The 1980s were a very interesting decade in the movie industry, with numerous romantic comedies, adventures, crime dramas and sci-fi movies. Actors that excelled in these movies are some of the most beloved even nowadays but those were the years when they became famous and delivered some unforgettable performances. This is the list of the 30 best 80s actors.
Michael J. Fox
Undoubtedly one of the greatest and most famous and beloved actors of the 1980s is this charismatic and talented Canadian who won everyone’s hearts as Marty McFly in Robert Zemeckis’ huge hit from 1985, Back to the Future. He filmed two more sequels and became part of one of the greatest movie sagas ever.
Some of his other 80s hits were Teen Wolf and tv-series Family Ties. Unfortunately, his career couldn’t progress as it should, due to Parkinson’s disease he discovered while filming the mentioned trilogy. Nevertheless, he is still active and has filmed several tv-series in the past few years.
Matt Dillon was born in 1964 in New Rochelle, New York and he became very famous as a teenager in the 1980s. Many of his 80s movies are still some of the most beloved and are mentioned as being influential in their genre. He excelled in The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, and The Flamingo Kid but one of his most famous from the decade is definitely Van Sant’s crime drama Drugstore Cowboy.
He starred in some interesting and acclaimed comedies in the last three decades and is still very active, with some new projects announced for 2023, such as Asteroid City and Haunted Heart.
One of the first actors to be mentioned when we talk about 1980s movies is definitely Matthew Broderick who peaked in that decade in various movie genres. He played one of the 80s favorites, Ferris Bueller in the classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and delivered brilliant performances in Ladyhawke, Glory, and Biloxi Blues.
Even though he starred in some interesting titles in the next decades, the 1980s remain his beginning and most successful acting period. In the past few years, he is mostly part of the cast of some tv-series and mini tv-series, such as Daybreak and Better Things.
Another name that immediately comes to mind when someone mentions 1980s cinematography is Patrick Swayze who starred in one of the most successful movies of all time, Dirty Dancing, filmed in 1987. Before his role as Johnny Castle, he was part of the excellent casting crew of the Outsiders and played one of the leading roles in the brilliant tv-series North and South.
The 1990s were also extremely important in his career, with movies such as Point Break and Ghost and his death in 2009 leaving everyone in tears, grateful to have seen him in some of the most beautiful movies ever made.
The Breakfast Club was one of the most beloved and successful movies of the 80s and it is still one of the first associations with the drama comedies of that period. And Judd Nelson was one of its stellar cast, becoming for his role of the grumpy and rebellious John Bender.
It was one of his first roles and remained his most famous and beloved among everyone. He has since then mostly starred in different tv-serious, with the music drama Empire being the most successful among them. Some of his newest projects include movies The Downside of Bliss and Save Christmas.
Rob Lowe was born in 1964 in Charlottesville and is one of the most famous 1980s actors, often on the list of the hottest actors, as well. He starred in big hits such as The Outsiders and St Elmo’s Fire but didn’t continue with such impressive titles in the future.
He mostly starred in various successful tv-series such as Brothers and Sisters and Parks and Recreations and played an important role in the brilliant drama The West Wing about the lives of staffers in the White House’s West Wing. He is still filming and one of his future tv-series s a comedy called Unstable.
George Clooney definitely didn’t peak in the 1980s but has made some interesting roles that caught the eye of the most important Hollywood producers who made him famous in the next decade. He was a member of the cast of E/R and The Facts of Life and had guest performances in Murder, She Wrote, and The Golden Girls.
Later he became one of the most popular actors and an acclaimed director with excellent movies on his list, such as Michael Claytor, The Perfect Storm, The Descendants, and Up in the Air. He hasn’t been seen in any important projects lately and has no announced ones in the future.
John Cusack is probably one of three actors the majority associates with the 1980s. He starred in some of the most important and beloved movies of that decade, such as Stand By Me, Say Anything, and Sixteen Candles.
He filmed many successful movies in the next decades, as well, and remains one of the actors we adore watching in romantic movies. He has slowed down a bit in the past few years and there are no announced projects in the future, besides My Only Sunshine which is in pre-production.
One of the most successful and famous actors of all time is Harrison Ford who rocked the 1980s, playing some of the most important characters in movie history. He starred in some of the most important movies of the 1970s but brought us brilliant characters in this decade, as well.
He continued with his role of Han Solo in Star Wars and introduced us to Indiana Jones in The Raiders of the Lost Arc and excelled as Deckard in Blade Runner and John Cook in The Witness. He had some brilliant roles in the past decade and we can’t wait to see him once again as Indiana Jones in the announced Indiana Jones movie.
Robert Downey Jr
Like George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr delivered some interesting performances in the 1980s and he must be mentioned here since he became one of the most famous actors of his generation a few years later. Some of his most important 1980s movies are True Believer, Less Than Zero, and Weird Science.
