Decades have a peculiar way of crystallizing celebrities and confining them forever to a particular time and pop-cultural space. Harrison Ford has never left the public consciousness, but it’s hard to think of him without also thinking of the ’80s— the decade of Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, and Blade Runner.
While many of Hollywood’s brightest stars sustain careers that span decades, there’s no shortage of actors whose stardom only lasts a few years.
The further away we get from the ’90s, the more idiosyncratic it seems as a pop-culture decade. Everything from summer blockbusters like Twister, Batman Forever, and Godzilla, to music sensations like the Spice Girls all seem like weird pop-culture phenomena from a parallel dimension.
Even now, as ’90s nostalgia has kicked into high gear, previous decades are far more influential to our current pop culture landscape. Of course, it doesn’t help that the ’90s are a decade full of actors whose celebrity died with the 20th century.
Are you curious about what happened to some of the actor’s you’ve been missing since the ’90s? Here are the 17 Famous Actors from the ’90s Who Completely Disappeared.
17. Meg Ryan
Can you name an actress more synonymous with the ’90s than Meg Ryan? Her filmography from 1989 to 2000 suggests not.
After a number of notable supporting roles in ’80s movies like Top Gun, Innerspace, and The Presidio, Ryan rose to superstardom in 1989’s When Harry Met Sally…, followed by two more successful romantic comedies— Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and You’ve Got Mail (1998)— both of which co-starred Tom Hanks.
Other notable ’90s movies of Ryan’s included The Doors, I.Q., French Kiss, and Anastasia (for which she voiced the titular role).
The 2000s showed a steady decline in the quality of work that Ryan was given to work with. With the exception of a few comedies that received middling praise, her output slowed down significantly until she fizzled out of the Hollywood spotlight.
16. Alicia Silverstone
If you’re a ’90s kid, you probably have fond memories of Alicia Silverstone. Whether you were a girl who idolized her in Clueless, or a boy who knew her as Batgirl in Batman & Robin, Silverstone was a staple in the pop-culture diet of ’90s kids and teens everywhere.
Silverstone hasn’t quit working since her ’90s heyday, but she hasn’t exactly been in the spotlight either. Some moviegoers may have recognized her in Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2017 movie The Killing of a Sacred Deer (where she brought some gravitas to what otherwise might have been a forgettable supporting role), and TV fans will have the chance to see her in the upcoming series American Woman.
Singer, songwriter, and actress Brandy was everywhere in the ’90s. After signing with atlantic Records in 1993, Brandy released her self-titled debut album, which had three top-ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1994.
Her rapid success led to the singer landing her own sitcom, Moesha, which quickly became UPN’s most watched program.
Throughout the rest of the ’90s, Brandy sustained a fairly successful film career and continued to release new music. In 1997, she starred in ABC’s TV production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which included a multicultural cast, and premiered to incredibly high ratings.
14. Andrew Shue
Melrose Place was one of the defining pop culture phenomena of the ’90s. Spun off of the equally phenomenal Beverly Hills 90210, the primetime soap opera focused on a group of ridiculously good-looking 20-something residents of the titular apartment complex in West Hollywood.
Melrose Place ended up defining the careers of several of its cast members— including heartthrob Andrew Shue, who played Billy Campbell for 6 ½ seasons.
Shue has been pretty much M.I.A. since he departed Melrose Place. His only major acting credit since then was the 2007 film Gracie— based partially on sister Elizabeth Shue’s experiences playing on a boy’s soccer team in high school.
13. Jenna von Oÿ
For the first half of the ’90s, Jenna von Oÿ played fast-talking sidekick Six Lemure on Blossom. After the show ended, von Oÿ nabbed a handful of roles in TV movies, guests spots in both live-action and animated shows, and played sidekick again to Mo’Nique on UPN’s Moesha spin-off series The Parkers.
She also had a recurring role on the Canadian animated series What’s with Andy? from 2001 to 2007.
Unfortunately, none of von Oÿ’s subsequent projects have had the impact of her breakout role on Blossom. These days, von Oÿ runs a blog about pregnancy and motherhood, and published a book, The Situation Momedy, in 2015.
