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The Typecasting of the Brat Pack

Some movies and actors stick with you through the decades, leaving you with random moments of nostalgia that can occur at any time.

While the ’80s have different levels of fame, perhaps the greatest gift it gave was The Brat Pack, a group of young, up-and-coming actors often seen on film together and occasionally off-screen.

What actors belong to the group varies by who you ask. Some people consider the members to be those listed by reporter David Blum in his now infamous 1985 article in the New York Magazine.

But 1980s Brat Pack fans have their own list of eight core members we grew up watching act together. It started with The Breakfast Club and then St. Elmo’s Fire.

Now, they’re on some of our favorite movies and series. But regardless of what they do, they’re often still associated with belonging to the Brat Pack.

Related: Quit Your Day Job: What 11 Starts Did Before Making It Big

Brat Pack Typecasting Explained – The Origins

In the 1980s, filmmakers broke the mold by creating movies geared toward a much-ignored audience: teenagers and young adults.

These coming-of-age movies starred younger actors just starting and targeted common problems like love and school.

The Breakfast Club - Riverdale

Take The Breakfast Club. The opening scene is like a calling card for Gen Xers and Millenials. Hey, hey, hey, hey!

These movies made such an impact that they’re a rite of passage and a badge of glory for generational coolness.

Even today, the five actors are still mostly known as the group of cliqued teenagers who became friends for one day. We became the sixth honorary friend of

  • Emilio Estevez (also in St. Elmo’s Fire)
  • Anthony Michael Hall
  • Judd Nelson (also in St. Elmo’s Fire)
  • Ally Sheedy (also in St. Elmo’s Fire)
  • Molly Ringwald

Shortly later, we saw three of them in similar roles in another coming-of-age drama, St. Elmo’s Fire. The film also featured young stars Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy, and Rob Lowe.

St Elmo's Fire Ensemble Shot

We had the eight core members for our fan version of the Brat Pack.

Once cast as wholesome teenagers, some of the actors struggled to break into other roles, especially once David Blum dubbed a separate group of male actors the Brat Pack.

Members of Blum’s Packers include Estevez, Lowe, Nelson, and five actors he did not meet on the fateful night he went out with the trio that inspired his writing of the infamous article.

Related: The Brat Pack Struck Back: Why They Hated The Nickname

He also named actors Nicolas Cage, Timothy Hutton, Matt Dillion, Tom Cruise, and Sean Penn as members of the Pack. 

Of the names listed, Estevez, Lowe, and Nelson felt the most offense.

Rob Lowe as Billy Hicks Grins

And the most pressure to stay in their lane as young actors rather than trying to expand their horizons.

Blum’s Packers – Shunning the Name to Find Success

After Blum’s article got out, fans started making assumptions about the Brats he named, even when most didn’t have much association.

But over time, some of them were able to move past the brand, leaving fans to forget about their connection in exchange for actors we felt belonged to the Pack.

No one today would associate one of the top 100 actors as a Brat, even though he was best friends with the unofficial Brat president.

Tom Cruise for the Queen's Jubilee

Tom Cruise and Emilio Estevez were friends and worked together on the 1980s western classic Young Guns. Cruise also acted in one of the earlier Brat Pack movies, Taps.

Tom outgrew his reputation as a lesser-known actor with hits like Risky Business and Top Gun. These days, he’s no longer a Brat but one of the greats, with an impressive career as an actor, producer, and director.

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Nicholas Cage needs no introduction, being on the movie scene since the early 80s. He appeared in a few Brat Pack — and BP adjacent — films, like Rumble Fish and Birdy, starring alongside fellow Blum Packer Matthew Modine.

He was also in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which isn’t a Brat Pack movie but did accelerate several careers, including famed actor Sean Penn.

Cage has had a stroke of lousy movie selections over the years, but he’s been one of the most successful Blum’s Brats, with over 100 acting credits and some work as a producer and director.

