Top 20 Movie Stars Who Dropped Off the Map
VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild
Not all actors keep churning out hit movies until the end. For this list, we'll be looking at actors who were once fixtures of the silver screen, but due to a number of reasons they vanished from the limelight. Our countdown includes Frankie Muniz, Meg Ryan, Josh Hartnett, Val Kilmer, Richard Gere, and more!
top 20 movie stars who dropped off the map
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 20 movie stars who dropped off the map.
For this list, we’ll be looking at actors who were once fixtures of the silver screen, but due to a number of reasons they vanished from the limelight. We’re not saying these actors haven’t done ANY work since though, as several have made resurgences.
Which movie star were you surprised to see on this list? Let us know in the comments
#20: Freddie Prinze Jr.
Whether he was charming audiences in “She’s All That” or hunting down villains in “Scooby Doo”, Freddie Prinze Jr. was a staple of millenial cinema. While he’s done a solid amount of voice work since then, his live action movie work has been a bit sparse. In 2010, he made a season long appearance in “24” with Keifer Sutherland, who Prinze would later describe as ‘the most unprofessional dude in the world.” But aside from that, it was more so because of his family that Prinze’s priorities changed. Having lost his father at a young age, Prinze recognized the importance of being there for his kids and with wife Sarah Michelle Gellar. Good on you Freddie, but we sure do miss seeing you on the big screen.
#19: Frankie Muniz
If you needed to hire an A-list child actor in the early 2000s, chances are Frankie Muniz would have been at the top of the list. Starting out as Malcolm of “Malcolm in the Middle”, Muniz put together an impressive string of feature appearances in movies like “Big Fat Liar” and “Agent Cody Banks”. Once “Malcolm” wrapped up in 2006 though, Muniz “switched lanes” and decided to devote his time to his love of racing cars. The New Jersey native has also had his fair share of health concerns stemming from concussions he sustained as a kid, and still suffers from migraine auras as an adult. But overall Muniz seems to be perfectly fine being out of the spotlight, raising his son Mauz, racing cars, playing drums and well, enjoying life.
#18: Christian Slater
At one time an idol tapped by the Hollywood machine as the next big box-office thing, Slater filled his early years with roles as a brooding heartthrob-type. The huge hits came next, but so did the bad behavior and arrests. By the time of the abysmal performance of “Hard Rain,” a unique but poorly received action film set during a flood, the actor fell out of favor as a lead actor. Opting to use his acting prowess for meatier roles and more nuanced characters than in blockbusters, Slater slid under the radar. He did make a significant contribution to the hit thriller “Mr. Robot” in 2015 as a producer and actor, and has stayed busy with voice work on a variety of animated shows.
#17: Macaulay Culkin
First garnering the attention of mainstream audiences with a pitch perfect performance in “Uncle Buck,” Culkin’s true star-making turn took place when he starred in the surprise megahit “Home Alone.” After moving on to a series of mediocre comedies, while also flexing his acting muscles in more dramatic roles like “The Good Son,” things slowed down a bit. Between 1994-2003 and onwards, he stayed away from the film industry pretty much entirely, but in the 2020s, he’s dipped back into acting, appearing in hit TV series like “American Horror Story” and “The Righteous Gemstones”.
#16: Josh Hartnett
Another former heartthrob, when Josh Hartnett was cast as Laurie Strode’s son in the “Halloween” franchise, he parlayed that role into a lasting career. Starring in acclaimed movies like “Black Hawk Down” as well as cash cows like “Pearl Harbor,” he was everywhere between 2001-03 – then he was gone. Realizing stardom might not be for him, Hartnett looked to smaller studios and projects. This ended up backfiring, as the actor burned many bridges to big studios for not participating. That being said, his role on the award winning Showtime’s horror series “Penny Dreadful” definitely put him back into the spotlight to some extent, and an appearance in the upcoming Christopher Nolan film “Oppenheimer” can’t hurt either!
#15: Geena Davis
An Oscar-winning actress known for strong female characters, Geena Davis is equally adept in dramas like “Thelma and Louise,” and comedies like “Beetlejuice.” Ms. Davis may have been an even bigger success than many realize, which is what makes hers a cautionary tale about what can happen to the star of a movie that’s credited with taking down a film production company after 20-years of existence. After the fame she once enjoyed receded, Davis turned to activism, tried out for the U.S. Olympic archery team and took a short-lived Golden Globe-winning TV role. In 2019, she also appeared in the hit Netflix series “Glow”.
