Move over, young John Cusack.
Creeps. They just don’t make ‘em like they used to. Every decade has its bad guys (and girls), but the ’80s were the Golden Age. Was it something in the New Coke that spurred such adolescent disregard, or an ongoing callousness brought on by excess Rave Extra Hold hair-mousse inhalation? Pop your collar, put on some overpriced Ray-Bans, and get ready for a tour of some of teen cinema’s greatest.
1) James Spader as Steff McKee in Pretty in Pink
Yes, buying into the existence of high-school boys who drive Porsches, wear linen suits to Algebra, and proposition girls for sex with the brazenness of men twice their age requires a certain suspension of disbelief. But Spader nails the role of the arrogant prick out to ruin Andie and Blaine’s happiness so well you find yourself rooting for him to succeed. It may be wrong, but Andrew McCarthy’s bumbling sincerity and wide-eyed gawp are no match for Spader’s throaty upper-crust accent, feathered locks, and sultry leer.
2) William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence in The Karate Kid
Zabka sweeps the leg straight into our hearts (don’t worry, it’s the good kind of pain) as Cobra Kai badass and Daniel LaRusso social and romantic rival, Johnny. His epic moves, showy uniforms (can you say embroidered snake patch?), and gang of devoted fanboys represent everything our grade-school selves thought would be cool about taking up karate. His ability to switch from murderous glare to all-American good-boy grin on a dime only adds to the mystique.
3) Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, and Kim Walker as The Heathers in Heathers
What’s a nice girl like Veronica Sawyer doing with "Swatch dogs and Diet Coke heads" like these? Isn’t it obvious? These girls rule Westerburg High. Looks are a part of it, but it’s more about power, and that kind of influence spells H-O-T. Whether they’re kicking ass at croquet, snowing parents and administrators into believing they’re upstanding young students, or engineering the social demise of their next victim, the Heathers elevate beauty and bitchery to an art form. How very "very."
4) Kiefer Sutherland as David in The Lost Boys
Long before vampires had sparkly complexions and multi-million-dollar merchandising deals, Kiefer Sutherland was owning it as a grittier brand of bloodsucker in this 1987 classic. Sporting white-blonde hair reminiscent of Billy Idol and a smirking mouthful of pointy teeth, Sutherland sidelined all the romantic foolishness and focused on what vampires are good at — drinking blood and messing with people. We’d join his gang anytime, even if that meant dressing like a Renaissance Fair reject.
5) Ted McGinley as Stan Gable in Revenge of the Nerds
It’s always tough to love the entitled-jock character, but there’s something about tight buns in shiny white football pants and Malibu Ken good looks that make a person easier to forgive. Stan Gable may have lost his cheerleader girlfriend to the nerds, but we’re sure he won’t be crying into his beer helmet for long. There are plenty of co-eds at Adams College and elsewhere who’d be happy to hop on the back of his motorcycle and go for a little spin.
6) Jennifer Grey as Jeanie Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
A still au naturel Jennifer Grey rocks it as the poster child for wishing bodily injury upon a blood relative. Caught somewhere between goody two-shoes and bad girl, Jeanie makes out with a drug addict (Charlie Sheen, oddly enough) and gets arrested, all while trying to give her wayward brother his moral comeuppance. Not only is she a worthy adversary, she manages to look girl-next-door hot in a poodle perm and peach cardigan. No small feat, my friends.
7) Paul Mones as Nick Hauser in Tuff Turf
Instead of bullying people, James Spader is the one being pushed around in this ’80s incarnation of Opposite Day. Paul Mones is Nick Hauser, leader of a L.A. high-school gang. Mones has all the era-appropriate bad-guy accoutrements, including an never-ending wardrobe of headbands and sleeveless shirts and a supercool Camaro. Unlike most ’80s villains, Mones actually looks the part, with chest hair and facial scruff. Love it.
8) Aaron Dozier as Roy Stalin in Better Off Dead
Before you dismiss him as a cut-rate Zabka, let’s stop and take note of a few things. Yes, he has the requisite blonde hair, chiseled jaw, and deep tan. But did you notice his ski ensembles, carefully coordinated to match those of his girlfriend, Beth? They’re a visual representation of the couple’s bond, which only serves to heighten jilted ex Lane Meyer’s misery (ably captured by a young John Cusack in his first starring role). There’s also the name — Roy Stalin. We could get into the symbolic resonance, but let’s just agree that the guy is a total babe before this devolves into a grad-school paper.