10 Essential 1980’s Music Related Movies
The 1980’s were prodigal in producing dance and music themed movies. With the growing popularity of new dance crazes, back then, it became a theme for the whole decade, though not all became blockbusters, all the movies on this list, being ether long video-clips, drama or simply cheesy, established themselves as classics. Take a look back on 10 essential 80’s dance and music related movies.
“Staying Alive” 1983
John Travolta returns as Tony Manero on this sequel of the 1977 disco blockbuster “Saturday Night Fever”. After the disco fever calmed down, 5 years later we get to follow Tony, now a pumped stereotyped 80’s man, struggling with a new kind of dance fever: becoming a big time Broadway dancer. With the usual story-line of the young man that struggles to make his dreams come true, this movie doesn’t really adds much to the original story line but it’s a good time capsule of early 80’s and doesn’t goes on like an endless music video as a lot of the 80’s musicals from that period, for better or worse. Sylvester Stallone is the unexpected director of this 80’s cult classic, and his brother Frank Stallone besides contributing to the soundtrack has a small role on it. Soundtrack wise this movie, still mostly by The Bee Gees isn’t as strong as “Saturday Night Fever”, and also features Frank Stallone compositions.
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: John Travolta, Cynthia Rhodes, Finola Hughes
What can be more 80’s than a (very mature) 18 year old girl working in a Pittsburgh Steel Factory by day and a (unrealistically sophisticated) stripper by night (or is it exotic dancer?) “Flashdance” has many plot holes (i.e characters not fully developed, story lines that vanishes, unexplained character connections and back story) but as any movie from that era and genre you have to see it for what it is: a long long music video with a simple story line filled of MTV early 80’s hits such as “Michael Sembello’s Maniac”, Laura Branigan’s “Gloria”, Karen Kamon’s “Manhunt” and of course the main theme “Flashdance… What a Feeling” by Irene Cara. It became a classic at it’s own right and though dated, remains a very easy movie to watch but not to be taken too serious. Two memorable scenes remain iconic to this day, the famous stage shower strip scene and the academy dance audition, though the whole supposedly self accomplishment vibe that we could get from this falls down as she got the audition through a special favor. If you just prefer to watch the highlights and the story line of this movie in a nut shell you can just watch the “Flashdance… What a Feeling” music video. That will do it.
Directed by: Adrian Lyne
Starring: Jennifer Beals, Michael Nouri, Lilia Skala
This was the first big movie role for Kevin Bacon and to this day the role he is mostly remembered though having done so much better ones after it. A big city teenager and his mother move to a small town after the death of his father to live with his relatives. However, it’s 1984 and dancing is forbidding in this western world town. The good looking Ren decides to challenge the city’s authority by…dancing. That is pretty much the story line, add on the teenage daughter of the guy who banned dancing getting involved with Ren and suffering from domestic violence from her previous teenage boyfriend and a well directed music video style scenes with some nice 80’s songs and you got “Footlose”. The music video formula works good for this movie, featuring a soundtrack of songs such as Deniece Williams “Let’s Hear It for the Boy”, Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero”, John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Hurt So Good” and of course the mega hit movie theme “Footlose” by Kenny Logins; it is a yes for a 80’s movies marathon, and as a bonus you get to see the teenagers Sarah Jessica Parker, Lori Singer and Chris Penn.
Directed by: Herbert Ross
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Chris Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker
Maybe the last of the iconic 80’s musicals of the decade, “Dirty Dancing” has a noticeable different style from the early to mid 80’s musicals. The story line is more developed, there is character development and the main goal is not to look like a pop music video to appeal audiences. Taking place in the early 1960’s, it tells the story of the young Frances “Baby” Houseman, a privileged girl, that goes with her family to a resort in upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains where she discovers the much different world of the dance instructor Johnny Castle, an older guy with a different background and with whom she gets romantically involved. A highlight of Patrick Swayze’s career where he shows his dancing skills in memorable scenes such as the one with the theme song “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”. The movie is also famous for iconic lines as “nobody put’s Baby in the corner”. The soundtrack, mostly 1960’s classics such as The Ronettes “Be My Baby”, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs “Stay”, Bruce Channel’s “Hey! Baby”, Mickey & Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange” and The Five Satins “In The Still Of The Night”. Also features contributions made specific for the movie as Patrick’s Swayze’s “She’s Like The Wind”, Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes”, Alfie Zappacosta’s “Overload” and of course the famous theme title by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”. A good classic and musical even for those who don’t like musicals.
