Nerds of the '80s

In celebration of Anthony Michael Hall's birthday, we’ve classified some of his nerdy brethren from the 80s.
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Anthony Michael Hall Photo

'By the way, why are we wearing bras on our heads?' Ilan Mitchell-Smith and Anthony Michael Hall in 'Weird Science.'

Happy Birthday, Anthony Michael Hall. You may have escaped the gravitational pull of Hollywood typecasting with all that upper body strengthening, but we’ll never forget how you single-handedly made geek chic. We’ll always remember how you swindled Molly Ringwald’s underpants for a dozen floppy disks in Sixteen Candles. How you got a fake ID in the Breakfast Club so that you could vote. And how you donned a brassiere on your head while genetically engineering Kelly LeBrock in Weird Science. (It was ceremonial.) 

In your honor, we’ve classified some of your nerdy brethren from the 80s:

The Hipster

Funny how what constituted a nerd in 1986 would be a hipster by today’s standards. Case in point: Phil “Duckie” Dale, Jon Cryer’s character in Pretty in Pink. Give him an iPod classic, a fixie, and an indecipherable tattoo and he’d fit right in as a downtown Brooklynite. But back in the 80s, a guy like Duckie just looked like a confused greaser who had no shot at a redheaded beauty like Molly Ringwald. In fact, in the original script, Duckie and Ringwald’s character got together in the end, but test audiences didn’t buy it. So the studio had to round up the actors and shoot a new ending where Molly Ringwald ends up with Andrew McCarthy and Duckie waddles off with vampire slayer Kristy Swanson (credited as “Duckette”).

The Underdog

Sometimes a guy just can’t win. Take Lane Myer (John Cusack), for example. Not only does he fail to make the Greendale High School ski team, he also loses his girlfriend when she runs away with the team captain. He owes the paperboy two bucks, his lifeless Camaro is stuck on his front lawn, and he can barely stop at an intersection before he’s challenged by suit-wearing Japanese drag racers. Fortunately for Lane, there’s a cute French exchange student next door, and after some saxophone playing and private ski lessons, the two learn to speak the international language. The international language? You know... love! The language of love!

The Weakling

It’s no secret that nerds love sci-fi, and George McFly (Crispin Glover) is no exception. In fact, much of his character arc was driven by his fear that Darth Vader would come down from Planet Vulcan and melt his brain unless he asked out Lorraine (Lea Thompson). Possessing superhuman weakness, he was easily shoved around by Biff Tannen, but gets the girl in the end thanks to a well-timed right hook and the classic lines: "I'm George. George McFly. I'm your density. I mean, your destiny."

Mr. Science

With a name like Egon Spengler, it’s no surprise that this Ghostbusters character ticks all the boxes for next-level nerdom. A hairstyle that requires its own control tower? Check. Obliviousness to any interest whatsoever from the opposite sex? Check. The use of a twinkie metaphor to explain the amount of psycho-kinetic energy in the New York area? Check and check. Sadly, Harold Ramis passed away in 2014, but we’ll always have a soft spot for the bespectacled parapsychologist who collected “spores, molds, and fungus,” and whose only childhood toy was “part of a Slinky.” Which he straightened out.

The Shut In

Poor Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck), the depressed hypochondriac with a chronic weakness to seasonal allergies and peer pressure. Not only is he convinced by Ferris Bueller to take his father's Ferrari 250 GT out on a joy ride, he’s also convinced that they’ll be able to take the milage off the odometer by driving home backwards. It’s no wonder he tries to drown himself in the family pool. His reward for his undying loyalty to his friend? Cameron gets to take all the blame when they total his dad’s sports car in the end. Danke Schoen, Ferris.

The Virtuoso

In a cast filled with nerds, Arnold Poindexter managed to turn the dial up to 11. With eyeglasses apparently recycled from a space shuttle windshield and a willingness to use his violin to liven up dull parties, Poindexter earned his place among the Tri-Lambs. It’s rumored that actor Timothy Busfield landed the Revenge of the Nerds role after doing the Thriller dance at his audition. Take a look and tell me that he’s not Napoleon Dynamite’s long lost father.