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

Take a delightful trip down memory lane with me!

forgotten 80s icons david hasselhoff
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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. If you grew up in this decade, you'll know that plenty of them became an indelible part of your childhood. So if you've ever asked, "Hey, I wonder what happened to (enter the name of a star you loved and have since forgotten about)?" then this list is for you.

Some of these '80s icons stepped back from the spotlight (or never craved it in the first place). Also, plenty of these former superstars have continued to work and, if you loved them back in the day, it's worth getting up to speed on their current projects. And, for those of you who weren't around in the '80s but have heard of some of the people on this list, may I suggest that it serve as inspiration for your next internet/YouTube rabbithole.

Kim Carnes

forgotten 80s Kim Carnes

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Singer of "Bette Davis Eyes" and "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer," Kim Carnes' raspy voice made her renditions and original songs instant classics. She was still prolific in the 2000s and continued to work beyond that (and apparently was a songwriter in Nashville as of 2017). 

Stephanie Zimbalist 

forgotten 80s Stephanie zimbalist

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Laura Holt from Remington Steele (Stephanie Zimbalist) started her career in the '70s, including with a Lassie movie, before her role in the iconic show. She's done some guest work in TV shows since, and she's released audiobooks and done some theater work as well.

Anthony Michael Hall 

forgotten 80s Anthony Michael hall

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Anthony Michael Hall could be considered a muse for director John Hughes, with films including Sixteen CandlesThe 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.

Justine Bateman 

forgotten 80s Justine Bateman

(Image credit: Getty Images)

With the first of a few iconic roles in Family Ties, Justine Bateman has also blessed us with roles in Desperate Housewives and Californication. Fun fact: She's directed and produced some independent movies, including ones that have debuted at SXSW and the Toronto Film Festival!

Andrew McCarthy 

forgotten 80s Andrew McCarthy

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the members of a group of young '80s actors called the Brat Pack, Andrew McCarthy is most known for St. Elmo's FirePretty in Pinkand Weekend at Bernie's (if you enjoy shouting at your screen, revisit his kind of crummy character in Pretty in Pink!). He's starred in things since, including the show The Resident. He also directed some episodes of the original Gossip Girl!!

Amanda Wyss 

forgotten 80s Amanda wyss

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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

Cindy Morgan

forgotten 80s Cindy morgan

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The late Cindy Morgan (Lacey Underall in Caddyshack and Lora in Tron) was an iconic '80s actor. While she did not appear in the film, she did make 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.

Jamie Gertz

forgotten 80s Jamie gertz

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Jamie Gertz may be most well-known to you for her '80s movies (CrossroadsThe 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!

Jeff Cohen

forgotten 80s Jeff cohen

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Chunk from The Goonies became an entertainment lawyer, believe it or not! Jeff Cohen 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!

Philip Michael Thomas

forgotten 80s Philip Michael Thomas

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Miami Vice (and its pastel fashions!) were extremely popular in the '80s, and Ricardo (Philip Michael Thomas) was a big part of that. Did you know that he's done voice work for the Grand Theft Auto video games?? And he reunited with costar Don Johnson on a couple episode of Nash Bridges.

Ally Sheedy 

forgotten 80s Ally sheedy

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A member of the Brat Pack, Sheedy was known for (among other films) The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo's Fire. (I strongly identify with her "basket case" character, so. There's that!) In 2021, she became a professor at NYU, and in 2022 she had a small part in Single Drunk Female.

C. Thomas Howell

forgotten 80s C. Thomas Howell

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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

forgotten 80s Emilio estevez

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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 OutsidersThe Breakfast Club). He's produced and directed independent movies; He also reprised his role in the Mighty Ducks TV show.

Danica McKellar

forgotten 80s Danica McKellar

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In case you missed it, 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.

Shelley Long

forgotten 80s Shelley long

(Image credit: Getty Images)

 Diane Chambers from Cheers (or, depending on your cultural reference, Carol Brady from the Brady Bunch movies) had a second wave of popularity when she guest-starred as DeDe Pritchett in Modern Family (one of several guest appearances she did in the '10s).

Mia Sara 

forgotten 80s Mia Sara

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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 

forgotten 80s Scott baio

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A prominent sitcom actor from Happy Days and Charles in Charge, Scott Baio was in several independent films starting in the 2000s. (He also guest-starred on Arrested Development, if you happened to catch his cameo!) He's also done guest appearances and, hilariously, starred in VH1's Scott Baio Is 45...and Single.

Tiffani Thiessen 

forgotten 80s Tiffani thiessen

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Known as a '90s teen idol (which meant everyone, myself included, was obsessed with her), Tiffani Thiessen 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.

