Now, just to be clear, when we say pop culture, we mean both today’s pop culture and whatever culture was popping while you were growing up. So gear yourself up for another trip down the past few decades and try to spot out the people whose faces were (or maybe even still are, no judgement here) on your bedroom posters.
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Unlike many of the heartthrobs and stars of the ‘90s, actress Sarah Michelle Gellar was able to translate her television fame into an enviable movie career. Gellar became an internationally-known celebrity as Buffy Summers on the hit series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
She later starred in memorable films like “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and the cult-favorite, “Cruel Intentions.” In addition to voice-acting, she has also launched her own cookbook and a baking kit company. Outside of acting, Gellar is happily married to Freddie Prinze Jr. and the couple had two kids together.
Though Leonardo DiCaprio won over critics with his moving performances in films like “This Boy’s Life” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” his reputation as a Hollywood heartthrob was cemented in his roles as Romeo in “Romeo + Juliet” and as Jack in “Titanic.” But that was just the beginning for Leo.
DiCaprio has continued to show his serious acting chops in critically acclaimed films like “Blood Diamond” and “Django Unchained,” however, it was his challenging role in “The Revenant” that finally earned him an Academy Award. He is also a passionate activist and uses his platform to raise awareness about climate change.
When Robert Pattinson was cast as Edward Cullen in "The Twilight Saga" films, he probably didn’t expect to be the obsession of the millions of devoted “twihards” (“Twilight” super fans). He managed to break out of his heartthrob mold by starring in several critically acclaimed independent films.
These include the likes of "Good Time" (directed by the Safdie brothers) and "The Lighthouse" (directed by Robert Eggers). He has also made a move into the blockbuster realm by donning the bat-suit and playing Batman in the latest reboot of the superhero story. Pattinson is one of the most well-respected actors today.
Though she had been acting and hosting in her native Canada from a young age, Elisha Cuthbert became a familiar face in the American action drama “24” as Kim Bauer. Elisha quickly became known for her looks and provocative magazine spreads, a reputation boosted by racy roles in films like “The Girl Next Door” and “Love Actually.”
She also had a minor role in the comedy "Old School," playing the daughter of Mitch's boss. Cuthbert continues to act and has starred in films like “The Ranch” and “The Cellar.” In 2022, she starred in the movie "Friday Afternoon in the Universe."
It is no wonder that Brad Pitt was name-checked in Shania Twain’s hit song “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” And it is also not the first time the actor was used as a measuring unit on the handsome scale. He is one of the quintessential Hollywood heartthrobs.
Pitt first caught audiences' eyes in the film “Thelma & Louise” followed by “Legends of the Fall.” He soon became a Hollywood heavyweight and has appeared in cult classics like “Fight Club” and “Seven.” He even won an academy award for his role in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” proving he is far more than just a handsome face.
If you have ever been to a sleepover, you have probably lip-synced to "You're the One That I Want" — Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta's iconic duet from “Grease.” While this was certainly the apex mountain of her career, Olivia had a steady, successful career for many decades.
Though the British/Australian singer had released several chart-topping hits like “I Honestly Love You,” she became known for her role as good-girl-gone-bad Sandy. Newton-John was involved in music but has also made a name for herself as an advocate for women’s health issues and animal rights. In August 2022 she sadly passed away after a long battle.
Robert Downey Jr.
Let’s be honest, Hollywood is not really known for giving celebrities second chances. But despite his numerous run-ins with the law and substance abuse, actor Robert Downey Jr. was able to rise from the ashes like a show business phoenix.
From starring in “brat-pack” films of the ‘80s like “Weird Science” to bringing the character of Iron Man to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he has defied the odds to become one of the most in-demand actors today. Since departing the MCU, Downey Jr. has ventured into other acting roles, most notably starring in the Christopher Nolan-directed movie "Oppenheimer."
Janet Jackson may be the sister of the late pop legend Michael Jackson, but she has rightfully earned her title as a pop icon. Like the other members of the Jackson family, Janet entered showbiz at a young age.
Janet made a name for herself with the release of her album “Control” with its explicit lyrics and even racier music videos. Today, she continues to influence the music industry and is still expanding her discography. In 2022, a four-part documentary limited series titled "Janet Jackson" covered the life and times of Jackson and was received favorably by critics.
You know you’re an icon when you inspire a generation to name an item of clothing after a character you played. When actress Catherine Bach joined the cast of “The Dukes of Hazzard,” she had a specific vision of what her character Daisy Duke should wear. Enter the super short and skin-tight denim shorts dubbed "Daisy Dukes."
When the show wrapped, the leggy actress and fashion pioneer appeared in several other shows including “African Skies” and more recently, the long-running soap opera, “The Young and the Restless.” Bach's most recent TV role came in the television movie "My Best Friend."
There's aging well, and then there’s aging like Rob Lowe. The former teen idol continues to be a Hollywood heartthrob even decades after becoming a certified member of the “Brat Pack” in the ‘80s by starring in films like “The Outsiders” and “St. Elmo’s Fire.”
Lowe has a new generation of fans to swoon over him thanks to his role as the hyper-positive Chris Traeger in “Parks and Recreation.” Lowe also had a run of projects on Netflix, starring in movies such as "Dog Gone," as well as the series "Unstable." The latter of which also includes his son, John Owen Lowe.
If the ‘90s was the era of the supermodel, then Cindy Crawford was the unofficial queen of the runway. Her star quality made her a natural in front of the camera, even off the runway. Who can forget her famous 1992 Pepsi commercial?
