• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

File:Career-resurrection 4640.jpg

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

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. Maybe they were injured or ill, or had some demons they couldn't conquer.

The bottom line is, the next big thing didn't pan out. Or the big star did something dumb and he faded out, having to take bit roles and second billing to pay the bills. Maybe they made an ill-fated switch to another medium, like going from TV to movies, or movies to music. Either way, their career has bottomed out. And then, suddenly, they're back! They landed a hot role, signed on to a Sleeper Hit, broke back into the industry as an Ensemble Darkhorse or what have you. They've resurrected their careers.

See also Win Back the Crowd and Popularity Polynomial. Contrast Star-Derailing Role (which may have applied to him earlier). Applied to a fictional character, this turns into Character Rerailment.

Examples of Career Resurrection include:

Anime and Manga


  • Dennis Hopper: 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 1960's with appearances in Rebel Without a Cause, Giant and his directorial debut Easy Rider, 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 1970's. After a failed suicide attempt in the early 80's, 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.
    • And then he went and did Super Mario Bros...
    • He also gave a memorable turn as the drug-crazed photojournalist in Apocalypse Now, although as the documentary Hearts of Darkness makes clear, he was cast as a favor and his incoherence was not a performance.
  • Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor. Murphy was one of the biggest comedy stars of The Eighties, but as time went on, films like The Golden Child and Beverly Hills Cop II tainted his reputation with critics. In the early '90s, 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 Eighties if not for his multiple-role performance in the Professor remake, 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 '00s, even receiving an Oscar nomination for Dreamgirls. Unfortunately, in the late '00s/early '10s 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.
  • 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).
  • Jackie Earle Haley: Known for his early role in The Bad News Bears, Haley's movie career was sidelined by a reputation as a child star. He 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 80's), 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 also reinvented Freddy Krueger in the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street 2010. He is co-starring with Johnny Depp in the new version of Dark Shadows and has snagged a role in Steven Spielberg's film about Abraham Lincoln.
  • 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, which lead to a string of well-received releases... at least until Battlefield Earth derailed him again. His cross-dressing role as Edna Turnblat in Hairspray seems to have given him a minor resurrection again, this time as a character actor.
  • Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. His career started with high critical praise and success for roles in Wild Orchid, 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 ticket back to the A-list. Oddly enough, he stars opposite Downey in Iron Man 2.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 (most infamously for his L.A. shootout with members of the police force) 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 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.
  • Leslie 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.
  • Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. She became an "it girl" after Pulp Fiction, only to watch her career crash and burn after Batman and Robin and The Avengers 1998. Fortunately for her, Quentin Tarantino 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.
    • Hmm...are we noticing a pattern here?
  • Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa. 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 3D, 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.
  • Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: 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 Demarco and Nick of Time) and some hidden gems (Donnie Brasco 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.
    • Notable in that Depp completely changed the way Jack Sparrow was portrayed, creating a wildly different character from the one in the script, thereby engineering his own resurrection.
  • Ben Affleck with Gone Baby Gone. After having done Gigli and the messy break-up with Jennifer Lopez his career was in the bottom. But 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 and with the great reviews and good box office results, he's again proven to be a very good director who has a real shot at earning a second Oscar.
  • Drew Barrymore with Scream. After starting off as a child actress in the blockbuster ET the Extraterrestrial 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. By the early '90s, Barrymore was getting by in low budget, independent movies (which most of the time, seemed to typecast her as a promiscuous, rebellious and/or out-of-control youth) like Doppleganger, Poison Ivy, and Gun Crazy or small roles in major movies like Batman Forever. After her small but memorable role in 1996's Scream, came more and more A-list friendly roles (beginning with The Wedding Singer) for Barrymore, most often in the romantic comedy variety.
  • Val Kilmer with Wonderland and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. After riding high in the '80s and '90s with projects such as The Doors, Top Gun,Top Secret, Willow, True Romance, Tombstone and Batman Forever, Val Kilmer's status as an actor was damaged by high profile flop The Saint. His reputation as "difficult" certainly didn't help matters. In 2003, he made a comeback in the critically-acclaimed Wonderland as the once successful adult star John Holmes. This was followed by his role in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang alongside Robert Downey Jr.
    • Val Kilmer however as of late, has seemingly been more known for being 50 Cent's frequent co-star in direct-to-DVD fare/BFF and his weight gain than anything else acting-wise.
  • Kirsten Dunst with 2011's 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 films, among others. She was considered one of Hollywood's most promising young actresses before depression and rumoured 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. And even Lars Von Trier's inappropriate Nazi joke at the Cannes Film Festival wasn't enough to kill her performance's momentum as it went on to win the festival's Best Actress prize.
  • Tom Hardy: 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 will be seen as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises and the new face of the Mad Max films in 2012/2013.
  • Josh Brolin in No Country for Old Men. After being considered a rising star in the 1980's, a number of barely released films and short-lived television series derailed him. After spending several years being a Hey, It's That Guy!, he turned it turned around in 2007 by playing a few villain roles in the critically acclaimed Grindhouse and American Gangster 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, hasn't looked back.
  • A film scoring example is Elmer Bernstein. Once a notable name for action films and dramas in the 1950's and 1960's, Bernstein had found himself reduced to scoring mostly TV shows by the 1970's. 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.

Live-Action TV

  • David Caruso in CSI: Miami. He played a bunch of bit parts and minor roles before landing a lead role on NYPD Blue and 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 mixly-reviewed Kiss of Death and the reviled Jade. He faded back into obscurity, turning up as a Hey, It's That Guy! in the Russell Crowe flick Proof of Life. Then, Jerry Bruckheimer cast him as Horatio Caine, and he was back in the limelight.
  • Kiefer Sutherland in 24. After The Lost Boys and the two Young Guns films, Sutherland looked to be well on his way. Then, he faded to the background, 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). However, his Emmy-award winning turn as Jack Bauer on 24 put him back on the A-list.
  • Matthew Fox was part of the highly-regarded Party of Five on Fox. But that show was never a "huge" hit per se, and when it went off the air, nobody really remembered him. But then...he wound up as Jack Sheppard on Lost. This ignited a film career that so far included Speed Racer and We Are Marshall.
  • William Shatner. 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 Crazy Awesome attorney 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 Shit My Dad Says.
  • Chris O Donnell in NCIS: Los Angeles after Batman and Robin almost buried it some ten plus years prior.
  • Neil Patrick Harris in 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 the Harold and Kumar movies, which landed him back on the national radar and led to him being cast in the role of Barney Stinson (and Barney's characterization has 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 recent years). He followed up by playing the title role on the well-received Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog which has made him a geek icon.
  • Georgia Taylor - best known as Toyah Battersby from Coronation Street, but now best-known for her role as Wrench Wench Ruth on Casualty.
  • Ed O'Neill in 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 an household name, in the form of the Emmy award winning series Modern Family.
  • Ted Danson' in 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 Damagess 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 and a part as the new lead in CSI after Laurence Fishburne's departure.
  • Michael Chiklis. The commercial and critical failure of Wired almost killed his career in the crib, but The Shield brought him back from the brink and into the limelight.


