It was the decade that brought the world POGS, Tamagotchi, and Polly Pocket, some things from the '90s were made to last while others could only exist in the limelight for a while. Unfortunately, there are some memorable actors from the '90s who deserved to stick around but they have since faded away.
If there is one thing that is clear about the general public, it is that the world loves a good comeback story. As a result, it is always possible that several once beloved but now forgotten actors from the past could wind up in the spotlight again today. Given the fact that we already published a list of 20 actresses from the '90s who should be a big deal again, it is time for the fellas to have their chance. With that in mind, it is time to take a look at this list of 20 male actors from the '90s that Hollywood needs to embrace yet again.
In order for a male actor to be considered for this list, they first and foremost must have become famous during the '90s. That said, it is perfectly fine if he’d already attained some success in the previous decades, as long as he is best known for work he did in the '90s. Finally, the actors need to have largely disappeared from the limelight since then and be so good at their job that it is a shame that they no longer receive the highest caliber roles.
20 Rider Strong
As is the case with a lot of former child stars, Rider Strong has had some difficulty moving past the role that first made him famous. On the fortunate side of things for him, being a part of the long-running show Boy Meets World is far from a bad thing as it allowed him to hold a special place in the hearts of an entire generation of kids.
However, once Boy Meets World came to an end Strong went on to star in the cult classic horror film Cabin Fever. In that role, he proved that he has the acting chops to lead a notable film and it really is too bad he has not had the chance to repeat that feat since then.
19 Elias Koteas
Certainly not an actor who has ever been a household name, Elias Koteas is the kind of performer that many people recognize and film buffs absolutely love. A very soulful actor who has shown great depth of character in movies like Exotica, The Thin Red Line, Apt Pupil, and Crash, he truly is talented at what he does. On top of that, he is no stranger to appearing in lighter fare as he played Casey Jones in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies.
While Koteas still pops up in projects from time to time, the fact is that it has been quite a while since he landed a film role that is worthy of his obvious abilities.
18 James Van Der Beek
At one point in the past, it would have seemed nearly inconceivable that we would include James Van Der Beek in a list like this one. After all, he was best known for Dawson’s Creek and Varsity Blues, both of which were very entertaining, but it is a stretch to say that his acting in them was stellar.
However, in the mid-2010s Van Der Beek went through a renaissance when he was hilarious in Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 and he wrote and appeared in the beloved short film Power/Rangers. Unfortunately, Hollywood failed to properly capitalize on either of those projects so they need to find a new project to take advantage of Van Der Beek’s abilities.
17 Wesley Snipes
For anyone who is too young to remember it, throughout much of the '90s there were very few actors who were as in demand as Wesley Snipes. First made a star when he was stellar in New Jack City, during that decade he was also incredible in White Men Can't Jump, Demolition Man, The Fan, and Blade.
Sadly, from there his life hit the skids as he developed a bad reputation after his demanding behavior on the set of Blade: Trinity and he paid his dues for tax evasion. Seemingly in a very different headspace now, Snipes has the history and acting chops to be an elder statesman in Hollywood and it is about time he was given the roles to make that possible.
16 Mark-Paul Gosselaar
When most people think about TV shows that feel like they personify the sometimes cheesy nature of '90s television, there probably isn’t a better example than Saved by the Bell. As that show’s main star, it often seems like Mark-Paul Gosselaar has been underestimated in the years since that show aired. An extremely charismatic actor who is hard not to like when he appears onscreen, Gosselaar could easily anchor a hit sitcom at any time.
Despite that, Hollywood seems determined to hire him to either play himself, as he has done a lot recently, or as the star of a drama series like his current show The Passage. While we typically don’t support typecasting, Gosselaar needs to return to form.
15 Nicolas Cage
An actor who has proven that he has real staying power, during the '80s Nicolas Cage rose to fame and he really hit his stride in the '90s and early 2000s. Unfortunately, since the late 2000s, Cage’s career has been on a downhill slide as it seems like the guy says yes to every role he is offered.
In fact, in 2019 alone, Cage is set to have 10 movies released and there always is the possibility that more will be added to that list. Still, over the last few years, Cage has been wonderful in movies like Joe, Mandy, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which proves he could be on top of the acting world again if he lands the right caliber of roles.
14 Giovanni Ribisi
When you look at the career of Giovanni Ribisi it really is pretty fascinating. After all, he clearly is a fantastic actor and has a look that is similar to your typical character actor. Despite that, at various times he has seemed to be poised to become a major star, including during much of the '90s. However, it has recently felt like Ribisi has all but disappeared from the acting world as he currently stars in a little-seen series called Sneaky Pete and he barely shows up in films.
Currently set to have a supporting role in the Avatar sequels, aside from that it doesn’t seem like Ribisi has anything huge coming up, which is a crying shame.
13 David Arquette
Often cast in comedic roles, David Arquette is best known for movies like the Scream series, Never Been Kissed, and Eight Legged Freaks. If that fact has caused you to think Arquette is a joke then you are missing the boat. After all, when it comes to qualities that we love to see in actors, one of the biggest has to be a dedication to their craft and there is little doubt that Arquette goes all out.
For instance, he is a big fan of professional wrestling so in recent months he has taken part in matches in front of small crowds in order to gain credibility. If he receives the opportunity to dedicate himself to a worthy film role, then the sky will be the limit for him.
12 Tony Shalhoub
An actor who has proven himself in the world of film, Tony Shalhoub has been a part of a long list of movies including Barton Fink, Men in Black, Galaxy Quest, Spy Kids, and Cars. Probably best known for his celebrated lead performance in the hit series Monk, he also has turned heads of late with his work in the acclaimed show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Even though we think it is great that Shalhoub is starring in the latter, each season of the show is made up of a small number of episodes. As a result, he clearly has the time to appear in lots of other shows and films which simply isn’t happening for some reason we can’t understand.
11 Aaron Eckhart
In the year 1997, Aaron Eckhart impressed film fans with his stunning performance in the breathtaking and hard to watch independent film In the Company of Men. From there, he went on to share the screen with Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich and star as the classic Batman villain Two-Face in the acclaimed film The Dark Knight.
Sadly, in the years since then, Eckhart has shown up in a slew of underperforming films including Battle: Los Angeles and the critically lambasted film I, Frankenstein. However, if he was given the right representation that could help him pick the right projects to star in, Eckhart could easily be a major leading man.
10 David Alan Grier
One of several '90s comedy stars who rose to prominence when they starred in the sketch comedy show In Living Color, there simply is no doubt that David Alan Grier is a hilarious guy. In fact, after that show ended Grier went on to be a part of several other comedy classic films including Boomerang, Blankman, and Jumanji.
On top of that, from 2014 until 2017 he starred in The Carmichael Show which was one of the best major network sitcoms in years. Currently part of a little-seen series named The Cool Kids, we need to see Grier make his return to a major movie or show any day now.
9 Daniel Stern
Don’t get us wrong, we are fully aware that Daniel Stern never was a huge movie star. However, if you ask us he was one of the most impactful actors in North America during the '90s. For instance, during that decade he lent his voice to TV’s The Wonder Years and Dilbert. On top of that, he starred in the Home Alone and City Slickers series, Rookie of the Year, and Very Bad Things.
Despite how fantastic Stern was in all of those projects, since the year 2000 he has only been a part of nine films and six shows. That means there were some years in which Stern didn’t work at all over the last 19 years which is a crying shame given how hilarious he is.
8 Vince Vaughn
Turned into a star when he stole virtually every scene in the hit 1996 independent film Swingers, after that it seemed like Hollywood thought Vince Vaughn could do it all. After all, he went on to star in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Return to Paradise, and a remake of the horror classic Psycho.
However, Vaughn went on to attain his greatest success as the star of comedies like Old School, DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, and Wedding Crashers.
Sadly, in recent years Vaughn has become an afterthought in the acting business. The fact that his career prospects continue to dwindle even though he's been in movies like Hacksaw Ridge, Brawl in Cell Block 99, and Fighting with My Family mystifies us.
