The ’80s had their fair share of movie blockbusters, cheesy films and of course great soundtracks. We have compiled our top 25 soundtracks of this most awesome decade. However, instead of rating each ’80s movie soundtrack, they are listed by the year they were released. You wouldn’t want us to play favorites would you?
1.) Fame, 1980
Fame is the original soundtrack of the 1980 Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning film Fame starring Irene Cara, Lee Curreri, Paul McCrane and Laura Dean. The original score was composed by Michael Gore.
The score won the Academy Award for Best Music – Original Score. It was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music and a Grammy Award.
The songs “Out Here On My Own” and “Fame” were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, with the latter one winning the award.
2.) Fast Times At Ridgemont High, 1982
Several of the movie’s songs were released as singles, including Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby”, which reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Other singles were the title track by Sammy Hagar, “So Much in Love” by Timothy B. Schmit and “Waffle Stomp” by Joe Walsh. In addition to Schmit and Walsh, the album features solo tracks by two other members of the Eagles, Don Henley and Don Felder. The soundtrack also included “I Don’t Know (Spicoli’s Theme)” by Jimmy Buffett.
3.) Flashdance, 1983
The track “Romeo” by Donna Summer was released as a promo video to MTV prior to the film’s release, composed only of outtakes from the film. However, the song was not released to radio as Summer was on the verge of releasing her 1983 album, She Works Hard for the Money, and the title track was already becoming a major hit.
The Flashdance LP was massively successful, selling over 6 million copies in the U.S. and 1 million in Japan.
4.) Valley Girl, 1983
Many of the songs were minor chart hits in 1982–1983. Josie Cotton’s “Johnny, Are You Queer?” was a regional hit in Southern California in 1981, reaching #5 on KROQ’s Top 106 of the year and “He Could Be the One” from her album Convertible Music had reached #74 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982. The song heard over the opening credits is “Girls Like Me” from Bonnie Hayes’ 1982 album Good Clean Fun, which “bubbled under” the Billboard 200 album chart at #206. The Plimsouls’ “A Million Miles Away” and the Payolas’ “Eyes of a Stranger” were moderate hits in 1982, reaching #11 and #22, respectively, on Billboard’s Top Tracks chart. “I Melt with You” by Modern English reached #78 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983.
The end credits show songs by The Clash, Culture Club, Bananarama and The Jam, however, those songs aren’t heard in the film. After the film was completed, problems arose in acquiring the music rights and substitute songs had to be dubbed in. Altogether, the music rights cost $250,000 on top of the film’s original $350,000 budget.
5.) Sixteen Candles, 1984
The original soundtrack was released as a specially priced mini album containing only 5 songs. However, the movie actually featured an extensive selection of over 30 songs.
In 2005, Ringwald was reported to be producing a sequel to the film, however as of March 2010, Ringwald stated that she thought it was not a good idea to do remakes of great classic films. As much as a sequel sounds interesting, we’re glad they won’t be making a sequel!
6.) Purple Rain, 1984
Purple Rain is a musical film directed by Albert Magnoli and written by Magnoli and William Blinn. Prince makes his film debut in this movie, which was developed to showcase his particular talents. The film grossed over $80 million at the box office and became a cult classic.
The film is tied into the album of the same name, which spawned three chart-topping singles: the opening number “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain”, and “When Doves Cry”. The movie won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, the last time this award has been given. The soundtrack sold over 10 million copies in America alone, and 20 million worldwide.
7.) Footloose, 1984
Footloose is an American musical-drama film that tells the story of Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), an upbeat Chicago teen who moves to a small town where, thanks to the town’s uptight reverend (John Lithgow), dancing and rock music have been banned.
The film is loosely based on events that took place in the small, rural, and religious community of Elmore City, Oklahoma.
The soundtrack was released in cassette, 8-track tape, vinyl, and CD format. The soundtrack was also re-released on CD for the 15th anniversary of the film in 1999. The re-release included four new songs: “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)” by Quiet Riot, “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp, “Waiting for a Girl Like You” by Foreigner, and the extended 12″ remix of “Dancing in the Sheets”.
