Everyone deserves a nice retirement after a long, fulfilling career, even actors. Still, it’s hard when talented performers decide the time has come to hang it up. Because their work means so much to us — and, in many cases, has for years or even decades — retirement comes as unwelcome news. We feel connected to the performers we like the most, or whose work touched us most deeply. Occasionally, retirement is only a temporary thing, because the pull of the limelight can be hard to resist. Other times, it’s a bit more permanent than we’d prefer.
Below are 15 actors whose work has brought immeasurable joy to millions. Despite this, they opted to call it a day. In a few of these instances, their final roles were in works that didn’t really satisfy, which only makes their departure that much more displeasing. While others managed to go out on top, we’d still love to see them come back to entertain us once more.
Here are 15 Actors We Wish Would Come Out Of Retirement.
15. Sean Connery
From the moment he stepped into the role of James Bond in 1962’s Dr. No, Sean Connery became an A-list star. He’d appeared in other movies previously, but this was the one that really catapulted him into the big time. Connery played Bond in several sequels, won an Oscar for The Untouchables, and starred in a variety of hit films, including Time Bandits, Highlander, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Hunt for Red October, and The Rock.
In June of 2006, the actor announced his intention to retire. He followed through and hasn’t been seen since. There were rumors that he might be lured back out for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but he rather famously told the BBC that retirement was “just too much damned fun.” These days, the 86 year old does the occasional bit of voice work, but his days of actually appearing onscreen appear to truly be behind him. And that’s a shame, because his last screen performance was in the epic 2003 dud The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It would be great to see him return at least one more time, even in a juicy supporting role, just to go out on a higher note.
14. Amanda Bynes
Once upon a time, Amanda Bynes was the biggest star on Nickelodeon. Her work on the sketch comedy series All That led to her own spinoff, The Amanda Show, which led to roles on the silver screen. Movies like Hairspray and Easy A best displayed her talents, but even in lesser pictures like What a Girl Wants and She’s the Man, it was obvious that she had real comic chops.
Sadly, Bynes’ off-screen life was deeply troubled. There were substance abuse problems, including DUI and hit-and-run charges in 2012, as well as a 2013 arrest for marijuana possession. Her increasingly erratic behavior also indicated that she had some rather serious mental health issues, which led to a couple of well-publicized psychiatric hospitalizations. These personal problems sidetracked her career considerably. Bynes appears to be doing better these days (she’s staying out of the headlines, anyway), but it doesn’t seem like a return to acting is imminent. In August of this year, she tweeted that she is studying at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and enjoying it very much.
We hope Ms. Bynes continues to do well and perhaps someday considers returning to acting. Her bubbly personality and comedic gifts are missed by her legions of fans, and at just 30 years old, she’s got all the time in the world.
13. Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier is more than just a movie star — he’s a genuine icon. The first African-American ever to win the Academy Award for Best Actor (for Lillies of the Field), he starred in a number of seminal films that have challenged the nation’s views on race: In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and To Sir, With Love. And, of course, there were other memorable roles in Blackboard Jungle, They Call Me Mister Tibbs, Uptown Saturday Night, and Sneakers. Poitier has always been a phenomenal actor, but also one who projects a true sense of dignity onscreen. That’s a huge part of his appeal, along with the fact that he often chose roles in films with some kind of social significance.
Believe it or not, his last screen performance was all the way back in 2001, in the TV movie The Last Brickmaker in America, but that’s not to say he hasn’t been busy. Recent years have found Poitier doing little things like, you know, working with the United Nations and being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This is exactly why we need him to make at least a marginal return to acting. There’s so much fluff on our screens these days. A lot of that fluff is fun, but Poitier could certainly help to shepherd some socially conscious projects that would be as enlightening as they are entertaining.
12. David Caruso
After many years of poking around in bit parts in film and television, David Caruso became a household name with ABC’s groundbreaking police drama NYPD Blue, on which he played detective John Kelly. Sudden stardom reportedly made him a little too big for his britches, resulting in him leaving the series after just one season to pursue a movie career. That didn’t go quite as expected, thanks to the box office failures of forgettable flicks like Jade and Kiss of Death. (The 2001 chiller Session 9, however, is widely regarded by horror fans as a modern gem.) TV seemed like the best medium for his talents, and Caruso returned to the small screen for a successful decade-long run on the CBS smash CSI: Miami. His star rose once more.
