The ’80s were a pivotal time for actresses. Equity feminism started to take drive, and the premise for what would grow to be third-wave feminism within the ’90s slowly took root. Hollywood noticed the return of studio-driven movies and blockbuster tentpoles after the auteur-focused New Hollywood period of the Nineteen Seventies. Teen films achieved their peak, each critically and commercially, and a number of the most enduring and beloved franchises made their big-screen debuts.

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The decade gave audiences a humiliation of riches when it comes to cinematic content material, and a number of other high-profile actresses have been on the middle. These girls dominated the ’80s, carving out display screen personas that may stand the take a look at of time and turning them into cinematic icons.


Updated on April 14th, 2022, by David Caballero: The Eighties are the reward that retains on giving when speaking about gifted and versatile actresses. The decade supplied audiences many unimaginable performances by a number of actresses, a lot of whom stay as beloved and in-demand as they have been in the course of the 80s. It’s at all times a pleasure to look again to the last decade of neon lights and shoulder pads and marvel on the careers of a few of its greatest actresses. 

Joan Chen

Joan Chen in The Last Emperor

Joan Chen started her profession in China in the course of the late Nineteen Seventies. She rose to worldwide prominence along with her efficiency in Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 epic The Last Emperor, a large important success that gained all of its 9 nominations on the sixtieth Academy Awards.

Chen would co-star in one other Hollywood manufacturing, 1989’s The Blood of Heroes, cementing herself as a well-known actress for Western audiences. Chen’s success would proceed into the Nineties and 2000s, combining films in Hollywood and China.

Oprah Winfrey

Sophia looking angry in The Color Purple

Nowadays, Oprah Winfrey could be greatest generally known as the queen of tv and one of the vital highly effective girls in Hollywood. Indeed, she’s one of the longest-running television hosts, along with her speak present lasting 25 years, from 1986 to 2011.

Oprah rose to prominence in the course of the mid-80s, incomes an Oscar nomination for her supporting flip in The Color Purple. She primarily targeted on tv afterward, however her identify rapidly turned synonymous with the ’80s, cementing her as one of many decade’s plain icons.

Jamie Lee Curtis

Curtis made her movie debut as the final word ultimate woman, Laurie Strode, in John Carpenter’s seminal slasher Halloween. Establishing herself as a scream queen, She later performed main roles in a number of different slashers, together with Prom NightTerror Train, and Halloween II.

The 1983 comedy Trading Places earned her a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress and offered some much-needed variety to her resume, paving the best way for her to grow to be one of the vital widespread 80s actresses. In 1988, she’d obtain additional important acclaim and a BAFTA nomination for her position within the beloved heist comedy, A Fish Called Wanda.

Maggie Cheung

Maggie Cheung was certainly one of China’s most well-known ’80s actresses. After inserting second on the 1983 Miss Hong Kong Pageant, she started her appearing profession, shifting on to films shortly after. Cheung achieved important acclaim within the late Eighties with the movies Full Moon in New York and Red Dust.

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Cheung was a frequent co-star of Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-fat, showing in Police Story and its sequel with the previous and The Seventh Curse and The Romancing Star with the latter. Cheung’s profession continued thriving effectively into the 2000s, finally retiring in 2013.

Alfre Woodard

Alfre Woodard looking sad in Cross Creek

Despite critics contemplating her one of the vital versatile and achieved ’80s actresses, Alfre Woodard stays unjustly underrated. Woodard earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for 1983’s Cross Creek and gained the Primetime Emmy for her position in Hill Street Blues

Woodard spent many of the decade as a extremely acclaimed tv actress and had notable roles in movies like 1988’s Scrooged and 1989’s Miss Firecracker. Woodard stays appearing right now, not too long ago attracting approval for her main position in 2019’s Clemency.

Sigourney Weaver

Sigourney Weaver as Dan Barrett in Ghostbusters

After her breakthrough position in 1979’s Alien, Sigourney Weaver dominated the ’80s. The first half of the last decade noticed her play main roles in critically acclaimed movies like The Year of Living Dangerously and blockbusters like Ghostbusters.

She would climb to the height of her success within the decade’s second half, receiving Academy Award nominations for 3 of her most profitable movies: 1986’s Aliens and 1988’s Gorillas within the Mist and Working Girl. Weaver would say goodbye to the last decade by reprising her role as Dana Barrett in 1989’s Ghostbusters II, cementing her place as one of the vital iconic ’80s actresses.

Carrie Fisher

Princess Leia on Endor in Return of the Jedi

Carrie Fisher turned an on the spot star due to her position in George Lucas’ 1977 house opera Star Wars. As Leia Organa, Fisher redefined the position of the feminine lead in action-adventure films. She quickly became an ’80s icon, due to her immediately memorable vogue and coiffure, energetic position within the story, and affect on different feminine characters.

