Typically, when describing a one hit wonder, we tend to think of musicians and vocalists, not necessarily actors and actresses. Still, throughout the wide world of cinema, there have been many performers that did exceptionally well in a film or TV show, and then fallen off the face of the planet. Or, more commonly, were unable to successfully shake the hit character they played.
The list below features actors and actresses that are best known for one role, and one role only. While the measures of their one hit wonder statuses differ, they can (and have) all seen the Hollywood spotlight at one point, only to disappear from it at another.
Here are 12 Actors Who Were One Hit Wonders.
12. Alex Winter (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure)
Most famous for his role as Bill S. Preston opposite Keanu Reeves’ Ted “Theodore” Logan in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), Alex Winter lived in the spotlight for some time, basking in the success of the film and banking on the two television series based on the film as well as the successful sequel in which he reprised his role: Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991).
However, the time traveling duo’s fame would only last for so long, Winter continued to work in Hollywood, but less famously than his costar. He appeared on FOX’s Bones in 2007, starred in Freaked (1993), and would go on to take several small television and film roles until his last, small acting role in Grand Piano in 2013. He has directed two well-received documentaries, Deep Web and Downloaded, about internet culture in the time since.
11. Henry Thomas (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial)
In 1982, Henry Thomas starred in Steven Spielberg’s hit sci-fi film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial as young Elliott, a boy who befriends a young alien stowaway. The film was a huge hit and is considered a classic today. And while Thomas would continue his career in Hollywood, it would never reach the levels it had hit when E.T was released.
While he appeared in many films, including Gangs of New York (2002), Dear John (2010) and I’m With Lucy (2002) and will be appearing in the 2015 sequel to Ouija (2014), Ouija 2, it’s safe to say that Thomas’ career fizzled after his appearance in the sci-fi classic.
10. Peter Ostrum (Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)
Another classic film, Peter Ostrum starred as Charlie, the personable, everyday child lucky enough to win a golden ticket and steal our hearts. Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) was an instant hit, and Ostrum would forever be known as the boy who won the chocolate factory.
And that’s all he ever did. Ostrum disappeared from Hollywood after his brief brush with fame. In fact, the only acting role to his name is that of Charlie. He moved on in his life, married, had two children and became a large animal veterinarian. Now 58-years-old, Ostrum has lived a simple, normal life outside of the Hollywood spotlight, but to us, he’ll always be Charlie.
9. Danny Lloyd (The Shining)
Another actor that disappeared from the spotlight completely, Danny Lloyd (better known as Danny Torrance from The Shining) went from starring alongside Jack Nicholson to leaving Hollywood for good. Picked for the role because of his ability to concentrate, Lloyd didn’t necessarily have an interest in acting at the time he was cast – he was ultimately picked at random.
Lloyd went on to star in a TV movie two years later, but that was the last time he’d participate in film or television. During the time of his role as Danny, he was 6-years-old and, due to the genre of the film, was guarded by director Stanley Kubrick to shield him from the truth of the film. In fact, it wasn’t until several years later that Lloyd learned he starred in a horror film.
8. Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee)
The now 76-year-old Australian best known as Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee is hard to see as anything but. While he co-developed and starred in The Paul Hogan Show, an Australian TV show in the 1970s, it was his role in the Crocodile Dundee films that earned him his celebrity status.
The series started in 1986 with Crocodile Dundee, then, two years later, the sequel, Crocodile Dundee II, was released. Finally, in 2001, a new Crocodile film, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, was released, marking the end (at least, so far) of the Crocodile series. Though he did star in other films, and many commercials, his comedic role as Crocodile Dundee will forever be his claim to fame.
7. Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of Oz)
Though Margaret Hamilton has had a very long, very productive career in Hollywood, it’s ultimately her role as the Wicked Witch of the West (and the Toto-hating Miss Gulch) in the beloved film The Wizard of Oz (1939) that fans will recognize this actress for.
Though she’s appeared in other films, such as 13 Ghosts (1960) and As the World Turns (1956), and had countless television appearances, the actress was even known to sign autographs with a nod to her character in The Wizard of Oz. And, to top it all off, her character was so successfully portrayed that the Wicked Witch of the West is one of the most iconic movie villains ever created. How’s that for a legacy?
6. Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Perhaps one of the most recognizable characters ever, Mark Hamill is Luke Skywalker, and any Star Wars fan can tell you, he will never truly be anything else. Though Hamill has a very long history of voice work and other credits that, to some, might detract from his being on this list, the fact that Skywalker is such an iconic character prevents Hamill from every escaping the name, no matter how many acting credits he may have.
5. Carrie Henn (Aliens)
Carrie Henn had no acting experience at the time of her role as young Newt in the Alien (1979) sequel, Aliens (1986). However, despite this inexperience, Henn was billed second alongside Sigourney Weaver (whom still keeps in contact with her), earning her a few seconds in the spotlight.
The now 39-year-old woman is married and has one child, and though she made a few appearances in Alien-related documentaries, she hasn’t again appeared on film. Though she expressed interest in Quentin Tarantino films and was outstanding in her role as Newt, Henn is just another could-be celeb that left cinema before her career had a chance to take off.
4. Rupert Grint (Harry Potter)
Perhaps one of the best-known actors on this list, it may come as a shock to some to learn Grint’s time in front of the camera ended along with the last of the Harry Potter films. While both Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson have branched out from their roles as Harry and Hermione, but Grint (best known as Ron Weasley) hasn’t been nearly as active in the spotlight.
Though he’s also the youngest on this list (and this relative absence from Hollywood could change at any moment), his roles outside of Harry Potter have been few and far between. While we can hope Grint will return to the spotlight, right now, all we can do is wait.
3. Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous)
Known best for his role as William Miller in Kate Hudson’s debut film, Almost Famous, Patrick Fugit has done little outside of that film of note. Though he has appeared in several films following the success of Almost Famous, including The Amateurs (2005) and The Good Life (2007), his Hollywood career has been relatively low-key.
Though fans will recognize the actor in another Cameron Crowe movie, We Bought a Zoo (2011) as well as in 2015’s Gone Girl, we have yet to see a true reemergence into the spotlight from Fugit. That being said, a new horror show from the creators of AMC’s The Walking Dead, Outcast, is set to hit television screens this year, and Fugit will be starring in it.
2. Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie)
The sexy, international student from the American Pie films had quite a bit of acting potential, but her career will forever be defined by her role as Nadia. Though the actress has appeared in a multitude of other films, and has recently taken on roles as a producer, Shannon Elizabeth’s greatest role to date has been that of the sexy exchange student in this über-popular high school sex comedy.
She appeared in Scary Movie in 2000, did a stint as Michael Kelso’s baby mama in That 70’s Show and produced the upcoming film Swing Away, but her recurring role as Nadia in the American Pie films stands out from all others.
1. Macaulay Culkin (Home Alone)
Though his relationship with Mila Kunis certainly earned him a bit of attention in recent years, it’s his childhood role as Kevin McCallister in Home Alone that fans will remember Macaulay Culkin for. That adorable, creative kid left behind by his parents (too many times) stole our hearts back in 1990, but since then, there hasn’t been much of Culkin to love.
He appeared on a few popular television shows in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, namely Frasier and Will & Grace, but aside from that, the actor hasn’t again starred in a big-time production, nor is he anytime soon. Fans will always remember Culkin as Kevin from Home Alone and, from the looks of it, that’s how it’s always going to be.
Know any one hit wonders we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments!