Being a major movie star is not easy. You have to choose your roles well, you probably have to be good-looking, and you have to know yourself. Over the years, there have been plenty of rising stars who seemed destined to be A-listers. Some of them became just that. Others had careers that fizzled much more than many expected them to, or went to TV shows you forgot about.
The reasons for these fizzles are varied. Sometimes, it's the result of a shift to other priorities or a move to steadier work on TV. Other times, it's a matter of choosing the wrong roles. Whatever the reasons might be, these stars are all united by the fact that many people once thought they were going to make it big. Unfortunately, that didn't pan out for these folks.
For a movie franchise that both was and wasn't an all-consuming phenomenon, the Twilight films have produced two lasting movie stars in Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. Unfortunately, the third lead in that series, Taylor Lautner, has not had the same luck outside the franchise.
That may be in part because Taylor relied so heavily on his looks in that franchise, and it's largely unclear how much acting ability he actually possesses. While Twilight was very good for some of the actors involved, it left Taylor out to dry. He hasn't had a huge presence on screen in the years since the franchise ended.
When Carrie-Anne Moss emerged as a major force in the wake of The Matrix, it seemed like she might be a dominant movie presence for years to come. Unfortunately, that didn't ultimately go according to plan. That's not to say that Carrie hasn't found work in the years since The Matrix. She's just taking smaller roles than she might have if her career had gone a bit differently.
Still, we'll always have her excellent work on The Matrix, which proved that she was capable of being an action star and a romantic lead at the same time. She didn't have to choose.
Like many of the people on this list, Julia Ormond has had a pretty successful career. It's just not the career many thought she might have when she started out. Julia's real shot at stardom came with Sabrina, which was a remake of a classic Audrey Hepburn film that featured Julia in the lead role.
Unfortunately, the movie was a bit of a flop, and Julia's career went with it. Through no fault of her own, the actress's best shot at superstardom was a misconceived effort. Even so, the actress has still enjoyed plenty of work, including a role on Mad Men that earned her an Emmy nomination.
Before and during the run of The O.C., it seemed like Mischa Barton was poised to emerge as a major star. After she left The O.C., though, she sort of vanished. She's appeared in some independent films and short-lived TV shows, but her star has not shown the way many thought it would.
Just recently, Mischa joined a revival of The Hills. That revival will undoubtedly be a lot of fun to watch, but it's not where many thought the actress would wind up. During the heyday of The O.C., it seemed like she was destined to make a big splash in Hollywood.
Taylor Kitsch seemed like a perfect fit for stardom. He's beautiful, he was coming off an acclaimed role in a beloved TV show, and he was young. When he was cast as John Carter in a movie of the same name, it seemed like he was on his way to big things. Instead, his film career ended almost as soon as it began.
John Carter was one of the biggest box office bombs in history, and no one was willing to bet on the actor after that. He's since resumed fairly consistent work on TV, but for a brief, shimmering moment, it seemed like he would go on to be George Clooney.
It's not totally accurate to say that Megan Fox was never famous. In the first two Transformers movies, she was the female lead. That's not to say that she ever had a ton to do. She was mostly there to look beautiful and run away from giant robots that weren't really there.
Even so, many people expected that in the aftermath of those films, Megan was bound for superstardom. Being beautiful is certainly an enormous part of stardom, but it's not the total picture. You have to choose the right parts and know how to present yourself on camera. Megan has largely been unable to do those second two.
Sean Young is the second lead in one of the most important sci-fi films ever made. She plays Rachel in Blade Runner along with parts in Dune and Wall Street, but she never got the chance to lead a movie in the way some thought she deserved.
Outside of her career, Sean has had problems with the law, and it seems these issues may go some way toward explaining why her career never totally took off. Even so, it's a shame. She's incredible in the films where she does appear, and she likely could have been a movie star if things had lined up better for her.
Getting to play Superman in a movie directed by the guy who made the first two X-Men films seems like a no-brainer. You can't blame Brandon Routh for thinking that Superman Returns would be his shot at stardom. Unfortunately for him, audiences were not in love with Superman Returns.
As a result, Brandon missed his biggest chance at superstardom and has been largely relegated to TV ever since. That's not a terrible fate, especially considering how TV has become a dominant part of many people's lives. Still, he wanted to be a movie star, and he never got to be one.
Superman Returns is a movie that lives in an alternate reality where its stars are still major stars. Unfortunately, Kate Bosworth suffered a very similar fate to her co-star. Although her performance as Lois Lane in the film is far from a disaster, it didn't launch her career the way starring in a superhero movie usually does.
In the years since Superman Returns, she hasn't had much luck in finding roles that allow her to soar. As a result, her once-promising career has largely fizzled, and it seems like she'll never be the enormous star that many once thought she could be.