Crawford also appeared in George Michael’s iconic music video for his hit song “Freedom ‘90.” Though she no longer models, she continues to be the face of several products including her own line of furniture and skin care. In more recent times, Crawford's daughter Kaia Gerber has also followed in her footsteps, becoming an influential model in her own right.
Freddie Prinze Jr.
In the late ‘90s, it was hard to find a teen movie without actor Freddie Prinze Jr. His good looks and charm made him a fixture in movies and countless teen magazines. Of course, Freddie was the star of movies such as "I Know What You Did Last Summer," as well as the live-action remake of "Scooby-Doo."
Though he continued to act into the 2000s, his career never reached the “ultimate movie star crush” highs of the ‘90s. Today, Prinze has surprisingly been involved in the wrestling world, serving as a producer and director for the WWE. Prinze also voiced the role of Kanan Jarrus on the animated series "Star Wars: Rebels."
It's quite the compliment when filmmakers consider you to be the perfect specimen of a woman — at least that’s what happened to actress and model Kelly LeBrock when she was cast as the “perfect” woman in the sci-fi comedy “Weird Science.”
Just out of her teens, model LeBrock began her acting career with the 1984 romantic comedy “The Woman in Red.” Though she has stepped away from Hollywood, LeBrock was once considered one of the most desirable women of the ’80s. LeBrock hasn't done that much acting in recent times. Her most recent role came as Donna in the 2019 movie "Charlie Boy."
Michael J. Fox
Even decades later, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t want to take a spin in the DeLorean with Michael J. Fox. After starring in the sitcom “Family Ties,” Fox’s talent helped earn him his most famous role as Marty McFly in the “Back to the Future” films.
Unlike many teen idols before him, Fox has continued to act in critically acclaimed shows like “The Good Wife.” Fox is considered one of the most beloved actors in Hollywood. In 2023, Fox was the main subject of Apple TV+ documentary "Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie." The movie, which documents his struggles with Parkinson's disease, received widespread critical acclaim.
Tiffani Amber Thiessen
Still considered a heartthrob today, Tiffani Amber Thiessen wowed us as Kelly Kapowski on the hit high school-themed sitcom, “Saved by the Bell.” Thiessen continued to dominate ‘90s television with a role on the equally iconic show “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
Unlike many screen queens of the decade, Thiessen has continued to act, starring in shows like “White Collar” and the revival of “Saved by the Bell.” She also hosts a cooking-themed comedy show called “Deliciousness.” In 2021, Thiessen was awarded the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Daytime Fiction Program for her performance on the series "Alexa & Katie."
Chad Michael Murray
After landing several modeling contracts, Murray got his breakout role as Tristan Dugray on “Gilmore Girls.” He followed that role by playing Lucas Scott in the iconic early 2000s teen drama, “One Tree Hill.”
During the early 2000s, Murray seemed to be everywhere — in film, on television, and even in music videos. Though his fans may have grown up, Murray is still acting and recently appeared in the television series “Agent Carter” and “Riverdale” a drama tailor-made for Gen Z teens. In 2023, Murray went back to his roots and landed the lead role in the Canadian romantic drama series "Sullivan's Crossing."
The ‘80s — a time when mall concert tours attracted big crowds and performers with even bigger hair. At the forefront was the pop star and teen idol, Tiffany. Her pop cover of the song “I Think We’re Alone Now” catapulted her to the top of the music charts, which she soon followed with hits like “Could've Been.”
Funnily enough, Tiffany appeared in the hilarious "Sandcastles in the Sand" music video on the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother." Though her fame didn’t last into the next decade, she continues to record music, tour, and star in several reality shows. In fact, in 2022, Tiffany released her 11th studio album, "Shadows."
With his sparkling blue eyes and smile, actor Kirk Cameron instantly became a teen heartthrob on the popular sitcom, “Growing Pains.” After appearing in a variety of films and television series, Cameron took a break from Hollywood to reconnect with his faith, which is manifested itself in numerous ways since then.
In 2001, Cameron released the first of his “Left Behind” film series and has since starred in several faith-based productions. In 2019, he starred alongside sister Candace Cameron (who plays D.J. Tanner) in the “Full House" reboot, “Fuller House.” Since 2021, Cameron has been the host of the Christian talk show "Takeaways with Kirk Cameron."
Alyssa Milano may have charmed her way into America's hearts as Tony Danza’s precocious daughter on “Who’s the Boss,” but she's also one of the few child actors who were able to navigate their way to a successful adult career in Hollywood.
Milano went on to star in major television productions like “Melrose Place” and “Charmed.” Though she continues to act in shows like Netflix’s “Insatiable,” she is better known today for her political activism. She has been one of the most vocal celebrity spokespeople of the "#MeToo" movement since 2017. In 2022, Milano starred in the Netflix thriller "Brazen."
A household name in Australia by the 1980s thanks to her role in the popular soap opera “Neighbours,” Kylie Minogue didn’t gain international fame until she became a recording artist. Minogue’s single, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is considered one of the biggest songs of the early 2000s.
But of course, she had many other hit singles to her name. She is considered a pop culture legend in her native Australia and in the UK where she hosts reality television shows and is considered a style icon. Minogue has also become a spokeswoman for cancer awareness after a long bout with breast cancer.
Though detention is never fun, we don’t think we’d mind if we got to sit near someone like Judd Nelson. With his good looks and “bad boy” charm, it’s no wonder Nelson was a common fixture in many “Brat-Pack” films during the ‘80s. His most iconic role though has to be the rebellious John Bender in the classic flick "The Breakfast Club."
