Totally Excellent ’80s Movie Babes
There was no shortage of crush-worthy young actresses in the ’80s, and every Gen-X boy had a personal favorite that helped propel him into puberty. There’s a wholesome simplicity to what passed for sexy during the decade. Compared to this generation’s Vanessa Hudgenses and Selena Gomezes, there was something less glam and more girl-next-door about the stars who made their way into our dreams via our top-loading VCRs and innumerable pay-cable viewings. Here are some of our favorites.
Sexy teen innocence personified. Diane Franklin is best known as the French exchange student Monique, who knew how to rock a jaunty men's fedora, in 1985's 'Better Off Dead.' When she slides out from under John Cusack's Camaro in her ball cap and overhauls, a million teen boys fell in love and begged their family to enroll in the high-school foreign-exchange program. Other great showcases for this perky heartbreaker include 'The Last American Virgin' (1982), 'Amityville II: The Possesion' (1982) and 'TerrorVision' (1986).
Even if she never made another movie, a single scene from 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' (1982) would be enough to secure Cates' place on this list. Judge Reinhold's horny teen-fantasy sequence undoubtedly holds the dubious distinction of being the most watched-paused-rewound (repeat!) VHS scene in the history of the format. She was probably responsible for enough VCR wear and tear to keep video-repair shops doing big business for a decade or so. Naturally, we also love her in 'Drop Dead Fred' (1991) and 'Gremlins' (1984), in which she has another show-stopping scene -- the "Why Kate Hates Christmas" monologue -- that you can watch below in lieu of the 'Fast Times' scene, which we can't show you here.
She's considered the queen of scream queens (even though she's only been in probably three or four horror movies anyone cares about). But it's her role as the punk-rocking, crypt-top-stripping, soon-to-be-brain-munching-zombie in 1985's 'Return of the Living Dead' that makes her stand out. Not only has the poor girl been impaled on reindeer antlers (1984's 'Silent Night, Deadly Night') and danced naked with a chainsaw (1988's 'Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers'), she's also produced 'Linnea Quigley's Horror Workout' (1989), in which she lets us watch her shower before putting on her jammies to jazzercize with the living dead and her slumber-party girlfriends. Top that for fanboy fantasy fodder.
I remember a guy in middle school who kept a 'Howard the Duck' trading card featuring female lead Lea Thompson in his wallet like she was his girlfriend or something. We may have laughed and pointed, but we all secretly understood. As Beverly, lead singer for the Cherry Bombs and Howard's interspecies main squeeze, Thompson gave us something nice to think about while the movie went about its business of systematically destroying our faith in humanity. It made sense to us that Eric Stoltz would totally blow his college savings to buy Thompson's Miss Amanda Jones diamond earrings in 'Some Kind of Wonderful' (1987). Though in the end, we agree with his choosing tomboy drummer Mary Stuart Masterson -- an actress who gets an honorable mention on this list for making the wrong side of the tracks look like the right place to be.
Elizabeth (E.G.) Daily
We'll buy Large Marge's shocking shape-shifting claymation face and the plausibility of diffusing a biker beat down by dancing on a bar to 'Tequila,' but when Pee-wee rebuffs the advances of Dottie in 1985's 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure,' our suspension of disbelief comes crashing in on itself. She crosses paths with other '80s babes on this list, appearing (ahem ... topless) in 'Valley Girl' (1983) and singing at the school dance in 'Better Off Dead.' These days, Daily keeps herself busy as a voice actor in about 90 percent of the kids' programming produced since 1990. She's voiced everyone from outspoken rugrat Tommy Pickles to outspoken anthropomorphic piglet Babe. Babe, indeed.
"Fair is fair!" -- and it's only fair that Slater's legendary Billie Jean (from 1985's 'The Legend of Billie Jean') lands her on this list for being the rebel-rousing beach-bum babe in a cropped tee and a pixie-punk haircut. If that's not enough, Slater also made a pretty amazing looking Supergirl (1984) in an otherwise terrible cinematic super-spinoff, allowing us to fondly remember a movie that really deserves nothing but our contempt. After all, not too many women can successfully pull off a red, blue and yellow fashion pallet.
She was cute as Matthew Broderick's girlfriend in 1983's 'Wargames' and charming in the (not-aging-well) kiddie classic 'Short Circuit' (1986). But as the subversive, weird, proto-goth in John Hughes' 'Breakfast Club' (1985), she's the stuff lonely boys' dreams are made of. That she ended up with Emilio Estevez's meat-head football player might be the cinematic crime of the century.
Maybe it was the moment she said "Don't f---- with the babysitter" in 1987's 'Adventures in Babysitting' (one of those truly magical Disney movie moments.) or it might have been her discreetly filmed waterfall make-out scene in 'Cocktail' (1988). But we'll put our money on the fact that when '80s-era teens dreamed of being 'The Karate Kid' (1984), half the appeal was Shue cheering you on from the sidelines.
Christened 'Vanity' by Prince, Denise Katrina Matthews was a triple threat in her prime: musician (the girl group Vanity 6), model (Playboy) and actress. Many of us first became aware of her in the '80s cult fave 'The Last Dragon' (1985) as the host of a 'Soul Train'-esque TV dance show singing the modest hit '7th Heaven.' She did a few more movies including the hit Carl Weathers vehicle 'Action Jackson' (1988). Sadly, Vanity became born again in 1994 and dropped the stage name, but we'll forgive that, and always remember her as the big-haired beauty she was at the peak of her '80s babe reign.
As the title star of the under-appreciated '80s teen comedy 'Valley Girl,' Foreman made ridiculous valley-speak totally bitchin', fer sure, while making obnoxious teen entitlement sympathetic and sexy. Bonus points for her roles in 'My Chauffeur' (1986'), 'Waxworks' (1988) and the better-than-average slasher flick 'April Fools Day' (1986).