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Career Resurrection

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From celebrated actor to convicted felon, and then right back to the top.

"You know sometimes failure brings success, and I got the proof:
I heard about a man... who got kicked out of the 5th floor window and landed way up on the roof."

This is what happens when a major star fights off the ill effects of the Hollywood Hype Machine. So they debuted hot and fizzled out. Maybe they were a victim of their own hype. Maybe they made some unfortunate role selections or production choices. Maybe they were injured or ill, or had some demons they couldn't conquer. Maybe she was a White-Dwarf Starlet or a Former Child Star whose career fizzled out. Perhaps they made an ill-fated switch to another medium, or genre and didn't pan out. Or the big star did something dumb and they faded out amongst the uproar.

The bottom line is, their next big thing didn't work. Their career has bottomed out. At best, they take bit roles and second billing to pay the bills. At worst, they can look forward to a long career as a tabloid punchline.

And then, suddenly...they're back! They landed a hot role, signed on to a Sleeper Hit, or broke back into the industry as an Ensemble Dark Horse or what have you. If they were on drugs or had behavior issues, they've cleaned up. If they were always typecast, they show a surprising range. If they were labeled as played out, they manage to innovate their style that refreshes their work and possibly their medium. They've resurrected their careers. And if they're really lucky, they're bigger than they have ever been!


See also Win Back the Crowd and Popularity Polynomial. Contrast Star-Derailing Role and Creator Killer.

Examples with their own pages:


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Jessica Calvello in Girls und Panzer and Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess. Calvello was originally best known as Excel Excel in Excel Saga, but doing the character's voice put a ton of strain on her vocal cords (this was exacerbated by ADV ignoring her medical professional's suggestions to give her plenty of rest). She quietly moved to New York, but only could have minor roles over there, so she moved back to Texas, returning to major anime roles starting with Girls und Panzer and Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess, then landing high-profile roles like Kanako Miyame in Maria†Holic and Hange Zoe in Attack on Titan.
  • Daisuke Hirakawa in Diabolik Lovers, Free!, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders and Karneval. Hirakawa is also known as the Japanese dub-over voice of both Legolas and Will Turner, but he has received some heat from fans for voicing Makoto Itou. But thanks to his roles as Akari, Laito Sakamaki, Noriaki Kakyoin and Rei Ryugazaki, he became more popular with fans across the globe.
  • Yuki Suetsugu: In 2005, the shoujo/josei author was caught plagiarizing panels from other works, like Takehiko Inoue's Slam Dunk. As a result, the "offending" story Eden no Hana was pulled out of Bessatsu Comic and Suetsugu had to put her whole career on hold. Now, however? Suetsugu is back, due to the success of her story Chihayafuru.
  • Sandy Fox in Sailor Moon (Viz Media re-dub). Originally, she was best known for playing Flonne in the Disgaea franchise, as well as having a few roles in anime before the industry burst in the mid-2000s. Between then and 2015, she mostly worked on video game voiceovers (and mostly humanitarian work) and not so many anime roles. Since her casting as Chibi-Usa, starting in the second season of Sailor Moon, she has become more active again, even landing another anime role in 2015 in Aldnoah.Zero playing Eddelrittuo.
  • Lex Lang in Durarara!! and ADR Director of Yuki Yuna is a Hero: Lang's first big voice-acting role was as Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star. Around the time of the anime industry crash around the mid-2000s, his presence in anime dubs diminished with most of his voice work limited to video games, western animation, and minor roles in Bleach and Naruto (and much like his wife Sandy Fox, has done a lot of humanitarian work in addition to his music career). Around 2015, he returned to the anime voice acting scene as Egor in Durarara!! as well as making his presence as an ADR Director for Aldnoah.Zero and Yuki Yuna is a Hero.
  • CLAMP in Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card: This shojo manga team saw its popularity slowly falter due to the controversial endings of Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- and Xxxholic, sinking even further with the negative reception of 2011's Blood-C. They still continue to write new material, but none of it seems to have made as big of an impact as any of their older stuff. They even put Drug & Drop and Gate7 on hiatus to continue Tsubasa and xxxHolic, but Tsubasa World Chronicle only had two volumes released before it ended in 2016 and xxxHolic: Rei was a Tough Act to Follow due to slow pacing and sporadic release of chapters. That same year, CLAMP decided to continue Cardcaptor Sakura with a brand new Clear Card story arc, with the original staff and cast of CCS' Animated Adaptation returning to produce the anime in 2018. This has also led to CLAMP working on the manga adaptation of the J-drama HIGH&LOW, as well as the character designs for the spring 2017 anime Kabukibu! and Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection.
  • Sakura Tange hit it big in the anime industry with her role as the main heroine of the aforementioned Cardcaptor Sakura, catapulting her to voice-acting stardom (she was also the very first voice for Dead or Alive's Kasumi). In 2000, she left voice acting behind to concentrate on a music career, and when she came back in 2009, she was limited to minor roles due to being out of the industry for a long time. Eventually, she would receive the role of Fate EXTRA's Saber (Nero), bringing her to prominence once again thanks to the Fate franchise's growth in popularity with the release of Fate/Grand Order as well as the expansion of EXTRA's contents, in addition to a role in another growing franchise (Cagliostro from Granblue Fantasy).
  • Veronica Taylor was famous in the early 1990s/2000s for being the iconic English voice of Ash Ketchum, along with many other characters in Pokemon and other shows dubbed by 4Kids Entertainment. But when Pokemon Company International licensed the show, she and the rest of the cast were replaced, and the fall of the voice acting industry in New York, especially for anime, left her without work. But she moved to LA a few years ago and has started to come back to voice acting, with her first major LA-based anime role being Sailor Pluto. Since then, she's started climbing back into prominence, and her most recent role is Manuela.
  • Mexican voice actor Ricardo Bautista in Diabolik Lovers: Around the mid-Turn of the Millennium, Bautista had a budding career coming from his Tenor Boy voice, which helped him get roles like Hanataro Yamada from Bleach and Komatsu from Toriko. All of this was at serious risk when he had the bad luck of playing Keitaro Urashima in Love Hina, in a dub that was so poorly received it ended up killing the love for the franchise as a whole. A few years later, however, Bautista got the role of Ayato Sakamaki in the Mexican Spanish dub of Diabolik Lovers and the series actually hit it big in Mexico, making him quite more popular and giving him the chance to improve his talent, including Michelangelo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) and Ty Rux in Dinotrux.

    Comic Books 
  • Dana Simpson had a following in the early 2000s with her webcomic Ozy and Millie, but suffered backlash due to the Author Tract nature of her later works, most notoriously Raine Dog. Things got better, however, when her latest comic, Phoebe and Her Unicorn (originally titled Heavenly Nostrils), debuted in 2012, which gained a strong following among comics readers. Since then, it gained newspaper syndication and book collections are being published by a major publisher.

