So many lovely melodies…become (more) successful solo acts. It is also not uncommon for the one hit to be atypical of their oeuvre. Also compare Tough Act to Follow and One-Book Author. And, of course, if sufficient backlash is applied, they will Never Live It Down. Note that a one-hit wonder on the American charts may be a different story in other countries; many popular European artists, like Gary Numan and Frankie Goes To Hollywood charted only once in America. For that matter, many American artists have only charted once in their homeland but are popular in Europe. Likewise, there are many artists who only once reached the mainstream Top 40, but are respected figures and even trendsetting within their genre; several such examples are shown below. But usually, a "one-hit wonder" is defined by cultural impact rather than chart placements. For example, if an artist has a massive #1 hit, getting a #40 will technically disqualify them as per Billboard's definition of a one-hit wonder, but it's highly unlikely that the #40 will continue to be remembered over time and they will likely become a textbook example of such an artist. And their "second hit" doesn't have to only scrape the bottom of the top 40 to ensure they be remembered as such. In fact, there are a handful of artists who were massive in their prime, and even though they still had clearly defined Signature Songs, nobody would ever consider labelling them as one-hit wonders; however, as time goes on, the artists fade back into obscurity and their discographies are almost completely forgotten outside of the signature song. Thus, they are looked back upon as a one-hit wonder. There are countless examples, so this article will only list a handful of representative samples. Compare No Hit Wonder, wherein an artist manages long-term success without even so much as one big hit, and Two-Hit Wonder, where an artist is lucky enough to score a second hit. Also see Hitless Hit Album, where an artist has a hit album with no hit songs. Contrast Breakthrough Hit, where one hit leads to a string of later hits. Also compare Signature Song which is the biggest hit. May overlap with Small Reference Pools, especially non-music examples. Many of the artists listed here are mislabeled because they have a signature song but still had lesser hits. There have been rare instances where the band had a Top 40 hit, but it is not their most popular song and the signature song the band is known for didn't chart well or at all. Has nothing to do with One-Hit-Point Wonder and usually has little to do with a One-Scene Wonder, which is a small but very memorable role in a large work that may actually be by an A-list star (possibly because he or she is one).
So many messages to convey…
But they don't care about any of these…
Play that one damn song
is what they all say.
So many messages to convey…
But they don't care about any of these…
Play that one damn song
is what they all say.
— Reel Big Fish, "One Hit Wonderful"
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Music examples by genre:
- J.J. Cale had only one top 40 hit in his career with 1972's "Crazy Mama". Overall, he's better known for writing the Eric Clapton classics "Cocaine" and "After Midnight".
- Delbert McClinton: A true rarity, as he managed to be a one-hit wonder on three different charts with three different songs. First, he hit #8 on the pop charts in 1980 with the blues-rock song "Givin' It Up for Your Love". Then he got to #13 on Mainstream Rock Tracks in 1992 with "Every Time I Roll the Dice"note . Then he got to #4 on the country charts in 1993 as a duet partner on Tanya Tucker's "Tell Me About It". He remained a fairly popular artist regardless, having written Emmylou Harris's 1978 hit "Two More Bottles of Wine" in addition to winning a handful of Grammys.
- Alannah Myles, though she had another Top 40 hit afterwards in the US, is mainly known only for her late-1989 Elvis Presley tribute song "Black Velvet", a #1 smash on the Hot 100 that was also a Top 10 hit in many other countries. Myles charted several more times in her native Canada (including 1992's "Song Instead of a Kiss", which topped the Canadian charts), but never saw the US charts again after "Black Velvet".
- Coincidentally, the same label released a soundalike version by Robin Lee to the Country Music format, and that version ended up being her only big country hit as well. However, Lee had more songwriting success and was married to Ed Bruce's son Trey, who is also a songwriter.
- Jars of Clay: This Christian alt-folk band had a massive crossover hit with "Flood" in 1996, reaching #37 on the pop charts and #12 on the Modern Rock chart, with their appearance on the latter chart being the first time the Modern Rock and Christian charts ever housed the same song at the same time (the effect of Not Christian Rock has made such crossovers much more common in later years). It's also been the only song of theirs to ever gain any sort of mainstream support.
- P.O.D.'s "Youth of the Nation," a song inspired by the Columbine and Satana High School shootings, was their only hit on mainstream charts.
- Sixpence None The Richer reached #2 with their 1998 hit "Kiss Me" thanks to its appearance in She's All That. Their next single, a cover of The La's "There She Goes", peaked at #32 on the Hot 100, but it managed to go Top-10 on the AC charts. All their other followup singles flopped and are completely forgotten today.
- Jimmy Boyd had a novelty hit in 1952 with the Christmas classic "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus". Between its novelty stigma and the fact that Boyd was 13 at the time, the song cannibalized his career. He had a moderately successful acting career afterwards but never captured the stardom he had with his megahit.
- Elmo & Patsy had a Christmas classic with "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer", first released in 1979, but nearly anyone would be hard-pressed to name any other release. Interestingly, Patsy isn't even on that song, so it's often just credited to Dr. Elmo. Despite its popularity (so popular that it even spawned an animated special!), it never entered the Hot 100 at all, and its highest peak on any chart was a mere #48 on Hot Country Songs in 1999. In Canada, the higher-charting version was a #20-peaking release by the Irish Rovers, who are not a one-hit wonder, in 1982.
- Jeff Foxworthy: Although the comedian best known for his "you might be a redneck" one-liners released several "songs" that included snippets of his comedy set to music, usually with a chorus from a country music singer, the only one that entered the country music top 40 was "Redneck 12 Days of Christmas", a half-song, half-recitation that he performed as a Solo Duet. (And unlike the others, it didn't "sample" existing standup work of his for the verses.) It also set a record for the highest-charting Christmas song on the country chartsnote .
- Before he became better known as the original voice of Donatello, Barry Gordon had a #6 hit in 1955 with "Nuttin' For Christmas". He was only 6 at the time.
- NewSong: "The Christmas Shoes" was a huge crossover hit (#1 AC, #42 pop, #31 Country), and they've been pretty silent outside their usual Contemporary Christian demographic ever since. Interestingly, a cover of "The Christmas Shoes" was also the only Top 40 country hit for the short-lived Girl Group 3 of Hearts one year later.
- Gayla Peevey had her only hit in 1953 with "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas", which reached #24 on the Hot 100 when she was 10. She had a few later singles under her real name of Jamie Horton, but none were successful.
- Song Trust, a project spearheaded by defunct independent Country Music label Giantslayer Records (which was owned by songwriters Rory Lee Feek and Tim Johnson), released a Christmas single under that name in late 2007. That song, "Bring Him Home Santa", was sung by an anonymous six-year-old girl, and proceeds from singles sales went to St. Jude's. Although other "Song Trust" material was released, none of it charted. Giantslayer folded in 2009 as Johnson died and Feek focused more on his work with his wife, Joey Martin Feek, in their duo Joey + Rory.
- Vince Vance & the Valiants are known almost entirely for "All I Want for Christmas Is You" (not to be confused with the Mariah Carey song), which is one of the most-played Christmas songs in the Country Music genre. They got a tiny bit of buzz beforehand for their "Barbara Ann" parody "Bomb Iran" in 1980, but they are not the only act to have done a parody of that name.
- 18th-century Italian composer Tomaso Albinoni has the dubious honour of being considered a one-hit wonder for a piece he didn't even write. "Albinoni's Adagio in G minor", frequently used as the background music for Tear Jerker scenes in films and television, was in fact written in the 1950s by Italian composer Remo Giazotto, who claimed to have based the work on a manuscript fragment recovered in 1945, but could offer no proof of this claim.note The Adagio therefore qualifies Giazotto as a one-hit wonder rather than Albinoni (whose works are mostly known only by Baroque music enthusiasts).
- You don't know who Euphemia Allen is, but if you ever took piano classes, chances are you were taught to play Chopsticks. This little waltz song was her only work, which she composed in 1877, at the age of 16, under the pseudonym Arthur de Lulli.
- Although American composer Samuel Barber is moderately well-known in the classical community for his violin concerto and Symphony No.1, he is mostly remembered for the Adagio for Strings, which started life as the slow movement of his String Quartet in B minor. To put into perspective how much the Adagio has overshadowed its parent work, there are over 250 recordings of various settings of the Adagio (mostly the string orchestra version, but the choral setting, using as its text the "Agnus Dei" from the Catholic Mass, is also frequently performed and recorded), and just over a dozen of the complete string quartet.
- Luigi Boccherini is mostly remembered solely for the Minuet in A major from his String Quintet in E major, Op. 11 No. 5, used prominently in such films as The Ladykillers among others.
- Like his compatriot and contemporary Mouret, Marc-Antoine Charpentier is mostly known for a fanfare that has been adopted as a theme by a broadcasting organisation: the opening Prelude (Marche en rondeau) from his Te Deum in D major, used as the theme of the European Broadcasting Union and played before broadcasts of the Eurovision Song Contest, Jeux Sans Frontières, and any other programmes simultaneously broadcast across Europe by the EBU. Though he was very prolific, his other works are primarily known only to Baroque enthusiasts.
- Today, French composer Paul Dukas is remembered mostly for writing The Sorcerer's Apprentice of Fantasia fame, although the fact that he was a fanatical perfectionist and destroyed or abandoned many compositions after he became dissatisfied with them means there is not much other music by which to remember him.
- Julius Fucik is only remembered for his Entry of the Gladiators, the standard circus music.
- Austrian musician Anton Karas had an enormous hit in 1950 with the theme from the film noir The Third Man. The song hit #1 in America, and Karas never charted again.
- Ruggero Leoncavallo's only well-known work is the two-act opera Pagliacci, which is often paired with Cavalleria Rusticana in a one-hit wonder double bill.
- The song "Mattinata" is relatively well known, as it was written for and a favorite of Caruso. But disregarding that, to turn it around, Leoncavallo is mainly known not just for the opera, but for one moment in it (the aria "Vesti la giubba").
- Pietro Mascagni is really only well-known for his one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry), which was also one of his first major works.
- Like Orff, French composer Jules Massenet is known only for a single movement from a work rather than a whole work. He's mostly known for "Meditation", a passage for solo violin and orchestra from his opera Thais, often used in film and television scores for emotional scenes.
- Most of the works of French Baroque composer Jean-Joseph Mouret are not performed today. At least in the U.S., he's mainly known for the opening Fanfare-Rondeau from his first Suite de symphonies, used by PBS as the theme for the Masterpiece series (and also a popular wedding tune).
- Carl Orff is known mainly for one work, his cantata Carmina Burana. Indeed, he's known mainly for the Standard Snippet from this, the opening (and closing) cantus "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi: O Fortuna", although "Gassenhauer" is also pretty well-known.
- Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D major is perhaps one of the most famous and frequently performed classical works. Though some of his organ works are popular with organists, the overwhelming majority of the general population, if they know him at all, only know the Canon.
- The only thing Amilcare Ponchielli is remembered for is "The Dance of the Hours" from his opera La Gioconda, which was both used in the original 1940 Fantasia and adapted by comedy singer Allan Sherman for his 1963 song "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh".
- Juventino Rosas died when he was only twenty-six and of a handful of works he wrote, most people would only know Sobre las Olas.
- Author Claude Joseph Rouget, called Rouget de Lisle, wrote plays, songs, essays and so on, but with so little success that he ended up in debtor's prison for a time and his works are now forgotten. Yet there are many streets named after him, monuments were erected in his honour, and his body was transferred to the Dôme des Invalides. All because of one song he wrote and of which few people remember more than the first verse. It is entitled War Song for the Army of the Rhine, but became famous as La Marseillaise.
- Out of his many compositions, French composer and pianist Erik Satie has only one very famous piece: the Gymnopédie No. 1, used as ambient music for nostalgic, quiet scenery.
- Although the works of French composer Charles-Marie Widor are popular with organists, most listeners probably only know the concluding Toccata from his Organ Symphony No.5 in F minor, Op. 42 No. 1, a popular recessional.
