Ah, Love songs. Everyone loves a good love song, right? But Top Gun, The Karate Kid, Over the Top… these might not be the movies that you immediately think of when asked about 1980s movie power ballads. And yet here we are!
It’s interesting that so many action movies had such tender tunes on their soundtracks. Songs that successfully made their way to Top 40 radio, giving moms everywhere something to sing along to in the car, which probably embarrassed the hell out of you during carpool.
We no yanky your wanky with this list. Herein lie many of your (and your mom’s) faves. So sit back, scroll through, maybe sip some Riunite on ice, and enjoy the definitive movie ballads of the 1980s.
13. “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding from Pretty in Pink
Sorry folks, you can complain all you want that “If You Leave” was actually on the soundtrack, and yes, you’d be right. BUT! you can’t deny Duckie’s passionate Puttin’on the Hits-style performance of this Redding classic.
12. “Say You, Say Me” by Lionel Richie from White Nights
I never saw this film as a kid, but I watched the video repeatedly on VH1. The song went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1985. Whoever edited it had a lot of fun around the 1:10 mark. “Ooh!”
11. “Arthur’s Theme” (The Best That You Can Do) by Christopher Cross from Arthur
The best that he could do was place at #11 on this countdown. Poor Arthur.
10. “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” by Phil Collins from Against All Odds
If we’re being honest here, I will tell you that it was a coin toss between this tune from Phil, and his duet with Marilyn Martin on the White Nights soundtrack (“Separate Lives”). But we already got the outrageous Lionel Richie on the countdown, so here we are.
9. “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes from An Officer and a Gentleman
Another Oscar winner for Best Song (1983). Richard Gere in a crisp, white naval uniform. We salute you.
8 “Crazy for You” by Madonna from Vision Quest
A song so powerful, they changed the name of the movie overseas to “Crazy for You.”
7. “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John from Xanadu
When I was a (dumb) kid, I used to think she was singing “We have to believe, and imagine.” Never once did I think to ask my mom what the name of the song was. It may have helped clear things up for me.
Also, I never even realized there was an actual video for this song, and yet here it is. Olivia really loved her braided headbands in the 80s.
6 “If You Were Here” by The Thompson Twins from Sixteen Candles
I’m sorry, did Jake Ryan bring YOU a cake for your birthday? Yea, didn’t think so.
5. “Glory of Love” by Peter Cetera from Karate Kid Part 2
Sweep the leg, Johnny…all the way across the dance floor!
4. “Meet Me Half Way” by Kenny Loggins from Over the Top
Kenny high-tailed it out of the Danger Zone to perform this song on the Over the Top soundtrack. It made it all the way to #11 on the Billboard charts. Now, if only he could meet Jimmy Messina halfway…
3. “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin from Top Gun
Speaking of Goose and Maverick… did you think we were going to overlook this one from Terry Nunn and Berlin? Another award winner (both Oscar and Golden Globe statues)
A fun fact: Giorgio Moroder co-wrote both Loggins’ “Meet Me Half Way” AND Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away.”
2. “Almost Paradise” by Mike Reno (from Loverboy) and Ann Wilson (from Heart) from Footloose
I caught a lot of flack for leaving out any of the more obvious hits from Footloose in my last countdown, so I made sure to bring us all one degree closer to Bacon with this former Top 10 hit.
1. In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel from Say Anything
“I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.” A Cameron Crowe film will never disappoint you when it comes to delivering an awesome soundtrack. The surprising element here is that this song originally appeared on Gabriel’s own record, “So”, and was later included on the soundtrack to Say Anything. It wasn’t written specifically for the movie, and yet its use in the scene with Lloyd Dobler and his boombox has created an indelible musical memory.
-DJ Darko, Your Pop Culture Mixologist
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