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The 20 Soundtracks That Defined The 1980s
Time-travelling skateboarders, homesick aliens, fighter jets, big boulders and a little dirty dancing...

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Purple Rain – Prince (1984)


Purple Rain
Composer: Prince
Along with such musical icons as Michael Jackson and Madonna, Prince falls into the category of OTT performers that have been able to mutate their style and showmanship and stay (largely) as successful as ever. In 1984, with Purple Rain, the diminutive man-diva boasted the top film, single and album in the US all at once. The title song also scored him the Best Original Song Oscar at the 1985 Academy Awards. Though the film itself didn’t score across-the-board approval (and was the subject of complaints for its seeming misogyny), this remains one of the most memorable movie-soundtrack combos out there.

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14 of 21

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Your Comments

The Rambo soundtracks were brilliant. There seems to be a bit of Sly movie hate going on in this list. Rocky 3 and 4 had fantastic music which were far superior than the likes of the unmemorable stuff in 'Out of Africa' or even 'Aliens'. More

Posted by thorthemighty on Sunday June 16, 2013, 16:26

The Rambo soundtracks were brilliant. There seems to be a bit of Sly movie hate going on in this list. Rocky 3 and 4 had fantastic music which were far superior than the likes of the unmemorable stuff in 'Out of Africa' or even 'Aliens'. More

Posted by thorthemighty on Sunday June 16, 2013, 15:43

Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan...anyone? More

Posted by Ivor Rod on Thursday May 30, 2013, 11:23

4 Ghostbusters?
Please don't tell me you forgot Ghostbusters.... More

Posted by Rabufetti on Tuesday May 21, 2013, 03:17

5 Scarface?
Push it to the limits. Shes on fire. Tony's theme. Fair enough the rest is naff, More

Posted by osh man on Sunday May 19, 2013, 13:41

6 RE: missing a LOT
A nice selection but always hard to distill a decade of movie scores down to just 20. Glad to see Back to the Future in there - one of Silvestri's finest moments, along with Predator. Let's not forget John Williams did some fantastic work on Eps V and VI, and Philip Glass' themes for Koyaanisquatsi are just superb. P.S. I've made a Spotify playlist of these albums (with the exception of Beetlejuice & Paris, Texas which are missing) - search for 'Empire's Top 20 80s Soundtracks'. :) More

Posted by BikerScout on Thursday May 9, 2013, 19:17

7 RE: missing a LOT
No love for Ghostbusters then ?. More

Posted by NCC1701A on Thursday May 9, 2013, 14:19

8 missing a LOT
in the action genre...The Terminator (that CLANG-y theme)..that's iconic. the HEROIC theme in the Rambo should put this on the list. regarding the brat pack..i think either Breakfast Club (Simple Mind's Don't You Forget About Me) or David Foster's St. Elmo's Fire should take Pretty in Pink's spot, instead. oh and don't forget The Lost Boys with its haunting main theme song. and what about...Flashdance..Footloose...La Bamba...??? personally, i think The Elephant Man deserves a spot there, too. More

Posted by Avengers12 on Thursday May 9, 2013, 10:34

9 Am I missing something?
Can't find any samples of any of the tracks in these 'Soundtracks that defined...' articles. More

Posted by Sonorous on Wednesday May 8, 2013, 08:43

10 Conan the Barbarian
Best score of the 80s? Basil Poledouris for Conan the Barbarian. When you have a lead actor who struggles with English and consequently didn't really get many lines...score becomes very important, and Poledouris' brilliant score carried the film. More

Posted by sifter132 on Tuesday May 7, 2013, 23:44

11 No Goldsmith :(
Totally agree about First Blood score. One of my all time favourites. More

Posted by JENKINSDE on Tuesday May 7, 2013, 20:15

What, no Lost boys? Classic 80's saxophone riffs right there More

Posted by JENKINSDE on Tuesday May 7, 2013, 20:11

13 No Goldsmith :(
No love for Jerry Goldsmith this time? He wrote some excellent scores in the 80's, his scores for both First Blood as well as Rambo II are classic, and highly influential action scores. More

Posted by Trent Easton Navarro on Tuesday May 7, 2013, 19:09

14 Next stop the 90's
Now that Empire is currently makin compilation of the 90's soundtracks with the mandatory pulp fictions, trainspottings, the speeds, clerks and reality bites, I would like to point out one of the most 90's soundtracks from the most 90's movie. I'm talkin of course about Tom Tykwers breakthroug Lola Rennt! (Run Lola Run). It's German, it's techno and it's so fucking cool! More

Posted by Pelle on Tuesday May 7, 2013, 18:34

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