Sean Penn Attends Event

Sean Penn has found similar success since shedding the Brat brand. Given his impressive career, most people don’t even remember his connection with the group.

Penn got linked in with the Brats by appearing in a BP movie, Taps. Then, he stole the show in the cult classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High. By the time he appeared in Risky Business with Tom Cruise, his fate was sealed.

No matter what roles he’s taken since then, many people still recall him as the young airhead surfer from Ridgemont, proving that it can be hard to shed a role once fans see it as your identity.

Fan Pack Brats Who Made It Big

As many of Blum’s Brats started to make their way in the acting world, we stopped thinking of them as members of the Brat Pack and more as solo stars.

But that doesn’t mean we forgot about the Brats altogether. On the contrary, we inducted our own celebs, including three fabulous females.

Jules Asks Kevin a Question

Of those three, perhaps the one with the most prominent name was Demi Moore. She tried several films before getting her breakout role in St. Elmo’s Fire, opposite some of the biggest young starlets of the ’80s, several of whom were Brats.

She even had a brief engagement with Packer Emilio Estevez.

While Ringwald and Sheddy struggled with the Brat brand, Moore was able to shed her girl-next-door personality for more mature roles.

Related: The Controversial Origins of the Brat Pack

She’s played opposite Patrick Swayze in Ghost, captured our childhood and awkward transition to adulthood in Now and Then, kicked ass as the first female Navy Seal in G. I. Jane, and showed her goods in Striptease.

Perhaps her penchant for showing so much skin is a side effect of breaking out of the role of a sweet teenage star after being typecast into the role of a Brat member for so long.

Molly Ringwald Gives a Radiant Smile

Molly Ringwald was another huge name in the 1980s as America’s sweetheart. We saw her in nearly every mainstream popular teen flick.

Ringwald was the quintessential girl next door, from a pregnant teenager in Pretty in Pink to the forgotten birthday girl on her sweet 16. She also took on a regular role in The Facts of Life TV series.

Once Hollywood saw the red-haired princess as prim and perfect, it became hard to think of her as anything else.

Especially since she was one of the youngest members of the Brats.

After getting labeled, Ringwald struggled with the association for some time. Although she continued to act, most of her work was lesser known.

Hello, Mrs. Andrews - Riverdale Season 1 Episode 10

She finally found her footing as a TV actress as a regular on the popular shows The Secret Life of the American Teenager (2008-2013), Raising Expectations (2016-2019), Riverdale (2017-2023), and Feud (2024).

While she’s no longer America’s young sweetheart, she makes an astounding, wholesome mom next door.

Related: The Age of the Renewed Limited Series: Is Network Execs’ Fear of Commitment Bad For TV?

From Brat to Phat: Packers With the Best Careers

While many of Blum’s Brats outgrew their association with the childish name, members of the fan-picked Pack have been less successful.

Out of the eight, Rob Lowe may have done the best in their career. Lowe started appearing in TV shows before finding his break in Pack flicks like The Outsiders, Oxford Blues, and St. Elmo’s Fire.

Weighing a Decision -tall - 9-1-1: Lone Star Season 4 Episode 17

His friendship with fellow Brats Emilio and Judd inspired the group’s nickname and his inclusion on both lists.

The Brat legacy took a while to fade, especially after Lowe got entangled in a scandal involving a sex tape in the ’80s before the craze became popular.

Despite a rocky start and the ghost of the Brat Pack title following him around, Lowe has remained relevant over the decades.

Related: FOX 2024-25 Fall Lineup: Rescue HI-SurfSlot; Accused & 9-1-1: Lone Star Return

He’s transitioned back into TV, acting as the lead in 9-1-1: Lone Star, a spinoff of the successful 9-1-1 series. He’s also the face and body of Atkin’s weight loss and diet program.

Andrew McCarthy, another member of the Brat Pack—both lists—appeared with Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. But there was a lot of bad blood between the two.

Blane Grins at Andie

He’s had a decent run as an actor before he moved into directing, writing, and producing. His most recent work is the upcoming Hulu documentary Brats.