Though his career cooled down a bit in the ‘90s, Nelson has continued to act with roles in the Fox drama, “Empire” and the Lifetime Movie Network film, “The Girl in the Basement.” In 2021, Nelson showed up in an episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Though it may be cringe-worthy, most of us had a poster of actor Jonathan Taylor Thomas during the ‘90s. Often referred to as JTT, the actor rose to fame with roles on the popular sitcom “Home Improvement.” What some might not realize is that he also lent his voice to the character of young Simba in Disney’s “The Lion King.”
After taking a break from acting, he returned to star in the show “Last Man Standing.” He also got the opportunity to direct three episodes of the show, adding another string to his bow. These days, the child actor-turned-teen hottie keeps a low profile, far away from the spotlight.
There aren’t many people who can make a khaki uniform look good, but then again, not many people are television icon Erik Estrada. Estrada became one of the most popular actors of the ‘70s with his role as Officer Frank Poncherello (aka “Ponch”) in the cop drama “CHiPs.”
In addition to appearing in several reality television shows, Estrada serves as a reserve police officer and is involved in various charities and organizations dedicated to families of law enforcement. In 2023, Estrada appeared as himself in "The Masked Singer." Not to perform in a costume, but simply to provide a clue.
One of the most versatile actors in his generation, Johnny Depp's roles have included playing everything from a troubled teen in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” to a swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. With his smoldering looks and charisma, it’s no surprise he’s still considered a heartthrob.
Depp recently starred in the “Fantastic Beasts” series of films and is expected to reprise his role as Jack Sparrow. Depp's career has taken a bit of a setback in recent years following the highly-publicized trial he underwent with his ex-wife Amber Heard. His daughter Lily-Rose is certainly following in his footsteps though.
Carrere’s fame as a ‘90s pin-up was established by roles in the comedy “Wayne’s World” and in the drama “True Lies” opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger. Carrere was an important part of the much-loved Disney movie, “Lilo & Stitch” where she voiced Lilo's beloved older sister Nani Pelekai.
She has also recorded five studio albums and has won two Grammy Awards for her music inspired by her Hawaiian heritage. She has also starred as Lady Danger on the Netflix show “AJ and the Queen." She also joined the cast for the Disney live-action remake of "Lilo & Stich," albeit playing a different character.
Though it may be embarrassing to admit, many of us had a crush on the eldest “Brady Bunch” son Greg, played by actor Barry Williams. Williams reached international levels of fame when he was cast in the famous family-based sitcom. After the show ended, Williams continued to appear as Greg Brady in various “Brady” sequels and spin-offs.
He even ended up playing himself in one hilarious scene in the penultimate season of "Scrubs." Today, he continues to tour with his musical group Barry Williams and the Traveliers and appeared in the HGTV special “A Very Brady Renovation.” Barry has been married to Tina Mahina since 2017.
Growing up in the ‘90s, there’s a good chance you had a crush on quintessential high school bad boy, Jordan Catalano, played by Jared Leto in “My So-Called Life.” Jared Leto has since taken the entertainment industry by storm.
Apart from being a real-life rockstar in his band 30 Seconds to Mars, he's landed some major movie roles! Leto really showed what he was capable of in the Darren Aronofsky classic "Requiem for a Dream." He has also appeared in "Blade Runner 2049," "House of Gucci," and "Suicide Squad," and even won an Oscar for his performance in "Dallas Buyers Club."
Known as America’s first supermodel, Cheryl Tiegs was a common sight on the covers of magazines like "Time" and most famously, "Sports Illustrated." Cheryl Tiegs’ bikini bod graced the posters found in almost every locker for many decades.
In fact, her 1978 image of her in a pink bikini became one of the most iconic images of the ‘70s. Though Tiegs has hung up her bikini modeling for good, her influence on the world of fashion and modeling continues to be seen even decades later. Her last appearance in a movie came in 2016 in "Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens."
After starring in several after-school specials, Scott Baio became a teen idol with his role in the iconic ‘70s sitcom, “Happy Days.” As Chachi, Baio quickly became a fan favorite and was estimated to have received more than 5,000 letters from devoted fans a week! Now that's impressive.
Baio later found sitcom fame again as the main character in “Charles in Charge.”And who can forget Baio's unforgettable, albeit relatively small role as Bob Loblaw in the genius comedy that is "Arrested Development?" After appearing on various television shows such as Nickelodeon’s “See Dad Run,” Baio has stepped out of the spotlight.
Though she began acting as a child, it wasn’t until her role in “Married…With Children” that Christina Applegate became a household name. With her long blonde hair, racy storylines, and even racier outfits, she quickly became a teen heartthrob.
Following that role, Applegate has continued to act and found a niche in dark comedies like “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead,” “Bad Moms,” and “Dead to Me.” Over the years, Applegate has had her fair share of health battles - her first coming in 2008 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. More recently, she has been living with multiple sclerosis.
After receiving small roles on shows such as “The Fosters” and the Disney show, “Shake It Up,” Noah Centineo found true fame when he landed the role of lovable Peter in the Netflix film, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” With his big brown eyes, bedhead hair, and unassuming, on-screen presence, Noah Centineo has become one of the most recent heartthrobs.
Centineo reprised the role of Peter in “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” and received a notable, big-screen role in the reboot of “Charlie’s Angels. Still a rising star, with a slate of projects coming up, Centineo appears to have all the makings of an unforgettable, teen idol.
In 2011, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson competed individually in the British singing competition, “The X Factor” but were joined together as a boy band by the end of the recording. Harry Styles came up with the band name “One Direction” and in 2011 they released the catchy single, “What Makes You Beautiful.” The song almost instantly made them a household name and they went on to release other hit singles like “One Thing” and “Live While We’re Young.”
