There is no denying that the 1980s were all about making things “big”: big hair, big shoulders, big salaries, big egos and of course, even the film Big. It was an innocent time; there were no smartphones, no Facebook, no flash drives containing hundreds of films and no real awareness of how much damage hairspray was doing to the climate. If a film fan wanted to gaze lovingly at the source of their affections then a poster was the order of the day.
Sadly, no matter how good Meryl Streep was in Sophie’s Choice, or how much Cher delighted us in Moonstruck, it was unlikely either of these two award-winning actresses were going to cover peeling wallpaper in teenagers’ rooms across the globe. The sex symbols on this list may have had varied careers, but they all managed to enjoy even brief moments of stardom based on their stunning screen appeal.
There are some notable names missing from this list; after all who could forget how hot Michelle Pfieffer was in The Fabulous Baker Boys? Or how Jamie Lee Curtis blew us away with her surprising reveal in Trading Places? Or the (in)famous metal bikini Carrie Fisher slinked around in during Return of the Jedi? However, the actresses on this list have an intrinsic “eighties-ness” to them – they all managed to encapsulate a part of that decade in such a manner that they will always be linked to it to some extent, no matter what path their individual careers took in the following years.
15. Sandahl Bergman
This appropriately named actress appeared on The Dean Martin Show dozens of times, but it was the sword-and-sandal (and sorcery) 1982 hit Conan the Barbarian that had movie fans flocking to their nearest poster-selling outlet. Bergman was electrifying as the no-nonsense thief Valeria who returns from the dead as a sparkling valkyrie in a conveniently revealing outfit to save her beloved Conan.
Bergman also appeared in Airplane II: The Sequel, Red Sonja and even the TV show Moonlighting, but it is likely she will be most remembered for running around temples and ruins in ridiculously skimpy outfits, slaughtering countless bad guys and actually acting whilst Arnold Schwarzenegger concentrated on memorizing the word “Crom”.
14. Patsy Kensit
The 1980s were good to the English flower that is Patsy Kensit. Not only did she enjoy music success as singer with Eighth Wonder releasing songs like “Cross My Heart” and “I’m Not Scared,” but she also managed to share screen time with one of the biggest stars of the 1980s: “Mad” Mel Gibson. Appearing in 1989’s Lethal Weapon 2 as the doomed South African love interest, Rika van den Haas, Kensit was enjoying a career in ascension.
Although she did not make it to Gibsonian heights (not necessarily a bad thing considering his recent activities) Kensit has kept herself busy right to the present day – mostly with an abundance of TV work and numerous marriages (her fourth marriage ended in 2010).
13. Phoebe Cates
Cates was definitely more the girl-next-door type of actress we mooned over in the 1980s. She was the girl you could take home to meet your mom and go shopping for flatware with. Appearing as Kate in Gremlins (1984) simply cemented this notion. However, coming across as cute and dependable did not make her immune to being hot, as evidenced by her rather racy appearances in Lace (1984) and Lace II (1985). Huge hair, gigantic earrings and sitting seductively in raunchy lingerie next to a cheerful looking tiger served to demonstrate that Cates had the ability to play both innocent and not-so-innocent in equal measure.
The actress decided to concentrate on her family and then her business in later years, so she may be mostly gone from the entertainment world, but she is far from forgotten.
12. Grace Jones
Grace Jones has made a career out of terrifying people with her combination of stature (just shy of 6ft), penchant for crazy wigs and a fierce look that makes Derek Zoolander’s Magnum seem like a rheumy squint from a senior citizen eyeing up the menu in an Arby’s by comparison. The Jamaican model sizzled as the butt-kicking warrior Zula in Conan the Destroyer (1984), and nearly tore James Bond a new orifice in A View to a Kill (1985).
Jones has also enjoyed a successful music career, looking incredible even when she has cars driving out of her mouth (“Slave to the Rhythm”).
11. Sybil Danning
The incredibly hot Austrian actress Sybil Danning was working in the entertainment industry as far back as the late 1960s, but there is no doubt that her appearances in the prison exploitation film Chained Heat (1983) and Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch (1985) made teenagers (and adults) stop trying to solve Rubik’s Cubes and pay attention to her instead. The copious amount of bosom on show in the Howling II sealed Danning’s performance as a teenage memory to be treasured.
The Scream Queen has not been forgotten; she turned up to appear in Grindhouse (2007) in the section called Werewolf Women of the SS.
10. Tawny Kitaen
The Californian-born Julie Kitaen is the sort of celebrity whose name one might not remember, but whose appearance, especially in a couple of quintessential 1980s music videos, is difficult to forget. Wisely changing her first name to the less prosaic “Tawny”, Kitaen starred in Bachelor Party in 1984 and Witchboard in 1986. In 1987 she managed to eclipse Whitesnake in their own videos for “Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love” as she carelessly ruined the paintwork of some expensive-looking Jaguars.
Her star may have waned since the heady days of the 1980s and being a rock star’s wife, but the actress is still working and no doubt still signing dozens of posters on a weekly basis.
