This is part one of a two-part TRN feature. Singing and dancing have played prominent roles in film throughout history and the ’80s decade is certainly no exception. This feature will countdown my favorite scenes from non-musical ’80s movies where the characters are singing. Part two will be my favorite scenes from ’80s movies where characters are dancing.
So, we will start with “singing” scenes from non-musical ’80s movies. The list will have a couple qualifications to note. First, I decided to rule out scenes involving real singers performing. This took Prince, The Blues Brothers, Madonna and others out of the running many of which would be obvious inclusions. The scenes considered could involve the characters actually singing and/or lip-syncing. They could be very brief or include an entire song. A movie could be included on the list only once even if it has multiple singing scenes and the same scene could only be on either the singing or dancing list. Some of these scenes could be included on both the singing and dancing lists, but I made the call on which list I would put them on. That is why I decided to call this a two-part issue and you will want to read both of them. So here are our FAVORITE SINGING SCENES FROM ’80s MOVIES:
30. 48 Hrs (1982) – The first scene introducing Eddie Murphy’s character “Reggie Hammond” shows him sitting in a jail cell listening to his walkman. He is obviously listening to the song “Roxanne” by The Police because he is singing along at the top of his lungs.
29. Cocktail (1988) – Tom Cruise plays “Brian Flanagan” who is a bartender in New York City while going to school for his business degree. There is a scene where he has the entire bar singing along to Robert Palmer’s classic “Addicted to Love.”
28. Blue Velvet (1986) – In David Lynch’s film, Sam Rockwell’s character lip-syncs to Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” making quite an impression on Dennis Hopper’s character.
27. Howard the Duck (1986) – Cherry Bomb performs the title song in the final scene featuring Lea Thompson’s actual vocals. You can find out a little more about this film in our interview with Ed Gale.
26. One Crazy Summer (1986) – Demi Moore’s character “Cassandra” performs “Don’t Look Back” at the Dew Drop Inn to raise money to save her grandfather’s house.
25. Platoon (1986) – There is a scene when members of the platoon, including Charlie Sheen’s character “Chris Taylor,” are relaxing a little and listening to some music. They begin singing “Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. It was always one of my favorite scenes in this film which won the Oscar for Best Picture.
24. The Naked Gun (1988) – Leslie Nielsen’s character, “Frank Drebin” pretends to be internationally acclaimed opera star “Enrico Pallazzo” singing (butchering) our National Anthem prior to a baseball game.
23. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983) – “Every Sperm is Sacred”… ‘Nuff said.
22. Uncle Buck (1989) – While making breakfast, you can hear John Candy singing “Tweedlee Dee” along with the radio.
21. Streets of Fire (1984) – This film features a young Diane Lane playing the role of lead singer of Ellen Aim & the Attackers. She performs two songs really by the band Fire Inc. with lead vocals by Holly Sherwood. The first is “Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young” and the other is “Nowhere Fast.” Then there is also a group in the movie called the Sorels which is made up of actors Stoney Jackson, Grand L. Bush, Mykelti Williamson and Robert Townsend. They perform Dan Hartman’s hit song “I Can Dream About You” which is actually sung by Winston Ford for the film and lip-synched by Jackson. This is a great song which would end up going to #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and had much more success than Streets of Fire ever did.
20. Eddie and the Cruisers (1983) – Michael Paré stars as “Eddie Wilson” in this film based on the novel by P.F. Kluge. The song “On the Dark Side” is sung by John Caferty and the Beaver Brown Band, but performed by the fictitious band in the film. Nine months after the film was released in theaters, “On the Dark Side” would reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Another song that ended up being more successful than the film it came from.
19. Stir Crazy (1980) – Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor singing and dancing in chicken costumes. Again ‘Nuff said.
18. Back to School (1986) – Rodney Dangerfield joins the band on stage to sing the classic “Twist and Shout”. This same song will appear later on this list from another 1986 film and both helped the song, originally released in 1961 and covered by The Beatles in 1964, re-enter the pop charts 20+ years later peaking at #23 that summer.
17. The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) – This is a fantastic movie starring Jeff and Beau Bridges as the piano playing Baker brothers. The real star of the movie, though, is Michelle Pfeiffer as singer “Susie Diamond” (for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress). Pfeiffer sings herself in this movie and does it very well. I almost did not include this performance on this list because it was so professionally done. Here she is singing “Makin’ Whoopee”.
16. Stand By Me (1986) – There is a fun moment when Teddy and Vern sing along to “Lollipop”. But I am going to go with when the boys sing “The Ballad of Paladin” during a portion of their adventure. “Have gun – will travel reads the card of a man.”