He appeared on screen as Dr. Ian Sullivan on The Resident for 26 episodes in 22-23. McCarthy is another Packer who didn’t achieve A-list recognition despite a diverse career.

When Branding Goes Bad – How Being a Brat Affected the Pack

The eight members of Blum’s Pack had a different association with the branded term than the eight fan-picked members.

While the association with being a Brat helped some members, the typecasting wasn’t as successful for everyone.

Ian Returns? -tall - The Resident Season 6 Episode 13

While most of us have forgotten that there used to be two separate groups, we haven’t forgotten the ’80s eight who played such a pivotal role in the movies of our upbringing—even 40 years later.

As we’ll see in McCarthy’s upcoming documentary, most of the group hated the coined term to the point that they stopped associating with each other.

For some actors, this decision backfired, limiting their careers and possibly changing their futures entirely.

Related: Why Has Gen Z Produced So Few Prominent TV Stars?

Others tried to ride the typecasting as far as they could to further their careers and popularity.

Anthony Michael Hall didn’t make it onto Blum’s list of Brats, but he certainly has a place in the fans’ version.

We loved his shy nerdiness in 16 Candles, opposite female powerhouse Molly Ringwald. That geekiness continued in The Breakfast Club and Weird Science.

The Geek Hits on Samantha

Hall seemed to set the standard for uncool kids of the ’80s, a role that took him a while to escape.

Because he wanted to avoid getting typecast as the nerdy outcast, he turned down the opportunity to act in Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The decision affected his early career, temporarily stopping him from acting. However, he found his niche in TV acting and has over 100 acting credits.

Many of his current roles are lesser known, and most people don’t associate him with his former work.

To be fair, today’s muscular beefcake shares little similarity to the scrawny skeleton of the past. Don’t believe us?

Anthony Michael Hall Image

Rewatch The Goldbergs and peek at the sexy security guard, Mr. Perott. Tune into Reacher Season 3 to see Hall as a bad guy.

And who can forget Allison from The Breakfast Club, with her all-black and odd quirks?

But while we remember her character, many people struggle to recall the actor’s name — Ally Sheedy — or what other films she’s done.

Related: The Brat Pack: Dissension in the Ranks

Sheedy got looped into the fan-decided Brat Pack for her appearances in TBC, St. Elmo’s Fire, and Oxford Blues.

But after a bad reputation for the professional association with the bad boys of Hollywood and a refusal to change to meet star standards, Ally experienced a drop in career opportunities.

Ally Sheedy Pic

Throughout the years, she moved out of the limelight of mainstream movies and became selectively picky about the independent films she chose to do.

Judd Nelson also struggled with his acting career after his massive success as the sexy bad boy in The Breakfast Club, followed by St. Elmo’s Fire.

He got the brunt of Blum’s disdained commentary in the article that created The Brat Pack legacy.

For this reason, he said he should have punched the reporter in the face.

Always a bad boy, that one.

Nelson never found the A-list success of some of the Brats, but that hasn’t kept him from having a successful career.

Billy Turner Gives a Glare

His voice has been in multiple animations, including Phineas and Ferb, Family Guy, and Ben 10: Omniverse.

Emilio Estevez has several claims to fame, not just for his acting and inclusion in both versions of the Brat Pack.

He comes from a family of actors, with his father, Martin, and his brother, Charlie Sheen, being huge names.

Related: The Best Shows for Kids That Had No Disney or Nickelodeon Ties

Estevez tried to capitalize on his talents rather than his family’s reputation, and it seemed to work until he got linked to the Brat Pack.

To date, Estevez has done his best to disassociate from the label, even turning down any project that included someone from the Pack.

While he’s had a decent career — he stole the show in Young Guns and Mighty Ducks — his credits have become more infrequent.

Emilio Estevez Finally Discusses the Brat Pack

He has had very few notable performances since the ’90s.

We’ll finally hear what he says about being part of the Brat Pack when Brats airs on Hulu.

While the fan-picked Brats might not have achieved instant recognition status, there are some Packers on Blum’s list who didn’t get as much glory from their association as others.

Timothy Hutton is one of the lesser-known names of the Blum Brats, although he’s scored an Oscar for his talents.

Hutton started in Ordinary People before appearing in the Brat Pack movie Taps.

However, he made a series of mistakes with his movie choices, leading him to a career that has mostly failed compared to Brat standards.

Timothy Hutton attends the FOX Summer TCA 2019

Brat-Adjacent Packers – How Associations Affected Careers

For actors to fall into the fan-picked Brat Pack, they had to appear in one or more of the 80s greatest films.

These movies included Taps, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, 16 Candles, Weird Science, The Outsiders, St. Elmo’s Fire, Young Guns, Class, Birdy, and Blue City.

Related: Leverage: Redemption to Continue With This Big Change

Movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Back to the Future, One Crazy Summer, Johnny Be Good, Teen Wolf, Weekend at Bernie’s, Mannequin, and Footloose were honorary films that featured a Brat or someone who had worked with one.

Matthew Modine is considered a Brat Pack adjacent for his work in Birdy. He’s since appeared in over 100 films. And yet, when you look at his impressive list, very few of those are popular flicks.

Matthew Modine at Stranger Things: The First Shadow Premiere

Some of his greatest works include the recent hit Oppenheimer, The Dark Knight Rises, Cutthroat Island, and Full Metal Jacket.

Because all the Brat Packers on Blum’s list lived in California, a few names that people felt should have been included were left off because of geography.

Both Matthew Modine and Matthew Broderick lived in New York, so neither got formally linked into Blum’s Pack.

But they both could have been, making them Brat Pack adjacent.

Oddly enough, Judd Nelson also lived in New York, yet was one of the prime focuses of Blum’s article. He was only filming in California when Blum went out with him, Lowe, and Estevez.

Matthew Broderick appeared as the lead in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The move cemented his career success after his start in WarGames.

Ferris Bueller Discsusses Ditching School

Since then, he’s made some good and bad moves, racking up 84 credits to date. However, he’s had very few hits or notable characters.

He’s best known for his roles in Bee Movie and the flopped adaptation of the kids’ classic Inspector Gadget.

Related: The Blacklist: Was Reddington’s Death Suicide or Accidental?

If I say James Spader, you may say Raymond Red Reddington.

We’re talking about the same person.

Red Asks How Much? - The Blacklist Season 10 Episode 22

Although Spader isn’t part of the Brat Pack, he got his start appearing in some of our favorite Brat movies, including Pretty in Pink and Mannequin, starring McCarthy and Kim Cattrall.

Spader had less success as a movie actor. But he’s rocked the small screen with several roles as a series regular.

We saw him on Boston Legal from 2004 to 2008, The Office from 2011 to 2012, and most recently, The Blacklist from 2013 to 2023.

He’s come far from the preppy, pretty boy with a penchant for blazer jackets, shorts, and unbuttoned shirts.

We can’t talk about films from the ’80s without mentioning the fan favorite that made Kevin Bacon a household name.

Kevin Bacon Joins the MCU

Bacon got his start earlier than the Brats, first appearing in National Lampoon’s Animal House in 1978 and Friday the 13th in 1980.

His breakout role occurred during the teen heartthrob era of the mid-80s. In 1984, he starred as the sexy, rebellious dancing teen in Footloose with Sarah Jessica Parker and Christopher Penn (brother to Sean).

Related: Why We Need More Mockumentary-Style Shows Like The Office & Modern Family

Blum left Bacon off his list of Brats, as he said the actor wasn’t there yet in his career.

Kevin went on to outshadow most of the Pack with his prolific career, proving that the reporter knew little about talent.

Be prepared to see Bacon opposite Eddie Murphy in the new reboot of the 80s hit trilogy Beverly Hills Cop Axel F.

