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Growing up in the 1980s: Your guide to the Brat Pack movies

PUBLISHED: 09:44 07 April 2019 | UPDATED: 10:21 07 April 2019

Pretty in Pink (1986). Photo: Paramount Pictures/IMDB

Pretty in Pink (1986). Photo: Paramount Pictures/IMDB

Paramount Pictures/IMDB

Want to know who's pretty in pink or what Ferris Bueller did on his day off? Here's The Heaven guide to the must see Brat Pack movies

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986). Photo: Paramount Pictures/IMDBFerris Bueller's Day Off (1986). Photo: Paramount Pictures/IMDB

Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) Starring: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates

Fast Times was a spring board to success for a plethora of actors and actresses. Sean Penn, as Jeff the stoner dude, really impresses and steals the show while other big names in the film include Forrest Whittaker, Nicolas Cage, Anthony Edwards and Eric Stoltz. Often billed as a teen comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High is funnier and has more depth than your average teen movie like the superficial American Pie. It was one of the first teen comedies to treat teenage pregnancy in a sensitive and thoughtful manner and it touches on other topics that teens are concerned with - for example, the dilemma of what you are going to do with your life and living up to other people’s expectations of you.

The Outsiders (1983) starring: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane

Sixteen Candles (1984). Photo: Universal Pictures/IMDBSixteen Candles (1984). Photo: Universal Pictures/IMDB

One of the first Brat Pack films and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The rivalry between two gangs, the poor Greasers and the rich Socs, only heats up when one gang member kills a member of the other. A film with a ridiculous number of star names – although this appeared before they were famous. The film, based on a book by SE Hinton, has a lot to say about loyalty and friendship among kids. The acting is wonderful and the film still stands the test of time as a moving drama about teenage troubles.

Sixteen Candles (1984) starring: Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Justin Henry, Anthony Michael Hall, John Cusack

Amazingly, John Hughes, the so-called architect of the Brat Pack movies, didn’t get into the director’s chair until the third movie in this unofficial teen-genre. Sixteen Candles is a gentle teen comedy powered by a great idea. It marked the screen debut of Molly Ringwald as Samantha - a girl who has just turned sixteen. Unfortunately, nobody in her family has remembered because her older sister is getting married the day after her birthday. Sixteen Candles is a down to earth comedy that appeals to both younger and older viewers.The soundtrack is pure 1980s retro, which of course is another reason to tune into this charming film.

The Breakfast Club (1985). Photo: Universal Pictures/KissThemGoodbyeThe Breakfast Club (1985). Photo: Universal Pictures/KissThemGoodbye

The Breakfast Club (1985) starring: Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall

One of the films that define the genre. The Breakfast Club followed the lives of a group of disparate students who have nothing in common except that they meet up in school for a Saturday morning detention. They all belong to different social cliques - Claire is a spoilt princess, John is an anti-authority rule breaker, Andrew is the high-school sports jock, Allison is an eccentric and Brian is a brainy nerd. The assistant principal assigns them a 1000 word essay on who they are, so they get Brian to write an essay to challenge the school’s view of them. John Hughes understands the teenage mind and never patronises his characters. At their core, they are all likeable beings thanks to a terrific ensemble cast who share great chemistry.

St Elmo's Fire (1985). Photo: Columbia Pictures/IMDBSt Elmo's Fire (1985). Photo: Columbia Pictures/IMDB

St Elmo’s Fire (1985) starring: Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Mare Winningham

If The Breakfast Club dealt with rebels who were basically nice kids, St Elmo’s Fire does the opposite. It deals with a bunch of recent Georgetown University graduates and it chronicles their transition from college years into adulthood. The characters are fairly obnoxious (Demi Moore, for example, plays a self obsessed, flirtatious and self destructive woman) but Joel Schumacher’s movie has something perceptive to say about the self-destructive nature of the 1980s generation. It is for this reason that St Elmo’s Fire endures as an absorbing and entertaining film.

Pretty In Pink (1986) starring: Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer, James Spader, Andrew McCarthy

Want to know how versatile the basic set-up behind Romeo and Juliet is? Then take a look at Pretty In Pink. Andie is an outcast at high school, who comes from the wrong side of town, she doesn’t really mind this until one day the rich and handsome Blane asks her out on a date. Their friends, on different sides of the social strata, strongly disapprove of their union. Despite their concerns, the pair go on a date and it is a total disaster. Can the situation be saved or will Andie recognise her friend Duckie’s eternal love for her? The acting is impeccable from an ever reliable Mollie Ringwald and the soundtrack acts like a 1980s time machine.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) starring: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jennifer Grey, Charlie Sheen

One of the great classics of the Brat Pack era, even though some may dispute its status as a Brat Pack movie because of a lack of Brat Packers in the cast. The story is fun, simple and well observed. This is Hollywood’s view of teen life where everyone under the age of 20 lives in a big house and has access to a large car. Ferris feigns illness to get out of school for a day. He looks outside, sees it’s a beautiful day and gets his perpetually ill friend Cameron to pick him up to spend the day with his girlfriend in downtown Chicago. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is probably the best movie Hughes ever made. It is hard not to like this film, it is funny, features a great main character in Ferris, and it has a terrific baddie in Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones). It is one of those films you can watch over and over again. Repeat viewings just enhance the movie and remind you how brilliant John Hughes was as a writer. This just has oodles of class.

About Last Night (1986) starring: Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Jim Belushi, Elizabeth Perkins

Danny and Bernie are two single men living their lives on the wild side. But when Danny meets Debbie at a bar and the two start a relationship with a one night stand, Danny’s life takes a different turn. How does this passionate night become a full affair and what effect will this relationship have on both people and their friendship with their best mates? Based on a David Mamet play this is a film which is not afraid to delve beneath the surface of young adults lives as they make their way from teenage life into a scary grown-up world.

Some Kind Of Wonderful (1987) starring: Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson,

Written by John Hughes, but directed by Howard Deutch, Some Kind of Wonderful is a teen romance which by now knows it is a ‘Brat Pack’ movie. As a result, you can see the formula and certain ingredients starting to be cynically applied but it’s good fun despite that. It’s also amazingly chaste – a good old fashioned teenage love story that does not rely upon gratuitous nudity, sex and vulgarity to tell its tale. One wonders whether this was a script left over from the Hayes Code era of the 1950s. The acting is great and the stars make the characters more complex and believable than they should be.

Young Guns (1988) starring: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen

And so the era comes to a close with the most unusual entry in the canon – a Brat Pack Western: it is essentially a re-telling of the Billy the Kid story. An English man called John Tunstall is running a ranch in New Mexico and he recruits young men to be his ranch hands and protect it from more powerful, evil neighbours. Despite its historical inaccuracies, Young Guns is very entertaining. Jack Palance and Terrence Stamp bring gravitas to the film and Estevez plays a wonderful Billy the Kid. The film deals with the loss of innocence - the young men have had to grow up too quickly and because the actors now know each other so well, the friendship between them feels very real.

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