Becoming a famous actor or actress is no easy feat. However, staying famous and relevant in the competitive and complex world of Hollywood can be even more difficult. Many big names in the business end up leaving the industry behind one way or another. In fact, even some of the most popular movie stars have disappeared out of the limelight and off of our screens after having a quick taste of fame.
These men and women were some of the most popular in television and film until suddenly falling off the face of the planet. While some of these stars retired from acting by choice – deciding to follow a different path instead – others simply faded away after struggling to maintain steady roles after reaching their initial success.
Back in the 2000s, there were very few teens who didn’t watch The O.C. The Fox drama series that followed a group of upperclass teenagers from Orange County, California became a sensation at the time. One of the stars it spawned was actress Mischa Barton. Thanks to her leading role on the series as Marissa Cooper, Barton quickly became the It girl of the decade.
However, after skyrocketing to fame, she decided to leave The O.C. during its third season in order to focus on acting in movies. Since then, her career only plummeted, getting cast in mostly unmemorable film roles. However, it was recently announced that Barton will be joining the 2019 reboot of MTV reality show inspired by The O.C. – The Hills.
The ’90s brought us some pretty incredible sitcoms – but one of the most iconic has got to be Seinfeld. One of the biggest stars of the series is Michael Richards – who played Jerry Seinfeld’s wacky neighbor, Kramer. Richards’ hilarious one-liners and brilliant physical comedy made him one of the most popular comedy actors around.
Unfortunately, after the show came to an end in 1998 after nine seasons – Richards had difficulty landing another strong role. After his own series The Michael Richards Show flopped in 2000, and after an inappropriate rant during a stand-up routine in 2006 – Richards started to fade away completely from our screens. His last TV appearance was in the unsuccessful 2014 comedy starring Kristie Alley – Kristie.
Rick Moranis starred in some of the biggest comedy movies of the ’80s and ’90s such as Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, Spaceballs, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. He quickly became the most beloved Hollywood “nerd” of the decade. Tragically, in 1991, Moranis’ wife – costume designer Ann Belsky – passed away from cancer.
After his wife’s death, he made a decision to take less acting work so that he could focus on being a full-time single dad to his two children. His last big movie role was in 1994 playing Barney Rubble in The Flintstones. Since then, he has only taken on small roles as a voice actor here and there.
Actress Jennifer Grey starred in two of the most popular films of the ’80s, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Dirty Dancing. The latter, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination, launched Grey into super stardom. Her iconic on-screen dance to the song Time of my Life with costar Patrick Swayze is still considered as one of the most memorable movie scenes of all time.
Unfortunately, after her career peak, Grey started to fade away from the limelight, unable to land another strong movie role. However, she hasn’t disappeared completely from our screens – she did win the 11th season of Dancing with the Stars in 2010 and she did recently star in a comedy-drama series called Red Oaks.
Child actress Mara Wilson rose to fame at the young age of 6, after appearing in Mrs. Doubtfire alongside late comedy giant Robin Williams in 1993. The following year, she appeared in Miracle on 34th Street and Matilda – which made her into one of the most famous child actors at the time. Sadly, following the production of Matilda, she lost her mother to cancer.
After that, she lost her passion for acting and ended up eventually retiring from the industry besides some voice work in a few animated series. Today, she focuses on writing, and has written a play titled Sheeple and a memoir called Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame.
Without a doubt, one of the most-watched movies of the mid ’90s was Clueless. The coming-of-age rom-com followed the life of popular Beverly Hills high-schooler Cher Horowitz – played by Alicia Silverstone. Following the movie’s success, Silverstone was thrown into mega fame.
Unfortunately, her roles that followed in films such as Batman & Robin, The Crush, and Blast from the Past earned the star mediocre reviews and we started to see less and less of her. Recently, she made a comeback in a comedy series called American Woman – which flopped after one season.
By the time he was 12 years old, Macaulay Culkin was the most successful child actor of all time. However, after starring in a string of popular movies including Home Alone and Home Alone 2, My Girl, and The Good Son – Culkin had enough of acting.
The young star emancipated from his parents when he was 16 years old, at which point he had mostly retired from the industry. He has appeared in a few roles since then, but still mostly chooses to stay out of the limelight.
Actress Taylor Momsen first came to prominence after starring as little Cindy Lou Who in the Jim Carrey starring How the Grinch Stole Christmas in 2000. However, the role she is most recognized for is as Jenny Humphrey in the extremely popular CW teen-drama Gossip Girl.
After the series came to an end in 2012 – Momsen made the decision to retire from Hollywood completely so that she could focus on her rock band, The Pretty Reckless.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Jonathan Taylor Thomas grew up on-screen as Tim Allen’s son Randy Taylor on the hit ’90s sitcom Home Improvement. Thomas quickly became the television crush of many young girls at the time, appearing on the cover of nearly every teen magazine.
However, after the series wrapped up, Thomas chose to focus on education, attending both Harvard and then Columbia where he studied philosophy and history. In 2013, he came back to the screen again – as a guest star on his former on-screen dad’s new series, Last Man Standing.
The beautiful Phoebe Cates won America’s heart for her leading roles in ’80s movies Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Gremlins. Just as she had reached the peak of her career, she married actor Kevin Kline.
In 1994, Cates made the decision to retire from Hollywood – in order to focus on her family and raise her and Kline’s two children. In 2001 she returned one more time on-screen, in the romantic-comedy The Anniversary Party, but hasn’t acted since.
HBO’s Game of Thrones is without a doubt one of the most talked-about series around. One of the many actors to gain stardom from the successful show is Jack Gleeson – who played King Joffrey until the beginning of the fourth season.
The actor decided to leave the series and retire from acting after he grew to dislike the business side of the industry. Instead, he went to finish his education at Trinity College in Dublin, where he studied philosophy and theology.
Hollywood sweetheart of the ’80s and ’90s Meg Ryan won big with hits like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. Unfortunately, after a very public and very messy divorce from Dennis Quaid in 2001 – we started to see less of Ryan on the big screen.
She has mostly taken on more minor roles in film and television since then, and was last seen in the 2015 war-drama movie Ithaca – which she also directed.
One of the most popular comedians during the 2000s was Dave Chappelle. He was especially known for his very own Comedy Central sketch-comedy series, Chappelle’s Show. However, after three successful seasons, he decided to put an end to the show after feeling like he and his work were understood.
After that, it was as if the actor had fallen off the planet. Luckily, he made a brief comeback in 2017 with two Netflix stand-up specials.
Freddie Prinze Jr.
Throughout the late ’90s and early 2000s, it felt like Freddie Prinze Jr. was everywhere. He had turned into a heartthrob with roles in popular teen movies such as I Know What You Did Last Summer, She’s All That, and Scooby-Doo. In 2000, he started dating his co-star, the equally famous Sarah Michelle Gellar, with whom he now has two kids.
After becoming disinterested in the world of acting he decided to quit. Since then he has worked as a writer and producer for WWE and has done some voice work.
Back in the 2000s, it seemed like Amanda Bynes was pretty much everywhere. The actress first rose to fame after appearing in the Nickelodeon sketch comedy series All That, followed by her very own show on the network – The Amanda Show.
After leaving Nick behind, she started focusing on movies such as romantic comedies What a Girl Wants and She’s the Man, and the musical Hairspray. Unfortunately, after a well-publicized meltdown – including the abuse of illegal substances and some bizarre appearances in court – the once beloved teen star retired from acting.