10 '80s Stars Who Gave Their Careers A Resurgence

List Rules
Vote up the '80s stars whose comebacks make you believe in second chances.

If there's one thing people love, it's celebrities. These are the people who entertain us, and while the majority of their work is done in front of cameras, plenty of fans love to hear what goes on in a celebrity's private life. There's a reason the likes of TMZ and various gossip magazines, blogs, and websites exist.

But celebrities are people, after all, and they have many of the same problems as the rest of us. Unfortunately, when their lives fall apart, it makes headlines, which can have a devastating impact on an entertainment career. It seems the 1980s was a decade full of stars falling prey to this scenario - but some of them didn't let their careers die.

Occasionally, a celebrity from the '80s will get his or her life together and come back swinging. These '80s stars saw their careers decline for a number of reasons, but each one managed to overcome their problems and make a rousing comeback. Upvote your favorite '80s celebs who gave their careers a resurgence!


  • Robert Downey, Jr. Came Back From A Rabbit Hole Of Addiction To Dominate The Marvel Cinematic Universe
    Photo: Iron Man / Paramount Pictures

    Of all the Hollywood comeback stories, Robert Downey, Jr.'s is among the best known. He appeared in several major films throughout the 1980s and into the '90s, but his career took a major dive as his struggle with addiction took over his life. Downey developed a substance abuse problem at an early age and even began smoking marijuana at the age of 6 (thanks to his dad). Drug use helped the two bond, and as his career was developing, he continued to abuse drugs and alcohol.

    This ultimately led to problems with the criminal justice system, as Downey was arrested on numerous occasions, and was in and out of jail for years. He missed court dates, and in one instance, drunkenly broke into someone's home and passed out on their bed. He was arrested for being under the influence, which got him fired from his role on Ally McBeal, which only sent him further down a spiral of addiction, jail time, and rehab.

    Eventually, Downey got clean, and while he had some work in the late '90s and early 2000s, his comeback came in 2008 when he was cast as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That role led to numerous appearances, and in the end, Downey became the highest-paid actor of all time. He took home an estimated $400 million for playing Stark, and that's primarily due to his sobriety.

    By 2020, he was 16 years sober, and it's something he's spoken about frequently. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Downey explained that working a 12-step program starts with a single step: "Job one is to get out of that cave. A lot of people do get out but don't change." Fortunately for Downey, he not only got out of the cave, but managed to change his life, recover from his addictions, and become an international superstar.

  • Drew Barrymore Struggled With Addiction In The ‘80s, Then Returned All Grown Up In The ‘90s
    Photo: Ever After / 20th Century Fox

    Drew Barrymore comes from a family of Hollywood royalty, so it wasn't much of a surprise when she landed the role of Gertie Taylor in Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Granted, she was only 7 years old, but pretty much everyone agrees she nailed the role. That performance launched her career, and in 1984, she was in Firestarter and Irreconcilable Differences. She appeared in four more movies in the 1980s and continued acting into the 1990s.

    By the time she was 15, she couldn't land a job, and the following year, she was cleaning toilets. Barrymore's prominent rise and fall from superstardom came from a drug and alcohol addiction that began at an early age. She started drinking heavily at 11, and her problem only worsened from there. As she transitioned into adulthood, Barrymore had difficulty finding her niche, and often acted out in reckless ways. This made her difficult to employ for a time, but she managed to overcome her addictions.

    She even divorced herself from her parents, as they weren't a healthy influence on the young actress. As she began to turn her life around, she found work. By the mid-1990s, Barrymore reinvented herself and managed to score some prominent roles. Her small appearance in 1995's Batman Forever was well received, as was her role in Boys on the Side, which came out the same year. She played romantic interests to Adam Sandler in some of the decade's biggest rom-com hits, and she began her own production company.

    Crossing over into the 21st century has only shown how successful Barrymore has become. She's made critically acclaimed appearances in a number of movies while continuing to make waves as a producer. She also keeps busy as the single mom of two daughters.

  • Jason Bateman Used ‘Arrested Development’ And ‘Juno’ To Jumpstart A Grown-Up Career
    Photo: Arrested Development / 20th Television

    Jason Bateman began his career as a child actor, working on several popular series, including Little House on the Prairie, Silver Spoons, and The Hogan Family. For many of his fans, he was remembered for these performances, and while he didn't blow up his life like many child actors, he did disappear for a while. That kept those earlier performances fresh in fans' minds, and he was long associated with his earlier work.

    That all changed when Bateman took on the role of Michael Bluth on Arrested Development; he proved to the world that he was an adult, and he booked adult roles. Of course, he wasn't done with Arrested Development, and over the years, he's knocked it out of the park with numerous performances solidifying him as an A-list actor.

    Bateman's performance in 2007's Juno was exceptional, and it's only one of many high-profile feature film roles he's had in the 21st century. He also appeared in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Hancock, Couples Retreat, Paul, Horrible Bosses, The Change-Up, Zootopia, Game Night, and many more. Bateman's comeback has proven a child actor can become an adult actor (without blowing up their life), and he continues to work across movies and TV.

