Recently, while listening to the ’80s station on Pandora, I realized something: almost every song that played immediately made me think of a classic ’80s movie. It seems that movies and music were so inextricably linked in that decade that I literally couldn’t hear a song without picturing the film that featured it. I started to play a game with my husband, asking him to quickly name the movie that each song came from. One by one, he too was able to name them without hesitation.
In compiling this list, I could have gone on and on—there are so many songs that are memorable because of movies. But here are what I think are the most epic. See if you agree:
10. Mannequin: “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” Starship
Within a moment of hearing those keyboards and synthesizer, Kim Cattrall comes to life in the store display. And who wouldn’t want to ride on the back of Andrew McCarthy’s motorcycle, right? But try to avoid this music video if you can—it’s pretty terrible as far as ’80s videos go…
9. National Lampoons Vacation: “Holiday Road,” Lindsey Buckingham
This one kind of makes you want to take a road trip it to Wally World, doesn’t it? If you had a similar upbringing, you probably relate to this movie far more than you’d like to admit. But the song just nails it.
8. Fame: “Fame,” Irene Cara
Face it, when you hear this song, your squashed dreams of becoming a Broadway star get rekindled, and all of a sudden you find yourself staring into a spotlight, belting your heart out. It’s ok to dream, right?
7. Beverly Hills Cop: “Axel F.,” Harold Faltermeyer
Did you ever realize that this song is entirely instrumental, without a single lyric? Or that the main melody was created with a Roland Jupiter-8? Yeah, neither did we. But it somehow still conjures a montage of Eddie Murphy laughing and chasing bad guys, doesn’t it?
6. Say Anything: “In Your Eyes,” Peter Gabriel
Oh the most epic snapshot of teen love EVER. With this moment in the film, John Cusack redefined romance by holding the boom box over his head for Ione Skye to hear. This song will never exist in my mind without that image, and that’s probably true for you as well.
5. Footloose: “Footloose,” Kenny Loggins
Hearing this one somehow makes you want to stick it to the man, right? (I tried to explain the plot to my 3-year-old, and his mind was blown by the fact that the people in the movie weren’t allowed to dance.) So go crazy and dance your heart out like Kevin Bacon.
4. Flash Dance: “Maniac,” Michael Sembello
Go ahead. Do the dance. You know the one. The one where you jog really fast in place. There you go—now you’re dancing like a MANIAC, MANIAC! Just don’t forget to whip your head around and put on those leg warmers.
3. The Breakfast Club: “Don’t You Forget About Me,” Simple Minds
“Hey, hey, hey, hey!” And we’re in. The only question is: which one are you? The brain? The athlete? The basket case? The princess? Or the criminal? And can you imagine anything other than this song being the anthem for this incredible moment in pop culture?
2. Dirty Dancing: “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
After seeing this movie 693 times, like me, you probably don’t only know the lyrics, but also the choreography to Every. Single. Moment. Everything from Jennifer Grey’s little head bop and skirt twirl, right to the lift at the end (with the ticklish armpit in the middle, of course.) And you guys who want to be Johnny, go for it—leap off that stage like you own it!
1. Rocky IV: “Eye of the Tiger,” Survivor
It’s not just an epic jogging song, but it defines Rocky IV and everything leading up to the fight with Ivan Drago, “The Russian.” But the song kind of retroactively lends itself to the other Rocky movies as well. You’ve got Sylvester Stallone training, running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, drinking raw eggs, fighting the bad guys in the ring, and this song. That’s basically it.