- Mason Williams was a talented comedy writer who worked with the Smothers Brothers and Saturday Night Live. He was also a talented classical guitarist, and he showcased those skills on his lone hit in 1968, "Classical Gas".
- Mel Blanc was a legendary voice actor. He was also a one hit wonder in 1951 when his song "I Taut I Taw a Putty Tat" hit #9.
- Isaac Hayes is not a One Hit Wonder, but his South Park character Chef became one when his "Chocolate Salty Balls (P.S. I Love You)" peaked at #1 on the UK singles chart and Irish charts in December 1998. Say everybody, have you seen my Balls?
- The Joe Dolce Music Theatre: "Shaddup You Face" became a million-selling number one in many countries, but nothing else he made could even chart, let alone become a major hit.
- Comedian Bill Engvall, like his friend Jeff Foxworthy, had some of his comedy routines mixed into songs, often with a chorus sung by a popular country artist or uncredited session vocalist. The only such recording that was a real hit was "Here's Your Sign (Get the Picture)", which remixed a series of "here's your sign" jokes off his debut album with a sung chorus by non-one-hit-wonder Travis Tritt. The single peaked at #29 on the country charts and #43 on the Hot 100, representing his only big hit (although "Here's Your Sign Christmas", a parody of "Jingle Bells" with original comedy bits, got some seasonal airplay).
- Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as Ali G, scored a UK #2 hit with the Shaggy collaboration "Me Julie", from the soundtrack of Ali G Indahouse. It remains his only entry onto the charts.
- The Goodies: They had a string of comedy hit singles in the 1970's that were a natural spin-off from their TV comedy show. What makes them a one-hit wonder is the fact that their first single, "(Do, Do, Do) The Funky Gibbon", a parody of disco dance crazes, was initially taken as a straight song in the USA and made it into the lower reaches of the Dance and Disco charts... before they realised... it remains the boys' only American chart success.
- Merv Griffin. Known mainly as a talk show host, businessman, and the creator of the extremely popular game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. But as a singer, his only hit was the novelty song "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts".
- Larry Groce, who is primarily a country, folk, and children's music singer, had a #9 hit in 1976 with the novelty song "Junk Food Junkie".
- Screamin' Jay Hawkins is technically a No Hit Wonder, but his 1956 song "I Put a Spell on You" has become a rock and roll classic. Since it's the only song of his still remembered today, he is often considered a one-hit wonder.
- Steve Martin has increasingly dedicated his career to music since the 2000s, and has had some success in the bluegrass scene. But before that, he had a single mainstream hit with "King Tut" (from his stand-up album A Wild and Crazy Guy) in 1978.
- Mancunian folk singer/comedian Mike Harding had only one British hit, with a spoof C&W song called The Rochdale Cowboy, about a seriously geographically confused cowboy living in Rochdale, England.
It's hard being a cowboy in Rochdale/Cos the spurs don't fit right on me clogs;''It's hard being a cowboy in Rochdale; 'cos folk all laugh when I ride past, on our Alsatian dog.''
- Morris Minor and the Majors: Their only big hit was the Beastie Boys parody "Stutter Rap (No Sleep Til Bedtime)". The followup, a Stock Aitken Waterman parody called "This Is The Chorus", did less well. In his book One Hit Wonderland, former member Tony Hawks explains that the first record sold to kids who wanted to wind up older siblings who listened to the Beastie Boys. The second record made fun of the music that said kids actually listened to, so it flopped.
- Napoleon XIV: "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" was a number 3 hit on the Hot 100 in 1966. Not only couldn't he score another hit, but the song didn't even have a proper flipside. Instead it was just "!aaaH-Ah ,yawA eM ekaT ot gnimoC er'yehT", which was just the song played backwards.
- The Rabbit Joint are a rock band whose only claim to fame is a novelty song about The Legend of Zelda. It is commonly considered a System of a Down song due to the Serj Tankian soundalike lead singer. When it turned out that it wasn't by them, interest in the group vanished.
- Comedian Johnny Standley had a #1 hit in 1952 with "It's In The Book", a comedic analysis of Little Bo-Peep. It was his one and only recording to ever chart.
- Loudon Wainwright III had exactly one chart entry, with 1973's "Dead Skunk".
- "Weird Al" Yankovic is definitely not a one hit wonder, but his polka medleys usually include many one-hit wonders. He did have only one top 40 hit in the UK with "Eat It", but not in the US where he is much more popular ("Eat It", "Smells Like Nirvana", "Word Crimes" and "White and Nerdy" all cracked the Top 40, with the last of these actually hitting the Top 10; "Like A Surgeon" and "Amish Paradise" just barely fell short).
- Ylvis with the viral hit "The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)" in the fourth quarter of 2013. They've released many other singles, but "Trucker's Hitch" is the only other one ever to have charted. Like most viral hit-makers, they almost certainly will not have a second hit.
- John Zacherle, a famous television personality known for hosting a popular block of horror movies in the New York City and Philadelphia markets. He had a top ten novelty hit in 1958 with "Dinner With Drac" but never released a follow-up.
- Ralph McTell is only known for his song "Streets of London," as shown here. His follow up "Dreams of You" cracked the top 40 a year later, but stalled at #36.
- Although Fairport Convention's Liege and Lief has been described as the most influential folk album of all time, their only single to chart was "Si Tu Dois Partir." This French-language cover of "If You Gotta Go (Go Now)" by Bob Dylan spent nine weeks in the UK singles chart in 1969, peaking at #21.
- Gale Garnett, a folk singer born in New Zealand and raised in Canada, had only one hit with the Grammy-winning "We'll Sing in the Sunshine", a #1 AC and #4 pop hit in 1964.
- The Proclaimers are known outside of the British Isles pretty much only for "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)".
- The Lumineers 2012 hit "Ho Hey" reached #3 in the U.S. Their first followup reached #70, and none of their other songs charted at all.
- Icelandic folk band Of Monsters And Men only had one chart entry in America: Their #20 hit "Little Talks". They've had other hits on alternative radio, but have never crossed over to the mainstream again.
- Peter Sarstedt, with "Where Do You Go To, My Lovely" in 1969, as shown here. Follow-up "Frozen Orange Juice" did crack the top 10 later that year, but was not the hit its predecessor was.
- "Part of the Union" by The Strawbs was one of the biggest UK singles in 1973, and a UK no. 2. It is also a definite Black Sheep Hit, and despite the fact that "Lay Down" nearly hit the top 10 a few months earlier, a major crisis led to two departures in the band. However, they weathered the storm, and are still gigging and recording 35 years and 30 albums later.
- British singer-songwriter Passenger (yes, it's just one guy) managed to cross the pond with the #5 smash hit "Let Her Go". He hasn't yet had another big hit in Europe, let alone North America.
- Rusted Root are known almost exclusively for their 1994 song "Send Me On My Way."
- Milky Chance had a massive worldwide hit in 2014 with "Stolen Dance", which topped many European charts and the American alternative charts (even managing to scrape the Top 40). Their follow-ups haven't been all that successful in their native Germany, let alone anywhere else.
- Vance Joy is very popular in his native Australia, winning the Triple J Hottest 100 poll in 2013 for his song "Riptide". But said song would be his only major international crossover.
- Danny O'Keefe had only one hit, with "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues" in 1972.
- Israel Kamakawiwo'ole is a legendary and very well-respected singer in his homeland of Hawaii, but to the general public is only really known for his cover of "Over the Rainbow".
- Susan Aglukark, an Inuit from Manitoba, had a huge hit in Canada with the bilingual "O Siem" in 1995. The song was a crossover smash in Canada, reaching #1 on the country and AC charts, and #3 on RPM Top Singles. While she had a few other chart entries, most of them are very obscure now.
- Danish guitarist Jorgen Ingmann is best known for his 1961 crossover hit "Apache" — and being one-half of the winning duo of the 1963 Eurovision contest.
- Peter, Paul, and Mary are not one hit wonders, but Paul Stookey was as a soloist with his hit "The Wedding Song."
- Barry McGuire is known almost entirely for his 1965 Protest Song "Eve of Destruction". McGuire became a born-again Christian in The '70s and recorded a few albums of Christian music.
- Although George Ezra is incredibly popular in his native U.K., his presence on the American charts was restricted to "Budapest".
- The Brothers Four, a folk-rock quartet from Seattle, had a #2 hit with "Greenfields" and no other major hits.
- Technically, The Ides of March are a one-hit wonder with their 1970 hit "Vehicle" (#2), but in Chicago, they had other hits on local radio ("You Wouldn't Listen", "Superman", "L.A. Goodbye").
- The Ides of March's lead singer and main songwriter (Jim Peterik) later joined Survivor.
- The Time are another example of a band whose best known song wasn't their highest charting hit. They are best known for "Jungle Love," a #20 hit from 1984 that has been used in many movies to this day. However, their biggest hit was actually 1990's "Jerk Out", which hit #9.
- Cameo had a massive crossover hit in 1986 with "Word Up!", which hit #6. While their direct follow-up "Candy" did manage to hit #21, it's virtually unknown to those outside their audience.
- Kentucky-based electro-funk group Midnight Star had several hits on the R&B charts, but their sole #1 "Operator", proved to be their only pop crossover at #18. After the group disbanded, members and brothers Reginald and Vincent Calloway formed a duo of their own called Calloway. The group had a massive #2 pop hit with "I Wanna Be Rich", but their momentum dried up not long afterwards and they turned to production work.
- Dave Brubeck, with "Take Five". He is well known in jazz circles for his other songs as well, but "Take Five" has become his signature song by a considerable margin.
- The fact that this song actually was written by his lead saxophone player Paul Desmond doesnt`t help Brubeck much in this respect.
- Bill Chase was a jazz musician who had a cult following but never tasted mainstream success. His only hit, recorded with his band Chase, was 1971's "Get it On."
- For 12 years, PSY has been one of the most popular musicians in South Korea, with such hits as "Bird," "Right Now," and "Champion." Overseas, he is best known for his smash hit song from 2012, "Gangnam Style", and pretty much nothing else. Although its 2013 followup "Gentleman" was a #5 hit on Billboard and is closing in on a billion plays on YouTube, it fell quickly, and it's very unlikely that PSY will ever be known for anything else given the massively memetic nature of "Gangnam Style". 2014's "Hangover" (featuring Snoop Dogg) debuted at #26 before dropping off, while 2015's "Daddy" spent one week at #97.
- 2NE1 is a very popular Girl Group in Korea, and K-Pop fans in the west, but are only known for "I Am the Best" outside their audience due to its use in western media (namely for being included in Dance Central 3, an episode of So You Think You Can Dance, and the commercial for Microsoft's Surface Pro 3.)
- Quite possibly the quintessential One-Hit Wonder is Los del Rio, who you know as the duo who released the scourge on humanity known as the "Macarena" and absolutely nothing else.
- Additionally, it's not the original version that we all know and love. The well-known version is actually a remix by the Bayside Boys, probably because it added English lyrics. The original version of the song also charted on the Hot 100, peaking at #23. A third version of "Macarena", called "Macarena Christmas" also hit the Hot 100 and went top 5 in Australia.
- Los del Rio has been well known in flamenco music before and after "Macarena," but has had no interest in making another pop hit.
- There was also a cover version by Los del Mar at the same time, which proved to be their only hit.
- "Heaven" by Los Lonely Boys. They had two more minor chart entries on the AC and Adult top 40 charts, but "Heaven" will forever be the only song most will recognize them by. The corresponding album is also one of the more notable 21st-century aversions of the Loudness War.
- Son By Four - A popular Puerto Rican salsa group, their only hit in the English-speaking world was the top 40 "Purest Of Pain," a remake of their Spanish song "A Puro Dolor."
- In 1999, German producer Lou Bega added word to mambo standard "Mambo No. 5" with later hit #3 in the US and spent 20 weeks at #1 in France. Other than that, nothing.
- Enrique Iglesias is definitely not a one-hit wonder, but Desember Bueno and Gente de Zona, two of the featured artists on his 2014 hit "Bailando", are one-hit wonders.