7 Ethan Embry
There is a very good chance that many teens of the '90s could identify with several characters that Ethan Embry portrayed. Best remembered for his performances in '90s films like Empire Records, That Thing You Do!, Vegas Vacation, and Can't Hardly Wait, in all of those films Embry was exceedingly relatable.
Unfortunately, once Embry grew into adulthood it seemed like Hollywood felt that his appeal had all but disappeared. However, in recent years he has starred in several more intense films like Cheap Thrills and The Guest, and even in those movies he still has a certain presence of which the world needs to see more.
6 John Cusack
First able to become a notable actor during the mid to late '80s, it still wasn’t until the '90s that John Cusack really became a massive deal. Fantastic in '90s films like Grosse Pointe Blank, Con Air, and Being John Malkovich, he had the innate ability to successfully bring his independent film style of acting to major movies.
Unfortunately, Cusack’s last major hit was 2010's Hot Tub Time Machine and now it seems like he is often relegated to the caliber of film that used to get a direct-to-video release. That said, we refuse to believe that Cusack lacks the ability to enjoy the limelight again - Hollywood just needs to remember how great he is.
5 Frank Whaley
Every so often an actor comes along who is so good at portraying an oddly specific kind of character that it is simply delightful to watch. As a perfect example of this, during the '90s Frank Whaley did a marvelous job of playing one slimy but highly relatable character after another.
For evidence of this, look no further than the 1991 movie Career Opportunities in which Whaley played a habitual liar that typically would be highly annoying, but there was something about his obvious desperation to be respected that made him incredibly lovable. Considering that kind of character remains a constant in the movie world, it makes us sad that producers seem to have forgotten how great Frank Whaley is at playing it.
4 Scott Glenn
An actor who made his TV debut back in 1965, Scott Glenn’s career hit its zenith in the early '90s when he was a part of movies like The Hunt for Red October, The Silence of the Lambs, and Backdraft.
In the years since then, Glenn has continued to find work both in TV series and films. For instance, he recently played Stick in Netflix’s Marvel Cinematic Universe series and he starred in the first season of the show Castle Rock that is based on Stephen King’s writing. In those shows, Glenn proved that as an old man he is giving the best performances of his life, and needs to be memorialized on the big screen.
3 Dana Carvey
Even though Dana Carvey has all but disappeared in recent years, we think he deserves to be considered among the funniest people ever born. After all, during his years starring in Saturday Night Live he portrayed so many hilarious and beloved characters that it would take up far too much space to list them here.
In addition to that, The Dana Carvey Show was a groundbreaking series that was ahead of its time and the Wayne’s World movies are now considered classics. Unfortunately, Carvey has had the misfortune of being part of several incredibly unfunny films like Little Nicky, The Master of Disguise, as well as Jack and Jill. Still, we would happily put up with missteps like those to get Carvey at his best again.
2 Antonio Banderas
We have to say, of all the actors who appear on this list Antonio Banderas’ presence is the most baffling. After all, the man exudes charm from his every pore and he lights up the screen whenever he appears on it. In addition to that, he has proven himself to be a worthy action star with his work in movies like Desperado. He is a major part of the family film franchise Shrek, and he has starred in several drama films.
More than that, while he clearly was a part of a few unsuccessful movies over his career, they have all been followed up with more successful efforts. Despite all of that, his last notable movie was 2014’s The Expendables 3, which makes no sense at all!
1 Cuba Gooding Jr.
Unlike our last entry, it makes perfect sense that Cuba Gooding Jr. is not the star he used to be when he was in '90s films like A Few Good Men, Outbreak, Jerry Maguire, and As Good As It Gets. After all, for all of his successes, the man has also appeared in lambasted movies like Snow Dogs, Boat Trip, Norbit, and Daddy Day Camp.
That said, we still think that Gooding Jr. is capable of huge things in the acting world if he could hire someone to choose his roles. After all, he was amazing in the movie American Gangster and he recently showed signs of acting brilliance with his work in the show American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson.