The 1980s was a decade that had it all - feathered hair, shoulder pads, rad music, totally awesome movies and super gnarly baby names. It actually makes sense for parents on the hunt for the perfect baby name to consider temporarily narrowing their search to the world of 80s cinema. As readers will soon recall, some of these flicks were fresh, others maybe not so memorable - but they all have this in common: they are chalk-full of choice naming potentials for 21st century babies.
And as this list will prove, some of the best names aren’t even of the movie’s major characters. Oftentimes, they are the minor characters relegated to the plot sidelines that provide the most inspiration for current up-and-coming names.
Parents-to-be will be reminded of a few old and forgotten classics deserving of a good dusting off, a few tried and true options that maybe haven’t been top of mind as well as one or two surprises they haven’t even considered. And rest assured- this list will not include the names Pony Boy or Soda Pop from the 1983 classic The Outsiders.
Whatever the case, take a scroll through memory lane with these 80s movies (and a few from just outside the decade) filled with retro baby names just itching for a second chance.
Despite missing out on the 80s by one year, Alien just has too many surnames that would be perfect first names NOT to include it in the list. Starting with Ripley which is the perfect blend of badass mixed with respectability and works for either boy or girl.
Then there’s Dallas, Brett, Kane and Ash. While Dallas hit its peak in the 1990s, it has continued to haunt the top name lists ever since. Brett is an English baby name that means “a native of Brittany (an area of France) or Britain”.
Kane is a Celtic name meaning “warrior”. Possibly an alternative spelling to biblical name Cain, it has a variety of meanings depending on the language. In Welsh, Kane means “beautiful”, in Japanese “golden” and in Hawaiian (pronounced Kah-nay), it means “man of the Eastern sky”.
Finally, there’s Ash. Originally a Hebrew last name, the name can now sometimes be found as an abbreviated version of Ashton or Ashley but is fine on its own as well.
24 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Hopefully, there’s no need to remind anyone of the plot points of this groundbreaking movie masterpiece. The name Elliott actually received quite a bit of publicity thanks to this movie and experienced a spike in popularity soon after its debut in 1982. A Greek form of Hebrew boy’s name Elijah, another version of Elliott happens to be Elias.
While definitely more often used for boys, the name has received some female attention as well. Currently, in the U.S., Elliott sits at #673 for girls and #213 for boys. In England and Wales, it ranks at #71 as a boy name.
Then there’s Elliott’s kid sister Gertie - played by a minuscule and lisping Drew Barrymore. Gertie is a German name that doesn’t often see the light of day anymore. Meaning “strong spear”, it is typically a short form for full name Gertrude although a lighter nickname is Trudy.
23 National Lampoon's Vacation
Before all the remakes and sequels were on deck, there was just the original following Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as they drive cross country with kids in tow. Clark is the Griswold family patriarch and the name packs a definite punch as a current and hip boy name. There is also The Goonies connection as Clark is the name of Corey Feldman’s character.
The Griswold daughter is Audrey, which is an Old English name meaning “noble strength”. Currently, Audrey is a popular girl name in Canada, Australia and the U.S. where it ranks respectively at #27, #33 and #37. The son is Rusty - often considered a nickname for full name Russell or a red-head.
Then there’s poor Aunt Edna who croaks and ends up tied on the roof of the family’s station wagon. Originally a Hebrew name meaning “rejuvenation”, this tired moniker could certainly use a dose. Derived from the “Garden of Eden”, the name Eden has proven much more popular in modern society.
This original 1984 blockbuster is full of baby name gold. It has its share of recognizable gems no longer floating around in the mainstream like: Raymond, Louis, Winston, Dana and Janine. And then there’s the highly unusual and lesser known Egon.
With geek chic making the rounds for popular baby names, Raymond may be on its way back in. It means “wise protector” and currently sits at #259 within the U.S. While Louis has faded some, 18 kings of France just can’t be wrong. Winston means “wine’s town” and it is believed that as a first name, it originated with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965).
Dana is a unisex option that is possibly derived from Dane (as in a Danish citizen). It is sometimes seen in use as a feminine form of Daniel or a shorter version of girl’s name Jordana. The Hebrew name Janine means “gift from God”. Considered a variant of Jeanne, Janine has only been in use as a girl’s name since the 20th century.
This brings us to the most unique first name found within Ghostbusters. Played by the late Harold Ramis, his character was Egon. This German name means “edge of a sword” and is sometimes pronounced Ay-gon.
21 Red Dawn
This World War III movie focusses on a group of ordinary teenagers hellbent on protecting their town from the invading Soviet Union. Remade in 2012, the new and improved Red Dawn was not the box office gold they had hoped for.