- Kaoma are only known for their 1990 hit "Lambada" and nothing else.
- The Chakachas were a Belgian group of Latin studio musicians who were popular all throughout Europe, but only made a dent on the international charts with the 1971 instrumental "Jungle Fever".
- Basque singing group Mocedades were entered into the 1973 Eurovision song contest with "Eres Tu — Touch the Wind". Although they finished in second, the song became a massive worldwide hit. Naturally, all further success was limited to Spain.
- In his native Spain, Miguel Ríos is one of the most revered musicians of all time. Internationally, he's only really known for his remake of "Ode To Joy", titled "A Song of Joy", which hit #14 on the Hot 100.
- Edwin Eugene Bagley wrote many marches, but he's most well known for National Emblem, probably the most famous American march not written by John Philip Sousa.
- "Under the Double Eagle/Unter dem Doppeladler" by Joseph Franz Wagner. Even martial music buffs would be hard pressed to name another piece by him. The encyclopedic Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians can, but just the one.
- Dexys Midnight Runners are only remembered for the song "Come On Eileen" in the United States.
- Dexys are one of the prime examples of a group being very well known in their homeland but considered one hit wonders elsewhere. Other British groups this applies to include Status Quo, Right Said Fred, and BBMak.
- The Boomtown Rats had a number of hits in the UK but are only known in the US for "I Don't Like Mondays" (and for having Bob Geldof in them).
- This also happened to The Knack and their debut single from 1979, "My Sharona". The follow-up single "Good Girls Don't" just missed the top 10, and "Baby Talks Dirty" also reached the top 40. Still, who remembers the other two songs?
- The Vapors had an international hit with "Turning Japanese" but no fanbase back home to build on. Never heard from again. Their song "Jimmie Jones" cracked the top 40 of the Mainstream Rock charts in 1981, and proved to be their only hit on that chart, as the chart didn't exist when "Turning Japanese" peaked.
- Berlin are only known for their #1 hit "Take My Breath Away", from the film Top Gun. Earlier in their career, they managed a #23 hit with "No More Words", from another 80s film, Vision Quest, but that song is largely forgotten today. (They also had a few other radio hits in their native Los Angeles.)
- The one hit sometimes gets disowned by the band, best example being A Flock Of Seagulls: "Every time I perform live... Everyone just wants to hear 'I Ran', and I'm sick of it!"
- They did have two other U.S. hits - "Wishing (I Had a Photograph of You)" and "Space Age Love Song", but "I Ran" tends to overshadow them both.
- "Wishing" is technically their only hit in the UK, though "I Ran" seems quite well known too.
- Men Without Hats had "The Safety Dance," an entirely awesome song that remains their only real impression in music history.
- They also had a top 20 hit in the US with "Pop Goes the World," which was never as famous as their biggest hit.
- Devo had a #15 hit in 1980 with "Whip It". It shows up fairly often on 80s one-hit wonder countdowns, but like Faith No More (read below), they were influential and had a large cult following.
- "Maniac" by Michael Sembello, from the Flashdance soundtrack.
- It's notable that its cover version/remix by Mark McCabe was also a one hit wonder.
- As for Sembello himself, he technically had a second top 40 hit with "Automatic Man".
- Beyond that, the only other well-known stuff he did was scoring and contributing soundtracks for Gremlins, Cocoon, The Monster Squad... and Independence Day! Okay, maybe not the last one.
- Gary Numan is often considered to be an archetypal one hit wonder in the United States, for "Cars". In Europe (especially the UK), however, he was one of the most popular recording artists of the late 70's and early-to-mid 80's. One of the few American Gary Numan superfans in the 80's was Trent Reznor, who credits Numan as a massive influence for Nine Inch Nails.
- Paul Hardcastle's "19", although he also had the sleeper hit "Rain Forest". In the UK, he had a second top 10 hit with "Don't Waste My Time" and everyone knows "The Wizard" from its use as theme for Top of the Pops.
- Toni Basil had a #1 hit in December 1982 with "Mickey", and she never charted in the top 40 again. The songs "Over My Head" and "Suspense" were top 10 dance hits, but "Mickey" was still her most successful song there.
- In 1983, Matthew Wilder had a New Wave/Synthpop song which topped out at number 5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 entitled "Break My Stride". No other song released by him ever came that close to the top, though "The Kid's American" did reach the top 40. He later produced No Doubt's breakout album "Tragic Kingdom".
- The Flying Lizards had a minor hit (#5 in the UK, #50 in the US) with their baffling, stripped-down, nearly emotionless cover of "Money (That's What I Want)" in 1979.
- The landscape of Canadian music is littered with the corpses of barely-remembered new wave acts from the 80's:
- Blue Peter's one and only hit, "Don't Walk Past" (released on their second and final full album), was played on MTV in its heyday, garnered a few Canadian music awards and resulted in the group touring as an opening act for The Police. More than twenty years later, the group only gets together a few times a year to play local gigs in Toronto, where "Don't Walk Past" is the opening number.
- Martha and the Muffins had a massive hit with the quintessential "Echo Beach" in 1980. They had a number of other singles and a few big hits in Canada (although none as big as "Echo Beach"), but were hardly heard from in the rest of the world. The song "Black Stations/White Stations" charted in both the UK and the US (and was their only Hot 100 hit there), getting up to #2 on the Dance charts, but it never hit the top 10 in any international market.
- The Payolas, a Vancouver-based new wave group, had a bonafide hit with "Eyes of a Stranger", which appeared on the soundtrack to 1983's "Valley Girl", reached the top of the charts in Canada and hit the Top 25 U.S. Mainstream Rock Singles. Their second single, "Never Said I Love You", reached the Top 10 in Canada, but failed to chart anywhere else.
- A reworked version of the band, renamed Rock and Hyde, had another hit with "Dirty Water", which cracked the Top 20 in Canada and hit #6 on the U.S. rock charts, but again, their output afterwards failed to chart.
- The Moffatts are a borderline case. They were heralded as Canada's answer to the Backstreet Boys (regardless of the fact that - unlike BSB - they played their own instruments and wrote their own songs), but they only had one #1 single with "Bang Bang Boom" from their 2000 album Submodalities (along with a top-five hit, "I'll Be There for You"). The band broke up soon after the album was released, with the members citing unfair comparisons to other teen pop groups. Today, they're more or less seen as a punchline to the pop deluge from the late 90's. The Moffatts had a few other hits outside of Canada, such as the UK top 20 "Miss You Like Crazy", but none of them were really that massive.
- The Toronto-based rock group Toronto (whose band members all hail from...Toronto) had their one and only hit single with "Your Daddy Don't Know", which reached the Canadian Top 5 singles. The only reason it garnered any sort of awareness in recent years was due to The New Pornographers covering it for the soundtrack to FUBAR. Toronto had a few other minor hits including "Start Tellin' The Truth" and "Girls Night Out", but never again hit the top 10 nor the US Hot 100.
- "Genius of Love" was the Tom Tom Club's only Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 hit. They were formed out of former members of the Talking Heads. Interestingly, back home in the UK, "Genius of Love" never made it past #65, but they reached the top 10 with "Wordy Rappinghood". They did have a second top 40 hit in the UK with "Under The Boardwalk," but that missed the top 20. "Under The Boardwalk," however, was their only top 10 New Zealand hit, despite the former two songs both having gone top 40 there. So, that means Tom Tom Club could be considered one hit wonders three times. Interestingly, "Genius of Love," the only song that is officially a one-hit wonder, is probably the best remembered because of Mariah Carey.
- Another band to be a one hit wonder on both sides of the Atlantic with different songs: Icicle Works. “Love Is a Wonderful Colour” was their UK hit, while “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)” was the song that charted in the US, and is the better-remembered of the two, despite its US peak (#37) being well below "Love Is a Wonderful Colour"'s UK peak (#15).
- Peter Schilling reached #1 in 4 countries with "Major Tom (Coming Home)" and the song is still played on radio in the United States, but afterwards he largely faded from the limelight outside of Germany, though he continues to release albums. His song "The Different Story (World of Lust and Crime)" was a Swedish top 10 hit and also hit the Hot 100, but failed to go top 40.
- New York-based band Industry only had one album and were known for their only hit, "State of the Nation", which topped the charts in Italy and went Top 10 in Sweden, but only made #80 in the US. Once the band disbanded, its keyboardist Jon Carin became a member of the post-1987 version of Pink Floyd.
- German New Wave duo Bruce & Bongo topped the German and Austrian charts in 1986 while going top 10 in Italy and Switzerland with their bizarre novelty song "Geil". They tried to repeat this feat with "Hi Ho", a cover of "Heigh Ho" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to no avail, despite a #29 placing in Germany.
- There are quite a lot of examples of this in the UK:
- Modern Talking only had one top 40 hit in the UK, the #4 "Brother Louie." They were far more successful in continental Europe.
- Scottish New Wave group Fiction Factory hit #6 in 1984 with "(Feels Like) Heaven" but couldn't go top 40 ever again.
- Strawberry Switchblade went top 5 with "Since Yesterday," then completely vanished afterwards.
- Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie cracked the top 40 in 1989 with "The Rattler", hitting #37. While they never hit the top 40 again, keyboardist Shirley Manson would go on to have major success with Garbage.
- Orange Juice hit #8 in 1983 with "Rip It Up." Follow-up "Flesh of my Flesh" just missed the top 40, stalling at 41. Frontman Edwyn Collins would go on to have a hit of his own in 1996 with "A Girl Like You" from Empire Records. It hit #4 in the UK, #32 in the US, and topped the charts in Belgium.
- Interestingly British Wang Chung was this in their home country with "Dance Hall Days", but are not in the US where they had 4 other hits, including "Everybody Have Fun Tonight," which is probably much better known there than "Dance Hall Days" is.
- M (aka Robin Scott) scored a #1 hit with "Pop Muzik" late in 1979. Nothing else made the Top 200 and the only other British hit he had was #33 with "Moonlight and Muzak," although another single peaking at #15 in 1989 was just a remix of "Pop Muzik."
- Big Country are very popular in the U.K., but their international success began and ended with "In A Big Country."
- Madness are often considered a one hit wonder in the USA, with "Our House" as their best known hit. In their native UK however, they were absolutely massive: with the lone exception of UB40, they were the most successful singles act of the 80's and their first 20 singles all managed the Top 20.
- "It Must Be Love" was also a top 40 hit in the US, but it was a cover version. "Our House" was Madness's only hit that the band wrote.
- Nena's "99 Luftballons", also known in English as "99 Red Balloons". In Germany, mind you, she's still rather successful, but that was the only time she ever broke into international success.
- The remake of "Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime" as an English-German duet with British singer Kim Wilde was a hit in various European countries, reaching the Number 1 spot in the Netherlands and Austria, and Number 2 in Belgium, in 2003.
- Kim Wilde herself is an interesting case. Her first single "Kids in America" only made the lower-half of the Top 40, peaking at #25, while a later hit, a cover of "You Keep Me Hanging On" was a massive chart-topper upon release. Naturally, she is often thought of as a one-hit wonder… for the former. This is mainly due to it being covered and featured in the media numerous times over the years, while the latter is slowly starting to fade into the shadow of the Supremes' original version.
- The remake of "Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime" as an English-German duet with British singer Kim Wilde was a hit in various European countries, reaching the Number 1 spot in the Netherlands and Austria, and Number 2 in Belgium, in 2003.
- Crowded House are remembered in the U.S. only for the #2 "Don't Dream It's Over", even though their follow-up "Something So Strong" hit #7.
- Modern English are commonly cited as an example of an '80s one-hit wonder for their 1981 "I Melt With You", which believe it or not, never made it passed #76. It was however on heavy rotation on MTV, and has become a staple of throwback and adult contemporary stations across the US.
- Breakfast Club (not to be confused with the movie), had a Top 10 hit in 1987 with "Right On Track" before fading into obscurity. This was largely out of curiosity over the band that Madonna got her start in, and once that novelty wore off so did interest in the group.
