The Greatest Soundtracks: The ’80s

As fun as movies are, can any of them be truly great without a great soundtrack? Here’s a look at some of the best original scores by the decades!

The ’80s was a decade that brought fame to some of the most influential pop stars in the music industry, along the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna.

Though the decade was not as bold in comparison to preceding ones, it was the ’80s that was a true embodiment of ecstatic, groovy grandeur. Of course, this was amplified in film scores of the ’80s, which saw a whirlwind of classic, generation defining music.

Brace yourself – you’re about to feel the true essence of joy course through your veins.

[divider]Indiana Jones (1981)[/divider]

John Williams proved himself a true musical archaeologist when he brought the discovery of the soundtrack of Raiders of The Ark – yet another fun, defining score in the first movie of what was later to be known as the epic, Indiana Jones franchise.

The true beauty here is in how the score is capable of being another adventure on its own, despite splendidly complementing arcs of the movie with its exuberant, eerie themes.

The action-packed score will appeal even to you even if you’re not a fan, mainly because of how the soundtrack is able to match the movie’s heart thumping excitement with its fun, emotional theme. As you give this character-shaping soundtrack a listen, don’t be surprised if you find yourself on the edge of your seat, anticipating the dangers of the beautiful jungle.

Note that the soundtracks of the next Indiana Jones movies are just as much of a masterpiece (though not as defining), because of John William’s growth with the movie.

[divider]Chariots of Fire (1981)[/divider]

If there’s one movie theme that has traversed time and imprinted itself into part of society’s livelihood, it’s the one in Chariots of Fire by Vangelis.

The theme has since been associated with so many instances of running (even at the Olympics) and perseverance, that you’ve got to wonder if this is what Usain Bolt listens to on loop.

Today’s symbolism aside, the sweeping theme was a massive chart-topper in the 80s, because of its moving capture of euphoric, human emotion. While the rest of the electronic score fails to meet the mark, the fuzzy strings and washed out jazz proved to work out exceptionally well for the theme, especially when played with the image of men asserting their belief and strength while running along a beach; it is inspirational, and throws emotional punches without getting too overbearing.

If you’ve been procrastinating on exercise, you need to put this on your playlist – I’m pretty sure it could make just about anybody want to run.

[divider]Conan The Barbarian (1982)[/divider]

Basil Poledouris’s score for Conan The Barbarian is epic mastery of music that speaks of beauty and power in its rawest form.

There could be no better kind of composition for the film, with a sweeping arrangement of instruments like flutes, horns and drums that will leave you in awe. Poledouris will take you on a whopping adventure with this soundtrack that can be enjoyed with, or without the film, by film buffs and music lovers alike!

[divider]E.T. (1982)[/divider]

Though most of John Williams’s work is marvellous, the score for E.T. is arguably one of his most inspiring works. This uplifting masterpiece pairs a clever, wide palette with resonating sounds and motifs that are enough to light your way through the emotional journey of friendship between Elliott and his little alien friend, E.T..

Especially impressive is how seamlessly John Williams transforms a score with somewhat simple elements into one that is so powerful and synchronized with the emotions that the movie requires.

Though this has come under a bit of flak, the minimalism in this score what gives it such sheer elegance – it does not steal limelight by exerting overbearing emotion. It carries the film and yet, allows it to tell its own, moving story. If you put this one on your playlist, prepare for a feel trip so pristine, it’ll be… outta this world (haha).

[divider]Krull (1982)[/divider]

James Horner shines in his composition for the soundtrack of Krull, one that’s been argued to have saved the movie from being a wretched mess of oddity.

The score is fluid, rousing and is a true encapsulation of what the film is about. It sees strength in its structure–emotional and dramatic whenever needed, through skilful use of a classic combination of brass, string, and wind instruments. Not to mention, the theme for this soundtrack is also notable for its rich conveyal of an ethereal adventure. Brace yourself!

[divider]Terminator (1984)[/divider]

The genius behind the original theme for the Terminator is Brad Fiedel. Though the score is visibly simple, low-budget and relies mostly on synths, it is perfectly composed and heavily suited for the heavily action-based movie. Intense, pounding, and showing a good mastery of cues, this theme builds emotions based on fear and suspense before the scenes in the movie play out.

Though this soundtrack is arguably underrated, give it a listen and get ready for some evil surprises!

[divider]Bevery Hills Cop (1984)[/divider]

Beverly Hills Cop is one of the most fantastic compilations of soundtrack collaborations. With close to every song on the movie being an audience favourite, the movie was what later lay the path for numerous rock and soul numbers.

The impressionable line up is perfect for the goofy, action-packed movie that is bound to have you reminiscing the good ol’ days of your youth. The soundtrack is just delightful, with invigoration that is tasteful enough to have you crawling to add almost every song to your playlist!

For a start, go New Attitude, or give Axel F by Harold Faltermeyer a listen (now we know where the viral Crazy Frog backing track is from..)!

[divider]Back To The Future (1985)[/divider]

Back To The Future’s score by Alan Silvestri is really one to get groovin’ to, and it’s no wonder the cinematic score has transcended time to remain holding the title of one the most memorable themes of all time.

The score features frequent synthetic elements, as well as harps and the celesta, all of which have been combined to produce a pleasant air of mystery and suspense when appropriate.

The highly energetic score is sure to make you feel like you’re in your very own DeLorean.


In the score for Beetlejuice, Danny Elfman does Tim Burton just right (the pair seem to have it nailed)!

With a queer brass arrangement and haunting vocals, the score goes deep into conveying an emotion that is dark, cynical, and somewhat whimsical. Though it may come across as downright silly, the score will also make your skin crawl as you develop an unsettling liking for its fragmented (a quality that somewhat works for this one), theatrical percussion.

You won’t regret letting this give you the heebie-jeebies, it’s fucking awesome!

[divider]Batman (1989)[/divider]

The score for Batman by Danny Elfman is a remarkable one, with skilful portrayal of a very wide range emotion, including a brilliant capture of Tim Burton’s lethal joker and Batman, who struggles protecting the crime-overrun Gotham.

The percussive score doesn’t shy away from an interesting, darker take on bold heroism, whimsically unnerving its audiences, with a softened use of pianos and percussion.

The finale of this score is especially notable, for Elfman’s skill at capturing heroism and grandeur countered with brutality.