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'Breakout' Stars Who Still Haven’t Become Actual Stars

October 28, 2020 9.4k votes 1.3k voters 114.1k views13 items

List RulesVote up the actors who should be a bigger deal by now.

Among movie and TV fans, everyone has their favorite unsung stars, the actors who should be more famous in their opinion. Anyone who gets a job in a major movie or TV show already beat the odds by getting their foot in the door of a nearly impossible industry. However, somehow, someway, for whatever reason, they never crossed over the threshold into major Hollywood breakout stardom.

Some of these underrated celebrities simply had a string of box office bombs following a promising early role. Most of the time, it’s not even their fault. They didn’t write every script or direct their movies. On a few occasions, a rising star made unsavory comments in the media, and it subsequently hurt their career (comparing a blockbuster director/producer to Hitler is never a good idea). Ultimately, as long as they're still getting attention, there's always a chance for a second wind or a late resurgence to recapture their peak potential.

  • Photo: Gossip Girl / The CW

    For six backstabbing seasons, Blake Lively played "It Girl" Serena van der Woodsen on Gossip Girl and carried an entire TV franchise. When the CW teen drama went off the air in 2012, many expected the blonde goddess to make a successful transition as the next A-list actress on the big screen.

    Her first chance at stardom actually came a year before her Gossip Girl exit in what could have been a franchise role in 2011's Green Lantern. That film, however, barely made back its production budget and was completely dissed by both critics and comic book fans. 

    A string of forgettable roles in mediocre movies followed. Savages, The Age of Adaline, The Shallows, and A Simple Favor rounded out the decade. While a few of her movies earned some praise from genre fans, none of them lived up to the A-list potential that was seen in her future.

    • Age: 34
    • Birthplace: Tarzana, California, USA
    Should be bigger?
  • Photo: Avatar / 20th Century Fox

    In 2009, Avatar became the highest-grossing film ever made (temporarily, since Avengers: Endgame took over the top spot in 2019). James Cameron's sci-fi epic grossed an astonishing $2.79 billion at the box office. It could be argued that the jaw-dropping 3D special effects and Cameron's vision were the true stars of the movie, but one would think that its lead protagonist Sam Worthington should also receive some of the credit. 

    The handsome Australian star seemed like a slam dunk to be the next breakout leading man. Unfortunately, a string of box office disappointments followed Worthington's performance in Avatar. Worthington starred in Clash of the Titans, which performed well at the box office. However, its sequel Wrath of the Titans was a financial disappointment. Both large-scale epics failed to impress critically. A third installment, Revenge of the Titans, originally had a 2013 release date. However, the film was canned after Wrath's poor showing. 

    Worthington's career took another dip beginning in 2012. His films Man on a LedgeSabotage, and Titan all failed to make him a bankable Hollywood star. However, there is a silver lining. Cameron has been busy waiting for technology to catch up with his vision for Avatar. The director has four more Avatar films planned over the next several years. So as long as Worthington's character Jake Sully remains in Cameron's narrative plan, the actor will have plenty of high-profile cinematic work in the near future.

    • Age: 45
    • Birthplace: Godalming, Surrey, England, UK
    Should be bigger?
  • Photo: The Lone Ranger / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    In 2010, Armie Hammer played the breakout, dual role of the Winklevoss twins in David Fincher's acclaimed drama The Social Network. Hammer seemed like a slam-dunk movie star in the making with his 6-foot-5 athletic frame and matinee idol looks. 

    His first big-budget high-stakes lead role came a few years later as the titular masked hero in Gore Verbinski's Western remake The Lone Ranger. The film was swimming in negative press well before its release date. When it finally hit the theaters in the summer of 2013 with its $250 million price tag, critics were not impressed. The film went on to become one of the biggest box office bombs in cinema history. 

    Hammer attempted another swing at a high-budget television remake in 2015 with Guy Ritchie's The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The results were the same. The movie was dissed by critics and disappointed at the box office.

    Several forgettable eye-candy roles followed. A bright spot on Hammer's filmography came in the supporting role of Oliver in Call Me By Your Name. However, that was a foreign film that highlighted the coming of age story of Elio, played by Timothée Chalamet. A lot of Hammer's more recent work has come as a supporting actor, such as his roles in On the Basis Of Sex and Sorry to Bother You.

    • Age: 35
    • Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States of America
    Should be bigger?
  • Texas forever! Friday Night Light fans will forever look fondly at Taylor Kitsch, who played bad boy with a good heart Tim Riggins on the high school football series for five seasons. When FNL wrapped in 2011, Kitsch was poised to be the next hot Hollywood leading man.

    Kitsch's first huge role came in the epic John Carter, which was supposed to launch the next big movie franchise for Disney. Instead, the film became one of the biggest flops in movie history after suffering a $200 million loss. Plans for a sequel were immediately squashed. His next blockbuster Battleship was poorly received by critics, although it did at least make back its production budget. In all fairness, these movies didn't fail because of Kitsch. They failed because they weren't great stories and relied too much on special effects. 

    The actor returned to the small screen in what should have been a slam dunk. Kitsch took on the part of troubled police officer Paul Woodrugh in the second season of True Detective alongside a powerhouse cast including Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn, and Colin Farrell. Unfortunately, that entire season of the HBO drama was largely dissed by critics and audiences alike.

    It's certainly not over for Kitsch, though. He proved he could really act in the miniseries Wacowhere he played the lead role of cult leader David Koresh. The Canadian actor is also set to star in the prestige television series Shadowplay, where he plays a Brooklyn cop who is assigned to a position in post-WWII Berlin.

    • Age: 40
    • Birthplace: Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
    Should be bigger?