8.) Beverly Hills Cop, 1984
Beverly Hills Cop is an American action-comedy film directed by Martin Brest and starring Eddie Murphy, Lisa Eilbacher, John Ashton, Judge Reinhold, and Ronny Cox. Murphy stars as Axel Foley, a street-smart Detroit cop who heads to Beverly Hills, California, to solve the death of his best friend.
The soundtrack won a Grammy Award for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special (1986). The instrumental-only title tune “Axel F” is very recognizable and has since been covered by numerous artists. The soundtrack was mastered by Greg Fulginiti, and would feature different artists plus electronic style music.
9.) Ghostbusters, 1984
The film’s theme song, “Ghostbusters”, written and performed by Ray Parker Jr, sparked the catchphrases “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!” and “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.” The song was a huge hit, staying #1 for three weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and #1 for two weeks on the Black Singles chart. The song earned Parker an Academy Award nomination for “Best Original Song”. According to Bruce A. Austin (in 1989), this theme “purportedly added $20 million to the box office take of the film”.
The music video produced for the song became a #1 MTV video. Directed by Ivan Reitman, produced by Jeffrey Abelson, and conceptualized by Keith Williams, the video integrated footage of the film intercut with a humorous performance by Parker. The video also featured cameo appearances by celebrities who joined in the call-and-response chorus, including Chevy Chase, Irene Cara, John Candy, Nickolas Ashford, Melissa Gilbert, Jeffrey Tambor, George Wendt, Al Franken, Danny DeVito, Carly Simon, Peter Falk, and Teri Garr. The video ends with footage of the four main Ghostbusters actors in costume and character, dancing in Times Square behind Parker, joining in the singing.
10.) The Breakfast Club, 1985
Few could challenge John Hughes in 1980s teen coming-of-age flicks. This brat-pack extravaganza boasts the anthemic “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds, a hit so large it vaulted them into the collective consciousness.
The rest of it is more disposable. Elizabeth Daily (aka E.G.) was a kindred spirit of Pia Zadora in that people kept trying to make her famous, although in retrospect it’s hard to figure out why. The Karla DeVito track “We Are Not Alone” still wears well, although it may be because it’s synonymous with some great imagery from the movie. Producer Keith Forsey went on to work with Billy Idol and Charlie Sexton with mixed results.
11.) St. Elmo’s Fire, 1985
“St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” hit #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for two weeks in September 1985, and “Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire” (the instrumental theme to the movie by David Foster) reached #15. Another version of the “Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire” with lyrics, titled For Just a Moment was performed by Amy Holland and Donny Gerrard, and was included as the final song on the soundtrack album.
12.) Vision Quest, 1985
Vision Quest is another ’80s coming of age drama starring Matthew Modine, Linda Fiorentino and Ronny Cox. It is based on the novel of the same name by author Terry Davis. In some countries it was released as Crazy For You to market on Madonna’s emerging fame and the popularity of the song. The movie was filmed in Spokane, Washington, in 1984.
Modine plays a Spokane high school wrestler who falls in love with an older woman, an aspiring artist from New Jersey on her way to San Francisco.
The film includes an appearance by Madonna, her first in a major motion picture, playing a singer at a local bar, where she performs the songs “Crazy for You” and “Gambler”.
13.) Back To The Future, 1985
The original 1985 soundtrack album only included two tracks culled from Silvestri’s compositions for the film, both Huey Lewis tracks, the songs played in the film by Marvin Berry and the Starlighters (and Marty McFly), one of the vintage 1950s songs in the movie, and two pop songs that are only very briefly heard in the background of the film. On November 24, 2009, an authorized, limited-edition 2-CD set of the entire score was released by Intrada Records.
The movie features an Eddie Van Halen guitar track which Marty uses to convince George to ask Lorraine to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance.
14.) Rocky 4, 1985
The soundtrack for the movie included “Living in America” by James Brown; the film’s music was composed by Vince DiCola (who also composed the soundtrack for The Transformers: The Movie that same year), and also included songs by John Cafferty (featuring Vince DiCola), Survivor, Kenny Loggins, and Robert Tepper.