CSI: Miami ended in 2012. That was four years ago, and Caruso hasn’t been seen since. Even more distressing is the fact that his IMDb page doesn’t show anything in the pipeline. The page features zero upcoming projects, with nothing in the can waiting for release. Although he’s long endured a reputation for being “difficult,” there’s no denying that Caruso has a unique intensity that, when paired with the right role, is nothing short of magnetic. Maybe he just wants a break after ten years on a procedural drama. We hope that’s the case and that he will re-emerge in the near future.
11. Dennis Franz
Dennis Franz lasted much longer on NYPD Blue than Mr. Caruso did. After years of character work in movies as diverse as Dressed to Kill, Die Hard 2, and Blow Out, plus a recurring part on Hill Street Blues, he finally struck pay dirt with the role of Andy Sipowicz, the alcoholic, racist detective who nevertheless possessed a strong moral compass. It really was one of the most accomplished performances in television history, as Franz brought the character so authentically to life that viewers often forgot Sipowicz was fictional.
The sad thing is that, despite thunderous talent, Franz wasn’t really able to parlay his rousing small screen success into anything else. There were a couple of feature films — American Buffalo and a supporting part in City of Angels — but that was about it. (Well, okay, there was that Dixie Chicks video where he played a murder victim.) When NYPD Blue ended its 12-season run in 2005, Franz decided to call it a day professionally, citing a desire to focus on his wife Joanie and their personal interests. That’s certainly admirable. Still, Franz played Sipowicz for so long that it would be fun to see him return in a wildly different kind of role that would take us all by surprise.
10. Linda Fiorentino
Philadelphia native Linda Fiorentino started her career with the goofy ’80s teen-driven pictures Vision Quest and Gotcha, but it wasn’t until 1994 that she landed the role that really put her name on the lips of film buffs. The Last Seduction was a noir thriller with an erotic touch, and Fiorentino’s performance as an immoral con woman who uses her sexuality to her advantage earned raves from critics and an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead. She was eerily credible in the role, bringing a sultriness that made all of Tinseltown sit up and take notice.
From there, Fiorentino starred in Jade (alongside the aforementioned David Caruso), Men in Black, Kevin Smith’s Dogma, and a few rightfully forgotten movies. Her last film was 2009’s Once More With Feeling, a dramedy about a guy (Chazz Palminteri) trying to fulfill his dream of being a singer by relentlessly doing karaoke. After that, she opted to spend more time pursuing photography — she maintains an oddly bare-bones website on this count — and showing some real estate savvy. Her post-Last Seduction roles may not have been quite as juicy, but in everything she did, Linda Fiorentino projected strength and toughness with a heavy dose of feminine wiles. Hollywood can always use someone of her talents onscreen.
9. Doris Day
Doris Day started her career as a singer. She was enormously successful in this field, racking up several hit albums and singles. She made her acting debut in 1948’s Romance on the High Seas, found that she enjoyed the profession, and continued on for over two decades. Her most notable work includes Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, plus a number of pictures with Rock Hudson (Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back, Send Me No Flowers). From 1968 to 1973, she also had her own sitcom, appropriately titled The Doris Day Show.
When that program ended, Day decided not to act anymore. That’s right, she hasn’t appeared in a project in 43 years. Not even so much as a cameo. Still, at the age of 92, she remains a busy person, staying active in animal-rights causes and Republican politics. As recent photos confirm, she looks terrific and appears vibrant. Day always had an appealing, wholesome, girl-next-door quality. It would intriguing to see her find a role to display that appeal one more time. What happens to the girl-next-door when she ages? How does someone like that reflect back on her life and experiences? Someone needs to write this project for Doris Day and make her an offer she can’t refuse.
8. Goldie Hawn
From her earliest days on Laugh-In, it was clear that Goldie Hawn had unique comic talent. She possessed an aptitude for playing “ditzy,” but only someone with fierce intelligence can pull that kind of thing off with such consummate skill. Hawn won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for her performance as a suicidal woman in 1969’s Cactus Flower, proving that her talents went beyond mere goofiness. A long string of hit movies followed, Shampoo, Private Benjamin, Overboard, and The First Wives Club were all among them. There were also her two immensely popular films with Chevy Chase, Foul Play and Seems Like Old Times.
