Billboard magazine’s latest issue features the soundtrack to the Lin-Manuel Miranda-led Disney film “Encanto” on the top of the album charts this week.

While we’re on the subject of movie soundtracks, there seems to be two distinct types of soundtrack recordings that hit the charts. There is the actual score that features the musical score from the film (think Braveheart, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or the Marvel & Star Wars series), oftentimes supplemented with a vocal track to sell the soundtrack (Titanic for example).

Then there is the soundtrack composed of pop songs by either the film’s stars or currently popular artists – in some cases including classics from the past (Guardians of the Galaxy, Grease, The Greatest Showman, American Graffiti). This soundtrack version churns out single after single that consistently land in the top 40 charts, some to greater effect than others.

While we’ve had many hit soundtracks in the new millennium, in order to truly appreciate the phenomenon that was the blockbuster soundtrack, IMHO you have to go way back to the 80’s to find the true heyday (is that still a word?) of the superstar soundtracks.

So, this weekend, sit back and relax as we go back in time to revisit when soundtracks were truly the chart rulers. (If you’re so inclined, leave a comment, click on the images for music videos, and listen to our Spotify playlist too!)


Image Credit: Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

The original soundtrack of “Footloose” seems to be timeless, with its 6 top-40 hits that take you instantly back in your memory to the scenes in the film (some cringy and some awesome). Featuring two number one singles (Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” and Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear it For the Boy”), as well as “Almost Paradise” by Loverboy’s Mike Reno and Heart’s Ann Wilson (#7), “Holdin’ Out for A Hero” by Bonnie Tyler (#34), “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)” by Kenny Loggins (#22), “Dancing in the Sheets” by Shalamar (#17), and “Somebody’s Eyes” by Karla Bonoff (#16 AC), the soundtrack exploded to the top of the Billboard Top 200 chart for nearly 2 months. Let’s hear it for the Footloose soundtrack!

THE MOST MOTEVENTUROUS CUTS: “Footloose” and “Dancing in the Sheets”

Peak Position: #1 (US)

ST. ELMO’S FIRE (1985)

Image Credit: Atlantic Recording Corporation

As the first soundtrack offering from mega-producer David Foster (Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, Chicago, Celine Dion, Earth Wind & Fire, Josh Groban, Michael Buble, and so many others), the soundtrack to St. Elmo’s Fire features the #1 single “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” by John Parr, a tune inspired by Canadian athlete Rick Hansen, who was traveling the country raising awareness of spinal injuries in what was known as his “Man In Motion Tour”. Foster himself scored a top 20 hit with the instrumental “Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire”. Also included from the film are Billy Squier’s “Shake Down”, Jon Anderson’s (Yes) “This Time It Was Really Right”, Fee Waybill’s (The Tubes) “Saved My Life”, and a vocal version of the love theme titled “For Just a Moment”. Relive a bit of the brat pack with this awesome soundtrack.

THE MOST MOTEVENTUROUS CUTS: “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” & “Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire”

Peak Position: US – Undetermined

TOP GUN (1986)

Image Credit: Sony Music Entertainment, Inc.

Another monster soundtrack helmed by German synth pioneer Giorgio Moroder (American Gigolo, Midnight Express, Flashdance), “Top Gun” features the #2 single “Danger Zone”, recorded by Kenny Loggins (side note: Loggins was a late choice to cut this track after Toto, Bryan Adams, Corey Hart, and REO Speedwagon passed on it). Additionally, Berlin recorded their Oscar-winning “Take My Breath Away” (originally offer to The Motels), peaking at #1 in many countries at the time. Additional tracks by Cheap Trick, Loverboy, and Miami Sound Machine took this 80’s soundtrack to #1 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart and took it platinum certification nine times over.

THE MOST MOTEVENTUROUS TRACKS: “Danger Zone” & “Take My Breath Away”

Peak Position: #1 (US)


Image Credit: UMG Recordings, Inc.

In the summer of 1984, there was an instrumental tune all over the radio, a track called “Alex F” performed by producer Harold Faltermeyer (Donna Summer, Blondie, Billy Idol), taken from the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy comedy “Beverly Hills Cop”. The album also featured hits by Glenn Frey (“The Heat is On” – #2), Patti Labelle (“New Attitude” – #17), The Pointer Sisters (“Neutron Dance” – #6), vaulting the album to the top of the charts. Additional contributions from Labelle, Shalamar, Vanity 6, and Danny Elfman only make this set a 10 from start to finish.

THE MOST MOTEVENTUROUS CUTS: “Axel F” and “Neutron Dance”

Peak Position: #1 (US)


Image Credit: UMG Recordings, Inc.

