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From Precocious Writer to ’80s ‘Brat Pack’ Member to Indie Movie Fixture: The Fascinating Career of Ally Sheedy

She's more than just the 'Breakfast Club' basket case!


With roles in WarGames, The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire, Ally Sheedy was one of the poster girls for ’80s cinema. Sheedy, along with her co-stars Molly Ringwald and Demi Moore, made up the female contingent of the so-called “brat pack” — the young, charismatic group of actors who dominated screens in the popular movies of the era.

While Ringwald was known for her sweet girl-next-door appeal, and Moore for her raspy-voiced glamour, Sheedy had a more offbeat presence, as exemplified by her signature role as the goth loner Allison Reynolds in The Breakfast Club.

MUST-READ: ‘The Breakfast Club’ Cast Then and Now — Catch Up With The 80s Teen Icons

But the actress’ career has gone through many unexpected twists and turns over the years. Here’s a look at the fascinating way she got her start, and what she’s been up to since the ’80s.

A surprising start

Born in New York City in 1962, Ally Sheedy first found fame not as an actress but as a precocious children’s book author. In 1975, at just 13, Sheedy wrote an illustrated book, She Was Nice to Mice.

Dell Pub Co

The bestselling book was a charming tale told from the perspective of a mouse in Queen Elizabeth I’s court. Sheedy was featured on To Tell the Truth for her impressive achievement. Reflecting on her early literary success decades later, Sheedy said, “It was wonderful but it also set me apart from friends and caused me a bit of trouble there. It’s all fine. I think it gave me a blueprint for dealing with fame later on as an actor.”

Becoming an actress

Sheedy was already quite accomplished when she began acting in TV movies in 1981. In 1983, she made her film debut in Bad Boys, a gritty coming-of-age drama starring Sean Penn.

That same year, her profile rose with her role in the blockbuster cyber thriller War Games. The prescient film, which mixed political intrigue with then-cutting-edge technology, brought the concept of computer hacking into the mainstream.

Ally Sheedy and Matthew Broderick in 'WarGames,' 1983
Ally Sheedy and Matthew Broderick in WarGames (1983)Hulton Archive/Getty

The next year, Sheedy acted opposite Rob Lowe in the sports movie Oxford Blues, which turned out to be a commercial and critical flop.

The “basket case” and beyond

In 1985, Sheedy cemented her ’80s icon status with her role as Allison, the so-called “basket case” in The Breakfast Club. With her all-black outfit and permanent scowl, she was the perfect foil to Molly Ringwald‘s pink-clad “princess” — and some of us still get a bit frustrated by the basic-girl makeover Sheedy gets at the movie’s end!

That said, The Breakfast Club is one of the most influential teen movies of all-time, and remains beloved by multiple generations of viewers.

Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald in a scene from the film 'The Breakfast Club', 1985
Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club (1985)Universal Pictures/Getty

While Sheedy still has plenty of fond feelings about The Breakfast Club, she’s admitted, “I never liked the makeover” and expressed frustration with the reductiveness of the “brat pack” descriptor. The same year as The Breakfast Club, Sheedy had a part in St. Elmo’s Fire and that film would also become a touchstone of ’80s pop culture, thanks to its attractive ensemble cast and plot centered on the ups and downs of upwardly mobile recent college graduates.

Related: See the ‘Brat Pack’ Then and Now: The 8 Iconic Actors Who Dominated the ’80s

Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore and Ally Sheedy in 1985
St. Elmo’s Fire stars Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore and Ally Sheedy in 1985Barry King/WireImage/Getty

As the ’80s continued, Sheedy appeared in a domestic drama (Twice in a Lifetime), a thriller (Blue City), a sci-fi comedy (Short Circuit), an updated take on the Cinderella story (Maid to Order) and a period piece (Heart of Dixie). Short Circuit, in which she played a woman who befriends a robot, was the most popular of these post-Breakfast Club titles.

Ally Sheedy in 1988
Ally Sheedy in 1988Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty

Moving into indie roles

As the ’90s came around, Sheedy dealt with addiction and spent time in rehab. While in rehab, she wrote a book of poetry, Yesterday I Saw the Sun, which was published in 1991. Many critics saw the book as self-indulgent, but she felt the writing was an important part of her recovery process, telling Entertainment Weekly, “I wrote those [poems] because I needed to write them.” 

After recovering, Sheedy struggled to find work and returned to TV movies. She also appeared in films like Only the Lonely, The Pickle, Man’s Best Friend, One Night Stand and Amnesia. In 1998, Sheedy made a triumphant comeback with her starring role as a gay, drug-addicted photographer in High Art. The indie drama earned critical praise, setting up Sheedy to act in smaller-scale, artsier films.

Ally Sheedy in 1998
Ally Sheedy in 1998Donald Maclellan/Getty

High Art is Sheedy’s favorite movie she’s been in. As she told The Independent, “It was the role of a lifetime. I identified with that character in so many ways. It was almost all women on the set, and everything came together and worked beautifully. It was one of those experiences that made me feel, ‘ah, you know, I’m glad I’ve done this with my life.’”

After High Art, Sheedy acted in ’90s and ’00s indie movies like Sugar Town, Happy Here and Now, Life During Wartime and Little Sister.

What Ally Sheedy has been up to lately

In recent years, Sheedy has stayed true to her literary roots. In a 2022 Vanity Fair interview, she revealed that she’d been working as a book editor under a pseudonym for the past decade, saying, “Some of [the authors] know that it’s actually me working with them and their books, and a whole bunch of them don’t” (just imagine how exciting it would be for an author to discover their book was being edited by a member of The Breakfast Club!).

She’s also been teaching acting in the theater department at City College of New York.

Ally Sheedy in 2023
Ally Sheedy in 2023Slaven Vlasic/Getty

While Sheedy has had a delightfully unconventional career path, she hasn’t fully retired from acting. Most recently, she starred in the comedy series Single Drunk Female, playing the mom of the alcoholic protagonist.

While the show was canceled after two seasons in 2023, we’ll be curious to see what Ally Sheedy does next — whether it’s another TV show, an indie movie, a book or something else quirky and unexpected!

Read on for more about your favorite ’80s actresses!

Winona Ryder 80s: Fabulous Photos of the Star Who Defined Gen-X Cool

Geena Davis Movies: 12 of Her Most Charming and Memorable Films

Jamie Lee Curtis Movies: A Look Back At the Scream Queen’s Most Memorable Roles

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