The Top 10 Movie Soundtrack Songs of the 80s

Written by on February 4, 2009

A short while back, Revenge of the 80s Radio did a show featuring great movie soundtrack songs of the 80s. We featured some of the more well-known tracks as well as some of the more obscure. The question, however, of which movie soundtrack songs stood out from the others bore answering.

In coming up with the top movie soundtrack songs of the 1980s, there needed to be an ironclad list of criteria due to the fact that there were several memorable pieces. The most prolific were decided by these standards:

  1. Their overall contribution to the alternative music genre in the 80s
  2. How memorable they were in the particular movies where they were features
  3. The song’s impact on the band’s success
  4. The song’s impact on the memorability of the movie
  5. The novelty factor of the song and its place in the movie

Here are the top 10 movie soundtrack songs of the 1980s:

10. “Far Side of Crazy” – Wall of Voodoo (Head Office)

Before Mike Judge’s Office Space, Judge Reinhold starred in the hilarious biz-based movie Head Office, where he plays a newbie who wonders why he keeps getting promoted. He later realizes it is because they want to appease his father, a powerful Senator. The movie is a cult classic featuring such stars as Reinhold, Wallace Shawn, Rick Moranis and Danny DeVito. Wall of Voodoo’s first release after bringing in Andy Prieboy was played in the scene where the business guys were smoking pot in the back seat of a limo



9. “My Male Curiosity” – Kid Creole and the Coconuts (Against All Odds)

While most remember the Phil Collins song “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” as the big hit from the move, Americans who were far too used to the regular Top 40 fare were first introduced to Kid Creole and The Coconuts through this hit movie. The multi-faceted tropical/new wave/alt-funk big band were making waves in the U.K. for several years before the 1984 movie came out.

The Kid exemplified cool while the Coconuts never let his head swell too much as the talented musicians offered an interesting stage dynamic to the larger number of Americans who discovered them and flocked to their live shows. Lead Coconut Adriana Kaegi produced a documentary on the band she co-founded here.


8. “Wild Thing” as performed by X (Major League)

The LA Punk band X had everyone in the movie theater (and Municipal Stadium) singing for Rick Vaughn to come out of the bullpen and close out the Cleveland Indians’ one-game playoff versus the Yankees. X put their stamp on the oldies radio staple, which was later played for real-life MLB pitcher Mitch Williams. Charlie Sheen’s horn-rimmed glasses as Rick Vaughn seemed to be a nod to former Houston Astros flamethrower Charlie Kerfeld.


7. “It’s My Life” – Wendy O. Williams (Reform School Girls)

Keeping in mind that the quality of the movie was not part of the criteria for this list, one of the all-time classic punk/metal anthems was the big song on the soundtrack for Reform School Girls, which also featured Williams in a co-starring role of the 1986 B-Movie. The song, released in 1984, also appeared in the movie “The Legend of Billie Jean.”


6. “Moving In Stereo” – The Cars (Fast Times at Ridgemont High)

It is doubtful that this needs more explaining than: “Phoebe Cates — Pool Scene.” This movie featured several future stars (Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold, Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Nicholas Cage among them) and a great comedy performance by a Martian (Ray Walston).


5. “One Foot In Front of the Other” – Bone Symphony (Revenge of the Nerds)

This was the song during Revenge of the Nerds when the NOt-Yet-Tr-Lams were cleaning their newly-bought run-down house. Led by Louis and Gilbert, the guys fixed the place up rather nicely with some glitches (Wormser having trouble lifting a bucket of liquid and Poindexter being cornered by the robot). The Bone Symphony only released one other EP, but will always be remembered for this classic.

The track was also paid tribute to in an episode of Family Guy, where Peter and his friends tried to clean up Teh Drunken Clam after making a huge mess (the robot was in the episode as well).


4. “Jamaica Ska” – Annette Funicello and Fishbone (Back To The Beach)

Back To the Beach may have been a campy movie, but that was the obvious intent. It was meant to be a “Frankie and Annette – The Next Generation” movie parodying the old 60s beach movies, complete with Connie Stevens and a fake superwave behind Avalon’s skillful blue-screen surfing. The flick’s plot went about the same as the old beach movies too: Frankie and Annette are mad at each other (so are their daughter and her boyfriend), Connie Stevens tries to jump in, they sing at the beach to get at each other, they all get back together and Frankie surfs — all while “outwitting” the guy who polices the beach (which was Don Adams in this movie). Several critics, however, did not seem to understand the intent. Perhaps the highlight of the movie was the unlikely duet between Funicello and Fishbone. While that reason alone is good enough to have this memorable song on our list, it moves up a few notches due to the fact that Funicello (as she had said in past interviews) was already feeling the effects of Multiple Sclerosis when they were shooting and the 1987 movie would be her last starring role:


3. “This Woman’s Work” – Kate Bush (She’s Having A Baby)

Kate Bush uses her rare talents to evoke ultra-somber emotions in this song from her album The Sensual World. The track is played in the movie when Elizabeth McGovern’s character is having a c-section and Kevin Bacon’s character is in a heavily worried state. It was one of John Huhges’ last great movies.


2. “I Melt With You” – Modern English (Valley Girl)

The de facto love theme from the movie Valley Girl may not have climbed the charts as high as it seemed (#78, Billboard US), but it received a large amount of radio and MTV airplay as it became a cult hit. Today, “I Melt With You” is in considered a timeless classic. It is arguable that other songs from Valley Girl could have made this or several other lists, “I Melt With You” is not only figuratively synonymous with the movie, it defined Modern English, introducing the UK independent hit-makers to the U.S.


1. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – Simple Minds (The Breakfast Club)

The movie is considered John Hughes’ masterpiece by teen movie-goers in the 1980s. It was the first film where teenage characters from very different social circles interacted with each other on a human level. Each actor brought their best performances (to date) to the table and touched a generation. The movie also made international stars out of Simple Minds, a critically-acclaimed Scottish band whose lead singer, Jim Kerr, was most noted outside the U.K. for marrying Chrissy Hynde of The Pretenders. Kerr’s passion as a singer came through to the point where it reflected the angst portrayed in the movie’s main characters. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” may not have been given as much attention if not for its inclusion in The Breakfast Club, but it is arguable that the track helped make the movie as unforgettable as it became.

There are some others I had trouble leaving off of this list, but after careful consideration, for the criteria presented on Revenge of the 80s Radio and the nature of the program, these were the Top Ten.

Reader's opinions
  1. John Demetry   On   February 13, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    I love Simple Minds’ and KId Creole and KATE BUSH, but you forgot the greatest original song written for a movie of all time: “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham – National Lampoon’s Vacation!!!!!!

  2. admin   On   February 14, 2009 at 4:53 am

    John and G.B.:

    Those are great choices. If I had a Top 20, “Holiday Road” would be there — probably 11 or 12. It was tough and I appreciate the feedback. “Surrender” is interesting because it had less to do with the movie overall and I might have been tempted to find a place for that song by The Landmines from Up the Academy — at least as some kind of novelty honorable mention ๐Ÿ™‚

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