The 32 greatest '80s actors

Kurt Russell in The Thing
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

As the Cold War reached its climax, the Hollywood industry saw an influx of new, fresh talent mingle with surviving veterans of the American New Wave. But who among the 1980s’ biggest movie stars are actually the greatest of all time?

After the “New Wave” of American filmmaking slowly rolled back, studios regained creative control over writers and directors. Movies once again became a commercially driven industry, with profits a priority. In the 1980s, budgets started to inflate as audience demand for immersive, escapist fare became informed by game-changing mega-hits like Jaws and Star Wars. 

Movies of the 1980s also began to cater to younger audiences, particularly teenagers. Amid an economic boom and rapid growth of the suburban shopping mall, teenagers defined their identities and sense of self through their own purchasing power. That included the movies they chose to see at major cineplexes (many of which existed inside these sprawling malls).

With a new decade came a class of new movie stars. Below are the 32 greatest actors of the 1980s, whose fame coincided with the rise of MTV and credit cards.

32. Molly Ringwald

Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

A queen of the teen movie scene, Molly Ringwald started her acting career in TV sitcoms like Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life before quickly transitioning to movies. In collaboration with director John Hughes, Ringwald starred in pictures like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink, all revered for their honest portrayal of the highs and lows of suburban adolescence. In the 21st century, Ringwald has kept her career going with various indie and streaming movies, as well as a return to television in shows like The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Riverdale, and Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.

31. Sean Young

Sean Young in Blade Runner

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Sean Young rode the 1980s as one of Hollywood’s most exciting starlets. After a role in the commercially successful comedy Stripes in 1981, she starred opposite Harrison Ford in Ridley Scott’s seminal 1982 sci-fi noir Blade Runner, as the movie’s lead femme fatale and android “Replicant.” The rest of the decade saw Young take charge in other ‘80s classics like Dune, No Way Out, and Wall Street. Her career floundered throughout the 1990s, and in the 2010s she appeared in almost exclusively small, independent genre features. In 2018, she appeared in four episodes of the cult crime drama The Alienist.

30. Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan in Wheels on Meals

(Image credit: Golden Harvest)

While Jackie Chan didn’t become a known entity to western audiences until 1995’s Rumble in the Bronx, Chan spent the 1980s in Hong Kong making some of the greatest action movies ever made. After cutting his teeth in the 1970s, including the 1978 classic Drunken Master, Chan spent the ‘80s starring in action-comedy hits like Wheels on Meals, My Lucky Stars, Police Story, Armour of God, Dragons Forever, Miracles, and more. While Jackie Chan was a darling in his native Hong Kong, both as a movie star and singer, his films found renewed appreciation by aficionados all around the world after Chan became a household name on Main Street.

29. Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington in Glory

(Image credit: Tri-Star Pictures)

As soon as the 1980s rolled around, it was as if Denzel Washington came out of nowhere. After early parts in various 1970s TV movies, Washington spent most of the 1980s starring in the TV medical drama series St. Elsewhere, in the role of Dr. Philip Chandler. But alongside his TV gig, he also starred in various movies like Sidney Lumet’s political drama Power and Richard Attenborough’s epic apartheid picture Cry Freedom. In 1989, he starred in Edward Zwick’s celebrated Civil War epic Glory, which ensured his momentum to become an even bigger star throughout the 1990s. 

28. Kathleen Turner

Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

After starring in Broadway productions and a role on the TV soap opera The Doctors, Kathleen Turner’s performance in the erotic thriller Body Heat made her both a decade-defining star and sex symbol. Turner, however, knew that being typecast as a femme fatale was limiting, and so in 1983 she starred in something completely different: the sci-fi comedy The Man With Two Brains, with Steve Martin. Her biggest movie is perhaps Romancing the Stone, a 1984 action-adventure romantic comedy in which she played writer Joan Wilder. Film critic Pauline Kael praised Turner’s performance, saying: “her star performance is exhilarating.” The movie earned her a Golden Globe award. The rest of the decade includes other movies like The Jewel of the Nile, Prizzi’s Honor, Peggy Sue Got Married (which got her an Oscar nomination), and a memorable voiceover part in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, playing a spoof of femme fatale types named Jessica Rabbit.