#14: Rick Moranis
Disarming and hilarious, Rick Moranis was a perfect fit for child-friendly comedies like “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” and “Little Giants”, a hilarious addition to sci-fi comedies like “Spaceballs,” and had a biting enough sense of humor to create classics like “Strange Brew.” Perhaps the best tribute to just how fantastic he is was his ability to steal focus in “Ghostbusters” from some of the best comedic actors ever. Unfortunately, he chose to leave filmmaking to take care of his children after his wife died of cancer. We certainly respect his decision, but we do miss him. Luckily he continued to do voice-work, and now after all these years, we still might get to see him reprise an iconic role in the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” sequel, “Shrunk”.
#13: Chris Tucker
Five-years after making his Hollywood debut and with just a handful of films under his belt, Chris Tucker stepped into a multi-movie and multi-million dollar franchise. By the time he was paid $25-million for “Rush Hour 3” in 2007, he was on fire – despite the fact that he hadn’t appeared on a movie screen since 2001 and the previous “Rush Hour” flick. In fact, aside from a celebrated supporting role in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Tucker has almost only appeared in movies called “Rush Hour” since 1998, and has basically dropped off the map. In a 2014 interview, the actor explained that due to his Christian faith, he had refrained from taking more roles that rely on heavy profanity.
#12: Mike Myers
First coming to prominence on “Saturday Night Live,” this Canadian funny man took the comedy world by storm with creations like Wayne Campbell, Austin Powers and Dr. Evil. But then he starred in a much-reviled adaptation of a classic children’s book and created an annoying and borderline racist caricature of an Indian religious leader in “The Love Guru”. Perhaps sensing the public’s dwindling desire, Myers has steered away from that particular brand of humor since, with a supporting role in “Inglourious Basterds” and voice-work in the “Shrek” films. His appearance in 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the most we’ve seen of the actor on the big screen in recent years, and it’s a role that would certainly get the approval of “Wayne’s World”.
#11: Meg Ryan
Meg Ryan’s movies have grossed over $870-million around the globe. But most of that sum is associated with iconic films from the 80s and 90s like “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle” , and less so her later work. She took a couple chances starring in the “In The Cut” and the box office bomb “Against The Ropes” in 2004, which knocked her down a couple of pegs in Hollywood. She went on hiatus shortly after, telling the New York Times “I didn't feel like I knew enough anymore about myself or the world to reflect it as an actor. I felt isolated”. Luckily, Ryan made a return to the industry in the 2010s and will be directing the Netflix adaptation of “A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out” in the 2020s. We can’t think of a better person for the job.
#10: Emilio Estevez
Son of Martin Sheen and brother of Charlie, Emilio Estevez has received the most coverage over the last few years for his directing work, or when discussing the antics of his more famous sibling. First coming to prominence alongside his fellow Brat Packers in dramatic roles before trying his hand at other things, he went on to land comedic parts in films like “Loaded Weapon 1” and the “Mighty Ducks” series. Eventually maturing into an accomplished director, Estevez now appears happy to spend his time behind the camera – though you might have spotted him in the 2021 Mighty Ducks reboot!
#9: Neve Campbell
First gaining notoriety as one of the leads on the award-winning drama “Party of Five,” Neve Campbell showed off her immense talents as a teen dealing with the death of her parents. After making the leap to the film world, she gave other memorable performances in high school-aged roles in “The Craft” and “Wild Things,” and anchored the “Scream” franchise. After graduating to adult roles, Neve has embraced meatier characters in independent fare. More recently, she reprised her role as Sydney Prescott in the fifth installment of ‘Scream” and played a criminal prosecutor in the Netflix adaptation of “The Lincoln Lawyer”.
#8: Val Kilmer
Whether it was an adrenaline-soaked action flick like “Top Gun,” a western like “Tombstone” or a biopic like “The Doors,” Val Kilmer tried his hand successfully at all of them. Arguably reaching the zenith of his career in 1995 when he starred alongside Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in “Heat,” and took over Batman’s cowl, Val Kilmer’s career trajectory has taken a different direction from some of his contemporaries. While the 2010s did see him star in some direct-to-video movies as well as a few other projects, the decade was not an easy one for him. He has been dealing with throat cancer since 2015, and suffered major damage to his vocal cords as a result. Incredibly, the actor was able to reprise his role as Iceman in the 2022 “Top Gun” sequel. We salute you, Val!