  • Justin Bieber was the biggest Teen Idol in the world from 2010 to 2012, with a huge fanbase known as Beliebers. Unfortunately, Bieber built a massive Periphery Hatedom, his personal life spiraled out of control, his fanbase was leeched by a certain British boy band, and his album Journals didn't even chart on the Billboard 200! In 2015, audiences decided to pull Bieber out of disgrace when his featured spot on Jack Ü's "Where Are Ü Now" became a Top 10 hit. His next single, "What Do You Mean", actually debuted on top of the charts worldwide! Justin Bieber and One Direction both released their new albums on November 13, 2015; Bieber held 1D off of the pole position with Purpose, which went double platinum, got the best reviews of his career, and produced two more #1 singles in "Sorry" and "Love Yourself".
  • Binary Finary was best known for the trance anthem "1998", but they split up due to irreconciliable differences between members. However, Matt Laws and Stuart Matheson revived the act in 2006 with the download-only album The Lost Tracks, a compilation of songs written during their eight-year sabbatical.
  • Mariah Carey: Considered to be one of the biggest pop singers of the 90's, Carey suffered a nervous breakdown in 2001, coupled with a disastrous turn in the box office flop Glitter and a series of bizarre media appearances (that culminated in an appearance on MTV's Total Request Live where she served ice cream to the audience, followed by a bout of hospitalization for "dehydration"). She was dropped from her record label, and attempted a comeback in 2002, but she didn't have success until the release of 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi and her role in the critically acclaimed film Precious in 2009.
  • James Brown: Although he had achieved reasonable success in the sixties and seventies, Brown's career was more or less stalled by the end of the decade. He was a huge star in the black community, but nowhere near as big in the white community. His appearance — all five minutes of it—in The Blues Brothers brought him to the attention of a white audience and won him many new white fans, revitalizing his career. In the Eighties, he played to larger and more racially-mixed crowds than he ever had before; by the end of The Nineties he was pop music royalty.
  • Britney Spears: One of the biggest pop stars in the world between 1999 and 2004, her career flew off the rails from 2004 to 2008 in one of the defining examples of a Creator Breakdown. Highlights include: a 55-hour Vegas marriage to a childhood friend, her turbulent relationship with Kevin Federline, getting her head shaved, delivering a critically-thrashed performance at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards (which spawned a Memetic Mutation from Chris Crocker), and finally, the court putting her into conservatorship of her father. However, the release of the album Circus in late 2008, combined with a reduced profile in the tabloids, has turned her career and reputation around, giving her some of her first hit singles since her days as a Teen Idol. And two hits from her album Femme Fatale prove that Circus wasn't just a fluke.
  • Bob Dylan: Was very popular in The Sixties and maintained this until the mid-Seventies, but by the end of the decade he had basically lost his fans (what little he had) with his Christian albums. Saved, released in 1980, is often considered to be Dylan's worst album (other than Dylan). Because of the backlash against him, had a rather low profile in The Eighties and in the early Nineties. Then came an album called Time out of Mind, which was released to glowing reviews and won the Grammy for Album of the Year, restoring his place in the league of rock gods. All of his studio albums since Time out of Mind have not just reached, but debuted in the top ten of the Billboard album charts.
  • Aerosmith: In 1979, on the peak of their drug use and in the middle of recording a record, guitarist Joe Perry left the band. The following two albums were disappointing musically and commercially (the second one in particular, as the other original guitarist left too). Then came a label change, along with Putting the Band Back Together. While Done with Mirrors did not make much impact, 1987's Permanent Vacation and a team up with popular rap group Run DMC on a remake of their old song "Walk This Way" brought them back to the spotlight, and the follow-up Pump is widely considered one of their best albums.
  • Rick Astley: While massively popular pop act in the 1980s, Astley got sick of Executive Meddling and left his record label. He then did a dramatic shift and doing soul in the early 1990s (which he stated is the kind of music he always wanted to make in the beginning). Despite scoring another hit with 1991's "Cry for Help", Astley's career stalled shortly thereafter and he retired from the music industry in 1993. Fast forward to 2007, when his signature song "Never Gonna Give You Up" reached the internet as the Rickroll and quickly hit critical mass, exploding even beyond the scope of the internet, Rick Astley started to get back in gear. He then reached a level of popularity not seen since his peak in the late 1980s, making him probably the first musician to have his career solely resurrected by the power of the internet.
