While some of today’s biggest A-listers got their starts in the ‘80s, many of their famous contemporaries in the “Me” decade live quieter, more low-profile lives today.
, for one, became an ‘80s icon while starring in a slew of coming-of-age films directed by Molly Ringwald John Hughes. Looking back on the movies, the actress agreed that certain aspects should be viewed more critically in modern times. However, she noted that the projects impacted young people for a reason.
“I know what my own experience was,” Ringwald told
NPR in September 2018 of teen culture during the decade. “I feel like the movies that I made then were very much representing the culture at the time. And I feel like that is why they resonated with people, because it was their experience and they did feel that they had these films that were real. They didn’t have that sort of Afterschool Special feeling where somebody was teaching them a lesson, you know. It didn’t feel like that.”
Riverdale star acknowledged there were parts of certain films, including Sixteen Candles, that “bothered” her during filming. While Hughes “did listen to me in a lot of ways,” she didn’t “want to cross the line” with her feedback.
“I believe that there is still a lot of good in the films and there’s a lot that I’m proud of,” she explained. “And I feel like in a lot of ways they’ve touched teenagers and sparked a conversation that is important. And having a teenage daughter myself, I know that it’s not always easy to get teenagers to talk. But these films sort of break through that. You know? There’s something that really touches teenagers — especially
, I feel like, sort of gives them permission to talk about their feelings, says that teenagers’ feelings really matter. And I think that’s a really powerful message and, for that reason, I really love it. The Breakfast Club Pretty in Pink, I love my character. I think that she’s a strong woman and I’m proud of the choices that she makes.”
The decade catapulted not only familiar actors —
, Patrick Dempsey , Rob Lowe ! — but also musicians, including Matthew Broderick , Madonna George Michael and . Cyndi Lauper
, who bravely donned tighty-whities in Tom Cruise Risky Business, to the boys and girls of the Brat Pack, scroll through the gallery below to see which stars got their big breaks during the 1980s — and find out where they ended up!
Schroder was only 12 years old when he landed the lead role on ’80s TV sitcom
Silver Spoons. He later starred on Lonesome Dove, NYPD Blue, Scrubs and 24.
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Another core member of what was known as the Brat Pack, after making her film debut in 1983’s
Bad Boys, Sheedy went on to star in WarGames, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, Short Circuit and, later, TV series Psych.
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Nikita actor gained fame when he starred as the rebel John Bender in The Breakfast Club and Alec Newbury in St. Elmo’s Fire, cementing his place in the Brat Pack pantheon. Nelson later appeared in TV series like CSI, Psych and Two and a Half Men. The actor also released four books to Amazon’s Kindle.
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John Hughes’ leading lady! The redhead starred in ‘80s flicks
Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink, making her the de-facto queen of the so-called Brat Pack. Ringwald went on to star on The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Riverdale.
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McCarthy joined fellow ‘80s Brat Pack stars in
St. Elmo’s Fire in 1985 and Pretty in Pink in 1986. He then starred in classics such as Mannequin and Weekend at Bernie’s. Later, the actor transitioned to TV, appearing on Lipstick Jungle, White Collar and Royal Pains, and directing episodes of The Blacklist and Orange Is the New Black.
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’s older brother, Estevez grew up with fellow ‘80s actors Charlie Sheen and Rob Lowe and was also a member of the Brat Pack after starring in Sean Penn The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire and The Outsiders. He went on to star in 1992’s The Mighty Ducks and will reprise his role in the 2021 Disney+ revival series.
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The Grammy winner and Queen of Pop rose to fame after releasing her first album in 1983 and pushing boundaries with her early music videos. She continues to drop hits decades into her music career.
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Anthony Michael Hall
Another John Hughes favorite, Hall gained fame after starring in the 1983 comedy
National Lampoon’s Vacation and then in 1984’s Sixteen Candles and 1985’s The Breakfast Club, in which he played the lovable geek. Ditching his nerdy side, he later appeared on Psych, The Dark Knight, War Machine and Riverdale.
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The English singer-songwriter became one of the world’s best-selling musical artists after rising to stardom during the ‘80s for his post-disco dance pop music. The “Faith” singer, who started out as part of Wham!, died in December 2016 at age 53.
