This Top Ten list was incredibly hard. So many great actors from so many great movies to choose from. I’ve tried to keep it to the 80s although to be honest some of the movies mentioned are from 1 or 2 years either side. Basically I think from 1979 to 1992. As usual this is my own personal list, showcasing the actors who I think best represent 80s cinema.10. Kurt Russell To be honest I came a little bit late to Kurt Russell. I first saw him in Unlawful Entry where he played a bit of a wimp to be fair. That’s what I knew him for quite a few years. Only later did I see the rest of his awesome library of films. The man is both Snake Plisken and Jack Burton for goodness sake. I also think he just gets cooler as he gets older. He was the main thing that made Deathproof watchable and I can’t wait to see him in The Hateful Eight and Furious 7. My favourite incarnation of him is as Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China.
Film selection: Escape from New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, Tequila Sunrise, Tango & Cash, Backdraft
9. Patrick Swayze Patrick Swayze has the amazing skill of being in very romantic films and very tough films. His list of films below basically flip-flop between tough action roles to romantic lead roles. For me I will always remember him for Bodhi in Point Break.
Film selection: Red Dawn, Youngblood, Dirty Dancing, Road House, Ghost, Point Break
8. Bruce Willis Bruce Willis is one of the main 80s action movies you think of but actually he didn’t really do all that much. The fact that his role as John McClane in Die Hard was so amazing and pivotal is why he is so associated with that era. But I personally also loved him in Moonlighting as the wisecracking David Addison. He’s a great comic actor who managed to turn himself into a huge 80s action star. No mean feat.
Film and TV selection: Moonlighting, Die Hard movies, Look Who’s Talking
7. Eddie Murphy I kind of think of there being two Eddie Murphys. Probably pre-Boomerang and post-Boomerang. He just lost something for me. Lost the edge or spark that he had. And back in the early 80s boy did he have a spark. The man was on fire. He of course started life as a comedian but his acting was incredible. And did you know that he was just 22 when he filmed Beverly Hills Cop? Yes, Axel Foley, his most iconic role in my eyes, was just 22! Incredible.
Film selection: 48 Hrs. Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, The Golden Child, Coming to America
6. Mel Gibson Mel Gibson’s first awesome role was actually in the 70s, as Mad Max was released in 1979. He starred in two great franchises of course. Mad Max and Lethal Weapon. The first Lethal Weapon is one of the coolest, classiest action films of the 80s and Gibson was pivotal in that role. Mel Gibson’s coolness did last a bit longer than Eddie Murphy’s but his highlight for me is his portrayal of Martin Riggs in the first two Lethal Weapons. You can’t get much cooler than that.
Film selection: Mad Max, Lethal Weapon, Tequila Sunrise, Bird on a Wire, Air America
5. Sylvester Stallone Sylvester Stallone is a mighty impressive force in Hollywood. Actor, Writer and Director are all positions that he has successfully mastered and he had the rare situation of having created not one but two successful movie franchises. Rocky and Rambo. Two five letter words starting with R that became household names all over the world in the 80s. Obviously he has flexed his hollywood muscles recently by creating his third successful franchise in the Expendables movies. A true hollywood action powerhouse.
Film selection: Rocky, Rambo, Cobra, Over The Top, Lock Up, Cango & Tash
4. Tom Cruise For a while Tom Cruise was the most bankable actor in the world and possibly the one person you thought of if you were asked to think of a successful actor. That period was possibly between about 85-95. I very nearly had Tom higher up in my list, but when I thought about it for the purposes of this list he perhaps has more of a 90s feel or doesn’t quite have the 80s vibe of the other people higher up than him. But still, just look at those 80s movies he’s done. Some classics there including one of my favourite cheesy movies of all time, Top Gun.
Film selection: Taps, Risky Business, Legend, Top Gun, The Color of Money, Cocktail, Rain Man, Days of Thunder, A Few Good Men, The Firm
3. Michael J Fox When I think of 80s movies I think of Back to the Future. When I think of 80s actors I think of Michael J Fox. That’s how big an effect he made on me in that movie. He didn’t even do that many movies in the 80s compared to some others in this list but the fact that he’s my no.3 shows just how much of an impact he had on 80s screens. From the fantastic character of Alex P Keaton in Family Ties to the legendary Marty McFly it’s hard to pick a more likeable 80s actor.
Film and TV selection: Family Ties, Back to the Future, Teen Wolf, The Secret of My Succe$s, Casualties of War
2. Harrison Ford What can I say about Harrison Ford. He played two of the most iconic characters in 80s cinema: Han Solo and Indiana Jones. That alone would get him in the top 3 right away. And he starred in another one of the most well respected sci-fi films of all time: Blade Runner. Pretty impressive stuff. That’s already 7 classic movies right there (yeh I know Star Wars was the late 70s). There’s no denying that Harrison Ford is one of the most iconic 80s actors of all time.
Film selection: Star Wars series, Indiana Jones series, Blade Runner, Witness, Working Girl
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger For me there was really only one contender for the top spot. Arnie was an absolute 80s powerhouse. He was bashing out movies just about every year in the 80s. Often two in a year. And just look at the list of movies below. Nearly every one is a classic but ones like Terminator, Commando, Predator, Total Recall are beyond classic in my eyes. Criticise Arnie’s acting ability all you want but he was a man who knew what he wanted and perfectly pitched himself to kickstart a whole new genre of movies in the 80s.
Film selection: Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer, The Terminator, Commando, Raw Deal, Predator, The Running Man, Red Heat, Twins, Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop, Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Matthew Broderick – Ferris Bueller, Wargames
Bill Murray – Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Scrooged, Groundhog Day
Jean Claude van Damme – Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Double Impact, Universal Soldier
Corey Feldman – Gremlins, The Goonies, Stand By Me, The Lost Boys
Christian Slater – Heathers, Gleaming the Cube, Young Guns II, Pump Up the Volume. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, True Romance
Steven Seagal – Above the Law, Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, Out for Justice, Under Siege
Who would you have had in the no.1 spot? Let me know in the comments below.