In the original, the character of Jed is played by Patrick Swayze. This Hebrew name is short and sweet and means “beloved of the Lord”. It is sometimes found as an abbreviated version for longer name Jedidiah but works on its own as well.
Another teen warrior was Daryl. This French name got its start as a locational surname back in the 11th century. It comes from the words “d’Areille” which denote someone who comes from Areille in France. There are many different spelling variations to the name (such as Darell, Deryl and even D’Aryl to name a few). And while most often found as a boy’s name, actress Daryl Hannah put a definite twist on that.
20 Sixteen Candles
In the 1984 movie Sixteen Candles, Samantha is forgotten by her family on one of the most important days of her life . . . her sixteenth birthday. The boy she is in love with is Jake Ryan - a dark and swarthy senior of few words. The Hebrew name Jake, while not anything brand spanking new, is often overlooked for the longer version Jacob.
Ginny is Samantha’s older sister whose upcoming wedding has overshadowed her big day. This golden oldie of a name is often used as a shortened version from Virginia or Ginger. It hit its high in the 1970s.
Bryce is a nerdy side character played by an extremely youthful John Cusack. This unisex classic has Celtic origins and means “swift”. Sometimes spelled Brice, the name hit its high in 2005 and has been steadily waning ever since - although it still resides at #131 within the U.S.
19 Back To The Future
Everyone knows the premise of this vintage flick - but what may not be as memorable are several stand-out character names. First we have main character Marty played by Michael J. Fox. Often a diminutive of Martin, this name means “warrior of Mars”. The name peaked in the 1960s and has pretty much faded into obscurity.
Christopher Lloyd plays zany Doc Brown - first name Emmett. Meaning “powerful” and often considered to be the masculine counterpart to the name Emma, Emmett may have been resurrected thanks in part to being the hero’s name in 2014’s hit Lego Movie.
Marty’s movie mom is named Lorraine. This French name depicts a region of France and first came into use within English-speaking countries during the 19th century as an alternative to the more common name Laura.
Then there’s Biff - the mean kid who first picks on Marty’s dad, then Marty himself - but by movie’s end gets his just desserts. Often considered an all-American nickname, Biff comes from an English word to “punch” or “hit”. The name was most famously used in Arthur Miller’s 1949 play Death of a Salesman.
18 Better Off Dead
While the 1985 sleeper hit Better off Dead may be slim pickings for current baby name options, it seems that John Cusack had a knack for interesting character names in the 1980s. In this particular film, he portrays teenager Lane Meyer as he deals with a number of personal crises including being dumped by his hot girlfriend, dealing with a cranky paper boy and fretting about a ski competition.
Lane is an English name that started out life as a surname. It means “narrow country road” and while it has been around for a while, it only seems to be hitting its stride now. Fine for either gender, Lane as a boy name clocks in at #296 on the name chart making it a more popular boy name than girl. Any parent looking to spice it up a bit can easily do so by spelling it Layne or even Laine.
17 St. Elmo's Fire
For any cinephiles out there who remember this 1985 film as a cutting edge look at a group of recent college graduates figuring out life - perhaps don’t re-watch. Trust us - it’s not as good as any of us remember! However, two distinct names come out of the movie.
First there’s the character of Kirby played by Emilio Estevez. He had a crush on the more mature Dale, played by Andie MacDowell. Although after giving St. Elmo’s Fire another look, this typical 80s crush translates into a more stalker/prey sort of thing.
Originating from the Old Norse word “kirk” meaning “church”, Kirby is an available option for either boy or girl. Oprah’s BFF Gayle King named her daughter Kirby.
Another unisex option up for grabs is the name Dale. This English name means “to live in the valley” and originates from a surname. It hit its high as a boy’s name in the 1950s and is currently non-existent on the naming lists for either gender.
16 Weird Science
Weird Science is a 1985 movie about two nerds who somehow create a hot girl from a doll and a computer and set out to become both experienced as well as popular. Gary is played by Anthony Michael Hall. While not considered a super hip name by any stretch, Gary remains locked in the attic alongside the likes of Larry, Barry and Terry.
Wyatt is Gary’s super rich best friend and partner in crime. This quirky yet trendy name was recently cast into the feminine spotlight thanks to Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis naming their daughter Wyatt (born in 2014). Originally an English last name, Wyatt means “brave in war” and as of 2015, ranked at #34 within the U.S.
Chet is the bullying older brother of Wyatt - played by a much-younger Bill Paxton. Usually a nickname for Chester, Chet (or Chester) is a vintage name ready to resurface. Chet Hanks is the son of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.