Fisher’s profession post-Star Wars consisted of supporting roles in quite a few movies, like Hannah and her Sisters and When Harry Met Sally. She additionally turned a profitable writer, screenwriter, and script physician.

Jennifer Beals


Although she did not act in lots of main films, Jennifer Beals stays one of the vital well-known ’80s actresses. Beals made her debut in 1980’s My Bodyguard earlier than reaching worldwide fame with 1983’s Flashdance. The movie obtained destructive critiques from critics however was a shocking field workplace success, incomes Beals a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy.

Beales appeared reverse Sting in 1985’s The Bride and performed a number one position in 1989’s Vampire’s Kiss, one of Nicolas Cage’s most underrated movies. And whereas she by no means replicated Flashdance‘s success, the movie was sufficient to cement her repute as one of the vital beloved 80s actresses.

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple

In 1985, Whoopi Goldberg obtained her breakthrough due to her efficiency as Celie in Steven Spielberg’s period drama The Color Purple. Goldberg’s work earned her an Oscar nomination, making her the one Black lady to earn a Lead Actress nod in the course of the ’80s; to this present day, many movie lovers imagine she ought to’ve gained.

Between 1985 and 1988, Goldberg made seven movies, together with Penny Marshall’s directorial debut, Jumpin’ Jack Flash. A gifted comic, Goldberg additionally hosted a number of HBO Comic Relief specials alongside fellow comedians Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.

Jessica Lange

One of probably the most lauded 80s actresses, Jessica Lange had her breakthrough within the 1976 King Kong remake. However, her most profitable 12 months can be 1983, due to her roles in Tootsie and Frances. She obtained Oscar nominations for each and gained Best Supporting Actress for the previous.

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Lange would obtain one other two nominations in the course of the ’80s for Country and Sweet Dreams. And whereas her filmography in the course of the second half of the last decade included principally low-budget movies that underperformed on the field workplace, her performances have been at all times extremely praised.

Molly Ringwald

To this present day, Molly Ringwald remains the undisputed queen of teen films. Thanks to the consecutive triple act of Sixteen CandlesThe Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink, Ringwald established herself as a teen film star and an icon for a complete era.

Ringwald’s later movies, together with The Pick-Up Artist and For Keeps, have been commercially profitable, cementing her place as one of many greatest field workplace attracts of the last decade. Her profession waned within the ’90s after infamously turning down the lead roles in Pretty Woman and Ghost, however she’s going to perpetually be one of the vital iconic ’80s actresses.

Kathleen Turner

Kathleen Turner in Body Heat

Kathleen Turner rose to prominence in the beginning of the last decade due to her efficiency in Lawrence Kasdan’s neo-noir, Body Heat. A string of economic and demanding successes adopted, together with Romancing the StonePrizzi’s HonorThe Accidental Tourist, The War of the Roses, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

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For her efficiency within the 1986 comedy Peggy Sue Got Married, Turner obtained an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Despite a slight profession decelerate within the ’90s after her rheumatoid arthritis analysis, Turner has been a gradual presence on TV and within the occasional movie ever since and is probably greatest recognized extra not too long ago for her position in The Kominsky Method.

Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer in Married to the Mob

Often thought of one of the vital lovely faces to ever grace the silver display screen, Michelle Pfeiffer’s filmography proves she’s also a versatile and eclectic performer. She obtained her first main position in Brian de Palma’s 1983 crime movie Scarface and obtained important approval for her position in Jonathan Demme’s 1988 comedy Married to the Mob.

Pfeiffer would obtain two consecutive Oscar nominations for her supporting position in 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons and her main flip in 1989’s The Fabulous Baker Boys. Her profession would keep it up via the ’90s, and regardless of a brief break in the midst of the 2000s, she got here again stronger than ever, not too long ago receiving a Golden Globe nomination for her main position within the 2020 darkish comedy, French Exit.

Glenn Close

Fatal Attraction Glenn Close

Glenn Close had one of the vital profitable and critically acclaimed filmographies of any ’80s actress. After a profitable run on Broadway, Close made her movie debut in 1982’s The World According to Garp, receiving a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. She’d obtain two extra, for The Big Chill and The Natural, earlier than making a profitable transition into main woman standing.

Of course, two of Close’s most memorable roles, Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction and the Marquise de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons, earned her two Lead Actress Oscar nominations. Close would go on along with her profitable profession however has but to win an Oscar, regardless of eight nominations.

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep stands as Hollywood’s most acclaimed actress. She holds the report for many Academy Award nominations, a staggering 21, successful three. It all started within the Eighties when Streep established herself as the very best actress of her era. Her movies throughout this decade embody her Oscar-nominated turns in The French Lieutenant’s WomanSophie’s Choice, for which she gained, SilkwoodOut of AfricaIronweed, and A Cry within the Dark.

Streep’s profession remains to be as robust, if not stronger than it was again within the ’80s. And wanting again at her profession, it is plain that she was the best and most distinguished actress of the last decade.

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