15. Top Secret! (1984) – This film created by Zucker, Abrahams & Zucker is a parody of both the World War II and Elvis films. In his first feature film role, it stars Val Kilmer as “Nick Rivers” as an American pop singer who gets mixed up with a resistance movement while in East Germany. Includes typical gags and humor of other films like Airplane! and The Naked Gun. Val Kilmer actually sings the songs in the movie which all sound like Elvis, Little Richard or The Beach Boys.
14. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) – We are introduced to “Willie Scott” as played by Kate Capshaw in the opening scene at Club Obi Wan where she performs “Anything Goes”. This is another scene that could have easily gone on either the singing or dancing list.
13. Stripes (1981) – There is a scene at the beginning of Basic Training when the group is learning to march. Bill Murray’s character “John Winger” begins singing the Manfred Mann song “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” with Harold Ramis’ character “Russell Zisky” joining in for the second verse. We discussed this scene in our interview with Conrad Dunn who played “Psycho” in the film.
12. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) – We meet Jessica Rabbit (voiced by Amy Irving when singing) as she performs “Why Don’t You Do Right?”.
11. Adventures in Babysitting (1987) – This movie stars Elisabeth Shue as “Chris Parker” and features a scene later in the movie where they perform the “Babysitter Blues,” but that is not the scene that puts this movie on my list. You can find out a little more about this film in our interview with Keith Coogan. It is the very first scene during the opening credits where Shue’s character is lip-syncing along to “Then He Kissed Me” by The Crystals. I had the biggest crush on her, so I went with this scene over the more popular Blues scene.
10. Three Men and a Baby (1987) – The best part of this movie is a scene when the three guys played by Ted Danson, Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg are trying to get the little baby to go to sleep. They sing the song “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight” by The Spaniels as a lullabye (which I remember also as the ending song on the television show Sha Na Na).
9. ¡Three Amigos! (1986) – There are several humorous songs written by Randy Newman in this movie. For this list, I could have gone with “My Little Buttercup”, but I decided to go with “Blue Shadows” instead.
8. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) – In this scene, Steve Martin’s character is getting a little sleep while John Candy’s “Del Griffith” is singing along to the radio as Ray Charles’ “Mess Around” is playing. Another one that probably could have gone on either the singing or dancing list, but chose to put it here.
7. Coming to America (1988) – You could certainly go with “Oha” singing ” She’s Your Queen to Be” or the Soul Glo commercial jingle. But I am going to go with when “Randy Watson” played by Eddie Murphy sings “Greatest Love of All” accompanied by his band Sexual Chocolate. That boy is good!
6. Revenge of the Nerds (1984) – This is the great scene towards the end when the Tri Lambs win the big Homecoming Talent Show with a special musical performance. It does not feature a lot of singing, but does include a rap by “Lamar.”
5. Top Gun (1986) – There are two scenes from this movie involving singing which I particularly enjoy. One is the scene when the two couples are having fun at a bar and then break out into a version of “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis. My favorite quote in this scene is when Meg Ryan’s character yells “Take me to bed or lose me forever.” The other is when Cruise’s “Maverick” along with Anthony Edwards’ “Goose” spot a woman who happens to have lost that loving feeling.
4. Beetlejuice (1988) – This was a tough one to decide whether I would put it on the singing or dancing list, but decided to put it here because there was another scene that could go on the dancing list. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis’ characters are ghosts trying to frighten the Deetz family out of their house. They decide to possess a dinner party making them sing and dance to “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” by Harry Belafonte.
3. Pretty in Pink (1986) – In a fantastic scene, “Duckie” played by Jon Cryer storms into the record store singing and dancing along to the Otis Redding version of “Try a Little Tenderness” trying to impress “Andie” played by Molly Ringwald, his one true love. It doesn’t seem to work, but is quite entertaining.
2. Back To the Future (1985) – Of course, you need the scene when Michael J. Fox’s character “Marty McFly” joins the band to sing the Chuck Berry classic “Johnny B. Goode” at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.
1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – During a parade in downtown Chicago, “Ferris” played by Matthew Broderick somehow takes over a float and lip synchs to the song “Danke Schoen” followed by The Beatles version of “Twist and Shout.” The part during “Twist and Shout” could have certainly been on the dancing scene list, but I felt it fit better at the top of this list.
There’s my list. I hope you enjoyed it as well as the videos to watch each of these entertaining and memorable scenes. As usual, these are based on my personal preferences and the order could very well change a little depending on my mood or nostalgia on a given day. Are there any of your favorite singing scenes from ’80s movies that you feel I have overlooked? If so or if you’d rank any a lot differently, please leave them in the comments section. Remember, for the sake of this particular list, I did not include any performances by real singers or bands. Also, be sure to check out Part 2 for our favorite dancing scenes from ’80s movies.