Like far too many actresses, Hawn found that good roles dried up as she got older. Hollywood has sadly never known what to do with actresses of a certain age, whereas the men can — and do — continue playing action-hero roles into their sixties and seventies. Following 2002’s The Banger Sisters, she decided to put acting on pause to spend time with longtime boyfriend Kurt Russell, her children (including actors Kate Hudson and Wyatt Russell), and her grandchildren. Charity work also became a priority.
Goldie Hawn is a true icon of American screen comedy, so her retirement leaves a major void. Thankfully, she is set to appear opposite Amy Schumer in an untitled action/comedy due out next year. Whether this will be a permanent return to acting or just a one-shot deal remains to be seen, though we hope it’s the former. And we’d especially love to see her find a project in which to reunite with Chevy Chase, because their chemistry was magic.
7. Joe Pesci
Joe Pesci won an Oscar for his unforgettable work in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. He is often thought of as a dramatic actor, thanks to his intense performances in that film, Casino, JFK, and Raging Bull, but he actually made a lot of comedies, too, from Home Alone to My Cousin Vinny to Gone Fishin’. Pesci’s particular skill, regardless of genre, was brashness. He knew how to make such a quality menacing or hilarious, depending upon the needs of the movie. If ever there was a one-of-a-kind actor, he was it.
Pesci never had much taste for fame, though. (His Oscar acceptance speech in its entirety: “It was my privilege. Thank you.“) Music was another matter. After releasing the album Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just For You, he opted to pursue music full-time. There were a couple minor cameos in The Good Shepherd and Love Ranch, but he generally stayed true to his retirement plan. It has been six years since Joe Pesci has brought his distinct presence to the screen. Given that he was so compelling in everything he did, regardless of the overall quality of the film, it would be thrilling to have him return. And if he reteamed with old pal/frequent co-star Robert DeNiro, all the better.
6. Phoebe Cates
If you were a teenage boy in the 1980s, Phoebe Cates was probably your dream girl. Her role as Linda in Fast Times at Ridgemont High provided one of the most iconic moments in all of teen-movie cinema. (You know the one.) As hot as she was, Cates also possessed a sweetheart quality, most well-utilized in Gremlins and its sequel. By and large, though, she was cast as a sexpot in stuff like Private School and Shag. A few “adult” roles followed in movies not many people saw (Princess Caraboo and Bodies, Rest & Motion, for instance), although Drop Dead Fred got some notice. Good or bad, she was immensely likable in all of them.
Following a supporting part in the 2001 indie drama The Anniversary Party, Phoebe Cates decided she’d had enough, leaving acting behind to raise her children with husband Kevin Kline. (Their son Owen was one of the leads in Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale.) Today, she’s a businesswoman, operating her own NYC boutique called Blue Tree. With a new career that she seems to love, why return to acting? It’s simple: people love her. Fast Times permanently endeared Cates to audiences, male and female. That she quit acting with a such a relatively small resume doesn’t seem right; there’s so much more she could have done. Why not take a part here and there, just to show what she’s still capable of? It would make us Judge Reinhold-level excited.
5. Randy Quaid
Randy Quaid never quite got the same sort of respect that his brother Dennis did. Maybe it was because he didn’t have the same conventional leading man looks. Whatever it was, there’s no doubt that Quaid is at least as talented as his sibling, maybe even more so. Whether in a serious drama like The Last Detail (for which he was Oscar nominated) or a goofball comedy like Kingpin (in which he played an Amish bowling prodigy), he brought an abundance of charisma to every character he inhabited. And don’t even get us started on his hilarious performance as trashy Cousin Eddie in the Vacation series.
Unlike many on this list, Quaid’s retirement from acting was largely forced upon him. His last work was in a 2009 tennis comedy called Balls Out. That same year, he and his wife Evi were charged with burglary for a bizarre incident in which they allegedly lived in someone’s guest house without permission. That began a series of further legal problems, which they responded to by exiling themselves to Canada, claiming that a group of “star whackers” were out to kill them. This is not to say that Quaid hasn’t been in front of a camera; he often delivers political rants on Evi’s YouTube channel.
Whatever personal issues may exist, Randy Quaid was always an appealing character actor, capable of working in any genre. He was one of those folks who made you smile when he came onscreen. We can never have enough solid utility players, so with any luck, he’ll find a way to get back into acting in the near future.
