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Young Demi Moore: A Look Back at the Glamorous Star’s ’80s Beginnings

Plus, learn about her new TV role!


Demi Moore was one of the biggest “it girls” of the ’80s, captivating audiences with her bewitching mix of old-Hollywood beauty and decidedly modern sass and self-assuredness. With her green eyes, dark hair and seductive voice, she cut a distinctive figure onscreen in ’80s and ’90s crowdpleasers like St. Elmo’s Fire, About Last Night, Ghost and Indecent Proposal.

By the mid-’90s, Moore was the highest-paid actress in Hollywood, and today she’s still keeping busy, with a role as midcentury socialite Ann Woodward in the juicy new miniseries Feud: Capote vs. the Swans (the stacked cast also includes Naomi Watts, Diane Lane, Chloë Sevigny, Calista Flockhart and Molly Ringwald). Here’s a look back at how young Demi Moore became an A-lister.

From teen model to soap star

As Moore detailed in her bestselling 2019 memoir Inside Out, she had a turbulent childhood and faced her share of early trauma before becoming an actress. “It’s possible that all the adapting I had to do primed me to become an actress,” she wrote. “It was my job to portray whatever character I thought would be the most popular in every new school, every new town… It would be decades before it occurred to me that I could just be whoever I truly am, not the person I guessed other people wanted to see.” Soon enough she found her escape and set off on the road to stardom when she began modeling as a teenager.

Demi Moore in 1976
Demi Moore at 14 in 1976@demimoore/Instagram

Moore then moved into acting, making her debut with a supporting role in the coming-of-age drama Choices in 1981. The next year, she acted in the 3-D horror movie Parasite and joined the cast of General Hospital, playing investigative reporter Jackie Templeton from 1982 to 1984. In 2021, she reflected on her soap star years, telling Interview, “I was fully faking it till I made it. I had no clue what I was doing.”

Demi Moore in 1982
Demi Moore at 20 in 1982Dianna Whitley/Getty

Demi Moore’s Brat Pack breakthrough

Young Demi Moore wouldn’t be faking it for long. In 1984, she had her breakout role as Michael Caine‘s teen daughter in the trashy sex comedy Blame It on Rio. That same year, she played Jon Cryer‘s musician love interest in No Small Affair.

Demi Moore in 'No Small Affair,' 1984
Demi Moore at 22 in No Small Affair (1984)@demimoore/Instagram

1985 brought the Brat Pack classic St. Elmo’s Fire. The film, which centered on a veritable who’s-who of rising ’80s stars playing recent college grads navigating personal dramas, gave her a memorable role as Jules, a stylish, emotionally volatile party girl. In a contemporary newspaper interview, Moore revealed that she identified with her character, saying, “Jules lives on the edge; something I know very well.” Prior to that, she had struggled with drug use, saying, “When I hit it big with General Hospital, I wasn’t sure how to deal with the sudden burst of fame. I was a little girl, and like Jules, I didn’t know how to cope. I didn’t know how to say no.”

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

Demi Moore holds a cigarette in a scene from the film 'St. Elmo's Fire', 1985
Demi Moore at 23 in St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)Columbia Pictures/Getty

In 1986, Moore once again played a yuppie and acted opposite Rob Lowe in the rom-com About Last Night. She was praised for her performance, with film critic Roger Ebert writing, “Moore is especially impressive. There isn’t a romantic note she isn’t required to play in this movie, and she plays them all flawlessly.”

Clockwise from top left: Elizabeth Perkins, James Belushi, Rob Lowe and Demi Moore in 'About Last Night,' 1986
Clockwise from top left: Elizabeth Perkins, James Belushi, Rob Lowe and Demi Moore (at 24) in About Last Night (1986)TriStar Pictures/Getty

As the ’80s progressed, Moore starred in One Crazy Summer, Wisdom, The Seventh Sign and We’re No Angels. While none of these movies hit it as big as her previous two, she’d soon have the biggest success of her career to date.

Demi Moore in the '80s
Demi Moore in her 20s in the ’80s@demimoore/Instagram

Demi Moore the ’90s screen queen

The ’90s gave Moore a major boost. Her role as a woman being followed by the ghost of her boyfriend (Patrick Swayze) in the 1990 romantic drama Ghost provided her a powerfully emotional showcase, and the film was a record-breaking box office success.

Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in 'Ghost,' 1990
Demi Moore (at 28) and Patrick Swayze in Ghost (1990)Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

After Ghost, Moore continued to star in high-profile films, among them the legal drama A Few Good Men and the erotic thrillers Indecent Proposal and Disclosure.

Demi Moore riding public transportation while dressed in formal wear in a scene from the film 'Indecent Proposal', 1993
Demi Moore at 31 in Indecent Proposal (1993)Paramount Pictures/Getty

Moore then acted in The Scarlet Letter, Now and Then and The Juror, and she made headlines in 1996, when she starred as a stripper in Striptease. The film won attention not just for its racy subject matter and Moore’s nudity, but also for making her Hollywood’s highest-paid actress. Striptease wasn’t well-reviewed, but audiences flocked to see the gorgeous star in such a provocative role.

Demi Moore in 'Striptease,' 1996
Demi Moore at 34 in Striptease (1996)Hulton Archive/Getty

Moore’s next big movie, the 1997 army drama G.I. Jane, also made a splash in the media, thanks to her intense prep for the demanding role, which included military-style training and shaving her head. Unlike Striptease, the film was a box-office disappointment, and her transition from glamorous to gritty didn’t win the acclaim she hoped for.

Demi Moore talking on walkie talkie in a scene from the film 'G.I. Jane', 1997
Demi Moore at 35 in G.I. Jane (1997)Buena Vista/Getty

G.I. Jane was a setback for Moore, who told The New York Times, “They weren’t going to let me win. That, to the little girl in me — that was crushing,” and as the ’00s began she started taking on smaller roles and roles in independent movies. Her supporting part in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle introduced her to a younger audience, and she appeared in movies like Flawless, The Joneses and Margin Call.

Demi Moore in 'Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle,' 2003
Demi Moore at 41 in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003)@the_retro_vibes/Instagram

Demi Moore today

With her decade-defining roles, high-profile marriages to Bruce Willis and Ashton Kutcher, and penchant for flashy media appearances, Demi Moore has never been far from the cultural conversation. Now 61, she’s gone from ’80s ingenue to Hollywood veteran (and she even became a grandma in 2023!), and her latest role, in Feud: Capote vs. the Swans, is sure to remind viewers of just how fabulous she can be.

Demi Moore in 2024
Demi Moore at 61 in 2024ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty

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

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

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

Molly Ringwald Movies: A Look Back Through the ’80s Teen Icon’s Best Films

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