  • Caramell: Was all but forgotten until the Caramelldansen Vid meme in 2008, 7 years after the album and song were originally released. They subsequently recorded English, German, and Japanese versions of the song, in addition to making an official music video based on the animation. In 2011 they renamed themselves the Caramellagirls and released a new single titled "Boogie Bam Dance", their first all-new material in nearly ten years.
  • LL Cool J: After being rejected by the rap community as a sellout for Bigger and Deffer and Walkin' With a Panther, he enlisted Marley Marl as producer and came back in a big way with Mama Said Knock You Out (even if the famous title track's opening line is actually "Don't call it a comeback! I've been here for years!").
  • Meat Loaf: After the enormous success of Bat Out of Hell, Meat Loaf lost his voice and then fell out with songwriter Jim Steinman, which stymied the success of his second album. Going through drug addiction, bankruptcy and a string of moderately to poorly received albums, he reunited with Steinman in 1993 to record Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell, an album frequently credited as facilitating one of the greatest comebacks in popular music history.
  • Nas: After releasing a debut album (Illmatic) that is widely regarded as one of the greatest rap albums of all time, but didn't sell very well initially, Nas changed his style to appeal to a wider audience and sell more copies (partly due to Executive Meddling). His next album, It Was Written, was less "Nasty Nas the street poet" and more "Nas Escobar the drug dealer", and the two afterward - I Am... and Nastradamus - were more poppy and radio-friendly. It Was Written and I Am..., it's universally agreed that Nastradamus is his worst album, and many accused Nas of selling out - most notably Jay-Z, who dissed him for going from "Nasty Nas to Esco-Trash" on his song Takeover. Nas responded to this criticism with Stillmatic, an album in which he both returned to his Illmatic roots and defended his status as one of rap's greatest emcees. Critics loved it, as did listeners, and Nas' following albums have all met similar success.
  • Eminem: After releasing three of the decade's biggest albums (The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show), Eminem had a major downfall - a near-fatal addiction to prescription drugs, the murder of his best friend Proof, and an album (Encore) that is widely called out as his worst. His "first" comeback was supposed to be 2009's Relapse, but he still had issues he was working out, and the album received a mixed reception. But what was originally going to be a sequel to Relapse turned into the aptly-named Recovery, in which Eminem toned down or outright cut out a lot of aspects that had dragged his previous albums down (weird accents, skits, bathroom humor), actually apologized for his last two albums, and delivered some top-notch rapping. The general consciousness was that it was a great return to the days of The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show, and that Eminem was back.
  • Elton John has had several comebacks. He was perhaps the hottest star of The Seventies, with a streak of hit albums, singles and tours, dominant radio airplay and a constant high profile in the media bordering on Teen Idol status, partially due to goofy costumes and silly glasses. A Rolling Stone magazine article in 1976 outed him, reducing his fanbase in Middle America, and his longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin took a prolonged hiatus from working with him. A string of middling albums, a reduced public profile, a change of labels and poor sales followed. With some Executive Meddling, Elton hired Taupin full-time, reunited his classic-era backing band and produced a high-quality album, Too Low For Zero, in 1983, combining his classic melodicism and Eighties production techniques/synthesizers. Hit singles and videos for "I'm Still Standing" and "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" got major airplay on early MTV, and Elton was a star again.
    • One further Career Resurrection occured when Elton became sober in 1990, toned down his costumes/glasses, went from Camp Gay to Straight Gay with a hair weave and Versace suits. This was motivated by a highly public feud over false allegations made against him by The Sun which Elton eventually won, forcing the tabloid to apologise. He released records like The One and Made In England, which were relative improvements over his mid-to-late 1980's albums. He also gained a new audience by writing songs for The Lion King, and sent up his more diva-like tendencies with the reality Tv movie Tantrums And Tiaras. "Candle In The Wind 1997", though written in tragic circumstances with Princess Diana's death, was one of the best selling singles of all time, increasing his profile (though it would lead to inevitable Hype Backlash).
    • Another Elton comeback occured in 2001. He changed to a more stripped down, organic sound in albums like Songs From The West Coast and Peachtree Road, reminiscent of his classic period, and he has success in Las Vegas with The Red Piano. The Union, a duets album with Leon Russell released in 2011, got Elton his strongest sales since 1976's Blue Moves, not to mention his best reviews since that time.
  • Pink Floyd with their 1994 album The Division Bell.
