Thirty years ago, the world fell in love with an upbeat empowerment ballad called “You’re the Best Around.” Like most ’80s movie anthems, “Best” is a song you can’t listen to without immediately thinking of the film or scene it accompanied – in this case, the teen martial arts classic The Karate Kid and its climactic tournament montage. The ’80s was a decade full of movie-song symbiosis, with tracks that may have only been modest hits (if that) but achieved immortality by creating perfect harmony with films. Here are 15 ’80s songs that transport us back to some of our favorite ’80s movie moments.
2. Michael Sembello, “Maniac” (Flashdance, 1983)
Flashdance's greatest contribution to the zeitgeist is undoubtedly the popularization of breakdancing, which made its mainstream debut in Adrian Lyne’s 1983 fan favorite. But it’s Sembello’s uptempo “Maniac” — and Jennifer Beals’ accompanying hip-sliding dance-moves — that still inspires Flashdance fans to get on the dance floor.
3. Harold Faltermeyer, “Axel F” (Beverly Hills Cop, 1984)
Has an instrumental movie score ever sounded so cool? Faltermeyer’s synthesized soundtrack gem managed the unthinkable by soaring to the Billboard Hot 100 without a single lyric (even though we always imagine Axel Foley’s laugh reverberating over it while listening).
7. Huey Lewis and the News, “The Power of Love” (Back to the Future, 1985)
Huey Lewis was a ubiquitous presence in ’80s pop music, but the full Power of Lewis reached a peak when Marty McFly skated to the tunes of the News in this time travel classic. The song’s inclusion made for a great in-joke, too, with Lewis showing up in the film as a Battle of the Bands judge who deems McFly’s hard rock cover of the song, “just too darn loud.”
8. Simple Minds, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” (The Breakfast Club, 1985)
This track from the Scottish rock band Simple Minds was so perfect for The Breakfast Club that John Hughes used it for the opening and closing credits. Of course it packs much more punch when Judd Nelson fist-pumps his way through the football field just before the credits roll; by then we’ve gotten to know the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal, and we’re not going to forget about them.
13. Bill Medley & Jennifer Warner, “(I’ve Had) Time of My Life” (Dirty Dancing, 1987)
It was choreographer Kenny Ortega — the future director of the High School Musical movies — who picked this duet for Johnny and Baby to dance all dirty to in the film’s seminal finale. Would it have even made a bleep had we not always equated it with all those twirls and lifts? Probably, but there’s no way it would’ve been such a huge hit.