10. Patrick Dempsey
He came along at a time when teen comedies were really a good thing in Hollywood and thanks to movies like Can't Buy Me Love, Loverboy, Mobsters and a few other movies of the late 80s and early 90s Patrick Dempsey was a teen star with a bright future ahead until like most teen stars their star started to fall and his fall was a steady one, with films like Run(which I actually like),which was released the same year as Mobster which is look at his final hit film after that he had a couple of misses that one even thinks about.
In 1995 he pops up in Outbreak as the first victim of the plague that was brought to american thanks to his pet monkey, and just like his character Dempsey career died, and then he resurfaced in 2000 as Det. Mark Kincaid In Scream 3, which I look as being his true comeback after being out of the mainstream since 91' really, even though it was the second sequel to the hugely popular slasher franchise it was the a success and it put him back on the map.
I know must people like to believe that because in 2005 he finally struck it big with a starring role in Grey's Anatomy as Dr.Derek "Mcsteamy" Shepard that, its his true come back but to me Scream 3 is his real come back role.
9. Betty White
Betty White is kind of a tough one when it comes to comebacks since she has been steadily working since the early 50s and hasn't lost her star power along the way, with successful Television shows most notably The Mary Tyler Moore Show,The Love Boat, Empty Nest, and The Golden Girls) but after The Golden Girls ended in 1992 she still kept busy but she wasnt doing anything on the level of those shows, her first return to me was in the 1998 action/disaster flick Hard Rain where she plays an old woman who doesn't want to leave her home because the town is flooding which I look at as a precursor to her true comeback which came a year later.
In 1999's monster flick Lake Placid Co-Starring with Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, and Oliver Platt a movie about a giant Crocodile that is terrorizing a small town, on paper the movie could've easily been a throw away but it became a huge hit and spawn lesser sequels, but one of the shining things about Lake Placid is Betty White who plays an old woman who has been feeding the large beast Horses, Cows and admits to the police that she kept the secret of the Crocodile killer her husband.
That role showed that Betty White was still a force and her comedic timing was very much so still on point with lines like "If I had a dick this is where I'd tell you to suck it" and "This is his lake now" even though she isn't the main star of the movie she is very much so a reason to see the movie.
Here in recent years Betty White is where not to many people her age are still working and not slowing down one bit with a hit show Hot In Cleveland and also being the oldest host of Saturday Night Live which was one of the highest rated episodes thanks in large to the fact that threw out her career she had never hosted the show.
8. Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin has had a very successful run as Jack Donaghy on NBC's hit sitcom 30 rock, but before that he was a top film star in the late 80s beginning with Bettlejuice which started a long successful run in movies and along the way marrying Kim Basinger, he had a string of hit films Working Girl, The Hunt For Red October, GlenGarryGlenRoss, Malice, but then with an unnecessary remake of a classic The Getaway which co starred real life wife Kim Basinger is where things starred to take some what of a turn, because the films that followed were either moderate successes (The Juror, Ghost of Mississippi, Mercury Rising) and bombs (The Shadow, Heaven's Prisoner, The Edge) his star began to fall with him starting to do more Independent films that took him out of the big spot light that he was once in.
When the early 2000s came along he co starred in the star studded WWII action/romance flick Pearl Harbor that was a moderate success. In 2003 in a very underrated movie The Cooler Alec Baldwin showed that he still had what it took to be a top actor as Shelly kaplow a casino owner who is very old school and doesn't want to change with the times is probably one of his best performances and also the Academy thought so too since it earned him an best supporting actor nomination, after this is where his career seemed to get back on track with supporting roles in The Aviator, The Departed, in between those film he got on with Tina Fey with 30 rock.
Baldwin has always been a underrated actor and even though earlier in his career big studios mis marketed him by trying to make him a leading man just because he had the look of one, his best work has always come as a supporting actor along side other top tier talents. now that 30 Rock has ended lets see where his career goes from here.
7. Neil Patrick Harris
If you you grew up in the late 80s/early 90s you still think of him as Doogie Howser M.D. as child star on a hit TV show he was in the league of alot of other child stars of the time that careers seemed to end when the lights went out on their tv shows after Doogie Howser ended in 93' his career didn't go anywhere really and as he got older the roles didn't come either until he came back into the spotlight in 1997 thanks to blockbuster sci fi action flick Starship Troopers but that couldn't bring him completely back.
Harris had to wait until 2004 stoner sleeper hit Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle where he played a version of himself here he showed that he could be very funny and a scene stealer in a movie he wasn't the star of and thanks to the success here a year later he was cast as womanizer Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother where he continues to steal the show in countless scenes and just to show that he hasn't let his new found stardom go to his head he still made appearances in the Harold and Kumar sequels.
