The Greatest 80s Soundtrack Songs

What makes 80s soundtrack songs incredible? That’s a difficult question to answer because there are so many! 

We all have our personal favorites that bring back great memories or maybe inspire your curiosity about the era.

But which 80s soundtrack songs are the most iconic?

Let’s find out!

What Makes 80s Soundtrack Songs Great?

The musical technology of the 80s proved to be the perfect foundation for an era of movies married to music. We had the cassette Walkman, the VHS tape, the boombox, and the CD.

It’s no wonder so many 80s movies had incredible soundtracks. Sure, the plots were a little cheesy. And hey, maybe the 80s were not the height of high-brow cinema. But they sure left their mark.

Young love, teenage struggle, and coming of age stories were common movie themes in the 80s. MTV was a new unstoppable force, and music subculture suddenly became a hot topic to explore. 

Remember the movie Valley Girl? It was a Romeo and Juliet 80s story with punks, preppies, and teenage angst. I Melt With You was part of its excellent soundtrack. 

Or how about Ghostbusters? Or Eye of the Tiger? There are so many great 80s soundtrack songs, and we’re here to bring you our top seven. When you hear the music, you can’t help but think of the movie and vice versa.

#7 Maniac by Michael Sembello

Appeared In: Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky wrote Maniac for the 1983 movie Flashdance. The film plot centers around young Alexandra, a welder by day who dreams of becoming a professional dancer. The song Maniac plays ss Alexandra trains vigorously for her dance audition.

About the Song: Composer Dennis Matkosky’s initial inspiration came from a tv broadcast about a serial killer on the loose. He’s a Maniac! But singer Michael Sembello worked with Matkosky to switch up his lyrics, making them all about a passionate dancer. 

The track was a favorite choice for aerobics classes with its fast and frenetic pace. Maniac spent two weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Greatest Lyric:

Locking rhythms to the beat of her heart

Changing movement into light

She has danced into the danger zone

#6 Purple Rain by Prince

Appeared In: Purple Rain is the title track for Prince’s 1984 movie by the same name. Prince performs the track in the film’s final climax when his character becomes a rock star.

About the Song: As far as 80s soundtrack songs go, Purple Rain might have the most significant legacy. The music is so good that even Prince himself felt overwhelmed by its power. 

Rolling Stone ranks Purple rain as #18 of the 500 greatest rock songs of all time. Prince utilized elements from the film when playing Purple Rain live, driving his audience to reverence and emotional exaltation.

Greatest Lyric

I never wanted to be your weekend lover

I only wanted to be some kind of friend, hey

Baby, I could never steal you from another

#5 If You Leave by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Appeared In: OMD recorded If You Leave for the final scene in the classic 1986 film Pretty In Pink. High school artsy girl Andie goes to the prom with her best friend Ducky but leaves in the arms of her crush – the popular rich kid. 

About the Song: OMD was thrilled when director John Hughs asked them to write a song specifically for the end of this 80s Cinderella story. The single hit the Billboard top ten in the U.S, turning many Americans onto OMD for the first time.

Although If You Leave is considered an essential 80s hit by many, die-hard fans say it’s contrived. We think they forgot it was written specifically for a scene in a campy 80s movie. Give us a break!

Greatest Lyric:

If you leave I won’t cry

I won’t waste one single day

But if you leave don’t look back

I’ll be running the other way


#4 Take My Breath Away by Berlin

Appeared In: Take My Breath Away is a Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock masterpiece composed for the 1986 film Top Gun. This action-drama stars Tom Cruise as a Naval Aviator. He falls in love with his astrophysicist instructor, played by Kelly McGillis. The steamy track is the film’s love song.

About the Song: Before recording Take My Breath Away, the new wave band Berlin had been around for 13 years. Although members were reluctant to record anything written by someone else, their choice to say yes paid off. 

Take My Breath Away got Berlin charting at #1 and won them an Academy Award. This 80s soundtrack song truly floods your heart with the rush of romance and takes your breath away.

Greatest Lyric:

Watching, I keep waiting, still anticipating love

Never hesitating to become the fated ones

#3 (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes

Appeared In: Have you heard of an 80s movie called Dirty Dancing? Of course, you have! This poppy number ends the film on a high note, with a dance between our star-crossed lovers.

About the Song: Composers Franke Previte and John DeNicola wrote (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life specifically for the film’s final dance scene. The seven-minute song had to start slow, end fast, and have a mambo beat. After securing Bill Medley and Jennifer Warns to sing the duet, the song won the 1987 Acadamy Award, a Golden Globe, and a Grammy!

Greatest Lyric

We saw the writing on the wall

As we felt this magical fantasy

Now with passion in our eyes

There’s no way we could disguise it secretly

#2 Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds

Appeared In: The Breakfast Club is a stand-out coming-of-age story for Gen X’ers far and wide. Don’t You (Forget About Me) was the perfect theme song. This classic 80s soundtrack opens and closes the 1985 John Hughes film.

About the Song: Composers Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff were scoring music for The Breakfast Club when they decided a song by Simple Minds would be a perfect match. As fans, Forsey and Schiff didn’t give up when Simple Minds declined the first time. 

Don’t You (Forget About Me) became the Scottish Band’s biggest hit and the only track to score big in America. We think this is a shame, as Simple Minds are a brilliant New Wave band.

Greatest Lyric:

Don’t you forget about me

I’ll be alone, dancing, you know it, baby

Goin’ to take you apart

I’ll put us back together at heart, baby

#1 In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel

Appeared In: Remember when you broke up with the guy you loved because your parents disapproved? But then he showed up on your front lawn, holding a boom box over his head, blasting In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel? How could anyone resist? 

Okay, okay. It was a movie. It was the 1989 teen romantic comedy, Say Anything. And it was romantic determination personified.

About the Song: Peter Gabriel wrote In Your Eyes for his 1986 album So. His inspirations were romantic love and a beautiful Spanish cathedral he’d recently visited. Gabriel combined several vocals and instruments played by renowned musicians like Youssou N’Dour. In Your Eyes is one of those rare tracks that still receives constant airplay over various formats.

Greatest Lyric

Love, I don’t like to see so much pain

So much wasted, and this moment keeps slipping away

I get so tired, working so hard for our survival

I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive

What’s Your Favorite 80s Soundtrack Song?

We don’t know about you, but all we want to do now is kick back with some popcorn and watch these movies. What a fun list!

What’s your top pick from our pick of greatest 80s soundtracks? What tracks would you add?

3 responses to “The Greatest 80s Soundtrack Songs”

  1. Nailed it! An 80s kid who literally lived in the (VHS) video store my brother and I could walk to after school these were the anthems of our teen years. When I saw the title “Say Anything” was my first thought. Great walk down awesome memories lane.

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