Analyzing an actor’s career is a tricky task. The issue of things such as quality, quantity, and hindsight always come into play. The first two are something that take some time to decide on, sure, but are ultimately definable by at least a decent margin. Hindsight, however, is something that can’t always be evaluated until sometimes after the prospective actor’s career has ended, whether it be due retirement or death. Otherwise, here are actors who I wish had made that extra step and possibly reached the public consciousness.

Kyle MacLachlan: Best known for his time spent working with David Lynch on no less than four projects (one being a TV series), Kyle has a certain charm to him that isn’t easy to come by. As Agent Dale Cooper on Lynch’s landmark TV series Twin Peaks, he balanced perfectly the challenge of playing on peoples nostalgia for an old fashioned detective, while making a distinctly modern hero. He made a brief appearance in prequel/sequel film Fire Walk With Me, and his small presence was nevertheless a bright spot in what is an extremely grim film (in fact, there’s quite a few Peaks actors who should have taken off in ways they sadly never did). His work in Blue Velvet feels like a precursor to that role, and his work in Dune, by no means a good film, was still entertaining to watch and was easily the best thing in that entire movie. He now apparently has a recurring role on Desperate Housewives, although one wishes he would do something more daring, like re-teaming with Lynch. It sure would be nice to see more Dale Cooper soon…

Stephen Lang: This might become moot within the next few weeks, as Lang has the villain role in Avatar coming up, and he looks as though he’s done a great job with it. Still, one of his most notable roles to date was in the Michael Mann film Manhunter, although even that has since been forgotten by many due to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of the same role is quasi-remake Red Dragon. He at least had a part in The Men who Stare at Goats, which I have yet to see, and regret having missed. He even had a bit part working with Michael Mann again in Public Enemies, playing the man who shot John Dillinger, although that role was so small I didn’t even know it was him until I looked at the film’s IMDb page. Hopefully Col. Quaritch will be a new lifeblood for him in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Stuart Townsend: Just kidding. He sucks.

Val Kilmer: No really, Val Kilmer. Yes, he’s been stuck in a rut for the past few years (really decade, sort of), but he’s proven time and time again how excellent an actor he can be. Considering he was the best thing about Batman Forever, that alone should be a positive mark for him. But even with that, he’s still done some great stuff. His ability to mimic the voice of Jim Morrison in The Doors is borderline eerie, and his performance in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is stellar, and it should have been enough to bring him back from the dead as it helped to do for Robert Downey Jr. It’s a shame that he’s stuck doing direct-to-DVD and TV work now, as he always shown an amazing potential in the stuff he does. One of the saddest examples of a mismanaged career is there ever was one.

But there’s still hope for actors such as these. Last year we saw both Robert Downey Jr. and Mickey Rourke, who had started a comeback of sorts a few years before, kickstart everything back into motion, and coincidentally both will be starring in Iron Man 2 next year. While some actors might simply never be able to bring themselves to the forefront ever again or at all, we know, or sometimes can only hope, that people such as these will be the exception to the rule.