The following year, Hall landed the role of Rusty Griswold, Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo's son, in National Lampoon's Vacation, catching the attention of the film's screenwriter John Hughes, who was about to make the jump to directing.
"For [Hall] to upstage Chevy, I thought, was a remarkable accomplishment for a 13-year-old kid," said Hughes.
The film was a critical failure, and some reviewers panned Hall's performance as a high school football star, stating that he, the movies' reigning geek, was miscast in the role.
Hall's next movies with Hughes were the teen classics The Breakfast Club and Weird Science, both in 1985.
He went on to appear in the Lincoln Center Festival's production of St.
Joan of the Microphone, and in a play with Woody Allen.
Later that year, Hall portrayed Gary Wallace, another likable misfit, in Weird Science.
Critic Sheila Benson from the Los Angeles Times said "Hall [was] the role model supreme" for the character, but she also acknowledged that "he [was] outgrowing the role" and "[didn't] need to hold the patent on the bratty bright kid." Those roles established him as the 80s "nerd-of-choice," as well as a member in good standing of Hollywood's Brat Pack.