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VOICE OVER: Patrick Mealey
Not all celebs are scandalous! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the most notable written-off actors who had huge comebacks with acclaimed performances. Our countdown includes actors Keanu Reeves, Ben Affleck, Sandra Bullock and more!

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the most notable written-off actors who had huge comebacks with acclaimed performances. Are there any other actors who had huge comebacks? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: Robert Pattinson


Those “Twilight” kids really grew up, didn’t they? Despite being widely lambasted for her performance, Kristen Stewart is now an Oscar-nominated actress, and Robert Pattinson is the leading man in a new Batman franchise. Pattinson turned his career around in the mid-2010s, shedding the Cedric Diggory and Edward Cullen heartthrob persona and turning to more gritty independent fare. This was a risky but rewarding career choice, and he has since earned widespread acclaim for movies like “Good Time” and “The Lighthouse.” Of course, he has also ventured into more mainstream fare and is now the official face of Batman, having earned the public’s collective approval in the 2022 reboot.

#9: Sandra Bullock


It was clear from the get-go that Sandra Bullock was a talented actress, but she seemed to be squandering her talent on mediocre films. Yes, some were guilty pleasures, but others were just guilty of wasting Bullock’s time and effort. The 2000s were a pretty rough time for the actress, although at least it ended in style. Bullock finally unleashed her prowess in 2009’s “The Blind Side,” and while the movie itself received a somewhat mixed response, her lead performance earned widespread acclaim. She earned her first Oscar and received another nod just four years later with “Gravity.” The talents were finally unleashed, and we were all here for it.

#8: Joaquin Phoenix


The problem with having a famous older brother is that everyone compares you to him. For a long time there, Joaquin Phoenix was regarded as little more than River’s younger brother. In fact, Phoenix believed that he wasn't getting any respect - not to mention work - and briefly quit acting in the early ‘90s to travel with his father. But River insisted that he get back into it, and he did so with incredible finesse. His star steadily rose throughout the ‘90s following River’s tragic death, and he finally earned his sought-after respect in Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator.” The role earned Phoenix his first Oscar nomination, and there were many more to come.

#7: Lindsay Lohan


Certain events defined the entertainment landscape of the 2000s, and the downfall of Lindsay Lohan was one of them. People were glued to the tabloids as they watched Lohan’s demise, with the once-acclaimed child actress finding herself in increasing legal trouble and falling victim to various personal struggles. But Lohan is on the upswing. She seems to be turning herself around, judging “The Masked Singer Australia” and starring in Netflix’s “Falling for Christmas,” which some major outlets have called one of the best Christmas films of recent memory! She is also finding stability in her personal life, having married a financier named Bader Shammas and giving birth to a son in 2023.

#6: Ben Affleck


The good thing about Ben Affleck is that he never really had a rough period. That said, there were a couple of years in the early 2000s when the star was beginning to dim. 2003 was an especially tough one, containing both his failed attempt at Daredevil and the cinematic travesty that is “Gigli.” Jokes were even made at Affleck’s expense, with many arguing that he was carried by Matt Damon. That reputation turned with “Gone Baby Gone,” which proved Affleck’s inarguable talent as a filmmaker. The movie earned widespread acclaim, and he followed it up with equally-loved dramas like “The Town” and “Argo,” the latter which earned an Oscar for Best Picture. The doubters were permanently silenced with that one.

#5: Ke Huy Quan


Everyone loves a good comeback story. Enter Ke Huy Quan, who everyone pretty much forgot about between 1985 and 2022. Quan was an enormously successful child actor in the 1980s, starring in “The Goonies” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” But the roles quickly dried up, and Quan quit acting to pursue other interests. He went to school and started working behind the scenes on various action films, holding a second-degree black belt in taekwondo. The work was steady, but to the public, he was a bygone product of the ‘80s. Enter “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the megahit of 2022 that catapulted Quan back onto the A-list and earned him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Now that’s how you come back in style.

#4: Matthew McConaughey


If you went back to 2006 and told everyone that Matthew McConaughey would soon become a world-renowned actor, you’d get more than a few raised eyebrows. McConaughey shares a similar story with Sandra Bullock - he was obviously talented and enjoyed a strong breakthrough, but he quickly fell into easy roles in crappy comedies. Movies like “Failure to Launch” and “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” were certainly paying the bills, but they weren’t doing his professional reputation any favors. Then came “Dallas Buyers Club.” Winning the Academy Award for Best Actor, it catapulted McConaughey to the tippy-top of the A-list, and he earned further acclaim starring in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “True Detective.” Alright alright alright.

#3: Keanu Reeves


Very few actors have a career wavelength like Keanu Reeves. He was one of the biggest actors in the world in the 1990s, but several bad projects and some personal difficulties caused his career to spiral. Despite starring in some all-time movies, no one really respected him as an actor, and he was nominated for several Razzies between 1994 and 2002. He was also a literal meme in the early 2010s, seen as, well, a bit of a sad sack. Enter “John Wick,” which not only revitalized his career but turned him into the biggest action star of modern times. When John proudly declares that he’s back, we have to imagine that Reeves was channeling his own personal experience.

#2: Brendan Fraser


Despite being in some of the biggest films of the ‘90s and 2000s, Fraser never earned himself a ton of critical respect. He was often accused of playing the same smart-alecky character in most of his movies, which also tended to be mindless comedy and action flicks. And when he disappeared in the 2010s, Fraser became just another cultural object of ‘90s nostalgia. But then he staged a magnificent comeback in 2022, starring under pounds of prosthetics in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale.” It finally earned Fraser some critical respect - not to mention an Oscar. We knew he had it in him.

#1: Robert Downey Jr.


The comeback to end all comebacks belongs to RDJ. The ‘90s were a rough time, and absolutely nothing was going right for the poor guy. His personal life was intensely scrutinized, having fallen into the depths of substance use and facing numerous legal problems. He was completely uninsurable, facing getting fired from various projects, including “Ally McBeal.” No one took him seriously, and no one wanted him. No one, that is, except Mel Gibson. Gibson personally paid Downey’s insurance so he could work on “The Singing Detective,” which helped inspire his stellar comeback. He starred as Iron Man in 2008, and the rest is cinematic history. He eventually earned an Oscar nom for “Tropic Thunder” and went on to win for “Oppenheimer.”

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