The 12 best ’80s high school movie jams

From "I Go Crazy" to "Don't You (Forget About Me)," songs that perfectly capture the spirit of '80s teen movies VIDEO

Topics: Video, Music, high school movies, pretty in pink, Sixteen Candles,

The 12 best '80s high school movie jamsSimple Minds (Credit: andrea crisante via Shutterstock/Salon)

The high schools of ’80s teen movies may be best known for showing us stereotypical high school cliques — jocks, preps, nerds, punks, etc. — navigating their adolescent traumas and dramas. But these films also produced some of the most moving pairings of music and plot. There are so many memorable moments, it’s hard to narrow them down. But these 12 jams are some of the best at conveying the adventurous spirit of the decade’s high school teen movies.

Ravyns, “Raised On The Radio”

“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” inarguably boasted one of the best soundtracks of the ’80s high school teen movies. One of its more underrated cuts is this nostalgia-misted tune, a perfect example of the sweet, simple romances that played out over the airwaves in the ’80s.

Bonnie Hayes with the Wild Combo, “Girls Like Me”
This snappy “Valley Girl” soundtrack staple screamed Cali new-wave: jaunty piano, a perky tempo, girl-gang harmonies, and sassy vocals from Bonnie Hayes.

Thompson Twins, “If You Were Here”
The end of “Sixteen Candles” is one of cinema’s most iconic moments: Sam Baker (as played by Molly Ringwald) finally sharing a smooch with her stoic dreamboat Jake Ryan. The satisfying scene is even more enduring thanks to the song playing: Thompson Twins’ “If You Were Here,” an understated tune with delicate synth shards and a lush melodic underbelly.

Oingo Boingo, “Weird Science”
SoCal misfits Oingo Boingo were teen movie soundtrack faves, likely because their quirky sonic hybrids encapsulated the wackiness of the ’80s. The mighty “Weird Science” combined futuristic sci-fi vibes and a throwback horn section that landed somewhere near space-age neo-funk.

Gleaming Spires, “Are You Ready For The Sex Girls”
Gleaming Spires was founded by two members of Sparks’ touring band. While not as well-known as other tunes, their “Are You Ready For The Sex Girls” appeared in two of the decade’s teen movie totems: “The Last American Virgin” and “Revenge of the Nerds.” Unsurprisingly, it’s a crooked electropop trifle with a healthy libido (“Are you ready for the sex girls?/The right, right, ultra-vital nice-nice girls?”).

OMD, “If You Leave”
By 1986, OMD had fluffed up their synthpop with increasingly swooning sentiments and lush production. The tune they penned for “Pretty in Pink” is peak lushness, between the saxophone bridge and aching lyrics about the end of a romance: parting ways after experiencing one last night together.

You Might Also Like

Plimsouls, “Oldest Story in the World
L.A. power-pop group the Plimsouls appeared in “Valley Girl” as the resident bar band at Nicolas Cage’s favorite watering hole. During the scene in which he’s moping and mooning over his beloved Julie, the group is filmed playing this impossibly heartbroken song, an R.E.M.-ish slice of melancholic twang-jangle.

Flesh for Lulu, “I Go Crazy”
An alternative band somewhere between Gene Loves Jezebel and Jesus and Mary Chain, Flesh for Lulu is responsible for “I Go Crazy,” a Britrock trifle with sandpaper guitars and synth swirls that received a boost from being in 1987′s “Some Kind of Wonderful.”

Q-Feel, “Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop)”
Q-Feel features Martin Page, who was later known for the ’90s hit “In The House of Stone And Light” and for co-writing Starship’s “We Built this City” and Heart’s “These Dreams.” However, the group’s starry-eyed, hi-NRG electro cut was ideal to bolster the climactic dance contest scene in 1985′s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

Altered Images, “Happy Birthday”
The Scottish post-punk band Altered Images — fronted by the luminous Clare Grogan — provided the perfect theme to “Sixteen Candles” with this frothy pop pogo.

Charlie Sexton, “Beat’s So Lonely”
Charlie Sexton is currently a member of Bob Dylan’s backing band, but circa his song’s appearance on 1987′s “Some Kind of Wonderful,” he was a hotshot singer-songwriter with a massive hit: “Beat’s So Lonely,” a retro-soul-blues number rife with scorched guitar and ’50s-greaser teen angst.

Simple Minds, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”
Any high school movie jam list has to end with the anthem that also closed “The Breakfast Club”: Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me).” The song’s bittersweet farewells encapsulate the end-of-school yearbook-signing melodrama, which underscores that friendship and love can be fleeting.

Annie Zaleski is a freelance writer based in Cleveland, Ohio.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...