Alex Pettyfer is very pretty, but his franchise wasn't the roaring success that many YA endeavors turned out to be. His work in I Am Number Four didn't inspire fans to turn out in great numbers. He also had a starring role alongside Channing Tatum in Magic Mike, and although he looks very stunning in the film, that movie's fan's left singing Channing's praises.
Since then, his career has largely sputtered. The British actor hasn't found much success in recent years, in spite of his incredibly chiseled face. He's one of the most handsome people in Hollywood who doesn't have a great career.
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Hayden Christensen got an opportunity that most young actors would kill for. He was basically an unknown, and he got cast to play Darth Vader, the most infamous villain in all of film. Unfortunately, Hayden may have been somewhat unprepared for how to bring the character to life successfully.
The version of Anakin Skywalker that we got on screen was a lot whinier than many anticipated and unlikable in ways that no one saw coming. All of the fault for those issues can't be laid on Hayden, but he was certainly part of it, and it pretty much sank the rest of his career.
Through much of the '90s, it seemed like Joey Lauren Adams was going to be a name everyone had to know. She starred in Dazed and Confused, Chasing Amy, and Mallrats over the course of that decade, and was poised to break big as soon as the 2000s rolled around.
Instead, that big break never really materialized. That's not to say that Joey has not had plenty of work in the years since her '90s heyday. There's also a question of age, and how Hollywood treats women as they get older. Joey Lauren Adams was once a star, but Hollywood spit her out like it spits out tons of young actresses.
Leelee Sobieski is only 36, but she's already put acting far behind her. As a teenager and young adult, Leelee earned roles in films like Deep Impact, Never Been Kissed and Eyes Wide Shut. As her career progressed, Leelee began to take roles in doomed projects, and after another decade in the business, she decided to retire.
Frankly, it's a wonder that more actors don't go this route. She likely has enough money to never work again, and if she wasn't finding her work rewarding, there was no reason for her to continue pursuing it. She's living it up in early retirement instead.
Coming off of a hugely successful TV career, there was a lot of curiosity about what Topher Grace would do once That '70s Show was over. As it turns out, he may not be fit for roles as a leading man. Instead, he's taken supporting roles in a variety of projects. Those projects are a mixed bag, but there are some interesting ones in there.
His work in BlacKkKlansmen was quite good, whereas his work in Spider-Man 3 might be better to ignore. He may not be a leading man, but Topher has carved out a pretty solid Hollywood career for himself. He's not exactly going hungry.
Some actors are a really big deal for basically a single year or two, and then they fall off the face of the earth. That feels like what happened to Thora Birch, who starred in Best Picture winner American Beauty and the critically acclaimed Ghost World, but didn't have much of a career from then on.
It's easy to understand why many thought Thora was bound for greatness. She gave two great performances in two movies that were very well received, and it seemed like she could occupy a lane few actresses get the chance to be in. Unfortunately, we didn't get an extended career from her.
You wouldn't think that Sam Worthington would be the star of the highest grossing movie of all time, but here we are. Sam starred in Avatar, although the people who went to see it definitely weren't coming for him. In fact, it might be better to say they were coming regardless of who was in the lead role.
Even though he had that vehicle to kickstart his career, Sam didn't ultimately find much stardom outside of Avatar. Thankfully, James Cameron has decided to make four sequels, so Sam Worthington should be busy for a while even though he doesn't have many other projects.
Stephen Dorff has seen a return to prominence in the wake of True Detective's third season, but we first saw the actor become part of the cultural imagination after he took on the role of Deacon Frost in Blade. His work in that movie led many to believe that he could be a major star.
After all, he has the looks, and he's a pretty talented actor. Unfortunately, his career as a superstar simply wasn't meant to be, and he ultimately couldn't capitalize on the success of Blade to make himself an established leading man. Thankfully, his talents are being put to good use on TV.
As a teen and young adult, Chad Michael Murray was a hot commodity. He had starred on One Tree Hill, and in movies like A Cinderella Story and Freaky Friday. Unfortunately, since his peak in the mid-2000s, Chad's career hasn't gone exactly as planned.
That's not to say that the actor isn't getting any work. Handsome men who look great on camera will always have a place in Hollywood. As it turns out, Chad's place was on Riverdale, where he played a significant role on the show's third season. In many ways, Riverdale feels like the perfect fit for the former teen star.
Eric Bana resembles an ideal leading man so closely that it would be very easy to mistake him for one. He's quite a good actor, and he's not exactly bad to look at. Every time his career looked like it was set to take off, though, it stalled instead. His version of Hulk has become a cult classic, but it never received huge acclaim. What's more, his big prestige picture Munich didn't land either.
In some alternate universe, Eric Bana is an enormous star and has an Oscar and two more nominations. Unfortunately, that's not the world we live in, even though he's an enormously talented actor.
