By "better" I mean in terms of more popularity, better roles/movies, or more recognition/respect awards wise. It might not have worked out because of some of their choices or they haven't been given enough opportunities. Feel free to add your own to the list. The pictures highlight their best performances.
1. Guy Pearce
He starred in 2 of my favorite films of all
time in Memento and L.A. Confidential. Yet, it seems he hasn't gotten
many other good opportunities. He was great in Animal Kingdom, but seems
relegated to extremely minor roles (The King's Speech, Prometheus, The
2. Sam Rockwell
Maybe not a leading man type, but he's great in
everything he does. Standouts include Matchstick Men, Conviction, Moon, and The Way Way Back. He could be a perennial Best Supporting Actor contender with the right roles.
3. Nicolas Cage
What happened to him? A two time Oscar
nominee who's been doing films like Season of the Witch and Ghost Rider
lately. Since 2006, he's been in 3 "Fresh" movies and 14 "Rotten" ones according to Rotten Tomatoes. He needs a new agent.
4. Edward Norton
Another actor who's career started off so great
by quickly earning 2 Oscar nominations by the time he was 29. Yet since
his last nomination in 1998, he hasn't really done much besides Spike
Lee's fantastic 25th Hour. I'm hoping Birdman brings Norton back to
5. Jim Carrey
This could stem from his image as a comedic goofball, but he can
act (See The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).
I'd like to see him take on some more dramatic roles because he's proven
he can handle it.
6. Casey Affleck
More talented (acting wise) than his more
famous older brother, but has never been able to make it big. He's fantastic in The Assassination of Jesse James and Gone Baby Gone. He could
also be getting a bunch of juicy supporting roles instead of appearing
in something like Tower Heist.
7. James Franco
Mostly his own doing by wanting to dabble in a number of different arts. If he just concentrated on acting, he could be great. He's fantastic in 127 Hours, Spring Breakers, and James Dean. I wish he did more films like that.
8. Ben Foster
Here's another overlooked actor with a ton of talent (See 3:10 to Yuma, The Messenger, and Ain't Them Bodies Saints). Let's up he finally gets some recognition for his portrayal of Lance Armstrong in the upcoming biopic.
9. Kevin Spacey
Yes, Kevin Spacey is a pretty big star. But
for a 2 time Oscar winner, he should be getting better roles. He was
the king of the 90s with performances in the The Usual Suspects, Seven,
L.A. Confidential, and American Beauty. All great films. Since 1999, he's he hasn't been nearly as relevant. The success of House of Cards certainly helps though.
10. Ray Liotta
As the star of one of the greatest movies of all time, he outshined Robert DeNiro and and Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. With his fantastic work in such a classic, high profile film, you would think he could get better roles than the small cameo parts he's mostly been getting lately.