There was something about the the 1980s that made it ripe for teen angst. More and more films were being made that were geared toward teens in general, and with that new focus came a new crop of heartthrobs. For example, John Hughes is responsible for truly elevating the teen crush into an art form while simultaneously enriching the daydreams of adolescents everywhere with these new high-school ideals.
While some ’80s stars managed to stay in the spotlight as time ticked on — Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Rob Lowe and Diane Lane, for instance — others faded away a bit, either stepping back from Hollywood completely or settling into a more yeoman-like career as a supporting player. No matter, these actors still managed to leave an impression on the hearts and hormones of ’80s kids everywhere like a first crush, and what’s more fun than getting a glimpse of what our first crushes turned out to be? So, with that in mind, let’s check in with some long-lost ’80s movie crushes.
Phoebe Cates – Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Phoebe Cates‘ red swimsuit in Fast Times at Ridgemont High is probably the most iconic bikini of all time that isn’t made of metal. As the worldly Linda, Cates was A+ crush material as the girl next door with a little bit of an edge.
Following Ridgemont High, Cates starred in Private School, Gremlins, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Lace, and Drop Dead Fred before she retired from acting in 1994. While auditioning for The Big Chill in the role that would ultimately go to Meg Tilly, Cates met actor Kevin Kline. The two would eventually marry in 1989 and move to New York City, where Cates would stay home to take care of the couple’s two children. She briefly returned to acting for 2001’s The Anniversary Party as a favor for best friend Jennifer Jason Leigh, and also opened a boutique called Blue Tree on Madison Avenue in 2005.
Ralph Macchio – The Karate Kid
Between Johnny from The Outsiders and Daniel from The Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio cornered the market on heartbreaking pretty boys in the ’80s. The ultimate babyface, Macchio had a certain sweetness that was catnip to teen girls, making him a mainstay on magazines like Tiger Beat and 16.
Macchio would appear as Daniel-san (The only Karate Kid that matters. Sorry not sorry, Hillary Swank and Jaden Smith) for two Karate Kid sequels, as well as films like My Cousin Vinny, Naked in New York, and Hitchcock. He appeared as himself on Entourage, Head Case, and How I Met Your Mother, and had a guest arc on Ugly Betty. Macchio has also done theater work, starring in a U.S. touring revival of How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and in a staged reading of A Room of My Own. Macchio also danced his way to not-quite-glory by placing fourth in 2011’s season of Dancing with the Stars.
Mia Sara – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Mia Sara‘s Sloan is the ultimate cool girl from the 1980s. She was obviously way too good for Ferris, and one couldn’t help but hope that she would wise up to this fact and ditch him before he inevitably broke her heart.
After her breakout roles in Legend and Ferris Bueller, Sara starred in Queenie, A Stranger Among Us, Bullet to Beijing and Timecop. She also appeared as Harley Quinn in 2002’s superhero show Birds of Prey and acquired her pilot’s license, which is such a Sloan thing to do. In 1996, Sara married Jason Connery (son of Sean), with whom she has one son. The couple divorced in 2002, and Sara married Brian Henson (son of Jim) in 2010; they have one daughter together.
Judd Nelson – The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club launched the careers of many of the Brat Packers, but none were as crushworthy as Judd Nelson‘s Bender. Sure, he was a violent criminal, but he made good girls want to do very, very bad things.
After The Breakfast Club, Nelson went on to star in St. Elmo’s Fire, Billionaire Boys Club, The Dark Backward, Airheads and Steel (Yes, the Shaquille O’Neal DC superhero film). On the small screen, Nelson starred in all four seasons of the sitcom Suddenly Susan. and he’s made a ton of guest-starring appearances. Nelson also dated volatile ’90s star Shannen Doherty at one point, which is a feat in itself.
Ione Skye – Say Anything
Sure, she was a bit of a snob, but Diane Court won the heart of Lloyd Dobler, the noblest of romantics. Over the course of Say Anything, Diane softened while still losing some of her idealism, and Ione Skye portrayed her with a depth not often seen in teen romances.
