Take a Look at the Original Brat Pack Then and Now, Nearly 40 Years After The Breakfast Club

See Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, the unrecognizable Anthony Michael Hall and more.

By Natalie Finn Feb 18, 2024 3:00 PMTags
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Don't worry, we didn't forget about any of them.

It's been almost 40 years since a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal reported for detention at Shermer High in the Chicago suburbs, sacrificing a whole Saturday of their young lives and forming, in the process, The Breakfast Club.

The five principal stars—Emilio Estevez, Molly RingwaldAnthony Michael HallAlly Sheedy and Judd Nelson—of the classic dramedy, written and directed by John Hughes, all ended up as part of "the Brat Pack," a term first prominently used in a 1985 cover story in New York magazine to describe some hot young (male) things who both worked and partied together.

The story referenced more than a few actors breaking out at the time and considered the first "Brat Pack" films to be 1981's Taps (featuring newcomers Sean Penn and Tom Cruise) and 1983's The Outsiders, and to this day there remain a slew of honorary members of the club, including Robert Downey Jr. But the moniker really stuck to the core five in The Breakfast Club and several other familiar faces from Joel Schumacher's St. Elmo's Fire, which also came out in 1985. 

Like it or not.

Remembering John Hughes (1950-2009)

"The media made up this sort of tribe," Andrew McCarthy, star of St. Elmo's Fire and 1986's Pretty in Pink, protested to People in 1999. "I don't think I've seen any of these people since we finished St. Elmo's Fire. I've never met Anthony Michael Hall."

In February 2020, Hall told Page Six that the Brat Pack designation that started with the New York article "never really offended me or anything. It doesn't bother me, but that's where it came from. The joke was, I wasn't even at the interview!"


But no one claimed that they all ran in a pack (McCarthy was notably on the outside of the Elmo's inner circle even then). They were, however, a tribe of actors that (almost all) showed up more than once in these seminal coming-of-age films.

"Brat Pack," itself a play on the 1960s-era Rat Pack, was mainly just a catchy name that stuck. So much so that Vogue came up with a "New Brat Pack" in 2015 consisting of the likes of Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, real-life friends who didn't act together but were growing up in public all the same, aided and abetted by reality TV and/or social media. 

We know all about what the class of 2015 is up to, though. In honor of Ringwald's birthday Feb. 18, let's check in on the class of 1985...

Molly Ringwald

The star of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink was the queen bee of the Brat Pack, and, Ringwald told Entertainment Weekly in 1996, she remembered those days "very fondly."

However, in a 2018 New Yorker essay, she noted that certain scenes in The Breakfast Club wouldn't fly in the post-#MeToo era. "I worried that [my daughter] would find aspects of it troubling," she wrote, "but I hadn't anticipated that it would ultimately be most troubling to me."

The 1980s were the height of her in-demand period, and included roles in The Pickup Artist with Robert Downey Jr. and the teen pregnancy drama For Keeps?, while her 1990s highlights included Betsy's Wedding, the 1994 miniseries adaptation of The Stand and Teaching Mrs. Tingle.

In 2008, Ringwald switched into parental mode on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, playing the mother of Shailene Woodley's pregnant teen Amy. She then moved to a recurring role on Riverdale as Archie Andrews' mom, and played Noah and Lee's mom in the hit teen rom-com franchise The Kissing Booth on Netflix.

In real life she's mom to three children with her second husband, Panio Gianopoulos.

Emilio Estevez

New York magazine deemed The Breakfast Club's jock the unofficial president (and treasurer, because he was the one most likely to pick up the tab) of the Brat Pack. Estevez—he also starred in St. Elmo's Fire as Kirby, who pines away for a med student outside of the main clique (played by Andie MacDowell)—had already made a name for himself as one of the hot up-and-comers in The Outsiders. He followed that up with Repo Man before he taped anyone's buns together and ended up in detention. 

