Actresses Who Never Made The Leap To Super Stardom We Thought They Would

Ashley Hunte
A hand pointing a remote toward a television set.
Unsplash | Erik Mclean

Every so often, an actress will turn heads in a certain movie or TV role, and become the next "it" girl. Unfortunately, not every actress gets to blow up in the way we'd expect.

In this list, we take a look at promising actresses from the '80s, '90s, and the 2000s, who just didn't make the splash we thought they were destined for.

Julia Stiles.

1999's Ten Things I Hate About You should've made Julia Stiles as big of a star as it did Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. But her career just never got much momentum, and eventually fizzled out in the 2000s.

She tried Broadway, and then took a break from acting.

Stiles took some time away from acting to raise her family, and finally returned to acting with the 2019 Jennifer Lopez-led film, Hustlers. Here's hoping it won't be long before we see her on the sliver screen again.

Phoebe Cates.

Actress Phoebe Cates smiling while talking on an old telephone.
IMDb | Private School via IMDb

Known for her roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and Gremlins (1984), Phoebe Cates was going places. But she decided that acting wasn't what she wanted to do forever, and in the '90s, she officially retired from acting.

She wanted to focus on starting a family instead.

Phoebe Cate smiling while wearing a bowtie.

Cates and husband Kevin Kline had two kids in the '90s, and she chose to stay with them over acting. She now owns a boutique in New York called Blue Tree.

Jennifer Grey.

The '80s was a decade full of iconic movies, but very few are quite as iconic as 1987's Dirty Dancing. Jennifer Grey's career should've been set right there. But just before the film's release, she and then-boyfriend Matthew Broderick were involved in a fatal car crash.

The trauma from that was bad enough, but Grey encountered even more misfortune.

In the '90s, Grey underwent a nose job that went so wrong, it made her unrecognizable.

But don't count her out! She recently released a memoir called Out of the Corner, which went on to become a bestseller!

Tiffani Thiessen.

Kelly Kapowski herself, Tiffani Thiessen was a household name back in the '90s. And when Saved by the Bell got canceled, she landed the role of Valerie Malone on Beverly Hills, 90210. Being a TV heartthrob was definitely working for her.

But her career took a turn when she decided to try her hand at films.

Her movie career was less than stellar, and the actress decided to take a break to focus on family. In recent years, she's had a role in the Netflix show Alexa & Katie, and she's of course appeared in the Saved by the Bell reboot.

Alicia Silverstone

1995's Clueless put Silverstone on the map. At the time, it seemed like her acting career had nowhere to go but up. And yet, it didn't. Not because of a lack of talent, but because of the rampant sexism and objectification she experienced.

After appearing in Batman and Robin, things took an especially bad turn.

Silverstone had already been facing a lot of creepy, objectifying remarks about her body to this point, but after Batman and Robin's release, she recalls being called “fatgirl,” rather than Batgirl in the media. It really soured her love for acting for years.

Liv Tyler.

Daughter of Bebe Buell and Steven Tyler, Liv's rise to stardom was pretty much set in stone. And it really shows, with her resume of work including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Armageddon, and Jersey Girl.

But surprisingly, she never wanted to be famous.

Tyler revealed that she would’ve preferred a life away from the spotlight. When her son, Milo, was born, she sought to give his life more of the balance she wished she could've had.

Ally Sheedy.

Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club.
IMDb | The Breakfast Club via IMDb

One of The Breakfast Club's iconic stars, Ally Sheedy was pretty much set. But producers were only considering her for comedic roles going forward, which was something she didn't necessarily want. Sheedy then switched gears toward independent films.

She's now an acting teacher at City College in New York.

Sheedy also stars in the show, Single Drunk Female. Starring in a series is something she'd always wanted to do. She revealed that she finally feels comfortable with her life and career.

Mia Sara.

The cast of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
IMDb | Paramount Pictures via IMDb

Staring in the popular teen comedy, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Mia Sara was thrust into the spotlight at a pretty young age. In fact, probably too young, since she was still in her awkward teen phase while filming.

She's acted in lesser-known roles over the years.

A headshot of Mia Sara from the 80s.
IMDb | Paramount Pictures via IMDb

But her passion seems to lie with poetry rather than acting. And while her movie and TV roles haven't been quite as popular, poetry seems to be where she's most well known these days.

Rachel Leigh Cook.

Starring alongside Freddie Prinze Jr in She's All That, Rachel Leigh Cook tried to do anything other than teen romcoms. But her venture into more diverse roles just wasn't a good fit for the actress.

Nowadays, she's found a niche on the Hallmark channel.

After a series of minor movie and TV roles, Cook ended up starring in a 2016 Hallmark movie called Autumn in the Vineyard. Since then, she's appeared in other movies on the channel.

Minnie Driver.

With an Oscar nom under her belt, it seemed like Minnie Driver's career was pretty much set. But things took a turn when she took to bashing Dame Judy Dench in a 2002 interview. From there, she turned her attention to music.

Her career as a recording artist wasn't very profitable, though.

Her album more or less went unknown, as did her career as a recording artist.

Nowadays, you can find her in a podcast called Minnie Questions.