The ripped sweatshirt…the rope-pull in the film…the finale jump. All are part of the experience that is Flashdance. Although the film’s reviews were mostly mixed, the phenomenon created by Flashdance extended to the soundtrack as well. Irene Cara launched the soundtrack with her # 1 single “Flashdance…What a Feeling”, which went on to win Grammy, Golden Globe, and Academy awards. Michael Sembello’s “Maniac” reached number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 in September of 1983. Contributions from the likes of Laura Branigan, Donna Summer, Kim Carnes & Giorgio Moroder sent the soundtrack to number one in 9 countries, including the U.S. I’m sure Casablanca records executives were enjoying the feeling of this soundtrack’s success.

THE MOST MOTEVENTUROUS CUTS: “Flashdance (What a Feeling” and “Maniac”

Peak Position: #1 (US)

XANADU (1980)

Image Credit: Geffen Records

While Olivia Newton-John’s follow-up to 1978’s “Grease” was a spectacular disappointment at the box-office in the summer of 1980, the soundtrack to the film was an equally spectacular success world-wide. The vinyl release featured songs by Newton-John on Side A, with songs by the Electric Light Orchestra on Side B. In addition to Olivia singing lead vocals on Jeff Lynne’s “Xanadu”, Newton-John was joined by Cliff Richard, The Tubes, & Gene Kelly on duets as well.

The soundtrack hit #1 in 9 countries, fueled by the ONJ single “Magic” (#1 for 4 weeks – US) as well as ELO’s “I’m Alive” (#16 – US). Subsequently, “Xanadu” (ONJ & ELO – #8 – US, #1 – UK), “Suddenly” (ONJ with Cliff Richard – #20 – US), and “All Over The World” (ELO – #13 – US) all became hit singles as well, making top 40 hits out of half of the soundtrack album.

In 2015, Newton-John collaborated with her daughter Chloe Lattanzi and Dave Aude, restructuring the single “Magic” into a new recording, “You Have to Believe”, which hit number one on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart, making them the only mother/daughter duo in history to accomplish the feat.


Peak Position: #4 (US)


Image Credit: Sony Music Entertainment, Inc.

In 1987, with 32 million copies sold worldwide, there was no chance of this soundtrack being put in a corner. Initially kicking off with the smash #1 single, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes, the hits kept coming with “She’s Like the Wind” from star Patrick Swayse, and Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes”. The release also featured classics from the era featured in the film (“Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, “You Don’t Own Me” by the Blow Monkeys, and “Love is Strange” by Mickey & Sylvia), which expanded the potential audience exponentially.

THE MOST MOTEVENTUROUS CUTS: “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” and “Hungry Eyes”

Peak Position: #1 (US)


Image Credit: Elektra Records

Although the peak of Cameron Crowe’s “Fast Times at Ridgement Hight” double album on the charts was relatively low compared with the others on this list, the music and the atmosphere of the film resonated throughout the decades, even becoming the inspiration for Season 3 of the Netflix series juggernaut “Stranger Things”. Spawning only one hit single in “Somebody’s Baby” from Jackson Browne (#7), the album smartly featured many rock n’ roll icons (Don Felder & Don Henley from the Eagles, Graham Nash, Billy Squier, Jimmy Buffett, The Go-Go’s, Stevie Nicks, Quarterflash and others). In the words of Jeff Spicoli, “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.” You really should add to that list this soundtrack…it’s so not bogus…dude.

THE MOST MOTEVENTUROUS CUTS: “Highway Runner” and “Somebody’s Baby”

Peak Position: #54 (US)


Image Credit: Warner Records, Inc.

Interesting to note that the “soundtrack” to “Purple Rain” was the first album by Prince to hit #1 on the Billboard Album Chart (spending 24 consecutive weeks in that position). The set features Prince as his most mainstream best with notable singles like “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy”, both of which topped the Hot 100. “Purple Rain” reached #2, while “I Would Die 4 U” peaked at #8. Personally, we’re also fond of “Take Me with U”. As a side note, the lyrics for “Darling Nikki” were in part responsible for the implementation of parent advisory stickers on recordings (go ahead, search for it…we’ll wait)…

…so you’re back. By today’s standards, those risqué lyrics are as tame as a pussy cat….don’t you think?

THE MOST MOTEVENTUROUS CUTS: “Let’s Go Crazy” and “I Would Die 4 U”

Peak Position: #1 (US)


Image Credit: A&M Records

As in many John Hughes films, the soundtrack to “Pretty in Pink” features many new wave artists, including Echo & the Bunny Men, The Psychedelic Furs, and New Order. The biggest hit from the soundtrack was “If You Leave” from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, which peaked at #4. This set is also on the Rolling Stone list “The 25 Greatest Soundtracks of All Time”

THE MOST MOTEVENTUROUS CUTS: “If You Leave” and “Pretty in Pink”

Peak Position in the: US – #1 – UK #3

So there you have it. What are your thoughts on our favorite 80’s soundtracks? What did we get right…what did we get wrong? Leave your thoughts via a comment on the page!


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