6. Woody Harrelson
One actor that has seemed to have a very successful but underrated career is Woody Harrelson, he started out as the very likable but dimwitted Woody Boyd on the hit Cheers co starring along side some very top comedies that he didn't have a problem stealing some scenes from them. as Cheers came to an end in 93' he focused more on film roles starring along side good friend Wesley Snipes in the Sports Comedy/Drama White Men Can't Jump and along side Demi Moore and Robert Redford in the drama Indecent Proposal which is where I believe he showed he could do comedy and serious roles equally.
In 94' he starred in Oliver Stone's controversial Natural Born Killers which in some ways did do a bit of damage to his career but at the same time showed that he could do the job, a year later he team again for the 3rd time with Snipes in Money Train which is good but another of Lethal Weapon type movie ripoffs. In 96 his career really took off starring in The Farrelly Brothers sports comedy Kingpin and later that year he starred as Larry Flynt in the biopic The People vs. Larry Flynt where he was nominated for an Oscar.
After 96' Harrelson career seemed to take somewhat of a slide even though he continued making films and not disappearing off the face of the earth, he started taking on roles that were beneath his caliber of talent basically for the next decade he did movies that went under the radar or didn't touch the radar at all until 2007 huge Coen Bros hit No Country For Old Men where he plays a retired Army Colonial named Wells, even though his part is small the scene between him and Javier Bardem in a hotel room showed why Harrelson was still an A-list talent.
2009's war drama The Messengers brought Harrelson back starring as Captain Tony Stone where he was nominated for another Oscar and since this his career seems to be back on the track, with countless starring and supporting roles in more mainstream movies most notable Zombieland, The Hunger Games, and Game Change. and most recent in the critical acclaimed HBO Crime/Drama Hit True Detective.
5 Nick Nolte
Say what you will about Nick Nolte nowadays which he deserves anything that's said about his style of dress these days looking for a good picture of him now is kinda hard to find hence the picture I ended up using for him here. even with all the critical stuff said about him over the years which is much deserved one thing no one can say is that the man isn't a good actor which is one and probably the only reason he is still able to get work in movies and most people will look at Warrior as his claim back to fame which it is one of his best roles in years and if you don't believe me the Moby Dick scene should've won him the Oscar.
As great as he was in Warrior for me his true come back role was in Hulk...just kidding, he was good in the movie even though the movie doesn't know if it wants to be a serious drama or Super hero movie at times but enough about that movie, to me Nolte's true come back was Tropic Thunder where he plays Four leaf who the tale of the movie being made in the movie of Tropic Thunder is supposed to be about, he shows alot of the old Nolte with his range and basically shows that he still has it even if he looks like he loss it a long time again, Nolte might not be the leading man he once was years ago but he still has the ability to showcase his talents and hopefully he will continue to do so and even in the process get himself back looking halfway decent in his personal life.
4. Sylvester Stallone
The guy who literally had to make his own way in Hollywood as I like to call him is one of the best success stories starting with smash hit Rocky and then along the way Rambo and countless other movies but of course with great success does come great responsibility but in Stallone's case great failures which it begins with not Stop or my mom will shoot! no that comes much later earlier then that it begins with Rhinestone where he co starred with Dolly Parton where he played a New Yorker who wanted to be a country singer this movie would be his first mistake but luckily most people don't remember it because not to long after he would do the first Rambo and Rocky sequel so it gets forgotten.
The 80s were very good to Stallone with Rocky and Rambo sequels and other movies as well but the early 90s he went back down the Rhinestone failure route again with the Comedies Oscar and Stop or my mom will shoot! even though he tried to get back to his action roots again which some where hits and others were not so much success his first come back role that showed him in a different light and even weight was the cop drama Cop Land where he didn't look like Rambo or Rocky action star anymore but a small town sheriff who is looked at as a joke until he decides to fight back (hmm maybe Arnold should've went this route with The Last Stand) as good as he was in Cop Land he wasn't fully back to the Stallone we all come to know and love.
It wasn't until he did the final sequels to his two most famous characters Rocky Balboa and Rambo that we started to take him seriously again and then 2010's hit The Expendables and The Expendables 2 were he fully came back and gave us 80s action fans what this generation doesn't know anything about. even thought Bullet To The Head wasn't a success it shows that Stallone is back to kicking ass and taking names just like he started doing over 30 yrs ago and with some of the movies he has coming soon he is just getting started again.
