FT5: 80s Songs In Film

0227top5coverThe 80s saw the birth of the best music from the better half of the century. The problem is that like many similar great works of art, these songs weren’t always immediately recognized for their brilliance. So when Van Halen’s sexually-rowdy “Hot For Teacher” blares in the strip club scene in Varsity Blues, you can’t help but give it a “ten” (a f-ing ten!). It’s from there that the song earns it’s immortality and lives in film fame for years to come. The only rules to this list:  the song couldn’t have been written for the movie or debuted in the movie (sayonara Top Gun, Breakfast Club, and Kenny Loggins). So here’s a list of the most memorable 80s songs from the movies…

highfidelity5. “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & The Waves (1985), from High Fidelity

The 21st century saw the spawning of a new star in the form of Jack Black.  In the 2000 cult classic, High Fidelity, Black captured audiences with his opening scene entrance, blending his charismatic air-bang with the vibrant tune of “Walking on Sunshine.”  The song from Barry’s (Black’s character) Special Monday Morning tape perfectly juxtaposes the new Belle & Sebastian AKA old sad bastard music, clearly defining the characters of Barry and Dick.  Arguably one of the best moments from the film, it helped launch Black into the spotlight and fame.

silenceofthelambs4.  “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus (1988), from The Silence of the Lambs

Possibly one of the eeriest scenes in film history, a deranged Buffalo Bill puts on his Sunday best while dancing to Q Lazzarus’ pop.  Q’s song had been used by director Jonathan Demme’s Married to the Mob before he used her song again in 1991 horror thriller.  The unsual scene shows the struggle of the senator’s daughter in the well, while the oblivious captor primps and tucks.  That’s gonna be one fancy skin suit!  As Buffalo Bill sings along, it gives the audience a glimpse into his instability and the strangers themes of the movie.  If that’s not enough for you, Jason Mewes wonderfully mimics the scene in Clerks II, complete with final pose.

fightclub3.  “Where Is My Mind?” by Pixies (1988), from Fight Club

Edward Norton’s nameless character utters, “You met me at a very strange time in my life,” as the city skyline falls in this 1999 “black comedy,” greatly summarizing the plot as “”Where is My Mind” leads into the credits (and spliced image).  The song and the scene come at the strange conclusion of the film, following a major plot twist and a reuniting of the main characters.  The inclusion of the song has led to it being one of the Pixies’ best-known. I mean, who doesn’t like Fight Club?  Just look at Brad’s body.  Not an ounce of fat on it!  I’d write more but you get the idea, and I wouldn’t want to break the first two rules of Fight Club…

littlemisssunshine2.  “Super Freak” by Rick James (1981), from Little Miss Sunshine

“She’s a very kinky girl,” doesn’t quite describe then-nine year-old Abigail Breslin, which is what makes it such a fantastic fit for the 2006 indie pic.  In the theme of scenes with dancing, this is no exception, as little Olive struts her stuff to the Rick James tune.  I still crack up everytime I see how delicately she throws her shirt off the stage.  The song and dance bonds the entire Hoover clan (except for Grandpa who is in the trunk of the car) as they get onstage to support Olive.  Little Miss Sunshine smartly included the 25 year-old song in it’s 8 million dollar budget, helping it gain both critical and box office success.

sayanything1.  “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel (1986), from Say Anything

I will say this:  I hate Ione Skye.  I hate her in this movie.  It’s something about her mouth.  However, John Cusack does more than enough to make up for it in this 1989 romantic classic.  In probably Cusack’s most memorable scene he stands outside Diane’s (Skye) window holding up a boombox playing the Gabriel hit.  It is probably one of Cusack’s most known scenes, and definitely stands out as an iconic standard in pop culture.  The song deeply compliments the movies’ themes of love and heart-break as Cusack kickboxes his way to Diane’s heart.  This was the first of many well placed Cameron Crowe songs in his films (Free Falling in Jerry Maguire and Tiny Dancer from Almost Famous, to name a few).

There were many songs close to making the list, many of which were excluded because the movie was set in the 80s.


  • I was just about to trash your list for excluding anything from American Psycho or Donnie Darko, but then I read your last line. That makes sense. I’ll have to find some other way to get Huey Lewis on the list.

    Also, you have a man-crush on John Cusack. There wasn’t one song in Gross Pointe or Con Air you could find?

  • What the hell is wrong with having a man crush on John!?!?!

  • Brett, I watched Gross Pointe this week. The soundtrack is amazing.

  • I tear up during Under Pressure, when JC, okay JC#2, is holding the baby…EVERY TIME!

    “…many of which were excluded because the movie was set in the 80s.”
    Not to be picky, but did Say Anything not take place in the ’80s?

    But good list nonetheless.

  • @Brett: HLATN: PREACH. Power. Of. Love.

    GPB has so many good ones to choose from… although High Fidelity is JC’s best work… so I don’t mind.

    Beat It and Relax are pretty memorable from Zoolander.

    Overall, a very well-though out list. Nice work.

  • I have ALWAYS wanted Lloyd Dobbler (or someone similarly attired) to play “In Your Eyes” on a boombox outside my window. ALWAYS. Great call.

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