Entertainment

The Greatest Hollywood Comebacks of All Time 

Carly Kiel
Updated October 13, 2018 15.8k votes 2.8k voters 435.7k views 15 items

List Rules Vote for the stars whose fall was followed by the greatest rise. Only add actors who have worked in the past 30 years.

Great celebrity comebacks are rare – in a world ruled by fickle fame, it's not always easy for actors and actresses to recover from career misfortune. What are some of the best examples of impressive celebrity comebacks for actors and actresses of the past 30 years? The world of Hollywood actors is riddled with disappointment and overbearing egos, but what about stars who once had it all, fell out of favor, then rose from the wreckage and transformed their prior misfortunes into renewed successes?

Below is a list of the best film actor comebacks of all time. These celebrities made major comebacks even when the world didn't think they could do it. Vote up which celebrities you think have had the greatest comeback to their career, and let's welcome everyone back into the game.
Robert Downey Jr. is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Comebacks of All Time
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY

The son of notoriously bizarre underground filmmaker Robert Downey Sr., Downey, Jr. became associated during the '80s with the so-called "brat pack," appearing mainly in films for disgruntled youths like Less Than Zero and Weird Science.

Downey, Jr.'s career during the '90s was characterized by flamboyant drug problems and multiple arrests. This culminated into a three-year-prison sentence toward the end of the decade, which was later reduced to one year with a hefty fine.

After a few hiccups, Downey, Jr. has managed to stay clean and has become a more beloved public figure than ever, winning the hearts and minds of filmgoers all over the nation and the world with his portrayal of Tony Stark in Marvel's Iron Man films.
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Neil Patrick Harris is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Comebacks of All Time
Photo: flickr/CC0

Semi-ironically adored for decades as the titular child star of popular sitcom Doogie Howser, M.D., Harris endured several years of C-list status before an appearance with Nathan Fillion in Joss Whedon's web miniseries Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog rejuvenated his geek street cred. Soon after, Harris was cast in the popular series "How I Met Your Mother" with fellow cult TV stars Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segal.

In 2014, Harris won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his Broadway performance as intersexed rockstar Hedwig Schmidt in the revival of John Cameron Mitchell's Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

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Drew Barrymore is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Comebacks of All Time
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY

Definitely one of the youngest people in the industry to go nuts and make a full recovery, Drew Barrymore has been starring in movies since early childhood and published a drug memoir at the tender age of 14. As a child, Barrymore spent half a decade as Hollywood's adorable moppet du jour, appearing in Cat's Eye, Firestarter, and Stephen Spielberg's E.T. Known for precocious and rebellious behavior, Barrymore's career ground to a halt in in 1989 when she was forced into rehab twice, once for cocaine addiction, and then a second time for trying to kill herself.

Barrymore's public image turned around in 1995 when she starred alongside Whoopi Goldberg and Mary Louise Parker in Boys On the Side, playing a wild and impulsive young woman, much like herself, attempting to escape from an abusive relationship. The following year, her memorable appearance in Wes Craven's Scream cemented her return to prominence. Barrymore has gone on to write, direct, produce, and star in numerous Hollywood productions.
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Betty White is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Hollywood Comebacks of All Time
Photo: flickr/CC0

Known for her treacly, two-faced matronly characters, Betty White rose to iconic status starting in the '60s. Bitingly hilarious in front of the camera, White was also recognized for her influence behind it – she the first woman ever to produce a TV sitcom and was the first woman to win an Emmy as a game show host.

During the '70s, White enjoyed new levels of recognition after landing a role as a recurring character Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," and her fame extended into the '80s with her now legendary role on "Golden Girls."

Though she continued to turn up in minor roles during the '90s, it appeared for a while that Betty might finally be entering a reluctant dotage. Starting in the early '00s, however, her visibility began a gradual resurgence, culminating in her legendary appearance as a host of "Saturday Night Live" in 2010. Today, Betty remains a visible and beloved comedy icon and makes frequent, celebrated appearances in both film and television.
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