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Be honest: You totally wanted to be in this group of friends.
The Brat Pack ran the ’80s. Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy were the stars everyone looked up to—and the friend group everyone wanted to be part of. At least two of these actors (and sometimes more) costarred in over 10 hit coming-of-age films throughout the decade, including Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), St. Elmo’s Fire (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986), and About Last Night (1986), among many others.
The “Brat Pack” nickname was first coined by New York Magazine writer David Blum, who was working on a feature about Emilio Estevez. After being invited to the Hard Rock Café with the actor and his friends, however, the piece went in a different direction. It was especially critical of Estevez, Rob Lowe, and Judd Nelson, all of whom felt betrayed by the journalist. The harsh story—something Blum later admitted he wished he never published—made the group go their separate ways.
“Emilio called me the day the piece came out, and he said, ‘How could you do this to me? My friends hate me now and won’t speak to me. You completely betrayed me. I thought we were friends. I thought you liked me,'” Blum told the author of You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation, Susannah Gora. Years later, Ally Sheedy looked back on it all: “[The article] just destroyed it. I had felt truly a part of something, and that guy just blew it to pieces,” she told Gora.
Take a look back at the Brat Pack’s best moments throughout the years—as well as the actors with some unofficial members of the group, like Robert Downey Jr., Tom Cruise, and more.
Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez laugh with pal Tom Cruise in similar white suits at the 1982 screening of In The Custody of Strangers in Beverly Hills. Estevez and Cruise are childhood friends, and showed up to their audition for The Outsiders together.
At the same event’s afterparty, Estevez talks with his A-list family. You might know his father and brother by their stage names: Martin Sheen and Charlie Sheen. Estevez and Sheen starred together in In The Custody of Strangers.
Estevez and Andrew McCarthy on the set of 1985’s St. Elmo’s Fire. McCarthy has since said he felt like an outsider around the group. “I never felt any kind of great camaraderie,” he revealed in You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation. “I think I went out once or twice with the guys in LA.”
Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald read their textbooks with a tutor on the set of The Breakfast Club. The actors fell for each other in real life, partly because they spent so much time together, as they were the only two cast members who were in high school at the time.
The actors play with a dog in between takes. Hall apparently first developed feelings for Ringwald while costarring with her in 1984’s Sixteen Candles. It wasn’t until they began filming The Breakfast Club the following year that she felt the same.
Here, the pair shop at a nearby record store, while on a break from filming. According to You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried, Hall’s mother recalls being on set “and Molly coming up to me and saying, ‘I think I’m falling in love with your son.’ I said, ‘That’s so sweet—why don’t you tell him?’ The next day, they were walking around holding hands.”
Ringwald, Nelson, and Estevez hang out on set of The Breakfast Club. Fun fact: The iconic scene where all five main characters sit on the floor and share why they landed in detention was completely improvised.
Hall, Robert Downey Jr., David Lee Roth, and Sonia Braga cram into a convertible during the 1984 MTV Music Awards afterparty at the Hard Rock Café.
The cast of St. Elmo’s Fire pose while on set From left to right: Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Mare Winningham, Judd Nelson, and Andrew McCarthy.
Here, the Pretty in Pink actress poses with her costars in 1986. Ringwald actually pushed for McCarthy to be cast, but regretted it as the pair were often at odds while filming. “They hated each other,” director Howard Deutch told Den of Geek nearly 35 years later. “They hated each other because Molly had a crush on him and he did not have a crush on her. And then he resented that she was the foundation of it, and then it escalated.”
The pair seemed to let bygones be bygones, as two years later they costarred again in 1988’s romantic drama Fresh Horses.
A few members of the Brat Pack—Estevez, Moore, and Sheedy—pose for a picture at 1985’s Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament in Van Nuys, California.
Lowe and Estevez were two of the biggest heartthrobs of the ’80s, but it was all love—and surprisingly no competitiveness—between them. “We were all the best of friends,” Lowe said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried. “We all really supported each other, and genuinely liked each other, and wanted the other to succeed.”
Estevez’s father, Martin Sheen, seems happy with the budding relationship between his son and Moore.
At the same event, Estevez, Moore, Lowe, and his then-girlfriend, Melissa Gilbert, take in some rays.
The Outsiders was Lowe’s film debut, and launched the careers of other giant names in Hollywood as well. From left to right: Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, and Patrick Swayze. Fun fact: Estevez completely made up his character’s interest in Mickey Mouse, and chose to wear shirts with the cartoon.
The women of The Breakfast Club attend 1987’s “No Laughing Matter” charitable comedy show. Years later, when asked about the night at the Hard Rock Café when a reporter forever coined them the Brat Pack, Sheedy told The Independent: “The ladies weren’t there! I think he got one particular angle when the truth is that the guys would hang out a bit, but we weren’t hanging out as one big group.”
