This article is not about Billy Zabka, a.k.a. Johnny from The Karate Kid, a.k.a. Jack in National Lampoon's European Vacation, a.k.a. the guy who tips lunch tables while sweeping legs and making cameos in Hot Tub Time Machine. No, because that would be too easy. Today, we are going to be focusing on the other '80s film d-bags. The ones you know but may have buried in your subconscious. The school principal who throws you in a broom closet, the rich guy who kicks you out of your childhood home, and the mother who keeps you chained in the basement. But enough about my upbringing— let's begin our countdown of the biggest d@#ks of 1980s cinema.
Bradley Whitford, Revenge of The Nerds II, Adventures in Babysitting: Before he was working on The West Wing, Bradley Whitford was, well, how do I put this politely ... yuppie scum. The kind of guy who unironically tied a sweater around his shoulders and whose vanity plate read "SO COOL." He may not have been the toughest guy on the block, but you never mess with someone whose best friend's name is Ogre.
William Atherton, Ghostbusters, Real Genius, Die Hard: Meet Walter Peck, the man responsible for Gozer's return and Rick Moranis getting laid. He was the pompous '80s know-it-all who always got what he deserved, be it a punch in the face from John Mcclain's wife, or a house overtaken by exploding popcorn.
Anne Ramsey, Goonies, Throw Momma From the Train: As a kid, my biggest fear in life wasn't Freddy or Jason, but meeting Anne Ramsey. Not known for being Mother of the Year, she spent her days chasing Mikey, Mouth, and Data through tunnels while relentlessly criticizing Danny DeVito. If I were Sloth, I would have dropped her off a pirate ship years ago.
Jeffrey Jones, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Beetlejuice, Who's Harry Crumb?: Jeffrey Jones—or Ed Rooney as everyone actually knows him—was always the authority figure who initially looked tidy, then turn into a complete disaster. He's bumbling, like a politician, but can take a three-kick combo from the foot of Jennifer Grey. Just don't offer him any warm Gummi bears.
James Spader, Pretty in Pink, Less Than Zero, Mannequin: Remember that guy in school who wore linen blazers and white pants? Me neither. But back in the '80s, Spader couldn't buy a role as either poor or a protagonist. Was it his voice? His hair? Andrew McCarthy's innocence? He just fit the rich kid persona perfectly, almost as if his dad was Ted Knight.
Ted Knight, Caddyshack (need we say more?): To me, Ted Knight's role as Judge Smails is one of the funniest characters in cinema. His walk, his voice, the way he threatens the greenskeeper—it's all quite perfect. Just don't sleep with his niece, or you'll lose your scholarship.
Thomas F. Wilson, Back to the Future (all of them): You know those actors whose film character is so important to pop culture that they are never able to escape their shadow? Well, enter Biff Tannen. The official bully of bullies! Growing up, I think we all had a version of Biff Tannen. Mine was an angry Yugoslavian kid with a face like a Shar Pei. Luckily, Biff no longer messes with Marty McFly, and I now own a taser.
Paul Gleason, The Breakfast Club, Trading Places: Paul Gleason may be your high school principal, but he will punch you square in the face. This guy was the epitome of hard-ass in 1980s cinema, complete with toilet paper hanging from his pants. But give him in a gorilla suit on New Year's Eve, and he's a totally different person.
Mark Metcalf, One Crazy Summer, We're Not Gonna Take It: When Mark's Metcalf's student advisor asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, I really hope he said simply "a dick." The man is incapable of being sweet and lovable, as you can see from the only Twisted Sister videos worth watching. I know Animal House doesn't qualify as an '80s flick, but if I say "Douglas Nedermeyer," chances are your manhood will invert.
Mark Holton, Pee Wee's Big Adventure: I know you are, but what am I? Repeat, repeat, repeat. It's like they took every annoying child and rolled them up into a big ball of Francis. He's loud, annoying and a huge klepto. And I don't care if he has an indoor pool—nothing beats Pee Wee's automatic breakfast machine! As we wrap up my list of 80's antagonists, I hope you have nothing in common with them. But in all fairness, it had to have been rough for these guys, because in the end there's only one thing worse for an actor than being typecast. It's being typecast as a dick.
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