1. Janeane Garofalo
Although the rest of this list is not in any particular order (I DO WHAT I WANT), the number one on my list will always be Janeane Garofalo. What would the 90s have been without her? Between Reality Bites, The Truth About Cats and Dogs (#underrated), Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, Dogma, The Larry Sanders Show, The Ben Stiller Show and (kind of) Daria, she was that decade. I would be a different person if Janeane Garofalo hadn’t come into my life, and every day is a little sadder without her in it. Luckily, I always have Romy and Michelle to console me.
2. Gene Hackman
I tend to forget that Gene Hackman retired and wonder when his next movie is coming out. Then I remember that his last movie was Welcome to Mooseport, that post-Everybody Loves Raymond vehicle for the grandma-beloved comic stylings of Ray Romano. This is why he needs to do another movie, just so his career doesn’t go out as a footnote to Ray Romano. Couldn’t his last movie have just been The Royal Tenenbaums instead? That’s going out with a bang.
3. Scarlett Johansson
Look, I know she’s still making movies. I’m not headless. However, the walking corpse that’s left of Scarlett Johansson’s promising career is not the Scarlett I knew and loved, the Scarlett of Lost in Translation and Ghost World. Ask yourself the last time that she was actually good in a movie she was in, one in which she wasn’t just “the girl” or showed off her rear end in place of acting. Answer: Match Point in 2005. It’s been that long. (She wasn’t terrible in Vicky Christina Barcelona, but that was Penelope Cruz’s show. Would you have even noticed if she weren’t in it?)
4. Winona Ryder
To her credit, Winona keeps trying to make a comeback real hard, like that time she played Spock’s mom or Kevin James’ cheating wife in that Vince Vaughn movie. I know they can’t make a sequel to Age of Innocence, lest Edith Wharton roll over in her ostentatiously furnished grave, but I can always hold out hope. Clearly Daniel Day-Lewis and Martin Scorsese have lost none of their shine since then.
5. Jennifer Tilly
I want this for both of the Tilly sisters (Meg, where are you?), but Jennifer takes the slight edge, if only for her balls-out-awesome performance in Bullets Over Broadway. She’s one of the few actors who stands out in almost anything, just by virtue of being Jennifer Tilly. Remember the two minutes she was in Liar Liar? So do I, and I can’t tell you a damn thing that happens in the rest of the movie. I feel like Jim Carrey used lots of funny voices, but statistically, that’s always the case.
6. Robin Williams
Here’s a career trajectory for you: Good Morning Vietnam. Dead Poets Society. The Fisher King. Mrs. Doubtfire. Good Will Hunting. Death to Smoochy. RV. License to Wed. Old Dogs. Clearly the last decade has not been kind to Mr. Williams. However, some great late period performances in Christopher Nolan’s grossly underrated Insomnia, One Hour Photo and World’s Greatest Dad (way better than it should have been) prove he still has some life in him. But if he ever does Patch Adams 2, I’m quitting him. Even Al Pacino would say no to that, and he did Jack and Jill.
7. Sally Field
She’s soo close to making a full-fledged comeback with Lincoln, and even if she won’t win dat Oscar (because it’s pre-engraved for Anne Hathaway), she needs to go back to being America’s mom. Remember how great Brothers and Sisters was for two seconds? I miss that.
8. Hugh Grant
I’m going to forget that Hugh Grant played a naked cannibal covered in blood in Cloud Atlas (#cantunsee) and pretend I haven’t seen him in movies in a while. Grant is one of those actors who classes up almost anything he’s in, having the singular power to breathe life into total crap. I mean, the man made Two Weeks Notice with Sandra Bullock worth watching, a film whose climax involved a man being shot out of a cannon into a vat of cream. He can do anything.
9. Rick Moranis
Seriously, though: Where did Rick Moranis go? He was everywhere when I was a kid — Parenthood, Ghostbusters, Little Giants, Honey I Shrunk the Kid — and then he just evaporated. Are he and Dan Aykroyd somewhere on a beach together cackling and counting their money? Are they secretly planning on being the leads in the next Girl With the Dragon Tattoo installment? Are they actually Banksy and Anonymous? Someone needs to get Veronica Mars on this. (Side note: Kristen Bell needs to have a real career. Please.)
