Have you noticed how nearly every action movie of the ’80s combined high body counts and tough guy quipping with some of the most romantic, uplifting soft rock ever put to record?
Beefcake stars fire machine guns with one hand and ram faces on giant meathooks with the other, and then all this intestine-ripping action suddenly explodes into a reverb-heavy slice of John Parr crooning about how he’s going to have “no more lonely nights” because his girl “hits the right spot.”
If these power ballads aren’t going on about love, and warming your heart quicker than a microwave, it’s at least got a giant chorus that’ll have you pumping away in the gym at 254% efficiency. Check out Karate Kid’s ‘You’re The Best.’ and Rocky’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ (not ’80s of course) for some of the finest examples of that.
Cheesy but superb. These are the greatest songs ever recorded — for the greatest movies ever made.
The Running Man (1987) — ‘Running Away With You’ by John Parr
So you’ve just watched Arnie single-handedly take down a totalitarian gameshow, chainsawed a fat guy up the ass crack, sliced up an ice hockey player, and blasted a bunch of security guards into deep fried organ pieces with an Uzi 9mm. The credits roll, and it’s John ‘St Elmo’s Fire’ Parr singing this glorious love-rock anthem. Heartmelting.
Rambo: First Blood (1982) — ‘It’s A Long Road’ by Jerry Goldsmith
The poor old ‘Nam vet can forget the last 90-minutes that he’s just spent being hounded by murdercops and slicing open his arm on a giant tree…and lean back with a pipe and take in this gentle, soft rock lullaby. Touching.
The Karate Kid (1984) — ‘You’re The Best Around’ by Joe Esposito
Nothing explains the meaning of life better than this butt-kicking anthem. The biggest chorus ever until Whitney Houston did ‘I Will Always Love You.’ Inspiring.
Highlander (1986) — ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’ by Queen
Queen’s most tender, sombre and profound moment soundtracks a film about mentalists running around lopping each other’s heads off with huge medieval swords. Then again, they do it for the prize of immortality, so maybe the song choice does kinda make sense. Reflective.
The Transformers: The Movie (1986) — ‘The Touch’ by Stan Bush
You’ve got it. Uplifting.
Cobra (1986) — ‘Angel Of The City’ by Robert Tepper
This tearjerking ballad comes bang in the middle of a movie featuring serial killing gangsters slaughtering innocent women, and Sylvester Stallone kicking their collective asses with the sort of arsenal they never managed to find in Iraq. Moving.
Bloodsport (1988) — ‘Fight To Survive’ by Stan Bush
File under “to be listened to in gyms whilst baring the outline of your testicles through tightly-hugging trekkies.” Pumping.
Iron Eagle (1986) — ‘One Vision’ by Queen
Now this is the soundtrack of dreamy bogey blasting. People want to forget Iron Eagle so I couldn’t find a quality youtube video of One Vision that didn’t try to give it to that other, more famous fighter pilot movie instead. Oh well. Enlivening.
Commando (1985) — ‘We Fight For Love’ by Power Station
In Bloodsport, they “fight to survive;” in Commando, Arnie massacres a horde of murdering kidnappers in cold blood to, and we quote, “love.” Sensual.
Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) — ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’ by Tina Turner
Mel Gibson’s mulleted warrior of the Apocalypse partakes in a brutal gladiatorial sport and defeats this chunky bastard by exploring his internal innards like a biology student. Tina Turner’s in it though, so we get this shivery love ballad to finish it off with. Goosepimply.
Lethal Weapon (1987) — ‘Lethal Weapon’ by Honeymoon Suite
Mel Gibson gets zapped with some painful electrocution rods and screams his throat raw. Then this warming, soul-stirrer by a girlie man with big hair kicks in, making you recall the time you popped your cherry. Life-affirming.
The Jewel of the Nile (1985) — ‘When the Going Gets Tough’ by Billy Ocean
They just don’t make them like they used to. Animating.
No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) — ‘Stand On Your Own’ by Joe Torono
A martial arts hero takes on a Seattle crime syndicate, kicks their spleens until they’re black, then batters Jean-Claude Van Damme’s skull into sand. Suddenly, this Michael Bolton-esque ditty kicks in and makes you want to indulge in soft, slow sex with the nearest living being. Oxymoronic.