- Duran Duran are certainly not one hit wonders, but when they took a break in the mid-80's, they split into two splinter groups, The Power Station and Arcadia. While the former averted this by having two top 10 hits, Arcadia weren't so lucky, as their momentum disappeared after the top 10 hit "Election Day". The two Duran Duran members who went to The Power Station, John and Andy Taylor became one-hit wonders as soloists with "I Do What I Do" and "Take it Easy", respectively.
- The Cars are no one hit wonders, but frontmen Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr are with "Emotion in Motion" and "Stay the Night", respectively.
- British group Dead or Alive had two pop hits in the US, but only the former of the two, "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)", is remembered. They were more successful on the Dance charts, and in the UK.
- Although Simple Minds are enormously popular in their native U.K, they only had two big American hits, "Don't You (Forget About Me)", the theme from The Breakfast Club, and "Alive & Kicking". While both songs are hugely iconic back home, "Alive & Kicking" is almost entirely forgotten in the U.S. and "Don't You" is the only song of theirs most Americans remember.
- Ini Kamoze topped the Billboard charts in 1995 with "Here Comes the Hotstepper". He never charted in the Top 40 again.
- Snow topped the Billboard charts for a whopping seven weeks in 1993 with his Reggae meets Hip-Hop song "Informer", and became the best-selling reggae song of all time despite the fact that nobody could understand what he was saying. While his follow-up "Girl I've Been Hurt" charted in the Top 20 (peaking at #19), it's widely considered to be a Creator Killer. All songs since then have failed to chart at all. The fact that Snow was in jail at the time it was released, and couldn't actually leave his native Canada to tour the world at the height of his popularity, certainly didn't help. Also featured in the song was producer and old-school rapper MC Shan, who contributed a guest rap verse that gave him his only hit as well... or rather, it would have, had he actually been credited for his contribution.
- Nina Sky, an all-female duo from New York, had a #4 hit in 2004 with "Move Ya Body". That was also their only song to chart on the Hot 100, not counting a guest appearance on N.O.R.E.'s #12 "Oye Mi Canto", which wasn't their hit and is mostly forgotten today; thus it doesn't disqualify their status as a one-hit wonder. By extension, Jabba the featured artist on the song is also a one-hit wonder.
- MAGIC! hit number one for six weeks with "Rude," but a massive backlash against the song and the band took place almost immediately afterwards. Thus, MAGIC! never even hit the Bubbling Under charts with any of their other songs. Only thirteen other artists can claim such a dubious honor. And given the fact that "Rude" was so left-field a hit, they're unlikely to ever chart again (although their followups managed modest success in their native Canada). It's telling that, not even a year since "Rude" became a massive hit, they've been reduced to a support act for Maroon 5.
- OMI had a massive chart-topping hit in the summer of 2015 with a remix of his 2012 song "Cheerleader", which topped numerous charts including the United States. However, it was seen as too much of a left-field novelty for consistent success and OMI had no public image whatsoever. His follow-up "Hula Hoop" flat-out bombed in most countries (Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Australia, Austria and Belgium being the exceptions; in the U.S. it missed the entire Hot 100), and his album Me 4 U only debuted at #51, making it one of the lowest selling albums to house a #1 hit (and it placed behind, of all people, Stryper, a christian hair-metal band whose only Top 40 hit came in 1987); that's not even taking into account that the peak was inflated by streams and single sales, when in actuality it completely failed to hit the top 100. His third single, "Drop in the Ocean" (featuring fellow one-hit wonder AronChupa) bombed everywhere. In fact, Felix Jaehn, the DJ behind the remix, has fared far better, having scored a massive European hit of his own with his cover of Rufus & Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody (Loves Me Better)", and has quickly climbed up the electronic music scene. That being said, Jaehn is still a one-hit wonder in the U.S;
- Somalian-Canadian singer K'naan's only international success is "Wavin' Flag" (which, despite not actually being a hit, is well-known due to commercial associations with Coca-Cola, the 2010 FIFA World Cup and Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign). His later song "Is Anybody Out There?" (a collaboration with Nelly Furtado) actually charted higher in the U.S., but it's completely forgotten even in Canada.
- Kevin Lyttle managed a #4 hit in 2004 with "Turn Me On". It was his only ever entry on the Hot 100.
- R. City looks to be headed in this direction. While they're successful songwriters, the Virgin Islander sibling duo had their first bonafide hit as musicians with 2015's "Locked Away" (featuring Adam Levine), which went Top 10, and most impressively, despite being squeaky-clean, got passed over by Kidz Bop. However, since Adam Levine is the reason it charted, it's mostly associated with him and/or misattributed to his band. Given how "well" this situation worked out for Mark Ronson (see the pop subpage) and being yet another act in the Nico & Vinz/MAGIC!/OMI mold, combined with the fact that R. City doesn't have any following in the mainstream and that their album What Dreams Are Made Of was released to little fanfare, they have next-to-no chance of ever scoring a successful follow-up.
- Although Michael Franti of Michael Franti & Spearhead had a few minor hits in the U.K. in the 90s, most people in North America probably can't name anything he's done besides his 2009 #18 hit "Say Hey (I Love You)".
- Reel Big Fish hit the charts with "Sell Out", but got Screwed by the Network when it came to releasing a follow-up single. This was later lampshaded by the band in the song "One Hit Wonderful".
- Madness are often considered a one hit wonder in the USA, with "Our House" as their best known hit. In their native UK however, they were absolutely massive: with the lone exception of UB40, they were the most successful singles act of the 80's and their first 20 singles all managed the Top 20.
- "It Must Be Love" was also a top 40 hit in the US, but it was a cover version. "Our House" was Madness's only hit that the band wrote.
- UK group Hotshots had their only hit in 1973 with a ska version of "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron". The original version by The Royal Guardsmen had also been their only big hit a few years earlier. The sequel song "Return of the Red Baron" scraped the top 40 a few months later.
- While in the US the Guardsmen are remembered pretty much only for "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron," both "Return of the Red Baron" and the non-Snoopy related "Baby Let's Wait" were top 40 hits there. The song "Snoopy's Christmas," however, is also fondly remembered.
- In 1974, Canadian news anchor Byron MacGregor recorded "The Americans", a commentary written by Canadian broadcaster Gordon Sinclair. The recording consisted solely of him reading the commentary with an instrumental backing of "America the Beautiful" performed by an orchestra. This recording went to #4, and he never saw chart action again. A version by Sinclair was also released ("The Americans [A Canadian's Perspective]"), which stalled at #24.
- Wink Martindale had a big hit in The Fifties with the often-covered "Deck of Cards". Martindale never had another chart hit, but he later became famous as a Game Show host, most notably Tic-Tac-Dough.
- The year 1971 begat a pair of #8 spoken word Hot 100 hits by somewhat similarly-named artists Tom Clay recorded a record called "What the World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin, and John", which combined clips of the two hits with his narration and interview clips of JFK, MLK, and other important '60s icons. A few months later Les Crane released a narration of the spiritual poem "Desiderata". The poem, which was thought to be an ancient text, was actually written by a little known Indiana writer named Max Ehrmann, and after a lawsuit his family got royalties from the song.
- During the heat of the 1972 Presidential Election, a novelty group called The Delegates was formed to create the record "Convention '72." It consisted of popular songs at the time being used to portray a fictional convention between the many Presidential candidates of the year.
- In 1999, Australian film director Baz Luhrmann had a single that consisted of him reading Mary Schmich's "Wear Sunscreen" essay (aka "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young"). The single was a massive international hit, but Luhrmann went back to directing immediately afterward.
- "Wipe Out" by The Surfaris. They did eventually land a second top 40 hit...but it was just a recharting "Wipe Out".
- "Zoot Suit Riot" by The Cherry Poppin' Daddies released in 1998. It's their best known song, having peaked at #32 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 Mainstream, and hit the top 20 of the Modern Rock and Adult Top 40 charts. It just barely missed the top 40 of the Hot 100, however.
- This song is an interesting example because first and foremost, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies were a ska band. They did occasionally wander into swing and hot jazz on their albums here and there, but "Zoot Suit Riot" is probably among their most swing influenced songs. It originally appeared as a new song on Zoot Suit Riot, a compilation of all the swing-oriented songs that had appeared on their other albums. When the song became a hit, so did the album, and now they're identified as apart of the Swing Revival fad forevermore.
- The Squirrel Nut Zippers were a similar case. Their musical style was more diverse than just "swing revival", but their one hit, the top 20 rock hit "Hell," ended up associating them with the genre.
- Italian Nu-Jazz duo Gabin had a hit in 2002 with their single "Doo Uap, Doo Uap, Doo Uap". They still exist and a couple of their songs were used in films such as Fantastic Four (2005), but none of their other songs gained the same acclaim and recognition.
- See also: I Am Not Spock
- Maria Falconetti was a stage actress with only two very minor film roles before starring in The Passion of Joan of Arc. The film, and her performance, are ranked among the best in history, but her experience working on the film was so terrible that she returned to the stage and never took another film role again.
- Ellen Pompeo had some bit parts in some films and TV shows, but after she landed the lead role of Meredith Grey in Greys Anatomy in 2005, she hasn't gotten a single other acting credit. Based on her statements in interviews and convention panels, this is by choice, and she has no desire to act after Greys finishes.
- Most of the main cast of the Nickelodeon show Hey Dude! had never acted anywhere prior to the show, and never did again after it ended. Only three of the main actors (one of them being Ben Stiller's wife Christine Taylor) went on to have acting careers beyond the ranch.
- This is in fact true of most Nick shows of the 1990s—with rare exceptions (namely Melissa Joan Hart, Kenan Thompson and Blake Sennett) the vast majority of the channel's child actors dropped off the map after serving their time on Nick.
- While the cast of the original Saved by the Bell had careers long after the series ended (with varying successes), Dustin Diamond, Lark Voorhies, and Dennis Haskins are still known almost exclusively as Screech, Lisa, and Belding, respectively. However, the one-season actors (Ed Alonzo and Leanna Freel), the newcomers from The College Years and the majority of the actors from the "The New Class" were, for the most part, never heard from again. Even the ones who still acted afterwards didn't really do anything memorable (with the exceptions of Bianca Lawson ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and Sarah Lancaster ("Chuck")). Isaac Lidskey, who played Screech-clone Weasel, probably didn't mind too much considering he graduated from Harvard law school at 19 and eventually worked with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at 28 despite becoming legally blind.
- Carrie Henn, who played Newt in Aliens, has never had another acting role.
- Entertainment Weekly's 2011 Reunion Issue elaborates (it features the Aliens cast). Henn was bullied after her movie role, and thus never again wanted to act. She's now a schoolteacher.
- Jeremy Black, who played the infant Hitler clones in The Boys from Brazil, has his only film credit with that movie - IMDB lists a TV appearance, but he really focused on theater.
- Mary Badham's debut role was Scout Finch in the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, for which she was nominated for an Oscar. She appeared in a few other roles before retiring from acting at 14. She went on to become an art restorer and a college testing coordinator, though she had a small role in an independent film in 2005.
- Danny Lloyd first appeared in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining as Danny Torrance. He played only one other small role in a TV film before quitting acting and becoming a teacher.
- Also, the actresses who played the naked girl in the bathtub and the old hag she turns into never did anything else before or after.
- Lots of horror and slasher roles:
- Nancy Kye's only major role is Annie from Halloween (1978). She did do other on-camera work (including other John Carpenter films), but nothing nearly as popular.
- Adrienne King, who played the Final Girl in the original Friday the 13th (1980) has no other major film credits, although this was mostly because she quit acting the following year after being targeted by a stalker, and didn't come out of retirement until 2010.
- Marilyn Burns, who played the Final Girl in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) had no other major film roles outside that franchise before her death in 2014.
- Heather Langenkamp is only known for playing Nancy in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and two other sequels. She had some other small roles, but nothing nearly as notable. Playing ice skater Nancy Kerrigan in a TV movie Tanya & Nancy is probably her second most famous role.
