The1980s was a decade awash in stylistic mergers and acquisitions of venom and spirit. Specifcally, I wish you to understand the bombastic synchronicity between rock music and film. First we have 80s rockers Huey Lewis & The News who showed up in time travel favorite, “Back to the Future.” Then icon of R&B and 80s rock diva, Tina Turner, made the apocalypse fabulous in a chainmail outfit Red Sonja would have died for in the third Mad Max flick, 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome. Turner also cranked out the main tune, “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” I wish she had done more because she dominated the screen. Sidenote: the beloved blue healer Zhaan from Farscape has a small role as Warrior Woman in the second outing of the Mad Max franchise.
Director John Carpenter had his own band, and contributed signature riffs to his movies, especially 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China. The end title jam from 1984’s Buckaroo Banzai was by electronica pro and Grammy winner, Michael L. Boddicker. Danny Elfman of 80s synth-pop band, Oingo Boingo, became better known as a movie maestro for Batman, Weird Science, and most of Tim Burton’s films. Guitar god and front man of Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler, penned the entire soundtrack of 1987 classic, The Princess Bride. Nobody knows what a Vangelis is, but it made an electronic soundtrack for refuses-to-be-dated scifi flick, Blade Runner, that still resonates.
The 1984 fantasy mainstay, The Never Ending Story, sported the only real hit of Limahl, lead singer of 80s Brit-Pop group Kajagoogoo. Although my teen self pined for Jennifer Connelly in 1986’s Labyrinth, David Bowie’s rock god turn as Goblin King Jareth owned that movie. German electronic setup, Tangerine Dream, did the dirty for stunning 1985 fantasy epic, Legend, as well as occult-WW2-thriller, 1983’s The Keep, & western-vampire cult feature, 1987’s Near Dark. Sting may have spun a villainous role in 1984’s Dune, but it was classic rockers Toto that managed the tunes for that flick.
But all of this pales in comparison to what comes next; the majesty of Queen. They rocked the 70s and 80s with stadium rattling anthems and quirky earworm ballads. Even in death frontman Freddie Mercury has become a meme that denotes pure awesomeness. Queen rocked not one but two essential scifi soundtracks: 1986’s Highlander & 1980’s Flash Gordon. Both movie and songs are eminently quotable and singable, and would propel any roadtrip from arduous to astounding. Sidenote: the Prince of Ardentia in Flash Gordon who falls on his sword also shows up as Katanga in Indiana Jones 1 and Kingsley Shacklebolt in Harry Potter.
If you want to experience just how kinky-nasty rock-cinema orgasmic synergy can be, search YouTube for “Martini Ranch/Reach” directed by James Cameron. Yes, that one. It features many faces of 80s scifi and requires 30 minutes on IMDB to properly appreciate.