After a few years of touring, tv appearances, and album releases, Zayn Malik left the group in 2015. The group continued without Malik and released other singles, most notably “Drag Me Down and “Perfect.” One Direction eventually dissolved, and each member worked on their individual careers, but it has been Harry Styles who has had the most successful career to date.
Singer and actress, Selena Gomez, got her start alongside a big purple dinosaur on “Barney and Friends.” She was soon picked up by Disney and appeared on various tv shows like “Hannah Montana” and “The Sweet Life of Zack and Cody.” She finally landed her own Disney show, “The Wizards of Waverly Place” in 2007 which made her the next Disney starlet. Gomez simultaneously worked on her music career and became the lead singer for “Selena Gomez and the Scene.”
After a brief music break to focus on acting, Selena returned without “the Scene” and began creating her own solo albums such as “Stars Dance,” “Revival” and “Rare.” Today, some of her most beloved songs are "Same Old Love,” and “Lose You to Love Me.” However, Selena still continues to act! She is a star and producer of the hit series "Only Murders in the Building.
Daniel Radcliffe was born to actor parents in London, England and soon began acting himself when he starred in the BBC adaptation of “David Copperfield.” In 2000, Radcliffe received the opportunity that would change his life forever when he was asked to audition for the lead role in “Harry Potter.” Seven Harry Potter films later, Radcliffe became radically famous and beloved by fans.
Though he has tried, Radcliffe has struggled to separate himself from the Harry Potter fandom so he could expand his range as an actor. Since leaving the franchise, he has starred in several films however he will always be best known as "the boy who lived."
Jesse McCartney started out as a soap star on “All My Children” but broke into music after becoming a member of the boy band, “Dream Street.” At age fifteen he went solo and produced his first album, “Beautiful Soul” in 2004 which became number fifteen on the Billboard 200.
He released his second album, “Right Where You Want Me” in 2006 and also lent his talents to various Disney soundtracks. He had brief acting roles on Disney shows, “The Sweet Life of Zack and Cody” and “Hannah Montana.” Though McCartney has not necessarily created a larger-than-life career, he still acts, writes, and produces his own music.
The Jonas Brothers
Nick, Joe, and Kevin Jonas hit the music scene with their catchy song “Please Be Mine” in 2005 which got the attention of Columbia Records president, Steve Greenberg. After touring and awaiting the release of their first official album, their single “Mandy” was featured on the Nickelodeon show “Zoey: 101.” In 2007, the Jonas Brothers were dropped by Columbia but then were signed by Hollywood Records.
They released their second, self-titled album in 2007 which reached number five on the Billboard Hot 200. From here, the Jonas Brothers really took off, recording, performing, and acting; primarily in Disney shows and movies like “Camp Rock” and “Jonas.” After a few more hits like “Paranoid” and “Send It On” the brothers went silent and it was discovered that they had split. Nick, Joe, and Kevin each attempted to go solo in their careers but they ultimately reunited in 2019.
Child star Lindsay Lohan began modeling at age three for big-name brands, but it wasn’t long before her precociousness and comfort in front of the camera led her to her breakout role in the film, “The Parent Trap.” Lohan continued acting through her teens, and her most famous roles were that of Anna Coleman in “Freaky Friday” and Cady Heron in “Mean Girls.” It was also discovered that Lohan had vocal talent, and in her teens, she released a debut album in 2004 called “Speak.”
Into adulthood, Lohan continued to primarily find her success as an actress and starred in a handful of tv shows and movies like “Labor Pains” and “Just My Luck. In recent years, after a series of personal and substance abuse problems, Lohan has quietly tried to rebuild her career. Fingers crossed that she makes a comeback!
Folksinger Stephen Medd first discovered Avril when she performed at a community theater. Medd invited her to collaborate with him on his song, “Touch the Sky” and she also contributed her vocals to a few more of his songs. In 1999, she was finally noticed by industry professional, Cliff Fabri. After working to make a name for herself, she eventually caught lasting attention with the release of her song, “Complicated.”
Lavigne was not the typical, bubbly pop star, but her earthy, emotionally driven lyrics produced devoted fans and she went on to create hits like “Sk8er Boi” and “My Happy Ending.” She has continued to release seven albums over the years and she is still actively songwriting and performing.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
As toddler twins, both Mary-Kate and Ashley starred in “Full House,” sharing the role of Michelle Tanner. During “Full House,” the twins also appeared in other tv shows and films, and, at just seven years old, the girls became media moguls, establishing the production company, “Dualstar.” The company produced their future projects, including a short, video series called “The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley.”
When they reached their teens, the Olsens were most remembered for their sitcom, “So Little Time” and the film “New York Minute.” Today, the two have shifted their focus away from acting entirely to making a name for themselves in the fashion world.
Michael Jackson started out as part of a sibling, singing group called “The Jackson 5” in 1964. Though only six at the time, Michael quickly began to stand out from the rest with his powerful, melodic voice. The group’s song, “I Want You Back” became the number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and many hits followed, such as “I’ll Be There” and “It’s Your Thing.”
Michael’s talent only grew with him and he eventually went solo, creating hits like “Thriller,” “Bad,” and “Man in the Mirror.” The glamor, fame, and publicity surrounding Jackson became larger-than-life which led to some extreme, personal struggles and disturbing accusations of inappropriate behavior. Sadly, Jackson died in 2009 from cardiac arrest but this has only served to immortalize his stardom.