3. Liam Neeson
Now every know that Liam Neeson has done a 180 with his career by becoming more of an actor star in recent years thanks in large to 2008's out of nowhere hit Taken which to the masses it is the movie that put him back on the map after 1999's Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace even though he has a small but Important role in Gangs of New York, Kingdom of Heaven wasn't want people thought it would be, Batman Begins showed that he could be a nasty villian but it was 2006's Western/Revenge flick Seraphim Falls co starring with Pierce Bronsnan where he gets gritty and even nastier then Ra's Al Ghul where he would stop at nothing and will at all cost get Pierce Bronsan even it means his on life.
Seraphim Falls never touched anybodies radar for a number of reasons mostly I believe because some of the themes went over most people's head and it doesn't play like a true western, after this film Liam Neeson struck it big with Taken and has now a very well versed body of work with quite a few hits and maybe one or two misses (Battleship quickly comes to mind) and now after Taken 2 and a rumored Taken 3 to come its good to see one of the best actors in the last 20 years is back on top.
2. Robert Downey, Jr.
Probably the poster child for actors who has made comebacks after having the rocky road to self destruction its a miracle that he made it back and to the top where he rightfully belong, with not just having one but two successful movie franchises Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes. RDJ first attempt at a comeback was in the early 2000s with a guest starring role on hit TV series Ally McBeal but with a few relapses he found himself off the show and locked up in Jail and rehab.
After a few moderate supporting roles Downey Jr starred in the Dark Comedy/Drama/Thriller Kiss Kiss Bang Bang along with Val Kilmer where he plays a small time thief who by luck becomes an actor turned private eye that has to solve a murder mystery, In this role Downey showed that he still had the acting chops most notable in a scene where he was involved in a robbery gone wrong he is shot by the police and he gets away be stumbling into a casting call and he is so convincing to the casting agents that he gets hired for the role.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang wasn't a big hit in 2005 but it was to me Downey's true comeback because just that same year he co starred in the star studded cast in George Clooney's directing debut Good Night, and Good Luck and then only a few years later he became Iron Man and now is one of Hollywoods top stars.
1. Mickey Rourke
Probably one of the best actors of his generations, Mickey Rourke was lighting in a bottle in the beginning of his career with a string of hits and performances for the ages in the 80s, by time the 90s rolled around the decade was not to kind to him professionally(box office bombs, started boxing) and personally(had a nervous breakdown) even though he did have a small but good role in Francis Ford Coppola's 1996 Courtroom drama The Rainmaker other then that the 90s were a wash for the next Marlon Brando.
The year 2000 started out pretty decent for Rourke thanks to friends Sean Penn who cast him in a small but very emotional role in The Jack Nicholson starring film The Pledge, not to many people can steal a scene from Jack but Rourke does and Sylvester Stallone got him a co starring role in the Get Carter remake which isn't bad for a guy who has only done one movie of note in a decade.
2003 was a big year for Mickey in a number ways one he was cast in Robert Rodriguez's Spagetti Western styled Desperado sequel Once Upon A Time In Mexico and the first time fans really got to see the new not so good look of Mickey Rourke. 2004 he co starred along side Denzel Washington in Tony Scott's Man on Fire which help get him back in the spot like thanks to the movies and his new face.
2005 was his year where he starred in Tony Scott's ultraviolent action biopic about Domino Harvey Domino where he plays a bounty hunter and he shows that he can still act and get down and dirty when needed to but his real rise back to fame was in the second movie he starred in that year the comic book novel come to life Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez film Sin City where he plays the larger then life character Marv even though the movie was a ensembled cast (Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Benico Del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan) to name a few Mickey Rourke's performance stole the movie away from the rest and even the marketing especially some of the trailers and tv spots pointed to this.
Rourke scene in a bathroom talking about how things are and the way they used to be and his line "These are the old days man, the bad days, the all or nothing days. They're back. there's now choices left. and I'm ready for war." Not only is that a badass scene that line sums up his career in a nutshell because he basically was letting the world know that Mickey Rourke the actor was back on top and he was ready to be a star again
Now everyone likes to say that The Wrestler is Rourke's real come back because of his performance and he is very good in the movie, but I don't think that movie overall was as good as most people like to make it out to be and it wouldn't be as good without Mickey's performance either. He did get an Oscar nomination out of it but he should've won that year too, but I'll save that discussion for another topic I have lined up.
Thanks to his appearances in The Expendables, Iron Man 2 and Immortals, Rourke is back to being a name once again in a business that's lacking actors of his caliber and versatile style and hopefully he'll continue to put in good work and probably win a Oscar one day.
That is my top 10 list of actors who true comeback roles have come before what are mostly considered their comeback roles. If you think that I might have missed anyone or don't feel some that made the list shouldnt be on here feel free to comment and let me know who you would add to your own list.