The 80s ‘Brat Pack’

A by-product of John Hughes’ success in the 1980s, a group of young actors were collectively labelled the ‘Brat Pack’. Consisting of Emilio Estevez, Antony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, arguably amongst others, these actors enjoyed great success in Hughes’ The Breakfast Club and Joel Schumacher’s St. Elmo’s Fire. However, success has been fleeting for some ever since.

St Elmo's

Stars of The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire respectively, Ally Sheedy and Andrew McCarthy were never considered the focal point of the group and, rather unsurprisingly, their careers have panned out as such. Judd Nelson, perhaps the most talented of the group, as exemplified with his portrayals of the anarchic John Bender in Breakfast and determined yuppie Alec Newbary in St. Elmo’s, has endured the most disappointing career trajectory, diminishing into myriad TV roles and bargain basement film. Most intriguing however, is the demise of Brat Pack “it girl” Molly Ringwald. Making her name with the lead role in Hughes’ Sixteen Candles along with Breakfast, many would have predicted her career to take off from there. However, after apparently turning down lead roles in Pretty Woman and Ghost, Ringwald’s career waned.

Coming from good stock as son of Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez has enjoyed a varied level of success since his Brat Pack days. His post-adolescent offerings peaked with his role as Gordon Bombay in 1992’s majestic Mighty Ducks, but more recently he received critical acclaim as director of the RFK biopic Bobby. Anthony Michael Hall could also be considered a marginal success, evolving from his typecasting in the works of John Hughes as the endearing geek to enjoy a long-term role in USA Network’s The Dead Zone.

Whilst not quite achieving the success of peripheral figures Kiefer Sutherland, Sean Penn, or Estevez’s brother Charlie Sheen, the only integral members of the Brat Pack that could be genuinely considered success stories are Rob Lowe and Demi Moore. For Lowe, who came to the fore alongside Estevez in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders, success has mostly come through TV roles in The West Wing and, more recently, NBC’s comedy Parks and Recreation. Demi Moore’s career flourished somewhat at the expense of Ringwald, actually taking that aforementioned role in Ghost, but she is now arguably most famous for her respective marriages to Bruce Willis and Ashton Kutcher.

Whilst some have blossomed and others shied away from the limelight, it is commendable that unlike many modern young stars, the Brat Pack have managed to maintain their dignity and, on the whole, their integrity, a notion possibly indicative of the lasting influence and stewardship of John Hughes himself.


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May 2022
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