    Films — Animation 
  • Ellen DeGeneres career suffered when she came out of the closet in 1998 and her character followed suit on Ellen. This cost the show sponsors and viewers, leading to its cancellation. She attempted a comeback with The Ellen Show, but the show failed to attract enough viewers and was cancelled before its only season finished broadcasting. Then came Finding Nemo, where her performance as Dory brought her back into the spotlight in probably the biggest way this has ever happened with a voice acting role. Riding the hype and acclaim of the role, Ellen received a talk show and a couple of stints hosting the Oscars, and she's now considered one of America's most beloved celebrities. Thirteen years later, the main draw of Finding Dory was considered to be that DeGeneres was the star.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 2015, the Razzies (the anti-Oscars) introduced a new award called the "Razzie Redeemer Award", where a past nominee or winner had transitioned into a far more critically successful movie. Ben Affleck and Razzie king Sylvester Stallone, who are both listed below, were the first two "winners". Mel Gibson won in 2017 for directing Hacksaw Ridge.
  • Ben Affleck and Gone Baby Gone. After Gigli and his messy break-up with Jennifer Lopez, his career had hit rock bottom. Then in 2007, he made his directorial debut with the critical and commercial success Gone Baby Gone. He followed it up with The Town in 2010, which also received critical and commercial success. He won his second Oscar as a producer in 2013 when his third movie Argo won Best Picture. Unfortunately, 2016 was not a good year for him. Along with the highly divisive critical reception to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (though he has received praised for his performance as Batman), and while his next film, The Accountant was a modest hit, his latest directorial venture, Live by Night, was met with mixed-to-negative reviews and became one of the biggest box office bombs of 2016. Not to mention his crumbling personal life, with his highly public divorce from Jennifer Garner, his brother, Casey Affleck, being accused of sexual assault, and Affleck struggling with alcoholism, it remains to be seen how all this will affect his career.
  • Don Ameche in Trading Places. Ameche was one of 20th Century Fox's biggest romantic stars and light comedians in the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s, starring in numerous successful films such as The Story of Alexander Graham Bell and Heaven Can Wait. After 1949, however, his film career flatlined. He appeared in only five films over the course of the next three decades. His television appearances were more frequent, and he also starred in a few Broadway musicals, but his main income came from dinner theatre. In 1983, the 75-year-old Ameche was cast in the major role as Mortimer Duke in the hit comedy Trading Places, his first film in 13 years. The film brought him back into the Hollywood mainstream after 34 years in the wilderness. He won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his next film Cocoon and worked steadily for the rest of his life.
  • Julie Andrews with The Princess Diaries. She had been an icon in the '60s and '80s for mega-hits like Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Frustrated at such typecasting, she sought to break away from it, notably in the 1970 flop Darling Lili. Although she succeeded eventually with Victor/Victoria, a botched throat surgery left her iconic voice damaged. It wasn't until this 2001 comedy that she really returned to the public eye, also returning to her Disney roots. She now enjoyed a different Cool Old Lady image, somewhat Adam Westing her previous sweetly persona. She's also enjoyed lots of success as a Celebrity Voice Actor in the Shrek and Despicable Me franchises; she even voiced a sea monster in 2018's Aquaman.
  • Drew Barrymore in Scream. After starting off as a child actress in the blockbuster E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial as well as Firestarter and Irreconcilable Differences during the 1980s, Barrymore's pre-adolescent drug and alcohol problems and her Stage Mom overshadowed her career. While she cleaned up by the early 1990s, by that time her career had been reduced to low-budget, independent movies (which most of the time, seemed to typecast her as a promiscuous, rebellious, and/or out-of-control youth) like Doppelganger, Poison Ivy, and the remake of Gun Crazy, and small roles in major movies like Batman Forever. Her small but memorable role in 1996's Scream brought her more and more A-list friendly roles (beginning with The Wedding Singer), most often of the Romantic Comedy variety.
  • Kate Beckinsale became a star in the early 2000s with Pearl Harbor, and with hits such as Van Helsing, Click, the Underworld (2003) franchise and The Aviator. She took a step back and focused on smaller independent dramas, but the failure of Whiteout became a Star-Derailing Role which was only cemented by the bombing of Total Recall (2012). However she came back to prominence with 2016's Love And Friendship, an adaptation of Jane Austen's Lady Susan - critics calling it her finest work in years. However, her resurrection was instantly negated with the critically despised flop, The Disappointments Room, and the latest Underworld film, which got scathing reviews and became the lowest grossing film in the franchise, setting her career back once again.
  • A film scoring example is Elmer Bernstein. Once a notable name for action films and dramas in the 1950s and 1960s, Bernstein had found himself reduced to scoring mostly TV shows by the 1970s (although even in the 1950s and 1960s he was happy to work in television, a medium he never considered himself above). Then John Landis, who was Bernstein's neighbor as a child, needed someone to score Animal House after the first score was rejected. He suggested Bernstein and the film's success resurrected Bernstein's career, later going on to score many successful comedies as well as thrillers and dramas (he was not only a regular composer for Landis, but for Ivan Reitman and Martin Scorsese as well) until his retirement in 2002 and eventual passing in 2004.
  • Shane Black with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He started out hot with Lethal Weapon, and his style of Witty Banter was quickly imitated by Hollywood action movies in the late '80s/early '90s, but the failure of The Long Kiss Goodnight brought his success to a screeching halt. Spending nearly a decade in retirement, Black came back swinging with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which also served as his directorial debut and the beginning of its lead actor's own Career Resurrection.
  • Emily Blunt in Into the Woods. After her breakout role in The Devil Wears Prada Hollywood saw her has the next best thing. Unfortunately, after making a bunch of error in film choices, the 2010 comedy flop, Gullivers Travels, being the biggest, it seemed her career was always going to be limited to small indies or supporting roles. Her critically acclaimed performance in the film adaptation of Into the Woods catapulted her back to the A-list - and she enjoyed a much higher profile afterwards, eventually being picked as the new Mary Poppins for Mary Poppins Returns, the sequel to the classic film.
  • Marlon Brando in The Godfather. Brando was a major star in the '50s with classic hits such as A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront. By the 196os, however, Brando's failed movies outweighed his successes, partly due to his temper on set, and most movie studios considered him a risk. Flash forward to 1972, when Francis Ford Coppola was adapting a novel onto the big screen, and he wanted the 47-year-old Brando to play the patriarch of a Mafia family. Paramount finally gave in after Coppola gave Brando a screen test, and The Godfather became an instant classic. Brando won an Oscar for his performance as Don Vito Corleone, and high-profile roles in Last Tango in Paris, Apocalypse Now and Superman: The Movie soon followed.
  • Josh Brolin in No Country for Old Men. After being considered a rising star in the 1980s following the success of The Goonies, a number of barely released films and short-lived television series derailed him. After spending several years in obscurity in films like Mimic and Hollow Man, he turned it around in 2007 by playing a few villain roles in the critically acclaimed Grindhouse and American Gangster (getting an Oscar nomination for Milk certainly boosted his career as well) and then playing the main character in No Country for Old Men. The role got him a lot of acclaim and, despite an Award Snub and an unfortunate turn in Jonah Hex, he hasn't looked back, with important roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Deadpool 2.
  • The Coen Brothers went through this twice.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis found her career slowing down in the 2000s and announced that she was going into retirement after Christmas with the Kranks flopped. She returned properly to the public eye with a starring role in Scream Queens (2015) - which got her a Golden Globe nomination. She also returned to the franchise that made her famous with Halloween (2018) - which became the biggest commercial success of the franchise and some critics called it her best work in years.
  • Bette Davis pulled this off twice. After transitioning from Broadway to the silver screen, she became one of Hollywood's most respected leading ladies of the 1930s and 40s. But after she had a failed lawsuit against her studio, she found herself doing smaller and smaller films. Then came her famous performance as Margo Channing in All About Eve and the following Oscar nomination. After the buzz from that had died down, she went radically against type as a psychotic White-Dwarf Starlet in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? - and that ensured that she was still working steadily until her death.
  • Johnny Depp arguably underwent this twice, first in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. He started off as Freddy's first victim and later gained notice on 21 Jump Street before breaking through in Edward Scissorhands. After that, his resume is a bit spotty, mixing dubious films (like Don Juan De Marco and Nick of Time) and some hidden gems (Donnie Brasco, Ed Wood and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) along with a lone blockbuster (Sleepy Hollow... like Edward, with Tim Burton). Then he turns up in Pirates, earns an Oscar nomination, signs on for the sequels and renews his partnership with Tim Burton to fantastic results in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Alice in Wonderland (2010). However, although it was a huge hit at the box office, Alice in Wonderland was heavily criticized with many arguing that Depp had become typecast as an eccentric loner. Depp's next films, Transcendence, The Rum Diary, The Tourist and Mortdecai were outright bombs, and culminated in the massive flop The Lone Ranger. Depp's performance in Black Mass was widely hailed as a return to form and seemed to have restored his critical respectability, but his next film after that, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland known as Alice Through the Looking Glass, irreparably nuked that respectability by being another colossal flop, not helped by his simultaneous domestic violence scandal.
  • Laura Dern was a critical darling in the early 90s, appearing in such acclaimed films as Blue Velvet, Mask, Wild at Heart and Rambling Rose - as well as her prominent role in Jurassic Park. She faced some backlash in her career when she starred in Ellen's infamous "The Puppy Episode" and claims that she didn't work for a full year afterwards because of her role. She kept a low profile in the 2000s but started coming back to prominence in The New '10s. It started with an appearance in the Oscar-nominated The Master and helped by the Sleeper Hit The Fault in Our Stars (which also provided a Career Resurrection for Natt Wolf, see below). She was nominated for an Oscar for Wild and was catapulted to the star-studded miniseries Big Little Lies and got a prominent role in The Last Jedi. In 2019, she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Marriage Story.
  • Vin Diesel in Fast & Furious. Diesel had started the Turn of the Millennium as an Action Hero with films like The Fast and the Furious (2001), XXX, and Pitch Black before destroying his credibility with action duds like The Chronicles of Riddick and Babylon A.D. and the critically ravaged family film The Pacifier. An attempt to establish dramatic credibility in Find Me Guilty won critical plaudits but no attention from moviegoers. Diesel reestablished his career by returning to the series that made him famous, as well as returning to Riddick. Furthermore, his status as One of Us has also produced two highly acclaimed Riddick games, Escape from Butcher Bay and Assault on Dark Athena. He also gained near universal adoration for playing Groot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man. He played a few second-string roles before receiving high critical praise in the biopic Chaplin as Charlie Chaplin, and the sky was the limit. Then his well-documented substance abuse problems pulled him into obscurity for about 15 years. He landed a recurring role on Ally McBeal and would occasionally surface in a big-budget A-list film like U.S. Marshals with Tommy Lee Jones or Gothika with Halle Berry, but never as the first-billed star. He would invariably be seen on the cover of some tabloid and being carted back to rehab shortly thereafter. First he rehearsed a comeback with critically acclaimed roles in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and A Scanner Darkly. Then Iron Man hit, his next film (Tropic Thunder) netted him an Oscar nomination, Sherlock Holmes (2009) won him a Golden Globe, and Iron Man 2 was a box-office smash. He also got top billing in the All-Star Cast of The Avengers, once again reprising what's now his signature role, Tony Stark/Iron Man, a character he has gone on to portray throughout the rest of his appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As of late, he's one of the most paid male actors of all time, alongside Tom Cruise and Samuel L. Jackson (whom he has worked with in multiple MCU films.)
  • Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia. Dunst was an acclaimed child actress who managed to successfully negotiate her transition to adult roles, averting the Former Child Star trope in style with roles in The Virgin Suicides, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and the Spider-Man Trilogy films, among others. She was considered one of Hollywood's most promising young actresses before depression and rumored substance abuse led her to check herself into rehab at the age of 25, and the rest of Hollywood to write her off as yet another party girl burnout. Three years later, she won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 for her turn as a depressed young bride-to-be in Melancholia. It's a pretty spectacular way to make a career comeback, as these things go. Even director Lars von Trier's inappropriate Nazi joke at Cannes wasn't enough to kill Dunst's momentum.
  • James Fox was a prominent star of the British New Wave in the '60s with prominent roles in movies like The Servant, King Rat and Performance. However, Fox became heavily involved in drug culture, which (along with his father's death) precipitated a physical and mental breakdown. Fox left cinema for 14 years, became a born-again Christian and disavowed his earlier career. In 1984, Fox starred in David Lean's A Passage to India and experienced a major comeback, both as a leading man and popular character actor, appearing in films as diverse as The Remains of the Day, Patriot Games, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sherlock Holmes (2009).
  • Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby. Gaining momentum in the late 1980s to early-mid 1990s, mostly for his role as a pimp in 1987's Street Smart, he grew to become a household name for African-American cinema and was known for his award-winning performances in Glory, Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption, and Se7en, until he was derailed with the flops of Moll Flanders and Chain Reaction, and he would only play roles as narrators and other supporting roles, until a shed of light appeared, when he was praised for his performance as God in Bruce Almighty. When he won an Academy Award for his role as a former boxer in Million Dollar Baby, he once again returned to A-list status, and it seems he still is not looking back.
  • Hugh Grant: A two-folded self-inflected example - after graduatly loosing his boyhood looks and starhood status in the mid-naughties, he retired from acting to pursue larger parts behind the camera as a producer and outspoken political activist. This worked well for him until Florence Foster Jenkins was offered to him, in part because the opportunity to work opposite Meryl Streep was just too good to pass up. The film was a flop, but the acting bug bit him hard and he would soon appear as Big Bad in Paddington 2, a delightfully Meta Casted Large Ham part that leapfrogged him into future One-Scene Wonder bit-parts.
  • Jackie Earle Haley in Little Children and Watchmen. Known for his early role in The Bad News Bears, Haley's movie career was sidelined by a reputation as a Former Child Star. He all but retired from acting in 1993 and was forced to take menial work over the years (including a stint as a limo driver) until he started directing TV commercials in Texas. He was remembered by fellow actor Sean Penn (they had co-starred in a play in the early 1980s), who landed him a role in the remake of All the King's Men. It was followed by Little Children, which was critically-acclaimed and gave Haley an Oscar nomination. And then Haley virtually became a fan icon overnight after landing the role of Rorschach in 2009's Watchmen, and he has since become the go-to actor for portraying disturbing anti-heroes and villains. He has since reinvented Freddy Krueger in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) (and was hailed as a worthy successor to Robert Englund even by those who hated the rest of the film). After Elm Street opened to negative reviews, Haley's time as a leading man quickly died, and he has gone back to supporting roles just like the beginning of his comeback, popping up in a handful of high-profile movies (Dark Shadows, Lincoln, Robocop 2014) and playing a corrupt sleazebag villain with a tragic backstory in the TV adaptation of Preacher.
  • Tom Hardy in Bronson and Inception. After Star Trek: Nemesis crashed and burned at the box office, Hardy fell into a deep depression, which resulted in him losing his girlfriend and turning to alcohol. He ended up beating his depression, and subsequently decided to pull an extreme form of reinvention when he bulked up to play an unrepentant, physically-imposing gangster in Bronson, which won him critical and commercial acclaim. Two years later, he would cement his return by playing the suave con artist Eames in Christopher Nolan's Inception. Hardy is also seen as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, the title character in Venom, and the protagonist of Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015. His Oscar nomination for The Revenant later in 2015 has certainly boosted his stature as well.
  • Woody Harrelson in Zombieland and The Hunger Games. Though pretty much always a sidekick or character actor, Harrelson had a solid run on Cheers for nearly a decade, and turned in a steady string of solid performances in fairly successful films (L.A. Story, Doc Hollywood, White Men Can't Jump, Indecent Proposal, Natural Born Killers) and even earned several award nominations for his turn as "Hustler" magnate Larry Flynt in The People vs. Larry Flynt. After that, he sort of vanished, turning up playing bit parts in major movies, or as a guest star on television series (including a memorable stint on Will & Grace.) However after his memorable turn in Zombieland as gun-toting, redneck, Twinkie-seeking Tallahassee, Harrelson was quickly cast as Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games and found himself back on the A-List, oftentimes in a first- or second-billed role. Since Zombieland and The Hunger Games, Harrelson starred alongside Matthew McConaughey in the runaway HBO hit series True Detective, for which he received an Emmy nomination.
  • Katharine Hepburn: After winning an Oscar for 1933's Morning Glory, Kate seemed to be on the right track; her track record proved to be subsequently shoddy, aside from another Oscar nomination for Alice Adams (1935). By the late 1930s, Hepburn was labeled "box office poison", and subsequently bought out her studio contract. She turned to Broadway and starred in a successful play called The Philadelphia Story, and bought the film rights to the play so she could star in the film. A great risk that paid off, as The Philadelphia Story resurrected Hepburn's career overnight, and a Hollywood legend is born.
  • Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now: Although it seems impossible looking back at his career over the past twenty years, there was a time when Hopper was anathema to studios and audiences. After a meteoric rise to the top in the 1950s with appearances in Rebel Without a Cause and Giant as well later appearing alongside John Wayne in The Sons of Katie Elder and True Grit, and after his directorial debut Easy Rider in 1969, Hopper was on top of the world. However, he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and had a dissolving marriage to boot. In 1971, Hopper released his second film as a director, The Last Movie, which was a complete flop with audiences and critics. Hopper would disappear into obscurity for years afterwards by hiding out in New Mexico and appearing in a number of low budget films in the 1970s, often as a "tormented maniac", an archetype that landed him a role in 1979's Apocalypse Now. After a failed "suicide" attempt in the early 1980s (it ended up being a stunt), though, he went into rehab and subsequently started a run of critically-acclaimed performances, culminating in his career-defining role as Frank Booth in David Lynch's Blue Velvet.
  • Katharine Isabelle in American Mary. Ginger Snaps made her a "scream queen" virtually overnight, but her career never really took off outside of indie films in her native Canada and bit parts on TV shows. American Mary, however, reignited her career, and she followed it up by playing Margot Verger on Hannibal and Susanna Waite on Being Human (US).
  • Michael B. Jordan in Creed. Michael B. Jordan was already doing quite well for himself until he hit the brick wall that was Fant4stic. Unlike his castmates, Jordan suddenly hit his revival so soon after with Creed, where he played the illegitimate son of the late Apollo Creed and training to follow in his footsteps by his father's former rival Rocky Balboa. This resurgence allowed him to take up the role of the villainous Erik Killmonger in Black Panther (2018), which redeemed him for his earlier comic failure.
  • Michael Keaton in Birdman. Known for his comedic roles in the 1980s, Keaton first hit it big playing the titular role in Tim Burton's Batman (1989). However, once he left after the sequel, his career started a downward swing that was finally destroyed by Jack Frost (1998). The 2000s saw Keaton pursuing a number of secondary roles in lesser films, though he still managed to do some good voice work for Pixar in Cars and Toy Story 3. Birdman, in which Keaton plays a washed-up actor known for a superhero role twenty years ago, earned him a Golden Globe win and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and set him on the path to become a leading man once again. His next two films, Spotlight and The Founder, opened to excellent reviews, and Keaton's performance as the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming was acclaimed by fans and critics as one of the best villain performances in, not only the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but superhero movies in general.
  • Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs. Keitel was an up and comer in the 1970s, with his performance in Taxi Driver in particular gaining him favorable attention. He was then cast to play the role of Capt. Benjamin Willard in Apocalypse Now — and was sacked after only a week of filming, to be replaced by Martin Sheen. Although he kept quite busy for the next 15 years, appearing in small roles in many different films, it was not until Quentin Tarantino cast him as Mr. White in Reservoir Dogs that Keitel attracted much attention. Since then, he still acts just as much, but he's far more likely to be playing a leading role (or, as in Pulp Fiction, getting a scene-stealing cameo).
  • Deborah Kerr became a star in her native UK with notable parts in Major Barbara, Love on the Dole and Black Narcissus - the latter of which got the attention of Hollywood. Although she got her first Oscar nomination with Edward, My Son, she soon found herself typecast as an English Rose in Costume Dramas - in what she mockingly called "poker up the arse parts". The low point for her was Young Bess, where she lost out on the lead role and got stuck with the insignificant role of Catherine Parr - which led to her nearly leaving Hollywood altogether. But her next big project was a war drama called From Here to Eternity - which saw her going against type as a depressed adulteress. It broke her out of typecasting, got her another Oscar nomination and secured her status in Hollywood until she retired in the late 60s.
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful 8. Once a big name in The '90s, Leigh had fallen into obscurity since, only taking supporting parts in very low-budgeted independent films. However, since playing Daisy in The Hateful Eight (a part written for Jennifer Lawrence, who turned it down due to scheduling commitments), Leigh has received an Oscar nomination for the part and started becoming involved with high-profile projects once again, including the movies Morgan (which bombed at the box office), LBJ and Annihilation, as well as the series revival of Twin Peaks.