10-12. Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton
Because I’m too gay to function, I love the shit out of Bette Midler, in every conceivable way — so much that I’ve actually considered seeing Parental Guidance. (Don’t worry: I’m not that desperate for Bette.) But more than that, I want comebacks for all the First Wives’ Club girls, who Hollywood has done wrong in their twilight years. Goldie Hawn hasn’t been in anything in decades, and Diane Keaton’s last role was being stoned on Stephen Colbert. I don’t know what Hollywood needs to do — make a Second Wives’ Club, mayhaps — but I need all these women in my life, stat. Life isn’t worth living without Goldie Hawn in it.
13. Jack Black
I actually didn’t realize how much I liked Jack Black until I saw Richard Linklater’s Bernie, which features a never-better Black as the charming-manservant-cum-murderer of Shirley Maclaine. It’s a brilliantly funny and surprisingly funny performance that reminds you why Black became a star in the first place. Bernie doesn’t have the manic energy of his High Fidelity, School of Rock or Tropic Thunder roles, but it finds Black wiser and warmer than he ever has been. God love the Golden Globes for noticing.
14. Michelle Pfeiffer
Pfeiffer had a mini-comeback with Hairspray and Stardust (which she was the best thing about), but aside from being underused in Tim Burton’s desecration of Dark Shadows, Pfeiffer’s second career passed her by. This is probably because almost all of the “woman of a certain age” roles are going to Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver and Barbra Streisand (who was designed to play a Jewish mother). Nicole Kidman gets everything else. In a perfect world where leprechauns dance in the sky and all the Kardashians are infertile, Pfeiffer would have reprised her role as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. Tell me Catwoman as a cougar wouldn’t have been awesome.
15. Lisa Kudrow
Kudrow’s problem is that she was so eerily convincing as Phoebe Buffay that it’s almost impossible to see her as anyone but a dumb blonde — despite being a whip smart comedienne with crack timing. If you haven’t seen The Opposite of Sex (which features Christina Ricci’s best performance), go out and rent it now. It’s savage and brilliant and single-handedly proves that Kudrow should have been an icon. Although having to settle for one of the most beloved characters in TV history isn’t half bad. (Also of note: The absurdly hilarious HBO show The Comeback, which was cancelled. That’s just mean, guys.)
16. Christopher Guest
I slipped this one in on purpose. Despite not having made a proper film since For Your Consideration, Christopher Guest IS making a comeback: on TV. He’s assembling all the usual suspects to make a HBO show entitled Family Tree, and as a huge fan of A Mighty Wind and Waiting for Guffman, I couldn’t be more excited. Now all you have to do to make this comeback happen is actually watch it. I’m holding you to it, America.
17. Molly Ringwald
I feel like everyone misses Molly Ringwald, who is going back to being unemployed now that Secret Life of the American Teenager has been cancelled. (But did anyone even really watch that show? I didn’t think so. It’s not a comeback if no one knows about it.) Ringwald has been quietly working in TV and on Broadway for some time, but she hasn’t gotten the spotlight she deserves. Maybe unemployment is just the shove she needs to help make that Sixteen Candles reunion happen. It’s not like Anthony Michael Hall is doing anything else.
18. Alicia Silverstone
Seeing Silverstone play suck and blow again with Jeremy Sisto on Suburgatory made me nostalgic for Silverstone’s brief moment in the sun, before Batman and Robin happened and ruined a lot of lives. Alicia was also great in Miss Match, the 2003 NBC show that had everything: a great cast (Nathan Fillion and Charisma Carpenter), choice producers (SATC guru Darren Star) and solid reviews (TV Guide was a champion). Except for viewers. The show suffered in the Friday Night Death Slot, when its core audience was at the gay bars, and died a swift death.
19. Sean Connery
Quick trivia question: Can you name Sean Connery’s last role? Correct answer: The critically savaged 2003 film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, co-starring Shane West. The movie was so bad that its director and star never made another film and the creator of the comic it was based on, Alan Moore, disassociated himself from the movie version entirely. Not a great note to end on. I’d love to see Connery make a cameo in the next Bond film, because HOW DOPE WOULD THAT BE? Connery could be the new Javier Bardem, but without the making out with Daniel Craig part.
20. Parker Posey
Parker Posey is one of my favorite people in the world, and lucky for me, she hasn’t gone away altogether. Posey has been popping up quite a bit recently, mostly on TV. She’s made appearances on Louie, New Girl, The Big C and Parks and Recreation, in a role that was sadly dumped from the show’s third season. Posey has the Catherine Keener problem, where she’s still working but not getting the kinds of dynamite roles she used to — because women over 40 are lepers in Hollywood, except on TV. Maybe Christopher Guest will find room for her in Family Tree, because there isn’t a Guest reuinion without Parker Posey. If not, she’ll always have a place at the Dairy Queen.