Music makes movie magic come true, so we’re celebrating the very best scores and composers, from Vangelis’ Blade Runner to Junkie XL’s Justice League Snyder Cut
THE BEST 80s SOUNDTRACKS
- 05 May
The 80s – the era of neon leg warmers, the People’s Princess, and His Royal Airness, Michael Jordan – saw some monumental releases. The decade brought us the likes of Tim Burton’s Batman, Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, each of which boasts a spectacular soundtrack.
Join us for a nostalgic throwback to the 80s (whether you actually existed then or not) as we explore its best movie soundtracks. If you’re looking for music for films you’re in luck, as we’ll be spotlighting our catalogue’s best movie playlists along the way. Get started here with our 1980s playlist.
The Best 80s Movie Soundtracks
- My Neighbour Totoro (1988)
- Top Gun (1986)
- Batman (1989)
- Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom (1984)
- Gremlins (1984)
- The Breakfast Club (1985)
- Akira (1988)
- Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
- The Terminator (1984)
- The NeverEnding Story (1984)
- Back to the Future (1985)
- Dirty Dancing (1987)
- Blade Runner (1982)
- Do The Right Thing (1989)
- Purple Rain (1984)
My Neighbour Totoro (1988)
Anime classic My Neighbour Totoro is accompanied by a heart-warming soundtrack that transports its audience back to 1950s Japan and gives the sweet, pastoral tale an extra layer of personality.
Music is particularly important to this Studio Ghibli animation as the titular creature has no dialogue, so the music really help shape the audience’s response to the character.
Looking for a soundtrack for your animation? Check out our Animation Production Music playlist.
Top Gun (1986)
Top Gun is an 80s cult classic filled with memorable quotes, characters and music. Needless to say, we’re mostly interested in the latter.
Songs such as Kenny Loggins ‘Danger Zone’ and ‘Hot Summer Nights’ by Miami Sound Machine, alongside Harold Faltermeyer’s compositions (including the instantly recognisable Top Gun Anthem) create a powerful soundtrack that captures the spirit of the decade.
On the hunt for music for your fast-paced action film? Head over to our Action & Drama playlist.
Tim Burton’s Batman may not be everyone’s favourite film about the dark knight, but Danny Elfman’s soundtrack is certainly the most exemplary Batman soundtrack ever created – at least in our opinion.
Elfman’s mysterious, gothic compositions capture the essence of Bruce Wayne’s shadowy character and Batman’s heroic intentions. Here’s hoping we get to hear a little bit more of it when Michael Keaton returns to the role in DC’s upcoming The Flash.
Working on your own superhero project? Make sure you check out our Superheroes playlist.
Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (1984)
The second instalment in the Indiana Jones franchise is another action-packed adventure and aptly, its soundtrack – by the ineffable John Williams – brims with big moments. Notably, it expresses the film’s supernatural elements; the track ‘Temple of Doom’ combines booming drums, slithering percussive accents and cult-like chanting to create music that wouldn’t sound out of place in a horror film.
Speaking of supernatural music, we’ve got a whole playlist dedicated to Eerie/Supernatural songs that you can sample and download at your convenience.
Gremlins is an emotional rollercoaster, with a soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith. The American composer takes Joe Dante’s horror-comedy to impressive heights and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.
Goldsmith was commissioned by Dante and Warner Bros to create a fresh bunch of songs for the sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Is it anywhere near as good? You decide…
Looking to soundtrack your own horror film? Take a look at our Horror playlist.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Comedy-drama The Breakfast Club is popular both with the adults who remember the 80s and the youngsters who wish they were around back then – if only for the legwarmers.
The soundtrack, created by Keith Forsey and Gary Chang, provides a revealing snapshot of the music that was trending at the time. Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds plays out at the very end of the film to ensure the audience leaves on a high.
Producing your own comedy? Dive into our Comedy playlist.
Every element of Katsuhiro Otomo’s animated cyberpunk epic, Akira, has inspired filmmakers in some way, shape or form, including its stunning 10-part soundtrack.
Created by Japanese music collective Geinoh Yamashirogumi (led by founder Tsutomu Ōhashi), the soundtrack combines sci-fi, fantasy, thriller and action to produce a soundworld that perfectly captures the film’s Neo-Tokyo setting.
