The Biggest 1980s Power Couples

The following references domestic abuse and addiction.

Throughout the history of Hollywood and fandom, celeb-watchers have been fascinated by power couples. Back in the day, we read everything we could get our hands on about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; now, we can't get enough of anything touched by Beyoncé and Jay-Z. "It's a three-tiered transactional relationship," speculated Lavinia Fasano, a foresight analyst, to Harper's Bazaar. "The audience is rewarded with entertainment; the couple, in turn, profits from the audience's engagement; which, finally, enhances the social capital of each individual." Or, as a relationship therapist named Natasha Silverman put it, "We're always fascinated by the most personal and secretive aspects of other people's lives."

This was especially clear in the 1980s, which was a decade of major change in the entertainment industry. Per the History of American Journalism, there were more television channels than ever before, and more gossip magazines, too. That meant there was a greater appetite for celebrity content, and in a decade fascinated by wealth and power, famous couples delivered on all fronts. Read on for a look back at the biggest power couples of the 1980s.

Tom Cruise and Cher got 'hot and heavy'

One of the most unusual couples that emerged from the 1980s was "Moonstruck" star Cher and noted Scientologist Tom Cruise. Cruise, who played a hotshot Navy fighter pilot in "Top Gun," and Cher, whose music video for "If I Could Turn Back Time" took place on a Naval aircraft carrier, initially crossed paths at the A-list extravaganza that was Sean Penn's wedding to Madonna. Cher later told the Daily Mail that they reconnected at an event at the White House for celebrities with dyslexia, though their fling didn't begin until later.

Reflecting on their romance, the "Believe" singer revealed to Andy Cohen on "Watch What Happens Live" (via Page Six) that Cruise was one of the best lovers she's ever experienced. "It was pretty hot and heavy for a little minute," she confessed. That being said, while they are still in touch, Cher seems to keep Cruise at arm's length. "I don't get what he does, that whole Scientology thing," she admitted to the Daily Mail. "I can't understand it so I just... don't."

Madonna and Sean Penn made headlines

Sean Penn married Madonna in 1985, tying the knot in what the Los Angeles Times described as a "glitzy" Malibu wedding interrupted by helicopters trying to get footage of the superstars. The following year, as tabloid hysteria tracked their union, Penn told Vanity Fair that he viewed marriage as his biggest accomplishment. "Nothing that I've said so far, nothing that I could possibly come up with, is as important as her," he proclaimed. "No movie, nothing is as important as her."

Unfortunately, the relationship didn't last. Madonna filed for divorce two years later. They stayed together, but she filed again in 1989. This time, it stuck. The pop star told Rolling Stone that the odds seemed stacked against them from the beginning. "I felt that no one wanted us to be together," she said. "They celebrated our union, and then they wanted us to be apart." She added, "I have twinges of regret, but I feel more sadness than anything. Feeling regret is really destructive."

Rumors lingered after their marriage about what Rolling Stone referred to as a "night of terror." According to the allegations, Penn physically abused Madonna and left her tied to a chair for hours; after police were called to their home and she was released, she filed and then withdrew charges of assault. In 2015, Madge stated she was never abused by her ex. "Any report to the contrary is completely outrageous, malicious, reckless, and false," she said in a written declaration, per ET.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Bruce Willis and Demi Moore started a family

When Bruce Willis first moved to Hollywood, he earned a reputation as a hard-partying troublemaker, the kind who got into fights with cops. However, he also fell into a relationship with Brat Pack ingénue Demi Moore, and together they became one of the most talked-about couples of the '80s. In a Vanity Fair article about their relationship, Moore insisted that the Bruce Willis she knew was nothing like the man from the tabloid headlines. "Bruce has never been anything but open, honest, and available on all levels, emotional and physical," she said. "He's caring, interested in me and what I'm about, interested in what I'm thinking. I never met the person that I'd heard about." 

Unlike many of their contemporaries, Bruce and Moore's romance lasted well into the following decade. They even had several kids together, including Rumer and Scout Willis. The "Moonlighting" star told Oprah Winfrey that he was grateful for Moore's help in the early years of his fame. "My wife has really helped me to learn how to be in the moment," he said. "It's something that in 33 years I had not learned."

The couple's divorce was finalized in 2000. The "Die Hard" actor reflected on what went wrong in an interview with Rolling Stone, concluding, "Things change. People grow at different rates. People change at different rates." However, it seems they ended things on good terms. Decades later, they spent the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic together with their kids.

Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall stuck it out for decades

Mick Jagger was once one of rock's most notorious womanizers. In the '80s, fans couldn't get enough of news and rumors about his relationship with British model Jerry Hall, for whom he left his wife Bianca Jagger. Paparazzi followed the couple everywhere, resulting in a number of iconic shots, including one where the Rolling Stones frontman flips off the camera while Hall grins. When Mick appeared in Rolling Stone — the magazine, not his band — in 1983, he and Hall had split and gotten back together. "We just broke up for a while," he explained reasonably. Soon, Hall and the rocker had several kids together.

Their relationship lasted through the decade. As the '80s drew to a close, Hall appeared in a joint Vanity Fair piece about the partners of the Stones. The magazine noted that she presided over the musician's staggering six homes, and she helped plan elaborate parties that, on at least one occasion, included hot air balloon rides over the estate for her guests. There was one thing that eluded Hall, however: marriage. A source told Vanity Fair, "Jerry wanted to marry Mick so badly that she used to travel everywhere with an orange blossom and a plastic ring in her suitcase."

Wedding bells finally rang for the couple in 1990. However, their marriage would prove to be short-lived, compared to their extended courtship. Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall had the marriage annulled in 1999, and the two maintained they had never actually been legally married.

Rumors followed Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen

Brigitte Nielsen and Sylvester Stallone were both married to other people when they first met, but that didn't stop them from getting together. A fawning Vanity Fair photoshoot to commemorate their relationship cast them as perfectly sculpted gods among men, beautiful physical specimens that us normal folk could only dream of. In other words, they were the ultimate power couple. "They are the beefcake and cheesecake of the warrior caste," VF wrote, "and when their bodies converge, it makes for a virile thunder." They took that virile thunder to a much-publicized appearance at the White House, where they were photographed partying with Ronald and Nancy Reagan. They also lit up the screen together in "Rocky IV," and according to the Los Angeles Times, they married at producer Irwin Winkler's house.

Tabloids were fascinated by their marriage. According to People, they were plagued by rumors of infidelity, including one particularly salacious headline in The Sun which alleged Stallone's mother had caught Nielsen in bed with a woman. They divorced in 1987, after less than two years. The "Red Sonja" star told Oprah Winfrey that the intense media attention had affected her extended family, like her parents and her son from a previous marriage. "Those are the people that do not deserve that and have nothing to do with that," she said. "And that's why I wish sometimes the press would leave those people alone and contact me if they have a problem."

Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith gave it a second chance

"My life is incredibly lucky and privileged, and the life I led growing up was remarkable," noted nepo baby Dakota Johnson told Vanity Fair in 2022. "But we also struggled with internal family dynamics and situations and events that are so traumatic." In fact, she's the nepo baby who almost wasn't. Her parents, "Miami Vice" star Don Johnson and "Working Girl" Melanie Griffith, were married and divorced already in the decade before Dakota was born. However, they reconnected in the '80s, and their remarriage led to their daughter.

Griffith dealt with a public alcohol addiction, and her ex-husband — then five years sober — said he called and comforted her frequently while she was in rehab. "I think I'm very lucky to have rediscovered a love that was the only true love of my life," he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Griffith confirmed the reunion story in an interview with Vanity Fair, telling the fashion mag, "He told me I could do it. He said he'd support me all the way... I talked to Don a lot while I was in rehab. And I think we fell in love again on the phone." They remarried in 1989 and welcomed Dakota later that same year. 

Their second marriage didn't last, either; they got divorced a second time in the '90s. This time, Don later told Andy Cohen (via TooFab), they remained close in order to raise their daughter.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr.'s young love

Years before she starred in "Sex and the City," Sarah Jessica Parker's love life made major headlines thanks to her relationship with Robert Downey Jr. People reported in 1985 that the couple moved in together a mere eight weeks after their first meeting, while both still teenagers. Fans were fascinated by the relationship, which People framed as the duo "playing house" because they were both still so young. In fact, Parker admitted that she and RDJ would sometimes throw water balloons at their neighbors. She confessed, "It's very immature, I know... but fun." Still, the future "Iron Man" star said that dating the future "Hocus Pocus" actor helped him grow up. "Sarah has made me more practical. She got me an accountant and made me open a bank account," he admitted.