4. Bridget Fonda
Talent runs in families, and Bridget Fonda is proof positive of that. Her grandfather was Henry Fonda. Her father is Peter Fonda. Her aunt is Jane Fonda. Not a bad family tree! For a time in the 1990s, Bridget was one of Hollywood’s biggest “It Girls.” Single White Female, Singles, It Could Happen To You, and Point of No Return showed that she was not only someone audiences could identify with, but also an actress with a great deal of versatility. One of her biggest triumphs was a memorable part in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, playing a stoner/surfer girl.
Like her good friend Phoebe Cates, Fonda had success without ever finding that one role that really made her permanently A-list. She worked in a lot of challenging, ambitious pictures, many of which — through no fault of her own — didn’t land the way they were intended to. (1996’s City Hall is a prime example.) And so, after a 2002 TV movie called Snow Queen, she called it quits. In lieu of acting, she married Danny Elfman, the former Oingo Boingo frontman-turned-film score composer, and focused on raising their son Oliver.
The thing is, Fonda was, without a doubt, one of the top talents of her generation. Undoubtedly, that talent is still there. Stepping away to focus on being a wife and mother most certainly would have given her all kinds of new experiences to draw upon, so now would be a magnificent time for her big return.
3. Gene Hackman
Bonnie & Clyde, The French Connection, The Poseidon Adventure, The Conversation, Young Frankenstein, Superman… We could go on and on naming the superb films Gene Hackman has been a part of. (That list only comprises the 1970s!) Over his long career, the actor was nominated for five Academy Awards and won twice, for The French Connection and Unforgiven. By every measure, he is one of the true acting giants.
In 1999, Hackman started a second career as an author, publishing a work of historical fiction entitled Wake of the Perdido Star. A few years later, he announced that he had no further interest in acting; writing would be his new permanent gig. There are two things that made this announcement sad. The first, obviously, was that we’d get no new Gene Hackman performances ever again. The second, and less obvious, was the knowledge that the dopey 2004 comedy Welcome to Mooseport would be his final film. If you’ve ever seen that Ray Romano political satire, you know it’s not the kind of thing any Great Actor should end his career with. We’d be happy to see Hackman come back to acting to give us more of his magic. Just as importantly, we want him to not go out on freaking Welcome to Mooseport. Coming out of retirement has never seemed more crucial.
2. Rick Moranis
The Canadian sketch comedy series SCTV launched a lot of incredible talent, including the likes of John Candy and Martin Short. One of its biggest stars was Rick Moranis, who played the beer-drinking, touque-wearing Bob McKenzie on the popular “Great White North” sketches. It didn’t take long for Moranis to make the jump to film, which he did memorably work with beloved films like Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, Spaceballs, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
The reason why this skilled comedian stopped acting is quite sad. His wife Ann died of breast cancer in 1991. For a few years afterward, Moranis continued to act, but eventually decided that working and trying to raise their children as a single parent was too difficult. He therefore opted, admirably, to put his family first. It was only supposed to be a temporary break, but Moranis found that he didn’t really miss acting. (He also got into music.) In a 2015 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, he indicated that a return might be possible if the right project came along. We have our fingers crossed that a script will emerge to reignite his love of performing. Someone this funny has a lot to offer the world.
1. Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson is such a towering figure in the entertainment business that it feels as though his name should be written in all caps: JACK NICHOLSON. He’s a household name, a two-time Oscar winner (and 12-time nominee), and an honest-to-goodness legend. Five Easy Pieces, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining, Batman; these are just a few of his wildly popular movies. Aside from extraordinary talent, Nicholson has a distinct personality that he can adapt to a variety of characters. And unlike some actors, age never prevented him from snagging top roles. His name could still go on a marquee and be used as a selling point. The Departed, released in 2006, proved he was still a draw, decades after his initial break into stardom.
It may seem hard to believe, but it’s been six years since Jack Nicholson made a movie. His last was 2010’s How Do You Know, a rare James L. Brooks dud that teamed him with Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd. Like Gene Hackman with Welcome to Mooseport, this is an underwhelming capper to a magnificent career. Alas, there may be hope that Nicholson won’t stop on that turkey. Some reports blamed health problems for his screen absence, but the 79 year old actor shot those down in a Vanity Fair interview from May, in which he described himself as being more selective about projects these days, as opposed to being flat-out retired. Could something be out there that would entice Nicholson enough to step in front of a camera once again? The possibility is tantalizing. There aren’t many actors who have achieved his stature, and we definitely aren’t ready for him to be done.
Are there any other celebrities you wish would come out of retirement? What do you miss most about the actors we chose? Give us your thoughts in the comments.