'80s comedies Stars of the 1980s
Credit: Universal Pictures

These stars of the 1980s are still going strong, including Eddie Murphy, who returns today in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, out today on Netflix.

Here’s our list.

Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder became one of the greatest teen stars of the 1980s when she debuted in Lucas, and she soon cornered the market on sardonic but wholesome roles in darkly funny films from Beetlejuice to Heathers, then finished out the decade with a lovely turn in 1990’s Edward Scissorhands.

She lowered her profile after the early ’90s achievements of Bram Stoker’s DraculaLittle Women, and The Age of Innocence, but recently reclaimed her rightful place in viewer’s dark hearts with a magnificent turn on Stranger Things, which will return soon for its final episodes on Netflix.

She’s also in Disney’s new Haunted Mansion, released last summer.

Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer in 1989’s The Fabulous Baker Boys

Ryder’s Age of Innocence co-star has been a lead since 1982’s Grease 2, but really popped in 1983’s Scarface. The three-time Oscar nominee is almost always the best part of any film she’s in — from Batman Returns to Married to the Mob to the Fabulous Baker Boys.

She continues to show off her acting chops with meaty roles in recent films like The Wizard of Lies and French Exit. And she was the highlight of last year’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

Jamie Lee Curtis

Jamie Lee Curtis in 1983’s Trading Places

Jamie Lee Curtis followed up her 1978 debut in Halloween with a stellar 1980s run that included Trading Places, Perfect and A Fish Called Wanda, then had a massive hit opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1994’s True Lies.

And yet, somehow, she’s only peaked in the last few years: She was the best part of the new Halloween trilogy, stole the show in Knives Out, and won her first Oscar last year for Everything Everywhere All at Once.

She’s also compulsively watchable in Season 2 of The Bear, and will soon executive produce and appear in The Sticky, about a Canadian maple-syrup heist.

Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner in 1987’s The Untouchables

He was mostly cut out of one of the iconic films of the 1980s, The Big Chill, but bounced back nicely by going on an enviable run that included The Untouchables, No Way Out, Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. Of all the stars of the 1980s, he may have been the one with the most even breakdown of male and female fans.

In the following years, he remained a giant, starring in Oliver Stone’s JFK and winning Best Picture and Best Director for 1990’s Dances With Wolves.

He must spend his time on a ranch now, away from the limelight, right? Yes and no. He’s the star of Yellowstone, by far the biggest show on television, which will end with his exit. He’s also back this summer with his own Western epic, Horizon: An American Saga.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1982’s Conan the Barbarian

After breaking out with Conan the Barbarian, Arnold Schwarzenegger became a superstar with The Terminator — not the biggest movie of 1984, the year it was released, but a massive VHS hit the year after. He then went on a run that included always fun and often ambitious action hits like Commando, The Running Man, and Predator.

The ’90s were arguably even bigger, starting with Terminator 2: Judgment Day. And the next decade, he moved beyond movies and turned to politics, seizing power in the biggest state in the union.

For an encore, he’s now telling his story on the captivating Netflix docuseries Arnold, while starring in a new series, FUBAR. And he’s on a publicity tear for his recent book Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life.

Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone in 1986’s Cobra

Arnold’s old rival KO’d the 80s box office with both the Rocky and Rambo franchises, calling his own shots and doing a lot of painting on the side. He eventually buddied up to Schwarzenegger behind the Planet Hollywood franchise, and brought new life to Rocky with his role in the Creed franchise.

This year he’s back with yet another franchise, The Expendables 4, and he stars in the endearing Tulsa King. He’s such an icon that the new Barbie makes fun of that period when he embraced his place as one of the biggest stars of the 1980s by wearing a lot of fur.

He’s also the focus of the new Netflix documentary Sly.

Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy in 1983’s Trading Places

How does Eddie Murphy still look so young after a career spanning more than 40 years? Part of the trick is that he started so young. Maybe the flat-out funniest actor of all time, Murphy was still in his teens when he joined Saturday Night Live, revitalizing the show after the departure of the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players.

Then he launched a phenomenal movie career, becoming one of the most bankable stars of the 1980s with a run of hits that included 48 Hrs., Trading Places, the Beverly Hills Cop franchise, and Coming to America.

He still knows how to score massive laughs, as you know if you saw 2019’s Dolemite Is My Name, and was charming in the Christmas movie Candy Kane Lane.

And he’s now flying helicopters and taking names in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford in 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

After kicking in the doors of the ’80s with The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Blade Runner, Ford continued to enjoy massive critical and commercial acclaim for films ranging from action to serious dramas like Witness to romantic comedies like Working Girl, establishing himself as a leading man who could do pretty much anything.

