Hairdos, heartthrobs, and Huxtables, oh my! The 1980s are a time capsule of some of the most tubular sitcoms, music, and movies ever made, and looking back on it all can be a little…overwhelming. Everything was teased and hairspray-ed to the max in the ’80s, including the stars that made pop culture so entertaining. But this begs a most interesting question…
Are the celebrities we once adored just as swoon-worthy 30+ years later? Hairspray can’t hold forever, and some of our favorite sitcom stars and Brat Pack-ers are not quite as rad as they once were. In fact, some of them have disappeared from Hollywood completely.
1. Molly Ringwald: The teen star to top all other teen stars, Molly Ringwald’s performance in John Hughes movies like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club made her an overnight sensation. She still acts, notably as Archie Andrews’ mom on Riverdale.
Universal Pictures/Warner Bros./The CW
2. Mia Sara: This actress was made famous for her role as Sloane in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and though she’s more focused on her family these days, Mia Sara still acts from time to time. She was most recently in the 2013 film Pretty Pretty.
3. Kelly McGillis: This actress avoided the stereotypical “dumb blonde” roles in movies like Witness, Top Gun, and The Accused. She’s putting her years of acting experience to good use as a teacher in North Carolina.
4. C. Thomas Howell: After roles in E.T. and The Outsiders, C. Thomas Howell has acted steadily in both the film and television industries. He’s mainly guest starred on TV recently, in shows like The Walking Dead, The Blacklist, and The Terror.
5. Mindy Cohn: You knew her as the adorable Natalie on The Facts of Life, but Mindy Cohn is more than that these days. Besides being the recent voice behind Velma in Scooby Doo, she’s also worked on reality TV and in guest roles.
6. Jenilee Harrison: The ‘80s were all about leggy blondes and ditzy sitcom tropes, and Jenilee Harrison’s character Chrissy on Three’s Company (replacing Suzanne Somers) successfully checked these boxes. Though Jenilee hasn’t done much acting recently, she’s probably beloved in the infomercial world!
NRW Productions/T.C.C. Productions, Inc./ABC
7. Judd Nelson: Who could forget Judd Nelson’s star turn as Bender in The Breakfast Club? After another “Brat Pack” role in St. Elmo’s Fire, he pretty much disappeared from Hollywood. Now he focuses on writing and has released four books on Kindle.
8. Lea Thompson: After playing Marty’s mom in the Back to the Future films, Lea Thompson became a staple in ’80s Hollywood (Howard the Duck, anyone?). She’s since had a successful TV career in shows like Caroline in the City and Switched at Birth.
9. David Lee Roth: As the original singer of Van Halen, David Lee Roth left the band in 1985 to pursue a solo career. It paid off, and he ended up earning RIAA-certified Gold and Platinum albums. You can catch him in Vegas in 2020!
10. Jami Gertz: She became a household name in the ‘80s with her roles in films like The Lost Boys and Quicksilver, and Gertz has had a busy TV career ever since. She’s also co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks, so clearly she’s doing well for herself!
11. Andrew McCarthy: A member of the ’80s Brat Pack, McCarthy has laid low since his roles in Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been around, however: He’s known for his work as a director on Orange Is the New Black.
12. Lisa Whelchel: This actress began her career as your favorite Mouseketeer in The Mickey Mouse Club before having a role on The Facts of Life. Nowadays, she focuses primarily on her faith and is a regular speaker with Women of Faith Christian conferences.
13. Mickey Rourke: After making a name for himself as a leading man in the ’80s, Rourke left acting to become a professional boxer. He returned to acting in a big way with 2008’s The Wrestler, for which he was nominated for an Oscar.
14. Kirk Cameron: The boy-next-door himself was quite the heartthrob back in the ‘80s on Growing Pains! Since then, he left Hollywood behind in favor of raising six kids, is an active anti-gay Evangelical minister
15. Kirstie Alley: Successfully filling in as Ted Danson’s love interest on Cheers is no easy task, but Kirstie Alley did just that as Rebecca Howe in 1987. She had a successful film career over the next two decades and now appears on some reality shows.
Alan Light/Big Brother UK
16. Jerry Hall: After spending the ’70s as a model, Jerry Hall acted in iconic ’80s films like Urban Cowboy and Batman. She’s equally as known for her famous husband, Mick Jagger, whom she was with from 1977 to 1999.
17. Fred Savage: Fred Savage owned the ‘80s with his endearing role in The Wonder Years. He’s had more TV success since then, and now hosts a parody series called What Just Happened??! With Fred Savage.
The Black-Marlens Company/New World Television/ABC
18. Jennifer Grey: Her debut in 1984’s Red Dawn was only the beginning for Jennifer Grey. Roles in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Dirty Dancing catapulted the actress to mainstream fame, and she’s still prominent on TV, where she’s often in guest roles.
19. Patrick Dempsey: Patrick Dempsey played the nerdy protagonist in movies like Loverboy and Can’t Buy Me Love, but now he’s best known as McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy and for his love of race car driving. Talk about a glow-up!