After working with Cameron Crowe on Say Anything, Skye went on to appear (briefly) in Wayne’s World, Four Rooms and Dream For an Insomniac, and also had cameos in But I’m a Cheerleader and Zodiac. She also had guest appearances on shows like Private Practice, Awkward, and Arrested Development. Skye clearly has a thing for musicians; she was in a relationship with Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis in the ’80s, was married to Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz from 1992 until 1999, and has been married to indie musician Ben Lee since 2008. She also published a children’s book called My Yiddish Vacation in 2014.
Andrew McCarthy – Pretty in Pink
Blaine was a bit of a wildcard. He had so much potential, but he really squandered a lot of goodwill by choosing to douche it up with James Spader’s Steff for a good portion of Pretty In Pink‘s runtime. Still, 1980s Andrew McCarthy was pretty much boyish charm personified.
A founding member of the Brat Pack, McCarthy worked steadily through the ’80s with St. Elmo’s Fire, Mannequin, Less Than Zero and Weekend at Bernie’s. As his career progressed, he transitioned into TV movies and had guest appearances on shows like Law & Order: SVU, The Twilight Zone, Monk, Lipstick Jungle and White Collar. Besides acting, McCarthy actually works as a travel writer and is an editor-at-large at National Geographic Traveler magazine.
Elisabeth Shue – The Karate Kid
In her breakout role of Ali in The Karate Kid, Elisabeth Shue was the nice popular girl archetype before it was an archetype. Sure, she used to date Johnny, Daniel’s nemesis, but she comes around in the end.
Shue was a fixture of the ’80s and early ’90s, starring in Adventures in Babysitting, Cocktail, Soapdish and Back to the Future Part II and III. She played against type as a prostitute in Leaving Las Vegas, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. She also appeared in The Saint, Deconstructing Henry and Hollow Man. After that, she transitioned into supporting roles in films like Hamlet 2, Piranha 3D, House at the End of the Street and Chasing Mavericks. She has also been a regular on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation since 2012.
Michael Schoeffling – Sixteen Candles
Molly Ringwald was certainly wooed by some dreamy dudes over the course of her career, but none were dreamier than Sixteen Candles‘ Jake Ryan. When they saw Jake waiting outside the church waiting for Andie, leaning against his bright red sports car like a damn vision, many girls started on the path to womanhood.
Unfortunately for humanity, Michael Schoeffling‘s time in Hollywood was brief. After starring in Sixteen Candles, Schoeffling appeared in Vision Quest, Mermaids and Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. He married former model Valerie L. Robinson, had two children, and now has a handcrafted furniture and woodworking shop in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania. There are no recent pictures of Schoeffling on the internet, so you are going to have to get creative with your “Jake Ryan: DILF” fan fic.
Lea Thompson – Back to the Future
Lea Thompson confused Michael J. Fox and the rest of America as Marty McFly’s unwittingly down-to-clown mother in Back To the Future, but I could have picked from a bunch of different roles to point to in her career. Between Some Kind of Wonderful, Red Dawn, Howard the Duck and SpaceCamp, Thompson is firmly entrenched in ’80s crush canon.
After ruling the ’80s, Thompson returned for Back to the Future: II and III, and co-starred in Dennis the Menace, The Beverly Hillbillies and Little Rascals. She was also the titular Caroline in the sitcom Caroline In the City, and starred in the Jane Doe series of television movies. She’s currently a series regular on ABC Family’s Switched at Birth.
Christian Slater – Heathers
There are bad boys, and then there’s J.D. in Heathers. Few guys are hot enough to justify arson and murder, but anyone put in Winona Ryder’s shoes probably would have done the same.
After Heathers, Christian Slater found success in the early ’90s with films like Pump Up the Volume, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Untamed Heart, True Romance, Interview with a Vampire, Bed of Roses and Broken Arrow. After guest appearances on shows like The West Wing and Alias, Slater headlined a succession of short lived television dramas, including My Own Worst Enemy, The Forgotten, Breaking In and Mind Games. He’s currently starring in the critically acclaimed Mr. Robot, so here’s hoping this one sticks around.