- Tuesday Knight, who played Kristen Parker in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (taking over for Patricia Arquette from the previous film) has no other major acting credits.
- The entire cast of the original Night of the Living Dead (1968).
- Nia Vardalos. She came out of nowhere in 2002 with My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which is still the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all-time) and fell as fast as she rose with a number of flops (My Big Fat Greek Life, Connie and Carla, My Life in Ruins, Larry Crowne).
- All of the child actors from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket, turned down a three-film contract and became a veterinarian afterwards; Augustus Gloop remains Michael Bollner's only credit; Paris Themmen's only other acting credit besides Mike Teavee was a small cameo in Star Trek: Voyager; Denise Nickerson appeared on Dark Shadows and The Electric Company, but is still best known as Violet Beauregarde; and while Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt) has appeared in several movies afterwards, none of them are well remembered today.
- Several non-professional actors have been cast in a film that remains either their only role, or their only role of note:
- Harold Russell's film debut in The Best Years of Our Lives netted him two Oscars, the only time two Oscars have ever been awarded for the same performance.note It would be 34 years before he had another film credit; his two remaining credits were very minor roles in since-forgotten movies.
- Dr. Haing S. Ngor, a Cambodian gynecologist, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his only major film role, The Killing Fields. Along with the aforementioned Harold Russell, he is one of only two non-professional actors to win an Academy Award.
- Wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko was cast in the 1950 noir Night and the City because the director, Jules Dassin, wanted to teach a wrestler to act rather than teach an actor to wrestle. He had actually seen Zbyszko when he was young and wanted someone like him, without knowing Zbyszko was still alive. It turned out Zbyszko even lamented the transformation of wrestling into showmanship the same way his character in the movie, Gregorius, did.
- For similar reasons, light-heavyweight boxing champion Antonio Tarver was cast as Mason "The Line" Dixon in Rocky Balboa, which remains his only professional acting role to date - Sylvester Stallone thought it would be easier to teach a boxer to act rather than train an actor to box convincingly. He might have come to this conclusion after casting boxer Tommy Morrison in Rocky V.
- In the film Miracle, about the 1980 gold-medal winning US Olympic hockey team, many of the actors who portrayed members of the team were real-life hockey players; Billy Schneider played his father Buzz Schneider, for instance. (For that matter, coach Herb Brooks is played by Kurt Russell, who was briefly a real-life pro baseball player before turning to acting full-time.)
- Michael Wallis, a well known historian who has written 17 books on the Western United States only has one acting role: the voice of the Sheriff of Radiator Springs in Cars, its sequel and other spinoff media. He was selected for this role because of his knowledge of the film's setting, particularly Route 66, which is the subject of Route 66: The Mother Road, the best selling book in his bibliography.
- Pixar seems to like selecting writers for major roles in their films. Sarah Vowell, a well known pop culture writer, essayist and frequent contributor to This American Life was given the role of Violet in The Incredibles. The casting director of the film selected her after hearing this story she told on This American Life. She never actually auditioned for the part, as she is not a professional actress and The Incredibles remains her only film role.
- Zekeria Ebrahimi and Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada,the Afghan child actors who played young Amir and young Hassan respectively in The Kite Runner had never acted before and never acted again. In fact, acting in the movie caused major problems after shooting finished, because many questioned sending them back to Kabul, where their families feared attacks because of the homosexual themes in the movie. They were relocated to the United Arab Emirates.
- Jaye Davidson (technically a two hit wonder). Played Dil in The Crying Game, a role for which he was nominated for an Oscar. His only other famous role was Stargate, which he took only because he was offered 1 million dollars.
- Dustin Lance Black was an obscure indie screenwriter who struck gold when he won an Oscar for Milk. Since then, he's mostly written critically-panned films such as the unreleased What's Wrong With Virginia? (which he also directed) and J. Edgar.
- Rochelle Davis who played Sarah in The Crow, she decided to retire from acting shortly afterwards because she was a close friend of Brandon Lee who died during filming, she now works as a massage therapist, she would later act again in a minor role in an independent film "Hell House" 16 years later.
- Jake Lloyd was a child actor who had small roles in ER and The Pretender before George Lucas picked him to portray young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The negative reaction of his performance caused him to only appear in one more film (a 2001 film called Madison) before retiring from acting.
- While Mark Hamill has had live-action roles before and after Star Wars, he remains best known (outside cartoons) as Luke Skywalker.
- Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, and Peter Mayhew remain known to the public almost exclusively as C-3PO, R2-D2, and Chewbacca respectively.
- Although he has acted in other films and TV shows, Scott Fuller from From Dusk Till Dawn is Ernest Liu's only major role to date.
- Nikki Blonsky whose most famous role was Hairspray. It doesn't help that her other roles tried to play up her weight which is a very hard thing to build a career around.
- Most actors from Power Rangers have not had any success with any other projects. Exceptions are Amy Jo Johnson, Bryan Cranston (who played two monsters), Eka Darville, Emma Lahana, Cerina Vincent, and Adelaide Kane.
- According to various speeches he's made, Jack Gleeson plans to quit acting as soon as his Star-Making Role as Joffrey Baratheon on Game of Thrones wraps up, due to his dislike of celebrity culture.
- Most of the actors who star on the show have yet to find a second hit; even then, those who have found non-Thrones success were established before the show began (i.e Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Natalie Dormer, Sean Bean), and nevertheless aside from Bean their parts on Game of Thrones are easily their best known roles. Fortunately, since most of these actors' careers are just getting started, there's a lot of time to escape it.
- Quinton Aaron, best known for playing Michael Oher in The Blind Side has acted in other movies, but nothing of note.
- No matter what Steve Burns does, he will always be known as Steve from Blues Clues. Donovan Patton, who played Joe, also hasn't had any success after the show ended.
- Michael Richards will always be known as Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld...if he's lucky.
- The only role Alicia Silverstone is remembered for today is Cher Horowitz from Clueless. That, and her Star-Derailing Role in Batman & Robin.
- Of the nine main cast members of Arrested Development, only a few have gone on to superstardom on their own. But the only one who is considered a one-hit wonder is Alia Shawkat, who played Maeby.
- Adrien Brody is best-known for his Oscar winning role in The Pianist. Most other films that he's been in have been small independent films, but The Pianist was the only one of note.
- British expat model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's only noteworthy role is as Carly Spencer in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the Suspiciously Similar Substitute love interest for Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) after Mikaela broke up with him in-between films (ie Megan Fox was fired). For the longest time, it was her only acting credit period until Mad Max 2015 (but even then, she won't be the lead heroine). Fortunately, it doesn't take away from her fame as a model. The fact that she's dating action movie star Jason Statham also helps.
- On the topic of Transformers movies, Nicola Peltz' only successful role is as Tessa Yaeger in Transformers: Age of Extinction. Her only other noteworthy role is as Katara in The Last Airbender, which is widely considered to be one of the worst movies of all time and killed the careers of everyone involved. She is also known for her supporting role on the drama series Bates Motel, but whether or not it can be considered a major hit is up for debate.
- Most of the actors who have played Superman (i.e. George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Tom Welling, Brandon Routh) have not really found much success in other roles.
- Routh broke out of the one-hit wonder mold in when he played fan favorite Ray Palmer on Arrow
- Allison Mack's only role of note is as Chloe Sullivan on Smallville.
- Michael Rosenbaum averted this through his voice acting career, but Lex Luthor is still his only real claim to fame in live-action.
- Tatum O'Neal had a moderately successful career as a child actor in the 1970s but today people only remember her for her role in Paper Moon due to winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar at the age of 10.
- Unlike other J. J. Abrams leading ladies such as Jennifer Garner and Evangeline Lilly, Anna Torv of Fringe hasn't really found further success outside the show.
- Kimberly J. Brown is mostly remembered for starring in the first 3 Halloweentown movies. She had some other roles, such as a regular stint on Guiding Light for a couple years, and the lead in Quints (another Disney Channel movie), but nothing else.
- Rainn Wilson has acted in several TV shows and movies, but he will forever be best known as Dwight Schrute from The Office (US).
- Party of Five was a big hit back in the '90s, but is today remembered for most of its cast landing better known roles after the series' conclusion...that is, except for Scott Wolf, who completely vanished from public consciousness after the show's conclusion.
- Because Party is largely forgotten today, Neve Campbell, who played middle child Julia, is nowadays remembered almost solely as Sidney Prescott from the Scream series.
- Jason Mewes isn't really known for any other role besides Jay. Kevin Smith, who played Silent Bob, fortunately avoids this by his non-acting work, but Mewes wasn't so lucky.
- James Gandolfini's legacy begins and ends with Tony Soprano. His only other memorable role was in Enough Said, and that was only after he died.
- Jon Heder's only memorable role was as the title character of Napoleon Dynamite. He followed it up with The Benchwarmers and Blades of Glory, neither of which are particularly well-regarded today, and completely vanished from the spotlight afterwards.
- So closely associated is Daniel Radcliffe with Harry Potter that it ultimately proved detrimental to his post-Potter career. Aside from one film that did about $50 million, nothing else he's been in has hit even $5 million. In fact, aside from Emma Watson and Robert Pattinson, the other child actors from the film have fared even worse. Rupert Grint hasn't made even a million dollars combined with his non-Potter work, Tom Felton's only other notable role was in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, while other stars like Matthew Lewis, Bonnie Wright, Evanna Lynch, the Phelps twins, and Harry Melling have done next to nothing of note otherwise.
- New Zealand actress Keisha Castle-Hughes is only known for her role in Whale Rider, which made her the youngest actress at the time to be nominated for a Lead Actress Oscar. She had a a minor role in Revenge of the Sith and her career took a nosedive after The Nativity Story proved to be a critical and commercial disaster. She tried to make a comeback with Game of Thrones, but her performance was considered underwhelming, especially by the show's standards, and is today one of the very few Game of Thrones actors' whose part on the show has not become their most famous role.
- Gloria Swanson was one of the biggest stars of the silent film era who managed a comeback in 1951 with Sunset Boulevard. That being said, she is commonly considered a one-hit wonder for her role in the latter, as it's the only movie people remember her by, while her silent film work is long forgotten.
- Despite being a superstar throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Al Jolson is known by modern-day audiences only as Jack Rubin in The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length motion-picture with sound.
- Anthony Perkins played Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 thriller Psycho. He became so closely associated with the Bates character that his career got destroyed due to chronic typecasting.
- Mira Sorvino is known for her Oscar-winning role in Mighty Aphrodite and not much else, except maybe Romy & Michele's High School Reunion.
- Linda Blair played Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist and went straight to low-profile made-for-TV movies afterwards.
- The Mickey Mouse Club: Very few Mouseketeers have been successful, Annette Funicello was by far the biggest star to come from the 1950s version, although a few others like Johnny Crawford and Paul Petersen have had minor success. For the '90s version, you had Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, Keri Russell, J.C Chasez, Tony Lucca, Matt Morris, and Deedee Magno. That being said, the latter five are almost never brought up when talking about the show's famous alumni, and it's not uncommon for Gosling to be ignored in favor of the show's musical breakouts.
- Nearly all of the child actors on Barney & Friends, who were for the most part Dallas natives, disappeared from the spotlight afterwards. The only ones who went on to any success were Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Kyla Pratt, Madison Pettis, Trevor Morgan and Debby Ryan. In the public consciousness, it's only widely known that the former two are ex-Barney stars, and the fact that they met on the show and became best friends afterwards. Of the latter four, Ryan is the only one who's still well-known. but she was never nearly as big a star as Gomez or Lovato and few people rember she was on the show, as her part was a minor background role whereas the rest were part of the main kids cast.
- Borderline example with Kate Hudson. Although she was a highly prominent celebrity in the 2000s, her public perception has gone down the MC Hammer path, with her breakout role of Penny Lane in Almost Famous being the only one she is still remembered for. Nearly all of her other movies were hugely panned by critics (even if they were box office hits), and they have all long faded into obscurity, while Almost Famous went down the opposite path.
