'80s Stars Who Completely Disappeared

Stranger Things. Mirrored sunglasses. The Americans. Pegged jeans. San Junipero. Synth scores. The reboot of every name brand '80s television show and movie ever made. Donald Trump. Eighties nostalgia is back, baby, and the cultural fixation on the decade that brought us slap bracelets and the mixtape shows no signs of slowing down.

The decade also launched the careers of actors, some hailed as "next big thing," who eventually saw their last significant role go out the door of a Blockbuster Video, but have you ever wondered where some of the most prominent '80s stars are today? There are quite a few from that neon-drenched era who have seemingly disappeared into obscurity. Some for personal reasons. Others due to their marketability going the way of the Trapper Keeper. If you're wondering what happened to the people in those '80s flicks you know and love, here are some who completely disappeared faster than a Walkman.

Phoebe Cates

The textbook definition of the '80s "girl next door," Phoebe Cates brought the cute to such classics as Gremlins and Drop Dead Fred, but it was her role in 1983's Fast Times at Ridgemont High that made her a star. Wait, it wasn't her role exactly, it was one scene. The pool scene. You know the one. 

Six years later, she married actor Kevin Kline, retired from acting in 1994, and now owns and operates a high-end boutique called Blue Tree on Manhattan's fancy Upper East Side. Sounds expensive. She caught the acting bug again in 2001 and stepped in front of the camera for the independent comedy-drama The Anniversary Party. The director? Jennifer Jason Leigh, her best friend since Fast Times

We'd also like to point out that she looked the same in both movies: gorgeous. Further investigation is required to determine if Cates is an immortal vampire. What doesn't she want us to know? What is Kline hiding? 

Emilio Estevez

As one-fifth of the brain, beauty, jock, rebel, and recluse, Emilio Estevez shot to fame in 1985's The Breakfast Club, forever cementing himself as part of a movie that transformed the way teen dramas were made and marketed. His next prominent role was his turn as the horrible Coach Bombay in The Mighty Ducks, but since D3: The Mighty Ducks in 1996, his film career has floundered. That is, unless you count third-billing on an animated made-for-television holiday movie called Abominable Christmas as not floundering. 

Estevez did write, direct, and produce Bobby, the film about the assassination of Robert Kennedy that received horrible reviews, but other than that, his career never reached the levels of his more famous father. Apocalypse Now, anyone? Estevez also managed to get overshadowed by his brother, Charlie Sheen. That would be difficult to overcome even if you injected yourself with tiger blood. 

Jeff Cohen

Admit it, you've done the Truffle Shuffle recently. You can be honest with us. Live your truth. However, who might not be shuffling now is Jeff Cohen, who popularized the iconic dance while playing Chunk, the body positive prankster in the 1985 cult hit The Goonies

His career post-Goonies was bleak, but he slimmed down, earned a law degree, and co-founded the Beverly Hills entertainment law firm, Cohen & Gardner. He even has a side hustle writing about business, legal, and political op-eds for The Huffington Post and CNBC. Cohen probably does a lot of dancing on his way to the bank. 

Now going by the more fancy, Jeff B. Cohen, Esq., the child actor-turned-attorney digs his new life. "I get to go to the parties, but I don't have to audition," he told the American Bar Association Journal. His clients seem to dig it as well. "Having Chunk as your attorney? That's pretty cool." Pretty cool, indeed. 

Kirk Cameron

Kirk Cameron. Where do we start? His poster covered nearly every teenage girl's wall thanks to his time as girl-chasing, trouble-making Mike Seaver on the hit ABC sitcom Growing Pains. During the show's latter seasons, Cameron became a born-again Christian and insisted that story lines be stripped of anything he deemed "too adult or racy." 

He's now an evangelical Christian focusing on faith-based projects such as 2008's Fireproof and 2015's Saving ChristmasHe's also a minister and runs his own religious organization called Way of the Master. In 2017, he suggested that Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma weren't merely storm systems. He then proceeded to read Job 37:13, the biblical passage stating that God "causes [storms] to happen for punishment, or to water his land and demonstrate his faithful love." We bet he's fun at parties.

Bonus trivia time: Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt appeared in 26 episodes of Growing Pains between them. They did not appear in Fireproof or Saving Christmas.

Claudia Wells

We all remember the lovely Claudia Wells as Marty McFly's supportive girlfriend Jennifer Parker in the '80s classic Back to the Future. Unfortunately for Wells, that's the only place we remember her. After the film's astronomical success, she starred in the television adaptation of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, taking over the role made famous by Phoebe CatesCBS canceled it after seven episodes. 