Mario Lopez 

forgotten 80s Mario Lopez

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you watched Saved by the Bell, you were either a Zack fan or an A.C. fan—and, if you were the latter, you know Mario Lopez. It's less that you may have forgotten about Lopez himself (he's become a popular TV host and has done Lifetime movies, among other things), and more that you may need to go back immediately and revisit some of his '80s outfits.

Mr. T

forgotten 80s Mr T

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You know what quote I'm about to use: "I pity the fool!" Mr. T's larger than life persona and look lent itself well to movies like The A-Team as well as Rocky III (and pro wrestling, obviously). He made a lucrative second career as a spokesman for brands including Snickers and Fuze Iced Tea.

Rick Moranis

forgotten 80s Rick moranis

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rick Moranis was prolific in the '80s (Little Shop of Horrors, Ghostbusters and its sequel, Spaceballs, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids), but after his wife tragically died from cancer, he stopped acting to focus on being a single dad. He's had a music career and, in 2007, started working on film projects again.

Bo Derek

forgotten 80s Bo Derek

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Granted, Bo Derek's breakout film was released in 1979, but she had a presence into the '80s (FantasiesTarzan, the Ape ManBolero, Ghosts Can't Do It), all of which were directed by her then-husband (and were not, apparently, very good). She has occasionally appeared in roles since, including Sharknado 3!

Phoebe Cates

forgotten 80s Phoebe cates

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In my admittedly biased opinion, Phoebe Cates was the best part of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Gremlins (spoiler alert, but remember that monologue she gives about her dad dying? In a chimney? During Christmastime??) Like others on this list, Cates moved away from acting in the '90s to raise her kids but has occasionally done on-screen projects.

Debra Winger

forgotten 80s Debra winger

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The romantic lead of An Officer and a Gentleman and the daughter in Terms of Endearment was tapped to star in movies like A League of Their Own. She apparently took a break from acting in the '90s, but returned to TV in 2010 in, among others, shows like Law & Order.

Kelly McGillis 

forgotten 80s Kelly mcgillis

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Kelly McGillis starred in a number of big '80s movies, including Witness and Top Gun, which meant she was a household name back in the day. She's done stage work and returned to TV in 2007; She wasn't considered for the Top Gun sequel, but she's said that she's happy with that.

Rutger Hauer 

forgotten 80s Rutger hauer

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The late Dutch actor Rutger Hauer did a lot of work in his native country before becoming a known entity to Americans as a replicant in Blade Runner (go to YouTube and watch his soliloquy! You know you want to!). After the '90s, he took on smaller roles, including in Batman Begins. And I may mean this more than for anyone on this list: Go check out his other work if you haven't.

Tony Danza

80s forgotten Tony Danza

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you loved classic '80s television shows (see also: Taxi and Who's the Boss?) you probably know Tony Danza. Since then, he's been on Broadway, and if you're trying to remember where you saw him recently, it was as the dad in the Joseph Gordon-Levitt film Don Jon (2013).

Sean Young 

forgotten 80s Sean young

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sean Young's most famous movies are sci-fi (think: Blade Runner and 1984's Dune) but she also had roles in comedies (Stripes) and neo-noirs (No Way Out) and dramas (Wall Street). She has not worked a lot in recent years but reprised her role as Rachel in Blade Runner 2049.

Judd Nelson 

forgotten 80s Judd Nelson

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Raise your hand if The Breakfast Club was your favorite movie growing up! Bad boy Bender was one of the most impressive characters in the film, and Judd Nelson would go on to star in St. Elmo's Fire and Suddenly Susan. In later years, he did work in animated films, as well as Hallmark and Lifetime films and a variety of TV shows.

Jason Patric

80s forgotten Jason patric

(Image credit: Getty Images)

I grant you that Jason Patric continued to work into the 1990s (including on the not-very-good Speed 2), but the movie that made him famous was The Lost Boys in 1987. He's stated that it annoyed him that he's most famous for that role (because he had no dreams of being a huge star) but is proud of it in context of what he's done since (including work on Broadway).

David Hasselhoff

forgotten 80s David hasselhoff

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Don't hassle the Hoff! This over the top '80s sensation (Knightrider, Baywatch) apparently set a world record as the most-watched man on TV. Hasselhoff is pretty in on the joke and subsequent cameos usually play up his goofy persona. He's continued to work, including being a judge on America's Got Talent. Did you know he released a heavy metal song in 2020??

Daryl Hannah 

forgotten 80s Daryl Hannah

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Throughout the '80s, Daryl Hannah was in a lot of great '80s movies (Blade Runner, Splash, Steel Magnolias, Wall Street). You may also be familiar with her as Elle Driver in Kill Bill and Angelica in Sense8; She's also a director and producer, so if you're not locked in on what she's up to now, get up to speed!

Katherine J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.