Several years later, their relationship was still going strong. In a 1989 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Downey told the newspaper that their coupledom had settled into an easy partnership where they valued themselves as individuals first. "Lately our relationship has become more therapeutic and less dependent in the negative way. If we feel as whole as we can when we're apart, then when we're together it makes it... well, holy." He said that he expected they would soon raise a family together.

That didn't wind up happening, and the couple split shortly thereafter. Downey later reflected in Parade (via HuffPost), "I was so selfish. I liked to drink, and I had a drug problem."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell are still in it to win it

Against all odds, one power couple from the 1980s has stayed together for decades, still just as in love today as they were in the decade when MTV ruled the airwaves and big hair was everywhere. That couple, of course, is Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, who ruled the box office in hits like "Swing Shift" and "Overboard" just as much as they ruled the fan magazines. Russell recalled their very first date decades later in an interview on Harry Connick Jr.'s short-lived talk show (via Vanity Fair), claiming that the memorable night involved a run-in with police. He took Hawn out dancing, he said, and they decided to head back to a house she had just purchased. She didn't have a key, so they had to break in... attracting the attention of the cops, who found the two in flagrante. "It was a lot of fun, I'll tell you what," Russell told Connick.

Hawn was happy about her relationship, too. "I'm really happy now. I don't know whether or not we'll get married," she said in The Washington Post in 1984. "Neither one of us know. We sort of giggle about it." Perhaps that's the one thing that protected Hawn and Russell from the string of divorces that followed most 1980s power couples: they never did get hitched.

Donald and Ivana Trump's marriage ended in drama

He would go on to be one of the most polarizing Presidents in modern American history, but back in the 1980s, Donald Trump was a tabloid fixture. The businessman made headlines for every new business venture and every romantic dalliance, and in the 1980s, the other half of the Trump power couple was named Ivana. According to a GQ profile from 1984, they met at a party and were married less than a year later. "My wife was the number-one model in Montreal for eight years," he declared to the outlet. His wife, for her part, helped remodel their apartment. She also became involved in her husband's many businesses, according to Vanity Fair, which headlined its Ivana Trump profile "Power Blonde." She ran one of the family's Atlantic City casinos, and she boasted, "Donald calls me his twin as a woman."

The couple were such a gossip mainstay that they went on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 1988. "Ultimately Ivana does exactly as I tell her to do," the Donald explained, while his wife called him a "male chauvinist" in response. Playful banter, or the sign of trouble in the marriage?

When they divorced in 1990, tabloids called it "The Billion Dollar Blowup." "I was in Aspen standing right next to her when she was screaming at Donald about his 'wh***' Marla Maples," a source told People. When Ivana died in 2022, the ex-president had his ex-wife buried on one of his golf courses. Ah, true love.

Mike Tyson and Robin Givens' turbulent courtship

Few couples in the 1980s were quite as scandalous as Mike Tyson and Robin Givens. They met in early 1987, and at first, Givens was excited. "I had never had somebody who just said, 'You're going to be my woman,'" she told Vanity Fair (via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel). "That was exciting. That raw quality about him was appealing." They married in February 1988, and things quickly went wrong. By that fall, the couple appeared in an interview with Barbara Walters, and Tyson admitted to having physically abused Givens. "He gets out of control," Givens confirmed, while Tyson sat next to her on the couch. "Throwing, screaming... He shakes, he pushes, he swings. Sometimes I think he's trying to scare me." If that's what Tyson was going for, it seems to have worked. "Just recently, I've become afraid," the "Head of the Class" star admitted. "I mean, very, very much afraid."

Their tempestuous relationship became tabloid fodder, and the public took Tyson's side. By the end of the marriage's tumultuous year, Givens had been dragged through the mud by the public. As J.E. Vader wrote for Sports Illustrated, "She is the woman America loves to hate, but I don't get it." The pair's acrimonious split played out in the headlines; he said she encouraged him to take drugs, and in response, she sued him for libel, per the AP. They divorced in late 1988, having been married for eight months.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Christie Brinkley and Billy Joel tried to be 'low-key'

In the 1980s, Billy Joel was a piano-playing pop star and Christie Brinkley was one of the world's premiere supermodels. He wrote his hit song "Uptown Girl" about her, though she later admitted to Howard Stern she had no idea who he was when they first met at a party in St. Bart's with other famous faces, including Whitney Houston. They married in 1985 aboard a yacht in the Hudson River. Per the AP, the wedding had 200 guests.