Go West wrote “One Way Street” for the movie by request of Sylvester Stallone. Europe’s hit “The Final Countdown”, written earlier in the decade by lead singer Joey Tempest, is often falsely stated as being featured in the film – no doubt due to its similarity to DiCola’s “Training Montage.” However, Europe’s track was not released as a single until late 1986.
15.) Top Gun, 1986
The Top Gun soundtrack is one of the most popular soundtracks to date, reaching #1 on The Billboard Top Pop Albums chart for five weeks. Harold Faltermeyer, who previously worked with both Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson on the films Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop, was sent the script of Top Gun by Bruckheimer before filming began.
Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock worked on numerous songs including the Oscar winning #1 “Take My Breath Away” and “Danger Zone”. Kenny Loggins performed two songs on the soundtrack, “Playing With the Boys”, and “Danger Zone”. Berlin recorded the song “Take My Breath Away”, which would later win numerous awards, sending Berlin to international acclaim.
16.) Pretty In Pink, 1986
The first track, “If You Leave” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, was written in 1985 in advance specifically for the movie. In addition to their song “Shellshock”, New Order also had the “Thieves Like Us” instrumental and “Elegia” appear in the movie but not on the soundtrack. The Rave-Ups, who do appear in the movie performing “Positively Lost Me” and “Rave-Up/Shut-Up” from their Town and Country, do not have any songs on the soundtrack. Nik Kershaw’s “Wouldn’t It Be Good” appears as re-recorded by former Three Dog Night vocalist Danny Hutton’s band, Danny Hutton Hitters.
The movie also includes the Otis Redding song, “Try a Little Tenderness,” which actor Jon Cryer’s character “Duckie” lipsyncs to in the film, and The Association song, “Cherish,” though the songs do not appear on the official soundtrack.
17.) Down And Out In Beverly Hills, 1986
Down and Out in Beverly Hills is based on the French play Boudu sauvé des eaux, which had previously been adapted on film in 1932 by Jean Renoir. Down and Out in Beverly Hills was directed by Paul Mazursky, and starred Nick Nolte, Bette Midler and Richard Dreyfuss.
The film is about a rich but dysfunctional couple who save the life of a suicidal bum.
Flamboyant musician Little Richard also makes an appearance, and contributed the song “Great Gosh a’Mighty” to the soundtrack. The song’s success led to a revitalization of his career.
18.) Dirty Dancing, 1987
It spent 18 weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200 album sales charts and went multi-platinum.
Dirty Dancing’s soundtrack spawned a follow-up album entitled More Dirty Dancing (1988). Produced by Jeff McCullough, the album went on to sell 42 million copies worldwide and is one of the best-selling albums of all time.
19.) Less Than Zero, 1987
Less Than Zero soundtrack was released through Def Jam Recordings and consisted of a variety of music genres, including hard rock, pop rock, hip hop, heavy metal and contemporary R&B, with most of the album being produced by Rick Rubin. The soundtrack found success, peaking at #31 on the Billboard 200 and #22 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, and was certified gold on February 8, 1988.
Four singles made it to the Billboard charts. The Black Flames cover of “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So)” and Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” were minor hits on the R&B charts, but LL Cool J’s “Going Back to Cali” and The Bangles cover of “A Hazy Shade of Winter” fared better, making it to #31 and #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 respectively.
20.) Some Kind Of Wonderful, 1987
Unlike most ’80s soundtracks offer collections of radio-friendly hits from haircut bands, the Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack features quirky non-hits from bands like the Jesus & Mary Chain, Flesh for Lulu, and the Apartments.
This delightfully non-mainstream soundtrack features Stephen Duffy’s “Lonesome,” the March Violets’ unforgettable cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Miss Amanda Jones,” and Pete Shelley’s “Do Anything.” The highlight of the CD is unquestionably Lick the Tins’ gravel-voiced, tin-whistle-driven cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Just listening to this CD can throw you into a John Hughes nostalgia tailspin that you may not want to come out of.