Directed by: Emile Ardolino
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach, Cynthia Rhodes, Jack Weston
Not a stranger to acting, David Bowie stars in this movie as a magical being The Goblin King Jarethhas. Sarah, a teenage girl that is babysitting her baby brother wishes for him to be taken by The Goblin King as he cries too much. Things get serious when Jaretthas decides to attend her request and takes away baby Toby to turn him into a Goblin in his magical underground world filled with fantasy and magical creatures. Determined to rescue her brother, during her quest Sarah falls in love for the Goblin King, after all he is David Bowie. This Jim Henson movie has very well directed musical sequences, as the one of “Magic Dance” or “As The World Falls Down” and though it has a story line it still tries to appeal the audiences with the music video formula, but it works just as it is, a Fantasy/Musical movie with a Goblin King that accidentally became another one of Bowie’s many characters and alter-egos. Although going through a less creative musical period, Bowie composed together with conductor Trevor Jones the fantastic soundtrack for the movie and delivered it with classic songs such as “Underground”, “Magic Dance” and “As The World Falls Down”.
Directed by: Jim Henson
Starring: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Shelley Thompson
A multiple genre movie, Musical/Action/Fantasy/Animation/Sci-Fi/Documentary and maybe more due to amazing special FX, original soundtrack and self-tribute footage, “Moonwalker” is what you could expect from a 1980’s Michael Jackson movie. The movie begins as a documentary in the form of a tribute that reviews Jackson’s career, featuring footage, music and news clips, that soon turns into an adventure of Jackson interacting with animated characters, all this shaped as a music video. Suddenly no more animated characters, the movie moves on to the idea that he is a sort of a magical out of space being that can shape shift himself into machines, while battling a drug lord interpreted by Joe Pesci. It’s a mess plot wise, but it has good music video sequences such as “Speed Demon”, “Smooth Criminal”, “Leave Me Alone” and some live performances “Man In The Mirror”, The Beatles cover “Come Together” among others. Besides Jackson and Joe Pesci the movie stars 3 kids, being one of them Sean Lennon, John Lennon’s son. Special FX are present through the whole movie, the FX highlight is when Jackson transforms himself into a robot or some sort of machine, it is an outstanding scene that has not aged even with today’s standards. As said, the soundtrack is pretty much all Michael Jackson’s songs. Worth to watch it more as music documentary than a movie with an actual plot, but with good music and photography.