  • Richard Linklater had several. He first made a name for himself with Dazed and Confused and Before Sunrise before spending the years of 1997-2003 making low-key indie projects that got minimal attention, the lone exception being Waking Life and a failed studio project. (The Newton Boys) All that changed when he made School of Rock, His only movie that was a box office smash that helped establish Jack Black as a major star in the process. But a So Okay, It's Average remake of The Bad News Bears and an adaptation of Fast Food Nation for which he was criticized for changing the tone of the novel to an anti-meat Author Tract grounded his career to a halt. Critics and fans began to feel that he had lost his touch. With Me and Orson Welles being under-distributed, many critics, including this very wiki thought his career was good and done for. That is until he reunited with Jack Black for Bernie, made the final part in the Before series, Before Midnight and received an Oscar nomination in the process and with his 12-year project, Boyhood coming out to overwhelming acclaim with many calling it a modern classic, it seems he's back in good graces.
  • Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club. He was a hot young talent in The '90s, starring in such acclaimed films as Dazed and Confused, A Time to Kill, Amistad, and Lone Star. However, he became a walking punchline over the course of the 2000s, with critics savaging his perpetual shirtlessness and his poor choice of film roles and lamenting his squandered potential as a serious actor. Then in 2011, he earned big critical acclaim for his role in The Lincoln Lawyer and Killer Joe, and went on to astonish critics everywhere over the next few years with his turns in Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street, Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, the TV series True Detective, and Dallas Buyers Club, which won him an Oscar in 2014. Even the failure of The Paperboy couldn't slow him down. His seeming overnight turnaround from rom-com pretty boy to one of the brightest stars in Hollywood, and his comeback has been dubbed "The McConaissance". Unfortunately, McConaughey has been on a downslide since 2016, with only a few bright spots: Kubo and the Two Strings (which opened to critical acclaim, but flopped) and Sing, which got decent reviews and did well at the box office, becoming his biggest hit domestically.
  • Eddie Murphy went through this twice. Murphy was one of the biggest comedy stars of the 1980s, but as time went on, films like The Golden Child and Beverly Hills Cop II tainted his reputation with critics. In the early 1990s, they disappointed financially too (the vanity project Harlem Nights, Vampire in Brooklyn, etc.). He might have gone down as something of a relic of the '80s if not for his multiple-role performance in The Nutty Professor, which was a huge hit. Since then, the quality and financial success of his work has been wildly hit and miss, ranging from Bowfinger to The Adventures of Pluto Nash. He has a Rated G for Gangsta reputation now (due to doing many family films, most famously the Shrek franchise), but he was still an A-lister for much of the 2000s, even receiving an Oscar nomination for Dreamgirls. Unfortunately, in the late 2000s/early 2010s another string of financial and/or critical flops (Meet Dave, Norbit, A Thousand Words), combined with the end of the Shrek franchise, put him back on the scrap heap, outnumbering hits like Tower Heist. But then Murphy hit Netflix starring as Rudy Ray Moore in the biopic Dolemite Is My Name, which was acclaimed as a long-awaited return to the R-rated comedy that made him a star in the 80s as well as the prestige material that he was previously praised for in Dreamgirls. Earning a Golden Globe nomination, he followed this up with a well received return to Saturday Night Live that boosted the show's ratings to their highest in a decade.
  • Leslie Nielsen in Airplane!. Nielsen had a long career in Hollywood, playing mostly bit parts in films, TV guest shots, with the occasional leading role in a low-budget project. Before 1980, he was probably best remembered for his leading role in Forbidden Planet. After 1980, he was best known as Dr. Rumack in Airplane!, where his deadpan performance made him one of the funniest things in the film. He would go on to play similar roles in an assortment of other, mostly similar comedies, notably Frank Drebin in Police Squad! and The Naked Gun film trilogy as well the lead roles in Spy Hard and Dracula: Dead and Loving It.
  • Gary Oldman in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Batman Begins. He was known throughout the '80s and '90s for films such as Sid and Nancy, The Fifth Element and Leon: The Professional, but by the early 2000s roles were getting scarcer. He took the role of Sirius Black because he desperately needed the work, not having done a film in over a year, but this turned out for the best because he not only got to stay with the franchise for multiple films but also was sought out later to play Commissioner Gordon in The Dark Knight Trilogy, resulting in the same outcome. The two combined led to his name being known amongst a new generation of fans as well as back into the limelight, including being (finally) recognized by award committees.
  • Anna Paquin in X-Men. Paquin was a fading child star by the end of the 1990s, having never reclaimed the glory she captured with her Oscar-winning turn in The Piano. Then she was cast in X-Men and she became popular as an adult superstar. She continues to remain relevant to this day through her turn on True Blood and continued work in the X-Men Film Series. note 
  • Keanu Reeves in John Wick. During the 1990s and early '00s, Reeves made the successful transition from comedy to action, playing the lead roles in Speed and The Matrix series. However, a rising criticism was his lack of acting range, which got worse when the mid-late '00s saw him ruthlessly typecasted as The Stoic Action Hero, and his acting became the butt of many jokes by critics. His role as the Big Bad in Man of Tai Chi, which also served as his directorial debut, showed promise for him to finally break free of this typecasting, but he suffered a Star-Derailing Role in 47 Ronin shortly after. Initially expected to do poorly, the low-budget revenge thriller John Wick was instead a critically acclaimed, commercially successful Sleeper Hit, with critics and fans alike praising Reeves's performance as the titular hitman and for performing the action scenes himself. The film was successful enough to spawn a franchise, and the summer of 2019 was dubbed the "Keanussance", launched by the release of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (which quickly became the biggest hit of the franchise, immediately greenlighting a fourth installment upon its release), followed by turns in Always Be My Maybe (Adam Westing as himself) and Toy Story 4 (as the voice of Canadian action figure Duke Caboom), as well as the announcement of him portraying a character in the anticipated video game Cyberpunk 2077 at that year's E3.
  • Julia Roberts in My Best Friend's Wedding. Roberts looked like a rising star with critically acclaimed roles in Mystic Pizza, Steel Magnolias, and her Star-Making Role Pretty Woman. Sleeping with the Enemy was panned but did very well at the box office. However, her career hit turbulence when Dying Young and Hook were both trashed by critics, not helped by a Creator Breakdown as her relationship with Kiefer Sutherland fell apart — even fleeing the set of Hook to hide out in Ireland briefly. She took a two-year hiatus from acting, and when she returned, it was to flops like I Love Trouble, Michael Collins, and Mary Reilly. However, My Best Friend's Wedding proved to be a return to form. All her subsequent films did good business and she ended up as the highest paid actress of The '90s. An Oscar win later came for Erin Brockovich.
  • Saoirse Ronan: After the critical and financial disasters of The Host and Lost River, many feared she would fade into obscurity as a Former Child Star and disappear from acting altogether. Two films, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Brooklyn, turned that around, with the latter landing her an Oscar nomination.
  • Mickey Rooney started his acting career at just 17 months, and even in his teens continued his career as the "hyperactive, girl-crazy" Andy Hardy, often together with Judy Garland. Rooney's enlistment in World War II saw his career decline, making a few TV and film appearances after that (most notably in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World). Eventually, in 1979, the 59-year-old Rooney made a comeback with the Broadway play Sugar Babies, to rave reviews. After that, he worked regularly on both screen and stage until his death in 2014.
  • Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. His career started with high critical praise and success for roles in Diner, 9 1/2 Weeks and Angel Heart. However, much like Downey, his substance abuse problems (and a bizarre decision to get into boxing) would drag him down. He made a series of small, low-budget films for 20 years, until Robert Rodriguez dusted him off to play Billy in Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Marv in Sin City. Rourke then had a supporting role in box office bomb Domino before being cast in a "very close to home" role as a washed-up former pro wrestler in The Wrestler, which netted him an Oscar nomination and a part opposite Downey in Iron Man 2. However, after the failure of Immortals, he has fallen back out of stardom, now mainly appearing in Direct-to-Video films.
  • Mark Ruffalo with The Avengers (2012). He was never derailed, but had remained forever on the B-list in the 2000s. There even used to be a trope called 'Mark Ruffalo Syndrome', about an actor who is eternally stuck in secondary roles. However becoming part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe made him more famous than he ever was - and has led to him taking leading roles in films such as Begin Again, Foxcatcher, Spotlight and netting critical acclaim for The Normal Heart. He's earned two Oscar nominations since.
  • David O. Russell with The Fighter. His first three films were relatively successful. But in 2004, he made I Heart Huckabees, which got mixed reviews, didn't make a profit, and Russell's difficult on-set behavior became more famous than the actual movie. His next project, Nailed, suffered from so much delay, that production was shut down, because the crew was not getting paid. However, in 2010, Russell made The Fighter, which received critical acclaim, was a commercial success and brought him Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Picture. His next two films followed suit. However the Sony email hacks would eventually expose that Russell was back to his old tricks on the set of American Hustle, Amy Adams eventually coming out and confessing to all the abuse she suffered during filming. Not helping matters was the revelation that the film's female leads had been paid drastically lower wages than their male co-stars. His follow-up Joy got mixed reviews and quickly faded from public consciousness - so time will tell.
  • Adam Sandler by signing to Netflix. Sandler's career was reeling in the early 2010s after the flops of Jack and Jill and That's My Boy, with the final straw seemingly coming in 2015 with Pixels. When, after that film's failure, he signed a distribution deal with Netflix to have his forthcoming live-action comedies released exclusively on the streaming service, many saw it as a symbol of how far his star had fallen; at the time, streaming exclusives were still seen as the equivalent of the Direct-to-Video market. Little did anybody know that Sandler would become one of Netflix's breakout stars as the streaming service invested in original films in a major way. The tipping point came in 2019 with Murder Mystery, a film that, had everybody who streamed it seen it in a theater, would've enjoyed a $120 million opening weekend, as well as a well-received guest hosting gig on his old Saturday Night Live stomping grounds that earned him an Emmy nomination for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series as well as being selected as the show's submission for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series (ultimately winning). He followed this up with the starring role in Uncut Gems which earned him rave reviews for what many consider the best performance of his career.
  • Martin Scorsese has had several:
    • Raging Bull was not a wide commercial success, but on a personal and professional level, it was important in making Scorsese both continue to commit himself to narrative film-making and make himself more disciplined in both his personal and professional life (such as kicking his drug habit) — and in due time, it would be Vindicated by History as one of the greatest films of The '80s and of his career. The Color of Money, made in the middle of The '80s, likewise became his first major commercial success since Taxi Driver and helped get his career back on track; before then, it had stalled with the first version of The Last Temptation of Christ being canceled and his other movies getting mixed reviews (even if The King of Comedy is now considered a classic).
    • Cape Fear and GoodFellas more or less gave him his Auteur License again and restored his commercial cache and critical reputation, allowing him to make films with bigger budgets and take on uncommercial subject matter like The Age of Innocence and Kundun and still continue to thrive.
    • His career dipped again in the Turn of the Millennium with Gangs of New York and The Aviator, which were profitable but not very big hits and were critically divisive. Then The Departed became a major commercial success, won critical acclaim, and got him a long-delayed Oscar. Since then, most of his movies have been commercial successes, with Hugo and Silence being the only exceptions, and even those were critically acclaimed.
  • Peter Sellers in The Return of the Pink Panther. Already huge in his native England, he achieved international megastar status over 1963-64 with the first Pink Panther films and his work with Stanley Kubrick. Still, he was so difficult to work with on Casino Royale (1967) that he was fired midway through the shoot, and the disjointed effort to cover up his absence resulted in an over-budget mess he was blamed for. From then on, most of his films flopped. By 1974, some of them weren't even making it to theaters; he barely got by making commercials and television appearances. When he was approached to reprise his Inspector Clouseau character in 1975, he took the opportunity. Return proved so popular that he was immediately back on the A-list. With two more Panthers, Murder by Death, and especially Being There (which netted him a Best Actor nomination, his second), he remained there up until his death in 1980.
  • M. Night Shyamalan: Once hailed as the next Steven Spielberg with The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan's reputation went into the gutter as he became more and more known for being a self-absorbed and pretentious filmmaker with the increasingly ridiculous uses of his Twist Ending that was one of the reasons why he was successful in the first place. Then came the quadruple bogey of Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth that bombed critically and/or commercially with most of the film industry thought his career was over. There was talk of a resurrection when, with his back to the wall and $5 million of his own money invested, he made The Visit and received mixed-to-positive acclaim. However, with the release of Split, his career seems to be back in full force, as the movie not only received glowing reviews, but it also ended up making four times its budget on its opening weekend.
  • Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa and Creed. Technically, his first resurrection was with Cliffhanger, that helped him Win Back the Crowd after two horrible comedies. But then his career choices were rather unfortunate (besides the critically acclaimed Cop Land, Demolition Man, and a voice acting role in Antz). After some self-parodying in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, he decided to go back to what started his career. Rocky Balboa was a critical and commercial hit, and allowed Stallone to finally make a fourth Rambo, and follow it with the action film with a dream cast The Expendables. Stallone went through another comeback with Creed, after starring in much-maligned bombs in the last few years, and garnered him critical respect he hasn't seen in a long time, including a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nomination.
  • Robert Stevenson with Old Yeller. Stevenson began his career in 1932 directing English films such as Tudor Rose and the first film adaptation of King Solomon's Mines. His work caught the attention of Gone with the Wind producer David O. Selznick, who was so impressed that he offered Stevenson a contract in 1940, which Stevenson agreed to. However his first American film Tom Brown's School Days was a flop and he spent the next five years bouncing around various Hollywood studios, his movies ranging from the Academy Award-nominated Joan of Paris to doing collaborative work on Forever and a Day. After World War II he spent the next seven years doing a run of crime dramas and film noirs, most of them for RKO and all of which were box office bombs. For most of the 1950s he was stuck doing television work and his story looked set to become a cautionary tale of European auteur directors being swayed by the allure of Hollywood during the golden age... until he was tapped by Walt Disney to direct a two-part episode of the Disneyland television show centered around the story of Johnny Tremain. Disney liked the way that the episodes turned out so much that he released them into theaters as a single film, and proceeded to sign Stevenson to direct Old Yeller. The film became Stevenson's biggest hit at the time and it led him to spend the remainder of his career at Disney, where he directed some of the studio's most famous films of the era including The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor, Mary Poppins (for which he received an Oscar nomination), The Love Bug and Bedknobs and Broomsticks until his retirement in 1976.
  • Whit Stillman was put into what he refers to as "director's prison" for more than ten years after the box office failure of The Last Days of Disco. 2012's Damsels in Distress was a critical success and his 2016 film Love And Friendship succeeded at the box office.
  • Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road. After winning an Oscar for Monster, Theron had nowhere to go but up, even getting nominated again for North Country in 2005, but the same year, she starred in the critically and financially unsuccessful Æon Flux. After that, she was relegated to starring in a bunch of forgettable movies. The critically acclaimed 2011 film Young Adult wasn't a huge hit, but it won her a Golden Globe nomination and put her back in critics' notice, leading to important supporting roles in two big films in 2012, Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman. 2015 would prove to have a massive start for her with heaps of critical acclaim being given to her for her performance as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, so much so that most will say it's really her film and Max is just along for the ride. Hers has been cited as the one of the greatest Action Girl performances, up there with Sigourney Weaver in Aliens and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games. She further solidified her credentials as an action star with roles in Atomic Blonde and The Fate of the Furious. She has also remained in the critics' good graces with a slew of other parts, including Bombshell (2019), which netted her another Oscar nomination.
  • Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. She became an "it girl" after Pulp Fiction, only to watch her career crash and burn after Batman & Robin and The Avengers (1998). Fortunately for her, Quentin Tarantino still saw something he liked in her, and gave her the lead role in what turned out to be one of the biggest action flicks of the year. Motherhood dented her career a bit - selling an embarrassing eleven tickets on its opening night in the UK. But she still got an Emmy nomination for her role in Smash, got critical acclaim for The Slap miniseries and doesn't seem to be disappearing without a fight. Unfortunately, as she would reveal years later, a neck injury on the set of Kill Bill not only badly damaged her working relationship with Tarantino, but prevented her from taking the action roles that might have otherwise become her bread and butter in the wake of that film's success.
  • John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. His career started with iconic roles in Saturday Night Fever and Grease, a respectable run on the very successful sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter and even critical acclaim with Blow Out. He spent most of the 1980s in hiding, emerging briefly in the narmish Look Who's Talking (which was a hit) and its two sequels (which weren't). However, Travolta made his comeback with the iconic Quentin Tarantino Academy Award-nominated hit and followed up with Get Shorty, cementing him as an A-list actor for the following decades. Then, of course, came Battlefield Earth, a passion project based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard that was a Star-Derailing Role that left his career in ruins. After a decade of flop after flop, he's fallen into Direct-to-Video hell.
  • Mara Wilson is a curious case. A child actress in the 90s — famous for Mrs. Doubtfire, the remake of Miracle on 34th Street, and her most famous role in Matilda — she retired from acting in her teens, finding it not fun anymore. In her mid-20s, however, she re-emerged into the public consciousness as a contributor for Channel Awesome, and also announced her desire to start a career as a writer. With her autobiography being a critical and commercial smash hit, it's certainly a step in the right direction — and she tends to have more fans for her work these days than the films she did as a child.
  • Reese Witherspoon in Wild. Witherspoon was a critical darling with films like Freeway, Pleasantville, and Election, with film magazines praising her as "the next Meryl Streep". She became a genuine star with Legally Blonde, culminating with an Oscar win for her highly acclaimed turned in Walk the Line. After that, she became in a string of films that either were bombs (Rendition, Penelope), critically panned (Four Christmases), or both (This Means War, How Do You Know), later being "honored" by Forbes and one of the "most overpaid actors" in Hollywood, three years in a row, due to the businesses of those films. Even modest success, like Monsters vs. Aliens and Water for Elephants, didn't do much for her. She attributes this to her divorce from ex-husband, Ryan Phillippe, and a simple lack of passion about the job. What happened next? After garnering great reviews for her small roles in much-praised films such as Mud and the Paul Thomas Anderson-directed Inherent Vice, she started a production company that produced Gone Girl, a commercial and critical success, and starring/producing Wild, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, giving an Oscar-nominated performance that has been acclaimed as the best of her career. She later starred in/produced the HBO miniseries adaptation of the national best-seller, Big Little Lies, also directed by Vallée, which garnered her critical acclaim once again, with critics praising her performance as even better than what she accomplished in Wild. She would later go on to win her first Primetime Emmy Award as a producer when the project won Best Limited Series in 2017 and additionally earned a nomination for Lead Actress. Unfortunately, her film career after Wild hasn’t been too good, suffering critically panned, box office flops such as Hot Pursuit (which she also produced), Home Again, and A Wrinkle in Time (2018), although she did star in Sing, which is the biggest hit of her career. However, while her film career is in doubt, with an upcoming season to Big Little Lies, the new Apple TV+ series The Morning Show starring her and Jennifer Aniston, and the Hulu miniseries Little Fires Everywhere starring her and Kerry Washington, her newfound career in television will ensure she’ll be getting high profile work for years to come.
  • Nat Wolff in The Fault in Our Stars. He had faded into obscurity after The Naked Brothers Band finished its run, but a prominent role as Isaac led to him appearing in films such as Paper Towns and The Intern. He was eventually announced as the headliner of Death Note (2017).
  • Renée Zellweger in Judy. After winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for in 2003's Cold Mountain, her movies became less financially and critically successful as her career went into The New '10s. The nadir arrived with Case 39, a movie that was delayed twice and, when it was finally released in 2010, received negative reviews and flopped at the box office, opening at #7 on its first week. This resulted in a six-year hiatus from acting. A brief return to the carpet in 2014 saw a drastic change in her looks, which was claimed to be due to extensive plastic surgery to the point she was almost unrecognisable (though she has denied this) which many deemed the final nail in the coffin for her career. However, she returned to acting in 2016 with films including Bridget Jones's Baby, a Surprisingly Improved Sequel critically speaking but not commercially successful otherwise. She would eventually reclaim her profile in 2019 after her role as Judy Garland in the eponymous biopic won rave reviews from critics, topped off with an Oscar for Best Actress.
  • A truly unique example comes from the film Amadeus. Before the film, composer Antonio Salieri and his music were mostly forgotten, but the film revived interest in his work. Wikipedia notes how many of Salieri's operas and compositions have since been produced and recorded by modern artists, and festivals and theatres have been named in his honor.
  • Jim Carrey in Sonic the Hedgehog (2020). He seemed to have faded from the limelight after 2014's Dumb and Dumber To, the sequel to Dumb and Dumber. Due to various legal issues surrounding that film against the crew responsible for making it, it was the end of Carrey's reign as a box office heavyweight, and he was the biggest for a time. After 2015, he was mainly in smaller art-house releases and direct to video fare, and doing controversial paintings critical of president Donald Trump among others. He also suffered from depression, and had to cope with the suicide of his ex-girlfriend. In 2017 however, he ended up getting the role of Dr. Robotnik in the 2020 film adaptation of the Sonic the Hedgehog video game series. Not only is the film the second video game-based live action film to see critical and box-office success after Detective Pikachu, it's also Carrey's first big-budget movie in 6 years.