"I'll bet if you asked everyone in the cast who their best friend is, they'd all say Emilio," St. Elmo's Fire director Joel Schumacher said. "He's that kind of guy." (For instance, Estevez was Tom Cruise's best man when the Risky Business star married Mimi Rogers in 1987.)

In 1985, Estevez had written the script for the movie that would become the 1990 comedy thriller Men at Work, which he also directed and starred in with brother Charlie Sheen

He notably starred in Young Guns and its sequel plus the three-film The Mighty Ducks franchise, but he has mainly swapped acting to go behind the camera. He directed his father, Martin Sheen, in The War at Home, and wrote and directed BobbyThe Way and 2018's The Public, which also included his first turn in front of the camera in almost a decade.

Estevez has a son and daughter with ex-girlfriend Carey Salley, and he was married to Paula Abdul from 1992 until 1994.

Demi Moore

Georgetown grad Jules in St. Elmo's Fire is having an affair with her married boss, never a good idea. But at least she has the love of her friends to get her through. This is the only "Brat Pack" film that Moore was in, but the affiliation stuck—perhaps in part because she dated co-star Estevez for awhile.

The author of the scintillating memoir Inside Out went on to star in a slew of films, including GhostG.I. JaneNow & ThenIndecent Proposal and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, and she earned what at the time was the highest-ever paycheck for a female actor when she was paid $12.5 million for 1996's Striptease. Moore was in the Peacock drama Brave New World and the Amazon miniseries Dirty Diana.

Moore has three daughters—Rumer, Scout and Tallulah—with ex-husband Bruce Willis, who she remains close with. She was also married to Ashton Kutcher from 2005 until 2013, though they separated in 2011.

Rob Lowe

Also one and done in the Pack with St. Elmo's Fire (though he and Moore reunited immediately in the Edward Zwick-directed About Last Night), Lowe's flourishing career and indelible performance in the 1990 thriller Bad Influence took a hit after his sex tape debacle (he agreed to 20 hours of community service and he wasn't charged). Pals with Lorne Michaels, he had stand-out comedic turns in Wayne's World and Tommy Boy, then joined the cast of The Stand (with Ringwald), playing deaf and mute Nick Andros.

Playing speechwriter Sam Seaborn in The West Wing proved to be the real start of his second chapter in 1999, and Lowe has been all over TV ever since, including standout roles in Brothers and SistersCalifornication and Parks and Recreation, as well as a critically acclaimed, almost unrecognizable turn playing Liberace's plastic surgeon in Behind the Candelabra. He starred in a number of series that didn't last more than one season, such as the legal comedy The Grinder and the hospital drama Code Black, before joining the sprawling Ryan Murphy empire as the star of 911: Lone Star. He also hosts the podcast Literally! With Rob Lowe.

Lowe is the father of two sons, Matthew and John Owen, with his wife since 1991, Sheryl Berkoff.

Judd Nelson

He was the ultimate bad boy John Bender in The Breakfast Club and a burgeoning Republican yuppie who's ready to settle down and marry girlfriend Leslie (Ally Sheedy) in St. Elmo's Fire.

In 1985, he was in the running for the role of cocaine-addled yuppie Tad Allaghash in the big-screen adaptation of Jay McInerney's très '80s novel Bright Lights, Big City, to co-star with Cruise as a similarly cocaine-addled magazine fact-checker who's second-guessing his choices—but the roles ended up going to Kiefer Sutherland and Michael J. Fox, respectively.

No doubt the 1980s were Nelson's leading-man-type heydays, but he has never stopped acting, with highlights including a Golden Globe nomination for the 1988 miniseries Billionaire Boys Club and playing the slick record executive in Airheads, Brooke Shields' boss on Suddenly Susan (which he left after co-star David Strickland's death by suicide in 1999) and a shady label executive who's a rival to Terrence Howard's Lucious Lyon on Empire.

Nelson played the father of his Billionaire Boys Club character Joe Hunt in the 2018 feature-film adaptation of the same name, and more recent film credits include Santa FakeIceland Is Best and Electric Jesus.

