VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu
WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
You never forget your first! For this list, we're looking at the top 10 actors who returned to iconic roles. Our countdown includes Patrick Stewart, Paul Newman, Linda Hamilton, Anthony Perkins and more!
Script Written by Garrett Alden
Top 10 Actors That Returned to Iconic Roles
You never forget your first! Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Actors That Returned to Iconic Roles.
For this list, we’ll be going over the actors who reprised some of their most well-known roles after years away from them.
#10: Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart is a phenomenal actor with many memorable roles under his belt, but one of his most iconic is as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the USS Enterprise. Stewart last appeared as the compassionate and inquisitive captain in 2002, in the film “Star Trek: Nemesis,” and after 18 years, he’s finally come back as one of the “Star Trek” franchise’s most memorable figures in the series “Star Trek: Picard.” We’re already relishing just seeing Picard on the small screen again, as we’ve had to wait even longer for that!
#9: Bruce Campbell
Hail to the king, baby! Bruce Campbell rose to fame in the 1980’s playing Ash Williams, the pulpy hero of the comedic horror films in “The Evil Dead” series. Several decades after his final movie performance in the role, Campbell returned in the TV series “Ash vs Evil Dead” to reprise it. Although down on his luck and hardened by his experiences, Campbell’s Ash remains a fantastically entertaining character. It’s just a shame that the show was cancelled after three seasons, as we would’ve loved to have more adventures with the grooviest hero of them all.
#8: Paul Newman
“Fast Eddie” Felson
Paul Newman first played pool hustler “Fast Eddie” Felson in 1961’s “The Hustler.” In that film, Eddie is an up and coming hustler whose life is beset by tragedy. 25 years later, Newman returned as a much older Eddie, who comes out of enforced retirement to mentor another young pool player in the art of the hustle. While there is some debate over which film is better, Newman’s performance is just as good in both of them, although it was his acting in “The Color of Money” that finally earned him a much-deserved Oscar win after many nominations.
#7: Anthony Perkins
Anthony Perkins played one of the most influential horror/slasher villains ever as the mentally disturbed motel manager, Norman Bates, in the original “Psycho.” It took 23 years, but Perkins eventually returned to his infamous role in “Psycho II.” In the sequel, Bates has been seemingly rehabilitated following decades in a psychiatric facility. However, the people around him, and his own past, seek to push him back to what he once was. While most will agree “Psycho II” isn’t as good as the first film, Perkins remains simultaneously sympathetic and disturbing as Bates.
#6: Linda Hamilton
As tempting as it was to choose Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reprisal as the titular Terminator in “Terminator: Genisys”, instead, we ultimately went with another actor from the same franchise who was gone for even longer. Linda Hamilton had previously played Sarah Connor, the mother of humanity’s future resistance leader, in the first two “Terminator” movies. Almost three decades later, she reprised the role in 2019’s “Terminator: Dark Fate”. Even after such a long interim, Hamilton proved she could still be a badass, imbuing the hardened Sarah Conner with all the anger and bitterness one might expect from a grieving mother…who likes big guns.
#5: Carrie Fisher
Princess/General Leia Organa is one of “Star Wars’” most iconic characters. And although she may have been away from the role for 32 years, we completely buy her as both the young rebel and the experienced general. Tragically, Fisher passed away during the filming of the sequel trilogy, and despite some technical wizardry that kept her in the final film for one last swan song, we can’t help but be sad she couldn’t deliver it herself. Our “only hope” is that Fisher is now one with the Force – always.
#4: Jamie Lee Curtis
One of the horror genre’s original “final girls” finally returned! Last appearing in “Halloween: Resurrection” in 2002, Jamie Lee Curtis returned in 2018 as Laurie Strode, the sister and frequent target of the “Halloween” franchise’s perpetual killer antagonist, Michael Myers. Although the movie ignores the continuity of all the films besides the first, Curtis’ performance as a paranoid and haunted woman is quite riveting. Given that plans for several sequels, including one in 2020, are underway, fans definitely won’t have to wait as long to see Curtis as Strode again.
#3: Mark Hamill
The continuation of the original “Star Wars” trilogy brought back several of its stars, and Mark Hamill also returned as the heroic Jedi, Luke Skywalker. Weary from loss and the choices he’s made, this Luke is a far more bitter and defeated than when he was last seen decades before. Fortunately, he manages to rekindle his former hope after training a new Jedi, Rey. While Hamill has been vocal in his criticism of his character’s journey in the films, he nevertheless delivers a fantastic performance, and regardless of whether you agree with him, Hamill is certainly a better actor now.
#2: Sylvester Stallone
While it was tempting to discuss Stallone’s return in one of his other famous roles, John Rambo, we couldn’t help but choose what is arguably his most well-known character, Rocky Balboa. Stallone has returned to the role after an absence several times in the last 20 years, and we honestly couldn’t choose between them. His return to the ring as an older fighter in “Rocky Balboa” is a wonderful last battle for the old fighter, while his turn as a mentor in “Creed,” as well as his fight with cancer, is also a refreshing turn for the character.
Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
Pete “Maverick” Mitchell
Jim Carrey & Jeff Daniels
Lloyd Christmas & Harry Dunne
#1: Harrison Ford
Indiana Jones, Han Solo & Rick Deckard
Harrison Ford has played so many iconic roles, you might say he had an unfair advantage here! From space smuggler, to swashbuckling archaeologist, to neo-noir policeman, Ford has done it all . . . more than once. He may be an incorrigible grump about many of his most famous characters, but the fact is, he’s returned to several of them in recent years - and we have to love him for it! While he may be an older man now, Ford has brought his experience to his iconic parts and used that grumpiness to add a new layer to them . . . even if his stunt work isn’t what it used to be.