The 25 Most Quintessential 1980s Soundtracks, From ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Footloose’ to ‘Do the Right Thing’ and ‘Repo Man’ (2023)

The 25 Most Quintessential 1980s Soundtracks, From ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Footloose’ to ‘Do the Right Thing’ and ‘Repo Man’ (1)

Published At: 29 May 2022 , 01:38 PM

When news of a “Top Gun” sequel was announced, questions like “Will Tom Cruise do his own stunts?” and “Will Val Kilmer be in it?” were a little bit down the list of burning ones. Nos. 1 and 2, for certain: “Will ‘Take My Breath Away’ be in it? Will ‘Danger Zone’?” That is the power of the blockbuster 1980s soundtrack: When we look back on the really enduring mainstream movies of the era, it’s not the poster art that pops right into our minds first, usually — it’s the poster art as adapted into an album cover.

The producers of “Top Gun: Maverick” didn’t take many chances when it came to trying to come up with a hit album: They enlisted Lady Gaga for a brand new song, to take the place of “Take My Breath Away,” but did, yes, also include Loggins’ “Danger Zone” to tickle the throwback part of your brain. The chances of this new soundtrack album achieving even a third of the nine-times-platinum status of the original are nil, of course: This is a different era for music, generally, but soundtracks particularly. The lure of “various artists” movie albums actually started to wane around the mid-’90s, really, and now, save for the very occasional “Star is Born” outlier, it’s a nice market, not market leader.

But let’s remember a time when pop soundtracks were the primary souvenir you could buy of a movie (before DVDs!), or were just a bitchin’ way to collect a variety of tunes in one fell swoop (before the “NOW! That’s What I Call Music” series… or Spotify). Here are 25 of the albums that defined the decade, from massive hits like the three F’s — “Fame,” “Flashdance” and “Footloose” — to some collections that introduced us to new sounds, like “Times Square” and “Wild Style.” And in case the descriptions alone don’t take you right back to the period: Click on any of the still images to watch a music video representing that particular soundtrack. —Chris Willman

Top Gun (1986)

Photo:Everett Collection

The Miami Sound Machine, Kenny Loggins and Berlin. Welcome to 1986 and the “Top Gun” soundtrack. From the film’s opening, the “Top Gun” Anthem,” by Harold Faltermeyer, who scored the film—plays softly over the opening credits to the “Danger Zone,” cut, the film’s soundtrack is part of pop culture, like the film. Remember when Tom Cruise’s Maverick serenades Kelly McGillis with “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling?” at the bar? Music in “Top Gun” is an important part of the film, and an important soundtrack in film history. —Jazz Tangcay

Purple Rain (1984)

Photo:The Kobal Collection

It’s hard to think of a more self-fulfillingly prophetic film than “Purple Rain,” which was about a young musician overcoming his demons (and rivals) on his rise to the top — and lofted Prince to global superstardom in a matter of weeks during the summer of “Ghostbusters” and “Born in the U.S.A.” Yet it never would have happened without the brilliant songs on this album, which range from rockers (“Let’s Go Crazy”) to ballads (“Beautiful Ones”), from porn-funk (“Darling Nikki”) to the epic, anthemic title track — and one of the most unusual No. 1 singles of all time in “When Doves Cry.” It’s Prince’s most concise and accessible album — and a mountaintop he never bothered, or needed, to climb again. —Jem Aswad

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Photo:Everett Collection

One has to go back to “Midnight Cowboy,” or even “Casablanca,” to find a film that is as inseparable from its signature song as Spike Lee’s masterpiece “Do the Right Thing.” Heard blasting out of Radio Raheem’s boombox at key moments throughout the film, Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” managed to channel all of the narrative’s unbearable tension and righteous rage into five of the most explosive, densely packed minutes of music imaginable. There were plenty of other gems on the soundtrack – Guy’s smooth R&B jam “My Fantasy,” Lee-favorites E.U.’s “Party Hearty” – but it stands as a deathless landmark of film music for that song alone. –Andrew Barker

Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and the John Hughes ST Catalog

Photo:Everett Collection

As the king of teen angst, John Hughes had plenty of memorable music moments in his films. The classics he directed, like “The Breakfast Club” and “Weird Science,” as well as the ones he wrote but that still seemed like John Hughes movies, like “Pretty in Pink,” all had solid collections of creative needle drops from the new wave and pop bands of the 1980s, though not all were released as soundtracks at the time. But most are remembered by a singular, often title track. The Psychedelic Furs growled about their promiscuous rose-garbed friend years before Hughes used “Pretty in Pink” as both the title and the title track of the Molly Ringwald film. Likewise, Oingo Boingo’s cheerfully wacky “Weird Science” remains the best-remembered track from Hughes’ film, which also featured tunes by Killing Joke and Lords of the New Church. And Simple Minds “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” an iconic hit as the theme from “The Breakfast Club,” was by far the British group’s biggest song ever. “Sixteen Candles” never got a full soundtrack release despite fun choices like Kajagoogoo, Altered Images, Spandau Ballet and Patti Smith, while “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” got a belated 2016 version, with some curious but interesting selections like The Dream Academy covering the Smiths’ “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” and “Love Missile F1-11” by Sigue Sigue Sputnik. (Remember them? No? You’re not alone.) —Pat Saperstein

Flashdance (1983)

Photo:Everett Collection

No stars in your movie? Not a problem in 1983, when it was possible for a soundtrack to become the star of a movie, thanks to nascent MTV. The video clips for the two No. 1 songs from the movie — “Flashdance… What a Feeling” by Irena Cara and “Maniac” by Michael Sembello — were played relentlessly on the then-new music video channel, as the film and soundtrack fed upon one another for mutual blockbuster-dom. Ultimately, the album was RIAA-certified for 6million U.S. sales… and who knows, it might have even landed a little higher than that, if the initial success hadn’t caught everyone by such surprise that stores quickly sold out of the mere tens of thousands of LPs initially manufactured. As indelible as “Maniac” was, it’s really all about the title song. Giorgio Moroder (reaching a new soundtrack high a few years after “American Gigolo”) came up with a slow-burn that perfectly fit the wait-for-it highs of the climactic dance audition sequence … so compellingly that we almost suspended our disbelief that Jennifer Beals was on-screen anywhere during that scene. And Irena Cara sang the best-song Oscar winner for the second time in four years. The real winner, though? MTV and movie marketing departments. —Willman

Repo Man (1984)

Photo:Everett Collection

1984’s “Repo Man” was not only an explosive film about L.A. for British director Alex Cox, it also helped bring mainstream recognition to numerous L.A. punk bands featured on the soundtrack: Fear, the Circle Jerks, the Plugz, Suicidal Tendencies and, the most L.A. punk of them all, Black Flag. The pride of the South Bay get the ultimate product placement in a scene in which Emilio Estevez’s misunderstood repo man Otto walks home dejectedly singing the early Black Flag anthem “TV Party” (“We’ve got/nothing better to do/than to watch TV/and have a couple of brews.”) The music of “Repo Man” captures a fertile moment for L.A.’s local music scene that is now being explored by music historians in depth in such books as 2001’s “Our Band Could Be Your Life” and the newly released “Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records.” —Cynthia Littleton

(Video) What Your Favorite Stars Of The '80s Look Like Now


The 25 Most Quintessential 1980s Soundtracks, From ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Footloose’ to ‘Do the Right Thing’ and ‘Repo Man’? ›

"Take My Breath Away" is a song written by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock for the 1986 film Top Gun, performed by American new wave band Berlin. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in 1986.

What is the song at the end of Top Gun 1986? ›

"Take My Breath Away" is a song written by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock for the 1986 film Top Gun, performed by American new wave band Berlin. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in 1986.

What is the difference between a film score and a film soundtrack? ›

Scores are usually created by one or more composers, while soundtracks typically feature songs by different bands, artists, or musicians. Soundtracks typically feature vocal music, whereas film scores traditionally consist of instrumental music written by a composer and performed by an orchestra or group of musicians.

Who did the original Top Gun soundtrack? ›

Top Gun (1986): The Soundtrack

Winning a BRIT Award for Best Soundtrack upon its release in May 1986, the 10-track collection features the significant musical talents of Harold Faltermeyer, Giorgio Moroder and Kenny Loggins.

What was the first big movie soundtrack? ›

The first such album to be commercially released was Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the soundtrack to the film of the same name, in 1938. The first soundtrack album of a film's orchestral score was that for Alexander Korda's 1942 film Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book, composed by Miklós Rózsa.

What song is on jukebox at end of Top Gun? ›

"Radar Radio" is a single performed by Giorgio Moroder featuring Joe Pizzulo and written by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock. It was featured in the film Top Gun.

What song is played in 1985 Top Gun? ›

The song "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin went on to win both the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
Top Gun (soundtrack)
Top Gun
ProducerDon Simpson (exec.) Jerry Bruckheimer (exec.)
9 more rows

How much money do film scorers make? ›

Film Composer Salary
Annual SalaryHourly Wage
Top Earners$104,000$50
75th Percentile$57,500$28
25th Percentile$43,500$21

What is the most popular film score? ›

  • 8: The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001) ...
  • 7: Rocky (1976) ...
  • 6: Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) ...
  • 5: Casablanca (1942) ...
  • 4: Gone With The Wind (1939) ...
  • 3: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966) ...
  • 2: The Godfather (1972) ...
  • 1: Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

How much do musicians make in a movie score? ›

For a studio feature, composers may be paid $60,000 to $250,000 for a low budget film, $250,000 to $350,000 for a medium budget film and $400,000 to $2 million for a high budget film. Ultimately, it depends what has been budgeted for the music and composition aspects of the film.

What song won Top Gun original? ›

"Hold My Hand" follows in the awards season footsteps of the first Top Gun film, as Berlin's soundtrack song "Take My Breath Away" won the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 1987 ceremony.

What song from Top Gun won a Grammy? ›

Top Gun Anthem – Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens

This anthem won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

What song has been in the most movies? ›

10 Most Commonly Used Songs in Movies
  1. 1 “Spirit in The Sky” - Norman Greenbaum.
  2. 2 “Fortunate Son” - Creedence Clearwater Revival. ...
  3. 3 "Mr Blue Sky" - Electric Light Orchestra. ...
  4. 4 “London Calling” - The Clash. ...
  5. 5 “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. ...
  6. 6 "Chariots of Fire" - Vangelis. ...
Jan 21, 2023

What movie soundtrack has the most number 1 hits? ›

1. 'Saturday Night Fever': One of the best-selling movie soundtracks of all time, 'Saturday Night Fever' spent a total of 24 weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold more than 45 million copies.

What was the first big movie ever made? ›

Early motion pictures

One of the first commercial film successes was the American movie The Great Train Robbery in 1903. It was just over 10 minutes long, a typical length for the time, but it was the first film with a cohesive narrative. The Great Train Robbery's success spread worldwide.

What song is playing in the beach football scene in Top Gun? ›

In the movie, the scene was accompanied by "I Ain't Worried" by OneRepublic.

Did Tom Cruise fly in Top Gun 2? ›

The Super Hornet jet does feature in the sequel, but Tom Cruise did not fly them in Top Gun: Maverick as those scenes were all completed with assistance from Navy pilots. According to producer Bruckheimer, Cruise does fly a P-51 propeller-driven fighter plane, as well as some helicopters.

What is the music when Goose dies in Top Gun? ›

Q:What is the song playing when Maverick is in court after Goose dies? (from Bryan in Phoenix)
A:The song is "Memories" by Harold Faltermeyer. You can find it on the extended version soundtrack. (thanks to marta, portugal) add more info
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What was the theme song for Top Gun 1986? ›

"Top Gun Anthem" is an instrumental rock composition and the theme of the Top Gun media franchise, including the original 1986 film Top Gun and its 2022 sequel Maverick. Harold Faltermeyer wrote the music with Steve Stevens playing guitar and Faltermeyer on the keyboard on the recording.

Who makes the most money for a film? ›

Highest Paying Jobs in Film Production
  • Executive Producer. Top of the list is the executive producer – the person who controls the entire project. ...
  • Director. ...
  • Screenwriter. ...
  • Editor. ...
  • Other opportunities. ...
  • Media Schools.

Who is the highest paid composer? ›

Top Grossing Composer at the Worldwide Box OfficeBETA
RankNameWorldwide Box Office
1Hans Zimmer$31,914,595,393
2John Williams$25,520,973,498
3Michael Giacchino$21,868,238,261
4James Newton Howard$19,327,545,178
77 more rows

What is the average salary of a film grip? ›

The mid-range salary for a Key Grip is approximately $59,000. The salary range for Key Grips runs from $41,000 to $131,000. Many Grips start off non-union, earning less than their union peers while they build their careers.

What movie has 100% audience score? ›

A number of these films also appear on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies lists, but there are many others and several entries with dozens of positive reviews, which are considered surprising to some experts. To date, Leave No Trace holds the site's record, with a rating of 100% and 252 positive reviews.

What is longest film score? ›

Gone With the Wind by Max Steiner (1939)

He was only given three months to compose it and when the film was released it was the longest ever film score, at almost three hours. Steiner sometimes worked for 20 hours at a time and it took five orchestrators to help produce the score.

Does any movie have a perfect score? ›

Only a select group of amazing films have achieved the top honor of Rotten Tomatoes: Landing a perfect 100% on the Tomatometer. From silent film classics like Charles Chaplin's The Kid to landmarks of the animation genre like Toy Story, the flawless club of Rotten Tomatoes definitely deserve your attention.

How long do royalties last? ›

The musician receives a royalty on songs after putting copyright protection on the music. The royalties on this song last over the period that the copyright protection of the song lasts.

Who gets paid when a song is played in a movie? ›

The motion picture synchronization fee paid to the music publisher (which is shared with the songwriter) for the use of a song includes the right to distribute the film to network, local, syndicated, pay-per-view, pay, satellite, cable and subscription television stations; the right to show the film in motion picture ...

How long do song royalties last? ›

Music Copyrights

The length of ownership for a song copyright depends on whether the song was copyrighted before or after 1978. If a song was copyrighted in or after 1978, the copyright is valid for the life of the author plus 70 years.

What song did Top Gun win Oscar? ›

Academy Awards, USA

For the song "Take My Breath Away".

Why was Top Gun such a big hit? ›

As previously mentioned, Top Gun fueled a surge in enlistments for the Navy. It also showed the military how powerful Hollywood could be in promoting patriotism. Top Gun was one of the first films to receive large-scale approval from the military to use its assets, but it was far from the last one.

Did the original Top Gun win any Oscars? ›

The film won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for "Take My Breath Away" performed by Berlin.
Top Gun
Produced byDon Simpson Jerry Bruckheimer
StarringTom Cruise Kelly McGillis Val Kilmer Anthony Edwards Tom Skerritt
CinematographyJeffrey L. Kimball
Edited byChris Lebenzon Billy Weber
13 more rows

Who is the most won Grammy? ›

Most Grammys won

The record for the most Grammy Awards won in a lifetime is held by Beyoncé, an American singer, songwriter, record producer and dancer, who has won 32. It was previously held by Georg Solti, a Hungarian-British conductor, who won 31.

What is the only disco song to win a Grammy? ›

Gloria Gaynor won the first and only Grammy for Best Disco Recording with "I Will Survive"; the recording academy discontinued the category after disco fell out of public favor.