Andrew McCarthy

McCarthy played adrift Georgetown University grad Kevin in St. Elmo's Fire—and then, in Pretty in Pink, rich, popular high school senior Blane, who falls for Ringwald's outcast-because-she's-not-rich-and-makes-her-own-clothes Andie.

After that it was onto a window dresser whose muse comes to life in Mannequin and a disaffected college student in Less Than Zero (also with Robert Downey Jr. and Pretty in Pink co-star James Spader, both considered Brat Pack-adjacent), but it's Weekend at Bernie's that's rewatched endlessly today.

McCarthy's film highlights after the 1980s included The Joy Luck Club and Mulholland Falls, and he starred on numerous shows that only lasted one season, such Lipstick Jungle. But he also leaned into theater (he was in Long Day's Journey Into Night when he told People that the Brat Pack wasn't a real thing) and has become a busy director, working on Gossip GirlOrange Is the New BlackThe BlacklistThe Sinner and Good Girls.

He is also, fun fact, an award-winning travel writer—so if you see the "Andrew McCarthy" byline in The New York TimesTravel + Leisure or Bon Appetit, that's the same guy—and he authored a YA novel, Just Fly Away.

McCarthy has a son from his first marriage to college sweetheart Carol Schneider, and a daughter with Dolores Rice, his wife since 2011.

Anthony Michael Hall

From dweeb in Sixteen Candles to more estimable nerds in The Breakfast Club and Weird Science, Hall did have his niche in the John Hughes world (including as Ringwald's real-life boyfriend for a short while)—so it was weird to see him as the cruel bully in Edward Scissorhands

First, however, Hall became the youngest-ever ensemble member of Saturday Night Live when he joined the cast in 1985 at age 17. He only stayed for one season, but acted steadily in small roles through the 1990s before playing Microsoft founder Bill Gates in the much-talked-about TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley.

Hall is the only member of the Brat Pack who ended up unrecognizable in an all-grown-up way when he resurfaced as Gates, and then starred in the USA supernatural drama The Dead Zone, based on the Stephen King novel, from 2002 until 2007. Film highlights include The Dark KnightFoxcatcherLive by Night with Ben Affleck and War Machine with Brad Pitt, and he popped up as Principal Featherhead on Riverdale (with Ringwald) and in a recurring role as a security guard on The Goldbergs.

As for his onetime girlfriend Ringwald, Hall told Page Six in February 2020, "She's wonderful, a great lady. We've been friends since and I've seen her over the years."

Hall doesn't have kids but he is the godfather of Downey's eldest son, Indio. The actor married longtime girlfriend Lucia Oskerova in 2020.

Ally Sheedy

Sheedy was already a veteran actress by the time she played high school "basket case" Allison in The Breakfast Club and college grad Leslie in St. Elmo's Fire.

In a 2010 interview with NPR's Weekend Edition, Sheedy recalled thinking, "I'm finally popular with these guys. I was not popular in high school. I have some real friends. And we get to work. I was just blissfully happy. And I really do love those people."

Sheedy starred in the 1986 comedy Short Circuit (her acting was singled out by the New York Times) and played John Candy's love interest in the 1992 comedy Only the Lonely, but she put acting on the back burner to raise her daughter with now ex-husband David Lansbury (Angela's nephew).

Also in the 1990s, she battled a pill addiction, a real-life experience she mined to play an addict in the acclaimed 1998 indie drama High Art

TV appearances have included OzThe Dead Zone (with Hall), CSIKyle XY and Pysch, plus she appeared in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, Welcome to the Rileys with Kristen Stewart and James Gandolfini, and X-Men: Apocalypse.

Sheedy was a bridesmaid at Moore's wedding to Willis. She remains close to Ringwald, who told Extra in 2019, "I'm really good friends with Ally Sheedy...we'll, like, text for hours."

(Originally published Feb. 15, 2020, at 3 a.m. PT)