Brat PackThe Brat Pack is a nickname given to a group of young actors who frequently appeared together in teen-oriented coming-of-age films in the 1980s. First mentioned in a 1985 New York magazine article, it is now usually defined as the cast members of two specific films released in 1985—The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo's Fire—although other actors are sometimes included. The "core" members are considered to be Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy.
MembershipThe term "Brat Pack", a play on the Rat Pack from the 1950s and 1960s, was first popularized in a 1985 New York magazine cover story, which described a group of highly successful film stars in their early twenties. David Blum wrote the article after witnessing several young actors (Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, and Judd Nelson) being mobbed by groupies at Los Angeles' Hard Rock Cafe. The group has been characterized by the partying of members such as Robert Downey Jr., Estevez, Lowe, and Nelson.
However, an appearance in one or both of the ensemble casts of John Hughes' The Breakfast Club and Joel Schumacher's St. Elmo's Fire is often considered the prerequisite for being a core Brat Pack member. With this criterion, the most commonly cited members include:
Absent from most lists is Mare Winningham, the only principal member of either cast who never starred in any other films with any other cast members. Estevez was cited as the "unofficial president" of the Brat Pack. He and Demi Moore were once engaged. In 1999, McCarthy said he was never a member of the group: "The media made up this sort of tribe. I don't think I've seen any of these people since we finished St. Elmo's Fire."
The initial New York article covered a group of actors larger, or more inclusive, than the currently understood meaning of the term "Brat Pack". For example, most of the cast members of The Outsiders were mentioned, including Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, and Ralph Macchio, none of whom starred in any other 1980s movies with any "core" Brat Packers, besides Patrick Swayze. Charlie Sheen appears in several lists – more for his family relationship to Brat Pack leader Emilio Estevez and his partying than for his collaborative film work with other members.
James Spader and Robert Downey Jr. have also been considered members, and performed alongside other Brat Packers: both of them with Andrew McCarthy in Less Than Zero; Spader with McCarthy in Mannequin and with McCarthy and Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink; and Downey with Anthony Michael Hall (Weird Science and Johnny Be Good; and the cast of Saturday Night Live) and with Molly Ringwald (The Pick-up Artist). Other actors who have been linked with the group include Kevin Bacon, Matthew Broderick, Jon Cryer, John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Jami Gertz, Timothy Hutton, Michael Schoeffling, Liane Curtis, Jonathan Chapin, Mary Stuart Masterson, Andie MacDowell, Olivia Barash, Jennifer Grey, Sean Penn, Kiefer Sutherland, and Lea Thompson. In her autobiography, Melissa Gilbert connects herself with the Brat Pack, as her social life centered on Estevez and Lowe (to each of whom she was engaged at different times). Through frequent collaborative work, the actor Harry Dean Stanton, then in his late 50s, became a mentor for the group of young actors.
ArticleDavid Blum's New York story, titled "Hollywood's Brat Pack", ran on June 10, 1985. It was originally supposed to be just about Emilio Estevez, but one night, Estevez invited Blum to hang out with him, Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson, and others at the Hard Rock Cafe. It was a typical night out for the group, who had gotten close while filming St. Elmo's Fire. That night, Blum decided to change the article's focus to an entire group of young actors at the time. The St. Elmo's Fire crew members did not like Blum and sensed that he was jealous of the actors' success.
When the piece ran, the actors all felt betrayed, especially Estevez. The article mentioned people in several films but focused on Estevez, Lowe, and Nelson, and portrayed those three negatively. The "Brat Pack" label, which the actors disliked, stuck for years afterward. Before the article ran, they had been regarded as talented individuals; after the article, all of them were grouped together and regarded as unprofessional. Interviewed for Susannah Gora's 2010 book You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, And Their Impact on a Generation, Blum admitted that he should not have written the article.
With the increased negative attention to them, the actors soon stopped socializing with one another. On the group's camaraderie, Ally Sheedy later said, "[The article] just destroyed it. I had felt truly a part of something, and that guy just blew it to pieces."
LegacyDuring the late 1980s, several of the Brat Pack actors had their careers mildly derailed by problems relating to drugs, alcohol, and in Lowe's case, a sex tape. According to Gora, "Many believe they could have gone on to more serious roles if not for that article. They were talented. But they had professional difficulties, personal difficulties after that." By the 21st century, the term "Brat Pack" had lost its negative connotation.
The films themselves have been described as representative of "the socially apathetic, cynical, money-possessed and ideologically barren eighties generation." They made frequent use of adolescent archetypes, were often set in the suburbs surrounding Chicago, and focused on white, middle-class teenage angst. According to author Susannah Gora, these films "changed the way many young people looked at everything from class distinction to friendship, from love to sex and fashion to music." They are considered "among the most influential pop cultural contributions of their time."
In 2012, Entertainment Weekly listed The Breakfast Club as the best high school movie ever made. On VH1's list of the 100 greatest teen stars, Molly Ringwald was ranked #1, Rob Lowe was ranked #2, Anthony Michael Hall was ranked #4, Ally Sheedy was ranked #34, and Andrew McCarthy was ranked #40.
In 2020, Estevez expressed frustration at the persistence of the "Brat Pack" name, saying "That [term] will be on my tombstone ... It's annoying because Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Matt Damon have worked together more than any of us have. We just made two movies and somehow it morphed into something else."
FilmographyBeyond the two primary films, there is no generally accepted list of "Brat Pack" movies. While Blum's article credits Taps, a 1981 sleeper starring Timothy Hutton with Cruise and Penn, as the first Brat Pack movie, the list of movies below represents the more traditional filmography, with each movie including at least two core members in starring roles:Other 1980s films, many with similar coming-of-age themes, that starred only one core Brat Pack actor with one or more close contributors include:
Some films have been dubbed "Brat Pack movies" despite having no stars from the core membership, including 1984's Red Dawn with C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Grey, Charlie Sheen, Harry Dean Stanton, Patrick Swayze, and Lea Thompson, 1986's Ferris Bueller's Day Off which starred Matthew Broderick with Grey and Sheen in supporting roles and 1987's The Lost Boys with Kiefer Sutherland and Jami Gertz in key roles.