15 TV Actors Whose Movie Careers Didn't Take Off. Child Stars, Soap Stars AND MORE

15 TV Actors Whose Movie Careers Didn’t Take Off (Child Stars, Soap Stars AND MORE)


These actors and actresses might have been stars on the small screen with their own hit TV shows, and even appeared to have a bright future in film, but when it came to the big screen they just didn’t break through.

Check out these 15 TV Actors With Failed Movie Careers.

Kyla Pratt

Kyla Pratt WENN pf

Photo: WENN

At one point Kyla Pratt was one of the hottest young Black actresses in Hollywood, starring in Dr. Dolittle 1 & 2, Love and Basketball, UPN’s “One on One,” and Disney’s “The Proud Family” animated series. Naturally, we expected that Kyla would move further into film as she matured, but her roles have been nothing to write home about. She starred in the Fat Albert live action film, Hotel for Dogs, and three more Dr. Dolittle movies which went straight to DVD.

Chad Michael Murray

Chad Michael Murray WENN PF

Photo: WENN

When Chad Michael Murray stepped on the scene for his breakout role in 2003 as the lead of CW’s “One Tree Hill,” he seemed poised for an eventual budding film career. Things didn’t quite pan out that way, though. Despite his amazing good looks, Murray hasn’t done much film work since the days of his high success in Freaky Friday, A Cinderella Story, and House of Wax  between 2003-2006.  After being fired from “One Tree Hill” in 2009, he’s only done a handful of films, most of which were made for TV.


Alyssa Milano


Both beautiful and talented, Alyssa Milano is one of the more enigmatic actresses in Hollywood. The former child star is almost exclusively a career TV movie/direct -to-video (DVD) actress. After her time on “Who’s the Boss” and her role as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s daughter in the movie Commando, Milano went on to enjoy the most fame on the wildy popular ’90s melodrama Melrose Place and later CW’s Charmed.


Sarah Michelle Gellar

Sarah Michelle Gellar PF WENN

Photo: WENN

Though Sarah Michelle Gellar got her start on the daytime drama “All My Children,” unlike many, she was able to establish an acting career outside of soaps. She played the butt-kicking, vampire-slaying cheerleader on the hit series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” giving girls everywhere a tough but feminine role model to look up to. Both pretty and popular, Gellar looked ready to take on the film industry, but her career seems to have peaked with films I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cruel Intentions, and The Grudge.


Tatyana Ali

Tatyana Ali WENN PFPhoto: WENN

Sweet little Ashley Banks grew up to be quite a beauty, but if fans of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air expected to see that face all over film and TV after the show ended, they were in for quite a disappointment. Tatyana Ali‘s biggest film to date is the 1997 urban comedy Fakin’ da Funk, while she enjoyed only moderate success with her music career in the 90s. Up until 2010 her film and television work had been very scanty. In 2010 she starred in her own series “Love That Girl.” Unfortunately, it was canceled last year. She is now appearing in “Second Generation Wayans.” Ali is, however, a Harvard graduate with humanitarian endeavors.

 Neve Campbell

Neve Campbell WENN pf

Photo: WENN

Neve Campbell is a prime example of how starring in a hugely successful franchise does not guarantee a hugely successful film career. She may have been able to scream her way into horror movie history, but the film series catapulted her into stardom with all the force of a limp rubber band. After her success with The Craft and Scream 1 & 2, Campbell appeared in 54, Wild Things, Three to Tango, and Drowning Mona,  of which only Wild Things was a commercial and critical success. Subsequently, her career has been filled with mostly obscure independent films.


Jennifer Love Hewitt

Jennifer Love Hewitt WENN pf

Photo: WENN

The second most popular scream queen of the ’90s, Jennifer Love Hewitt, had a lot going for her: she was cute, bubbly, and a fan favorite. The down-to-earth actress fared just about the same as her “Party of Five” co-star and scary movie contemporary, Neve Campbell, achieving the bulk of her success in the late ’90s with I Know What You Did Last Summer,  Can’t Hardly Wait, and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. Her last big film was opposite Jackie Chan in 2002’s Tuxedo. She has since returned to her TV roots.

 Tim Meadows

Tim Meadows WENN pf

Photo: WENN

Despite having been one of the longest running comedians on Saturday Night LiveTim Meadows did not utilize the show as springboard for his film career the way many of his fellow SNL alum have. His rather short filmography in his 20-year career only includes one film with a leading role: The Ladie’s Man (2000).

