Is it just me, or is the movie soundtrack in decline in pop culture? It used to be that a movie could really launch a song into the stratosphere and that films would have robust soundtracks, but I am hard-pressed to think of the last major non-Chipmunks movie that sent a song to the Top 40s. Perhaps the greatest era for the movie-tune partnership was the 80s, and today I’m going to list six memorable tunes and why they still mean a lot to me.
1. Beverly Hills Cop — Axel F
I was too young to have seen this back when it first came out, but the “Axel F” theme has always been one of my all-time favorites ever since hearing it a lot during one of the summers at the pool club. The catchy all-synth track is funky and cheeky in spades, and even the awful Crazy Frog remake of the song didn’t diminish the original’s quality.
2. Kenny Loggins — Danger Zone
Kenny Loggins was ALL OVER movie soundtracks in the 80s, with several hits from Caddyshack, Footloose, Over the Top, and Caddyshack II. But if I had to pick just one of his to be “the” big hit, it would be “Danger Zone” from Top Gun. It’s still absolutely fantastic, even though the music video drowns in bad 80s hair fashion. I first heard this as part of a science project that classmates were doing in the 8th grade. They made us listen to several songs and recorded our pulse; I was quite taken with this particular one.
3. Ray Parker Jr. — Ghostbusters
Everyone was in love with this song in the 80s. My friends and I used the soundtrack to stage plays with He-Man and Castle Greyskull toys, because why not. We knew it was cool. And check out this music video! Not only is it coated in neon and features bizarre cameos from Chevy Chase, Columbo, and John Candy, but it builds up to Parker Jr. strutting down the street with the Ghostbusters looking too cool for this world.
4. Stan Bush — The Touch
The Transformers Movie was one of the biggest events of my childhood, as it took our favorite TV cartoon and blew it up into an epic silver screen adventure. The soundtrack was up to the challenge, with great tracks from the likes of Weird Al Yankovic. However, it’s “The Touch” that captured the best of 80s movie anthems. It’s powered by synth, of course, and is unrelentingly optimistic. Any activity could be made better by doing it to this song.
5. Survivor — Eye of the Tiger
The opening to Rocky III is a pretty traditional recap of the previous two films, but a few minutes in it kicked into the BEST ROCKY THEME of ALL TIME. With fireworks. And Mr. T. And a fight montage. It was literally the most high-octane way that anyone in history could have started a movie… and cinema has been coasting downhill ever since.
6. Simple Minds — Don’t You (Forget About Me)
There were hundreds of teen flicks in the 80s and plenty of associated one-hit wonders with them. But we just couldn’t do this list without mentioning Breakfast Club’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” that became the prom theme for the next 20 years. It was the perfect song to end a film about high school angst, relationships, and detention, because it offers up this positive, nostalgic note. It’s a triumphant song and along with Judd Nelson’s raised fist have become one of the most recognized 80s movie moments.