Hilly is Wyatt’s highschool crush. Often considered a country club nickname for Hillary or even Hildagard, Hilly definitely has a cute retro vibe going on.
15 Ferris Bueller's Day Off
The 1986 hit Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is just as great now as it was then. It also offers up a slew of vintage names for the taking. While the name Ferris may call to mind a parent-dodging, principal-eluding popular kid, the name is Scottish and Irish in origins and means “best choice”.
Then there’s Sloane - Ferris’s hot girlfriend. This elegant and upscale name is actually unisex and was originally a boy’s name before making the switch. With Irish origins, the name means “warrior” or “raider”.
For parents liking the surname as first name trend, there’s Rooney. Principal Ed Rooney is the bumbling fool outwitted by Ferris at every turn. A great name for either boy or girl, the name is Irish and means “descendant of a champion”.
Lastly, there is the fading retro gem Jeanie - Ferris’ sister who is determined to expose her brother for the hooky-playing fraud he is. Most likely, derived from full name Jean or Jeanne, the “ie” on the end gives it a bit of a vintage and feminine flair.
14 Pretty In Pink
Andie, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks falls for rich, preppy snob. That’s the premise for the 1986 hit Pretty in Pink. Blane is the name of Andrew McCarthy’s character - and who can forget this quote from Andie’s best friend Duckie: “His name is Blane? That’s not a name - it’s a major appliance!” Appliance or not, Blane (sometimes spelled Blaine) is good for either sex although proved to be a popular masculine moniker in the 1950s.
Steff is played by a feather-haired and snooty James Spader. Possibly an abbreviated version of Stefan or else a more pretentious form of Steve. The name clearly got around during the 80s as Steff is also the name of Martha Plimpton’s character in The Goonies.
Iona is the name of Andie’s boss at the record store where she works. Named after an island near Scotland, Iona is originally based on an Old Norse word meaning “island”. Currently, Iona doesn’t rank within the U.S. however it sits at #82 in Scotland.
13 Stand By Me
Stand By Me is the 1986 coming of age movie about four boyhood friends on a journey to find the dead body of another missing local boy. For anyone interested, the movie is still amazing and showcases a number of current hotties before they reached super stardom.
Kiefer Sutherland plays Ace, the leader of the gang of hoods bullying the younger boys in town. The name Ace means “unity” and is usually seen as a nickname for someone who excels in a particular area.
Gordie is the main character. This Scottish surname got its start as a place name meaning “spacious fort” or “great hill”. Teddy is played by Corey Feldman before his days of being one half of the dynamic duo known as “the two Coreys”. Typically a nickname for Edward or Theodore, there are many instances where Teddy or Ted are actual given names as well.
Then there’s Vern - played by a plump and chubby-cheeked Jerry O’Connell. Usually found as a surname (think Mr. Richard Vernon in The Breakfast Club), Vernon is French in origin. This place name is derived from the word “vern” which means “alder”.
12 Can't Buy Me Love
Can’t Buy Me Love (1987) is the story of a nerd (Ronald) striking a bargain with the pretty and popular rich girl (Cindy). He pays her $1000 to pretend to be his girlfriend at school . . . and then guess what happens.
While the majority of character names are not all that unusual, there are definitely several forgotten classics found within. Cindy, often found as shortened version to Cynthia or Lucinda is also a very 80s-esque name right up there with Mindy, Candy and Randy.
Ronald, played by a very young Patrick Dempsey originates from the Scandinavian monstrosity Ragnvaldr. Ronald’s nerdy BF is Kenneth. Again - while not a one-of-a-kind name by any means - it’s definitely a diamond in the rough. Based on Scottish name Coinneach, Kenneth currently ranks at #199 within the U.S.
A couple of Cindy’s friends are Barbara and Iris. These Greek-based, out-of-fashion girl names may be ready for a comeback. Quint and Lester are two more character names worthy of a mention.
11 The Lost Boys
The two Coreys get their hot streak started with this vampire-slash-comedy-slash-love story- slash action adventure release. Jason Patric and Corey Haim play brothers recently transplanted to a new town with their newly single mother and happen upon a mob of hot young vampires terrorizing locals.
Star and Laddie are two of the half-turned vampires (which means they are in limbo and may still be saved - spoiler alert: they are both saved). Hippy sounding as it may be, Star is actually a Latin baby name with a quiet and underrated beauty to it. Although for the most part, the name Stella (which means “star”) has proven infinitely more popular.
Laddie is the poor little missing boy who has fallen under Star’s care. Possibly a nickname or maybe not, this English name is thought to have originated from the word “lad”.