James Van Der Beek

"The Words" - Los Angeles PremierePhoto: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

James Van Der Beek was the hottest thing going in the late ’90s-early 2000’s as an angst-laden teenager with a pretentiously academic vocabulary in Dawson’s Creek. The show was a verifiable hit, but oddly led Van Der Beek to only one successful movie (Varsity Blues) and one flop (Texas Rangers). Aside from the movie Rules of Attraction, he hasn’t done much in the way of feature films.


Joshua Jackson

Joshua Jackson PF WENN


This former Mighty Ducks star always carried a certain charm about him, which made him one of the more interesting characters on Dawson’s Creek. During the heyday of the series, Joshua Jackson starred in a string of popular films including Urban Legend, Cruel Intentions, and The Skulls, but he never managed to actualize the George Clooney potential he seemed to carry with such ease. He did, however, obtain television success once more with J.J. Abram’s Fringe from 2008 to 2013.

Shemar Moore

Shemar Moore WENN pf

Photo: WENN

Shemar Moore got his start on the daytime soap “The Young and the Restless,” starring on the show for eight years before leaving and then returning 3 years later. Moore, who now stars as a regular cast member on the CBS crime drama “Criminal Minds,” has been maintaining a very modest television career and an even smaller film run. He only has a handful of movies under his belt, none of which are particularly memorable or significant—a surprising fact considering his devilish good looks, rocking bod, and popularity among the female fans.


Hilary Duff

The Hollywood Reporter Celebrates Mindy Kaling And Her New Project "The Mindy Project"Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Her role as the title character on the Disney Channel’s “Lizze McGuire” helped launch her into Disney Pop Princess stardom, but oddly did little to propel her acting career—strange considering her vocal skill is about as light as her acting ability. After the show ended, Hilary starred in The Lizzie McGuire Movie, A Cinderella Story, Agent Cody Banks, and Cheaper by the Dozen—each hugely successful—but her career as an adult has been underwhelming at best. The actress has starred in a handful of indie flicks with lukewarm reviews.

Ben McKenzie

Ben McKenzie WENN pf

Photo: WENN

Remember when Ben McKenzie played Ryan Atwood on Fox’s The OC? The show was a hit (for a while) and Ben was constantly featured in magazines and interviews as the next big thing, but the hype didn’t seem to amount to much in the way of a career. Despite being praised for his performances in 3 out of the 5 feature films that he’s done —one of which was the thriller 88 Minutes starring Al Pacino—Ben McKenzie’s film career is almost non-existent. Instead, the hunky actor is a cast member on TNT’s “Southland” with Regina King.

Dennis Haysbert

Photo: WENN

Dennis Haysbert is probably most widely recognized as the guy from the Allstate commercials, but the 53-year old actor has had quite a successful career in TV, guest starring on several hit shows in the ’80s; starring on Fox’s 24 as the President—for which he received a Golden Globe nomination; and starring on the CBS action-drama The Unit.  Haysbert has been in films like Heat, Waiting to Exhale, Love & Basketball, and Jarhead but rarely appears in a leading role, which is surprising given his strong, masculine, and dignified persona reminiscent of Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman.

Melissa Joan Hart

Melissa Joan Hart WENN pfPhoto: WENN

The former “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” star seems as though she would fit perfectly in today’s modern romantic comedy films, alongside actresses like Kristen Bell and Katherine Heigl, but the actress has been relegated to the likes of made-for-TV movies. Her role in the 1999 teeny-bopper hit Drive Me Crazy has been her biggest in a film to date.


  • What The Hell Ever

    What difference does it make if their movie careers didn’t “take off” (whatever that means)? They’re still doing their primary job and getting paid for it: acting.

    • I agree this all seems a little harsh.

    • Mel

      lol, I had to stop reading this list half way through because EVERY single one of these people is currently on tv! Some of them are in critically acclaimed series (Southland), others are gearing up to start new network projects (Milano), others are still steadily working (Pratt). Seriously, does this author expect every actor to be in big budget blockbusters?

      Any “actor” managing to support themselves without waiting tables is successful, but these people are actually still getting big projects, showing up for award shows, etc. How is that a career that hasn’t ‘taken off?

      The title should have been “Actors who are not Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt/Will Smith”

      • ♏ ®

        Exactly. None of the people on this list are missing in action.

    • xxdiscoxxheaven

      True! Many actors are happy with tv because it provides stability. They dont have to move their family for 6 months to a new location.

  • MCK

    This is the stupidest and most inaccurate list ever.

  • Keisha Samoht

    never watch 1 tree hill but didnt kno chad michael murry got fired…

  • frankie frank

    make em stars and then shoot them down because its their fault they dont have enormous film careers…well, what about julia louis dreyfuss and seinfeld and debra messing and all the rest of those stars from tv…why do you expect tv stars to matriculate to film stardom…clue phone…when we see them for free every week in our homes on our tvs, we dont pay to see them in film…tv stars are not film actors…there is a big difference here….