Directed by: Jerry Kramer
Additional Directors: Jim Blashfield, Colin Chilvers
Starring: Michael Jackson, Joe Pesci, Sean Lennon
“Purple Rain” 1985
One of the biggest world pop stars in 1984, Prince’s iconic movie “Purple Rain” tells us the story of The Kid, a strangely pictured struggling musician in a small town that becomes self-indulgent to his band mates (The Revolution). He also has an hostile home environment at home where he stills lives with his parents, his father a raging alcoholic that beats up his mother and him occasionally and nobody seems to care about calling the police on him. The Kid meets Apollonia a recent arrived to town girl that wants to make it in the music industry there (why not choosing a place like Los Angeles or New York for that goal remains beyond comprehension) Another example of a movie that runs like a music video, with dysfunctional character development and with a lot of literal slaps and abuse just because it seems to add more to The Kid character (the literally “grabbing her by the pussy” scene was not really necessary). It’s a “me, me” movie. It seems that there is a lack of trying in making this a working story, and the real goal in “Purple Rain” is the music, and it is what the movie really is good for, and for a few laughs over the weird story-line. The soundtrack is provided by Prince and features some of his best hits such as “Let’s Go Crazy”, “When Doves Cry” and the title theme “Purple Rain”
Directed by: Albert Magnoli
Starring: Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day, Clarence Williams III
“Pink Floyd: The Wall” 1982
A masterpiece of Rock music and animation, “The Wall” is the Pink Floyd’s Rock Opera based on their 1979 album “The Wall”. Mixing impressive and iconic animation scenes with living scenes, it tells the story of troubled rock star Pink and his descent into madness as he struggles with demons of his childhood such as the loss of his military father and his repressive school. Bob Geldof plays Pink, that at a point in the movie, deep into his madness fantasizes his concert is a Nazi rally and himself as the dictator. The movie features famous scenes such as the meat factory grinder that turns children into sausage among others, all perfectly in sync with the soundtrack of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. Some of the songs featured are “Another Brick In The Wall” (parts 1, 2 and 3), “Goodbye Blue Sky”, “The Happiest Days of Our Lives”, “Mother”, “Don’t Leave Me Now”, “Goodbye Cruel World”, “Is There Anybody Out There?” and “Comfortably Numb”. Being a rock fan or not, it’s a required pop culture reference for everyone.
Directed by:Alan Parker
Starring: Bob Geldof, Christine Hargreaves, James Laurenson, Bob Hoskins
“Give My Regards To Broad Street” 1984
The Beatles presented the world with 3 movie classics in the 1960’s that were made unpretentiously and with the goal of providing nothing more than music and fun to the viewers. The movies were 1964 “A Hard Day’s Night”, 1965 “Help!” and 1967 “Magical Mystery Tour”. In 1984 Paul McCartney went for a try to bring back that spirit by doing “Give My Regards To Broad Street”, featuring also another one of his Beatles mates Ringo Starr and Beatles producer George Martin. It didn’t quite reached the success of pop culture status as The Beatles movies he had done before, but it is a decent effort of an unpretentious way to bring music and pictures together. The plot revolves around the story of McCartney’s master tapes from his latest album disappearing and he having less than 24 hours to find them. During almost 2 hours (with a British pun here and there) we follow McCartney and a series of characters trying to find the tapes, all while he has to keep up with his own professional duties such as radio appearances, studio recording sessions or rehearsals. It is a long “day in the life” of Paul McCartney. Not afraid to bring back Beatles classics and mixing them up with his own recent compositions the result is overall good. You get to hear new George Martin’s produced recordings of songs such as “Eleanor Rigby” with an extended string arrangement, “Good Day Sunshine”, “Here There And Everywhere”, “For No One”, among others, some Wings too as in “Band On The Run”, and his own new selections at the time “Ballroom Dancing” on a music video sequence and “No More Lonely Nights”.
Directed by: Peter Webb
Starring: Paul McCartney, Bryan Brown, Ringo Starr, Barbara Bach, Linda McCartney, Tracey Ullman, George Martin
Released in the very beginning of the decade, this is the movie that paved the way to the 1980’s music movies trend. What we find in “Fame” it’s a long run pilot of what would become the successful TV series with a detailed introduction and background from a lot of of the popular characters that appears two years later in the TV series, such as Leroy Johnson, Coco, Bruno Martelli among others and also the teachers Mr. Shorofsky, Mrs. Sherwood (played by Carol Mayo Jenkins in the TV series) and briefly the popular dancing teacher Lydia Grant. It’ s a consistent movie with a more dramatic approach than others from the same decade, and can be thought as the original predecessor of the “Glee” TV series. Aside of the popular theme song “Fame” by Irene Cara (starring as Coco) it’s a mild soundtrack the one present all through the movie.
Directed by: Alan Parker
Starring: Eddie Barth, Irene Cara, Lee Curreri, Albert Hague, Paul McCrane, Gene Anthony Ray
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