10 of the best movie soundtracks from the 80s

We’ve tackled the best albums of the 1980s, and now it’s time for us to revisit the decade’s other best soundtracks – the, well, the actual soundtracks. While the 70s offered some of the most important early blockbuster soundtracks, like the 16-times platinum record Saturday night fever album, the 80s pushed this idea in every possible direction, from pop radio hits (Superior gun) to the fairy tale musical (Labyrinth). Not that all the best are the most visible, far from it. In fact, some of them, like blade runnerwere not officially released until much later (or in the case of Ferris Bueller’s day offa lot a lot later). But in the same way that the best movie soundtracks of the 90s comprised a decade of great mixtapes, the 80s showed just how eclectic that idea could be, from nostalgic throwbacks to pitch-perfect satire. Microwave popcorn and line up in our list of the best 80s movie soundtracks.


MCA

Beverly Hills Cop (1980)

Eddie Murphy became a worldwide phenomenon with this first film from the Beverly Hills Cop franchise. Originally conceived with Sylvester Stallone in mind, Murphy’s film desperately needed a soundtrack that would complement the enigmatic black lead actor. The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” which bears an uncanny resemblance to Prince’s “Delirious,” was instrumental in reinventing the band that dominated the 1980s. Don Henley’s sax mantra “The Heat Is On” easily caught on. spot on MTV’s rotation, and Patti LaBelle’s “New Attitude” has remained a jukebox staple in black hair salons across the country. However, Harold Faltermeyer’s “Axel F”, a synth-driven instrumental anthem, was recognized around the world as a kind of Californian svengali hypnosis and matched Murphy’s larger-than-life popularity note-for-note. – Jean-Paul Shiver


Motown

The big thrill (1983)

This Lawrence Kasdan-directed film draws on a recurring trope used by American filmmakers when the national consensus seems confused and seeks desperate refuge from the troubled times in which they live. Make a movie that you can flood with music from another era. american graffiti, Fat and dirty dance all use this device to tell their stories. And, by the way, these are all best-selling soundtracks. So when a group of friends from the University of Michigan in the late 1960s (you can smell the poop grass with stems tied all the way down here) come together to mourn the loss of a friend, the soundtrack becomes all 60’s stonerific. Because Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Three Dog Night and Procol Harum are going to solve these baby boomer problems. In a weekend.

This mish-mash of generational actors – Glenn Close, Kevin Klein, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt and Mary Jo-Beth Williams – do endearing work amid a Motown-dominated soundtrack playing below. Shit. Even if you own a home and have a college degree, the voodoo economy under the Reagan administration can really get you down. – Jean-Paul Shiver


Is West

blade runner (1982/1994)

Like the film itself, Vangelis’ soundtrack for blade runner had a rocky exit. There was no official album release until 1994 following the commercial success of the film’s Director’s Cut, although Vangelis included some of his tracks on his 1989 album. Themes compilation. Even so, many bootlegs remain more complete than any official release. Regardless, the core score of the 1982 theatrical release remains the pivotal piece of music that shaped the legacy of neo-noir and cyberpunk. Vangelis took an improvisational approach to the score, playing with clips from the film, resulting in a dreamy and at times unsettling arrangement. He managed to capture a thrilling sense of wonder for a film that presented both beauty and horror with awe. –Forrest James


best movie soundtracks of the 80s Koyanisqaatsi

Koyanisqaatsi (1983)

Godfrey Reggio’s unique, unnarrated visual sound poem required an entirely original and transcendent score, and Philip Glass came up with it. Like many of Glass’s compositions, each piece of the melodic puzzle is relatively crude, and each repeats itself often, but they overlap and contrast in various permutations. Glass’ buzzing melodies loop in cycles, emphasizing the visual juxtapositions of different life cycles. The resulting sensation of comprehensible phenomena woven into a complex arrangement matches the film’s message: all of these natural cycles, or their human interruptions, are simple enough, but the system as a whole is unbalanced. This minimalist compositing technique hadn’t made it to film before. Koyaanisqatsi, and Glass’s work started a decades-long trend in film music. –Forrest James


best 80s film music
Real World/Geffen

Passion (music for The Last Temptation of Christ) (1989)