Working on a film that’s set in the future? Explore our Futuristic playlist for your soundtrack.
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
John Williams got everything right with the soundtrack to the first Star Wars film, but somehow he still managed to outdo himself with the soundtrack to the sequel.
With sonorous horns, thunderous percussion and angst-driven strings, the audience knows the stakes have been raised from the opening of The Empire Strikes Back. John Williams also provides possibly the most villainous theme of all time with The Imperial March.
Working on your own science fiction film? Take a look at our Space playlist.
The Terminator (1984)
The Terminator made director James Cameron and American composer Brad Fidel stars, and for good reason. The two created an epic, edge-of-your-set blockbuster that still looks and sounds incredible even now.
The most famous song on The Terminator soundtrack is the ‘Main Theme’, which balances the techie sounds of an archetypal 80s sci-fi flick with an underlying resonance that truly sets it apart. How did Fidel create these elements? With a synthesizer, of course – remember, this was the 80s.
Interested in sci-fi tracks for your next playlist? Check out our Science Fiction playlist.
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Based on Michael Ende’s novel of the same name, The NeverEnding Story is a must-watch family fantasy, with a soundtrack that’s every bit as quirky as the plot.
Produced by Klaus Doldinger and Giorgio Moroder, the soundtrack features the eponymous song (by 80s pop star Limahl), which was recently introduced to a new audience thanks to Netflix’s Stranger Things.
Working on a fantasy project of your own? Take a look at our Fantasy playlist.
Back to the Future (1985)
The Back to The Future soundtrack gives you goosebumps: it’s adventurous, heroic and reminds us why we fell in love with movies. It’s also played on a loop at Universal Studios theme parks.
The soundtrack includes Alan Silvestri’s compositions created for the film, hits by artists such as Etta James, Eric Clapton and Huey Lewis and the News, and, of course, songs from the film’s fictitious band, Marvin Berry & the Starlighters. It’s a fun-filled soundtrack that sweeps you effortlessly through space and time.
Want to add an element of adventure to your soundtrack? Check out our Adventure playlist.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
The Dirty Dancing soundtrack is one of the best-selling albums of all time: it helped make Emile Ardolino’s film a classic and sold over 32 million copies worldwide. Perhaps that’s not surprising when you consider the album features hits such as ‘Be My Baby’ by The Ronettes and Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’s ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.’ In fact, just talking about it makes us want to put it on repeat. Again.
Looking to assemble a similar soundtrack? Discover our Holiday Romance playlist.
Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is cinema at its finest. The music that helped the director immerse audiences into his futuristic vision of a dystopian LA was created by industry legend Vangelis.
The Greek composer used electronic instruments, tense strings and brooding woodwinds to create a soundworld to match the film’s neon-lit aesthetic. Composers have been trying to recreate the immersive Vangelis magic ever since.
Add an electronic edge to your soundtrack with a piece from our Electronic Drama playlist.
Do The Right Thing (1989)
Movie music doesn’t get much better than this. The Do The Right Thing soundtrack includes pieces by William James Edwards Lee III (father of Spike Lee, the film’s director) and anthems by Public Enemy and Teddy Riley.
The vibrant, flavourful music reflects the cool yet urgent mood of the film and perfectly captures the Brooklyn zeitgeist of the late 80s.
Purple Rain (1984)
Prince’s sixth studio album, Purple Rain, is also the soundtrack to Albert Magnoli’s film in which the singer-songwriter stars. Smash hits such as Let’s Go Crazy, When Doves Cry and – you guessed it – Purple Rain feature, all regularly played on radio stations worldwide to this day. It rightly won the Oscar for the Best Original Song Score back in 1985. Want to see Prince’s acceptance speech? Of course you do. Check it out here.
Looking for an 80s style soundtrack?
Whether you’re working on a film or something different, we can help you with the soundtrack to your next project. We’ve got loads of production genre playlists in our ever-expanding catalogue (which currently features more than 175,000 tracks), including a Sci-fi playlist, a Horror playlist, a Western playlist and a Period playlist. You’re welcome.
Want to know more about famous film soundtracks? Read our Best Movie Soundtracks and Hans Zimmer Soundtracks articles. Want to find out more about other musical genres? Check our Expertise and The Edit pages.
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