Since the group’s formation, Duran Duran has had many members come and go, but it was Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, and Roger Taylor that became mainstays in the minds of fans. Duran Duran first emerged in 1981 with the hit single, “Planet Earth.”
But it was their third single, “Girls On Film” that really sparked a serious fan base and led the group to affectionately be called “The Fab Five.” Over their career, the group endured creative differences, burnout, career decline, comebacks, and more group member departures. The band continues to work on music together to this day. Duran Duran fans rejoice!
The Sheens are certainly one of the most iconic families in the world of Hollywood over the last 50 years. And while he might not carry the more popular name of Sheen, Emilio Estevez has played a big part in the family's success. He is best recognized from his role in “The Breakfast Club” as detention-bound jock, Andrew Clark.
He also garnered fame for his part in the 1985 drama, “St. Elmo’s Fire,” co-starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore. In the ‘90s, Estevez tried his hand behind the scenes and, along with acting, wrote and directed the comedy, “Men at Work” with his brother Charlie Sheen. These days Emilio has seemingly taken a step away from the showbiz spotlight.
John Stamos landed his first role on the daytime soap, “General Hospital” and in 1984, he was nominated for a Daytime Emmy. However, almost everyone today remembers Stamos as Uncle Jesse on the feel-good, family sitcom, “Full House.” Stamos desired to break away from his wholesome persona in order to expand his range as an actor, but he struggled to obtain the parts that he hoped would redirect his career.
Outside of acting, Stamos also showed an interest in music and has independently produced his own projects. He has also reprised his role as Uncle Jesse on the “Full House” reboot, “Fuller House” and has appeared as Dr. Nicky on the Netflix thriller series, “You.”
Corey Feldman was a busy, child star during the '80s. He took on roles in “The Goonies" and “Bad News Bears.” He gained even more acclaim for his role in the dramatic film, “Stand By Me.” As Feldman grew into his career, he was surrounded by fellow stars and droves of fans.
He struggled to endure the fame and pressure and unfortunately fell into substance abuse. These personal problems (including the loss of his friend Cory Haim) marred his career and, though he continued to act and even tried to find success as a musician, he did not find nearly as much success in his adult years.
Marlon Brando was a method actor who got his start on Broadway but broke out to stardom for his performance in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Brando brought virility and unmatched intensity to his performances which captivated both male and female audiences around the world.
He went on to star in Elia Kazan’s “On the Waterfront” and took on the role of Mark Antony in “Julius Caesar.” His later work included playing the iconic patriarch of the Corleone crime family, Don Vito Corleone, in “The Godfather.” With a career spanning sixty years and multiple awards, Marlon Brando will remain a legendary Hollywood star.
Silent film actor Rudolph Valentino may be one of the earliest, documented teen idols, if we are going to be completely honest. An Italian immigrant who was dark and exotic to American audiences, he was originally typecast as the villain in his earlier films like “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
Later, he was known as the “Great Lover” in Hollywood and became the heart-throb of the 1920s after he was cast as every girl’s dream in films like “The Son of the Sheik.” Sadly, at just thirty-one with a lot of potential in his career, Valentino died from complications following an appendectomy.
Lady Gaga, born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, caught the ear of the public when she released her singles “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” in 2008. Though she was first known for her popular dance anthems, Lady Gaga has demonstrated tremendous versatility and talent across music and acting genres.
She performed a handful of songs with jazz artist, Tony Bennett, and, in 2018, she wowed fans again with her acting and singing performance in the film “A Star Is Born.” Since then, Gaga has also starred in movies such as "House of Gucci" and "Joker: Folie à Deux," starring alongside Joaquin Phoenix.
As a child, Joey Lawrence had guest roles on “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Silver Spoons," amongst other shows. But it was his role as Joey Donavan in “Gimme a Break!” that really put him on the map and helped garner him more attention from Hollywood. After this, he turned into a full-on, teen idol when he became one of the lead stars on the show, “Blossom.”
Lawrence also dabbled in music and, although he had some hit songs, it was not a lasting career choice for him. He has continued his acting career and starred in the sitcom "Melissa & Joey."
Miley Cyrus was born to famous country singer Billy Ray Cyrus and while many know her from the Disney series “Hannah Montana" Cyrus’s music career really took off after she released “The Climb” in 2009. Her catchy song, “Party in the U.S.A.” was also a hit.
But it was the release of her album “Can’t Be Tamed” and her new, controversial image that followed that kept fans along for the ride. Today, Cyrus is still a household name having appeared in a smattering of tv shows and films and with the continuous release of her music. Her songs "Wrecking Ball" and "Flowers" have also taken her career to dizzy new heights.
Zac Efron stole teenage hearts as the golden-haired, blue-eyed basketball star in the 2006 Disney movie, “Highschool Musical.” After two sequels, Efron took a step away from Disney with his role in the film “Me and Orson Welles.” Once proven a solid actor, Efron went on to star in “The Lucky One” and “The Greatest Showman.”
His grittiest role to date was playing serial killer Ted Bundy in “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.” He also famously starred alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the reboot movie "Baywatch." Efron’s career has diversified over the years to include Netflix documentarian with his series, “Down To Earth.”
Frankie Valli’s singing career began as a part of the group, “Variety Trio” with Tommy DeVito and Nick Macioci. Valli later became a part of “The 4 Seasons” group and though the other four members came and went, Valli remained the lead singer as time went on.
Over the years, Valli sang several hit songs including: “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “You’re Ready Now,” and “Fallen Angel.” Valli’s voice and style became essential to the classic, feel-good genre of ‘60s swing and he still performs to this today. In 2021, he released his 12th studio album "A Touch of Jazz."