Much of Peter Gabriel’s explorations immediately after Genesis focused on “world music” – the songs, structures and performers of under-promoted regions and indigenous peoples. In 1980 he co-founded the WOMAD organization that would spawn critically acclaimed music festivals, and in 1988 began composing Martin Scorsese’s cinematic vision of Jesus Christ with the help of artists he had. encountered during these sound explorations across three continents. Gabriel’s efforts necessitated the creation of the Real World label, and his soundtrack for The Last Temptation of Christ was one of the first titles in its catalog. With field recordings alongside contributions from the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Youssou N’Dour and Hossam Ramzy, it’s strong and beautiful enough to require no association with film. –Adam Blyweiss


A M

Pretty in pink (1986)

The Crux of Central Conflict in the Mid-’80s Teen Classic Pretty in pink remains hidden in plain sight in the soundtrack. It’s the redundant algorithmic pop music emanating from malls across America against the left of terrestrial radio stations blasting all the underground post-punk that would stand the test of time and become marketing gold thirty years later. late. The Smiths, Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark, Echo & The Bunnymen and The Psychedelic Furs were among the acts featured at the MTV party owned by Madonna, Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Michael Jackson in the 1980s by director John Hughes and the actress Molly Ringwald. . With main characters Andie and Duckie (Ringwald and Jon Cryer) donning thrift store yarn, preceding the cool hipster and hanging out in a record store that had more Otis Redding wax than Hall and Oates 45, these kids on the other side tracks put a captivating face (white) on the alternative undertow happening in music during the Reagan era. Think about it, only a few years later, Andie and The Duck would come out of Nirvana shit. – Jean-Paul Shiver


best movie soundtracks of the 80s Prince
Warner Bros.

purple rain (1984)

There’s a lot about purple rain, as a movie, it might not hold up as well on closer examination. You could easily debate the acting, or the narrative, or pretty much anything outside of the iconic performance scenes, really. What’s not up for debate is the real star of the film: the soundtrack. The now legendary album is undeniably one of the best in its category. A burst of psychedelia covers everything, from the ethereal presence of the synths, to a host of exquisite full-band performances, and its own kind of prog funk, this is an album that was made in a moment of pure genius. purple rain was more than an album, it was Prince’s magnum opus, a pop masterpiece that brought beauty and cultural stamina in equal measure. It contains at least one song that almost everyone has heard, and just as likely two or three. It’s not an inherent claim to its stunning brilliance, but it says a lot about the longevity and breadth of work. –Brian Roesler


San Andreas

The man from the depot (1984)

The punk movie was born in 1978 with Derek Jarman’s Jubileebut he flourished in the 80s with documentaries like The Decline of Western Civilization and rebellious fables like Ladies and Gentlemen, Fabulous Spots. The man from the depot is perhaps the least characteristic of the bunch, a sort of sci-fi/noir film with an amazing soundtrack that just happens to be punk as shit: Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Iggy Pop and Suicidal Tendencies. On screen, it’s more punk in spirit than in practice, but the stacked hardcore soundtrack is just as solid a starting point for anyone looking for a punk education. –Jeff Terich


Polydor

It’s Spinal Tap (1984)

A mockumentary about the waning popularity of a heavy metal band that more than once hit a little close to home for a few touring bands, It’s Spinal Tap put an outrageous comedic spin on the rock ‘n’ roll movie. Miniature Stonehenge sight gags, cucumber-stuffed pants, flower-child flashbacks, and critical one-sentence pans – rarely a moment goes by without some classic buffoonery. It also wouldn’t be as effective without its soundtrack, which was written and performed by the film’s stars, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer (and co-written by director Rob Reiner). They’re funny, first and foremost, but perhaps more importantly, impeccably crafted, so the triple-bass ode to callipyge, “Big Bottom,” and the raveup “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight “are not only good for laughs, they really and sincerely rock. –Jeff Terich


A M

URGH! A musical war

Stop making sense was the quintessential concert film of the decade, purple rain his musical drama, and The Decline of Western Civilization his very focused documentary. But for a keen observational look at a lot of music in such spheres, you can’t do better than this soundtrack, released a year after its footage was shot and a year before the movie hits theaters. His live performances criss-cross the Atlantic and multiple genres, including punk (X), post-punk (The Police), art-rock (Klaus Nomi), synth-pop (OMD), reggae (Steel Pulse) and more. With curiosities from other seldom-discussed artists and a gnarly presentation rights history, the film and double vinyl of Urgh! A musical war are worth seeking out. –Adam Blyweiss


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