- Thora Birch appeared in many films as a child actress before landing American Beauty. Her career stagnated afterwards, and although she appeared in the cult hit Ghost World she's still remembered almost solely for American Beauty.
- Jennifer Beals is best known for her role in Flashdance...and that's about it.
- Most of the actors in American Pie didn't go on to do much afterwards, with Shannon Elizabeth seen in the eyes of the public as the most triumphant example. That being said, Jason Biggs was previously the franchise's most notorious laughingstock until he landed a memorable role on Orange Is the New Black.
- Mean Girls:
- Jonathan Bennett is best remembered for his role as Aaron Samuels in the teen comedy and not much else.
- Borderline. Lindsay Lohan starred in numerous successful movies from the late-'90s to mid-'00s before her fall from grace later in the decade. However, many would agree that her role as Cady Heron was her only memorable performance, even if her other movies were successes (the Freaky Friday remake actually outgrossed Mean Girls despite being far less iconic today).
- Ariana Grande's only successful role as an actress was as Cat Valentine in Nickelodeon's Victorious (which she wasn't even the star of). She had a few bit roles, and starred in the quickly cancelled spin-off Sam & Cat, but nothing major. That being said however, she has transitioned into a pop superstar with numerous hits and certified albums under her belt, and has never looked back since. As a musician, she is most certainly not a one-hit wonder. In fact, she's easily the most successful music act ever produced by Nickelodeon.
- Borderline: Ray Liotta was fairly successful back in the '90s, but modern-day audiences know him for playing Henry H Ill in Goodfellas and not much else.
- Alfonso Ribiero is only known for playing Carlton Banks.
Anime and Manga
- Sailor Moon remains Naoko Takeuchi's only successful manga series. While some of her other work has gained followings, most of that is limited to the Sailor Moon fandom, and she has yet to have any other title match the success of Sailor Moon. The closest any series came to it was The Cherry Project... and that only lasted three volumes...
- Yasumi Yoshizawa debuted as a professional manga cartoonist with Dokonjou Gaeru in 1970. To date that's his only successful series, spawning two anime series and a ton of merchandising in Japan. Since ending it he created dozens of other mangas but none of them are well-known.
- Masashi Kishimoto will always be known as "the man who created Naruto". He's working on other material since he finally finished the series after fifteen years, but it's unlikely it'll be anywhere close to Naruto's level, seeing as how it's one of the most successful manga/anime series of all time.
- Michael Cimino is remembered for directing the 1978 Oscar-winning Vietnam War epic The Deer Hunter, the 1980 career-destroying disaster that was Heaven's Gate, and nothing else.
- Sofia Coppola is primarily remembered for Lost in Translation, and perhaps The Virgin Suicides, but that's about it. Since then she's only directed the critically-reviled Marie Antoinette and a couple of obscure independent films. Other than that the only other thing's she's known for are being Francis's daughter and her critically reviled performance in The Godfather Part III.
- Michael Curtiz directed hundreds of films throughout his career, but he'll always be best remembered for Casablanca.
- Until she landed Wonder Woman (2017), Patty Jenkins was only known for directing Monster. In fact, aside from Monster she's probably best known for a film that she ended up not directing, namely Thor: The Dark World.
- The Neveldine/Taylor directorial team made a big splash with Crank, and got an okayish reaction with its sequel, but all their subsequent works (including Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Neveldine's solo outing The Vatican Tapes) have been critical and commercial disasters.
- Mel Stuart directed about ten films in his lifetime, but is only remembered for one: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
- Director Mark Waters made about twelve films in his career, but Mean Girls (see the Acting section above) tends to be the only one still fondly remembered today.
- Franc Roddam had one big hit with Quadrophenia, and did continue working quite regularly for the following decade, but didn't direct anything else of note before figuring that he'd be better off retiring and living off the royalties from Master Chef.
- See One-Book Author for other examples.
- Joseph Heller is best-known for Catch-22, but wrote many novels that nobody read (including Catch-22's sequel, Closing Time). Some years later, someone put it to Joseph Heller that despite his lengthy bibliography, he'd never written anything else as good as Catch-22. Heller's response: "Who has?"
- Only one of Mary Shelley's novels is well-known today: Frankenstein, or the modern Prometheus. Although she was taken very seriously in her day, nowadays it's either Frankenstein or being the wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley (even though it was her efforts after his death that kept him from being considered a One-Hit Wonder)...
- Andrzej Sapkowski is only known for his The Witcher series, despite writing more books and essays. This caused some Creator Backlash.
- Aldous Huxley wrote several novels, dramas and poems, but is famous for Brave New World.
- Margaret Mitchell. Gone with the Wind.
- Harper Lee with To Kill a Mockingbird. It was the only book she ever wrote, and to this day authors like Stephen King wonder why, since it was brilliant.
- As of 2015, the book received a sequel, taking away her One-Book Author status; although whether or not it is still a one-hit wonder remains to be seen.
- J.D. Salinger and The Catcher in the Rye was his only novel, although he wrote many short stories and novellas such as Franny and Zooey.
- Since his death, it's been speculated that he wrote a number of novels (somewhere in the lower double digits, depending on who you ask) that were never published. One can only hope they eventually see the light of day and remove his One Hit Wonder status.
- G.V. Desani and All About H. Hatter.
- Dow Mossman and The Stones of Summer.
- Menander wrote dozens of Ancient Greek comedies, but the only one that survives in its entirety is Dyskolos ("The Grouch").
- Matthew Lewis was actually a prolific novelist and dramatist with several titles to his name, but then as now he is mostly associated with The Monk, his first novel written at the age of nineteen. It even gave him the nickname "Monk" Lewis.
- 99.99% of people couldn't name a book by Bram Stoker other than Dracula even if their life depended on it.
- Emily Brontë with Wuthering Heights. Of course she died before she could have another. Same deal with her sister Charlotte, a.k.a. the woman who did Jane Eyre.
- Carlo Collodi was actually an Italian soldier, but all we remember about him today is the fact that he wrote Pinocchio.
- Chuck Palahniuk, in a textbook example of Tough Act to Follow, has struggled to escape the shadow of his debut novel, Fight Club. (And never mind the numerous fans who don't even realize it was a book first.) He's self-deprecatingly acknowledged this himself, and in 2015 went so far as to release a sequel to the book, nineteen years after the original's release.
- Stephenie Meyer is known for the Twilight series, and little else. She also wrote The Host, which was a bestseller on author-name recognition alone, but it didn't sell anywhere near as well Twilight, its film adaption was a flop, and the sequels have been stuck in Development Hell.
- A strange case: Gerald Mayo was very infamous, for many reasons, in the early 1970s. You should see the number of news articles printed about him at the time; it was huge. Nowadays, he is only known for something he was not famous for in the 1970s: suing Satan.
- Jim Gaffigan still feels obligated to do his "Hot Pockets" bit for fans despite it being one of his earliest bits.
- William Ernest Henley's literary reputation rests almost entirely on his single poem 'Invictus'.
- Jimmy Glass, the English football player responsible for keeping Carlisle United F.C. in the Football League by scoring a goal in the last seconds of the final match of the 1998-99 season against Plymouth Argyle F.C. Made all the more remarkable by the fact that he was Carlisle's goalkeeper, and thus would ordinarily have been at the opposite end of the pitch, and at the time he was on loan from Swindon Town F.C. Carlisle were unable to negotiate a long-term contract for Glass, and he returned to Swindon and retired at the end of the following season. His subsequent biography was titled One-Hit Wonder.
- For people who don't understand football, he was basically playing in one of the lowest professional divisions in England, had an unremarkable career as a player, and after having his contract expire, retired to become an office worker.
- Roger Maris, forever known as the man who hit 61* , isn't even in the Hall of Fame because other than his MVP years of 1960 and '61 (the year which he hit 61* ), he was an above-average but hardly spectacular baseball player.
- Washington Redskins rookie running back Timmy Smith was only in the starting lineup for Super Bowl XXII due to injuries to the Redskins' other running backs. Smith made the most of that opportunity, rushing for a Super Bowl record 204 yards with two touchdowns in the Skins' 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos. Smith's career lasted only 15 more games before he was out of the NFL in 1990.
- Similarly, David Tyree of the New York Giants. A bottom of the depth chart receiver who managed to catch a ball from Eli Manning by pinning it to helmet and never did anything else of note.
- Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood is a unique example, being known for one failure rather than an accomplishment. Norwood is famous for a missed 47-yard field goal at the end of Super Bowl XXV, and pretty much nothing else.
- Mike Jones of the St. Louis Rams is basically defined for a tackle he made of Titans receiver Kevin Dyson stopping him from scoring the game-tying touchdown at the one yard line.
- Dick Shiner was a career backup quarterback. During a stint with the Atlanta Falcons, he became the first quarterback to officially achieve a perfect passer rating, when he led the Falcons to a 62-7 victory over the New Orleans Saints. He also set the record for highest score in a football game that the Falcons have reached. This is the only thing he ever did of note - he was a career second stringer who had one brilliant game.
- Bucky Dent was a solid defensive shortstop and a decent situational hitter. However, all he will ever be known for, especially in Boston, is the home run he hit for the Yankees in 1978 that knocked the Red Sox out of playoff contention that year.
- To young non-Yankee/Red Sox fans he may best known for being in a Steinbrenner rant.
- Likewise, Carlton Fisk may be a Hall of Fame Red Sox player, but his entire career has been defined by his home run off the foul pole in the 1975 World Series.
- This seems to be the fate of any player who comes up big in a high-profile situation. Other players defined by World Series moments include Bill Wambsganss (a solid defensive second baseman best known for turning an unassisted triple play in the 1920 World Series—still the only triple play of any kind in World Series history), Don Larsen (a journeyman pitcher who pitched a perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series—was the only no-hitter of any kind in postseason history for 54 years), and Cookie Lavagetto (pinch-hit two-run walkoff double in Game 4 of the 1947 World Series, which also broke up what would have been the first no-hitter in World Series history, as the two baserunners he drove in reached via walks—the ninth and tenth allowed by starter Bill Bevens. Also, neither Bevens nor Lavagetto played in the major leagues after 1947.)
- Jack Morris's 10-inning shutout for the Twins in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series completely overshadowed the rest of his excellent career; this one game was so epic that hardly anyone remembers that Morris was also the ace of the following year's champion, the Toronto Blue Jays. Oh yeah, and he was also the ace of the Detroit Tigers earlier in his career.
- The ultimate baseball one-moment wonder might be Francisco Cabrera of the 1992 Atlanta Braves. The Braves were one out away from being eliminated in the NLCS when they sent Cabrera, the last position player left on the bench, up to bat. Cabrera could barely even be considered a part-time player; he only had ten at-bats during the regular season, and only one prior at-bat in the playoffs. He stroked a two-run single to put the Braves in the World Series, then immediately faded back to obscurity. He was out of the majors the following year.
- Armando Galarraga catapulted into the headlines after umpire Jim Joyce's blown call cost him a perfect game (retire 27 batters in order without allowing any of them to reach base) in July, 2010. Since then he's had nothing but hard luck - cut by 3 teams, kicked around the minors, and barely had the proverbial "cup of coffee" in the bigs since.
- Also Jason Donald is known for that one "hit"
- Luis Gonzalez had a respectable career as a member of the Diamondbacks, but ask if they know who he is and they'll probably say he's the guy whose walk-off single ended the 2001 World Series.
- Kirk Gibson was a two-time MVP and World Series Champion, but he is best known for hitting a pinch-hit walk-off homer off Dennis Eckersly in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The main reason he's known is because he had been vomiting all day and could barely walk and didn't appear again in the series.
- Jacques Villeneuve took the Formula One World Championship in only his second year in the sport in 1997, then proceeded never to win another race. He has found success in other forms of racing, though.
- Many cricket fans consider the late Sir Donald Bradman's Test cricket batting average of 99.94 (across 80 innings) to be the greatest statistical achievement in any sport, but in cricket statistics it's customary to consider Test averages only from players who have played more than 20 innings. Cricket's highest Test batting average technically belongs to a one-hit wonder, West Indian wicketkeeper Andy Ganteaume, who was called up for a single Test against England in 1948 and scored 112 runs in his one and only innings at the crease.
