You can't always knock it out of the park. For every Raiders of the Lost Ark there's a Six Days, Seven Nights, for every Hunger Games there's a Serena. Taking the rough with the smooth is part of everyone's career trajectory, but the following stars went one further and pulled out of a freefall by hitting the thrusters and shooting up, up and away.
1. John Travolta – Look Who's Talking Now/Pulp Fiction
With a 0% score at Rotten Tomatoes and a box-office tally half the size of its budget, Look Who's Talking Now looked like the final nail in John Travolta's career coffin. But then along came Quentin Tarantino, casting Travolta as a dopey hitman in Pulp Fiction, and the Johnaissance began.
2. Arnold Schwarzenegger – The Last Action Hero/True Lies
Arnie's massively-hyped The Last Action Hero turned out to be a sloppy mess of half-baked ideas, stomped into the mud by that summer's monster hit Jurassic Park, a hubristic flop by which other flops were measured. But when he re-teamed with James Cameron for 1994's True Lies, he found himself king of the box office once more.
3. Sandra Bullock – All About Steve/The Blind Side
2009 was rocky for Sandy: September saw All About Steve bring her a Razzie for worst actress (which she collected in person), while Time magazine rated it among the ten worst chick flicks. But she bounced back in style with The Blind Side just two months later, picking up another award – this time a Best Actress Oscar.
4. Bruce Willis – Sunset/Die Hard
Sunset, a detective story featuring James Garner as Wyatt Earp and Bruce as cowboy actor Tom Mix, cost $16m and made back a quarter of that. Die Hard, on the other hand, set the template for action movies for the next twenty years. We know which we'd rather watch.
5. Daniel Craig – Flashbacks of a Fool/Quantum of Solace
Being 007 allows you a little room to experiment between instalments, but it also makes it hard for audiences to identify with you as anything else, as Daniel Craig found when Flashbacks of a Fool met with near-silence at the box office. Naturally he dusted himself down, popped on the tux and regained his place in pop culture within months with Quantum of Solace – not the best-loved Bond outing but a box-office hit all the same.
6. Natalie Portman – Your Highness/Thor
Woefully unfunny fantasy comedy Your Highness was an embarrassment for all involved, and Natalie Portman was no exception. However, she had an ace up her sleeve in the impressively well-built shape of Thor, which pitched its ridiculousness just right to ensure great box office for Marvel.
7. Keanu Reeves – 47 Ronin/John Wick
Reeves's samurai turkey is one of the biggest flops of all time, losing a reported $149m. Fortunately the low-budget, crowd-pleasing action thriller John Wick put him back on the map. He then made the terrible Knock Knock, though, so he clearly can't be trusted.
8. Tom Hardy – Child 44/Mad Max: Fury Road
Even Tom Hardy's star quality couldn't save Child 44 from its mess of Russian accents, dense plot and muddy cinematography, pulling in just $13 million from a $50 million budget. But his next film would be the polar opposite: a huge commercial and critical hit. In which he barely spoke.
9. Tom Cruise – Legend/Top Gun
It's got a terrific camp turn from Tim Curry as the devil, but Ridley Scott's mystical quest film cost $24m, against a take of $15.5m at the box office. Good thing for the Cruiser that he signed up to play cocky pilot Maverick in that Navy jet-fighter thing Tony Scott was making: at $15m it cost significantly less to make – the US navy helped out by providing the, oh, aircraft carriers, supersonic jet pilots and stuff – and it made $180m.
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