  • Shoplifting Derailed Winona Ryder’s Career, But ‘Stranger Things’ Revived It
    Photo: Netflix

    Winona Ryder seemed to be in everything in the late 1980s. She appeared in Lucas, Beetlejuice, Heathers, and Great Balls of Fire! before the decade was out. In the 1990s, she continued to dominate with dozens of appearances in some of the decade's greatest movies, including Edward Scissorhands, Reality Bites, and Girl, Interrupted. She managed to win a Golden Globe and receive two Academy Award nominations during this time.

    The '80s and '90s were Ryder's years, but it all came to a grinding halt when security cameras caught her shoplifting in 2001. On December 12, she was arrested for stealing $5,500 worth of designer clothes and accessories from Saks Fifth Avenue. The Los Angeles County District Attorney brought four felony charges against Ryder.

    During her trial, she was accused of abusing several narcotics without a valid prescription, and in the end, was convicted of grand theft, shoplifting, and vandalism. Her sentence included three years of probation, 480 hours of community service, and thousands of dollars of fines. She was also ordered to attend psychological and drug counseling.

    The shoplifting incident garnered all the wrong kinds of attention, and Ryder's career suffered significantly. In 2006, she returned to acting, with small appearances in a number of movies. Recalling from 2016, Ryder suggested her time off wasn't all bad:

    I did get a chance to explore during my ‘hiatus.’ I was really lucky, because when all you’ve done is this one thing, you become sort of insecure because this town can be isolating and you don’t feel like you’re capable of doing other things.

    Transitioning to more adult roles, after her background as an "it girl," was tricky for Ryder. As she recalled:

    People associated me with the 1990s and I wasn’t that anymore. And they didn’t really buy me as my age. It’s that line in First Wives Club -- ‘There are three ages for women: babe, district attorney and Driving Miss Daisy!’ I just never got to play that district attorney.

    While she managed to book work throughout this time, it wasn't until her 2016 portrayal of Joyce Byers in Stranger Things that she managed to recapture the attention she once enjoyed. The series launched a highly successful comeback for the actress, and she's been riding that ever since.

  • Rob Lowe Came Back From His Sex Tape Scandal To Rule TV In The ‘90s And Beyond
    Photo: Parks and Recreation / NBC

    In the 1980s, Rob Lowe was a member of the Brat Pack, and he was everywhere. His career was on track to make him into a superstar, but it went off the rails in 1988, thanks to some late-night shenanigans. Lowe met two young women in an Atlanta nightclub and took them to a hotel, where they had sex.

    The problem with this event was that the encounter was videotaped and the tape was leaked, While Lowe was 24 at the time, one of the women was only 16. Technically, the legal age of consent in Georgia at the time was 14, but not if the act was videotaped. That lifted the age requirement to 18. Regardless, Lowe claimed he didn't know the girl was that young.

    Ultimately, Lowe wasn't charged with any crime, but his career suffered considerably. He was off the fast track and out of the Brat Pack. He still booked work in the years following the leaked sex tape, but for about four years, he was a persona non grata. That all changed when he was cast as the bad guy in Wayne's World. He played another bad guy in Tommy Boy after that appearance, and things started looking better.

    Fast-forward a few more years, and Lowe managed to land a major role in the hit series The West WingHollywood had forgiven him his past transgressions, and he's worked consistently ever since. In recent years, his most notable roles include Chris Traeger on Parks and Recreation, Ethan Willis on Code Black, and Owen Strand on 9-1-1: Lone Star.

  • After ‘Cheers’ Ended, Ted Danson Went Quiet - Then Bounced Back With Several Hit Shows
    Photo: The Good Place / NBC

    The 1980s was a prosperous decade for Ten Danson, who starred on the inimitable Cheers throughout all of its episodes. As Sam Malone, Danson got to know his customers while sweet-talking the ladies, and the series remains one of the most popular and successful sitcoms of all time. When Cheers finally ended in 1993, Danson turned out the lights, left the bar, and wasn't seen or heard from for quite some time.

    To be clear, Danson didn't simply disappear from working on projects; he just didn't take any roles that were anywhere near as significant as Malone. He had a few film appearances, with his brief portrayal of Captain Fred Hamill in Saving Private Ryan standing out, but there wasn't anything truly notable. Danson was, as far as anyone knew, enjoying his massive Cheers earnings.

    That appeared to be true for a number of years; however, in the late 1990s, Danson made a comeback. He started small, with walk-on roles in various series, including The Simpsons and Frasier (where he played Malone once more), but it wasn't until he landed the role of Dr. John Becker in Becker that he found a new life on TV.

    He played that role from 1998 until 2004, which much success. When it ended, he looked again for lasting roles, and found them in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (and two other CSI shows) and The Good Place, quite possibly his funniest role since leaving Cheers

    Danson's comeback isn't so much a story about an actor who hit a slump and finally made it big after a long break. It's more of a story about an actor who hit it big, took his time to find the right project, and then hit it big again, and again, and again.