    Live-Action TV 
  • David Caruso on CSI: Miami. He played a bunch of bit parts and minor roles before landing a lead role on NYPD Blue, becoming, as co-star Dennis Franz said, "the hottest thing on television." He left after one season, jumping quickly to what was thought to be a fast track to a film career... which started with such gems as the mixed-reviewed Kiss of Death and the reviled Jade. He faded back into obscurity, except for being in the Russell Crowe flick Proof Of Life. Then, Jerry Bruckheimer cast him as Horatio Caine, and he was back in the limelight.
  • David Morrissey in The Walking Dead. As one of the UK's biggest TV stars in the early 2000s, Morrissey decided to go to Hollywood, and picked out what seemed like the perfect Star-Making Role: Basic Instinct 2. We all know how that turned out. His next role was as the male lead in The Reaping, a horror movie about the Ten Plagues in a small Southern town. That also failed (and became a Star-Derailing Role for Hilary Swank on top of it). After disappearing for a few years, he appeared in a Christmas Special of Doctor Who with his friend David Tennant, which turned out extremely well. Then, a few years later, he played The Governor in The Walking Dead, a fan-favorite character. One acclaimed performance later, and Morrissey is more famous than he ever was before.
  • Rob Lowe in The West Wing. Lowe was a rising star in the '80s as a member of the Brat Pack, starring in hits like The Outsiders and St. Elmo's Fire. His career crashed down in 1989 when he was caught filming a sex tape with a 16-year-old. The act was considered legal in Georgia at the time, so his charges were dismissed, but it was not kosher in the minds of the public, and the backlash drove Lowe to check into rehab and become sober. In the early '90s, Lowe started to rebuild his reputation with comedic films Wayne's World and the Austin Powers series, before landing long-term TV success with The West Wing.
  • Natasha Lyonne in Orange Is the New Black. In the late 1990s, Lyonne was a rising star best known for her work in the American Pie franchise. In the 2000s, Lyonne's career bottomed out after she was arrested for various bizarre incidents, and by 2005, she was in the hospital for hepatitis C, a heart infection, and a collapsed lung. She even went through a methadone treatment for a heroin addiction and had track marks on her body. In 2008, Lyonne later sobered up and resumed her acting career, working her way back to the mainstream, landing major acclaim in 2013 with the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black, and reuniting with her former American Pie co-star Jason Biggs (who hasn't been nearly as successful as she was in escaping Pie's shadow).
  • Kiefer Sutherland on 24. After The Lost Boys,Young Guns, and Young Guns II, Sutherland looked to be well on his way. Then, he faded to the background thanks to his acrimonious breakup with Julia Roberts (see above) and his own troubled personal life, turning up occasionally (A Few Good Men, A Time to Kill) on Hollywood's radar, and doing some very well-received independent work (like Dark City). For a while, he retired from acting to become a rodeo champion. However, his Emmy-award winning turn as Jack Bauer on 24 put him back on the A-list.
  • William Shatner on Boston Legal. For a while, it seemed he was destined to remain forever the famed Captain of the Enterprise and never leave that shadow. Then, it seems he decided to lampshade his own over-the-top persona and played not-quite against type as the Bunny-Ears Lawyer Denny Crane on Boston Legal. A ton of critical acclaim and couple Emmys later, his career seems to be as strong as ever, even with the slight misfire of $#*! My Dad Says.
  • Neil Patrick Harris on How I Met Your Mother. While respect must be paid to his fairly successful stage career, he was off the national radar for the most part after the end of Doogie Howser, M.D.. He then had a cameo as a caricature of himself (or perhaps an alternate reality version of himself where he's straight and a womanizer) in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. This landed him back on the national radar and led to him being cast in the role of Barney Stinson, whose characterization had been directly based on NPH's portrayal in Harold and Kumar. (In a nice bit of Lampshade Hanging, Kal Penn became a recurring character in later years.) He followed up by playing the title role on the well-received Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog which has made him a geek icon.
  • Brian Williams on MSNBC — Williams was the anchor for NBC Nightly News from 2004 until 2015 when he was caught embellishing details about his personal involvement in a firefight during the Iraq War. Instead of being fired, Williams was demoted to "breaking news anchor" with no guaranteed air time. But he toughed it out and got positive reviews for helming MSNBC's 2016 election coverage. Enough for him to be given a temporary tryout for a regular show... at 11 pm, the cable news equivalent of the Friday Night Death Slot. Contrary to expectations, however, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams drew in a regular audience for it to be picked up permanently and became such a ratings success that it beat both Fox News and CNN in its time slot for three consecutive months.
  • Georgia Taylor — once best known as Toyah Battersby from Coronation Street, but now best-known for her role as Wrench Wench Ruth on Casualty.
  • Ed O'Neill on Modern Family. After the end of O'Neill's most famous role of Al Bundy on Married... with Children in 1997, he spent about the next decade in a series of short-lived dramas like a remake of Dragnet (in which O'Neill played the Jack Webb role of Joe Friday) and the HBO show John from Cincinnati. O'Neill eventually went back to the sitcom genre that made him a household name, in the form of the Emmy-winning series Modern Family.
  • Matt LeBlanc on Episodes. After the massive success that was Friends, he followed it up with two seasons on the ill-fated spinoff Joey, a career move he attributes to being paid large sums of money. After a failed career as a producer, Leblanc became somewhat of a recluse and took a four-year hiatus from acting. In 2011, Episodes debuted on Showtime. Playing a fictionalized version of himself, he won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy. His success on Top Gear has also won him a legion of new fans in the UK.
  • Ted Danson on Damages. After the end of Cheers in 1993, Danson's star faded with him starring in a string of unsuccessful comedy films, two unpopular sitcoms (Ink and Becker — though the latter did have a healthy run), and making occasional cameos as himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm. This changed in 2007 when he was cast as Big Bad Arthur Frobisher for Damages's first season. Danson's surprisingly strong performance garnered rave reviews from critics and his first Emmy nomination in 15 years. The renewed exposure also landed him a role in the HBO comedy series Bored to Death a part as the new lead in CSI after Laurence Fishburne's departure, and a leading role on The Good Place.
  • Michael Chiklis on The Shield. In fact, Chiklis has pulled this off twice. First came his starring role in the much-despised John Belushi biopic Wired, which saw his career dry up for two years and is considered by Chiklis to be an Old Shame. Then, after starring on the successful series The Commish, he almost killed his career with the critically bashed sitcom Daddio, but The Shield brought him back from the brink and into the limelight, as well as earning him an Emmy award.
  • Chevy Chase seems to have had a minor one of these thanks to his role as Pierce Hawthorne in the cult sitcom Community; while the show hasn't been his biggest hit ever, it's nevertheless a critical darling with an intensely devoted fanbase, and since his career was previously languishing with a series of critical and commercial cinematic flops and Direct-to-Video releases, it's a definite step up. A well-received cameo role in the film Hot Tub Time Machine probably helped as well.
  • Larry Hagman on Dallas. Hagman almost had his career destroyed by The Good Life and Here We Go Again, two unsuccessful sitcoms he made after NBC pulled I Dream of Jeannie. Then came Dallas, the Primetime Soap that revived his career. Then the short-lived Orleans sank his career a second time. But just before he died, Dallas brought him back — yet again.
  • Jim Caviezel on Person of Interest. He got caught up in the hype and controversy surrounding The Passion of the Christ, making it difficult for audiences to see him as anything but Jesus and his career suffered for a while (something Mel Gibson warned Caviezel would happen), but his performance as John Reese is widely regarded as this.
  • Jack Barry: The co-creator and host of the 1950s quiz show 21. While the show proved popular, it was soon discovered to be rigged — contestants were being cast and literally fed information on which questions they were to get right and wrong. The rigging allegations hit their high point in 1958 when contestant Herbert Stempel was ordered by the producers to lose against Charles van Doren. Stempel blew the whistle on the rigging, and while his claims were initially dismissed as sour grapes, the show did fall under investigation after another producer's game show, Dotto, was proven to be rigged as well (and subsequently canceled). After the investigations, Twenty One was canceled, and the concept of a quiz-based game show was tarnished for many years to come. (The 1964 debut of Jeopardy!, whose very idea was spawned from a discussion that creator Merv Griffin had with his wife over said riggings, played a big factor in making quizzers viable again.) After a few minor hosting gigs in the '60s, Barry and co-producer Dan Enright managed to come back into vogue in 1971 with The Joker's Wild, with Barry as host. The show ran for a combined 15 years, outliving Barry himself by two. The success of Joker also allowed Barry and Enright to revive one of their other, less-tarnished 1950s properties, Tic-Tac-Dough, from 1978–86.
  • Jason Bateman on Arrested Development. Bateman obtained teen-idol status in the 1980s due to his work on sitcoms such as Silver Spoons and The Hogan Family. Then he did the flop sequel Teen Wolf Too, which marked the beginning of his career decline. After The Hogan Family left the airwaves in 1991, Bateman was out of the limelight, stuck in telefilms, B-movies, and a number of short-lived sitcoms. Then he was cast as the Straight Man on Arrested Development. The show drew poor ratings but garnered critical acclaim, and Bateman's performance garnered him many accolades. He's kept a rather high profile ever since, with Development being Un-Cancelled by Netflix and starring in Frat Pack films as a supporting player before coming into his own with the Horrible Bosses films. For animated films, Bateman voiced the male lead in the hit animated movie Zootopia.
  • Billie Piper in Doctor Who is somewhat of an example. While it's a straight-up Star-Making Role when strictly referring to her acting career and as far as international stardom goes, it brought her back to the spotlight after her Teen Idol singing career winding down.
  • Christian Slater in Mr. Robot. Slater was a hot commodity in the late '80s and early '90s after Heathers came out. By the end of the decade, his popularity was waning with bombs like Hard Cash and Mindhunters. Slater's career was sealed shut after Alone in the Dark tanked, a film that also solidified the bad reputation of video game movies and turned director Uwe Boll into a worldwide laughingstock. Slater then went straight to video and none of his series (including My Own Worst Enemy) ever made it past a single season. In 2015, he starred as the title character in Mr. Robot. The series received widespread acclaim, and Slater won a Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Award for his performance and has a recurring role on Archer as a fictional version of himself.
  • Aaron Spelling was a very prolific producer who provided a good chunk of programming for the ABC network. This all came to an end in the late 1980s when the new management at ABC publicly told the press that the network would no longer be "Aaron's Broadcasting Company", effectively shutting Spelling out of the network. This downfall was short-lived, however, when a year later, the then-new FOX network started picking his shows up, starting with the hit series Beverly Hills, 90210.
  • Alyssa Milano was a child star in the '80s for Who's the Boss? and a music career in Japan. She was desperate to escape the Contractual Purity that dogs many child actresses and sought out Hotter and Sexier roles as an adult. Things didn't work out so well, and the only notable story about her in the '90s was a sex tape scandal. But things started to turn in her favour when she joined the cast of Melrose Place and was later one of the leads for Charmed. The supernatural drama about three witch sisters lasted for eight seasons and got Alyssa worldwide fame. By the time it ended, Milano was better known as Phoebe Halliwell than she ever was as Samantha Micelli. After the show ended, she marketed a successful clothing line and settled in comfortably as the hostess of Project Runway: All Stars.
  • Gene Wilder suffered through a severe career slide in the late '80s, coinciding with the 1989 cancer death of his wife Gilda Radner, that continued through the '90s until he took on the role of a theater director turned gumshoe in a couple of A&E television movies that met with critical and audience acclaim. He followed them up with a couple of guest spots on Will & Grace, which earned him an Emmy win, his first acting award since 1962. He then turned his attention to writing before advancing Alzheimer's disease caused him to cease working again before his death in 2016.
  • Mandy Moore saw both her film and music careers take a downturn after 2007, the former after the flop of License to Wed and the latter after her transition to folk pop, despite winning some plaudits from surprised critics (who mainly remembered her as a Teen Idol), failed to pick up much commercial traction. She spent several years doing recurring roles on TV shows, her only theatrically-released film being Tangled in 2010. In 2016, however, she scored the lead female role on This Is Us, which propelled her back into the spotlight and won her critical acclaim and a slew of new parts.