Ariana Grande was first an actress on the Nickelodeon show, “Victorious” before becoming one of today’s biggest pop stars. The Victorious audience was wowed by Grande’s powerful voice and vocal range when she would occasionally sing on the show and in 2013, she released her first album, “Yours Truly.”
With a powerful, sultry voice, multiple hits like “Love Me Harder” and “Break Free,” and multiple concert tours later, Grande maintains a huge fanbase. Her album, “Thank U, Next” was released in 2019 and dealt with the relationship troubles she had recently experienced, most notably with Pete Davidson.
The doe-eyed blonde, Sandra Dee, started out as a model and later moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career. Her first appearance on-screen was in the 1957 film “Until They Sail” and after this, she appeared in a few other films until she landed the starring role in the comedic, beach movie, “Gidget.”
She was married to a fellow-teen idol, Bobby Darin whom she divorced a few years later, though they share a son. By the end of the ‘60s, Dee was dropped by Universal Pictures as her career declined. Sadly, she struggled with an eating disorder and self-image problems throughout her life and in 2005 passed away from kidney disease complications.
Post Malone, whose real name is Austin Richard Post, first got his big break into music in 2015 after he released a self-produced, music video that received recognition from already established artists, Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa. He ultimately signed with Republic Records and began collaborating with a few other rappers such as Kanye West and Young Thug.
His sound garnered public attention but it was his eccentric and down-to-earth personality that grew his fan base. His first album was called “Stoney” released in 2016 and since then he has also released “Beerbongs and Bentleys” in 2018 and, most recently “Hollywood is Bleeding” in 2019.
Singer Katy Perry is notable for creating multiple pop hits that became upbeat anthems for young and old alike over the last few decades. Perry burst onto the music scene in 2008 with her album, “One of the Boys,” which contained the provocative song, “I Kissed A Girl.”
Perry has created music that is quirky, controversial, and upbeat but she also manages to continually surprise her fans with her creativity. “Firework” and “Roar” are still some of her trademark hits, even though she continues to bring out new music. She's happily married to Orlando Bloom and the pair even welcomed a child into the world.
The Monkees began as a tv show concept from Filmmaker Bob Rafelson. Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Davy Jones were the real-life musicians who also starred in “The Monkees” tv show about a struggling music group. At the heart of their fun-loving group was lead singer Davy Jones.
Aside from being in the tv show, the group also toured and produced albums, like “Headquarters” and “The Birds, The Bees, and The Monkees.” The foursome parted ways in 1971 but later reformed to record music and play reunion shows. Sadly Davy Jones and Peter Tork have since passed away.
Britney Spears first started out as Disney Mouseketeer where her passion for singing and dancing bloomed. When she was 16 years old she released her debut album, “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” This debut album became the largest-selling album by a teenage artist. The following year, she released her second studio album “Oops!... I Did It Again” which was equally as successful.
Over the years, Spears' image has largely rested on her physicality, especially as a teen. Having said that, she has also managed to evolve her work as an artist. She has also faced personal struggles which have been exacerbated by constant media attention and paparazzi. However, it seems that she's gaining control of her life back and we can't wait to see what's in store for the star.
John Travolta’s acting career began after he dropped out of school and started performing in the touring company production of “Grease.” Later, he moved to Los Angeles and divided his time between singing and acting. He eventually landed two of his most notable roles, Tony Manero in “Saturday Night Fever” and Danny Zuko in the film version of “Grease.”
Ever since then, Travolta has become one of the most celebrated actors in Hollywood who has had a career that spanned from the ‘70s until today. He cemented his stardom by starring and twisting in the cult classic film "Pulp Fiction."
After the domination of the Backstreet Boys in the ‘90s, came a new era led by NSYNC. Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone, and Lance Bass were the ultimate fangirl material, producing hits like “Bye Bye Bye” and “It’s Gonna Be Me.” Rolling Stone called dubbed it one of the Top 25 Teen Idol Breakout Moments of all time.
Over the years, NSYNC has performed at the Olympics, the World Series, and the Super Bowl. They have had many collaborative performances with artists like Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Céline Dion, and Gloria Estefan. Since the dissolution of the group in 2002, the band members have all chosen different paths with Justin Timberlake remaining one of the biggest pop stars and actors in the world.
Frankie Avalon was one of the last crooners of his era, with hits like “Why” and “Venus” but his first public performance was playing the trumpet on “The Jackie Gleason Show” after being discovered by a talent scout at a party. After this public performance, Avalon began working on his singing career and created thirty-one Billboard singles by the time he was twenty-two. He was well-known for his acting career and starred opposite another teen idol, Annette Funicello, in the “Beach Party” movies.
Since the height of his fame, Frankie branched out to other ventures including developing his own line of health and cosmetic products and publishing an 80-page recipe book called Frankie Avalon’s Italian Family Cookbook. He shares eight children with his wife Kathryn Diebel whom he married in 1963 and the two are still together today.
Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison formed the rock band, “The Beatles” in 1960 and, after a few years of performing in clubs in Hamburg and Liverpool, they eventually erupted onto the music scene in 1964. The local record store owner, Brian Epstein, effectively discovered the group and helped them gain international stardom.
The Beatles ruled music in the ‘60s producing a fandom so intense the phenomenon was termed “Beatlemania.” With John Lennon and George Harrison gone, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are the only two surviving members. Ringo Starr is worth roughly 350 million and Paul McCartney alone is worth over $1.6 billion. However, after decades of success, after adding up the estates of all four members, their combined net worth is over $2 billion.
