80s Icons You’ve Forgotten (But Shouldn’t Have)

The ’80s were a decade of bold fashion choices, iconic music, and unforgettable performances that left a lasting impact on popular culture. This era gave us some of the most memorable actors and singers who became instant sensations, shaping our childhoods and leaving a lasting impression on our hearts and minds. If you grew up in this decade, you’ll know that plenty of these 80s icons became an indelible part of your childhood.

However, as time passed, some of these stars seemed to fade from the spotlight, leaving many of us wondering what happened to our favorite 80s icons. This list is for anyone who has ever asked, “Hey, I wonder what happened to (enter the name of a star you loved and have since forgotten about)?” Whether you were around in the ’80s or have heard of these stars through the grapevine, this list will inspire you to explore their current projects and rekindle your love for this nostalgic era.

Some of these 80s icons stepped back from the spotlight, while others never craved it in the first place. Nevertheless, plenty of these former superstars have continued to work and make a significant impact in their respective fields. So, if you’re ready to take a trip down memory lane and rediscover some of your favorite 80s icons, let’s dive in!

Danica McKellar: From Winnie to Math Books

Danica McKellar, known as Winnie from The Wonder Years, is actually a mathematician who’s written several cool math books with titles like Kiss My Math and Do Not Open This Math Book. She’s also done voice acting work and is one of a few people on this list to appear in several Hallmark films.

Stephanie Zimbalist: From Lassie to Remington Steele

Stephanie Zimbalist, known for her role as Laura Holt in Remington Steele, started her career in the ’70s. She’s done some guest work in TV shows since, and she’s released audiobooks and done some theater work as well.

Justine Bateman: From Family Ties to Independent Movies

Justine Bateman, known for her role as Mallory Keaton in Family Ties, has also blessed us with roles in Desperate Housewives and Californication. She’s directed and produced some independent movies, including ones that have debuted at SXSW and the Toronto Film Festival!

Amanda Wyss: From Cheers to A Nightmare on Elm Street

Amanda Wyss, with a brief cameo in Cheers, is also known for roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Better Off Dead, and a short-lived character in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Since then, she’s had many guest appearances and parts in small movies.

Jeff Cohen: From Chunk to Entertainment Lawyer

Jeff Cohen, known as Chunk from The Goonies, became an entertainment lawyer. He even negotiated a deal for fellow Goonie Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All At Once and was even referenced in Quan’s Oscar speech (“Goonies brother for life!”). Aww!

Anthony Michael Hall: The Muse for John Hughes

Anthony Michael Hall could be considered a muse for director John Hughes, with films including Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Weird Science to his name. He’s continued to act and you may have seen him in small roles in Halloween Kills and The Dark Knight.

Kim Carnes: The Raspy Singer of “Bette Davis Eyes”

The ’80s gave us some iconic performances that had never been seen before—or since, in some cases—turning actors and singers into instant sensations. Kim Carnes, with her raspy voice, is one such icon. She sang “Bette Davis Eyes” and “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer,” which became instant classics. Kim was still prolific in the 2000s and continued to work beyond that.

Philip Michael Thomas: From Miami Vice to Grand Theft Auto

Philip Michael Thomas, known for his role as Ricardo in Miami Vice, has done voice work for the Grand Theft Auto video games. He reunited with costar Don Johnson on a couple episode of Nash Bridges.

Jamie Gertz: From ’80s Movies to the Atlanta Hawks

Jamie Gertz may be most well-known to you for her ’80s movies (Crossroads, The Lost Boys) but I loved her as the most reasonable character in the ’90s movie Twister. In the ’10s, she was in The Neighbors, and she…partly co-owns the Atlanta Hawks?? Cool!

Ally Sheedy: From the Brat Pack to NYU

Ally Sheedy, a member of the Brat Pack, was known for (among other films) The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire. In 2021, she became a professor at NYU, and in 2022 she had a small part in Single Drunk Female.

Tiffani Thiessen: From ’90s Teen Idol to Cooking Channel

Tiffani Thiessen, known as a ’90s teen idol, went on to have a fruitful career (including a Cooking Channel show called Dinner at Tiffani’s and reprising her role in the Saved by the Bell sequel). But do yourself a favor and go watch some clips of the show that made her famous, because you have definitely forgotten how cheesy/fun it was.

C. Thomas Howell: From E.T. to Criminal Minds

C. Thomas Howell has appeared in a lot of films you may know, from E.T. to Red Dawn to The Outsiders. He has had a good off-camera working relationship with Francis Ford Coppola and has continued to do on-camera work, including as The Boston Reaper in Criminal Minds.

Emilio Estevez: From the Mighty Ducks to Independent Movies

Emilio Estevez’s career would extend into the ’90s with the Mighty Ducks movies, but if you were a fan of ’80s movies, that’s probably where you know him from (The Outsiders, The Breakfast Club). He’s produced and directed independent movies; He also reprised his role in the Mighty Ducks TV show.

Andrew McCarthy: From the Brat Pack to Gossip Girl

Andrew McCarthy, one of the members of a group of young ’80s actors called the Brat Pack, is most known for St. Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink, and Weekend at Bernie’s. He’s starred in things since, including the show The Resident. He also directed some episodes of the original Gossip Girl!

Shelley Long: From Cheers to Modern Family

Shelley Long, known as Diane Chambers from Cheers or Carol Brady from the Brady Bunch movies, had a second wave of popularity when she guest-starred as DeDe Pritchett in Modern Family.

Mia Sara: From Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to 2023

Mia Sara, known as Sloane from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, had, basically, my dream life: a cute (mischievous) boyfriend who pulls you out of school for the day and takes you to a museum. Sara acted a bunch in the ’90s and early ’00s; Apparently, she was cast in a movie role in 2023, so she’s around!

Scott Baio: From Happy Days to Arrested Development

Scott Baio, a prominent sitcom actor from Happy Days and Charles in Charge, was in several independent films starting in the 2000s. He also guest-starred on Arrested Development, if you happened to catch his cameo!

Cindy Morgan: The Iconic ’80s Actor

Cindy Morgan, known for her roles as Lacey Underall in Caddyshack and Lora in Tron, made a cameo for the promotion of Tron: Legacy. She made a number of guest TV appearances, was an associate producer, and did voice work on Tron 2.0.

Mario Lopez: From Saved by the Bell to Lifetime Movies

Mario Lopez, known as A.C. from Saved by the Bell, has become a popular TV host and has done Lifetime movies, among other things. He’s also starred in VH1’s Scott Baio Is 45…and Single.

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