The following year, Billy spoke about all the attention the marriage brought the couple in an interview with Rolling Stone. He bristled at the idea that he had "mellowed out," while also taking issue with the idea that he and Brinkley had some fabulous lifestyle. "it bothered us, because it made us seem as if we were these social butterflies, and we're not like that at all," he said. "We're pretty low-key people. We enjoy very simple things." Brinkley agreed, telling Sports Illustrated that they had to use fake names — Rocky and Sandy Shore — while checking into hotels so that they could avoid the paparazzi. "I had no idea what I was getting into," she said.

They divorced in 1994, but have remained close over the years. They have a daughter together, Alexa Ray Joel, who has followed in her father's musical footsteps. And of course, her parents are proud. When Social Life Magazine asked Brinkley to name her top musicians in 2019, she replied, "Alexa, Joni Mitchell, and Billy Joel."

Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet are still on good terms

Most power couples from the 1980s are no longer together, and the same is true for rocker Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet, the uber-chic star of "The Cosby Show." They divorced in the early '90s, but have remained close ever since, helping raise their daughter Zoë Kravitz even as they both moved on to other partners. "People can't believe... how tight I still am with Zoë's mom, how we all relate. We just do it because that's what you do," Lenny told Men's Health in 2020. "You let love rule, right?"

The seeds of such a friendship were planted early in their courtship, Lenny has said. In his memoir "Let Love Rule," he wrote that he would have been fine just being friends with her even then, as long as they could still spend time together. "I wanted to be around her, whatever form that took," he wrote. "I had no ego in it. I wanted to be in her energy." Still, as they were both early in their careers, Lenny was careful not to let himself be overshadowed by his wife. "I don't want to look like I'm riding her coattails," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I have to make my own way." The newspaper noted that Bonet directed and starred in the music video for Lenny's single "Let Love Rule," and Lenny now credits Bonet with helping give him a leg up.

King Charles III and Princess Diana's royal romance

In the 1980s, no couple was more powerful than the future King Charles III and Princess Diana. According to Vanity Fair, they were first photographed together in 1980, when Diana spent a weekend at Balmoral. The tabloids went crazy, kicking off a decade of frenzied royal-watching; The Sun printed a photo of the couple with the headline "He's In Love Again! Lady Di Is The New Girl For Charles."

Many headlines followed, many of which foreshadowed the couple's doom. Their engagement was announced in February 1981, according to The Sunday Times, and when a reporter asked the prince if he was in love, he replied, "Whatever 'in love' means." Even The New York Times article about the engagement quoted a teary Diana, bemoaning the press that followed her every move. "I know it's just a job they have to do," the Princess of Wales reportedly cried, "but sometimes I do wish they wouldn't."

Princes William and Harry soon arrived, and the marriage ran into trouble. A biography of the future king (via AP) quoted from a letter he wrote in 1986, in which he complained, "How awful incompatibility is, and how dreadfully destructive it can be for the players in this extraordinary drama... I never thought it would end up like this." They separated in 1992; by 1997, Princess Di was killed in a car crash, hounded by the very press she feared during her relationship.

Heather Locklear almost tamed Tommy Lee

Tommy Lee, the bad-boy rocker from Mötley Crüe, spent much of the '80s in a relationship with actor Heather Locklear, then best known for her role on "Dynasty." According to Rolling Stone, they first met at an REO Speedwagon concert. Lee apparently took Locklear's hand and quipped, "Hi, I'm Tommy, nice to touch you." When he called her to ask her out, Locklear realized he mistook her for Heather Thomas, a different television star. "I was confused as to which Heather I'd actually be going out with," he reflected.

The relationship came during a time of change for Lee's band. Accused of getting back to the straight and narrow thanks to his relationship, Lee joked in the Star Tribune, "The guys in my band hate me now... She's good for me. She keeps me in line, put it that way. I definitely have to be on my best charm and guard." Locklear seems to have agreed, laughing to People that the band's reputation didn't concern her. "Tommy doesn't worship the devil, he worships me," she said.

Still, Lee's cheating apparently contributed to their divorce, which took place in the early '90s. Entertainment Weekly quoted Locklear, who was by then starring on "Melrose Place," as being circumspect about the end of her marriage. "I'm not devastated or destroyed," she said. "It's mostly just sad."