Elvis Presley, known to the world as “the King” is the best example of a teen idol. Elvis became synonymous with rock n’ roll as he burst onto the scene in 1956 when he recorded for RCA in Nashville, Tennessee. With controversial dance moves and a look and sound so different from other musicians of his day, he quickly caught attention when he first performed publicly. Little did Presley know just how famous he would become.
Over the years, he won three Grammys and had eighteen Billboard number one songs. He also appeared and performed in films like “Blue Hawaii,” “G.I. Blues” and “Return to Sender.” While Presley’s rise to fame was an example of the quintessential, American dream, his demise is still mourned by fans today. By the end of the ‘70s, Elvis was in both poor physical and emotional health and passed away on August 16, 1977.
Andy Gibb (the youngest sibling to Bee Gees band members Barry, Robin, and Maurice) first began experimenting in the world of music at age thirteen and in 1974, started his first group, “Melody Fayre” with John Alderson and John Stringer. After a lot of hard work and unreleased material, Gibb finally made a name for himself in 1976 with the hit single, “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” and with “Love is Thicker Than Water” in 1977.
Over his short career, Gibb had a lot of collaborations with musicians like Olivia Newton-John and ABBA and drew the acclaim of Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury. However, by the ‘80s Andy was struggling with a barrage of personal problems. Despite seemingly beating his habit, the damage to Andy’s heart was so irreversible that he passed away in 1988 at age thirty.
Pat Boone has had a glittering career since he first exploded onto the scene in 1957. In the ‘50s, he was second in popularity to “the King” himself, Elvis Presley. Boone had modest beginnings, first performing in Nashville’s Centennial Park but he later rose to fame after he began recording for Republic Records and then for Dot Records. Interestingly, the singer found success covering songs previously released by African American artists, but he also received criticism for this.
Like many music stars, Boone transitioned into the world of television and movies but never became a notable, Hollywood star. Not one to shy away from reinvention, Boone also released a collection of Heavy Metal covers called “In A Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy.”
New Kids on the Block
Johnathan Knight, Jordan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Danny Wood, Mark Wahlberg, and Donnie Wahlberg made up the 80s sensation, “New Kids on the Block. Their self-titled, debut album was released in 1986 when they were just teenagers. Mark Wahlberg was briefly replaced by Jamie Kelly when he left the group in 1985.
The band’s popularity exploded when they supported pop star, Tiffany on her U.S. tour, but they later split in the mid-90s. After this, Wahlberg turned his attention to acting as he took roles in movies like “Boogie Nights" and "The Departed." The group reunited in 2008 and still perform together.
Leif Garrett and his sister, Dawn Lyn, pursued acting together, co-starring in the horror flick, “Devil Times Five.” After a couple of smaller roles, Garret found a more sizeable opportunity in the role of Jimmy Henderson in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.” Pivoting from acting, Garrett began pursuing music in the 70s which ultimately landed him the label of "teen idol."
He played piano, drums, keyboard, and guitar and his first album spawned several modest hits including “Come Back When You Grow Up.” Garrett’s career has fluctuated over the years. His stint on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2010 was not a high point. Unfortunately, the former child star hasn’t released any new music or acted in quite some time and has most recently been in the news, discussing his substance abuse struggles.
James Dean first emerged in a Pepsi commercial. However, Dean wasn’t just a pretty face, and he later proved himself to be a serious actor who was committed to bringing characters alive on-screen. After struggling to obtain serious parts, Dean finally found a stepping stone in director Elia Kazan’s, “East of Eden.” Shortly after, he found his breakout role as Jim Stark in “Rebel Without A Cause.”
With his bad-boy looks and maverick attitude, James Dean glamorized the character of the misunderstood, angst-ridden youth. In one of the most tragic events in Hollywood history, Dean was killed instantly in a high-speed car crash in 1955, just as his career was starting to flourish. To this day, James Dean remains a timeless icon whose talent influenced a generation.
After a few years of producing and writing her own material, Debbie Gibson caught public attention in 1987 when she released her debut album, “Out of the Blue,” under the Atlantic Records label. She also created a set of hit singles like “Foolish Beat,” “Shake Your Love,” and “Lost in Your Eyes.” Like many musicians, Gibson also crossed over into acting and appeared on Broadway as well as in tv shows like “Beverly Hills 90210” and in smaller films.
The songstress has continued to write and perform over the decades, including a duet in 2006 with Jordan Knight called “Say Goodbye.” Debbie’s album “Electric Youth” celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019, which was commemorated by a special show on SiriusXM Radio’s ‘80s on 8 Channel. Her latest hit was the single “Girls Night Out” which landed at spot number four on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart.
Annette Funicello was considered a triple threat in the entertainment industry as she could sing, dance, and act! Funicello started out as a child star and was a Mouseketeer on the “Mickey Mouse Club.” The New York native then focused further on her acting career and appeared in shows like Disney’s “Zorro” and “Make Room for Daddy." She first appeared on the big screen in “The Shaggy Dog” and in the musical “Babes in Toyland.”
Later, she became the face of the “Beach Party” movie genre that was a part of the 60s pop culture, alongside Frankie Avalon. Funicello took a step back in the 1970s to focus on her family and by 1992, the actress had publicly announced that she was suffering from multiple sclerosis. Sadly, Annette passed away from complications related to the condition in 2013 at age 70.
David Cassidy (half-brother to Shaun and Patrick Cassidy) rose to fame in 1970 as Keith Partridge on the musical TV show “The Partridge Family.” A natural performer, Cassidy won over audiences with his floppy hair and winning smile. He provided backup vocals for singer George Michael but also focused on his own music, releasing albums like “Old Trick New Dog” and “Then and Now.” Though he was talented and successful early on in life, Cassidy struggled with the overwhelming pressure of being a teen icon which ultimately led to substance abuse problems later in life.
