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The 20 Greatest Movie Theme Songs Of The 1980s

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist June 4, 2014 at 2:35PM

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The 20 Greatest Movie Theme Songs Of The 1980s

This Sunday marks the 30th anniversary of the classic supernatural action-comedy "Ghostbusters," which hit theaters on Friday June 8th, 1984. One of the most beloved films of its generation, the Ivan Reitman-directed movie is remembered for its sharp, funny, tight script (co-written by the late Harold Ramis), still-superb visual effects, great performances from the likes of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson and Ramis, and being a rare example of the successful blend of blockbuster fantasy and comedy.

It's also, for better or worse, remembered for Ray Parker Jr's iconic theme tune, a smash-hit at the time, which earned an Oscar nomination. We're in an era where the movie theme song is something of a dead art (though the recent success of "Skyfall" and "Let It Go" from "Frozen" might see that change), but in the 1980s, it was in its prime, and many of the decade's biggest sellers were directly connected to some of its biggest movies.


So, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of "Ghostbusters" and Parker Jr's song, we've trawled through the archives to select 20 of the best, or at least most memorably iconic, theme songs from 1980s movies, because we ain't afraid of no ghosts. The only rule: they had to be songs written specifically for the film, and not released prior to the movie, ruling out cover versions and the like. Watch, listen, and disagree below, and for more on "Ghostbusters," check out our retrospective piece from a few years back.


“Ghostbusters” - Ray Parker Jr - “Ghostbusters”
Essentially inseparable from the film from which it came (try and look at the logo or DVD cover without hearing a snippet from the song), the theme tune to the fantasy comedy smash is undoubtedly one of the best known theme tunes in cinema history, even if it is (whisper it), a bit naff. Penned and performed by erstwhile Raydio frontman Ray Parker Jr, it topped the Billboard charts for three weeks, and was nominated for an Oscar (though lost to Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say I Love You” from "The Woman In Red"). It caused friction with another 80s soundtrack idol: Huey Lewis sued over similarities to his track I Want A New Drug,” the matter eventually being settled out of court).

“Eye Of The Tiger” - Survivor” - “Rocky III” (1982)
When his request to use “Another One Bites The Dust” was turned down by Queen, Sylvester Stallone needed an inspirational theme for the third in his boxing franchise, and turned to relatively little-known rock band Survivor, whose first Top 40 hit “Poor Man’s Son” had caught the writer/director/star’s ear. The band delivered: their inspirational “Eye Of The Tiger” will forever be associated with the franchise, even if it’s the most memorable part of the third film (the one that features Mr. T as the adversary). The song was a monster hit, the second biggest selling of that year, and even went on to inspire its own film, 1986’s Gary Busey vehicle of the same name.
  

“Call Me” - Blondie - “American Gigolo” (1980)
As with so many of the songs on this list, “Call Me” might not even exist had someone else not turned down work: electronic legend Giorgio Moroder, who was composing the score for Paul Schrader’s “American Gigolo,” initially approached Stevie Nicks to write a song for the soundtrack, but contractual issues prevented the Fleetwood Mac star from coming through. Instead, Debbie Harry and Blondie teamed up with Moroder: the result, “Call Me,” provided the perfect introduction to Schrader’s film, the Doctor Who bassline and growly Harry vocals helping bring viewers into a new 1980s of Jerry Bruckheimer-produced excess. The song also turned out to be the biggest seller of the year.
  

“Fight The Power” - Public Enemy - “Do The Right Thing” (1989)
Has there even been a more perfect match of movie and pop song than Spike Lee’s classic “Do The Right Thing” and Public Enemy’s furious fuck-you anthem “Fight The Power”? The director wanted a song that would recur throughout the film, most notably when played on the boombox of crucial character Radio Raheem (Bill Duke), saying that he “wanted it to be defiant, I wanted it to be angry, I wanted it to be very rhythmic. I thought right away of Public Enemy,” then coming off their classic second record, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. The resulting track, all abrasive Elvis-dissing lyrics, thundering loops and unexpected sax solos, was an all-time classic, topping the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop poll, and becoming an African-American anthem.
  

“Fame” - Irene Cara - “Fame” (1980)
Most movie musicals have a track that’s most associated with them, but not all have theme tunes as such. Alan Parker’s 1980 stage-school tuner is certainly the exception, with a title track that helped the film to... wait for it... live forever. Penned by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford for the film (though within the story, written by Lee Curreri’s shy composer Bruno), it scores probably the film’s most iconic sequence, where Bruno’s proud dad plays it in the streets, inspiring much dancing on cabs. Performed by the film’s star Irene Cara, it hit number four in the Billboard charts, and won the Oscar and the Golden Globe that year.
  

This article is related to: Features, Feature, Ghostbusters, Soundtrack


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