What was the most viewed Grammy? ›

  • 63rd Annual Grammy Awards (2021)
  • 64th Annual Grammy Awards (2022)
  • 48th Annual Grammy Awards (2006)
  • 50th Annual Grammy Awards (2008)
  • 37th Annual Grammy Awards (1995)
  • 62nd Annual Grammy Awards (2020)
  • 47th Annual Grammy Awards (2005)
  • 44th Annual Grammy Awards (2002)
Feb 4, 2023

What song plays on the jukebox in Top Gun: Maverick? ›

Hangman (Glen Powell) picks a jukebox song. He speaks to Rooster at a pool table. “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis (00:30:00): Maverick gets kicked out of a bar.

What is the highest streaming song of all time? ›

The most-streamed song in Spotify history is credited to… The Weeknd's "Blinding Lights." The song, which was released in November 2019, has been streamed over 3 billion times on the platform!

What song has been #1 the longest? ›

"Old Town Road" holds the record for the longest stretch at No. 1 with 19 weeks. It also became the fastest song in history to be certified diamond. "The Box" charted at No.

What is the #1 most played song? ›

Spotify Top 100 Most-Streamed Songs
1. Ed Sheeran – Shape of You3307042661
2. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights3285156792
3. Tones And I – Dance Monkey2707855088
4 – Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved2564964399
21 more rows

What is the most sold song from a movie? ›

Music History's #1 Soundtrack: The Bodyguard

Since its release in 1992, the soundtrack (officially titled Whitney Houston: I Wish You Love More from the Bodyguard) has clinched several accolades: Become the #1 best-selling movie soundtrack of all time, making it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

What is considered the first American movie ever made? ›

1889 or 1890. Monkeyshines, by William Kennedy Dickson and William Heise. Believed to be the first film shot in the United States.

What is the oldest running movie franchise? ›

The reigning king (wink) of the longest running film franchise in history has been on cinema screens since 1954, over the course of 38 films, with a 39th set for 2024: Godzilla.

What was the first movie to have color? ›


The first commercially produced film in natural color was A Visit to the Seaside (1908). The eight-minute British short film used the Kinemacolor process to capture a series of shots of the Brighton Southern England seafront.

What song plays in Top Gun Beach scene 1986? ›

'Top Gun's Beach Volleyball Scene Is Iconic and Bewildering

To add to the overall 80s cheesiness, Kenny Loggins song “Playing with the Boys” can be heard in the background.

What songs are featured in Top Gun? ›

Top Gun
  • Danger Zone. Written by Giorgio Moroder & Tom Whitlock. ...
  • Lead Me On. Written by Giorgio Moroder & Tom Whitlock. ...
  • Hot Summer Nights. Written by Michael Jay, Alan Roy Scott, and Roy Freeland. ...
  • Heaven in Your Eyes. ...
  • Top Gun Anthem. ...
  • Mighty Wings. ...
  • Playing with the Boys. ...
  • Take My Breath Away.

What song played during the football scene in Top Gun: Maverick? ›

In the movie, the scene was accompanied by "I Ain't Worried" by OneRepublic.

What's the saddest scene in Top Gun? ›

Pete "Maverick" Mitchell's radar intercept officer (RIO), Nick "Goose" Bradshaw, dies in a training flight accident. The pair are in an F-14 when the plane goes into a flat spin. When Goose and Maverick eject, Goose hits the canopy on the way out. Goose's death reverberates throughout Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick.

Did Goose really play the piano in Top Gun? ›

As it turns out, they didn't need any piano-playing doubles for that scene - Teller brushed up his own skills on the keys.

Did Tom Cruise fly in Top Gun? ›

While Tom Cruise did really fly in Top Gun: Maverick with certain aircraft, confirming his exceptional pilot skills, the F/A-18 Super Hornets are not the kind of plane just anyone can jump into and take off.

What song does Rooster play on the piano? ›

The new video shows Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller) seated at a piano at the Hard Deck, the military bar owned by Pete "Maverick" Mitchell's (Tom Cruise) old flame, Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), banging out a tune almost as iconic as Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone": "Great Balls of Fire", originally ...


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