9. Bo Derek
Bo Derek transcended two decades with her hotness, thanks to some impressive slow motion running in 10 (1979) and clothes-shedding inclination in Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981). The beautiful actress featured in some much-derided films such as Bolero (1984), Ghosts Can’t Do It (1990) and Tommy Boy (1995), but thanks to her amazing ability to sell millions of posters based solely on her swimsuit-wearing skills it is unlikely she is short of loose change.
In recent years, Derek has been working in the political sphere and still acts – she can be seen in 2015’s Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! along with fellow former beach aficionado David Hasselhoff.
8. Tanya Roberts
Arguably another actress whose name seems familiar to many, but it is more her appearance in certain roles that jogs the memory. Tanya Roberts won a part as a Bond Girl in the 1980s, being saved by the super-spy in 1985’s A View to a Kill. She also appeared in the hottie-churning machine that was Charlie’s Angels and was not averse to flashing the flesh as Kiri in The Beastmaster (1982).
Film parts dried up somewhat for the actress with the piercing blue eyes; however, she made a strong return to the fame game playing Midge Pinciotti in That 70s Show.
7. Brigitte Nielsen
This Danish bombshell was driven by an insatiable desire to make it big – and she succeeded in being big in the decade of “big”. For a few years in the 1980s, the statuesque sex symbol peppered the silver screen, cropping up in movies like Red Sonja (1985), Rocky IV (1985), Cobra (1986) and Beverly Hills Cop II (1987). Everything about Nielsen was big; she married big by snapping up Sylvester Stallone in 1985 and she made herself big by having breast enhancement surgery in 1989.
In fact, Nielsen is so big she can even look down on Grace Jones, towering over her at 6ft 1in.
6. Daryl Hannah
Although Daryl Hannah has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, mainly thanks to the Kill Bill films, it is her appearances in several 1980s movies that forced her inclusion in this list. We all know the tired cliché of how she made a big “Splash” thanks to her turn as a mermaid fending off the amorous Tom Hanks, but the versatile actress also turned up in Blade Runner (1982), Roxanne (1987), Wall Street (1987) and Steel Magnolias (1989).
The actress has been in many films and TV shows and can hold her head high as the hottest mermaid ever to appear in film, pushing Ariel into a distant second.
5. Jennifer Beals
It would be criminal to create a list of the hottest actresses of the 1980s and not include Ms. Beals. There are always films that seem to capture the mood of the decade, and Flashdance was one of these films. Coming out in 1983, Flashdance portrayed a gutsy teenager who was a steel worker by day and dancer by night, although it was actually an actress called Marine Jahan who performed most of the sexy dance moves that made our jaws drop.
Beals has worked constantly throughout her career and manages to look incredibly hot regardless of now being in her 50s.
4. Rebecca De Mornay
Try to imagine 1983’s Risky Business without De Mornay and you are basically left with Tom Cruise dancing in his briefs and a bewildered Joe Pantoliano wondering where his best girl has disappeared to. De Mornay burned up the screen (and the carpet…and the stairs…and the train) in Risky Business and left teenagers panting in post-pubescent lust just by strolling shamelessly around the Cruiser’s pad, and she wasn’t shy in And God Created Women (1988) either.
Popping up in Backdraft (1991), The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) and Wedding Crashers (2005) has helped keep De Mornay’s acting career happily ticking over.
3. Brooke Shields
Brooke Shields may be more of an acquired taste to some, but in The Blue Lagoon (1980) she saw her star rise in the most controversial way. Shields had been a minor during filming; she was only 14 years old at the time of production. Although the film is not that great, it has become a cult classic. In the 1980s, after the release of the seminal The Blue Lagoon, it was more her modeling work that helped catapult her into the realms of international hotness.
Shields graduated from Princeton, was once married to Andre Agassi and enjoyed TV success with Suddenly Susan.
2. Heather Locklear
This sizzlingly hot actress was summed up perfectly in Wayne’s World 2 (1993):
“Wayne: Look Garth it’s Heather Locklear and she’s signaling to us. There is a god!
Garth: Heather be thy name.
Wayne, Garth: Scwiiiiiiiiing!”
It was the small screen that turned this Californian girl into one of the hottest actresses of the 1980s. Playing Officer Stacy Sheridan in dozens of T.J. Hooker shows and, more importantly, Sammy Jo Dean Carrington in over 120 episodes of Dynasty converted the future Mrs. Tommy Lee/Mrs. Richie Sambora into the hot poster girl. Major roles in Melrose Place and Spin City confirmed her status as ultimate TV hottie.
1. Kelly LeBrock
If you do an image search of Kelly LeBrock, you will immediately understand why she epitomizes 1980s hotness. You will either find mostly images of the New York native in a red dress with the skirt practically blowing up around her ears, or pictures of her in some fetching blue 1980s gym wear. The former would be from The Woman in Red (1984) and the latter would be from Weird Science (1985). In Weird Science, LeBrock played Lisa, the perfect 1980s hottie created by a pair of very fortunate nerdy types.
LeBrock could never reach such dizzying heights again (apart from being married to Steven Seagal for almost a decade, of course), but she has left an indelible hot stain on the 1980s that can never be completely scrubbed away.