Best use of 80s electro songs in film

renton and diane

Ok, here are the rules. The songs had to have been released in the ’80s, but could have been used in any films during this time. Whether they introduce or accentuate a scene, or were the film’s theme song, each track is special to me in some way. Here’s my list:

‘Atomic’ by Blondie (1980)Trainspotting
This takes place in the Volcano club where Renton sees Diane and falls in love. Cue spaghetti western style guitar hook with sharp and punchy disco beats and Blondie’s warbling vocals.

‘What A Feeling’ by Irene Cara (1983)Flashdance
Damn Robert Webb’s sexy moves. If you can get past his version this was a great theme song, equally good as a stand-alone track without the dancing. It’s uplifting and empowering and arguably the female ‘Eye of the Tiger’ power song.

‘It’s A Sin’ by the Pet Shop Boys (1987)Bronson
If you’re a fan of Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive you have to ensure you see his earlier film, Bronson, with Tom Hardy. Watch the psychiatric hospital scene. A scene that was expertly lifted by canny use of a killer track.

‘Don’t Go’ by Yazoo (1982)Tango & Cash
In this film we have both Kurt Russell and Teri Hatcher sporting some truly fantastic hair – all framed perfectly by Yazoo’s urgent, punchy track.

‘Together In Electric Dreams’ by Philip Oakey (1984)Electric Dreams
Trying to emulate the success of Flashdance, Oakey of The Human League recorded this in ten minutes. It worked too, becoming a bigger hit than the film it was promoting.

‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division (1980)Donnie Darko
This track gets used in a pivotal scene where Donnie has to abandon his girlfriend in order to save her. One of Gyllenhaal’s best and most intelligent films to date.

‘Push It To The Limit’ by Paul Engemann (1983) – Scarface
Everyone loves an ’80s montage scene right? This one expertly frames Tony Montana’s rise to the top of the drugs world, as he consolidates his wealth and power.

‘Axel F’ by Harold Faltermeyer (1985)Beverly Hills Cop
I almost forgot this film and theme song, for shame! The ‘Crazy Frog’ version nearly ruined my affection for this track, but thankfully it was rekindled by the Peter Griffin rendition.

‘A View To A Kill’ by Duran Duran (1985)A View to a Kill
Peppered with sharp, urgent notes, this epic track perfectly captured the spirit of Bond during his ’80s pomp. For your listening pleasure, here’s the video.

‘Magic Dance’ by David Bowie (1986)Labyrinth
Despite the backing track sounding like it was lifted straight from a Cyndi Lauper record, it’s still a complete classic from a defining coming-of-age film for 80s kids like myself.

I’d loved to have included ‘Nightcall’ by Kavinsky, the theme to Drive, but it was released in 2010. It’s hypnotic, ethereal and very 80s.

So there’s my list. Any I missed you’d have liked to have seen?

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2 thoughts on “Best use of 80s electro songs in film

  1. I see your ‘Magic Dance’ and raise you ‘Cat People (putting out fire)’ … also wonderfully re-discovered in Inglorious Bastards. The long shot of Melanie Laurent in front of the window as the track starts is just breathtaking cinema. In my humble opinion.

  2. Yes, good choice. I’d not heard that song before and thought it was a high point, musically, for that film. Tarantino also did the same tracking shot in Kill Bill 1 with the 5,6,7,8s playing. Spielberg also does a great tracking shot through the floor of a building in Minority Report. Seen that?

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