8 '80s Movie Soundtracks We'll Always Love

by Nicole Johnson
Originally Published: 
Paramount Pictures

For many of us who grew up in the 1980s, going to the movies was an essential part of our adolescence. The theater was one of our favorite hangouts, an affordable way to spend a weekend night or afternoon. For a few hours, we could forget our problems and immerse ourselves in a make-believe world of cinematic magic. The movies allowed us to go anywhere and be anyone, and one of the most critical parts of that magic?

The music.

Who could forget the moment the virgin lost it to the sounds of Jackson Browne or the final scene where the whole school danced at prom bringing an end to the rigid rules of a traumatized, out-of-touch town? While others were buying cassette tapes by one artist, we movie buffs were buying film soundtracks that allowed us to relive our most cherished movie moments every time we hit play. When we heard our favorite songs, we became the prom queen, the athlete, the outcast we identified with and often admired. The music of films meant something.

Here are eight soundtracks we ’80s kids adored:

1. ‘Footloose’

The movie, which told the tale of a town so scarred by tragedy that they outlawed music and dancing, featured a song of the same name by Kenny Loggins. The fun and danceable title track, arguably one of the greatest dance hits of the decade, was balanced out by “Almost Paradise,” (also known as the “Love Theme From Footloose”) and “Holding Out for a Hero.” This song played while Kevin Bacon raced a tractor against his movie nemesis who also vied for the affections of the young and beautiful preacher’s daughter. When Kevin Bacon yelled, “Let’s dance,” we were ready.

2. ‘Dirty Dancing’

This epic coming of age dance movie had a soundtrack to match. None of us will ever forget Patrick Swayze singing, “She’s Like the Wind,” in the video, back when MTV still played videos, his beautiful profile highlighting all the best scenes from the movie. The soundtrack also featured the song, “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,” which made us all long for a dance partner like Johnny Castle. One who would pull us from the dinner table because “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

3. ‘Stand By Me’

This tale of four young friends on a journey to find the body of a dead kid brought a return to music from the era our parents came of age in. The songs, from the ’50s and ’60s, included “Lollipop,” “Great Balls of Fire,” and “Get a Job,” and taught us that the bonds of friendship are strong and enduring no matter what decade you grew up in. When Ben E. King sang the title track, we knew then as we know now that “We never had any friends later on like the ones we had when we were 12.”

Hell, we never would.

4. ‘Say Anything’

Lloyd Dobler, our favorite slacker and connoisseur of kickboxing, the “sport of the future,” pined for Diane Court. The two were complete opposites, but when Lloyd held his boombox over his head in a romantic gesture we ’80s girls only dreamed of, blasting Peter Gabriel’s anthem, “In Your Eyes,” we fell in love. Gabriel’s song became to ’80s love songs what “Footloose” was to ’80s dance songs. And the rest of the track wasn’t so bad either. It featured Red Hot Chili Peppers, Depeche Mode, and Cheap Trick—some of our favorites.

5. ‘Top Gun’

This Tom Cruise blockbuster featured not only one of the greatest beach volleyball scenes of the 80’s (and possibly ever), but one of the great movie soundtracks as well. When Maverick sang, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” along with his wingman, Goose, he single-handedly revitalized the career of The Righteous Brothers. Top Gun also featured Berlin’s, “Take My Breath Away,” and Kenny Loggins, master of ’80s movie songs (“Footloose” and “I’m Alright” were his as well), singing, “Danger Zone.”

6. ‘The Big Chill’

The movie opens with a four-minute long sequence set to Marvin Gaye’s, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” a masterful set-up to one of the greatest movies of the decade. The Big Chill featured mainly Motown hits of the 1960s to tell the story of a group of yuppie college buddies who reunite after the suicide of one of their own. Featured artists, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, and The Temptations rekindled the love of Motown for many, while introducing it to a generation who had yet to hear such sounds.

7. ‘Pretty in Pink’

This movie paired Molly Ringwald’s “girl from the wrong side of the tracks” with Andrew McCarthy’s “rich boy with the snooty friends.” Considering that Ringwald’s character, Andie, worked in a record store, it seems only fitting that the soundtrack featured a few ’80s chart-toppers including INXS and New Order. Pretty In Pink also strayed from the mainstream and included some alternative tracks like Suzanne Vega’s “Left of Center,” which perfectly describes the eclectic Andie, and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s, “If You Leave,” the love song of the movie. And of course, the title song, “Pretty in Pink,” was sung with pitch perfection by The Psychedelic Furs.

8. ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’

Fast Times was an ’80s teen movie tour de force featuring a cast of young, likable actors including Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Sean Penn. The soundtrack featured some of the quintessential 1980s musicians including The Go-Go’s, Oingo Boingo, and Stevie Nicks. Sadly, not every hit included in the movie was featured on the soundtrack. Left off was “Living in Stereo,” the song from the famous pool scene, by The Cars. One of our favorites, Jackson Browne’s, “Somebody’s Baby,” was there, though, and that was reason enough for us to buy the album.

The 1980s brought us unforgettable movies, and along with them, some of the most incredible, timeless music. Hearing these songs still catapults us right back to some of our favorite big screen moments, sending goosebumps up and down our arms no matter where we are when we hear them.

This article was originally published on