Movies + TV

Literally the Best Thing Ever: Fictional Rich People of the 1980s

Is there anything funnier? There is not.

I was driving home from work when I saw him. He was driving a vintage brown BMW convertible with the top down, had feathered blond hair, and was wearing a striped navy top with a gleaming white sweater tied around his neck. On his face: Ray-Ban Wayfarers, naturally. I imagined, as he flew by me on a rural road, that his name was Todd or Tad, and that he was off to some yacht club to meet with his girlfriend, Bitsy or Muffy. I also surmised that he was a time traveler or maybe a hallucination, because nothing about his presence made sense.

You have to understand that I live up in the mountains, where everyone drives sensible, snow-hardy cars and wears the kinds of shoes you don’t mind ruining with mud and salt. So I’m not entirely sure where this dude appeared from (aside from my dreams), but he was one of the best things I’ve ever seen, because he looked exactly like a fictional rich person from the 1980s, and fictional 1980s rich people are my favorite.

Is there anything funnier than the rich people from 1980s movies and TV? There is not. They are horrifically tacky and spoiled and love to flaunt their money via extravagant gowns, enormous jewels, and various forms of luxury transportation. The thing that makes ’80s rich people so hilarious is the fact that everything they held up as the pinnacle of style and class is now roughly 30 years old, so their glamorous limousines and evening gowns and helipads have become dated and gloriously campy (and in some cases campier, as they were pretty campy to begin with).

Take, for example, the prime-time soap Dynasty, with its marvelous sets and gowns, and two of the queens of the ’80s-rich-people genre, soap-opera division: Joan Collins and Linda Evans, who, as Alexis and Krystle, respectively, had some of the best fights ever:

The drama! THE HAT!!!

Fictional ’80s rich people also had a snob factor that I honestly don’t think has been matched in any decade since. The king is, of course, James Spader in Pretty in Pink, who, for some reason, wears a white suit to school and uses words like “jazzed” and is the best jerk of all time:

A common trope is the fictional ’80s rich person who begins as an insufferable snob but learns a lesson, like Goldie Hawn in Overboard:

Or Catherine O’Hara in Beetlejuice:

And then there’s the fictional ’80s rich person who embraces who she is and uses what she knows to help others, like Shelley Long in Troop Beverly Hills:

Growing up in the ’80s, I loved all of these people—or loved to hate them, as they were fantastic villains—and desperately wanted their mink stoles, gold lamé dresses, and giant hats, all of which were out of my reach. I loved how their air of superiority mixed with the absolute nonsense they were typically dealing with, and how absurd their lives seemed to be compared with my own. Even today, I get excited when I see something that screams “1980s rich person” to me: an old brown Mercedes, an emerald ball gown with shoulder pads in the window of a thrift store. I have dreams of waltzing in and buying that gown, throwing it on, and sailing away in my busted-up 1980s yacht, throwing champagne in the face of anyone who dares to tell me I can’t, and then storming away, my white fur coat billowing behind me.

Todd or Tad, if you’re reading this, you are totally invited to come along for the ride. ♦


  • emilybelle May 3rd, 2012 7:11 PM

    This is so perfect. Three completely necessary three-word phrases… CANT BUY ME LOVE! WHITE SUEDE SUIT! SO TOTALLY STAINED! Dear god, what is more fantastic than that damn suede suit. Nothing, I tell you

    • moonchild May 3rd, 2012 8:43 PM

      I’m sorry if I’m missing something, but… “Can’t buy me love” is four words…

      Just putting it out there :)


  • moonchild May 3rd, 2012 7:11 PM

    OH MY GOD! JAMES SPADER IS… *cough* not gonna finish that sentence.

    Let’s just say when I saw the picture for this article i spazzed…


  • Microbyte1 May 3rd, 2012 7:26 PM

    80 is the best decade ever !

  • rebecca May 3rd, 2012 7:44 PM

    margeaux in punky brewster gets me every time!

