Following news that the soundtrack to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off will see official release for the first time ever this year (yes, that’s 30 years after the film originally hit theaters), we started thinking about the many magical moments in ’80s teen movies.
Obviously, the late writer-director John Hughes brought us plenty of unforgettable scenes, as did John Cusack, working his on-camera charm in several cult favorites. And of course, there were plenty of people not named John who did pretty well in the ’80s too.
Below are some of the most unforgettable music movie moments from ’80s teen flicks. Some are great, some are hilarious, and some are just so bizarre that you can’t forget them, no matter how hard you may try (we’re looking at you, teenage witches and wolves).
The Breakfast Club (1985)
John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club contains two brilliant scenes we can’t not include on this list. First, there’s the mid-movie sequence where this mismatched group of lovable high school archetypes start dancing to Karla DeVito’s “We Are Not Alone.” Their moves are so unrepentantly uncool they automatically become cool. And who can forget the finale where Simple Minds‘ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” plays as Anthony Michael Hall reads a letter to The Man and Judd Nelson raises a fist in solidarity in an empty football field?
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Duckie might not win Andie’s heart, but he certainly wins the movie with this fervent lip-sync to Otis Redding‘s “Try a Little Tenderness.” John Hughes scores again.
Better Off Dead (1985)
The manic, magical Better Off Dead from Savage Steve Holland (same guy who created the standout kids show Eek! The Cat) is full of beautifully off-kilter moments. One of the best is when John Cusack’s suicidal character tries to liven up his mind-numbing fast-food job by imagining a hamburger coming to life (via claymation) and singing Van Halen‘s “Everybody Wants Some” while French fries swim in a pool of grease.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Most movies aimed at teens feature, naturally, music teens actually listen to. Which is part of the reason the scene in Ferris Bueller where Matthew Broderick commandeers a parade float and sings the Beatles‘ version of “Twist and Shout” stands out from the pack — it’s an unexpected choice and one that jells with the film’s cross-generational, crowd-pleasing vibe.
Teen Wolf (1985)
Furry-but-friendly teenage werewolf (Michael J. Fox) shows up to a school dance and busts out some oddball moves that his less-hairy classmates regard with suspicion — at least, until someone starts imitating him and everyone else gives in to peer pressure. Thankfully, the DJ has just the song for the occasion: an electro-synth number called “Big Bad Wolf” by Bunny and the Wolf Sisters! No high school dance is complete without that immortal classic.
Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)
Reformed high school nerd Ronald (Patrick Dempsey) tries to learn the hottest new dance craze from TV, but instead of watching American Bandstand, he catches an anteater-inspired African tribal ritual on public television. When he breaks it out during a school dance, his date is stymied until all the other kids start imitating his twitchy movements. Speaking of imitation, was this scene aping the aforementioned music moment in Teen Wolf? Who knows, but conformity did reign supreme in the Reagan era.
Teen Witch (1989)
This movie features the inexplicable scene where two bike-riding friends (one of whom is the titular teen witch) come across three white doofuses rapping a song called “Top That!” in the middle of the street. One is wearing a Hawaiian shirt, another is wearing suspenders, and instead of running in the opposite direction, the teen witch’s best friend actually utters the words, “Look at how funky he is. I will never be hip.” Using her magic, Teen Witch gives her friend the gift/curse of Caucasian hip-hop courage, after which a jaw-droppingly white rap battle ensues. Considering the genre was just a decade old in 1989, it’s a wonder that hip-hop survived “Top That!” Like Ferris Bueller, the soundtrack to this film has never seen official release — but hey, the 30th anniversary is coming up.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
An ’80s teen flick with a great soundtrack, Fast Times features the unforgettably awkward scene where Judge Reinhold jerks off to a fantasy about his sister’s best friend while the Cars‘ thumping “Moving In Stereo” plays. Naturally, she walks in on him, making an already uncomfortable scene even more hilariously cringe-worthy. Warning: NSFW.