’80s Stars Behind Bars: Did You Know These Famous Men Were Once Arrested?

Tim Allen Robert Downey Jr. mug shots
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While many celebrities have gotten off easy for their crimes and others were made examples of, being famous doesn’t usually stop people from getting arrested. This list could be pages and pages long but for today, let’s focus on some surprising 1980s stars who spent some time in jail or prison, starting with Marky Mark himself.

Mark Wahlberg

Yards Mark Wahlberg, 2000

Everett Collection

Before Wahlberg was a famous singer and actor, he was arrested for assaulting a man named Johnny Trinh in 1988. After being charged with assault and battery with a deadly weapon and possession of a controlled substance, he served 45 days at Deer Island House of Correction. He was just 16 years old at the time and luckily turned his life around in a major way. Years later, Trinh publically forgave Wahlberg for the incident.

Robert Downey Jr.

Soapdish Robert Downey Jr. 1991

Everett Collection

Many know that Downey Jr. suffered from drug addiction but you may not realize that he served about a year in prison for his crimes. He got sober and continued to form a very successful acting career in the early 2000s.

Wesley Snipes

Blade Wesley Snipes 1998

New Line Cinema/Everett Collection

Snipes was behind bars for three years after failing to file federal tax returns. He served in prison from December 2010 to April 2013 and quickly went back into acting.

Tim Allen

Home Improvement Tim Allen, 1991-99

Touchstone TV/Everett Collection

Before Allen got famous, he got in some big trouble in his home state of Michigan. In 1978, he was arrested for trafficking cocaine and served five years in prison after giving up the names of people in the drug trade. About a decade later, he got his big break in Home Improvement.

Sean Penn

Colors Sean Penn, 1988

Everett Collection

While many of these crimes happened before these celebs got famous, Penn got in trouble on a movie set. While he was working on the film Colors with Robert Duvall, he repeatedly punched an extra on set. He was convicted of assault and served 33 days in jail. Hopefully, there was some anger management in there too.

Paul McCartney

Help! Paul McCartney, 1965

Everett Collection

In 1980, McCartney was arrested at a Toyko airport for having about a half pound of marijuana while touring with his band Wings. The tour was in trouble as McCartney was held in the Tokyo Narcotics Detention Center for 9 days. Eventually, he got sent back to England and escaped a larger charge. In those times, marijuana was illegal everywhere and he got arrested several times for possession.

Tommy Lee

Actress Pamela Anderson and musician Tommy Lee attend PETA's 35th Anniversary Party at Hollywood Palladium on September 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California

Todd Williamson/Getty Images for PETA

These days, Lee seems to be more subdued than in his party days with Mötley Crüe. He spent six months in jail in 1998 after allegedly assaulting his then-wife Pamela Anderson while she was holding their son, Dylan. Their tumultuous relationship has been examined in several shows including Pam & Tommy.

Dustin Diamond

Saved By The Bell: The New Class Dustin Diamond (as Screech), 1994-2000

Everett Collection

The late Dustin Diamond, best known for playing Screech on Saved by the Bell, was arrested in 2014 and 2015 due to disorderly conduct and carrying a weapon. Unfortunately, his legal troubles continued for several years. He passed away from lung cancer in 2021.

Which of these crimes surprised you the most?

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