27. Jessica Lange

Jessica Lange in Tootsie

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Respected by her peers for her unpredictable style, in which she operates on her emotions rather than refined technique, Jessica Lange enjoys a career of more than five decades that began with the 1976 remake of King Kong. By the 1980s, she was leading hit dramas and comedies like How to Beat the High Cost of Living, Frances, Tootsie, Country (which had Lange co-star with her then-partner Sam Shepard), Sweet Dreams, Far North, and Music Box. Throughout the 2010s, she has been a frequent collaborator of TV giant Ryan Murphy, with numerous appearances in his body of work like American Horror Story, Feud, and The Politician.

26. Joe Pesci 

Joe Pesci in Goodfellas

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Best known for playing wise guys and hot-tempered men, Joe Pesci is a treasure of American cinema through his numerous collaborations with Martin Scorsese. Together, the men have worked in classic pictures like Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, and The Irishman. He’s also a versatile comedy actor, having starred in laugh riots like Home Alone and My Cousin Vinnie. We haven’t even touched his other notable work in movies like Once Upon a Time in America, JFK, and A Bronx Tale, which goes to show just how much range Pesci commands despite his extremely distinct persona. He semi-retired from acting in the late 2000s, but returned for The Irishman, in a part that got him Oscar and BAFTA nominations.

25. David Bowie

David Bowie in Labyrinth

(Image credit: Tri-Star Pictures)

You remind him of the babe. In addition to being one of the most celebrated English musicians of all time, David Bowie had a secondary career as an actor, with his most beloved role being the sinister and sultry Jareth in the 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth. Bowie started acting in the late ‘60s and starred in several films throughout the 1970s. But in the 1980s, when Bowie was at the zenith of his star power, his acting career went on an upward trajectory beginning with the 1983 erotic thriller The Hunger, in which Bowie starred with Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve. That same year, he starred in Nagisa Oshima’s war movie Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, about prisoners of war in Japan-occupied Java. In 1988, he appeared in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, in the role of Pontius Pilate who condemned Jesus Christ to his crucifixion. By the 2000s, Bowie slowed down his acting career considerably to keep making music. He died in 2015, and was mourned by fans everywhere.

24. William Hurt

William Hurt in Broadcast News

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Easily one of the top movie stars of the 1980s was William Hurt, a Juilliard School alumni who kicked off the 1980s with his film debut in the sci-fi horror Altered States. The next year, he co-starred with Kathleen Turner in the erotic noir thriller Body Heat, which kicked off a mighty career as a known quantity. He earned a slew of awards including the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in the 1985 movie Kiss of the Spider Woman, as well as more acclaim for movies like The Big Chill, Children of a Lesser God, Broadcast News, and The Accidental Tourist. In the 2010s, Hurt enjoyed prominence in the Marvel franchise with multiple appearances in the Captain America and Avengers movies. He died in 2022, with Harrison Ford taking over his Marvel role of Thaddeus Ross in the movie Captain America: Brave New World.

23. Jamie Lee Curtis

Jamie Lee Curtis in Perfect

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

After surviving the wrath of Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween, Jamie Curtis enjoyed stardom as a “scream queen” in a slew of 1980s horror movies like The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train, Roadgames, not to mention more Halloween sequels. Curtis’ talents went beyond the horror genre, with parts in dramas and comedies like Trading Places, Love Letters, Perfect, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Perfect, A Man in Love, and A Fish Called Wanda. Curtis kept acting in studio hits until circa 2006, when she chose to focus on family. Her retirement was short-lived, however, and quickly went back to making movies and enjoying guest roles on TV shows like New Girl. In 2023, she won her first Oscar for her supporting role in the breakthrough hit Everything Everywhere All at Once.

22. Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner in The Untouchables

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

While Kevin Costner made his film debut in the sleazy 1981 indie movie Sizzle Beach, U.S.A., it was mostly forgotten until 1986, at which point Costner had become a huge star. Costner, in fact, tried to buy the movie’s rights so he could bury it, due to feeling embarrassed over it. Its release didn’t derail his career, however, as Costner has since enjoyed prominence as one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood. His career took off in the 1980s, primarily through the 1985 Western movie Silverado. He followed up his success through relatively smaller movies like Fandango and American Flyers. In 1987, he starred as real-life FBI agent Eliot Ness in The Untouchables, which in turn made Costner untouchable. His career endured well into the 21st century, with a starring role in the hit television series Yellowstone.

21. Sally Field

Sally Field in Steel Magnolias

(Image credit: Tri-Star Pictures)

Sally Field is a decorated Hollywood actress who’s enjoyed a career of more than five decades. Her acting career started in the 1960s, in TV shows like Gidget and The Flying Nun, but she rose to fame throughout the 1980s. After winning an Academy Award for the 1979 movie Nroma Rae, the 1980s saw Field star in tonally diverse movies like Absence of Malice, Kiss Me Goodbye, Surrender, Punchline, Murphy’s Romance, and Steel Magnolias. By the 1990s and 2000s, Sally Field was entrenched in studio pictures, and from 2006 to 2011 she starred in over a hundred episodes of the ABC television drama Brothers & Sisters. In 2023, she joined Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Rita Moreno in the sports comedy 80 For Brady.

20. Glenn Close

Glenn Close in Dangerous Liasions

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

A revered actress who claims multiple Tonys, Emmys, and Golden Globes – plus numerous Oscar nominations – Glenn Close started working in the 1970s and saw her career rise to prominence in the 1980s. In 1980, she co-starred with Robin Williams in the comedy The World According to Garp, which earned Close her first Oscar nomination. (Funny enough, Close was only four years older than Williams, yet she played his mother in the movie.) Director Lawrence Kasdan wrote a part for her in his movie The Big Chill, which went on to become a generation-defining hit about college friends who reunite after one of their own commits suicide. Close was nigh unstoppable for the rest of the ‘80s, with movies like The Natural, Maxie, Fatal Attraction, and Dangerous Liaisons. By the turn of the millennium, Glenn Close became a fixture in Disney family movies, including the 1996 live-action remake of 101 Dalmatians and the animated hit Tarzan. In 2020, her eighth Oscar nomination (for the movie Hillbilly Elegy) made her one of the most-nominated actresses in Academy Awards history.

19. Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks in Big

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Tom Hanks’ career kicked off in the 1980s, with the low-budget horror movie He Knows You’re Alone. He then starred in the TV movie Mazes and Monsters, which has Hanks play a college student who becomes obsessed with a Dungeons & Dragons-like tabletop game. Hanks spent the rest of the 1980s in TV guest roles and modest box office hits, like the 1984 fantasy comedy Splash and the sex comedy Bachelor Party. In 1986 he starred in two movies that kept his career momentum going: The Money Pit and Nothing in Common. By 1988, his starring role in the movie Big turned Hanks into a bonafide box office star, as well as earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. While Hanks’ career resulted in a few disappointments afterward, he would bounce back in the early 1990s.

18. Sigourney Weaver

Sigourney Weaver in Aliens

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

After outrunning an alien Xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s 1979 seminal horror Alien, Sigourney Weaver became a household name. She expanded her image with movies like Eyewitness, The Year of Living Dangerously, and Deal of the Century. In 1984, she played female lead Dana Barrett in Ghostbusters, a game-changing release that blended multiple genres together – action, comedy, sci-fi, and horror – and won over audiences of adults and children alike. Sigourney Weaver kept busy in the ‘80s, with a starring role in the hit Alien sequel, simply titled Aliens, as well as other movies like Gorillas in the Mist and Working Girl. Her career endured well into the 21st century, including the box office juggernauts Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water.

17. Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Arguably no one better defines the 1980s than Michael J. Fox, whose roles in the Back to the Future movies typify the look and feel of the decade. Growing up a child actor in the 1970s, Michael J. Fox rose to prominence through the TV sitcom Family Ties. His other notable movies of the time include Teen Wolf (which went on to spawn a franchise), The Secret of My Success, and Casualties of War. In 1991, Fox began to display symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and has since become an advocate for Parkinson’s disease research. Fox kept acting throughout the 1990s and 2000s, including a starring role in the hit TV sitcom Spin City. By 2020, Fox had completely retired from acting due to the effects of the disease rendering him unable to speak.

16. Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell in The Thing

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Kurt Russell had a rich and varied career even before he shot up aliens and bad guys on the big screen. After a career as a child actor in Disney productions, Kurt Russell enjoyed a brief secondary career as a minor league baseball player until a 1973 injury forced him back to acting. In 1981, he reunited with Disney to voice a part in The Fox and the Hound, and that same year worked with director John Carpenter on the movie Escape From New York. The latter film started a fruitful partnership between the two, with Russell making more appearances in Carpenter’s decade-defining work like The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China. Russell’s other movies, like Silkwood, Swing Shift, The Mean Season, Overboard, Tequila Sunrise, and Tango & Cash ensured that he became one of the most recognized faces throughout the decade. His career continued well into the 21st century, with parts in studio franchises like Fast & Furious, The Christmas Chronicles, and the Godzilla TV series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.

15. Ben Kingsley 

Ben Kingsley in Gandhi

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

One of the most decorated British Indian actors of all time, Ben Kingsley began his career in theater, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1967 and spending the first decade of his career on stage. He started acting in movies in the ‘70s, and in 1982 he starred in the biopic Gandhi playing the famed Indian lawyer and activist. The part earned Kinglsey the Academy Award for Best Actor, as well as a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. He spent the rest of the ‘80s making movies like Turtle Diary, Maurice, Pascali’s Island, and Without a Clue. In 2013, he joined the Marvel franchise as Trevor Slattery, a part he reprised in 2021’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. 

14. Bill Murray

Bill Murray in Ghostbusters

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Coming up through The National Lampoon Radio Hour and Saturday Night Live, Bill Murray’s screen career went nuclear in the 1980s (in large part to his collaboration with Harold Ramis) with comedic hits like Caddyshack, Stripes, and both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II. However, Murray took a brief break from acting – though he made exceptions with some stage appearances – following the box office failure of his adaptation of the novel The Razor’s Edge. By 1988, Bill Murray was back on the screen in the lead role of Richard Donner’s Christmas comedy Scrooged. The 1990s saw even more success for Murray, with the 1993 time loop comedy Groundhog Day permanently cementing his movie star status.

13. Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

A revolutionary stand-up comedian and one of the most popular Saturday Night Live cast members of all time, Eddie Murphy leveraged his magnetic charisma and sharp comic timing to earn a place on the silver screen. Starting with Walter Hill’s 1982 buddy cop comedy 48 Hrs., Murray’s hot streak in the ‘80s ran wild with movies like Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, and Coming to America. In 1989, Murphy wrote and directed the period comedy Harlem Nights. The movie was panned by critics and bombed at the box office, and started a cold run for Murphy in the ‘90s that wouldn’t turn around until The Nutty Professor in 1996. 

12. Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson in Tequila Sunrise

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

After starring in George Miller’s gritty classic Mad Max in 1979, Mel Gibson leapt from Australia’s filmmaking scene to his native America to become one  of the decade’s most popular stars. In addition to both Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Gibson expanded his movie stardom to include features like The Year of Living Dangerously, The Bounty, The River, Tequila Sunrise, and the first two movies in the Lethal Weapon series. The ‘90s and ‘00s saw greater fame for Gibson, including work as a director, though Gibson’s ungainly demonstrations of racism and antisemitism saw him blacklisted for over a decade.

11. Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep in Out of Africa

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Following her acclaimed performances in the movies The Deer Hunter and Kramer vs. Kramer, Meryl Streep became one of the movie industry’s biggest stars of the 1980s. She won an Oscar for her sympathetic, heart-wrenching performance in the movie Sophie’s Choice, in which she plays a Holocaust survivor living in America. The rest of the decade saw even more mighty work from Streep, including Silkwood, Out of Africa, Heartburn, Ironweed, and A Cry in the Dark. The ‘90s saw Streep enjoy further success, and by the new millennium Streep’s name was synonymous with quality and prestige in Hollywood.

10. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator

(Image credit: Orion Pictures)

Come with him if you want to live. A former professional bodybuilder who typified the era of 1980s beefcake action movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger came to worldwide prominence primarily through the 1982 fantasy film Conan the Barbarian, a live-action film version of the pulp comics character. The movie catapulted Schwarzenegger to the stratosphere, and in 1984 he starred in James Cameron’s classic sci-fi thriller The Terminator. “Arnie” spent the rest of the 1980s in similar features, like Predator, Commando, and The Running Man, but he also dipped into comedy with movies like Red Heat and Twins. By the 1990s Schwarzenegger was figuratively and literally one of the biggest movie stars in the world, but it was in the 1980s that Schwarzenegger felt so much larger than life.

9. Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton in Batman

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Even before he suited up as Batman, Michael Keaton was already a buzz-worthy on-screen talent with leading roles in movies like Night Shift, Mr. Mom, Johnny Dangerously, and Beetlejuice. When Keaton was cast to play Batman, however, hardcore comic book fans took umbrage with the fact that a goofy actor known for comedies was to play the Caped Crusader. After the release of Batman, however, fans adored Keaton, as did the rest of the world, with Keaton becoming one of the biggest Hollywood stars by the 1990s. 

8. Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson in The Shining

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

After achieving success in the 1970s, Jack Nicholson kicked off the 1980s with Stanley Kubrick’s now-celebrated film version of Stephen King’s The Shining, in the role of troubled author and family man Jack Torrace. Nicholson kept up his career momentum with movies like Reds, Terms of Endearment, Heartburn, The Witches of Eastwick, Ironweed, and The Postman Always Rings Twice, the latter at first garnering negative reviews but has found renewed admiration over time. In 1989, Jack Nicholson played the iconic comic book villain The Joker, opposite Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s Batman. Nicholson ended his career with the 2010 rom-com How Do You Know, due to memory loss hindering his ability to keep acting.

7. Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer in Ladyhawke

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

A prolific and bankable movie star for over four decades, Michelle Pfeiffer experienced the bulk of her success in the 1980s. While many of her early ‘80s works were duds, such as 1982’s Grease 2, she began to experience stardom after her performance in the 1983 crime thriller Scarface, with Al Pacino. Afterward, Michelle Pfeiffer became one of the most sought-after stars in Hollywood, with movies like Into the Night, Ladyhawke, Sweet Liberty, Amazon Women on the Moon, The Witches of Eastwick, Married to the Mob, Tequila Sunrise, Dangerous Liaisons, and The Fabulous Baker Boys. Pfeiffer starred in movies well into the 2020s, including a recurring role as Janet Van Dyne, aka The Wasp, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.

6. Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

After piloting the Millennium Falcon in a galaxy far, far away, Harrison Ford instantly became one of the most famous faces in the 1980s. From his starring roles in some of the decade’s biggest movies, like Raiders of the Lost Ark (the first film in the Indiana Jones series), Blade Runner, and two more Star Wars sequels, Harrison Ford transitioned into more grounded fare, like the 1985 noir crime thriller Witness, the 1986 drama The Mosquito Coast, and the 1988 rom-com Working Girl. The next decade saw Harrison Ford cement his status with starring roles in the Jack Ryan film series and other blockbusters, like Air Force One in 1997. 