Her career pretty much died out after that, but she he did lend her voice to Back to the Future: The Game and has appeared in a few television series here and there, including The Mentalist and The Comeback Kids. She now owns a men's clothing store called Armani Wells in Studio City, Calif.

However, life is good on the convention circuit, where Wells meets Back to the Future fans around the globe. When they realize who she is, their reaction is always the same. "They blush, and then they're like, 'I always wanted to meet you — you were my dream girlfriend,'" she told People. "I wish I'd known that in high school."

Andrew McCarthy

Making his film debut in Class, Andrew McCarthy quickly became Hollywood's go-to nice guy in the '80s, starring in such decade-defining flicks as MannequinWeekend at Bernie'sPretty in PinkLess Than Zero, and St. Elmo's Fire. He spent the '90s appearing in a slew of unforgettable television movies, and the early 2000s saw him guest star in Law & OrderRoyal Pains, and Gossip Girl.

But in the 2010's, McCarthy's career surged from the director's chair. Helming episodes of Gossip Girl, The Blacklist, and Alpha House, McCarthy found his groove, directing eleven episodes of the Emmy Award-winning series Orange is the New Black. For McCarthy, being behind the camera was just a natural progression. "There's certain [a] camaraderie that I already have built in with an actor," he told Deadline. "You just want to create an ally, and you want to make the environment as good as possible so they can do as well as they can do."

Fun fact: McCarthy's son, Sam, starred in the 2018 indie film All These Small Moments. The actor playing his mother? Molly Ringwald, McCarthy's love interest in Pretty in Pink. Insert mind blown dot gif.

Rick Moranis

Rick Moranis starred in some of the most iconic '80s movies of all time. He was the original unemployed slacker in Strange Brew, the sweet and insecure Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, the villainous and inept Dark Helmet in Spaceballs, and as struggling inventor Wayne Szalinski in the once highest-grossing live-action Disney film ever, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Not to mention, Moranis stole the show in Ghostbusters, a film starring three comedy giants. Oh, and he was part of the ensemble cast of the critically-acclaimed Parenthood.

Moranis had his choice of any project he wanted, but in 1997, his wife, Ann, tragically passed away after a battle with breast cancer. Moranis hasn't been seen on the screen since. He turned his focus to raising their two young children. "I took a break, which turned into a longer break," he told The Hollywood Reporter. He isn't officially retired and says that if a role comes along "that piques my interest, I'll probably do it." Here's to hoping. 

Jami Gertz

Chances are if you were alive in the '80s, you had a crush on Jamie Gertz. Whether it be on television in Square Pegs, or on the big screen in Crossroads, Less Than Zero, Sixteen Candles and Quicksilver, Gertz was the doe-eyed brunette you wanted to ask to the dance. Then came The Lost Boys, and you may have wanted to up that offer to a marriage proposal. It was in that movie that Gertz appeared in what might be the most '80s scene of all time.

Gertz kicked off the '90s by turning down the role of Monica Geller in Friends. (Let that sink in for a moment.) She then went on to appear in an episode of Seinfeld ("can't spare a square"and had a recurring role as Dr. Nina Pomerantz in the 1997 season of ER. The 2000's welcomed a five-episode arch on Ally McBeal and four seasons on the CBS sitcom Still Standing

She doesn't need to worry about acting paying the bills anymore, because in 2015, she became a minority owner of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. She made her return to the small screen in 2018, when she represented the Hawks at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Rick Astley

Rick Astley's  No. 1 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up" dominated the radio in 1987, and when people tuned into MTV, they discovered that soulful voice belonged to a 20-year-old ginger from the UK. Bow down to your forefather, Ed Sheeran. Six years and 40 million albums sold later, Astley retired from the music business.

He told Sunday Express, "I had a huge amount of money and fame, and that's not very good for someone of that age." The singer said that level of success "distorts everyone's view of you and clouds your own judgment." He added, "Suddenly, I could have anything I wanted, and I was almost embarrassed by that. It made me feel uncomfortable." Are you reading this, Justin Bieber?

Then 2007 happened: Rickrolling unexpectedly introduced Astley to a whole new generation. He remains a good sport about it and (per Rolling Stone) realizes "there's no getting away from it." When asked if he felt the internet meme made him appear stupid, Astley replied, "I mean I look pretty stupid anyway in that video."

Alan Ruck

Forever known as Cameron Frye, the hypochondriac best friend in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Alan Ruck has worked steadily over the years — you just might not recognize him. Ruck managed to nab small roles in a few '90's blockbusters such as Young Guns IISpeed, and Twister before turning his sights to television. After a couple of flops, he found a home, appearing in 140 episodes of the Michael J. Fox political sitcom Spin City

It's been television ever since: Scrubs, Psych, Burn Notice, Ghost Whisperer, Stargate Atlantis, Justified, Fringe, Hawaii Five-O, Masters of Sex, CSI, and NCIS: Los Angeles, and a whole lot more. Pick a show; Ruck has probably been in it. In 2016, he joined The Exorcist as a series regular. Say what you will about Ruck's career, but his Ferris co-star, Matthew Broderick, once did that horrible Godzilla movie. That's what Ferris gets for wrecking Cameron's dad's car.