12. Phoebe Cates
Phoebe Cates was America’s sweetheart throughout the ’80s and early ’90s. An unfortunate number of fans will always remember her for her “revealing” breakout role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (which Rolling Stone called “the most memorable bikini-drop in cinema history”).
Other notable credits of hers include Drop Dead Fred, Gremlins, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, and Bodies, Rest and Motion.
Cates’ last movie appearance was in 2001. She’s been married to Kevin Kline since 1989 (despite a 16-year age difference), and the couple have two children.
Unlike her prolific husband, Cates has disappeared from the Hollywood spotlight with no sign of returning. We’d venture to guess that not even a Germlins 3 would tempt her to step back in front of the camera.
11. Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Jonathan Taylor Thomas’ fingerprints were all over the ’90s pop-culture landscape. He was the breakout child star of Tim Allen’s insanely popular sitcom Home Improvement, the voice of Simba in The Lion King, and the star of several ’90s coming-of-age family movies (Man of the House, Wild America, I’ll Be Home For Christmas).
On top of all that, his face was on a wall of virtually every pre-teen girl’s bedroom for the better half of a decade.
Since his ’90s teen-heartthrob glory days, Thomas has stayed away from the spotlight. Throughout the 2000s, he dedicated himself to academics— studying philosophy and history at Harvard, and graduating from the Columbia University School of General Studies in 2010.
10. Rider Strong
Rider Strong played Shawn Hunter (Cory Matthews’ cooler BFF) for all seven seasons of Boy Meets World— a flagship series of ABC’s classic TGIF lineup.
Strong’s steely-eyed charm and “badboy” charisma played perfectly against co-star Ben Savage’s nervous energy, and their onscreen friendship was arguably the lifeblood of the entire series.
Outside his starring role in Eli Roth’s 2002 horror flick Cabin Fever, Strong has done anything nearly as noteworthy as Boy Meets World since the show ended in 2000.
In 2004, Strong graduated magna cum laude with an English degree from Columbia University, and earned an MFA from Bennington College in 2009.
9. Madeline Stowe
Madeleine Stowe was never a household name, but throughout the late ’80s and ’90s, she was a constant presence, adding grace and gravity to every movie she appeared in.
Stowe’s first big role was in Stakeout, a 1987 crime-comedy movie starring Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez. She want onto star opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans (1992), and Bruce Willis in Terry Gilliam’s 1995 sci-fi thriller 12 Monkeys.
She also received critical acclaim for her role in Robert Altman’s 1993 anthology film Short Cuts.
Stowe was mostly M.I.A. through the 2000s, but starred in the ABC series Revenge from 2011-2015. However, most movies fans will remember her from her ’90s roles, perhaps without ever even knowing her name.
8. Wesley Snipes
Few actors are more synonymous with the 1990s than Wesley Snipes. After a small number of notable appearances in the late ’80s (including Michael Jackson’s “Bad” music video), Snipes had a string of roles in successful early ’90s movies like Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Demolition Man, and Rising Sun.
Things really kicked into high gear for Snipes when he played the titular role in Blade, based on the Marvel comic. Blade was followed by two more movies.
The first sequel, Blade II, was an enormous success, thanks to the inspired direction of Guillermo Del Toro. Blade: Trinity, on the other hand, failed to please either fans or critics, and Snipes’ career suffered as a result. He recently appeared in The Expendables 3, along with virtually every other aging action star.
7. Geena Davis
Geena Davis was a household name throughout the ’80s and well into the ’90s. Following her debut role in the smash 1982 comedy Tootsie, Davis had several memorable roles on television, before breaking through in three consecutive hits: Fletch (1985), The Fly (1986) and Beetlejuice (1988).
Davis also won the 1988 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Accidental Tourist, and was nominated for Best Actress in 1991 for Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise.
The mid-to-late ’90s weren’t quite as kind to Davis. She starred in 1995’s Cutthroat Island, a critical and box office bomb. Her next movie, The Long Kiss Goodnight, was modestly successful, but not enough to revitalize her career.
6. Charlie Korsmo
Most ’90s kids will remember child star Charlie Korsmo’s face well. In only two short years (1990-1991), Korsmo appeared in several popular movie, a few of which making a big impact on his own age group.