  • The Beach Boys have gone through this at least three times. They were one of the biggest bands of the 60's, coming about as close to surpassing The Beatles in popularity that a band could at the time. But after their groundbreaking 1967 album Smile was never released, coupled with Brian Wilson's notorious reclusion and drug abuse, they faded into obscurity, continuing to make music but failing to penetrate the charts as they once had. But then in 1974, they released a greatest hits album, Endless Summer, which went triple platinum and made the band a hot item again, leading to sold-out concerts for many years after that. But as time went on, and as string of terrible/bizarre albums was released, and their beloved drummer Dennis Wilson drowned, this success faded as the group went into the 80s. However, they found themselves becoming suddenly successful again when they released their 1988 hit "Kokomo", from the Cocktail soundtrack, which gave the group a #1 record for the first time in decades. The band's last noteworthy spurt of popularity came with the 1993 release of the Good Vibrations: 30 Years of The Beach Boys box set, which yielded their most successful tour in 13 years. Unfortunately, time since then hasn't been as kind to the group, and with the death of Carl Wilson (their best vocalist) in 1998, it's likely to stay that way (barring some kind of 50th anniversary celebration).
    • That "50th anniversary celebration" is well on the way. Brian, Al Jardine, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and David Marks are recording a new album and planning to tour in 2012.
    • Bandleader Brian Wilson went through a similar cycle. In the 60s, he was on top of the world as a singer, songwriter, and producer, but as his mental state fractured and his dream project Smile failed to be, he spent the latter half the decade holed up in his room, while the rest of the band produced albums. But then in the 70s, as the band was becoming popular again, he was called back into the studio to produce albums in order to complement the band's new touring success, as well as being called back onto stage, with a big "Brian Is Back" campaign. Unfortunately, this mostly produced mediocre material, not to mention worsening his mental state. Then in the late 80s, his manipulative therapist/life coach Eugene Landy tried to invoke this trope with a string of Brian Wilson solo albums, but these failed to attract much attention. It wasn't until the late 90s/early 2000s that Brian's career really resurrected itself, first with an acclaimed live tour of Pet Sounds, and then with a move that nobody saw coming: a completed, re-recorded version of Smile, that, for the longest time, was the highest-rated album on Metacritic. He's been fairly well with himself ever since.
  • Tina Turner with her 1984 Private Dancer album.
  • Tiziana Rivale was a modestly popular italo-disco artist in the 80's, then retreated to the shadows for two decades, before her revival in 2008 with the single "Ash/Flame" and the album Mystic Rain.
  • Johnny Cash, unlikely as it may now seem, once battled a number of personal and professional problems that led to his career floundering in the 80's. Having established himself as "The Man In Black" with several hit albums, live performances at prisons and work in film and television, Cash relapsed back into addiction in 1983, which kept him from performing and writing music for several years. Coupled with Columbia Records releasing Cash from his recording contract in 1986 (and an unsuccessful run with Mercury Records into the very early 90's), it seemed as though Cash's career was over. However, he reignited his career by teaming up with producer Rick Rubin and releasing the American Recordings series of albums (which included covers of popular songs and collaborations with other popular artists) beginning in 1994, which led to critical and commercial acclaim, and popularity with audiences who weren't traditionally interested in country music. Cash would go on to win a Grammy Award in 1994 and release several more albums - even after his death, the 2006 release of American V: A Hundred Highways reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Top 100.
  • Scooter, somehow managed to get a UK Number 1 album in 2008 with Jumping All Over The World, despite not having anything released in the UK since about 2003. This can be largely attributed to their successful Clubland appearances. Unfortunately, this proved to be a fluke, and their next album Under The Radar Over The Top flopped in the UK, making it unlikely future material will be released there.
  • Robyn attained a few hit singles as a teen pop singer in the late 90's, then fell off the radar for about nine years, before returning with "With Every Heartbeat" in 2007.
  • Sonique was originally a member of the acid house group S-Express in the late 80's/early 90's, but retreated to the shadows for almost a decade, after which she returned with the solo hit "It Feels So Good" in 2000.
  • Stacey Q, an 80's One-Hit Wonder mostly known only for "Two of Hearts", has recently resurfaced on the Hydra Productions label with the album Color Me Cinnamon and the single "Trip". Between then and now, she had a little-known rock album titled Boomerang in 1997.
  • Toby Keith: After a slow decline in hits dating back to his departure from the then-recently closed DreamWorks Records in 2005, Keith had his biggest crossover ever in 2011-2012 with the viral hit "Red Solo Cup". The song was not originally intended as a single, but after it caught fire in the form of a YouTube video, it was shipped to radio.