Edgar is the name of Corey Feldman’s vampire fighting character. English in origin, Edgar means “fortunate” and “powerful” and is derived from the ancient name Eadgar. The name ranks highly in Portugal (at #76) though remains low on the totem pole on American soil (at #317).
10 Planes, Trains & Automobiles
The premise of Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) is simple. Neal (played by Steve Martin) is trying to make it home in time for his family’s Thanksgiving dinner when he finds himself stuck travelling with Del, an annoying shower curtain ring salesman.
Commonly spelled Neil, the name started out as a surname and is considered to be an anglicized version of Gaelic name Niall. Its origin is up for debate as it may come from the word meaning “cloud”, “passionate” or “champion”. It is also considered to be a variant of the name Nigel.
Del, played by the late, great John Candy is often an abbreviation for any man’s name beginning with the prefix such as Delroy, Delbert, Delano or Delaney. It is also commonly used as a nickname for a boy named Derek. Trendy during the 1950s, the name Del has definitely dwindled although with a recent trend in three-letter names, it may be due for a comeback.
9 Some Kind Of Wonderful
Anyone else notice any plot similarities between this film and Pretty in Pink? They should. Something else they have in common are the captivating names found within. First there’s Watts - the cute tomboy played by Mary Stuart Masterson. Originally an English or Scottish surname, the name also has some medieval French and German roots. Meaning “son of Walter”, the name Watts is a punchier alternative.
Then there’s Hardy, the rich mean kid. Derived from ancient French, the name Hardy means “bold” and “courageous”. For parents smitten with the surname as first and looking for an alternative to the much more common Harry, Hardy may fit the bill.
Snooty rich girl Shayne is another character who may not have much else to offer up except for an interesting name. Typically an Irish boy’s name, the additional “y” spruces the name up a bit making it fitting for boy or girl.
Eric Stoltz plays title character Keith. Based on a Scottish surname, Keith isn’t all that an unusual name although it has faded considerably. It comes complete with an air of nobility and currently ranks at #425 within the U.S.
8 The Great Outdoors
This 1988 gem was hilarious back in the day - although a bit tired and dated by present day standards. Whatever the case, The Great Outdoors harbors several names worthy of consideration for a soon-to-be born 21st-century baby.
Dan Aykroyd plays the obnoxious Roman. The name comes from the Latin term “Romanus” which basically translates into “Roman”. Currently quite popular, the name is at #54 in the Czech Republic, #88 in England and Wales and #102 in the U.S. Plus a number of celebs have snapped it up already - including 80s movie alumnus Molly Ringwald for her son.
John Candy plays Chet. Since we’ve already covered this boy’s name in Weird Science, we’ll continue to move right along. Chet’s son is Buck. This English boy’s name is also the word for male deer. During the 18th-century, Buck was typically used as a nickname for a dashing, well-dressed young man, yet there’s no reason it can’t be an actual first name.
Creepy twin girls boast the sing-song names Cara and Mara. And young Buck’s love interest is Cammie - possibly an abbreviated form of Camilla, Camille or even Camellia.
7 License To Drive
License to Drive was a 1988 movie with the complex and intricate plot revolving around teens flunking their driving tests but continuing to drive anyway. The Corey duo are at it again - this time with Haim portraying Les and Feldman as Dean.
Possibly short for either Leslie or Lester, the name Les fell off the naming radar as of 1997. The name Dean got its start as an English surname arising from the word “denu” which means “valley”. While it reached its zenith of popularity during the 1960s, it has never completely vanished from the name charts and continues to rear its head here and there.
Heather Graham plays love interest, aptly named Mercedes. This Spanish name comes with religious overtones and originates from the Latin word “merces” (meaning “mercies”). While most often associated with the luxury car, the vehicle was actually named after the 11-year-old daughter of Daimler’s French distributor back in 1901. While very popular within Spanish communities, the name Mercedes has been well-received throughout the rest of society as well, reaching #164 in 1991.
6 Dead Poets Society
This 1989 classic tells the story of an English teacher who inspires his students in the classroom and in life as well. Dead Poets Society was the world’s wake-up call that Robin Williams was more than just a funny guy - he was also a damn fine dramatic actor!
In terms of character names, for the most part they run the straight and narrow with the likes of John, Charlie and Todd. But a few stand out. There’s Robert Sean Leonard’s character Neil - but we’ve already covered that name in Planes, Trains & Automobiles.
Theres’s Knox (played by Josh Charles). Originally a Scottish name, Knox has been steadily rising through the ranks ever since Brangelina chose it for the boy half of their fraternal twins born in 2008.
Another character is Gerard. This English name was originally much more common than similar name Gerald although the tables have since turned.