  • KinuKinu May 3rd, 2012 8:27 PM

    I think my favorite thing from the 80′s is the TRIUMPHANT rock songs….They are just so..I DON”T KNOW
    Gonna Fly Now
    Eye of The tiger
    You’re the Best
    The Only Way It Could Be Better
    I find them, like, cheesy or something….it’s just really funny to me….

    Oh wait!!! How could I possibly forget this?!

    Hee hee….I’m more of a K-pop girl.

  • Smashley May 3rd, 2012 9:59 PM

    Oh my god! I love overboard! When I started reading this, I couldn’t help but think of it. My mom looks like Goldie Hawn, who’s gorgeous. Thats the main reason I watched it to begin with. :) Oh and the ending!!! “What can I possibly get you that you don’t already have?” “A girl.”* I don’t know why but I thought it was perfect.

    *Note: I’m not exactly quoting it but it was something close to that

  • Lascelles May 3rd, 2012 10:16 PM

    Some Kind of Wonderful and Less Than Zero.

  • erin May 3rd, 2012 11:21 PM

    steph! I love to hate him so much. Favorite John Hughes villain.

    • Anaheed May 4th, 2012 12:46 AM

      I also “love to hate” him by which I mean “want to jump on” him.

  • Susann May 4th, 2012 12:47 AM

    I instantly thought of Judith Krantz’s “Scruples” – although it’s not set in the 80s (more like the 70s), the people in those books are just fabulous!

  • SweetThangVintage May 4th, 2012 1:06 AM

    ahahahaha I work at a cookie store and my speed skating coach is always making cookie references so I just shared the cookie girls with him on facebook. XD I can’t wait to see his reaction.

  • SpencerBowie May 4th, 2012 2:40 AM

    I compeletely know what you mean!!! I love the 80′s rich villain/comic relief too!

    Steph is jus the worst tho! Ugh, that scene when he’s just makein a fancy doobie in his rich fathers office and then tells Andrew McCarthy he needs to take a shower cause he looks like shit, BLAH!!! Oh he makes my skin craw!!! Such a great rich villain!

    But anytime u want me to meet ya in ur shoulder padded gown, while im in my smoking jacket with matching loafers, let me know! I’ll warm up the yacht and lay out the shrimp cocktail, u bring the bubbly and caviar!

    Also, I love Troop Beverly Hills!

  • Caden May 4th, 2012 6:56 AM

    I laughed so much at this. James Spader is HILARIOUS in Pretty in Pink.

    Caden x

  • chancentrate May 4th, 2012 7:07 AM

    You need to watch Maid to Order! If you haven’t already. Ally Sheedy as rich-girl-who-learns-a-lesson via her fairy godmother (played by the increds Beverly D-Angelo) who takes away her riches forcing her into housekeeping for the most quintessential 80′s super-rich yet tight-fisted couple (watch out for the ball of tin foil!) It’s pretty amazing all round and the clothes might well blow your mind. I’ve dreamt of her white leather studded ankle boots for decades.

    • Emily Condon May 4th, 2012 12:22 PM

      Oh, good call! I used to LOVE watching Maid to Order!

  • bbbenjamin May 4th, 2012 10:00 AM

    Dan Aykroyd never ceases to crack me up as the lovable snob in “Trading Places”: “Oh sure, *he* went to Harvard.”

  • Laia May 4th, 2012 11:54 AM


  • Impybat May 4th, 2012 12:07 PM

    80s Rich People would be an awesome group costume for Halloween.

  • MaggietheCat May 4th, 2012 12:17 PM

    ohmygod 1980′s James Spader. I have no words. He’s just so hot and smarmy. See The New Kids (1985) if you need convincing.

  • BaronLonelyheart May 4th, 2012 12:18 PM


  • koko May 4th, 2012 1:45 PM

    Oh god, this list is so good!

    But missing all the crazy but amazing rich people in Caddyshack!

  • Eliza May 5th, 2012 7:11 AM

    OMG! Young Andrew McCarthy looks a lot like Sean Paul Lockhart!

  • oriana June 29th, 2012 12:11 PM

    so good!