The 10 Greatest '80s Teen Movie Stars, According To Ranker – Screen Rant

The 10 Greatest '80s Teen Movie Stars, According To Ranker – Screen Rant

A Ranker poll shows the most popular teenage movie stars from the ’80s, including Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves.
Nostalgia is a primary component of many of today’s cinematic storylines, with movies like The Adam Project, The Tomorrow War, or Avengers: Endgame utilizing time travel to revisit times of yesteryear. The ’80s are a favorite era to revisit, what with the popular movie flashpoints offered during that American heyday, including the highly sentimental favorite teen movie stars of those who came of age in that heralded decade.
It’s difficult to whittle down a proper list of the many young actors of the time but Ranker fans have come up with a fair selection of their favorites.
Estevez was a movie staple back in the day, starring in a number of heralded films including The Outsiders, St. Elmo’s Fire, Young Guns, Stakeout, and Repo Man. The son of actor Martin Sheen and brother of Charlie Sheen, Estevez is perhaps most well known for his role as Andy the jock in the revered John Hughes ’80s coming of age film The Breakfast Club.
He went on to escape his Brat Pack status by starring in The Mighty Ducks franchise and now frequently works behind the camera as a director, producer, screenwriter, and creator. Audiences fondly remember Estevez for his natural charisma and boy-next-door good looks.
Long before RDJ made the most incredible Hollywood comeback of all time by launching the MCU via 2008’s Iron Man, he was a teen star of the ’80s appearing in a wide array of movies of the era, including Tuff Turf, Weird Science, and The Pick-Up Artist. One of his most admirable roles was in the Brett Easton Ellis adaptation of Less Than Zero, where he invoked his own ‘ghost-of-christmas-future’ by playing a young man haunted by substance abuse issues, and he also briefly joined the cast of Saturday Night Live with fellow Brat Pack member Anthony Michael Hall.
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He went on to earn an Oscar nomination for his acclaimed portrayal of Charlie Chaplin in 1992’s Chaplin. His boyish features and easy-going attitude in front of the camera has been charming audiences for well over thirty years.
Keanu Reeves became an international icon later on in his career with his flashpoint roles in The Matrix and John Wick franchises, but he was impressing audiences decades before in his youth with standout performances in Youngblood, River’s Edge, My Own Private Idaho, Point Break, and of course his historical comedy Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Critics were divided at times as to whether Reeves’ acting ability was all that it should have been, but it was clear he’d already won the popular vote with audiences, who flocked to see his outings no matter what genre he was exploring, from rom-coms to bleak dramas to action blockbusters.
Lowe was considered one of the prettiest boys of the honorary Brat Pack, often underrated for his formidable acting chops due to his chiseled good looks. He starred in a number of lauded ’80s offerings including his breakthrough role of Sodapop in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders, alongside fellow teen idol Andrew McCarthy in Class and Jodie Foster in The Hotel New Hampshire, Youngblood, St. Elmo’s Fire, and the underrated ’80s gem About Last Night with Demi Moore.
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While Lowe became more infamous later on in life due to a sex tape fiasco, nanny lawsuits, and overcoming substance abuse, he found later career opportunities in Wayne’s World, Tommy Boy, Austin Powers, and 911 Lone Star, showcasing a subtle and steely intensity throughout every role.
Slater is often overlooked as an ’80s teen idol, but he was there in blazing technicolor glory all the same. With seminal performances in adult offerings like The Legend of Billie Jean and The Name of the Rose, his most infamous eighties breakout was in the cult hit Heathers with Winona Ryder.
He went on to play another troubled youth in Pump Up the Volume and in the early ’90s became a legitimate star with his starring turns as Lucky Luciano in Mobsters, a trademark Quentin Tarantino-penned crime caper True Romance, Interview with the Vampire, and Broken Arrow. Slater managed to escape the Brat Pack curse and forge his own unique path through Hollywood, now acclaimed for his role in Mr. Robot.
Geek banner bearers the world over would be hard-pressed to find a better captain than the ’80s’ reigning nerd king in Anthony Michael Hall. His stints across several hallmarks of eighties glory are globally revered with his famous turns in National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, and The Breakfast Club.
Related: 10 Best ’80s Teen Comedies That Weren’t Directed By John Hughes
Fearing typecast generalization, he actually turned down significant roles in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Pretty in PinkOther attempts at breaking out of his go-to character fell short until later roles in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands (playing decidedly against type) and Will Smith’s Six Degrees of Separation. Hall’s innocent charm and understated acting prowess cemented his place in ’80s nostalgia for posterity.
Perhaps the most tragic example of ’80s teen fame gone awry, River Phoenix’s early demise shocked the world, as his star was shining bright at the time of his death. Most famously featured in edgier ’80s fare like Stand By Me, My Own Private Idaho, Sneakers, and Dogfight, as well as more mainstream roles like young Indy in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Phoenix exhibited an intensity and dedication to his craft unparalleled by many of his contemporaries.
Phoenix’s work earned a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination for his work in Running On Empty. His overdose in 1993 outside the Viper Room in Los Angeles was a sad coda to what certainly would’ve been a promising career.
Few young female idols reached the heights of Ringwald’s fame. She was largely known as the most globally renowned teenager of her time, even being featured on the cover of Time magazine. Ringwald starred in several ’80s comedy tent poles like Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink.
It was her role as Claire in The Breakfast Club which brought Ringwald the most notoriety, emulating what was often perceived as a near-perfect rendition of high school popularity and the pitfalls and promises of American classism in the 1980s. Ringwald brought a sense of pathos and vulnerability to her portrayals of unpopular and most popular girls on both ends of the social strata spectrum.
Most people in the modern era think of Johnny Depp in his more adult roles since the turn of the century, such as his role as the likable Captain Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise or in his multiple projects with director Tim Burton. Yet Depp was idolized by adoring teens decades before that, mostly through his breakout role as Tom Hanson in the television series 21 Jump Street.
Depp brings a singular intensity to all his roles, committing to the scripts wholeheartedly while also adding his own brand of unique mannerisms to render unforgettably oddball characters.
To use a proper ’80s accolade, it’s totally awesome to see Michael J. Fox top the crop in this Ranker poll. Sometimes folks in the current era forget how massively charismatic and popular Fox was back in the ’80s. He first came to the world’s attention through his outstanding work as Alex P. Keaton on the NBC sitcom Family Ties, where he portrayed a young man enthralled in Reaganomics and light conservatism much to the chagrin of his ex-hippie parents.
But of course, it was his role as Marty McFly in the Back to the Future trilogy which launched Fox into superstardom and long-term legacy of pop culture’s history. Fox lent a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed earnestness to McFly, solidifying the Back to the Future franchise into legend.
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