David continued to write new music and tour, right up until he became gravely sick in 2017. He had extensive liver and kidney damage as well as dementia and, while he was awaiting a liver transplant, the singer passed away at the age of sixty-seven.
The ‘90s were peppered with boybands and, along with NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys led the way. They debuted their first album, “The Backstreet Boys,” in 1996 and “Backstreet’s Back” in the following year. The harmonized melodies, the coordinating outfits, the perfectly gelled hair, and the smoldering photo shoots all culminated to create the perfect teen idol ensemble.
Teens sang their songs and bought their records and merchandise, making the group very lucrative. With over 100 million in record sales, the Backstreet Boys are the most commercially successful boy band of all time. They continue to tour together to this day.
Justin Bieber first came sliding onto the music scene with his hit song “Baby.” Bieber had all the makings of the next teen idol including a strong falsetto and cute baby face. As he went through his teen years into his early twenties, Bieber had many other hits like “What Do You Mean” and “Sorry."
Girls were, and still are, wild about Bieber, creating a fanbase affectionately called “Beliebers." Over the last ten years, Bieber has continued to be one of the most listened to artists and one of the most reported-on public figures. He found true love with model Haily Baldwin. The two tied the knot in September 2018 and they appear to still be going strong.
Molly Ringwald made her first appearance on screen in the 1979 show, "Different Strokes" and later on the show “The Facts of Life.” She soon became the "it" girl of the 80s and starred in cult classics like “Sixteen Candles,” “Pretty in Pink,” and “The Breakfast Club,” to name a few.
She was beloved by fans for her vulnerable, authentic, and relatable performances. And while Ringwald's story didn't simply end in the '80s, it's safe to say that she is another child actor success story, having only had brief breaks in her career into adulthood. She also landed a role in the Gen Z teen show "Riverdale."
Donny Osmond’s career launch began as a family affair when he appeared, along with his brothers, as a part of the “The Osmonds” music group in 1971. By the 1970s he went solo and quickly rose to fame with his thousand-watt smile and captivating voice.
Donny had several big tracks, including “Go Away Little Girl” and “Soldier of Love” Osmond may have lost the teen idol status as he grew older, but he’s still considered one of the most affable and recognizable faces in the entertainment world. Until today, the icon has remained active and appeared in shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Masked Singer” as well as a handful of film projects.
Shaun Cassidy first entered the public eye in 1977 on “The Hardy Boys Mysteries.” Also a talented musician, Cassidy signed a contract with Warner Bros and his first album went multi-platinum, spawning the number one single “Da Doo Ron Ron.” In his early years as an actor, he also worked on Broadway and in London’s West End.
As with many teen idols though, Cassidy found that his young stardom was growing dim but, in a savvy, showbusiness move, he began to focus on doing behind-the-scenes work and went on to write and produce for tv shows such as “American Gothic” and “Roar.” Today, Cassidy is a wonderful example of how to successfully reinvent a career in the entertainment industry.
Ricky Nelson first got a taste of the big time when he starred alongside his family on the radio and TV show "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet." Along with his “boy next door” good looks, this opportunity helped to launch Nelson’s career in the entertainment industry, allowing him to eventually break away to form a solo career as an actor and a singer.
His 1957 song, “Poor Little Fool” was the first-ever number one on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1959 he starred opposite Dean Martin and John Wayne in Rio Bravo and made various tv appearances. While Nelson was one of the most recognizable faces throughout the ‘60s, his popularity began to fade by the start of the next decade. The star tragically passed away in a plane crash in 1985.
With a velvety voice, inviting smile, and sky-blue eyes, Frank Sinatra sang his way into legendary status. Sinatra was not only striking and talented but also charismatic. He had always had a passion for singing, but his solo career didn’t come to fruition until 1940 when he had his first hit with “Polka Dots and Moonbeams.”
By 1941, Sinatra was one of the most famous men in the world, dubbed “Swoonatra” and “’ Ol’ blue eyes” by the media. Over the years, the New Jersey native had hits with songs like “The Best Is Yet to Come,” “My Way,” and “I Get A Kick Out of You” which have become iconic songs that have lasted through the decades.
Bobby Darin (whose real name was Walden Robert Cassotto) possessed the classic, all-American good looks that made the girls want him and the guys want to be him. Darin first broke into the industry as a songwriter for Connie Francis, but eventually went solo with the 1958 smash hit “Splish Splash.” After that, Darin’s career grew rapidly, but as everything appeared successful on the outside, his personal life began to unravel.
Darin suffered with his mental health and took a much-needed step away from the limelight. In the ‘70s, Bobby was back in the public eye and appearing on television, but his health began to decline rapidly. Sadly, he passed away in 1973 at the age of thirty-seven from complications following a heart operation.
The Beach Boys
Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson originally had humble beginnings as a garage band but when it became clear that the boys (along with cousin Mike Love and their friend Al Jardine) were better than your average group, their father Murray Wilson stepped in to manage them. By 1963, the music lovers had become a sensation, as their music became the soundtrack to the laid-back, West Coast, surfing culture.
The Beach Boys had some incredible hits, including 1966’s “Good Vibrations.” Brian Wilson was the lead singer but it was Carl who took over as the band leader till the later 1970s. Tragically, Dennis Wilson drowned in 1983 and Carl died of lung cancer in 1998, leaving Brian as the only surviving Wilson brother. When all members were still around, they had a cumulative worth of $245 million.