In 1990, he played kid-sidekick to Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy, and in 1991, he played the central kid role in Steven Spielberg’s Hook. The latter has since been maligned as one of Spielberg’s worst movies, but for a certain age group, it was a staple of VHS family viewing.
Korsmo also starred in 1991’s What About Bob? with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss, a movie that also became an enduring family classic.
5. Nicholas Brendon
We know Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and though he’s been acting on a fairly regular basis since Buffy ended, very few of us have seen him in anything else.
Brendon started acting at age 20 to cope with his stuttering. He landed the role of Buffy’s awkward pal Xander at the age of 25, having just returned to acting from a three-year hiatus. He appeared in all but one of Buffy’s 144 episodes.
Brendon has struggled with alcoholism and addiction problems since Buffy, which hasn’t helped his career. His most prominent post-Buffy role has been a recurring guest-spot on Criminal Minds, and he currently writes for the canonical Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic series— focused largely on storylines for his series character.
4. Bridget Fonda
Bridget Fonda was a true gem of the ’90s. It’s a shame we’ve barely seen her for the last 20 years.
Fonda’s first movie role was at the age of five, as a hippy commune child in her father Peter’s movie Easy Rider. However, it wasn’t until 1989 that she earned a Golden Globe nomination for her first major role in Scandal.
She became a superstar in 1992 with the release of Single White Female, followed by Point of No Return (the American remake of Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita) and Quentin Tarrantino’s Jackie Brown.
Fonda’s last screen credit was the 2002 TV movie Snow Queen. She’s been married to composer Danny Elfman since 2003. Given the length of her absence, it’s unlikely that she’ll return to the big screen, but we certainly wouldn’t complain if she did.
3. Dennis Franz
For the entirety of NYPD Blue’s uber-successful 12-season run, Dennis Franz was a singular tour-de-force. As Detective Andy Sipowicz, Franz embodied the show’s abrasive, gritty tone and consistently proved himself the lifeblood of the series.
Since NYPD Blue ended in 2005, Franz has been completely absent from the acting world. Though focused solely on his personal life, he has stated publicly that the right role or script would certainly convince him to get back in front of the camera.
Franz offers a truly unique screen presence that would greatly any number of current projects. It would be great to see him return to TV in a prestige show, or inhabit an interesting role for a feature film. Here’s hoping the “right script” finds its way to Franz’s desk sooner rather than later.
2. Joe Pesci
Whether you grew up watching him get schooled by Macaulay Culkin in the Home Alone movies, or committed to memory one of his curse-word-ridden lines from Goodfellas or Casino, there’s no denying that Joe Pesci is an American treasure.
His career through the ’80s and ’90s was magic. My Cousin Vinny made him a household name. Home Alone and Lethal Weapon 3 made him a comedic foil to be reckoned with. Also, his appearances in multiple Martin Scorsese pictures cemented him as one of the most commanding, feral actors of the 20th century.
Since the late ’90s, Pesci has only made two movies. Most recently, he turned down a role in Louis CK’s acclaimed web series Horace and Pete (which, in hindsight, was probably the right move), but is set to return to the silver screen with old pal Robert DeNiro in Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Netflix release The Irishman.
1. Skeet Ulrich
Younger fans may know Skeet Ulrich as FP Jones in Riverdale. The rest of us have been wondering what happened to Ulrich since he starred in movies like The Craft, Scream, and As Good As It Gets.
Ulrich hasn’t disappeared quite as literally as other actors on this list, but he’s certainly dropped off the map of public consciousness. Ulrich started out in some uncredited screen appearances in the late ’80s.
In 1996, he landed his first big role opposite Winona Ryder in Boys. Then, in that same year, he hit the big time in The Craft and Wes Craven’s slasher sensation Scream.
In addition to his current Riverdale role, Ulrich is a frequent contributor to the voice cast of Robot Chicken. He may not be visible to everyone, but he has been working pretty regularly since his ’90s heartthrob days.
Who are your favorite ’90s stars that disappeared? Is there anyone you think is ready for a comeback? Join all of the ’90s nostalgia in the comments!
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