Garrett Hedlund is making plenty of movies, but you probably couldn't point him out in a lineup of handsome white guys. In spite his work in everything from Tron: Legacy to Inside Llewyn Davis, the actor has largely failed to prove that he's capable of being the center of a great movie.
That's not to say that he could never be great in something. His career is still moving forward, and it seems like he'll be the man to call whenever a casting director needs an unmemorable white guy. He may be in movies, but he'll never be a movie star, and that's because he's never made himself stand out.
Like so many of the people on this list, Anne Heche was a huge star in the '90s who faded from prominence once the new millennium rolled around. During that decade, Anne starred in everything from the remake of Psycho to Donnie Brasco. She was quite good in many different films, and it seemed like her star would only rise higher as the new decade began.
Instead, the 2000s signaled Anne's fade from prominence. Since then, Anne has kept busy with plenty of work on TV, and she's also a remarkably talented vocal actress. She's got work, it's just not headlining huge movies anymore.
Bridget Fonda is a member of a family that's pretty well-known for its acting abilities. For a while, it seemed like Bridget was set to follow in the footsteps of the Fondas who had come before her. She starred in Jackie Brown and a number of other high profile films and TV shows throughout the '90s and early 2000s.
Since 2002, Bridget has not appeared in any films. This seems to be a conscious choice, one that's allowed her to focus on her family and prioritize her personal life. She worked a lot when she was active, and she may have simply decided that she'd done all the acting she needed to do.
The Shining is one of the best horror movies ever made, and it stars one of the best American movie stars of all time. It also stars Shelley Duvall, whose career wasn't quite as bountiful as Jack Nicholson's in the years after the movie's release.
Although her early career was marked by plenty of acclaim for her portrayal of eccentric characters, she didn't ever manage to translate that success into a career that lasted. Since 2002 when she retired, she's lived in large part out of the limelight. That feels healthy for a movie star. They deserve quiet lives whenever they want them.
Jeanne Tripplehorn was one of the biggest stars of the '90s. You might not realize it today, but for a while, it was hard to avoid her no matter what you went to see. She starred alongside Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas and Kevin Costner. She was a great actress, and always fun to watch on screen.
As her career evolved, though, she moved to television, where she had a long-running part on Big Love. Wherever she goes, she's a talent worth watching, but she never got the chance to headline a movie the way she probably could have. She was a major talent.
Kellan Lutz is another actor whose career never totally took off in the aftermath of Twilight. The actor and model is certainly beautiful enough for Hollywood, but he may be somewhat lacking in the area of acting talent. There are people out there who assume that if you're pretty enough, you get to be in movies.
That's usually true, at least for a little while. Eventually, though, you have to prove that you're interesting to watch on screen, and not all beautiful people are. Kellan Lutz falls into this category. He may be pretty, but that doesn't make him a compelling screen presence.
Jai Courtney is the kind of famous person that feels like he's being stuffed down our throats. He's had starring roles in everything from Divergent to Suicide Squad, but every time you see him on screen feels like the first time.
That's not because he's got a fresh face. It's because he does very little to leave an impression in almost every film he's in. He may look like a movie star, but that's about it. He's not necessarily bad in these films, and he often looks the part. He just doesn't have the kind of star power that makes you look up and take notice.
In the aftermath of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, it seemed like Phoebe Cates was going to explode as a major star. She has the famous bikini drop scene in that movie, and she starred in Gremlins just two years later.
Those are two huge '80s movies, but they wound up being the high watermarks of Phoebe's fairly short career. Like a number of '80s stars, she gradually stepped away from onscreen work, although she's not exactly unhappy about that. She's raising a family with actor Kevin Kline, and that seems to be more than enough work for them both.
Jake Gyllenhaal's big chance at a franchise came with Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. That movie didn't do well, but Jake's career was fine. Unfortunately, his co-star's fared less well. Gemma Arterton, who played Jake's love interest, hasn't had the chance to play many big roles in the years since that film's release.
She's a gifted actress, and a formally trained one as well, and she's done consistent work in the years since Prince of Persia. None of it has very high profile, but she's working consistently, and that's all most actors can ever ask for, even if they aren't hugely famous.
You wouldn't expect an actor in a Batman movie to show up on this list, but Chris O'Donnell's career is among the more confusing in recent memory. He played Robin in both Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, and he also had a burgeoning career outside of superherodom.
Like many of the actors on this list, though, his career cratered as soon as the year 2000 came around. In the aftermath, Chris found consistent work on TV, where I'm sure he's paid well. He may not be a major movie star that endured for decade, but he's not exactly in financial trouble or anything.
Chris Hemsworth is a star, and rightfully so. He's incredibly handsome, very charismatic, and an incredible comedian. His brother has had less success on the big screen. Although Liam Hemsworth had a big role in the Hunger Games series, he hasn't had the ability to do much outside of those films.
