Something that has always amazed me is how many distinguished, respected actors have come from sitcoms or other TV series. In some cases, the fact these actors came from humble beginnings is almost forgotten as the actors gets more and more famous. Today I thought I would run through some examples of actors/actresses who are major movie stars that got their start in TV shows.

Tom Hanks

I think everyone knows that Tom Hanks co-starred in Bosom Buddies with Peter Scolari. But did you know that he actually has a pretty impressive resume of sitcom work before he letp onto the big screen? He appears in two episodes of Family Ties as Elyse’s brother, an episode of Taxi where he was very funny, an episode of Happy Days, and like most people in that time an episode of The Love Boat. It seemed like he was on his way to being a major TV star…until a little movie called Splash changed all of that in 1982.

Ron Howard

Speaking of Splash (which is a really good movie by  the way!) it just happened to be one of the first movies directed by Ron Howard. Of course, Ron Howard was a child actor starring in The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days. He got his movie career going when he was in American Graffiti (which, I’m sorry, bored me) but it was when he got into directing things really took off. I loved Apollo 13 and many other of his films.


Michael J. Fox

Since I mentioned Family Ties I know people would be waiting for me to mention this name. He was HUGE in this show, and when he started in movies with Teen Wolf it was a hit even though it was lame. Then a little movie came along called Back to the Future and…do I need to say more?

Morgan Freeman

HEY YOU GUYS!!! Hell yeah my friends, Morgan Freeman started out on TV. He was in the PBS kids show The Electric Company. And I admit, I forgot this one myself until a few years ago.

Sally Field

It’s amazing, Sally Field has become such a good and respected actress. But where did she start out? As the cute girl in the very campy TV shows Gidget and The Flying Nun. These shows were so silly! Who would have ever though she would become a major movie star? But a little film called Smokey and the Bandi changed all that.

Johnny Depp

This is the one I think most people forget. Johnny Depp has had an amazing career, and I have no seen any of his movies. Well, Ok I did see Edwaed Scissorhands and loved it. I also saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and hated it. But overall he is not an actor I enjoy. I also never watched the role that started his career, in the popular FOX series 21 Jump Street.

George Clooney

I love this one! Who ever would have thought in the 80’s and early 90’s that George Clooney would the respected actor we have today? He was in The Facts of Life, E/R (the sitcom), Roseanne, the god awful and short lived Baby Talk, an episode of The Golden Girls, and the drama Sisters. But when he starred in ER (the drama) things suddenly went crazy. George Clooney was a sensation. One of his first movies was One Fine Day which is a very nice little movie.


Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock did in fact get her start in TV my friends. She starred in the short lived (and god awful) sitcom Working Girl.

Halle Berry

Speaking of awful short lived sitcoms, the Who’s The Boss? spin-off Living Dolls featured Leah Remini, Michael Learned, and of course a very young Halle Berrie.

Woody Harrelson

Here is a prime example my friends! When Woody first appeared on Cheers as, well, Woody who ever would have imagined what a major movie star he would become? I went over this in my crossover with my friend Atreyu so will not rehash that. But much like Johnny Depp, I am not much of a fan of the movies he makes.

John Travolta

Here’s another great one. And this one was no accident, Travolta always intended to disprove the adage that a sitcom star could not make it big in movies. He has done a ton of movie, ok some not so good, from Grease to Pulp Fiction. The best part? He still acknowledges how he started as Barbarino in Welcome Back, Kotter. I love it when these guys aren’t egomaniacs.

Jennifer Aniston

Aniston had a string of horrible sitcome flops including the forgotten Ferris Bueller before finally landing Friends. That somehow propelled her into movie stardom, and she has made crappy movie after crappy movie! Must be nice to have residuals. To be fair she was good in Bruce Almighty which starred Jim Carey.

Joseph Gordon Levitt

This one just astonishes me. I used to watch him as Tommy on 3rd Rock From the Sun and thought…yeah, he was good. The way he has become a major movi star is just amazing. He was great in the movies I have seen him in and I imagine we will be hearing from him for a long time.

Jim Carey

I think this is another one that people kind of forget. Before he was Ace Ventura or The Riddler, or Truman (fyi I LOVED The Truman Show) he was a featured player on In Living Color. I watched some of those and he was always funny. I guess, I never really liked him. But when it turned out he was a very decent actor, everyone was surprise. Including me. Carey was on In Living Colors with Jamie Fox, who I think has gone on to make a movie or two.

Practically EVERYONE who has ever been on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE!!

Seriously! Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, and Kristen Wigg just to name a few of the comedians who made the switch to big time movie star. Ok, so a lot of the movies they have made suck. But it’s still quite impressive to go from a silly sketch show to big time movies.

I am leaving a ton off. Will Smith and Robin Williams, do I need to tell you what shows they were on? Bruce Willis was Moonlighting before he learned to Die Hard. Denzel Washington (and Howie Mandell) was on St.Elsewhere. Kevin Bacon was on Guiding Light. Leonardo DiCaprio was on Santa Barbara and Growing Pains. Hilary Swank was on Beverly Hills, 90210. And finally, Sarah Jessica Parker was on Square Pegs.

Who am I leaving off? Feel free to comment.

By richb

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