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The Biggest '80s Teen Idols, Then and Now

From the Brat Pack to the biggest boy bands of the decade, here's what they look like today.

Between the fashion (bodacious and radical), the movies (intense and deep), and the music (only the best ever), the '80s were a time ripe for teen stars. Some were known for artfully representing the adolescent experience on the movie screen, while others were packing malls with fans who wanted to hear their hits. And many of them are still working just as hard today. So keep reading to see what all of your favorite '80s teen idols are up to now. And for all the lingo you sadly have to leave in the past, check out 20 Slang Terms From the '80s No One Uses Anymore.

New Kids on the Block: Then

New Kids on the Block
Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

Boy band New Kids on the Block—Jonathan KnightJordan KnightJoey McIntyreDonnie Wahlberg, and Danny Wood—didn't find success with their 1986 debut album, but their 1988 album Hangin' Tough yielded hit singles like "You Got It (The Right Stuff)," "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)," and the title track, making them bonafide teen idols.

And for the most popular celebrity who shares your birth year, check out The Biggest Star Who's the Same Age as You.

New Kids on the Block: Now

New Kids on the Block 2019
Shutterstock/Tony Norkus

After a 14-year break, the band reunited and released their comeback album, The Block. They've been touring and recording since getting back together in 2008 and even temporarily teamed up with latter-day boy band the Backstreet Boys as supergroup NKOTBSB.

Molly Ringwald: Then

Molly Ringwald
Ronald Grant Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Molly Ringwald captured the imagination and the envy of teen girls everywhere in the coming-of-age movie Sixteen Candles and was basically the princess of the Brat Pack, starring in a handful of John Hughes flicks.

And for the star you loved the most when you were in high school, This Was the Most Popular Teen Idol the Year You Graduated.

Molly Ringwald: Now

Molly Ringwald 2019
lev radin / Shutterstock

While most of today's teens probably know her as Archie's mom, Mary Andrews, on Riverdale, Ringwald has not only continued acting but also written books and essays and recorded a couple of albums, including a jazz record.

Michael J. Fox: Then

Back to the Future Michael J. Fox red vest cool 1980s style
YouTube/Universal Pictures

Michael J. Fox became a teen idol thanks to playing the conservative kid of progressive parents in the sitcom Family Ties, starting in 1982. But the character of Marty McFly and the Back to the Future trilogy would take his fame to another level.

To see how the most famous young faces of the next decade fared, check out The Biggest '90s TV Teen Idols, Then and Now.

Michael J. Fox: Now

Michael J Fox 2019
Shutterstock/Ovidiu Hrubaru

While continuing to act (his most recent role was on the legal drama The Good Fight), Fox raises money and awareness for the disease he was diagnosed with in the early '90s through the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. He also has another memoir coming out this year.

Tiffany: Then

MediaPunch Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

Singer Tiffany had a huge hit in 1987 with her cover of "I Think We're Alone Now," and also singlehandedly established "the mall tour" as a way of hyping up teen-focused artists to their potential fans.

For the songs you still know every word to, check out 20 One-Hit Wonders Every '80s Kid Remembers.

Tiffany: Now

Tiffany 2019

In 2019, Tiffany performed across the country as part of the Mixtape Tour, a multi-act show headlined by New Kids on the Block, who have credited her for helping them find an audience in their early career by having them open for her. Her most recent studio album came out in 2018.

Rob Lowe: Then

Rob Lowe
Moviestore Collection Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

Rob Lowe was a teen idol from the moment he came onscreen in the 1983 movie adaptation of The Outsiders. His role as a saxophone-playing ladies man in St. Elmo's Fire solidified that fact.

And for more celeb nostalgia sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Rob Lowe: Now

Rob Lowe 2019
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

Lowe currently stars in the spinoff series 9-1-1: Lone Star, which is coming back for another season, and is reprising his role of presidential speech writer Sam Seaborn in the HBO Max special A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote, airing this fall.

Kirk Cameron: Then

Kirk Cameron 1985
AF archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Kirk Cameron played charming troublemaker Mike Seaver on Growing Pains (1985-1992) and his poster graced many a bedroom wall.

Kirk Cameron: Now

Kirk Cameron in Fuller House 2019
Michael Yarish/Netflix

These days, Cameron acts almost exclusively in movies with an Evangelical Christian theme, and also runs a ministry he co-founded. However, he did drop by the latest season of Fuller House, which stars his sister, Candace Cameron Bure.