- Salvatore "Totò" Schillaci was the star of the 1990 World Cup, scoring six goals (the top scorer) and bringing Italy to third place — amazingly, he only ever scored one other goal for Italy, and apart from Italia 90 the rest of his career was unremarkable.
- The same could be said about Fabio Grosso, the man who almost single-handedly brought Italy to victory in the 2006 World Cup. He scored all the important goals, including the one in the semifinal and the decisive penalty kick in the final match, but never did anything else of note in his home country.
- Oleg Salenko, who played for the Russian national team in the 1994 World Cup. During the 1994 World Cup, he scored 5 goals in a game against Cameroon (the most goals anyone has scored in a single World Cup match) and 6 goals overall, the joint top scorer of the tournament (and the only time where a top scorer played for a team that was knocked out in the group stages). The 6 goals turned out to be the only goals of his national team career.
- Joe Johnson was a previously unremarkable and little-known snooker player who suddenly hit form in the 1986 World Championship, taking the title having never previously advanced beyond the first round. It was his only ranking event win; despite making the final again the following year, he slipped down the rankings quite swiftly thereafter.
- On February 11, 1990, 42-1 underdog James "Buster" Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson, who was an undefeated champion at the time. (For some perspective, this was the first time Tyson had even been knocked down.) He retired just a few months later, after losing the heavyweight title to Evander Holyfield.
- MMA Example. Matt Serra had a decent MMA career, even winning The Ultimate Fighter but he is only known for knocking out Georges St Pierre
- Drew Fickett has over 60 pro fights, but he's best known for choking out Josh Koschek
- In Australian Rules Football, the St Kilda Saints and Western Bulldogs have each won only one premiership (in 1966 and 1954, respectively). The same goes for Port Adelaide Power (2004), but they are generally not considered to be this since they only joined in 1997, and their SANFL incarnation is the most successful club in that league.
- Among players, the most famous one-hit wonder would be Ted Hopkins, who was brought on after half time for Carlton in the 1970 Grand Final, and proceeded to rip Collingwood to shreds as Carlton came back from a 44-point deficit to win. Afterward, Hopkins realised he could never do anything to top his achievements in that game, and retired.
- Several professional golfers who have risen from obscurity and win (or even just nearly win) a major championship have had difficulty sustaining that success in smaller-level tournaments afterward. Among the notable champions on this list are Steve Jones (1996 U.S. Open), Shaun Micheel (2003 PGA Championship) and Hilary Lunke (2003 U.S. Women's Open, her only top ten in an LPGA tournament).
- In tennis, players who win just one Grand Slam title in their careers are labeled (fairly or unfairly) as "one-Slam wonders". The biggest one of them is probably Gaston Gaudio, who won the 2004 French Open — recovering from a 2-set deficit, no less — but failed to reach the quarterfinals of any other Slam he entered.
- Roy Essandoh, a previously anonymous lower-league soccer player, is mostly known for scoring a winning goal for Wycombe Wanderers against Leicester City in 2001, after he answered a teletext ad by then-manager Lawrie Sanchez for a non-cup-tied striker. That goal propelled Wycombe to a FA Cup semifinal, after which Roy slipped back into obscurity.
- Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox threw a perfect game at the start of the 2012 then proceeded to suck for the rest of the season. He became the only player to throw a perfect game and be released (although claimed by another team) at the end of the next season. If he's mentioned for anything else, it'll be how he was traded for Johan Santana.
- Dallas Braden, pitcher for the Oakland A's is only known for two things: yelling at Alex Rodriguez during a game, and getting a perfect game two weeks later.
- Jonathan Cheechoo may have been a solid NHL player, but his 56 goal Richard Trophy winning season couldn't be matched, and he's bounced around from the NHL and minors
- Runningback Jonas Grey will probably never have another performance like he did in a game with the Patriots where he ran for 201 and 4 touchdowns. To put things into perspective, he didn't play the next game at all for breaking team rules.
- Running back Jerome Harrison is known for a single game in 2009 where he rushed for 286 yards, breaking the Cleveland Browns' single game rushing record, which was held by the legendary Jim Brown.
- Chris Johnson is best known for his 2009 with the Tennesee Titans where he rushed for 2000 yards.
- Interestingly there's a Chris Johnson in baseball who's also a one-hit wonder. The Atlanta Braves third baseman had a career year in 2013 which led to him winning a batting title before returning to his normal self the following season.
- Gene Roddenberry's only real "hit" was Star Trek: The Original Series. His other shows either were short-lived ("The Lieutenant", which lasted a single season) or never got past the pilot stage ("Genesis II"/"Planet Earth", "Questor Tapes", and "Assignment: Earth", which was both a Star Trek episode and a back-door pilot for a spin-off series). Some of Gene's ideas and story notes were eventually adapted by others with mixed results ("Earth: Final Conflict", and "Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda").
- Mitch Hurwitz was the creator of Arrested Development, which is perhaps considered one of the great comedies of the 2000s (even after its Love It or Hate It revival). His other projects? Two poorly received series (Sit Down, Shut Up and Running Wilde) and one slightly-better reviewed series (The Ellen Show) that didn't survive their first seasons.
- Marta Kauffmann, David Crane and Kevin S. Bright made television history with massively successful NBC sitcom Friends. Unfortunately, their other NBC sitcoms, Joey, Jesse and Veronica's Closet, weren't as successful, critically acclaimed or fondly remembered.
- Haim Saban's only television hit that is fondly remembered is Power Rangers. The company produced other adaptations of tokusatsu shows, but most fell into obscurity after some time. The company produced some anime dubs though, with Digimon and Samurai Pizza Cats being the most known (the latter only for a cult following).
- Alexey Pajitnov would have to be the biggest example. He is is known for creating Tetris, one of the most popular games of all time, and absolutely nothing else.
- He worked for Microsoft's games division for a while in the late 90s and early 2000s, creating critically acclaimed puzzle games like Pandora's Box and Hexic that met with commercial indifference, even when his semi-famous name was played up in advertising.
- He eventually gave in and tried to create a direct followup to Tetris, called Welltris, which is basically the same game but with the player now viewing the action from above. It was not well received.
- Despite a long, successful history as a pinball manufacturer, Gottlieb's only hit Video Game was 1982's Q*bert, despite many attempts at breaking into the market.
- Stern Electronics (Berzerk, 1980). Technically they did distribute a few other hits, but all of those were Konami games manufactured under license.
- Rock-Ola (Nibbler, 1981)
- Cavedog Entertainment (Total Annihilation, 1997)
- Mythos Games (X-COM: UFO Defense, 1994).
- Neurostone (Auto Destruct, 1998, published by Electronic Arts)
- JAM Productions (Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold, 1993).
- Team Bondi, who made all of one game (L.A. Noire) before being shut down.
- Nintendo subsidiary Project Sora only made one game: Kid Icarus: Uprising, which was quite popular and a Killer App for the Nintendo 3DS. Afterwards, they were absorbed back into their parent company, Sora Ltd.
- How many games has Dragon's Eye Productions released? Answer: Two. One was a short-lived game called Dragonspires. The other—its Spiritual Successor—is Furcadia.
- 38 Studios (created by baseball star Curt Schilling) only released one game, Kingdoms Of Amalur Reckoning, before going down in a blaze of loan default to the state of Rhode Island.
- Dark Energy Digital only managed to create two games before going bust: Hydrophobia and the Updated Re-release Hydrophobia Prophecy.
- Realtime Worlds' first game was Crackdown. Their second game was the infamous MMO flop All Points Bulletin, which quickly drove the studio to bankruptcy.
- Day 1 Studios scored a big hit with their debut game, Mechassault, which benefited hugely from being a launch game for Xbox Live back in 2002. All three of their subsequent games (Mechassault 2, Fracture, and F.E.A.R. 3) flopped badly at retail. Acknowledging this, Day 1 set to developed a F 2 P mech game titled Reigns of Thunder (whose teaser trailed advertised it as "Day 1 going back to its roots"), but the studio was then bought by Wargaming and refocused on porting Wargaming's games to other platforms.
- None of Croteam's games have even come close to the popularity of Serious Sam, not even Sam's sequels.
- Amstar Electronics (Phoenix, 1980)
- Apogee's team Developers of Incredible Power who created the original Rise of the Triad in 1994-1995. The team disbanded while working on their second game, Prey, which was eventually outsourced to another company.
- If Phil Fish is indeed retired from game development, as he claims, then Fez will certainly qualify him as a one-hit wonder.
- Planet Moon Studios (Giants: Citizen Kabuto, 2000)
- Swingin' Ape Studios (Metal Arms: Glitch in the System, 2003)
- Clockwork Tortoise (The Adventures Of Batman And Robin, Sega Genesis, 1995)
- Outside Directors Company (LSD: Dream Emulator, 1998)
- Splash Damage (Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, 2003)
- Although CCP Games has made several attempts to expand their brand beyond the wildly successful EVE Online (2003), so far, all have been failures.
- Brad McQuaid isn't known for much of anything other than the original Everquest.
- Minh Le and Jess Cliffe, the creators of the original Counter-Strike and, well, nothing else.
- Trilobyte Software (The 7th Guest, 1993)
- Suda 51 is known for his wacky games that while they have a cult following, their appeal is limited. Only one game he's made managed to sell a million copies, Lollipop Chainsaw, which took nearly two years to do so. The rest of his games are lucky if they break the 500,000 mark.
- Parker Brothers (yes, THAT Parker Brothers) made plenty different games, which were usually good, but the only game they made that was not an arcade/Computer port or a licensed game was Montezuma's Revenge.
- Hiroaki Yatoriyama created the Soul Series and nothing else.
- Vigil Games made only two games, the first of which, Darksiders, was a Sleeper Hit. Then they made Darksiders II, which was a commercial failure that resulted in the studio being left to die when THQ folded in early 2013.
- Toaplan was a very obscure Japanese game development company whose only footprint in pop culture was Zero Wing.
- Mojang has made a handful of video games, but none of them have come close to the monumental success of Minecraft.
- Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen had a surprise sleeper hit in 2014 with Flappy Bird and quickly faded into obscurity after its popularity died down.
- Rovio Entertainment's reputation rests almost entirely on a little franchise called Angry Birds.
- Most people would be hard-pressed to name a ZeptoLab game other than Cut The Rope.
- As voice actors go, Thurl Ravenscroft has done a fair number of roles (including the song "You're a mean one, mister Grinch"), but he will always and only be known for bellowing "They're gr-r-r-reat!" on cereal commercials.
- Stephanie Nadolny's big claim to fame is as Kid Goku and Gohan in the Dragon Ball franchise. She's had other anime roles though, including lead roles in shows like Gravion Zwei, Parasite Dolls, and one Lupin III feature, but she'll always be known for her work in Dragon Ball.
- Same with Tiffany Vollmer, who voiced Bulma, and has no other major voice roles. Her only other roles period include a two-episode bit character in Detective Conan and additional voices in YuYu Hakusho. She has since moved away, and Bulma is now voiced by Monica Rial.
- Jeremy Inman is also known mostly for only one role; in his case, it is Android 16, although he's voiced many other supporting roles in the series and in other shows.
- Same with Phil Parsons and Nappa. Despite having credits in some other shows, Nappa is all anyone knows him for.
- Kara Edwards was this for years, only being known for voicing Kid Goten and Videl, and pretty much retired from voice acting in anime. However a few years ago, she experienced a comeback of sorts, and is voicing leads in other anime as well.
- Elise Baughman's only major anime role is Pan in Dragon Ball GT, though she voiced smaller roles in other shows for FUNimation around the same time. Nowadays however, she only gets work voicing Pan in various Dragon Ball video games.
- Julie Franklin voiced Agent Mai in the original Dragon Ball, and her cameo in GT. That remains her only named role, her only other credits being background voices and bit parts in Dragon Ball and YuYu Hakusho. At that time, she was dating Christopher Sabat. In recent media however, Mai is instead voiced by Colleen Clinkenbeard.