5 Dream A Little Dream
The two Coreys are back . . . last time within this list (we promise!) Dream a Little Dream is a 1989 forgettable flick that follows a similar premise to Freaky Friday. One of the Coreys switches bodies with an older gentleman and havoc is wreaked.
One character name of note is Coleman. The boy’s name Cole is on a hot streak so for anyone who likes it but wants something a bit more unique, simply add a “man” to the end. Gena is Coleman’s wife. Interestingly, while this girl’s name offers a twist on the usual spelling - it can also be a boy’s name based on the Russian name Gennadiy or Genya.
Love interest for the two Coreys is Lainie. Often found as a nickname for Elaine or Elena, the name is fine on its own and means “bright shining one”. There’s a character named Ike - another short and punchy name sometimes seen as a short form for Isaac.
For anyone liking the food name trend, there’s Cherry. It’s actually an anglicized version of the French word “cherie” which means “Dear one”. It’s been around as a girl name since the 1800s and is sometimes considered a shortened version of the name Charity.
4 Say Anything
American sweetheart John Cusack is at it again making 80s movie magic with 1989’s Say Anything. In this flick, he plays Lloyd Dobbler - an underachiever in love with gorgeous valedictorian played by Ione Skye. The name Lloyd comes from the vowel-less Welsh name Llwd and is thought to mean “gray”. As a result, it was often used as a nickname for a gray-haired person.
Diane Court is the object of Lloyd’s affection. This French name is another form of Diana and currently ranks at #191 in present-day France. That said, it was at its most popular during the 1950s. In Roman mythology, Diane is the goddess of the moon and hunting.
Corey is the name of one of Lloyd’s female friends. It’s only fitting that the name Corey finds its way into an 80s movie! Good for either boy or girl, Corey has a variety of origin stories. It may be an anglicized form of various surnames coming from Corra (meaning “spear”), it may originate from a Gaelic word meaning “hollow” as well it may also be a nickname for longer names like Cornelius or Coraline.
3 Uncle Buck
When a family’s parents are called out of town suddenly, Uncle Buck saves the day by offering to babysit for the three kids. Hijinks ensue. Title character Buck is portrayed by John Candy.
Tia is Buck’s rebellious teenage niece that he’s required to reign in. This Greek name means “godly” and also means the word “aunt” in Spanish. While often used as an abbreviation for a longer name, Tia is short and sweet and a less popular option when compared to Mia.
Maizy is Buck’s younger, more precocious niece - played by a still-cute Gaby Hoffmann. Typically found as a nickname for Margaret or Marjorie, Maizy is a cute and feminine first name on par with Daisy.
Uncle Buck has a love interest and her name is Chanice. Usually found spelled with an “sh”, this name proves to be a nice melange of Shannon and Denise if that’s what a person is looking for. The name Shanice actually did quite well throughout the 1990s but has since plummeted off the naming charts.
2 Point Break
This movie has it all - surfing, bank robbing, sky diving, FBI agents and car chases - what’s not to love? Though stick with the original as the 2015 remake was utterly horrendous! The two names of note from Point Break are Bodhi (played by the late Patrick Swayze) and Tyler (Lori Petty before her days of portraying a shorn-haired convict in Orange is the New Black.)
Having Sanskrit origins, Bodhi means “awakening” or “enlightenment” and is the abbreviated version of Bodhisattva. Similar sounding to names Brody or Cody, Bodhi has a distinctly more laid back feel. It wasn’t until the mid 2000s that the name Bodhi became a noticeable blip on naming radar and since then it has proven to be a popular name choice in terms of Hollywood royalty.
The name Tyler, while typically reserved for boys, comes from the English occupational surname for a “tiler of roofs”. Currently, it is a top-ranking choice for boy name in many countries - #48 in New Zealand, #50 in Australia, #70 in England, #72 in Scotland and #81 in the U.S.
1 The Silence Of The Lambs
Jodie Foster portrays a young FBI agent intent on capturing a psycho with the help of a second psycho in the 1991 gem that is The Silence of the Lambs. Foster is Clarice which is a derivative of names Clara or Clarissa. Meaning “bright” or “clear” (as in “clarity”), the ancient form of the name is Clarita.
Anthony Hopkins offers up a skin-crawling performance as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. And while the name Hannibal may be forever imprinted with the image of a cannibalistic psychopath, it is actually the name of a Latin general from the 3rd century B.C. As it happens, it is also the male version of girl name Annabelle. Many may know the name thanks to young up-and-coming comedian and actor Hannibal Buress - he is actually named for the above-mentioned general.
Having a small part as Clarice’s friend and roommate is the character Ardelia. Not much else is known about this name other than that it means “warm” and has ancient roots.