20. Lisa Bonet: There wasn’t a bigger show in the 1980s than The Cosby Show, and there wasn’t a more fashionable actress than Lisa Bonet, AKA Denise Huxtable. Bonet is now most famous for her occasional television roles and marriage to Jason Momoa.
What we loved the most about the 1980s (besides the wild fashion!) was television, which seemed to hit its stride of family-friendly fare, mind-bending cartoons, and corny sitcoms. With all the time that has passed, you may have forgotten these ’80s TV gems!
CBS/Paramount Domestic Television
1. Bosom Buddies: Tom Hanks got his start on this 1980 sitcom about two men posing as women in order to keep their apartment. Though the series was over by ’82, Hanks’ performance earned him his breakout role in 1984’s Splash.
2. Star Wars: Droids: Lucasfilm created Star Wars: Droids in ’85, and it chronicled the adventures of C-3PO and R2-D2 before the events of A New Hope. Unfortunately, Star Wars-mania had waned by that time, and the show only lasted one season.
Den of Geek
3. Slim Goodbody’s Inside Story: You’d think that a man wearing a flesh-colored bodysuit with human organs would be terrifying, but the success of Slim Goodbody spawned a 1980 television series! Actor John Burstein reprised the role on children’s programs for almost four decades.
Entertainment | HowStuffWorks
4. Snorks: Hanna-Barbera sought to capitalize on the popularity of their characters by creating a group of sister creatures called Snorks. The cartoon never became as popular as The Smurfs, but head down to your local vintage shop and you’re guaranteed to find at least one Snorks t-shirt on the racks.
5. Captain Kangaroo: Upon its cancellation in ’84, Captain Kangaroo was the longest-running children’s television program, lasting for an impressive 29 years. But after having its run-time cut, schedule shifted, and concept rebranded, Captain Kangaroo was forced to close the Treasure House for good.
6. The Flintstones Kids: Everyone knows The Flintstones, but the 1986 cartoon featured the Bedrock gang as a group of lovable toddlers. The Flintstones Kids only lasted two seasons.
7. Manimal: If a show about a police detective that can shapeshift into animals is your idea of good television, you’ll be sad to learn that Manimal only lasted eight episodes. The show’s poor performance was likely because NBC’s CGI budget only allowed for bare-minimum “transformations.”
8. Pac-Man: As the first cartoon based off a video game, 1980’s Pac-Man debuted with high expectations from throngs of devoted fans. Unfortunately, gamers preferred playing as the yellow puck instead of watching him on television, and the show was scrapped in 1983.
9. Life with Lucy: Lucille Ball’s 1986 sitcom about a widowed grandmother co-owning a hardware store was so bad, ABC only released 8 out of the 13 episodes filmed. In fact, the show was so poorly received that TV Guide named it one of the worst sitcoms of all time.
10. Rainbow Brite: Debuting in 1984, the televised adventures of Rainbow Brite and the Color Kids ran for two years, but Hallmark was still determined to make the franchise a success. The company rebooted the series four times between 1996 and 2014.
11. Sanford: Redd Fox left his highly acclaimed role as Fred Sanford on Sanford and Sons to star in ABC’s The Redd Fox Comedy Hour, which lasted only four months. Foxx returned to NBC to star in the 1980 spinoff Sanford, which performed so poorly it never received an official finale.
12. Challenge of the GoBots: Competing brands usually try to differentiate themselves from one another, but Tonka’s GoBots and the TV series they inspired were nearly identical to Hasbro’s Transformers.
13. Automan: Seeking to profit off the buzz generated by Disney’s 1982 film Tron, ABC introduced Automan, a superhero series about a computer programmer and his crime-fighting AI. Even with its blatant attempt to attract Tron fans, the show only ran 12 episodes and was canceled in ’83.
14. Mister T: With Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! setting the stage for animated mystery comedies, it only made sense to develop one centered around notorious tough-guy Mr. T, right? Well, audiences didn’t think so.
15. That’s Incredible!: People love the strange and inexplicable, so it’s no wonder this showcase of bizarre talents ranked in the top 30 in Nielsen ratings from 1979-1983. During its heyday, the show featured a number of now-famous faces, including a young Tiger Woods!
16. The Dukes: During the first season of The Dukes of Hazzard animated spinoff, contract disputes with original actors Tom Wopat and John Schneider resulted in two brand new Duke boys being introduced to confused audiences. Wopat and Schneider did return for season two, but by then the show was already a flop.
17. She’s the Sheriff: Following her firing from Three’s Company, Suzanne Somers appeared in a number of infomercials before being cast as Sheriff Hildy Granger in this 1987 sitcom. The show proved to be a major failure.
18. Teen Wolf: No, not the hit drama that’s made teen girls swoon since 2011! This animated series was based off the 1985 movie of the same name. The forgettable show ran for three seasons, although the third was entirely made up of reruns.
19. Voyagers!: Even with its noble goal of educating audiences, this sci-fi series about two time travelers preserving the flow of history only lasted 20 episodes.
20. Three’s a Crowd: Only a week after the final episode of Three’s Company, ABC called on John Ritter to reprise his role in this 1984 spinoff. Following a 13-episode order for season 2, Ritter refused to return to the show and thus ended the story of Jack Tripper for good.