Sheedy, Nelson, and Hall arrive at an event together in 1986, but the gang doesn’t seem to have remained very close. “I’m in touch with [Anthony] Michael Hall and a little bit with Ally [Sheedy],” Nelson told Nicki Swift in March 2021. “You just go down different paths. I miss Emilio, who’s a really great, great guy. I’ve not seen Rob since before he had kids. And it’s not that we don’t get along. It just doesn’t happen.”
Here, Hall poses with fans outside the Ritz-Carlton during a 1986 benefit for homeless youth in New York City. Worried about being typecast as a geek, the actor began striving for different roles. He turned down parts specifically written for him by John Hughes in both Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—something he regrets to this day. The move ended up causing a rift between him and Hughes that lasted until the filmmaker’s death in 2009—what Hall calls “one of the saddest things of my life.”
Moore and Lowe had a spark that nobody could deny—not even Lowe himself. He originally didn’t want her to be cast in 1986’s About Last Night—and even held auditions with other actresses—because he didn’t want the film to feel too familiar. “The director, Ed Zwick, wants to cast my old pal Demi Moore,” Lowe wrote in his 2012 autobiography. “I am against it. I feel the idea has already been played out with the success of St. Elmo’s Fire. Demi tests with me and when we watch the footage, it’s hard to argue with the chemistry. Demi will play Debbie and she will kill it.”
Not much was ever revealed about how serious Moore and Lowe’s relationship actually was. But the actress hinted at it in her 2019 autobiography, where she admitted she “vaguely” recalled having “one ill-advised late night together” before moving on with their fellow St. Elmo’s Fire costar, Estevez.
With bright red nails, pink eyeshadow, and feathery bangs, Moore looks ’80s chic at the 1986 premiere of About Last Night.
Moore and Estevez first met while on the set of St. Elmo’s Fire. Their crushes quickly turned into full-fledged love, which she wrote about in her 2019 autobiography. “He was very sweet, very attentive, and looking back, I think a major factor in how quickly we moved was that I was craving a family, and he had a close relationship with his.”
Here, Moore and Estevez attend a preview of 1986’s off-Broadway show The Early Girl at Circle Repertory Theatre in New York City.
After six months of dating, they were engaged, but things went south as they began wedding planning. “Emilio and I had, in fact, just mailed out the invitations for our wedding when a friend told me she had seen him out with someone else in LA,” Moore wrote. “He denied it, of course, but I was having a hard time trusting him: During a two-week break up a few months before, he’d slept with an ‘ex’ girlfriend, lied about it, and then been forced to tell me the truth when he found out she was pregnant.”
The actress revealed their engagement officially ended once she asked Estevez to meet with her and her therapist. “He was pretty resistant, but he finally did make the trip. And when he revealed his priorities in that session—you’d be shocked to hear—I was pretty low on the list. I postponed the wedding indefinitely.” The two remained close, however, and continued to attend events together as friends. He even famously casted her in his 2006 film, Bobby.
In 2020, Moore and Lowe reunited for the first time in years at the Tom Ford runway show in Hollywood. In 2019, the actor opened up about his sobriety on The View, revealing Moore actually had a lot to do with it. “She was the first person I ever knew who got sober. She was a huge inspiration to me,” he shared. “It was the ’80s, we were all doing our thing. I just remember thinking, ‘Whoa, if that girl can get sober, anybody can.'”
Robert Downey Jr., although not a core of the Brat Pack, is considered a big part of that ’80s bunch. He’s costarred with several individuals from the group over the years. Here, he performs on Saturday Night Live with Hall in 1986, whom he met two years earlier while filming Weird Science.
It was 17-year-old Hall who gave Downey his big shot as a cast member on his first (and only) season of SNL. Hall’s career was taking off faster than the future Iron Man’s, and he had influence in the industry to help with the audition process. “We become friends,” Downey told Off Camera with Sam Jones. “He was someone who said to me, ‘I’m going to go do SNL and I’m gonna get you an audition. I bet you’re gonna get yourself on the show too, and they’ll be lucky to have us.'”
Hall and Downey continued to work together even after their stints on Saturday Night Live came to an end. Here, they pose on set of 1988’s Johnny Be Good. “We loved making [‘Johnny Be Good’]. The thing I remember about making it is that the script was so skinny. We had no script,” Hall told The Current in July 2020. “We had a great time all those years back. All these years later, Downey calls it Johnny B-Movie. He’s a wiseass now that he has $500 million — Mr. Iron Man. He can crack jokes like that.”