  • The Comeback Player of the Year Award in several professional sports lives off of this trope, with the season winner rebounding from an injury or slump from the past season.
  • Josh Hamilton was one of the most highly touted prospects in the history of baseball when he was drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. But after sustaining injuries in a 2001 car accident, he turned to alcohol and drugs to ease the pain, leading to him become hopelessly addicted to them. As a result of his substance abuse and further injuries, he was banned and out of baseball in 2004, 2005 and most of 2006; ESPN then named him the 35th worst draft pick of all time. Then, amazingly, he found religion, cleaned himself up, went to Cincinnati and then Texas, and has now gone on to be one of the game's best players, including an amazing home run derby performance in 2008. Unfortunately, Hamilton then had a couple of relapses in 2012 and 2015 and hasn't played since.
  • Tony Mandarich was hyped as the greatest offensive line prospect of all time going into the 1989 NFL draft. This was enough for the Green Bay Packers to draft him second that year. Unfortunately, Mandarich was widely believed to have been using steroids (when in fact he only used alcohol and painkillers in the league; Mandarich only did steroids in college), which hindered his on-field performance. He was so bad as a starter that the Packers cut ties with him after the 1991 season, Sports Illustrated called him "The NFL's Incredible Bust", and he could only watch as the other four players taken in the Top 5 of his draft class (Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion Sanders) carved out Hall of Fame careers. His drug and alcohol addiction soon spiralled out of control, and he went to rehab in 1995. As Deadspin put it best, "in a Vanilla Ice-like return from the dead", the Indianapolis Colts gave a newly sober Mandarich a second chance for the 1996 season, where he spent the next three years as a serviceable starter (even protecting Peyton Manning in his rookie season).
  • Kurt Warner was a top-five quarterback in the early 2000s for the St. Louis Rams, heading up the "Greatest Show on Turf". Around the middle of the decade, a few bad games - along with the performance of Marc Bulger - led to his going to the New York Giants, where he played for a few games and was quickly supplanted by Eli Manning. After that, he went to Arizona, where up-and-down play meant he was sharing the starting job with Matt Leinart until 2008, when he shook off the cobwebs, returned to greatness, and led the Arizona Cardinals all the way to the Super Bowl (their first ever). He retired after another playoff season with his legacy cemented and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.
  • Carson Palmer won the Heisman Trophy award in 2002, which was enough for the Cincinnati Bengals to take him first in the 2003 NFL draft. After sitting out his rookie season, he made two Pro Bowls in 2005 and 2006. Around 2010-2012, Palmer was stricken with the "Heisman curse", and his production spiraled downhill, especially with the Oakland Raiders. After signing with the Arizona Cardinals, Palmer started rebuilding his momentum until 2015, when he made his first Pro Bowl in 9 years, at the late age of 36, scoring the best QB rating, and most touchdowns and yards, in his career.
  • Michael Vick was the first overall pick in 2001 NFL Draft for the Atlanta Falcons. He was never known as a top 10 quarterback - mediocre accuracy contributed to that - but he was solid enough for Atlanta. However, a brash personality was just the start of his problems. Vick was infamously busted for dogfighting in 2007 and spent 21 months in prison, with all of his fans (and sponsors) deserting him. After his release, he signed on with the Philadelphia Eagles, largely sitting on the bench for his first year there. After Donovan McNabb got traded, he got the starting job and never looked back, having the best statistical year of his career. In 2011, he was signed to a $40 million contract, resigned with Nike and carried a humble demeanor - if that's not a resurrection, nothing is.
  • Marv Albert is arguably, the greatest NBA announcer ever (perhaps the closest rival to that throne is the late, great Los Angeles Lakers announcer Chick Hearn). Not only was he the longtime voice of not only the New York Knicks but also the New York Rangers hockey team and a top announcer for NBC Sports during the 1980s and 1990s. However, it all crashed down in 1997 when Albert was caught up in a sex scandal involving him allegedly sodomizing a woman (and biting her back) in a motel. After finishing calling the 1997 NBA Finals for NBC, Albert was fired by the network. Albert slowly but surely worked his way back, first with Turner Sports on their NBA broadcasts (as well as the Wimbledon tennis tournament) and with NBC. Finally, in 2000-01, Albert returned to the top spot as NBC's lead NBA announcer, replacing Bob Costas, who had the job the previous three seasons. He held that post until NBC lost the NBA TV rights to ABC/ESPN after the 2001-02 season. Shortly thereafter, Albert became lead play-by-play man for TNT's NBA broadcasts and CBS Radio's Monday Night Football broadcasts.
  • Landon Donovan became a worldwide name with a sterling performance for the USA at the 2002 World Cup, earning a Young Player of the Year award and attracting European interest. Then came the failed stints at German clubs, the whining about homesickness that earned him the nickname Landycakes, his lackluster play in the '06 Cup, and the eventual humiliation of losing his captain's armband at LA Galaxy to then-frenemy David Beckham. That turned around in 08/09: he became the country's all-time highest goalscorer, Galaxy's new manager restored him as team captain, and (with a newfound maturity he credited to his divorce) he played a vital part in taking the USA to the finals of the Confederations Cup. A highly successful loan to English team Everton and a career-high performance at the 2010 World Cup followed. Even the most cynical American soccer fans will now admit he's one of the country's all-time best players. He eventually retired in 2014 as the second-most capped player, the best goal scorer of the national team, and so much of an MLS legend that since 2015, the league's MVP receives the Landon Donovan MVP Award. Donovan came back to Los Angeles for one last hurrah in 2016 as a free agent after the team's stars went down with season-ending injuries. He couldn't stay retired, coming back again in 2018 with Mexican top-flight side León. Donovan lasted only five months in Liga MX, but then returned to the US, joining the San Diego Sockers of the Major Arena Soccer League in 2019. Donovan ended his playing career again after the 2019 MASL season, but remains in the game as principal owner and head coach of San Diego Loyal SC, which starts play in the second-tier USL Championship in 2020.
  • Brazilian footballer Ronaldo did it twice. At the age of 17, he was a successful striker enough to be called for the victorious 1994 FIFA World Cup squad (though he didn't play any games). Then in 1998, he suffered a convulsion before the World Cup final that caused him and the rest of Brazil's team to play bad enough to lose 3-0. Knee problems kept him out of the field for the most part of 1999-2001. Still, national team coach Felipão believed in Ronaldo enough to bring him to the 2002 World Cup, where he was both champion and top scorer (including the 2 goals in the final). Between 2005 and 2008, his career again stalled, with injuries, weight gain and a conturbed personal life (such as an infamous case involving transvestites). Then he returned to Brazil, where he became an idol in Corinthians.
  • Rick Ankiel (formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals) was a promising pitcher early in his career. However, after a while, he fell into a huge slump and was sent down to the minors. After a few years of bouncing back and forth between the majors and the minors and showing no signs of returning to his former promise, he was allowed a second chance as an outfielder. After training, he came back up to the majors and became a solid addition to the St. Louis outfield, making several outstanding plays- ironically aided by his pitcher's arm allowing him to make some incredibly accurate plays from quite long distances. Ankiel was later traded and is still considered a good outfielder, if not really a star.
  • R.A. Dickey, a pitcher for the Rangers in the early- to mid-noughties and had pitching skills and stats that, at their zenith, were mediocre. Then he decided to try the knuckleball, the joke pitch of baseball, and wound up bouncing around the minors, with occasional stints in the majors for several years. In 2010, he signed a minor league deal with the New York Mets who called him up in mid-May and was one of the few things that season for Mets fans to cheer about: his joke pitch had become a lethal joke pitch. Two years later, he won the Cy Young Award, and in 2013, the Toronto Blue Jays made him their ace.
  • Steve Stricker was one of the many solid but not spectacular golfers that became prominent in the mid-1990s, right around Tiger Woods' rise to stardom. Stricker would have three wins by the end of 2001, but by then his career hit a heavy slump with no apparent way out. Fortunes changed in the 2006 US Open when he led at the halfway mark and treaded his way through one of the most difficult Opens in history en route to a tie for sixth. This would begin a steady rise back to a form as good as, if not better, than the one he had in the 90s, first culminating in a win at the 2007 Barclays tournament, the PGA Tour's first playoffs event under the inception of the FedEx Cup. Since then, he picked up eight more wins and remained a constant contender for the Cup until he dialed back his schedule from 2013 on to focus more on his family. When he turned 50 in February 2017, he began easing onto PGA Tour Champions (i.e. the senior tour), and while still spending about half of his time on the regular tour, won two senior major championships in 2019. He'll also be the (non-playing) captain for Team USA at the 2020 Ryder Cup in his home state of Wisconsin.
  • Teemu Selänne caught the NHL by storm when he scored 76 goals for the Winnipeg Jets in his rookie season in 1992-93. Dubbed "The Finnish Flash", Selänne would electrify crowds for years- first in Winnipeg and then in Anaheim and San Jose- before his flashy play caught up to him requiring multiple knee surgeries. After performing poorly as a member of the Colorado Avalanche in 2003-04- where he was at times not even used during games- it was thought that his career was finished, his knee injuries catching up to him as they did with Pavel Bure, a similarly flashy player who crashed out of the league at roughly the same time. However, in 2005-06- using the lockout cancelled 2004-05 season to recover- Selänne signed again with the Ducks, where he again regained his status as a star scorer (and became a more complete player), a role he continued to have for several more seasons. He retired under his terms at the end of the 2013–14 season, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame 3 years later.
  • Bryan Berard was the first overall draft pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, becoming a highly regarded young defenceman for the New York Islanders. His career would blossom after being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but on March 11, 2000, he was struck in the eye by Ottawa's Marian Hossa after Hossa's stick caught Berard in the follow-through for a shot on goal. Berard was blinded in the eye, and it was thought his career was finished. After a year of numerous surgeries, though, Berard would eventually restore his vision to NHL standards, allowing him to revive his NHL career. Though he never became the superstar he was predicted to become, Berard still wound up having a solid career with Chicago, both teams in New York, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Vityaz Chekov in Russia before retiring in 2009.
  • LeBron James At separate points in his career, LeBron has seen a massive turn around in both success and popularity. James had a massive hype machine, being dubbed The Chosen One before even being drafted into the NBA. In 2003, at the young age of 18, he joined his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, turning the team from low tier team in a city notoriously cursed with bad luck regarding sports into a guaranteed presence in the playoffs. Despite James' gifts, they could never make it out of the playoffs. Their single Finals appearance in 2007 saw them getting swept in four games, and the reemergence of the Boston Celtics from 2008-2010 made returning to the Finals an impossible task. This caused many to call into question whether James was actually worth the hype. He controversially decided to take his talents to South Beach in Miami in 2010 to create a "superteam" with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh; the results were 4 consecutive Finals Appearances and LeBron winning the championship, league MVP, and Finals MVP back-to-back in 2012-13, solidifying his place as the best single player of the early 2010s at the cost of the acclaim and love from the public that he had generally enjoyed during the early days of his career. Then before the 2014-2015 season, he stunned the world and went back home to Cleveland with the sole purpose of winning a championship for the beleaguered city. He did just that in the 2016 Finals, almost single-handedly powering his team back from a 3-1 game deficit against the dominant Golden State Warriors and winning his 3rd Finals MVP. As a result of the win, he ended Cleveland's 52-year championship drought and won, cemented his status as one of the greatest players of all time, and won back most of the respect and admiration that he had lost when he left for Miami 6 years prior. Also in 2016, baseball's Cleveland Indians made their first World Series since 1997, while the city's minor league hockey team, the Lake Erie (now Cleveland) Monsters, won the AHL title. All in all, it was a great year for Cleveland, Ohio. He led the Cavs to the Finals the next two seasons, losing out to the Warriors each time, and then left for the Los Angeles Lakers... though this time, he left on much better terms, given that (1) he handled his second departure in a far more mature and classy manner than in 2010 and (2) it was clear to even the Cavs' most avid fans that their title window had closed.
  • Alex Smith, the former first overall draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers, was written off as a draft bust for a while, but in 2011 he Took a Level in Badass, getting just one away from his career high touchdowns and reducing his interceptions from 10 to 5, setting personal bests in rushing and taking the team to the playoffs. He was set to have a repeat performance the following year until an injury gave the job to Colin Kaepernick but rebounded the next year after signing with the Kansas City Chiefs, setting career bests in yards and touchdowns. As of 2017, Smith and the Chiefs are a perennial playoff team while Kaepernick, due to a combination of poor play and political controversy, found himself out of the NFL and the 49ers as a whole have fallen. In January 2018, Smith was traded to the Redskins, a team with bad luck at the QB position.
  • Brian Vickers, the former record holdernote  for youngest NASCAR national series champion (set in the second tier Xfinity Series, then known as the Busch Series, in 2003), has needed two of these just to stay active in the top tier Sprint Cup Series. His first derailment came when Hendrick Motorsports advanced him from their Xfinity program into the #25 entry on the Cup side, with the expectation that he would be able to improve the performance of the team from its long-time midpack stature to being on par with the team's other three entries (which all posted top ten points runs the year before). Vickers, however, put up results more in line with the previous several years of mediocrity in the #25, with his only win at Hendrick, in October 2006 at Talladega igniting a firestorm of controversy after he wrecked both Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the sport's most popular driver, and his own teammate Jimmie Johnson, which seemingly ended Johnson's already sputtering chances of winning a title.note  In 2007, he landed with start-up Red Bull Racing, and frequently struggled just to get the cars in the field. But when he could get into the field, he became a fairly reliable top ten finisher, and by 2009 he and Red Bull had their program strong enough for Vickers to win at Michigan and get them into the Chase field. However, things came unraveled again when Vickers was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs), pulmonary embolisms (clots from the DVT that had migrated to the lungs) and a hole in his heart in May 2010, which took him out of the car for the rest of the year. Red Bull underwent almost a complete regression without Vickers behind the wheel, such that when he returned in 2011, he was running severely limited equipment, at which point he began taking out his rage at his cars on his competitors and basically blacklisted himself from any competitive openings when Red Bull imploded at the end of the year.note  His second resurrection began when he got a part-time deal with a suddenly ascendant Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012, and posted five top tens (and three top fives) in eight starts. He got a slightly expanded deal the next year and won his third career race at New Hampshire that July, which eventually got him a two year full-time deal with MWR. However, MWR began to derail shortly after a cheating scandal (in which Vickers was marginally involved) led to the loss of major sponsor NAPA and a shutdown of one of the three teams, the #56, which was driven by Martin Truex, Jr.; Vickers' contract was for the #55 car, whose sponsor Aaron's stuck with the team. However, the loss of both revenue and real-world data from that third team has severely impacted MWR's ability to remain competitive, and Vickers has been unable to transcend this decline,note  which means he may require another resurrection once his contract with the team ends after 2015.
  • Ron Harper is an unusual example of Career Resurrection. Playing for the Los Angeles Clippers in the early '90s, Harper was a consistent 20-point scorer and a solid defender. But he was very injury-prone and unhappy in what was then the NBA's equivalent of a jail sentence. Upon joining the Chicago Bulls for the 1994-95 season, Harper's scoring numbers and minutes took a huge tumble, but he had finally found happiness as an NBA player, staying healthy, finding a niche as the consummate defensive-oriented role player, and playing a key role in the Bulls' second three-peat. Harper later ended his career with two more championships with the Lakers. In all, he proved that sometimes, less is more when it comes to statistics.
  • Similar to Harper's example in terms of "less is more," Bob McAdoo debuted in the NBA with a bang as a top rookie for the Buffalo Braves, a.k.a. the future LA Clippers, in 1973. He followed that up with three straight seasons as the NBA's scoring leader, consistently norming over 30 points per game. And while he still mostly averaged at least 25 points per game in the seasons that immediately followed, he bounced from team to team and developed a reputation as a malcontent by the time The '80s rolled around. The then-mighty Los Angeles Lakers took a chance on him in the 1981-82 season, surrendering a lowly second-round draft pick to acquire the former scoring champ from the New Jersey Nets. Though he started only one game for the Lakers and never averaged more than 15 ppg, he became their "sixth man", providing quality minutes as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's backup at center and Kurt Rambis' backup at power forward. As for his rep as a malcontent, he proved to be a solid citizen and a locker room leader, not minding his reduced role at all.
  • As of December 2019, Dwight Howard is enjoying a "less is more" Career Resurrection like Harper and McAdoo, and just like the latter, he's also doing it with the Lakers. Once a regular MVP candidate and arguably the best defensive big man in the NBA while playing for the Orlando Magic, Howard's first stint with the Lakers in 2012-13 was a disaster, one marred by bad chemistry with fellow superstar Kobe Bryant, among myriad other issues. This led to a six-year journeyman period where Howard played for the Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, and finally the Washington Wizards, with each season yielding solid, albeit diminishing returns — with the Wizards, Howard played just 9 games due to injuries, but still averaged over 12 points and 9 rebounds a game. After returning to the Lakers as a free agent in the summer of 2019, Howard accepted a role off the bench and showed a noticeable increase in maturity, averaging career-lows across the board but serving as a meaningful component for a team considered among the top favorites to win the 2020 Finals after years of underachievement and disappointment.
  • The man starting ahead of Howard on the Lakers, JaVale McGee, enjoyed a Career Resurrection of his own in recent years. After enjoying a solid first few years in the NBA, McGee eventually turned into meme fodder for his penchant for making boneheaded plays, becoming a two-time Shaqtin' a Fool MVP on Inside the NBA for all his troubles. He then became a certified NBA journeyman, bouncing from team to team and playing limited minutes, but his performance in the 2018 Playoffs for the championship-winning Golden State Warriors showed that he still had it in him to be a productive player. As such, the Lakers took a chance on him in the summer of 2018, as he was one of the few bright spots during LeBron James' disappointing first season in Los Angeles, averaging a career-high 12 points (also his first double-figure season since 2011-12) and finishing among the league's Top 10 in blocked shots. As of 2019-20, McGee's numbers have dipped a bit, but he still deserves credit for turning things around so late in his career.
  • Once considered a potential heir apparent to John Elway, Tommy Maddox was a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 1992 who had fizzled out in Denver, the Los Angeles (later St. Louis) Rams, and the New York Giants and was out of the NFL by 1996. Leave it to Vince McMahon's XFL to make Maddox into the league's sole MVP, and fuel his NFL comeback in 2001. He had two solid, if unspectacular seasons as the Pittsburgh Steelers' starting quarterback in 2002 (good enough for him to win the Comeback Player of the Year award) and 2003, before backing up new Steelers franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 and 2005.
  • Tommy John's Career Resurrection in Major League Baseball was such a success that they named a surgical procedure after him. He was in the middle of one of his best pro seasons in 1974 when he suffered permanent damage to his ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm. This would have normally been a career-ending injury, but thanks to the surgery that would soon bear his name, he made a successful return to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1976 and played in three straight All-Star Games from 1978 to 1980. Even more remarkable, he ended up pitching in the majors until 1989, when he was already 46 years old! And, to take his resurrection Up to Eleven, he won 164 of his 288 career wins after his surgery.
  • Once one of the top young pitchers in the majors, Dennis Eckersley was a washed-up drunk by end of the 1986 MLB season, and apart from an appearance in the 1982 All-Star Game, he was mediocre from 1980 to 1986. But after successfully getting treatment for his alcoholism, "Eck" joined the Oakland Athletics in 1987, and was switched from starting pitcher to reliever. All he did was become one of the top closers in the majors all the way to the late '90s, winning both the American League Cy Young and MVP awards in 1992 and making the Hall of Fame in 2004 in his first year of eligibility.
  • Rudy Distrito warmed the bench for the dominant Crispa Redmanizers in the Philippine Basketball Association in 1981 and 1982 before putting up solid numbers for a series of bad-to-mediocre teams from 1983 to 1986. His pro career was seemingly over in 1987, but crowd favorite Ginebra San Miguel signed him from the amateurs midway through the 1987 season, as he soon established his legacy as "The Destroyer", a combo guard who played with the ferocity of an NFL linebacker, and had a knack for hitting big shots.
  • Bogs Adornado is considered one of the PBA's top shooters of all time, but he was pretty much washed up early in the 1980 season, demoted to the bench after he suffered a career-threatening injury in 1977. Released by Crispa after only a handful of games, he joined the U-Tex Wranglers for the rest of 1980, and promptly returned to his old form, making the Mythical 5 (the PBA's all-league team) that same season. He followed that up by becoming a three-time MVP in 1981 and continued putting up big numbers for most of the remainder of his career, which ended in 1987 at the age of 36.