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After dropping out of high school at the age of 16, Moore starred alongside ex-fiancé Emilio Estevez and Rob Lowe in
St. Elmo’s Fire and About Last Night. In the ‘90s, she took on critically acclaimed roles in A Few Good Men and Indecent Proposal. The actress, who was once crowned the highest-paid woman in Hollywood, later appeared in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Margin Call and Empire and released her memoir, Inside Out, in 2019.
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Before taking on broader roles in flicks such as
True Colors and The Grifters, Cusack starred in ’80s teen movies Better Off Dead, The Sure Thing, One Crazy Summer and Sixteen Candles. He has since appeared in Must Love Dogs, 2012 and Lee Daniels’ The Butler.
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Milano portrayed Samantha Micelli on
Who’s the Boss? from 1984 to 1992. The actress then nabbed leading roles on Charmed, Mistresses and Insatiable.
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Still one of Hollywood’s biggest, highest-paid stars, Cruise landed a small role in
The Outsiders in 1983, starring alongside fellow up-and-coming ’80s stars , Matt Dillon Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe before landing the leads in classics of the decade like Risky Business and Top Gun.
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Growing up alongside high school pal Emilio Estevez, Lowe also starred in
The Outsiders and St. Elmo’s Fire. The handsome actor’s roles granted him association with the Brat Pack. Lowe went on to continue his acting career with TV roles in Parks and Recreation, The West Wing and Brothers & Sisters.
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Girls just wanna have fun! The pop icon released her first solo album,
She’s So Unusual, in 1983. The “Time After Time” singer later earned a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1985. Lauper went on to compose music for Broadway musical Kinky Boots, for which she won a Tony Award.
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Six degrees of Kevin Bacon! The actor became a household name when he took on the iconic role of Ren McCormack in 1984’s
Footloose. He has since starred in A Few Good Men, Apollo 13, Mystic River, The Following and City on a Hill.
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Before he became McDreamy, Dempsey won over hearts in 1987’s
Can’t Buy Me Love, in which he played a nerdy outcast who secretly pays a popular girl to date him. He went on to star in box office hits such as Valentine’s Day, Made of Honor and Transformers as well as Grey’s Anatomy.
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Bueller! Broderick became a household name in 1986 when he portrayed a clever teenage slacker in
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He went on to star in Election, The Producers, 30 Rock and Better Things.
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Dillon played the bad boy in numerous ‘80s flicks. The
There’s Something About Mary actor appeared in Little Darlings, My Bodyguard, Tex and Rumble Fish and starred alongside Rob Lowe in The Outsiders in 1983. He later appeared in You, Me and Dupree, Wayward Pines and Modern Family.
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Michael J. Fox
The Canadian actor found success and won numerous Emmys with NBC sitcom
Family Ties, which aired from 1982 to 1989. Fox became a superstar when he played Marty McFly in beloved time travel trilogy Back to the Future in 1985. Years later, Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, lent his voice to films like Stuart Little and appeared in TV shows such as Spin City, The Good Wife, Scrubs and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
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Pity the fool! Mr. T, whose real name is Laurence Tureaud, gained fame from his role as B.A. Baracus in the 1980s TV series
The A-Team and as boxer Clubber Lang in the 1982 film Rocky III. In 2006, the wrestler starred in TV Land reality show I Pity the Fool.
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After beginning his acting career at the age of 3 in commercials, Feldman went on to land some of the biggest roles in the ’80s, including
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984), Gremlins (1984), The Goonies (1985) and Stand By Me (1986). Feldman went on to appear in numerous reality TV shows like The Two Coreys and Dancing on Ice. In 2013, he released his first memoir, Coreyography.
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One of Hollywood’s most recognized child actresses, Barrymore made her television debut at only 11 months old starring in commercials. The
Wedding Singer actress made a name for herself when she starred in ‘s Steven Spielberg E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982. Still one of Hollywood’s biggest names and now a mother of two, she went on to star in the Charlie’s Angels reboot and alongside actor in numerous films, including Adam Sandler 50 First Dates and Blended. She launched her talk show, The Drew Barrymore Show, in 2020.
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Talk about a teen anthem! After releasing her 1987 cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Tiffany became a household name. The songstress later costarred alongside fellow ’80s singer
in the 2011 film Debbie Gibson Mega Python vs. Gatoroid.
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Not so foolish! In 1988, Gibson became the youngest artist to write, produce and perform a No. 1 single on the
Billboard Hot 100 with her track “Foolish Beat.” She has continued to release music in the decades since and has starred in several Hallmark Channel movies.
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