Many fans cannot agree on whether Iron Man deserves a place as a Brat or a Brat-adjacent.

Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man

However, one of Robert Downey Jr.’s first big roles was in the Brat Pack flick Weird Science, which starred Anthony Michael Hall, Bill Paxton, and Kelly LeBrock.

He again worked with Brat actor Hall in Johnny Be Good.

Given his vast range of credits, we don’t need to talk much about what he’s been doing since. Downey is one Brat Pack-adjacent who didn’t struggle with the branding.

Lea Thompson is another Brat adjacent celeb who rose in the ranks at the time when teen movies ruled the theaters.

She starred with huge names like Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Charlie Sheen in Red Dawn, and Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future.

Marty McFly's Mom Has the Hots For Him

Her role in the teen drama Some Kind of Wonderful earned her near-Brat status despite her not working with any of the brats.

So, while she isn’t on the list, her adjacent association affected her career. She will be joining McCarthy in his Brats documentary.

Michael J. Fox is a name that transcends generations. While we don’t see him as often on screen, fans support his journey of living with — and advocating for a cure for — Parkinson’s.

Related: Saying Goodbye to Curb: Why Larry David Was the Social Justice Knight We Needed

Fox was one of the biggest actors of the ’80s, overshadowing the eight-member Brat Pack with his credentials.

He achieved stardom as Marty McFly in the futuristic comedy Back to the Future (I, II, and III), followed by Teen Wolf.

That success continued with several rom-coms in the ’90s before transitioning to TV around Y2K with Spin City.

Michael J. Fox on Curb Your Enthusiasm

You’ve heard his voice in dozens of animated films and seen him in later TV works, such as The Michael J. Fox Show, The Good Wife, and Designated Survivor.

Fans first took notice of Jon Cryer’s unique talents when he played the super supportive best friend Duckie to Molly in Pretty in Pink.

From there, Cryer continued to land roles in lesser-known movies and series until he got his breakout role in Two and a Half Men in 2003.

During his time on the series, he worked first with Charlie Sheen (brother to Brat, Emilio) and then Ashton Kutcher (ex-husband to Brat, Demi).

He shocked DC viewers as Lex Luthor in the CW’s Supergirl before landing his latest role in Extended Family starring Donald Faison from Scrubs.

Jon Cryer Plays Lex Luthor - Supergirl Season 4 Episode 15

How a Label Typecasted Careers for Decades to Come

Before a movie gets made, dozens of actors are considered to participate in the film. Sometimes, a character is written with a specific person in mind for the role, and other times, different actors try out, and the best one gets the position.

But there is such a thing as being too good at your job. Once you’re seen as a particular character, being seen as anything different can be problematic.

Related: 13 Deeply Flawed Characters We Can’t Get Out of Our Heads

As a result, it often takes significant work to change the label once they’re ready to try different things.

For many of the Brat Pack starring in the movies of the 80s and 90s, they didn’t just play the role on the screen. They also got stuck with the mold of who they were as actors.

St Elmo's Fire Ensemble Shot

They may have gotten a lot of attention and roles because of who they knew or starred alongside.

But at what cost to their souls?

We have to wonder how many roles these actors tried out for and didn’t get or passed on because they were typecast as Brats.

And how many life experiences did they miss from abandoning their friendships to save their careers?

What could have been?

The term Brat Pack may have started as one journalist’s dig at a group of boys, but it’s become a symbol of nostalgia for fans of a bygone era when movies were pure.

St. Elmo's Fire Cast Shot From Brats

Who do you consider to be bratty enough to land on the list? Can you name your favorite Brat’s first big film and their most recent work?

Show us your fandom! I’ll start.

For the woman who inspired me to try red hair, I vote for Molly Ringwald as Queen of the Pack with her breakout role (and one of my favorite movies), 16 Candles.

You’ve seen her most recently in Feud: Capote vs The Swans, a 2024 TV series, although I loved her most of all in Riverdale.

Sara Trimble is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.

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