Sunday, May 18, 2008

Top 80's Movie Themes

One thing sorely lacking from films these days is a memorable instrumental theme. So few films have great, memorable score - moreover ones that crossover into mainstream culture. Take, for example, Atonement. A Stunning with a capital S score, but no mainstream appeal. Even epics like the Lord of the Rings terribly hum-able. Here's an homage to the best the 80's has to offer.

5. Beverly Hills Cop
Eddie Murphy is Axl Foley...and Axl's theme is techno-synth-pop heaven. This soundtrack yielded quite a few hits, including Glen Frey's "The Heat is On" and The Pointer Sisters' "Neutron Dance," but Herbie Hancock's theme is quintessential 80's and helped define this character, this film, this era. Incredibly enough, Hancock remains relevant, having won a Grammy this year for best album. Go figure.

4. Top Gun

In case you haven't figure it out, we like Top Gun on this blog. And with good reason! The screaming guitars and and soaring melody make the film's theme an anthem for the ages. When the music swells and Maverick tosses Goose's dog tags into the sea...come on. Magic. Pure movie magic.

3. Back to The Future
Speaking of movie magic, how about a trip back in time to the year 1955? Even the sight of a Delorian or a mention of this film immediately conjures the theme of Back To The Future. Not to mention how many themes use the glockenspiel so effectively?

2. Chariots of Fire

Try running in slow motion without singing the melody. I dare you. I double-dog dare you. The synth-symphony of 1981's Chariots of Fire yielded an Oscar...and imbued the image of a bunch of exhausted Brits slowly...ever so slowly...pushing their way through the surf in search of glory.

1. TIE: The Empire Strikes Back / Raiders of the Lost Ark

It's impossible to choose between two John Williams masterpieces. The Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back defines evil. At the same time, the Indiana Jones theme simply can't be outdone. Re-watching Raiders yesterday in preparation for Indy 4 on Thursday, you can't help but get chills at the trumpets. Where are anthems like this? Not even John Williams writes 'em like this anymore. Granted, he's gone on to create the anthemic and haunting themes for more Spielberg triumphs in the 90's and 2000's (Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, Catch Me If You Can), but these two works are simply beyond reach


Bryan Pol said...

Everyone of these themes has made its way to my iTunes collection. Even so, you gots to man up and choose one score or the other, not have two themes share the top spot (personally, I'd go with Indy). Outstanding post; very nostalgic!

JamesBedell said...

While the themes chose are pretty Dy-no-mite, I might mention the theme from Glory

On the John Williams front. The man is a genius, he simply gets film scoring in a way no one else does. His recent work stands up in it subtlety and grace. I know I sound ridiculous defending the man with more Oscar nominations than anyone alive, but think about this. He won the academy award for best music in 1977 for Star Wars, he beat himself in the same year with Close Encounters...

He beat himself again in 1980, he's been nominated or multiple projects in the same year 13 times, he got his first nomination in 1968 and his most recent in 2006.

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Today In ... said...

I realize I'm ridiculously late in replying, and I can't believe it's taken 2 years for someone to point out the mistake, but the music for Beverly Hills Cop was done by Harold Faltermeyer not Herbie Hancock.