#7: Jennifer Connelly
Another “Top Gun: Maverick" star, Ms. Connelly’s career has gone through three distinct stages. First, she was a young actress alongside puppets in “Labyrinth” as well as a romantic lead in “Career Opportunities,” though here, she did little to stand out from the pack. She then transitioned to one of the most respected actresses with awe-inspiring performances in the late nineties and early noughties, quickly becoming an Oscar-winning force to be reckoned with. The most recent stage of her career has included small roles in films like “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Alita: Battle Angel” but unfortunately, there’s mostly been a lack of roles befitting her ample talents.
#6: Winona Ryder
There was a time when this actress’ name was on the lips of every casting agent in Hollywood and she appeared to be a shoo-in for every major role for young women as a result. At the turn of this century, however, something changed as Winona Ryder went from starring in movies like “Reality Bites” to appearing mostly in tabloids after her 2001 shoplifting arrest. While that fiasco did hurt her acting career in film, she’s since enjoyed one of the most celebrated returns to fame, with her starring role in the hugely successful Netflix series “Stranger Things”. Thanks to this, a new generation of movie and tv buffs have been introduced to her and her iconic film roles from the 80s and 90s.
#5: Joe Pesci
An absolute pitbull of an actor, Joe Pesci’s Academy Award for his portrayal of Tommy DeVito in “GoodFellas” stands as the ultimate proof of his ability to intimidate. On the other hand, though he was the film’s antagonist, his performance in the Christmas classic “Home Alone” was a lovable role. After stealing scenes from some of his generation’s most talented actors, Pesci seemed to say “screw this!” before the end of ‘90s and released a horrendous comedy rap album before announcing his retirement. Almost 20 years later though, and after much convincing from his old friend Martin Scorsese, Joe Pesci finally showed up on the big screen again as Russell Bufalino in the gangster epic “The Irishman”.
#4: Molly Ringwald
For those of you who are too young to remember the days of the Brat Pack, it was a group of young actors in the ‘80s who starred in seemingly every film featuring teens. Their undisputed queen was none other than Molly Ringwald, a loveable redhead who was beautiful enough to grab the eye and relatable enough to grab your heart. Sadly, as we would learn later in her career, Ringwald was subjected to humiliating and abusive behavior by male directors and studio executives as a young actress. Not too long after, she chose to leave Hollywood and move to Paris to live a more normal life - though she has since appeared in American productions on the big and small screens.
#3: Brendan Fraser
This Canadian-American actor first showed us his comedic timing in films like “Encino Man” , “George of the Jungle” and “Bedazzled,” an aptitude for action in “The Mummy” franchise and true dramatic skills in both “Gods and Monsters” and the underrated “School Ties”. But the feverish pace this actor was making movies at in the 1990s quickly caught up to him, ultimately resulting in knee replacements, back surgeries, and mental health issues, that made it impossible for him to maintain his acting career in the same way during the 2000s. Amazingly though, he’s returned to TV and film roles in a big way, with his performance in 2022’s “The Whale” receiving a six minute standing ovation during its world premiere at the 2022 Venice International Film Festival. Welcome Back, Brendan!
#2: Renée Zellweger
An actress who has been nominated for over 200 different awards - 67 of which she’s taken home, including Oscars and Golden Globes - Renée Zellweger’s filmography has far more winners than losers. Also finding success with comedies like “Me, Myself & Irene” and the “Bridget Jones”’ series, her last real live action success before her long hiatus came in 2005 with “Cinderella Man.” After starring in a few duds in 2006, Zellweger took a much needed break from acting, saying she was fatigued from not taking time to recover between projects. It must have been the right choice, as Zellweger returned with 2016’s box office hit “Bridget Jones’ Baby” and got herself another Oscar in 2020 for her performance as Judy Garland in the 2019 biopic “Judy”.
#1: Richard Gere
From “Pretty Woman” to “Runaway Bride” to “Chicago”, Richard Gere was a go-to leading man in the 90s and early 2000s. He was named “Sexiest Man Alive” in 1999 when Gere was 50 at the time, though his age and graying hair had seemingly nothing to do with his disappearance from the spotlight. A practicing Tibetan Buddhist and friend of the Dalai Lama, Gere famously criticized China’s poor human rights record and treatment of Tibet during a speech at the 1993 Oscars. It’s this specific instance that changed his career forever, Gere maintains, as Chinese investors and film financiers refuse to work on projects with him to this day. The feeling appears to be mutual for Gere, who seems happy to be doing smaller projects as long as it helps him to keep his integrity intact.