John Travolta, Pulp Fiction (1994)
Back in 1994, John Travolta wasn’t a punchline because of his belief in Scientology or wild stories about his alleged homosexual trysts — the former Grease and Saturday Night Fever heartthrob was a joke because he was making crappy films. In the previous five years, he had made three Look Who’s Talking movies and a few other stinkers you wouldn’t remember if we listed them. Everything changed when Quentin Tarantino cast the 40-year-old star as mafia hitman Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction and, brilliantly, included a retro, disco scene where his character dazzles Uma Thurman’s on the dance floor. Although he supposedly only received around $100,000 for the performance, Travolta’s monetary sacrifice paid off. All of a sudden, he was cool again. Lead roles in Get Shorty, Primary Colors, A Civil Action, and other high-profile films followed. Travolta’s star has fallen somewhat since the early ’00s, but we won’t deny that he made a surprisingly satisfactory Divine stand-in in 2007’s Hairspray remake.