A few months back, we compiled a list of the best movie soundtracks from the 1990s and discussed how certain songs have become associated with the films they are featured in, like “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic and “I Will Always Love You” from The Body Guard. We decided to circle back on soundtrack albums, but this time showcasing the 1980s. Here are a few below, as well as a Spotify playlist with even more.
Best Movie Soundtracks of the 1980s
Dirty Dancing – (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
Although Dirty Dancing featured many songs from the 1960s (when the story takes place), like “Some Kind of Wonderful” by The Drifters and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons, the song most synonymous with the film is for sure “Time of My Life.” The song won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song and a Grammy for Best Pop Performance. It also placed #86 among AFI’s 2004 list of “100 Years…100 Songs.” Donna Summer was initially approached to record the tune, but she turned it out because she didn’t like the title of the film.
Top Gun – Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins
Although the music was composed by Giorgio Moroder and the lyrics were written by Tom Whitlock, the song “Danger Zone” was recorded by Kenny Loggins and became a hit single from the soundtrack to the 1986 film Top Gun. The album became the best-selling soundtrack of that year and one of the best-selling of all time. The band Toto originally intended to sing the song for the movie, but legal conflicts prevented them from doing so. Other artists who declined the song were Bryan Adams, who thought the film glorified war, REO Speedwagon, who were upset that they weren’t allowed to contribute their own music, and Corey Hart, who wanted to focus on writing his own music. “Danger Zone” became Loggins’ runner-up career record, bested only by his #1 hit for the movie Footloose. Speaking of which…
Footloose – Footloose by Kenny Loggins
Kenny Loggins co-wrote and recorded “Footloose” for the 1984 film of the same name. It was the first of two singles – the other one was “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man).” The song spent three weeks at #1 on the music charts and was ranked the #4 song for 1984. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, although it lost to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from the film The Woman in Red. The nine-track soundtrack album received six Billboard Top 40 hits, three of which hit the top 10. The other single to hit #1 was “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” by Deniece Williams. The film was remade in 2011, with contemporary artists recording the original songs for the soundtrack album.
The Breakfast Club – Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds
Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff, who scored the film, wrote and composed “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” with the Scottish band in mind, but they originally declined to perform it because they felt they should only record their own material. The song was then presented to Bryan Ferry and then to Billy Idol, but both musicians also declined. Simple Minds finally relented after pressure from their record label, and they quickly recorded it without much thought because they thought it would just be a throwaway song. To their surprise, the tune was propelled by the success of the film and became a #1 hit, and now is a fixture of the band’s live sets.
Say Anything – In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel
“In Your Eyes” appears in perhaps the most famous scene of the film and is also used in the trailer. The song appeared on Peter Gabriel’s 1986 album So but found a resurgence in popularity after the success of Say Anything three years later. Gabriel noted that the scene gave the song a second life because it’s so often parodied in other comedy television shows and movies. Some of the other songs that appear on the soundtrack are “You Want It” by Cheap Trick, “Taste the Pain” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, and “Stripped” by Depeche Mode.
For even more songs, check out our Spotify page to hear our playlist of Best Movie Soundtracks of the 1980s.