Thompson began her career in interactive film (or should I say computer game) "MysteryDisc: Murder, Anyone" in 1982, but her real debut was part of the "water-ski bunny" in "Jaws 3D". She lied about her abilities to swim and ski in order to beat out 100 other actresses for that role (btw. I heard that she still can't really swim). While on the set, Thompson met actor Dennis Quaid, to whom she later became engaged for about three years.
Thompson added Tom Cruise to her list of major movie co-stars in her next film, "All the Right Moves" which brought her to the attention of critics and audiences alike. In 1984, she starred together with Patrick Swayze and young Charlie Sheen in "Red Dawn" and also appeared in Universal's "The Wild Life".
But the real breakthrough for her was the role of Lorraine McFly, the mother of Michael J. Fox's character in the hit movie "Back to the Future", which propelled her to the front ranks of filmdom. Next year she took role of Cathryn Cleary in teenage-movie "Spacecamp". The very same year her next movie, "Howard the Duck" flopped, and critics were especially critical of Thompson's performance. She was deeply hurt by the seemingly personal attacks on her acting ability.
On the set of next movie, "Some Kind of Wonderful", she met film director Howard Deutch, while she was engaged to Dennis Quaid. Despite of that he eventually became her husband.
Sequells of "Back to the Future" and parts in movies "The Wizard of Loneliness" and "Casual Sex?" brought her in 1989 to her first TV movie - "Nightbreaker" for which she was nominated to the Ace® Award. Other recent television movies include "The Unspoken Truth" and "The Substitute Wife".
Thompson's theater work includes "Bus Stop" at the Pasadena Playhouse and "The Illusion" at the Los Angeles Theater Company. She has also appeared in the Powerhouse Theatre's production of "Long Time Coming", "Charlie Bacon's Family" at the John Drew Theatre in East Hampton and "The Trip Down Back" at the Actor's Repertory Theatre.