Kelly McGillis

After receiving a Golden Globe nomination starring alongside Harrison Ford in Witness, Kelly McGillis went on to become Tom Cruise's favorite astrophysicist and civilian flight instructor, Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood, in the mega-hit Top Gun. She hit it big again in 1988, playing Assistant District Attorney Kathryn Murphy in The Accused (her co-star, Jodie Foster, won the best actress Oscar). Then...not much else: a stint on The L Word, a lot of stage work, and a juicy role in the criminally underrated 2011 vampire flick Stake Land.

McGillis made headlines in 2009 when asked by an interviewer if she was looking to date a man or woman. She replied, "Definitely a woman." Calling it her "moment of truth," McGillis officially came out as a lesbian. "[A reporter] asked me the question and I thought, hmm, do I say the truth, or do I just say, it's none of your business, which is my standard answer?" she told People. "I said you know, I'm just going to say the truth."

In 2016, tragedy struck. McGillis, now living in North Carolina, was the victim of a home invasion. Her attacker, a woman with a child, was charged with second-degree burglary, misdemeanor larceny, misdemeanor stalking, assault, and battery, reported USA Today

Ralph Macchio

Wax on, wax off. Sweep the leg. Fear does not exist in this dojo, does it? Not since 1984, sensei. Star of the very '80s The Karate Kid trilogy, we assume Ralph Macchio can't go anywhere without someone asking him to block a kick like his character, Daniel LaRusso.

Macchio found success again with the comedy hit My Cousin Vinny, and he appeared in several episodes of Ugly Betty, but he never quite escaped his past as the Jersey boy turned California karate master. Set 30 years after the memorable events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament, Macchio reprised the role in the 2018 YouTube Red series, Cobra Kai, where Daniel squares off again against Johnny Lawrence. 

Saying the show "pays homage to the legacy," Macchio was happy to put on the iconic headband again for one more fight. He told Deadline, "Those films, whether I look back at them or not, they follow me around everywhere I go, in a good way. Generations have embraced this movie. It's become a slice of everyone's childhood, so I feel that this is the fans' show, just like I feel the film has become the fans' movie."

Haviland Morris

We'll keep this simple. You know Haviland Morris from Sixteen Candles. That's pretty much it. If you're going to be known for an '80s movie, you might as well be known for the '80s movie. She followed that up with Madonna's Who's That GirlGremlins 2: The New Batch, and Home Alone 3, but you don't remember Morris in those unless you're an '80s film historian, and if that's the case, we apologize.

The '90's was a little bare, but in the 2000s, the television gigs came fast and often. Morris played Dr. Claire Baxter on the daytime soap One Life to Live for three seasons and even hit the rare Dick Wolf trifecta with spots on Law & OrderLaw & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Appearances on One Tree Hill, The Good Wife, Blue Bloods, and Elementary kept her acting dream alive until she decided to set course on a new career path: real estate agent. Seriously. 

Morris is a licensed associate real estate broker with NYC's Halstead Properties. She even took home its "Rookie of the Year" award. 

Jennifer Grey

The year 1984 seemed like the start of a long career for Jennifer Grey. Making her film debut in Reckless, she had a small role in Francis Ford Coppola's The Cotton Club, then finished the year off with the teen war film Red Dawn. Not bad. Two years later, she played the jealous sister in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but it was in 1987 that Grey became a household name as Frances "Baby" Houseman in Dirty Dancing. The film was an astronomical success, but Grey was unable to enjoy her newfound stardom. 

Two weeks before the film's release, Grey and her then-boyfriend, Matthew Broderick, were involved in a head-on collision in Northern Ireland that killed a mother and daughter in the other vehicle. Suffering from "survivor's guilt," she told People that everything changed after that day. "My body was never the same, my head was never the same, my ambition was never the same."

In the early '90s, Grey underwent two rhinoplasty procedures that changed her appearance so much it effectively ended her career. "I went in the operating [room] a celebrity — and come out anonymous. It was like being in a witness protection program or being invisible," she told People (via Contact Music). She added, "I'll always be this once-famous actress nobody recognizes...because of a nose job."

With a little cosmic help from Patrick Swayze, Grey won the 11th season of Dancing with the Stars. She married Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Clark Gregg in 2001.