He’s also good at endurance, it turns out: In 2023 year he not only starred in the fifth and final Indiana Jones film, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, but also on the Yellowstone spinoff 1923, which seems destined to take over as the anchor of the Duttonverse once Yellowstone is no more.

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep in 1984’s Falling in Love.

Widely considered the greatest actress of all, Meryl Streep won the second of her three Best Actress Oscars for Sophie’s Choice in 1983. She broke out in 1978’s The Deer Hunter, which she followed with 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer (for which she won her first Oscar).

In the 1980s, she launched an astonishing run that established her as one of the the most chameleonic stars of the decade. Her films ranged from Out of Africa to Ironweed to Heartburn to She-Devil.

Amazingly, she’s as busy now as ever. After a show-stopping turn as a heartless president of the United States in 2021’s Don’t Look Up, she’s now brightening up the Amazon series Extrapolations and Hulu’s most recent season of Only Murders in the Building, with the next star on our list.

Steve Martin

Steve Martin (with prosthetic nose) and Daryl Hannah in Roxanne

After years of struggle, Steve Martin scored a Saturday Night Live hosting gig in October 1976 that finally won mass audiences over to his absurdist comedy. From there he packed arenas and made his first film, 1979’s The Jerk, a huge hit despite many critics’ failure to recognize its brilliance.

He struggled a while for another hit as Pennies From Heaven, The Man With Two Brains and All of Me were box office disappointments, but then he went on a run of hits that continues to this day, including Three Amigos (1986), Roxanne (pictured) and Planes, Trains and Automobiles (both 1987), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), Parenthood (1989), Bowfinger (1999) the Father of the Bride films, the Pink Panther films, and It’s Complicated (2009).

Now 78, he’s still hilarious alongside his Three Amigos pal Martin Short on Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building.

Jodie Foster

Main image: Jodie Foster at 61st Academy Awards Governor’s Ball on March 29, 1989. Photo by Alan Light, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

The two-time Best Actress Oscar winner for 1988’s The Accused and 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs just earned a best supporting actress nomination for her role in Nyad. She was also the highlight of True Detective: North Country, playing an icy-cool cop in Ennis, Alaska, a land plunged into polar night.

One of our most consistent and enduring stars, Jodie Foster broke into show business with a Coppertone ad at age three in the mid-1960s, then proved herself a young master of her craft when she starred in both Freaky Friday and Taxi Driver in 1976, when she was barely a teenager.

After conquering acting, she became a director known for films including Little Man Tate and Money Monster, as well as one of the most provocative episodes of Black Mirror.

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise in 1983’s Risky Business

Still flying planes and jumping off cliffs on motorcycles in his 60s, Cruise is perhaps our most enduring and bankable movie star. Breaking out with films like All the Right Moves and Risky Business, then becoming a superstar with Top Gun, he matured into mid-life crisis classics like Jerry Maguire and Eyes Wide Shut, also flexing his formidable acting jobs in films from Born on the Fourth of July to Magnolia to the underrated Vanilla Sky.

He had his biggest career success to date with 2022’s Top Gun: Maverick, in which he co-starred with Jennifer Connelly. And he’s going strong this summer with Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One. He’s not only one of the biggest stars of the 1980s, but also every decade since.

He’s back soon in the Dead Reckoning sequel.

Jennifer Jason Leigh

Jennifer Jason Leigh (left) broke through in the complex role of Stacy in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The movie’s a comedy, sure, but Stacy has a painful and empathetic arc that made Leigh stand out among her fellow rising stars. “Don’t they know they have a star on their hands?” said Roger Ebert of her performance.

She soon established herself as one of our best and most versatile actors in films ranging from Last Exit to Brooklyn to Backdraft to Single White Female to Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle to The Anniversary Party, which she co-wrote, co-directed, co-produced and acted in.  She was also a standout in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.

But what we’ve enjoyed the most recently is her role in the fifth season of Fargo, in which she was the clear highlight: She played the gun-toting, politically powerful matriarch of a wealthy family, eschewing the usual Minnesota accent for the kind of transatlantic delivery popular in the ’40s.

Meanwhile, her Fast Times co-star Phoebe Cates (right), is a great example of a star who quit acting on their own terms.

Like This List of Stars of the 1980s Who Are Still Going Strong?

Amy Adams

You might also like this list of the 13 Most Lovable Movie Cons, featuring some of the actors on this list

Main image: Fast Times at Ridgement High. Universal Pictures.

Editor’s Note: Corrects main image.

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