- Monika Antonelli's only anime credits are Puar and Chiaotzu in the Dragon Ball franchise (and some odd bit parts in the series here and there). She quit voice acting in 2006, and both roles are now voiced by Brina Palencia.
- Maile Flanagan is known for voicing the title character of Naruto and little else (except maybe Lab Rats). Though she won a Daytime Emmy for voicing the title character in Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks, a preschool cartoon, and has some bit on-camera parts, Naruto is her only major anime role (her only other anime work period was additional voices on the 2003 Astro Boy).
- Tom Gibis voiced Shikamaru Nara and hasn't done anything else of note.
- Ranma One Half:
- Akane is Myriam Sirois' only major voice acting role, although she had roles in live action shows like Stargate SG-1. She retired from acting in 2008 to become a flight attendant.
- Boy-type Ranma's original voice actress Sarah Strange had only a couple other small voice roles (with Ranma being her only anime role), and left the series after the third season to focus on her fairly successful live-action television career. Afterwords, Ranma was voiced by Richard Ian Cox.
- Brigitta Dau's only anime role is girl-type Ranma in the first 6 episodes of the anime and first two OVA episodes. Though she also had a role on the 90s My Little Pony cartoon and some small on-camera roles, Ranma is all she's recognized for. She moved away after her stint on the show, and Venus Terzo (a well-established voice actress) took over her role.
- Nabiki Tendo is Angela Costain's only voice role, and one of her very few acting roles before she became a pilot. The same can be said for her sister, Elaina Wotten-Costain, who filled in during Season 6.
- Ryoko in the Tenchi Muyo! franchise is Petrea Burchard's only major animation role, with her only other role period being a bit part on Serial Experiments Lain. She also had some minor on-camera parts.
- Matt Miller, who voiced Tenchi, had some other anime roles, but Tenchi is his only lead and only claim to fame. He's mostly a stage actor.
- Ellen Gerstell's only anime role is the original voice of Mihoshi before Rebecca Forstadt took over following her retirement. She had some roles in western animation however, notably Rapture in Jem.
- In Revolutionary Girl Utena, Sharon Becker and Leah Applebaum, the voices of Anthy and Nanami respectively, have no other major voice roles. Leah's only other roles period are a few small roles in early Pokémon episodes.
- Speaking of Pokémon, Sarah Natochenny, the current voice of Ash, has no roles in any other anime titles. Most of her other work is in fashion modeling and some on-camera roles. Veronica Taylor (his original voice) however, is a very prominent anime and video game voice actress.
- Lee Quick's only acting role was the original voice of Officer Jenny. Ditto for her first replacement, Jamie Davyous Owens.
- Matthew Sussman had some other anime credits, but is mostly known for being the original Meowth.
- Emily Bauer is mostly known for being the voice of Dawn and not much else.
- Almost the entire cast of the original Sailor Moon dub from DiC and Cloverway, since anime is very rarely recorded in Toronto. Many of the voices have other roles in western animation and live-action though.
- Mimi Woods had a handful of anime and video game voice acting roles in the 90s, but her only major role was Major Motoko Kusanagi in the original Ghost in the Shell film and video game. She has since moved away from Los Angeles and retired from voice acting in 2001. Since then, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn has voiced the Major in most other Ghost in the Shell media.
- Another anime example is Adam Conlon, who was Kouta in Elfen Lied. He had a handful of other anime roles for ADV, but that was his only lead, and all he's been remembered for. He was replaced with Blake Shepard when the OVA was finally dubbed in 2013.
- Blossom in The Powerpuff Girls is Cathy Cavadini's only major animation role, though she's had supporting parts in other shows.
- Cheryl Chase is only known for voicing Angelica Pickles in Rugrats, though she's had some supporting roles in other cartoons and early anime dubs, nothing nearly as recognized.
- Rodger Bumpass has done voice acting for many shows, but to most people, he's just the guy who voices Squidward.
- The lead Simpsons voice actors:
- Dan Castellaneta (Homer) and Nancy Cartwright (Bart) both have other voice roles (and in Nancy's case, some live action credits too), but nothing remotely as famous as their Simpsons roles, except maybe Castellaneta voicing the Genie in the Aladdin TV series.
- Julie Kavner had some success as a television actress on Rhoda, but today is only known for being the voice of Marge.
- Yeardley Smith (Lisa) has this the worst. She has no other voice credits and no other claim to fame. She worked a bit as an on-camera actress back in the day, but she wasn't in anything popular (arguably except for The Legend of Billie Jean).
- Most of the Velma and Daphne voice actors from Scooby-Doo, especially Nicole Jaffe (Velma #1), Stefanianna Christopherson (Daphne #1), Heather North (Daphne #2), and Pat Stevens (Velma #2). Jaffe, North, and Stevens had some scattered live action credits, but not much of note. Completely averted with Grey DeLisle (Daphne #4) and BJ Ward (Velma #4).
- Louis Chirillo is pretty much only well-known for Dukey from Johnny Test.
- Thom Huge, who voiced Jon Arbuckle in the Garfield TV specials (except Here Comes Garfield) and Garfield and Friends, did a couple other voices on the latter show but has no other credits.
- Ryan Drummond's one and only claim to fame is as the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog from 1998 to 2004.
- Most people only know Charles Martinet as the voice of Mario (and Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, etc.)
- Amy Kincaid is known for two things: being the wife of veteran voice actor Liam O Brien and voicing Shirley Fenette in Code Geass.
- Zach Tyler Eisen voiced Aang in Avatar The Last Airbender. He had a few bit voice acting parts in some Nick Jr. shows and voiced the lead in the animated flop Ant Bully. Other than that, nothing.
- Jessie Flower, who voiced Toph, hasn't done much afterwards either.
- Ilene Woods. Her only role of note was as the title character in Cinderella.
- Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher are known as the respective voices of Edith and Agnes in the Despicable Me series and nothing else.
- Rob Wiethoff voiced John Marston in Red Dead Redemption before retiring from acting to focus on raising his family.
- Rapper Chris "Young Maylay" Bellard is a No Hit Wonder as a musician, but he did have one very memorable voice acting performance: Carl "CJ" Johnson in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
- Michael Hollick was the voice of Niko Bellic in Grand Theft Auto IV. His only other credits were a few cameo appearances in the Law & Order franchise and minor motion capture in lower-profile games.
- Ellen McLain will always be known as GLaDOS in the Portal franchise. She's done some bit voice acting in other Valve games and had a memorable cameo in Pacific Rim, but nothing major.
- Christopher Robin Miller's only known role to many fans is the title character in the Professor Layton series. Nothing he's done so far has come close.
- HDCYT uploaded an extremely viral video in 2007, titled Charlie bit my finger - again !. The video is about, as the titled would suggest, a baby named Charlie biting his slightly older brother in the finger. For reasons completely unknown, it amassed over 800,000,000 views. This makes it the most viewed non-music video of all time, and the 4th most viewed video of all time period. While Charlie bit my finger - The Accident wasn't a slouch either, getting over 45,000,000 views, it's obviously nowhere near as successful as the original. Since even breaking the 100 million mark is a feat normally reserved for music videos by popular artists, don't expect them (or anyone else for that matter) to achieve that kind of success again.
Anime & Manga
- Wish from Hime Chen Otogi Chikku Idol Lilpri only has one song he sings in-show, while the titular Power Trio gets four.
- Space Dandy and his band Dropkix are best remembered for "Lonely Nights" — played repetitively for two hours at one gig — and disbanding immediately after their big break. However, this performance unknowingly stopped an all-out war.
- The murder victim in The Silkworm was a writer whose first book was a great success with the critics, but nothing he wrote after came even close to match it, critically or commercially. He still expects everyone to treat him like a literary luminary though.
- Baby Jane Hudson's song "I've Written a Letter to Daddy" in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.
- The Wonders in That Thing You Do!, for whom the one hit is the title song. The irony of the band's name is pointed out by their own manager after the band fails to produce a second hit.
- The protagonist of About a Boy is a 36-year-old bachelor who lives off the royalties of a hit Christmas song composed by his father.
- The book of the same name from which the film was adapted goes to great lengths to show just how absurd a situation this put the protagonist and his father in: the protagonist gets angry and depressed every time he hears the song being sung by buskers, and his father, absolutely desperate to be taken seriously as a musician, once writes an entire musical in the course of one day.
- In the first Bridget Jones movie, Bridget's friend Tom is a former One-Hit Wonder pop singer from the '80s.
- The main character of Semi Pro is a former one-hit wonder who used the money from his song "Love Me Sexy" to buy an ABA team.
Live Action TV
- Drive Shaft, Charlie's band in Lost, who hit it big with "You All Everybody". In one deleted scene, Shannon remarks about having "their one song" stuck in one's head.
- The Zit Remedy/The Zits-Joey, Snake and Wheels' band on Degrassi Junior High/Degrassi High-was a one hit wonder not only in the fact that "Everybody Wants Something" was their only hit, but it was their only song - a fact that still gets them mercilessly teased even as adults.
- "Everybody Want Something" was a hit?
- On The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Ashley ends up being a one hit wonder. It becomes a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment because that was exactly what happened to the actress who played her, Tatyana Ali.
- Marcus Little of The Suite Life on Deck turns up at Seven Seas High, having faded into obscurity after his career as Lil' Little peaked with his sole hit "Retainer Baby".
- "Superstar Machine" by "Li'l Davey Cross" in Mr. Show. It charts at number one, becomes club music, gets parodied by Weird Al-lookalike and ends up as "on-hold" music on the phone.
- The 1999 comedy-drama Hunting Venus centred on a fictional New Romantic band from the early 1980's, The Venus Hunters, who are getting together for a reunion gig despite the fact they only ever had one hit. Lead singer Martin Clunes finds a problem... they've forgotten the words and how to play the music. Nobody can find a copy of the single. And their charismatic guitarist Neil Morrisey has had a sex-change operation...
- Chris Gaines, Breakup Breakout member of an '80s one-hit wonder band. Played by Real Life artist wonder Garth Brooks.
- Ironically, his only pop hit was in thus persona.
- The song "King of Rock 'n' Roll" by bookish new wave act Prefab Sprout was about a 50's rocker who is forced to sing his one stupid novelty hit over and over to crowds who only want to hear that one song. In a sad bit of irony, "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" became Prefab Sprout's biggest hit in the UK (they had six other Top 40 singles, but none of them troubled the Top 20), because people only cared about the goofy chorus and nothing more.
- In Dead Island, one of the player characters is Sam B, a rapper famous for his one hit, "Who Do You Voodoo, Bitch?". This makes him extremely bitter since not only did he write that song as a joke after a long time of rapping with little success, but this is the only one of his songs anyone wants to hear.
- Phineas and the Ferbtones in Phineas and Ferb, for "Gitchee Gitchee Goo". Intentionally, because who would want to do that every day?
"Follow-up single?! Who do you think we are, some two-bit hacks who will keep writing you songs simply because you pay us obscene amounts of cash?! Phineas and the Ferb-Tones are strictly a one-hit wonder. Good day to you, sir!"
- Also, their mother Linda apparently was a one-hit wonder in the 80's with "I'm Lindana and I Wanna Have Fun." Her explanation of this trope was used by the boys as a how-to checklist.
- In My Life as a Teenage Robot, Brad sings a "one hit wonder" song called "Minky Momo".
- Foxxy Love of Drawn Together was formerly a one hit wonder with her band The Foxxy 5, with the song "La La Labia".
Media about One-hit wonders:
- Todd in the Shadows has a side series called "One Hit Wonderland", where he gives retrospectives on artists known for only one hit: their careers before and after the hit, the context of their hit, and whether or not they deserved better in his opinion.
- Everclear isn't one, but they did have a song called 'One Hit Wonder' about such an artist.
- In the video for Short Skirt/Long Jacket, by group CAKE, the last person to be interviewed in the video describes the group as a One-Hit Wonder (which it's not).