He is one of the most wanted actors in the past decade, playing Tony Stark in Iron Man and The Avengers sagas and has a few interesting projects for the future, such as Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and Sherlock Holmes 3.
Born in 1947 in Styria, Austra, Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the greatest European actors whose mother tongue isn’t English. He was a big bodybuilding star before he became a huge movie star, known for his thick accent and quick talking. He filmed a few movies in the 1970s but with Conan the Barbarian in 1982 he got his big Hollywood breakthrough.
And two years later he filmed his biggest hit ever, The Terminator, and the rest is history, with movies like Commando, Red Sonja, and Predator. He was also successful in politics, being the governor of California from 2003 to 2007. He is still filming and has many announced projects, such as Triplets and The Legend of Conan.
Kevin Kline played leading roles in some of the most successful dramas of the 1980s, next to Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice, Jeff Goldblum in The Big Chill, Kevin Costner in Silverado, and Jamie Lee Curtis in A Fish Called Wanda.
He was one of the most beloved and successful actors of the 80s and 90s, with numerous comedies and dramas everyone enjoyed. He has recently been filming mostly tv-series and is currently filming the Tv series Disclaimer, a drama thriller with Cate Blanchett in a leading role.
Mickey Rourke was one of the hottest names in the 1980s, with movies such as Body Heat, Nine ½ Weeks, and Angel Heart in his portfolio. Charismatic and intriguing, he made brilliant performances in these classics.
The 1990s weren’t that successful for him but he made a big comeback in the 2000s and 2010s in movies such as The Wrestler, Sin City, and The Expendables. He is still tireless, with numerous announced projects, such as The Palace, Replica, and 3 Days Rising.
One of the greatest stars of the 1980s and one of the most tragic stars ever, River Phoenix will be remembered for his movie career, but also his personal life and addiction problems. He died of an overdose in front of one of L.A.’s most popular places, in 1993, at the tender age of 23.
He starred in numerous 1980s tv series before making his big breakthrough in Stand By Me, a bitter-sweet coming-of-age story about 4 friends who go on a search for a missing boy and while trying to find him, learn the importance of friendship. He is famous for his role as the young Indiana Jones and his unforgettable portrayal of Mike Waters in My Own Private Idaho. He was nominated for his brilliant role in the movie Running on Empty.
James Spader was born in 1960 in Boston and was one of the most beloved actors of the 1980s. Some of his most famous movies from this decade are Pretty in Pink, Wall Street, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape which put him on Hollywood’s A-list.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t been filming any movies in the last decade but has starred in one of the most successful tv-series of all time, The Blacklist which ran for nine years and ended in 2022. He also played the leading role in tv-series Boston Legal.
John Carpenter and Kurt Russell’s collaboration started in 1981 with one of the genre’s classics, Escape From New York which made Russell internationally famous. He started as a child actor and has filmed numerous tv-series and movies until then but this sci-fi crime announced his very successful career.
The 1980s were very fruitful for him, with The Thing, The Best of Times, Trouble in Little China, and Tango & Cash and he just continued further in the future, taking a break only recently after his roles in F9 and The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two.
Born in 1949 in Philadelphia, Richard Gere began his career in the 1970s but his huge breakthrough came in 1980 with American Gigolo and two years later with one of his most memorable and beloved movies, An Officer and a Gentleman.
He continued making good and well-accepted movies, becoming one of the ladies’ favorites. The next two decades were also extremely successful for him, with his roles in Pretty Woman, Primal fear, and Chicago. He is still filming and has announced a few new projects, such as Maybe I Do and Longing.
Another 1980s big star is this actor who has been famous for his roles as bad boys, often criminals and weird and sick individuals, but also for the leading roles in some of the most iconic movies. He was born in 1966 in London and is the son of a famous father, Donald Sutherland.
Some of his most important and memorable movies are Stand By Me, The Lost Boys, and Young Guns. He hasn’t been that active in the last two decades when it comes to movies but he has made one of the most iconic tv roles, playing Jack Bauer in the excellent adrenaline-packed show 24.
Tom Selleck was a pretty face seen in some guest roles in the 1970s tv-series but it was 1980 that brought him huge fame when he accepted the role of Magnum in the series of the same name. He has played a Hawaii-based private investigator for eight years and this remains his most famous role.
He had some notable movies such as 3 Men and a Little Lady and In & Out, as well as a praised guest role in Friends but he will be remembered as Magnum. He has laid low in the past decade and could have been seen in only a few projects.
At the age of 78, Michael Douglas can really say that he had a successful career full of unforgettable roles and excellent movies. The 1980s were great for him, with titles like Wall Street, Fatal Attraction, The War of the Roses, and Romancing the Stone.
He continued with brilliant choices and memorable performances in the next decades and delivered some of the best, in movies like Basic Instinct, The Game, Falling Down, and Wonder Boys. His latest success is the leading role in the clever, witty, and interesting tv-series The Kominsky Method, next to another acting legend, Alan Arkin.
