Brat Pack

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The Brat Pack is a nickname given to a group of young actors who frequently appeared together in teen-oriented coming-of-age films in the 1980s. The term "Brat Pack", a play on the Rat Pack from the 1950s and 1960s, was first popularized in a 1985 New York magazine cover story, which described a group of highly successful film stars in their early twenties.[1] David Blum wrote the article after witnessing several young actors being mobbed by groupies at Los Angeles' Hard Rock Cafe.[2] The group has been characterized by the partying of members such as Robert Downey, Jr., Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, and Judd Nelson.[3]


An appearance in one or both of the ensemble casts of two specific films released in 1985—John Hughes's The Breakfast Club and Joel Schumacher's St. Elmo's Fire—is often considered the prerequisite for being a core Brat Pack member.[4][5][6] With this criterion, the most commonly cited members include:[7][8][9][10][11]

Absent from most lists is Mare Winningham, the only principal member of either cast who never starred in any other films with any other cast members.[12] Estevez was cited as the "unofficial president" of the Brat Pack.[1] He and Demi Moore were once engaged. In 1999, McCarthy said he was never a member of the group: "The media made up this sort of tribe. I don't think I've seen any of these people since we finished St. Elmo's Fire."[13]

The initial New York article covered a group of actors larger, or more inclusive, than the currently understood meaning of the term "Brat Pack". For example, he mentions cast members of Taps, including Tom Cruise and Timothy Hutton.[1] Charlie Sheen appears in several lists – more for his family relationship to Emilio Estevez and his partying than for his film work with other members.[12]

James Spader and Robert Downey Jr. have also been considered members, and performed alongside other Brat Packers: both of them with Andrew McCarthy in Less than Zero;[14] Spader with McCarthy in Mannequin and Pretty in Pink, with Lowe in Bad Influence, and with Ringwald in Pretty in Pink; and Downey with Anthony Michael Hall (Weird Science and Johnny Be Good; and the cast of Saturday Night Live) and with Molly Ringwald (The Pick-up Artist). Other actors who have been linked with the group include Kevin Bacon, Matthew Broderick, Jon Cryer, John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Nicolas Cage, Jami Gertz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Sean Penn, Kiefer Sutherland, and Lea Thompson.[2][7][9] In her autobiography, Melissa Gilbert connects herself with the Brat Pack, as her social life centered on Estevez and Lowe (each of whom she was engaged to at different times). Through frequent collaborative work, the actor Harry Dean Stanton, then in his late 50s, became a mentor for the group of young actors.[3]


David Blum's New York story, titled "Hollywood's Brat Pack", ran on June 10, 1985. It was originally supposed to be just about Emilio Estevez, but one night, Estevez invited Blum to hang out with him, Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson, and others at the Hard Rock Cafe. It was a typical night out for the group, who had gotten close while filming St. Elmo's Fire. That night, Blum decided to change the article's focus to an entire group of young actors at the time. The St. Elmo's Fire crew members did not like Blum and sensed that he was jealous of the actors' success.[15]

When the piece ran, the actors all felt betrayed, especially Estevez. The article mentioned people in several films but focused on Estevez, Lowe, and Nelson, and portrayed those three negatively. The "Brat Pack" label, which the actors disliked, stuck for years afterward.[16][17] Before the article ran, they had been regarded as talented individuals; after the article, all of them were grouped together and regarded as unprofessional. Interviewed for Susannah Gora's 2010 book You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, And Their Impact on a Generation, Blum admitted that he should not have written the article.[18]

With the increased negative attention to them, the actors soon stopped socializing with one another. On the group's camaraderie, Ally Sheedy later said the article "just destroyed it. I had felt truly a part of something, and that guy just blew it to pieces."[19]


During the late 1980s, several of the Brat Pack actors had their careers mildly derailed by problems relating to drugs, alcohol, and in Lowe's case, a sex tape.[13] According to Susannah Gora, "Many believe they could have gone on to more serious roles if not for that article. They were talented. But they had professional difficulties, personal difficulties after that."[20] By the 21st century, the term "Brat Pack" had lost its negative connotation.[21]

The films themselves have been described as representative of "the socially apathetic, cynical, money-possessed and ideologically barren eighties generation."[14][22] They made frequent use of adolescent archetypes, were often set in the suburbs surrounding Chicago, and focused on middle-class teenage angst.[7][8] According to author Susannah Gora, these films "changed the way many young people looked at everything from class distinction to friendship, from love to sex and fashion to music." They are considered "among the most influential pop cultural contributions of their time."[23]

In 2012, Entertainment Weekly listed The Breakfast Club as the best high school movie ever made.[24] On VH1's list of the 100 greatest teen stars, Molly Ringwald was ranked No. 1, Rob Lowe was ranked No. 2, Anthony Michael Hall was ranked No. 4, Ally Sheedy was ranked No. 34, and Andrew McCarthy was ranked No. 40.[25][26]

In 2020, Estevez expressed frustration at the persistence of the "Brat Pack" name, saying "That [term] will be on my tombstone ... It's annoying because Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Matt Damon have worked together more than any of us have. We just made two movies and somehow it morphed into something else."[27]


Beyond the two primary films, there is no generally accepted list of "Brat Pack" movies. While Blum's article credits Taps as the first Brat Pack movie,[1] the list of movies below represents the more traditional filmography, with each movie including at least two core members in starring roles:

Movie Actor
Emilio Estevez Anthony Michael Hall Rob Lowe Andrew McCarthy Demi Moore Judd Nelson Molly Ringwald Ally Sheedy Close contributors
The Outsiders
Keith "Two-Bit" Mathews Patrick "Sodapop" Curtis Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio
Franklin "Skip" Burroughs IV Jonathan Ogner John Cusack
Sixteen Candles
"Farmer Ted" (credited as "the Geek") Samantha Baker John Cusack, Jami Gertz
Oxford Blues
Nick De Angelo Rona
The Breakfast Club
Andrew Clark Brian Johnson John Bender Claire Standish Allison Reynolds
St. Elmo's Fire
Kirby Keager Billy Hicks Kevin Dolenz Julianna "Jules" Van Patten Alec Newbury Leslie Hunter Mare Winningham
Pretty in Pink
Blane McDonnagh Andie Walsh Jon Cryer, James Spader
Blue City
Billy Turner Annie Rayford
About Last Night...
Danny Martin Debbie Sullivan
John Wisdom Karen Simmons Charlie Sheen (uncredited cameo)
Fresh Horses
Matt Larkin Jewel
Betsy's Wedding
Betsy Connie

Other 1980s films, many with similar coming-of-age themes, that starred only one core Brat Pack actor with one or more close contributors include:

Some films have been dubbed "Brat Pack movies" despite having no stars from the core membership, including 1984's Red Dawn[28] with C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Grey,[29] Charlie Sheen, Harry Dean Stanton, Patrick Swayze, and Lea Thompson, 1986's Ferris Bueller's Day Off[12] which starred Matthew Broderick with Grey and Sheen in supporting roles and 1987's The Lost Boys with Kiefer Sutherland and Jami Gertz in key roles.

Later acting careers[edit]

Many of the Brat Pack members have continued to act past the 1980s.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Blum, David (June 10, 1985). "Hollywood's Brat Pack". New York. pp. 40–47.
  2. ^ a b Mansour, David. From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2005), p. 56.
  3. ^ a b Pulver, Andrew; Steven Paul Davies (December 15, 2000). "The year of the brat". The Guardian. Retrieved March 19, 2008.
  4. ^ Fine, Marshall (October 24, 1993). "Remember the Brat Pack? Well, Now That They're Grown Up...". Los Angeles Times. p. 20.
  5. ^ Pulver, Andrew; Steven Paul Davies (2000). Brat Pack: Confidential. B T Batsford. ISBN 978-0-7134-8685-8. Archived from the original on February 19, 2008.
  6. ^ Eaton, Andrew (January 20, 2007). "For a short time they were on fire, then they vanished into obscurity. Whatever happened to the Brat Pack of the 1980s?". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved March 28, 2008.
  7. ^ a b c Lurie, Karen (2002). "Brat Pack". St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture.
  8. ^ a b Horwitz, Laura (2005). "The Brat Pack: 80's Icons". 6 Degrees Film. Archived from the original on December 8, 2008. Retrieved March 28, 2008.
  9. ^ a b Currie, Jamie (2003). "The Brat Pack Site". Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  10. ^ "The Brat Pack". The E! True Hollywood Story.
  11. ^ Earnshaw, Helen (July 18, 2008). "What Happened to the Brat Pack?". Teen First. Retrieved August 15, 2008.
  12. ^ a b c Pulver, Andrew; Davies, Steven Paul. "Brat Pack Confidential: The Players". Brat Pack Confidential. Archived from the original on April 9, 2008. Retrieved March 19, 2008.
  13. ^ a b Miller, Samantha and Jewel, Dan. "Brat Race". People. April 19, 1999.
  14. ^ a b Manning, Jason (2000). "13. The Brat Pack". Material Things. The Eighties Club. Archived from the original on November 21, 2015. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  15. ^ Gora, Susannah (2010). You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, And Their Impact on a Generation. Three Rivers Press. pp. 106–119.
  16. ^ "Actor Andrew McCarthy Is Bitter About Brat Pack Past". Observer. August 30, 1999. Retrieved May 23, 2016.
  17. ^ "The Reason Judd Nelson Hated The Brat Pack Label". October 6, 2015. Retrieved May 23, 2016.
  18. ^ Gora, Susannah (2010). You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried. Three Rivers Press. pp. 117–128, 289–291, 336.
  19. ^ Gora, Susannah (2010). You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried. Three Rivers Press. p. 128.
  20. ^ Wilson, Craig. "John Hughes and the Brat Pack, revisited". February 16, 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  21. ^ Gora, Susannah (2010). You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried. Three Rivers Press. p. 332.
  22. ^ Bullock, Saxon (September 2004). "Don't You Forget About Me". Originally published in DVD Review. Archived from the original on September 5, 2008. Retrieved August 15, 2008. ...ended up representing both the best and worst of the ambitious, materialistic 'Me' generation.
  23. ^ Gora, Susannah. You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation (Random House, Inc., 2010), p. 3.
  24. ^ "50 Best High School Movies". September 22, 2012. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  25. ^ "100 Greatest Teen Stars #'s 20-1". Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  26. ^ "100 Greatest Teen Stars #'s 40-21". Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  27. ^ Freeman, Hadley (January 10, 2020). "Emilio Estevez: 'Brat Pack will be on my tombstone'". Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  28. ^ Bullock, Saxon (September 2004). "Don't You Forget About Me". Originally published in DVD Review. Archived from the original on September 5, 2008. Retrieved November 12, 2008.
  29. ^ Ward, Rachel (November 5, 2011). "Jennifer Grey: where has she been?". The Daily Telegraph.
  30. ^ Briscoe, Jake (January 11, 2017). "What Happened to Molly Ringwald". The Gazette Review. Minneapolis, Minn. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  31. ^ a b "Whatever happened to the Breakfast Club?". NewsComAu. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  32. ^ "'Pretty in Pink' turns 30: Here are 17 surprising facts about the '80s classic".

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