Ally Sheedy: Then

Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club
Universal Pictures

Yes, Ally Sheedy starred in WarGames and St. Elmo's Fire, but her most iconic teen role has to be Allison Reynolds, the "weird girl" trapped in Saturday detention with the rest of the Breakfast Club.

Ally Sheedy: Now

Ally Sheedy 2016
YouTube/Today Show

Sheedy still takes on an acting role now and then. Her most recent credit is one episode of the Showtime series SMILF.

Ralph Macchio: Then

Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid
Columbia Pictures

From Eight Is Enough to The Outsiders to the Karate Kid movies, Ralph Macchio connected with young audiences throughout the 1980s.

Ralph Macchio: Now

Ralph Macchio 2019

He's continued to act in movies, TV, and on stage, but what's most exciting for OG Macchio fans is that the Karate Kid universe has been revived into the series Cobra Kai, in which he returns to the role of Daniel LaRusso. It's already been renewed for a third season on Netflix.

New Edition: Then

New Edition 1984
Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, Johnny Gill, and Ralph Tresvant made up the R&B group New Edition, whose smooth harmonies and slick choreography stole a lot of hearts in the '80s.

New Edition: Now

New Edition 2017
YouTube/Steve TV Show

New Edition has remained active as a group, albeit with a fluctuating lineup. Though their last studio album was released in 2004, they went on the Greatest Hits Tour as recently as 2016. They were also back in the news when the miniseries The New Edition Story premiered on BET in 2017.

Matthew Broderick: Then

Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Paramount Pictures

Matthew Broderick became the patron saint of likable slackers when he starred in the 1986 fantasy Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Matthew Broderick: Now

Matthew Broderick 2019
Shutterstock/lev radin

Now known for his stage work as much as anything else, Broderick was set to return to Broadway alongside wife Sarah Jessica Parker in a revival of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite. Given the pandemic, the production has been delayed until 2021.

Emilio Estevez: Then

Emilio Estevez in The Breakfast Club
AF archive/Alamy Stock Photo

To '90s kids, he's Gordon Bombay, coach of the Mighty Ducks. But to '80s kids, he's one of the most prominent Brat Pack members, with memorable roles in The OutsidersThe Breakfast Club, and St. Elmo's Fire.

Emilio Estevez: Now

emilio estevez

In recent years, Estevez has appeared in a handful of films that he also wrote and directed, including BobbyThe Way, and The Public.

Lisa Bonet: Then

Lisa Bonet A Different World
PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Lisa Bonet seemed like just about the coolest big sister in the world during her run as Denise on The Cosby Show, so audiences were happy to follow her character off to college on the spinoff A Different World.

Lisa Bonet: Now

lisa bonet on the red carpet

Bonet's most recent credit is a 2016 recurring role on the drama Ray Donovan. You may see her more frequently on red carpets with her actor daughter Zoë Kravitz and DC superhero husband, Jason Momoa.

Elisabeth Shue: Then

Elisabeth Shue in Adventures in Babysitting
Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Elisabeth Shue starred opposite Macchio in The Karate Kid, but her most fondly remembered '80s role is that of Chris Parker in Adventures in Babysitting. I mean: She keeps the kids safe, foils a criminal plot, and gets a college boy to fall in love with her, all in one night!

Elisabeth Shue: Now

Elisabeth Shue 2019
Shutterstock/Ovidiu Hrubaru

As for recent roles, Shue can be seen on the Amazon Prime original series The Boys, and she also costarred with Tom Hanks in the 2020 film Greyhound.

Judd Nelson: Then

Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club
RGR Collection/Alamy Stock Photo

Is there a more iconic Judd Nelson role than that of Bender, the anarchic bad boy who woos Ringwald's rich girl in The Breakfast Club?

Judd Nelson: Now

Judd Nelson
Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

Recently, Nelson had a recurring role on the Shakespearean music business drama Empire and he also does voice work, usually in the animated Transformers universe.

Debbie Gibson: Then

Debbie Gibson 1988
Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

Pop singer Debbie Gibson made a splash with her 1987 debut, Out of the Blue, which included the massive hit "Foolish Beat."

Debbie Gibson: Now

Debbie Gibson 2019
Shutterstock/Featureflash Photo Agency

Gibson was also on the 2019 Mixtape Tour with Tiffany, the New Kids, and others. That summer, she released a song called "Girls Night Out" that made it to the Billboard Dance Chart.

Sage Young
Sage Young is the Deputy Entertainment Editor at Best Life, expanding and honing our coverage in this vertical by managing a team of industry-obsessed writers. Read more
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