5. Robin Williams

Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam

(Image credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

One of the most adored comic actors of all time, Robin Williams first burst onto Hollywood through his starring role in the sci-fi sitcom Mork & Mindy. Audiences fell in love with Williams’ unique and frantic storytelling in his comedy, and in the early ‘80s he led a few stand-up specials for HBO. His first film to feature him in a starring role, Robert Altman’s Popeye – an adaptation of the iconic cartoon character – was a box office disappointment, but Williams’ performance was lauded by critics. In 1987, his star-making role in Barry Levinson’s Good Morning, Vietnam earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. He was nominated again a few years later, for his lead role in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society. By the 1990s Robin Williams was virtually unstoppable, and he later expanded into non-comedic genres. His death by suicide in 2014 encouraged an outpouring of grief in and out of Hollywood.

4. Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Even before he felt the need for speed in Top Gun, Tom Cruise was already a maverick of a movie star through his dashing good looks and piercing charisma. After a supporting part in the movie The Outsiders, Cruise danced his way to cinematic immortality in the 1983 film Risky Business. While his subsequent films, All the Right Moves and Legend, failed to catch fire, his role in the 1986 action epic Top Gun launched Cruise way into the stratosphere. He finished the decade working with some of the biggest directors and actors in the industry, in movies like The Color of Money, Cocktail, Rain Man, and Born on the Fourth of July. In the 1990s, Tom Cruise became the leading male of Hollywood, and his stardom hasn’t diminished since.

3. Anthony Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins in The Elephant Man

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

One of Britain’s most revered actors in history known for his intense preparation, Anthony Hopkins’ name boasts numerous accolades including Oscars, BAFTAs, Emmys, as well as the Cecil B. DeMille Award and even knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. Once part of the Royal National Theater, his stardom began with the 1980 movie The Elephant Man, which gave Hopkins international attention and mainstream fame. He also starred in A Change of Seasons that same year, opposite Shirley MacLaine with whom he famously did not get along with. Hopkins starred in more ‘80s pictures like The Bounty, The Good Father, and The Dawning.

2. Michael Douglas

Michael Douglas in Wall Street

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Best known for playing powerful men with strong personalities, Michael Douglas – son of actor Kirk Douglas – forever became a movie star through his leading role in the 1984 adventure comedy Romancing the Stone. He was already a success in Hollywood, being a producer of movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The China Syndrome. Still, he earned his own recognition as a movie star in the 1980s through movies like Fatal Attraction, The War of the Roses, and Wall Street, the latter of which won him an Oscar for Best Actor. While the bulk of Douglas’ fame would be defined by his work in the ‘90s, the 1980s saw him deliver his most unforgettable movies of his career.

1. Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro in a boxing ring in Raging Bull

(Image credit: United Artists)

Robert De Niro rose to Hollywood fame in the 1970s, but his stardom was indisputable in the 1980s. He began the decade leading Martin Scorsese’s searing drama Raging Bull, winning his second Oscar for Best Actor. He followed it up with more hits and auteur collaborations, such as True Confessions, The King of Comedy, Once Upon a Time in America, The Untouchables, Midnight Run, and Jacknife. (A shout out to his mesmerizing bit part in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, which feels like it comes from out of nowhere.) Robert De Niro has simply never felt irrelevant in his career, even in the 21st century when he seems to be comfortable making lighthearted comedies. While the 1970s includes some of De Niro’s most interesting work, he is perhaps at his best in the ‘80s.

Eric Francisco

Eric Francisco is a freelance entertainment journalist and graduate of Rutgers University. If a movie or TV show has superheroes, spaceships, kung fu, or John Cena, he's your guy to make sense of it. A former senior writer at Inverse, his byline has also appeared at Vulture, The Daily Beast, Observer, and The Mary Sue. You can find him screaming at Devils hockey games or dodging enemy fire in Call of Duty: Warzone.