  • The Monkees project was instantly successful—tellingly, the first single, "Last Train to Clarksville", started climbing the charts before the TV series went on the air—and the "4 insane boys" soon found themselves second only to The Beatles in popularity. Still, musical director Don Kirshner rarely let them play on their records (or write their own songs)--which was kept secret until the frustrated band revealed it to the media, losing some credibility in the process. The hits continued for a while, even after the Monkees gave up their TV series after its second season. However, the group's 1968 film Head, a surreal, deliberately plotless Deconstruction of the band's journey through the Show Business meat grinder, was a flop (although it's become a Cult Classic). Eventually, their record sales dropped, and Peter Tork left, followed by Michael Nesmith. In 1969, Saturday morning reruns of the TV series got good ratings, which led to Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones doing Changes, a return to the bubblegum pop of the early albums. However, the songs on Changes were not as catchy or distinctive as the ones on the band's early albums. Changes didn't chart, and that was the end of the Monkees. The four ex-members went on with their lives—until 1986. In 1986, MTV began celebrating the Monkees' 20th anniversary by rerunning their TV series. The reruns got great ratings, and suddenly the Monkees were a viable proposition again. The band had a top 20 hit with a new single ("That Was Then, This Is Now", which featured only Dolenz and Tork), started playing reunion concerts, and recorded a new album, Pool It (which featured Dolenz, Tork, and Jones).
  • Van Halen was considered one of the biggest bands of The Eighties with a huge multi-platinum debut, a string of successful follow-ups including the spectacular 1984. Lead guitarist Edward Van Halen was one of the seminal players of that decade's shred movement. Van Halen then replaced lead singer David Lee Roth after a bitter and public divorce and brought in former Montrose vocalist Sammy Hagar and managed to catapult to an ever greater height of stardom with four #1 albums:5150, OU812, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and Balance in spite of several fans claiming to hate "Van Hagar". Then the grunge movement of the '90s kicked in, another messy and public divorce with a lead singer saw Hagar leave the band in 1996. They tried to regroup with III with former Extreme front man Gary Cherone which flopped. From there Eddie's personal life went to Hell; he divorced from longtime spouse Valerie Bertinelli, was in and out of rehab for drinking and drug problems and had a bout with cancer. The band released a compilation album which kept their name relevant and charted at #3 in 2004, but the band further suffered with the departure of founding bassist Michael Anthony, who joined Hagar's touring band. The band also did not show up for its induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 (Hagar and Anthony were the only members who showed up and played a few Van Halen songs with guest artists). Eddie emerged from rehab in early 2010 alcohol and cancer free and rumors surfaced that the band, now with Eddie's son Wolfgang on bass, was writing with founding singer David Lee Roth. In February 2012, the band released A Different Kind of Truth their first studio album in 14 years. The album shot up to #2 on the charts, received rave reviews and embarked on a successful tour in support of the album.
  • Former Mis-Teeq member Alesha Dixon's solo career was a flop until she won Strictly Come Dancing.


  • Josh Hamilton was one of the most highly touted prospects in the history of baseball when he was drafted by Tampa Bay. 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. 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.
  • 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 then-underrated Arizona Cardinals all the way to the Super Bowl (their first ever). He retired after another playoff season, his legacy cemented.
  • Michael Vick was the first overall draft pick in 2001 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 long time 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 goal scorer, 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.
  • 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.

Professional Wrestling

  • Hulk Hogan. THE biggest wrestling star of the 1980s, Hogan's career stalled in the mid '90s after jumping to WCW while still retaining the 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.
  • Eddie Guerrero was a popular star in 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.
  • 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 Mark Henry was a popular centerpiece of the company for half a year was an accomplishment few saw coming.

Fictional Examples

  • Vincent Chase (of Entourage) in The Great Gatsby. 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 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.
  • 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 in the next McBain movie but turns it down in favor of his pet project The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel.
  • 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.