Robert De Niro
One of the greatest actors of all time, often on the list of the biggest names in Hollywood is this New York City-born talent whose unforgettable roles are some of the most remarkable performances ever. Even though he became successful in the 1970s, the 1980s are also a very important decade for him, with movies such as Raging Bull, Once Upon a Time in America, Brasil, Angel Heart, and The Untouchables.
He continued filming excellent movies in the 1990s and 2000s and is still very active, making one movie after another. He has announced big projects for the future, such as Tin Soldier, About My Father, and Killers of the Flower Moon.
Another New York City-born actor who had great success in the 1970s is Christopher Walken. After his brilliant role in The Deer Hunter in 1978, it was only logical that he would continue making good choices. Some of the movies from that decade worth mentioning are The Dead Zone, At Close Range, and The Milagro Beanfield War.
He became even more successful and popular in the decades that followed and hasn’t gotten tired of filming even at the age of seventy-five and more. He is 79 now and has numerous projects behind him and is currently filming Dune: Part Two.
Al Pacino is one more actor whose name is always on the list of the greatest actors of all time. Born in 1940 in Manhattan, he became famous at the age of thirty when he excelled in numerous movies, such as The Godfather, Serpico, The Godfather II, and Dog Day Afternoon.
But the 1980s have also been huge for him, with perfect performances in movies like Scarface and Sea of Love. He is a multiple-time Oscar nominee but has won only one statue, in 1992 for the leading role in The Scent of a Woman. He is still very active and is currently filming Billy Knight. It has also been announced that he is going to play King Lear in the newest version of the famous Shakespeare drama.
Jack Nicholson is another actor who became immensely famous in the 1970s, with movies like One Flew Over Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown, and Tommy. But the 1980s were also very important for his movie character since he delivered some of his best performances ever.
He made many unforgettable movies such as The Shining, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Terms of Endearment, and The Witches of Eastwick. He also became one of, if not the best Joker of all time in Tim Burton’s Batman. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen him on for more than ten years on screen anymore and can only hope that he will come back with some interesting.
One of the most gifted persons of all time in Hollywood is Clint Eastwood, the 92-year-old actor, and director who has been successful in everything he put his hands on. Even though the 1980s haven’t been that fruitful for him, there are still some memorable movies worth mentioning, such as Sudden Impact, Pale Rider, and Heartbreak Ridge.
He has since directed numerous masterpieces and received four Oscars, for acting and directing The Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. He is not filming at the moment and his last movie was a western drama Cry Macho from 2021.
William Hurt was born in 1950 and unfortunately left us in 2022, leaving an enormous legacy behind him. The 1980s were definitely his decade when he filmed some of his greatest movies, such as Altered States, Body Heat, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Children of a Lesser God, Broadcast News, and The Accidental Tourist.
He delivered some brilliant performances in the next decades, as well, in movies such as Smoke and Dark City and hasn’t stopped filming until his too-early death this year.
Steve Martin is one of the greatest comedians of all time, born in 1945 in Waco, Texas. He is not only a great actor, but a talented writer as well and his 1980s movies are some of the ultimate classics in their genre, such as Dead men Don’t Wear Plaid, Roxane, Parenthood, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
He delivered some interesting performances in the next decades and is still extremely active in the acting world. He is recently part of the cast of a brilliant tv-series, a combination of crime and comedy Only Murders in the Building where he stars next to his old movie partner Martin Short.
Danny Glover’s 1980s career is full of brilliant titles, such as Witness, The Color Purple, and Silverado. But there is one movie that launched him on the A-list of that period. He got the role of Roger Murtaugh in one of the most popular action thrillers of all time, Lethal Weapon.
He starred opposite Mel Gibson and they make one of the greatest movie duos of all time, playing together in three more sequels of this excellent movie. He hasn’t rested for a moment and is constantly filming and has numerous projects for the future, such as Killing Winston Jones and Lethal Weapon 5.
John Candy is one of the most famous and beloved Canadian actors of all time and one of the biggest stars of the 1980s who unfortunately died too early, in 1994 at the age of only 43. He was an excellent character actor and one of the biggest comedians ever.
He starred in huge 1980s hits, such as National Lampoon’s Vacation, Little Shop of Horrors, Spaceballs, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Great Outdoors, and Uncle Buck. He delivered a few brilliant performances in the 1990s as well, in Home Alone, JFK, and Cool Runnings, and left the movie world with a great emptiness.
Mel Gibson is one of the most famous Hollywood actors of all time, an American-born Australian actor who starred in some of the best and most popular movies of the 1980s, such as Gallipoli, Mad Max 2, The Bounty, and Lethal Weapon 1 and 2.
He is also a gifted director who won an Oscar for one of his biggest hits, Braveheart. He directed a few more excellent movies, such as Passion, Apocalypto, The Hacksaw Ridge, and The Man Without a Face and one of his most anticipated movies as actor and director is Lethal Weapon 5.