.
Terrence Howard – ‘Iron Man’
At the time the first Iron Man film was cast, Terrence Howard was paid $3.5 million for his costarring role. When it came time for the second installment, Howard was offered way less than his original paycheck. Rumors swirled of tensions between him and director Jon Favreau, and ultimately the role was recast, with Don Cheadle taking his place. As for Terrence, he has publicly blamed the film for trying to kill his career.
Chris O’Donnell – ‘Batman & Robin’
This film is considered by many to be the worst Batman film ever made. While star George Clooney was able to continue a successful career in Hollywood, it’s a different story for Chris O’Donnell, who played Robin in the film. He’s worked on NCIS: Los Angeles for many years, but it was pretty slim pickins’ prior to that.