I admit it — I haven’t grown up. Though I appreciate today’s film classics like Reservoir Dogs, The Shawshank Redemption, 28 Days Later and Donnie Darko, the 80s are where I return when I think, “I’d like to veg out and watch something today.”
I’d like to say it’s because my favorite movies have phenomenal plots, but somehow, I don’t think I’d win a “Footloose is one of the best-written movies of our time!” argument with you. No, I think I return to the 80s classics because of the music. There are so many movie genres to love from this decade — teen romance, sci-fi, animation — but the music is what stands out and makes me crave watching them.
Below, in no particular order, check out 11 songs full of win from nerdy 80s movies. Even if the songs aren’t on par with, say, John Williams’ Star Wars brilliance (plus, you know, these have actual words), they’ll still make you smile and think fondly of Underoos and action figure playsets. (For 10 cheesy songs from action movies, click here.)
The Rubinoos: Theme from Revenge of the Nerds
Revenge of the Nerds obviously is one of the best-known nerd movies. Released in 1984, it featured a bevy of stars before they were popular, like Anthony Edwards, Timothy Busfield, John Goodman and Ted McGinley. The theme by The Rubinoos (who waged war on Avril Lavigne a few years ago for stealing riffs from their song “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”) perfectly summed up the synthy goodness of the 80s and told you that this was going to be one hell of a movie.
38 Special: “Back to Paradise,” from Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise
In my opinion, Revenge of the Nerds II is a bad follow-up to the first movie. Likewise, 38 Special’s attempt at a breakout hit for the film doesn’t compare to The Rubinoos’ efforts. Still, when “Back to Paradise” comes on the radio (only when I’m in, God help me, rural Ohio), I get an inexplicable craving to watch a guy named Booger explain what “V.I.P.” means.
David Bowie: “Magic Dance,” from Labyrinth
I’ll tell you a secret: I still have a hard time watching Labyrinth. In the fifth grade, I identified all too well with Jennifer Connelly wishing that her brother would disappear, and I cried all the time because I felt guilty for it. Still, David Bowie rocks, and his “Magic Dance” is catchy and perhaps even a wee bit iconic for 80s fantasy.
Simple Minds: “Don’t You Forget About Me,” from The Breakfast Club
Ahhh, Anthony Michael Hall, I loved you so much even though you were scrawny and you cried. The Breakfast Club really set the bar for 80s teen movies and was the platform to stardom for its cast. Hell, my flag twirling team even did the “We Are Not Alone” dance in one of our routines. But “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds is the song that endures. You can’t help but pump your fist into the air like potty-mouthed Bender when you hear it.
Ray Parker Jr.: theme from Ghostbusters
Man, Ray Parker Jr. is a perfect example of a one-hit wonder. I have no idea what I can tell you about this song that you don’t already know or think. When I hear the Ghostbusters theme, I remember sitting on the school bus with my friends, all of us trying to draw the perfect “No Ghosts” symbol, and debating if “an invisible man” really could sleep in our beds without our knowing. Good times.
Michael Sambello: “Rock Until You Drop,” from Monster Squad
To be frank, “Rock Until You Drop” isn’t a great song. Still, Michael Sambello’s tune fits well with the era and the movie. It falls into the category of what I call “You can do it!” montage music — it’s inspiring as the Monster Squad kids figure out how to beat the monsters and gather their supplies. “Is she a ‘vir-shin’?”
Oingo Boingo: Theme from Weird Science
Oingo Boingo was nearly as ubiquitous on 80s movie soundtracks as Kenny Loggins was. They had hits for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, My Best Friend Is a Vampire and, as we all are aware, Weird Science. Another Anthony Michael Hall vehicle, Weird Science seemed to be a guy’s dream come true: create a girl to your own specs and make the jocks jealous. Sure, things kind of came apart, but the movie still rocked, as does the song.
Elizabeth G. Daily: “Mind Over Matter,” from Summer School
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen Summer School. A Lot. Like, a lot-lot. I was convinced that should my math grade fall enough to require that I attend summer school, I’d have an awesome teacher who would take us on field trips to the zoo and put a bed in the classroom. I didn’t get to test my theory (squeaked by in math!), but I doubt that any of the rural Ohio teachers were as cool as Mr. Shoop. And to this day, when I need to take a test or put together a presentation, Elizabeth G. Daily’s “Mind Over Matter” fills my head, and I SWEAR it makes me work harder.
Huey Lewis and the News: “Power of Love” and “Back in Time” from Back to the Future
Ok, I give up. I can’t choose between these two Huey Lewis and the News songs. On one hand, “Power of Love” was a great representative of what 80s hit soundtrack songs could be like. On the other hand, “Back in Time” is full of horns and makes me grin more. Who wins in that kind of Sophie’s choice? No one, and that’s why you’re getting two songs from Back to the Future.
Cyndi Lauper: “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough,” from The Goonies
I saved one of the best 80s soundtrack songs — and, in my opinion, one of the best 80s songs, period — for last. As a kid, I had mega obsessions, and two of them are right here. First, I idolized Cyndi Lauper. I dressed like her, my mom bought me “She’s So Unusual” after I won a spelling bee, I sang her songs in the talent shows. Second, I loved The Goonies. No, like loved-loved The Goonies. After seeing the movie at the theatre, I set up booby traps in the yard and in my room and played the hell out of the NES and arcade games. Thus, when the videos for Lauper’s “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” came on MTV, I glued my ass to the floor and watched happily. I say “videos,” because as you’ll recall, it was a two-parter that outdid even “Thriller” in terms of crazy effects and plot. Relive the memories below, people.