  • blibbedy-boo

    I love that Shaksmac misspelled “vocabulary”.

  • You forgot to mention that Dennis Haysbert will always be remembered as the Cuban player on Major League 1, 2 and 3

    • Not me. He’s the President on ’24’ or the team leader on The Unit. Not to mention all those All State commercials.

  • Some of them never made it as big time movie actors but they did make it a big time TV actors. You can be more successful and make more money on TV

  • Shay

    Maybe they don’t want to do movies?

  • MissAnnThrope

    Would someone PLEASE get Shaksmac a spell checker? I can’t believe someone who writes so badly and who can’t proofread or spell simple words is allowed to write for what is supposed to be a professional website.

  • danny low

    It used to be very important to make it in the movies but not any more. The reason is money. TV used to pay less than movies. Today, an actor in a top rated TV series can make as much money as a top rated movie star. Just look at Forbes et. al. list of top paid movie and TV stars. Ashton Kutcher ranks up there with the top 10 movie actors as an example. And when it comes to fame, TV actors are remembered for their roles in a popular series long after the fame has faded for movie stars.

  • WoopWoop

    So, none of these people is on welfare, in jail or a cast member of any reality show with the word “celebrity” in the title. One has a Harvard degree, another is the face of a long-running and extremely successful ad campaign. These people are failures HOW?

  • uhhh…the very first one is wrong therefore I will not read the others. Kyla Pratt is currently on a show called Lets Stay Together

  • its a shame kyla pratts career didn’t take off, she’s such a talented underrated actress

  • so, tim meadows starred in a movie called “The Ladie’s Man”?

    where do you find your illiterate help?

  • cas

    Check your facts, CMM didn’t get fired. He chose not to renew his contract. It happens a lot in TV. He wanted to leave the show considering he was on it for 6 seasons. While I do agree his movie career didn’t take off, I do believe he does have a few projects in the works and I hardly doubt he is hurting for money.

  • Brawny71

    Robin Givens, Lauren Holly, and Valerie Bertinelli are three others. Every teenage boy (and a few girls) had a crush on Bertinelli in the late 1970’s, and what does she accept as her film debut? A movie for their younger siblings, the ill-fated C.H.O.M.P.S.–back when Hanna-Barbera tried to make a go of it in live action films, even when Disney was headed for a slump. Her other two features went straight-to-video.

  • I have never heard of most of these people. However, it is not easy to transfer stardom from the small screen to the big screen. If fact, I would suggest only a handful have done it in last 60 years. Steve McQueen was the first to do it, and James Garner was second. Bill Murray and a few of his co-horts from SNL have done it, most have not. Clooney is big movie star, but was not really a big TV star.

    • Jennifer Anniston does BOTH and I’d pay to see her in a movie.

      Jason Bateman too and the boy that plus his son on Arrested Development (Scott Pilgrim) also do both TV and movies swimmingly.

      Those are just two examples off the top of my head.

      • Yes, Anniston has done it, but Bateman is not really “movie star” he may be in movies from time to time, but hardly a “star”

  • TryThinking1956

    I think that Tatyana Ali’s Harvard degree sort of indicates success…don’t you? Amazing how any actor who doesn’t generate over a billion dollars in revenue is now considered a “failure”. And then, the same writers wax sympathetic when people like Amanda Bynes spin out of control because they believe the hype and consider themselves worthless, as well. Each one of the actors featured in this piece have been more successful then 99% of working actors out there.

  • my humble opinion

    Some people are only good enough to be on TV, (van Der beek, Murray) and some are Too good at being “that guy in that movie that time, You know the one” (Haysbert, Meadows) — they cite Haysbert as being on par with Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman… however IF a Film wants/Needs them and can afford them , They’d hire them.

  • nicole

    alyssa milano did take off!!! she hasnt done anything big because she has been prego and taking care of her son, and she has a sports clothing line, a new show premiering this fall, and other things besides, in my opinion i think you need to do research because to me all these actors or actresses are still acting. so your list should consists of actors/actresses who dont anymore, you need to research more before publishing articles.

  • J_Jeffrey

    Jenifer Love Hewitt has the #1 show on Lifetime.

  • Shay

    Umm whoever posted this needs to do some research first. I hope their supervisor reads this. People want accurate stories please.

  • Tishauna Starr

    critical acclaim, or even a fandom doesn’t automatically equals cross over success. same with music. it’s about what the industry is comfortable with not us.

  • ch

    I believe they are all well paid and living well. This is a rather mean-spirited article.

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