  • Nick Foles had a breakout year in 2013 where he had the NFL's best passer rating and touchdown to interception ratio, resulting in a playoff berth for the Philadelphia Eagles and a Pro Bowl selection for him. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury midway through 2014 and, in a very controversial decision, head coach and general manager Chip Kelly decided to trade him to the St. Louis Rams. Foles struggled with his new team and was eventually released. After spending one season with the Kansas City Chiefs as a backup to Alex Smith, Foles considered retiring until he was persuaded by new Eagles GM Roseman to come back to Philadelphia in 2017 and serve as a backup/mentor to their second-year starter Carson Wentz. In Week 14, Wentz, who was having an MVP season, went down with an ACL injury and Foles led the Eagles to clinch the division and eventually top seed in the NFC. Foles did very well in the playoffs and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl, scoring 34 points on the top-ranked Minnesota Vikings defense along the way. In Super Bowl LII, Foles out-dueled the great Tom Brady in a 41-33 shootout that brought the Eagles their first Super Bowl victory in team history. Foles was named the game's MVP and had several NFL teams attempting to work out a trade with the Eagles so he could become their starting quarterback. The trade never came, and after the 2018 season, the Eagles picked up the option year of his contract. He exercised a clause in his contract that allowed him to buy out that option, becoming a free agent and signing a few weeks later with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Os du Randt,note  a South African rugby star whose career straddled the turn of the 21st century, pulled one of these off in 2003. A prop (front row of the scrum) with the mobility of much smaller players, he had previously come back from a torn ACL in secondary school that could have ended his career, going on to become part of the World Cup-winning Springboks in 1995 (immortalized in the 2009 film Invictus, though he wasn't mentioned in it). Then in 1998, he suffered a hamstring injury, which led to a recurrence of his knee problems and forced him into retirement in 2000. He went back to his farm, but had trouble supporting his family without rugby, and also felt like he had unfinished business in rugby. Three years later, one of his former Boks teammates Rassie Erasmus, who had by then become coach of the Free State provincial side, offered him a return to the pitch. The next year, new South Africa head coach Jake White called him back for the Boks, and he continued to defy his age and injuries for another three years. His playing career ended with a second Rugby World Cup winners' medal in 2007, and he was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2019.
  • Dave Parker, who became a superstar with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1970's. At the end of the 1979 season (when he helped lead the Pirates to winning the World Series), he had a career .317 batting average (with two batting titles), was the 1978 NL MVP, and averaged 23 home runs and 17 stolen bases during the previous five seasons. He also had three Gold Gloves and was the 1979 All-Star Game MVP. However, the early 80's were a lost period for "The Cobra"; injuries and off-field issues (particularly cocaine addiction) took their toll on his numbers. By the time he signed with the Cincinnati Reds after the 1983 season, he had clearly worn out his welcome in Pittsburgh. However, once signed with the Reds, Parker got back in shape, cleaned himself up, and averaged 27 home runs per season during his 4-year tenure with Cincinnati (which included two more All-Star Game appearances). And if he was a bit well-travelled toward the end of his career, he was still a productive hitter who played for contenders seeking a veteran bat for their team.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Hulk Hogan. THE biggest wrestling star of the 1980s, Hogan's career stalled in the mid '90s after a combination of steroid allegations (promptly ridding him of his reputation for being a good role model for children), a disastrous movie career, and especially jumping to WCW while still retaining the tired gimmick he'd held for a decade. Seen as old hat, boring and having gotten involved with a group of poor angles and feuds, Hogan's popularity was at an all-time low when the decision was finally made to turn him Heel by being a founding member of the nWo faction. The move sparked interest in wrestling that it hadn't seen since the turn of the decade. Hogan once more became one of the biggest names in wrestling as a leader of the nWo.
    • Hogan's second career resurrection came after his legendary Wrestlemania 18 with The Rock. Booked as a heel as part of an attempt of a nWo resurrection, the Toronto crowd decided they just didn't want to boo the legendary Hulkster. They cheered Hogan and booed The Rock. The Rock switched on the fly, wrestling a more heel style than he'd planned once the crowd turned on him. The next night, also in Toronto, Hogan cut a promo thanking the fans, who at times drowned him out with their ovation. Shortly thereafter Hall and Nash turned on him, and he started coming out in his signature red and yellow to "Real American" once again. He enjoyed a short resurgence and even recaptured the WWE World Title from Triple H in 2002. He briefly left WWE in 2003 after a contract dispute, but returned in 2005 and finished up with WWE in 2007. His in-ring career ended shortly thereafter.
  • "Macho Man" Randy Savage was second only to Hulk Hogan in the 1980s. The 1990s weren't much kinder to him than they were to Hogan. First, he suffered a lot of Badass Decay during his time as "Macho King", his wife Miss Elizabeth divorced him in 1992 and he had a falling out with Hogan. Afterwards, Randy took a lesser role in the company as a color commentator and ambassador, only wrestling part-time and never a big spectacle when he did. By 1994, Savage was ready to make a full-time return to the ring, but Vince McMahon wouldn't allow it because he believed Randy to be too old and broken down to compete with the "New Generation". Savage's contract expired in late October and he jumped ship to WCW in December to resurrect his in-ring career. While his WCW run paled in comparison to his WWF heyday, he did put on some good matches, won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship four times, and joined the New World Order to feud with Diamond Dallas Page in 1997, which was voted "Feud of the Year" by Pro Wrestling Illustrated and was DDP's Star-Making Role.
  • Shawn Michaels is easily this. In The '90s, he was acclaimed for his great ring work but run down for his drug use and constant showboating and backstage politics. In 1998, a bad back injury forced him out of the business and it looked like he was done. In 2002, after some replacement surgery and having undergone a religious conversion, HBK returned for "one more match" against Triple H. To the shock of everyone, Michaels wrestled a fantastic brawl that soon got him back into the swing of things. Indeed, it's arguable that Michaels was actually better after his injury than before it, winning titles and creating classic Match of the Year battles against John Cena, The Undertaker, Chris Jericho, and more. Also, Michaels was hailed for changing his attitude, more accepting and giving the rub to others. He finally retired in 2010 but his comeback established his legacy from a one-time great to one of the true icons of the entire business.
  • Tina Ferrari tried to keep with wrestling after GLOW was cancelled, but eventually left it. Several years later she was asked to join WWE to help rebuild their women's division. She's now better known as Ivory and - while her career had plenty of ups and downs - she's still recognized as a 3-time WWE Women's Champion, and one of the best women to wrestle for the company. In 2018 she was announced as an inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame.
  • Eddie Guerrero was a popular star in CMLL, AAA, NJPW, ECW, WCW and then-WWF, until drug abuse caused him to lose his job and his family. After finding religion, getting clean, and reclaiming his wife and kids, a rehired and rejuvenated Eddie reached new heights in the WWE as a world champion and fan favorite before his passing in 2005. His entertaining performances and real-life story, finding salvation in his life before his death, has made him one of the most beloved figures in wrestling history.
  • Yumi Ohka was a Tag Team wrestler best known for her comedy routines and "idol" performances in the offbeat JD Star promotion. After four years with little to claim besides a tag title reign Cut Short and one day possession of the infamous Ironman Heavymetalweight Belt, Yoshimoto decided it was ready to push Ohka as The Ace of the company only for her ACL to be broken and require multiple surgeries over the course of two years to repair. In 2007, JD Star announced it was going out of business and the act of its final day was showcasing the resurrection of Ohka's career after her long absence to let everyone know she would be available in their absence. Pro Wrestling Wave was founded in April of the same year with Ohka as a regular in the main event...unfortunately for her, her gimmick would be Every Year They Fizzle Out for six years until continuous insults from Misaki Ohata and The World Famous Kana finally lit a big enough fire in her to beat them both and become a double champion.
  • Mark Henry was long looked as a financial bust for the WWE, often injured and lethargic in the ring while his long-term contract was an albatross for the company. In 2011, with the company's roster getting thin, they gave Henry another shot as a monster heel. A motivated Henry, backed with great booking as an unstoppable force and the best ring and mic work of his career, won the world title and SmackDown's ratings went up during his reign. Although injury derailed his title run, the fact that Henry was a popular centerpiece of the company for half a year was an accomplishment few saw coming.
  • Samoa Joe was at one point considered to be one of the best wrestlers in North America and pretty much put Ring of Honor on the map with his classic trilogy of matches with CM Punk as well as having epic encounters with the likes of Kenta Kobashi, Bryan Danielson and Austin Aries. He then moved to TNA and had an 18-month long winning streak that cemented him as one of the top stars in the company and his match with Kurt Angle led to TNA's highest PPV buy rate at that time(25,000). However, after that it all seemed to slowly fall apart for Joe as a disappointing World Title run, poor angles and a dose of Badass Decay had completely destroyed Joe's aura. It didn't help when TNA retooled Joe into an Ax-Crazy Wild Samoan, which seemed to provoke more laughter than fear. Eventually, TNA stopped trying and Joe's matches, save a great triple threat match with AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels, took a nosedive. Once Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff joined TNA, Joe floundered between the mid to low card and was pretty much irrelevant in TNA for a year and a half. Until he formed a tag team with fellow struggling wrestler Magnus and eventually, they became tag team champions, which made Joe relevant again in the eyes of fans. After the team broke up Joe's matches took a notable increase in quality resulting in show-stealing matches against old rivals Austin Aries and Kurt Angle. He hasn't reached his 2005-2006 peak, but Joe is quickly climbing back up the TNA ladder again. He left TNA in 2015 and went to WWE NXT, becoming the first two-time NXT Champion and becoming a top monster heel.
  • The Undertaker was one of the biggest stars in the WWF during the 1990s. However, after his transformation into a biker character in 2000, his career went pretty much nowhere. Then, in 2004, he revived the "Deadman" gimmick for the first time since 1999. After that, his feuds became main-event storylines, he won the Royal Rumble and three world titles, and his streak at WrestleMania has been built up as a big deal.
  • CM Punk was the hottest heel in the WWE for a period of time in 2009, but after he lost his World Heavyweight Championship to The Undertaker, he found himself in mid-card angles involving the Straight Edge Society, where he was constantly beaten by Rey Mysterio and Big Show. After he took over the New Nexus in 2011, he got put in a boring, one-sided feud with Randy Orton. As his WWE contract was about to expire, he was going to have one last feud with John Cena. Then, on June 27th, 2011, CM Punk sat down on the Raw stage and cut an epic worked shoot promo attacking WWE, Vince McMahon, and John Cena. This led to a classic match at that year's Money in the Bank where he won his first WWE Championship and left the company with the title. When he came back a week later, he proved himself to be the successor to John Cena's throne as the face of WWE. While he was never able to get that far, he still became one of the company's most popular superstars — to the point that fans are still cheering his name years his sudden departure in January 2014.
  • AJ Styles was always considered the face and most recognizable wrestler of TNA by most but the company never truly got behind him as the main guy. After an ugly disagreement over his contract and tired of the way his character was done being looked over in favor of former WWE guys coming in despite doing everything for the company for eleven years, AJ left TNA in late 2013 with many thinking he’d be back soon or he was going to retire. Instead, AJ heads to New Japan Pro-Wrestling and shocks many when he wins The IWGP Heavyweight Championship, the top prize in the promotion. AJ would go on to win the crowd there with his stellar performances including his 2014 Match of The Year bout he had with Minoru Suzuki that at the end had the entire crowd on their feet and cheering and chanting his name having accepted him as one of their own. The Phenomenal One is Phenomenal once again. This translated to AJ Styles being signed by WWE in early 2016. He was allowed to keep his name, he went straight to the main roster, quickly became a main eventer and even had a run with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship all in less than a year despite being the antithesis of what Vince sees in potential stars. And to prove that he's not slowing down anytime soon, he won the World Title a second time in 2017 and held it for a year.
  • Goldust was one of many outrageous gimmick wrestlers to show up in the mid-90s. While people liked his act, his ring abilities were less than stellar. He was in an out of the company a few times, but the year 2010 saw him receiving rave reviews for his improvement. He departed again but a return in 2013 was hugely well-received - as he and his brother Cody Rhodes formed a tag team and were eventually the ones to dethrone The Shield for the Tag Team Championships (in the main event of Raw no less). Rather than becoming known as a faded Attitude Era star, it was widely accepted that Goldust was in the best shape of his career. From 2014-2018 however, his presence eventually dried up, especially after Cody quit the company. Instead of languishing with no direction however, he joined Cody in All Elite Wrestling, where at their inaugural pay-per-view Double or Nothing, he went back to being Dustin Rhodes and fought his brother in a gruesome and emotional match. Despite being in his 50's, he had arguably the best match of his career, winning acclaim from fans all over and proving age doesn't always matter.
  • The Bella Twins left WWE in 2012 after a modest career. While they had both been champion, neither were what you'd call stars. They returned a year later and were announced as part of the cast of the reality show Total Divas. When the show proved to be a smash hit, they and the rest of the cast found themselves receiving more airtime (a rarity for females in WWE). Both twins notably put in lots of work to improve, as well as differentiate their previously identical characters. Brie got a big boost in popularity when she got to feud with Stephanie McMahon, main eventing Raw twice and having a high profile match at the 2014 SummerSlam. Although Nikki suffered a career-threatening shin injury, she was back in the ring within a few months. The year after she won the Divas' Championship, and eventually clocked the longest Divas' Championship reign of all time. Brie retired in 2016 but Nikki returned after suffering a neck injury and enjoyed many high profile feuds and storylines - also finally managing to shake off the smark hate that she had acquired over her career.
  • Becky Lynch: Rebecca Knox was a wrestling prodigy in her home country of Ireland. When all-women's promotions in America were just starting to take off, she took the indie scene by storm. Then she suffered a serious head injury and had to retire at the age of nineteen. Later at the age of twenty-six, she made a sudden return to wrestling and was signed to WWE instantly and quickly became the biggest she's ever been. She is held up as one of the 'Four Horsewomen' of NXT, alongside three much fresher talent, who helped put women's wrestling back on the map for a mainstream audience. In 2016 she became the first-ever SmackDown Women's Champion. She would experience this a second time towards the end of 2018. After losing the SmackDown Women's Championship, she finds herself gradually Out of Focus for the next year and a half in spite of her audible fan support. Then her Face–Heel Turn in SummerSlam 2018 happened, in which she attacked Charlotte Flair after her victory stating that Flair stole her spotlight and weaseled her way in the match that was originally just Becky's in the first place. Becky's subsequent Motive Rant (Flair always getting free opportunities, e.g.) would instead resonate with the fans instead of them turning on her. After defeating Flair to start her second reign, Becky was slated to face Raw Women's Champion Ronda Rousey on that year's Survivor Series in a Champion vs. Champion match. But what ironically cemented Becky's status as WWE's Breakout Character is the reason why the anticipated match didn't happen; on the final Raw before Survivor Series, the SmackDown women attempted an invasion in which Becky was legitimately busted open and concussed by a stiff punch from another wrestler. Becky shrugs off the injury to finish the segment, winning her the respect of Vince McMahon, everyone in the locker room, and the further adoration of the fans. Her popularity ultimately led her to be one of the first three women (along with Rousey and Flair) to main event WrestleMania in which she came out victorious.
  • Triple H was on the outs with the then-WWF in 1996 after the infamous "Curtain Call" incident where he and Kliq buddies Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash broke kayfabe in a group-hugging send-off for the latter two. As the only participant whom WWF could realistically punish (Michaels was WWF Champion while Hall and Nash were WCW-bound), the wrestler then known as Hunter Hearst Helmsley lost his planned push as King of the Ring, with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin winning the tournament and skyrocketing to stardom in the process. He did a series of jobs, including one at WrestleMania XII where he was squashed by Ultimate Warrior, who notoriously no-sold his Pedigree finisher. But Helmsley soldiered on without complaint, and by the fall of 1997, he had dropped his "Connecticut Blueblood" gimmick for good, launching an edgier, raunchier persona as he and Michaels founded the DX stable. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • While The New Day is a classic example of being Rescued from the Scrappy Heap, the stable itself has proven to be a Career Resurrection for Kofi Kingston. Prior to The New Day, Kingston was strictly being used as a jobber to the stars, rarely winning and not having taken part in any storylines of note since his last United States title reign. Kingston would get another resurgence as a singles competitor on the February 12, 2019 edition of SmackDown. Being a literal last-minute replacement for the injured Mustafa Ali in that year's Elimination Chamber PPV, a Gauntlet match was held to determine who will be the final entrant in the eponymous chamber. Kingston then proceeded to steal the show, first eliminating reigning champion Daniel Bryan, followed by Jeff Hardy, and finally Samoa Joe. He would eventually lose to AJ Styles, but the audience and his peers gave him a standing ovation for giving an excellent performance for over an hour. During said PPV, Kingston would steal the show again and became the final person eliminated by Daniel Bryan to retain the title, but the audience is on their seat during their match and once again gave Kingston a much bigger ovation for his showing. This ultimately led to him challenging for the title at WrestleMania 35 and finally winning it, becoming the first African-born WWE Champion (along with becoming the thirtieth Triple Crown Champion and twentieth Grand Slam Champion) in history.
  • The Miz floundered in mid-card hell after his brief run as a main eventer from 2010-2011. He made a face turn, which did nothing to refresh his character, then turned back heel under a Hollywood Prima Donna-type gimmick and was given a "stunt double" (Damien Sandow), that became more over than he was. 2016 was a turning point for him. His wife Maryse returned to the company as his valet and he truly began to shine during the second Brand Extension, cutting a Worked Shoot promo against Daniel Bryan that was so epic that even the smarkiest of smarks weren't sure if it was legit or not, followed by a series of well-received matches with Dolph Ziggler, a feud with John Cena where both men (and their women) cut loose on each other with promo-work that wouldn't be out of place in the Attitude Era and a series of Intercontinental title reigns. The Miz, who was seen as a complete joke the previous year, once again became one of the more entertaining parts of WWE television.
  • Sting. After becoming a breakout star in the late '80s, Sting became WCW's top guy in the early '90s, winning several world titles and being voted Most Popular Wrestler of the year in 1990, 1991, and 1994. Sting's momentum slowed down once Ric Flair returned in 1993 after a two-year run in WWF, and took an even bigger hit when Hogan and Savage came aboard. As a result, Sting got lost in the shuffle, wrestling mostly in the midcard or as the Ricky Morton to Hogan, Savage and Lex Luger in tag team matches. After Hogan's own resurrection (see above), Sting knew he had to change his character or else he'd suffer the same fate as pre-heel turn Hogan. He changed his look from a bleach-blond surfer dude to a dark, ghostly avenger reminiscent of Eric Draven from The Crow, stopped cutting promos and took the fight directly to WCW's biggest threat via sneak attacks and theatrical mind tricks. He won the WCW World Heavyweight title at Starrcade 1997 (but not without controversy), which was his first world title reign since 1993, and was once again voted Most Popular Wrestler of the Year.
  • Kenny Omega was a fairly popular name in the indy scene for a while, but he was widely considered a B-lister at best and never had anywhere near the same reputation as the likes of Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli, or Kevin Steen. Once he left Ring of Honor in 2010, Omega became largely an afterthought in the minds of most wrestling fans. This all changed when he arrived in New Japan during the mid-2010s, where he quickly became a standout member of Bullet Club and provided five-star matches with the likes of Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, and Shinsuke Nakamura, including two with Okada that went above the five-star scale, and essentially becoming arguably the hottest name on the industry outside WWE.
  • The Hardy Boyz: were one of WWF's top tag teams in the Attitude Era and would pursue solo careers in the 2000s, but both men were derailed by their personal issues (various injuries, Jeff's drug addictions, and Matt's poor handling of his girlfriend having an affair with his best friend) and left WWE for TNA at the end of the decade. The low point for both men was 2011, when Jeff showed up to a TNA world title match against Sting doped to the gills (forcing Sting to shoot-pin him after about a minute) and Matt was fired due to a drinking problem, subsequently faking a suicide note, leading the wrestling fandom to completely turn on them both. However, both men spent the next few years cleaning up their act and their "Broken Hardys" gimmick redeemed them in the eyes of the fans, enough for WWE to give them another chance and re-hire them in 2017, with a RAW Tag Team Championship run to boot.
  • Kurt Angle made his WWF debut in 1999 with a lot of hype behind him, as he was the first Olympic Gold Medalist to enter a pro wrestling ring. Kurt lived up to the hype, winning dozens of championships and putting on many classic bouts. As injuries and addictions took their toll on him, WWE fired Angle in 2006 after he refused to go to rehab. He was quickly snatched up by TNA and while he was arguably more successful there than in WWE, many fans grew tired of Angle constantly hogging the spotlight and his personal life went even further down the shitter: his wife Karen left him for Jeff Jarrett and he was arrested several times for drug and alcohol-related offenses. Angle's second wife, Giovanna, convinced Kurt to enter rehab in 2013 and he dedicated himself to getting clean. Kurt left TNA in early 2016 and returned to WWE the following year, with a headlining Hall of Fame induction, a stint as RAW's general manager, and a return to the ring in October to fill in for Roman Reigns in a 3-on-5 handicap TLC match. Angle proved he still had it, and his past struggles have been forgiven.
  • Goldberg was arguably WCW's greatest pet project in the 1990s. Stepping into a wrestling ring straight out of the NFL, Goldberg quickly became a hot act despite his minimal ring ability, generic look (that was essentially a ripoff of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin) and lack of mic skills. What he did possess was intensity, charisma and a devastating Spear/Jackhammer combo that put 173note  wrestlers on their backs for the 1-2-3, while picking up a WCW United States and later Heavyweight championship along the way. Things started going downhill when he lost the championship to Kevin Nash via interference from Scott Hall and a taser. Goldberg floundered around for a bit before being given an ill-advised heel turn at the hands of Vince Russo.

    Following the closure of WCW and a brief stint in All Japan Pro Wrestling, Goldberg signed with WWE in 2003, which, despite a three-month world title reign, didn't do much for Goldberg or WWE. Goldberg's contract expired the next year and after both he and Brock Lesnar were booed out of the arena at WrestleMania XX, he retired from wrestling never to be seen again. At least not until 2016, when it was revealed that he was the Pre-Order Bonus character for WWE 2K17, which led to fans speculating that Goldberg might return to the ring, especially since this is the deal that led Sting to do the same a few years prior and Goldberg stated in an interview that he'd like to have one last match for his wife and son. The fans were proven right as Goldberg announced that he would return one last time in order to challenge Lesnar again, promptly squashing the Invincible Villain right in the middle of the ring, to thunderous approval from the fans. Goldberg extended the "last match" into a "last run", eliminating Lesnar from the Royal Rumble, defeating Kevin Owens for the Universal championship at FastLane, then dropping it to Lesnar at WrestleMania 33. Although fans turned on Goldberg again following the title win, and actually cheered for Lesnar after he beat Goldberg, Goldberg appeared the next night and thanked the fans for his last run while leaving the door open for another in the future. He was announced as the inaugural inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2018.

    Goldberg's WWE return also seems to have revitalized his acting career and mainstream presence, with him appearing in the aptly titled The Goldbergs, Nine Legends, American Satan, The Grand Tour, The Flash and a few commercials.
  • Brock Lesnar made his WWE debut in 2002 and quickly became one of its most prolific main event players. However, Lesnar eventually became burnt out due to WWE's hectic schedule and left in 2004 alongside Goldberg. After a failed NFL career, he returned to wrestling for New Japan, which was a disaster second only to Tadao Yasuda's run in the company, and had a successful run in UFC despite being dismissed as a "fake wrestler". Lesnar returned to WWE in 2012 and quickly reminded both fans and wrestlers alike why he was such a force to be reckoned with.
  • Jeff Jarrett was a solid midcard act in the early to mid-90s, but once the Attitude Era kicked in, fans turned on him in droves and he was fired from WWF in 1999. The fandom's ire for Jarrett only worsened as he became a Spotlight-Stealing Squad in both WCW and TNA (the latter company being one he co-founded with his father Jerry). Even the death of his wife, Jill, and a reduced role in TNA did little to repair this damage since it was soon discovered that Jarrett was having an affair with Kurt Angle's then-wife Karen. It wasn't until Jarrett left TNA and mended fences with WWE that people started openly admitting to liking him again. His Hall of Fame induction in 2018, followed by a return to a WWE ring in 2019, cemented his resurrection.
  • Tony Schiavone was WCW's main announcer throughout the Monday Night Wars. After WCW was bought out by the WWF in 2001, Tony stepped away from the business apart from brief stints in XWF and TNA, and seemed to consider his wrestling career Old Shame. However, in 2017, he started a podcast with Conrad Thompson called "What Happened When" where the two discussed Tony's memories of WCW. This re-ignited Tony's passion for the business, leading him to return to wrestling commentary, first for MLW, then for All Elite Wrestling.

  • Oscar Hammerstein II revived his weakening career in musical theatre with Oklahoma!. In the previous years, Richard Rodgers had been one of Broadway's most successful composers in a partnership with Lorenz Hart that he was reluctant to discontinue (though it ended soon after with Hart's death), whereas none of Hammerstein's pre-Oklahoma! musical plays had succeeded in New York or London since Music in the Air in the early 1930s, while he drifted in and out of Hollywood and wrote the occasional hit song (such as "The Last Time I Saw Paris," which won an Academy Award that he disowned because he hadn't originally written the song for a movie).
  • Stephen Sondheim recovered from a definite lull in his career with Company. In the years since his previous Broadway musical, Anyone Can Whistle, had finished its one-week run, Sondheim had returned to writing lyrics for other composers, including Richard Rodgers (with whom he split over Creative Differences) and his Gypsy partner Jule Styne, and also wrote songs by himself for teleplays that occasionally got produced.

    Video Games 
  • Back in the late '80s, Squaresoft was on its way out after a string of flops, so they decided to go out with a bang, one Final Fantasy. It wasn't the "final" fantasy.
  • Ed Boon of Mortal Kombat fame. While other fighting series have made a successful leap to 3D, Mortal Kombat had "hit and miss" luck there, and during the 2000s it was massively overshadowed by other fighting games. Then in 2009 Warner Bros. promptly picked up the studio that produces the series (now known as NetherRealm Studios), following Midway's bankruptcy. The end result: a complete Continuity Reboot in 2.5D. Mortal Kombat 9 was not only a critical and commercial smash but also earned a spot as one of the featured tournament titles at the Evo Championship Series, a first for a Mortal Kombat title.
  • Scott Cawthon with Five Nights at Freddy's. Before that game, he mostly made cheap app games. However, his last one (Chipper & Sons Lumber Co.) was heavily criticized for making the animal cast look like a bunch of creepy animatronics. This led Scott into a deep depression, and almost made him give up making games...until, in his words, "something just snapped in me, and I thought to myself- I bet I can make something a lot scarier than that...". Needless to say, it worked.
  • Working Designs utilized local talent instead of established voice actors for their voice acting roles. Thus, when the company went under in 2005, all of the voice actors stopped voice acting, with the exception of Chad Letts. Come 2017, and Working Designs' Spiritual Successor Gaijinworks produced an English dub for Summon Night 6, and managed to get many of the original Working Designs voice actors to return, giving them their first roles in over a decade. The establishment of Gaijinworks was also the return to video game localization for Victor Ireland.
  • Obsidian Entertainment very nearly went bankrupt in the early 2010s due to a string of cancellations and Bethesda denying them the bonuses for missing a target Metacritic score for Fallout: New Vegas by one point. By their own admission, Pillars of Eternity saved the company from going the way of its predecessor Black Isle Studios.
  • Nintendo seemed to be suffering tremendously during the early/mid-2010s. Their handheld, the Nintendo 3DS only did modestly outside of Japan, while their home console, the Wii U, was a massive flop. This left them locked out of the club of the major warring consoles of the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Mobile. Nintendo tried to bring back fans with Wii U games such as Splatoon and Mario Kart 8, and 3DS titles such as Pokémon X and Y, Pokémon Sun and Moon, and the Japanese phenomenon Yo Kai Watch (Yo-kai Watch in particular ended up failing miserably outside of Asia) but they were still heavily crippled, with only the 3DS holding them up (but not by much due to more people having smartphones and tablets in their hands), and were more often brought up over their controversial Fanwork Bans than their games. Then, in 2017, Nintendo released a hotly-debated successor to the Wii U, and their reception and popularity switched right on a dime.
    • It's not the first time this has happened to Nintendo. Following the less than stellar sales of the Gamecube, many analysts and journalists had given Nintendo up for dead (despite Nintendo's more than ample cash reserves and handheld dominance), and there were numerous "experts" predicting Nintendo would soon leave the home console market and begin to make 3rd party games. Nintendo's next console, the Wii, only went on to revolutionize gaming, went on to sell over 100 million units, and a testament to it's wide-spread appeal, Sony and Microsoft rushed to make clumsy copycat attempts at replicating the motion-controls that made the Wii such a huge success.
  • Yoshio Sakamoto, one of the co-creators of the Metroid franchise, received major flak for the direction he took Metroid: Other M in; between the questionable voice acting, story direction, and even more questionable gameplay mechanics (not being allowed to use your abilities until you're literally given permission to do so for example) nearly killed the entire franchise. Sakamoto took the criticisms to heart and several years later, he helped create Metroid: Samus Returns, a game that went back to the classic 2D Metroidvania roots while having none of the voiced cutscenes or exposition that plagued Other M. The game was met with high praise and some have even forgiven Sakamoto.
  • PlatinumGames, while well known for their rather stellar action games, many of which are considered classics, they found themselves in quite the slump during the mid-2010s. This involved the development and release of several licensed games under Activision that were seen as quite sub-par coming from them, hitting the absolute low point with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan as well as the subsequent cancellation of Scalebound. They did release a few critically-acclaimed games during this time, such as Bayonetta 2 and The Wonderful 101, but they had the curse of being on the Wii U; not really PG's fault since Nintendo was the reason those two games could happen, but with relatively few people owning a Wii U, it was hard to get those games flying off of the shelves. According to Hideki Kamiya, Platinum was about to file for bankruptcy should their next title fail. Fortunately the next game, NieR: Automata, was not only a Breakthrough Hit for creative director Taro Yoko but also a massive critical and financial success, saving the company from bankruptcy and restoring their reputation in the eyes of gamers.
  • SNK used to have very strong arcade presence thanks to their Neo Geo system. And they also became a fan favorite thanks to their stellar fighting games which rivalled even Capcom's own series and enough to make them duke it out in a Capcom Crossover. At 2000, however... they suffered financial troubles thanks to their underdog status and the decline of arcade scene thus they had to declare bankruptcy, selling some of their assets to the Korean companies and entered a Dork Age. They came back a bit as 'SNK Playmore', but their games tends to be either a hit or miss and not exactly packing the similar punch as before, so they also had to produce mini-games, mobile games and pachinko titles. It took them 10+ years to eventually re-gather their resources and once again became just 'SNK' and released The King of Fighters XIV and Samurai Shodown (2019), which gained great acclaim and earned them a spot in the EVO championship series, something that they never quite achieved before. And thus, SNK rose back from the grave like a phoenix and given a similar prestige that usually only given to their rival.

    Western Animation 
  • Mark Hamill in Batman: The Animated Series. Between 1977 and 1983, Hamill became a superstar as Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars trilogy. Unfortunately, a car accident damaged his looks, and he moved onto Broadway. In 1992, Hamill found new life as a voice actor, starring as The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Rocio Mallo in the Latin American Spanish dub of Winx Club. In the late '90s, she was a rising star in the Lat Am dubbing scene, with roles in popular shows like Super Cerdita (as Lassie Carlen/Karin Kokubu) and Spongebob Squarepants (as Karen's first voice). After she moved to Mexico in 2001, her career stagnated for a while, even after her return to Venezuela in 2006. However, getting the role of Roxy in Winx Club brought her career to new heights, leading to her most famous role to date, Garnet.

    Fictional Examples 
  • Troy McClure in The Simpsons undergoes one in the episode "A Fish Called Selma"; his career was ruined by rumors about his fish fetish, so he starts dating Marge's sister Selma for publicity reasons, and gets a starring role in the stage musical adaptation of Planet of the Apes. Following his divorce, he gets offered the funny sidekick role in the next McBain movie, but turns it down in favor of his pet project The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagelnote 
  • The Artist. George Valentin, a fictional Silent Movie star, sees his career in ruins after the advent of sound cinema. In the end, after many trials and tribulation, he returns to acting once again.
  • Max Bialystock in The Musical version of The Producers. He starts all versions of the story as a Jaded Washout whose acclaim and success are far behind him, with seducing little old ladies as backers as his only means of staying afloat. In the original film, his Springtime for Hitler scheme lands him in jail (but with plans to try again), but the musical adaptation (and the musical's own film adaptation) expand on this by having him and his partners pardoned, and restarting his Broadway career successfully with a string of hits (with the titles implying they duplicate Springtime's So Bad, It's Good formula, albeit intentionally).
  • Parodied with Tugg Speedman in Tropic Thunder. An aging action star with little real acting talent whose signature Scorcher series is suffering from Sequelitis (the series is currently on the sixth movie, Scorcher VI: Global Meltdown, which, changed the concept of the Earth being turned into a giant fireball in the previous movies, to a frozen wasteland because the previous films had exhausted the previously mentioned concept). He put another nail in the coffin when he took the lead in a miserable Award Bait failure called Simple Jack. But the whole nonsense and resulting film surrounding the disastrous filming of the book Tropic Thunder ends up turning into a completely different movie, for which Speedman wins the Best Actor Oscar and gets his career back on track.
  • An episode of Drake & Josh had the boys befriending a washed-up magician called "The Great Doheney". He becomes famous again after Megan gives him an idea for his attempted comeback show: to fake his death and "come back to life" at his funeral.
  • The titular character of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. After success during the 80s, Burt's signature magic act runs stale after he becomes complacent and doesn't update it. After being displaced by a Darker and Edgier rival he is subsequently fired from his cushy Vegas show and has to invent a new trick to land a prestigious gig at a flashy new mega hotel. After rediscovering his passion and relearning the art of magic from his Childhood Hero, he rekindles his partnership with his best friend and designs a new trick to win the gig.
  • Vincent Chase (of Entourage) in The Great Gatsby (2013). Aquaman had previously had the biggest opening day film in history (in the show's fictional universe), surpassing the real-world record set by Spider-Man, but his follow-up personal passion project Medellin was a critical, financial and popular failure. Despite its thirty million dollar budget and the legendary lengths, the production crew went to produce the film (including negotiations with the government and the drug cartels of Columbia to get the location and accuracy) the film ended up being released Direct-to-DVD after it was laughed out of the Cannes Film Festival. The subsequent disaster of Smokejumpers, which saw his role continuously shrunk by the director and with the entire production eventually shut down by the studio, seemed to officially signal the end of his career and he actually left Hollywood to recuperate in Queens, New York. However, Martin Scorsese called and gave Chase the title role in his adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic after he saw some of the dailies from Smokejumpers.
  • In Shirobako, the Show Within a Show Exodus! is this for both the production company Musashino Animation and the director Seiichi Kinoshita, after their disastrous Jiggle Jiggle Paradise seven years ago.
  • Subverted in The Wrestler (ironically, see Mickey Rourke under Film). Randy "The Ram" Robinson tries to relive his Glory Days, but ultimately his age, trainwreck of a personal life, and the half-healed injuries of his wrestling past catch up with him.
  • In a heavy dosage of Reality Subtext, Riggan Thomson in Birdman. As mentioned with Michael Keaton under Film, Riggan played a superhero twenty years ago and faded from the public eye after he stopped playing him. He attempts a comeback by writing, directing, and starring in a play based on Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" and, with some near Fatal Method Acting, manages to succeed with great critical acclaim.
  • The Week follows a once-beloved TV show host who's now stuck doing radio. The film ends with him being offered a new TV deal, but it's left open whether he'll take it or not.
  • Simon Trent in Batman: The Animated Series episode "Beware the Gray Ghost" was an actor known for starring as the titular vigilante in the Show Within a Show The Gray Ghost, which would inspire Bruce to become Batman later on. However, the show was subject to Keep Circulating the Tapes as a fire destroyed the studio that produced it, so the public largely forgot about it. Simon Trent is now old, broke and hasn't had an acting job in a while due to Typecasting (Reality Subtext, as he's voiced by Adam West) living in a run-down apartment and barely paying the bills by selling his Gray Ghost memorabilia to collectors. After an unknown criminal begins imitating crimes from the show, Batman convinces Trent to help him solve the mystery. After the culprit is defeated, Trent is revered as a real hero, The Gray Ghost finally gets a home video release (as Trent had copies of the original episodes stashed away) and Trent's career is presumably revived.
  • Mariya Yamamoto of Shining Song Starnova was once a member of Quasar, Japan’s largest and most popular Idol Singer group, but despite spending almost ten years with them she never achieved enough notoriety to make it into Quasar’s prestigious front row unit and found herself constantly overshadowed by much younger girls, and was ultimately fired for being too old. By the time the story begins she’s become a chain-smoking alcoholic working various jobs that she hates while struggling to find more idol work. Joining the newly-formed idol group Starnova helps to resurrect her career: she experiences a popularity resurgence in any route and in her own route she achieves her lifelong dream of becoming Japan’s most popular idol and performing live in the Tokyo Dome.


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