21.) Beverly Hills Cop 2, 1987
The film’s soundtrack CD released by MCA Records includes only a different song entitled “Hold On,” sung by Corey Hart. This song has different music and slightly altered lyrics. The movie introduced George Michael’s controversial song “I Want Your Sex”. It also includes “Cross My Broken Heart” by The Jets and “Shakedown” by Bob Seger which became a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as “Better Way” performed by James Ingram.
The soundtrack debuted #8 on the Billboard charts and spent 26 weeks on the charts, a far cry compared to the 49 weeks the soundtrack for the first Beverly Hills Cop. Despite this, one song from the album, “Shakedown” was nominated for on Oscar and the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. However, another song from the album “I Want Your Sex” was nominated for the Razzie Award for Worst Song.
22.) The Lost Boys, 1987
Thomas Newman wrote the original score as an eerie blend of orchestra and organ arrangements, while the music soundtrack contains a number of notable songs and several covers, including “Good Times”, a duet between INXS and former Cold Chisel lead singer Jimmy Barnes which reached No. 1 on the Australian charts in early 1987.
The soundtrack also features a cover version of The Doors’ song “People are Strange” by Echo & the Bunnymen. The song as it featured in the movie is an alternate, shortened version with a slightly different music arrangement.
Lou Gramm, the famed lead singer of Foreigner, also recorded “Lost in the Shadows” for the soundtrack, along with a video which featured clips from the film.
23.) La Bamba, 1987
An original motion picture soundtrack album was released on June 30, 1987 on Warner Bros. Records. The album contained 12 tracks. The first six songs consist of Los Lobos covers of Ritchie Valens’ songs: “La Bamba”, “Come On Let’s Go”, “Ooh My Head”, “We Belong Together”, “Framed”, and “Donna”.
Other performers include: Howard Huntsberry, Marshall Crenshaw, Brian Setzer, and Bo Diddley performing a new version of his blues classic “Who Do You Love?”
24.) Cocktail, 1988
The four-million-selling summer party album of 1988, featuring the #1 hits “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin and “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys, plus radio hits by Starship, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, the Georgia Satellites, and John Cougar Mellencamp.
Cocktail is a romantic drama film released by Touchstone Pictures in 1988. Directed by Roger Donaldson, the film is based on the book of the same name by Heywood Gould, who also wrote the screenplay. It stars Tom Cruise as a talented and ambitious bartender who aspires to working in business and finds love with Elisabeth Shue while working at a bar in Jamaica. The original music score was composed by Maurice Jarre.
25.) Say Anything…, 1989
Say Anything… is a 1989 romance film written and directed by Cameron Crowe. It was Crowe’s directorial debut. In 2002, Entertainment Weekly ranked Say Anything… as the greatest modern movie romance, and it was ranked number 11 on Entertainment Weekly’s list of the 50 best high-school movies.
The Say Anything… soundtrack includes tracks “All for Love” by Nancy Wilson, “Cult Of Personality” by Living Colour, “One Big Rush” by Joe Satriani, “You Want It” by Cheap Trick, “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, “Stripped” by Depeche Mode among others.
Roger Ebert called the movie “one of the best films of the year — a film that is really about something, that cares deeply about the issues it contains — and yet it also works wonderfully as a funny, warmhearted romantic comedy.”
Other 80’s movie soundtracks worth mentioning but didn’t make the cut were: The Karate Kid (1984) — Because we think Bananarama were hot, A Nightmare On Elm Street: Dream Warriors (1987) — Because Dokken is awesome, For Your Eyes Only (1981) — Because Sheena Easton is also hot, The Big Chill (1983) — Because it has many 60’s & 70’s R&B classics. However, sadly … no 80’s songs so it didn’t make our top 25, Stand By Me (1986) — Another one with a bunch of classic songs (the 50’s this time), Good Morning Vietnam (1987) — One more with another great classic (pre-80’s) soundtrack. Ok, ok. So this list can go on and on but we’re going to stop it here and leave you with our favorite 80’s soundtrack song.