That's a shame, because Liam is a funny guy in real life, and he's at least almost as good looking as his brother. It's possible that Liam just hasn't found his niche yet, but it's also possible that he'll never find it, and maybe that's okay. He'll always have Miley Cyrus.
In the aftermath of Into the Wild, it seemed likely that Emile Hirsch would become a major force in motion pictures. Instead, he's found himself without much of the success that was once anticipated for him. He clearly has some talent, but choosing your roles carefully is a huge part of being a star.
Emile has picked some strange projects, and many of them have not been very successful. As a result, Emile has found himself on the outside looking in at A-list success. He may still have work, but it's not the kind of work people foresaw after Into the Wild.
Playing the bad boy on TV often dooms your career in ways it shouldn't. Ed Westwick played Chuck Bass on Gossip Girl, and he was a fan favorite from the word go. In the show's aftermath, though, Ed has struggled to find other projects that work with his particular skills.
Ed may also suffer from the fact that everyone sees him as his fairly iconic TV character. That's one of the hardest things about playing someone everyone likes. Once you're done, you may not get many chances to stretch your wings and do different work. It seems like that's what happened in this case. Those 2017 sexual assault allegations didn't help, either.
Ione Skye is still doing plenty of work, but most of it is on a much smaller scale than it once was. Back in 1989, when she was one of the leads in Say Anything, it seemed like the young actress would be able to find a career filled with similar leading roles.
She did land a role in Wayne's World, but past that, Ione ended up taking projects that were on a much smaller scale than those she should have been offered. If you're a die-hard fan, you may know some of her more recent work, but for most folks, she's disappeared from Hollywood altogether.
Josh Hutcherson endeared himself in the hearts of many playing Peeta, the sweet innocent boy who supports Katniss in the Hunger Games. Although Josh was never the center of attention in those films, he did admirably in a supporting role and proved that some boys could and should take a backseat to the women around them.
Since the series wrapped up, Josh hasn't done a ton. He has a mildly successful show on Hulu, but he's not taking roles as a leading man the way Robert Pattinson is. Maybe he never could have, but for a moment, it seemed like Josh Hutcherson could be big.
Piper Perabo seemed like an emerging star within recent history. She was the lead on her own USA TV Series, Covert Affairs, and was working consistently in movies as well.
In recent years, though, Piper has somewhat faded from public consciousness. She's no longer the star on the rise that she once was, even if she's still working consistently. Part of this is the responsibility of a media hype cycle that brands someone the next big thing, whether they want it or not. If Piper's happy with her current level of fame, who are we to tell her she's wrong?
When Rounders came out, it felt like a moment for basically everyone involved in the film, which included Gretchen Mol. She was branded our next big movie star. Whether she ever really could have been is another question entirely. That's not to say that Gretchen is a bad actress. In fact, she's quite talented.
That talent has led her to quite a bit of work over the course of her career since Rounders. That work includes roles in films like 3:10 to Yuma and Manchester by the Sea. She still gets plenty of jobs because she's a very good actress who just isn't a superstar.
Stuart Townsend is an actor where you can pinpoint the moment in his career where he lost his chance at being a superstar. He was originally supposed to play Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but he was fired his first day on set. If he had stayed in that role, his career may have gone very differently.
Instead, it's slowed down quite a bit in recent years in a way that Viggo Mortensen's has not. If Stuart could have held onto his lead role in one of the biggest franchises of all time, maybe he would be sitting pretty on a couple Oscar nominations right now instead of Viggo.
For some of its stars, Gossip Girl was incredibly kind. For others, though, it was harder to find distinctive work in the show's aftermath. For several years, Leighton Meester struggled to find projects that felt like they were worth doing. She didn't succeed as a movie star, even as co-star Blake Lively found ways to adjust her persona for the big screen.
Just recently, Leighton has taken a role on a sitcom, so it's not as if she's a disastrous flameout. Her success has just been more modest when you compare it with how her BFF on the show has done since it wrapped up its run.
Estella Warren likely should have stuck to work as a model. Instead, she tried her hand at acting, and initially, it seemed like it might work. She got cast in Tim Burton's remake of Planet of the Apes alongside Mark Wahlberg, and it seemed like that movie was going to be great. Instead, it was very bad.
From there, Estella's career played out in largely disappointing fashion. She continued to work, but she is by no means a famous actress. In her case, the only time it seemed like she could be was when she was cast in what sounded like a cool movie.
Linda Fiorentino's acting career didn't so much fizzle out as completely halt quite suddenly. In the late '90s, she starred in Men in Black and Dogma, but her last onscreen appearance came only a few years later in 2002.
She tried to get a number of projects off the ground in the years after, but none of them worked, and her career essentially ended as soon as it was ramping up. It's one of the strangest stories in all of Hollywood. Most of the folks on this list had the chance to crash and burn. Linda didn't even get that.