Earlier this month Top Gun celebrated its 30th anniversary – a huge milestone that really demonstrates the movie’s staying power. Even after three decades we’re still quoting its lines, examining its “subtext” and marveling at the gorgeous shots of F-14s screaming across the ocean.
But we’re ALSO still making “Highway to the Danger Zone” jokes and references all these years later, showing that even the music playing in the background stuck with us since 1986. As someone who’s heard the soundtrack more than anyone else on Earth, I thought it’d be fun to actually rank these tracks from worst to best – and I’m sure you can guess the top two or three right away.
10 – I Can See The Heaven In Your Eyes (Loverboy)
Not sure why you’d ask “Working for the Weekend” rockers Loverboy to squeeze out a saccharine tearjerker instead of an arena anthem, but hey, here we are. No fun riffs, no singable lines, just boring love song pap that is the most “Track 7 on an 80s Movie Soundtrack” song of all time.
All that said, even the worst song on this soundtrack has the DNA of a possible hit… I can see this hitting the charts, and in another timeline I’m sure people are crooning this out at dive bar karaoke. But not this timeline. In this one no one cares.
9 – Through the Fire (Larry Greene)
So, technically this is the “second worst” song but TBH I enjoy this greatly. It gets to its basic, easy to memorize chorus quite quickly and lays a competent 80s synth jam underneath it all. The Dire Straits-y guitar licks don’t hurt either!
8 – Hot Summer Nights (Miami Sound Machine)
Never before has the name of a band so accurately described their music. If a team pastel-labcoated Miami scientists built a “sound machine” it would certainly sound like Crash Bandicoot music mixed with a rippin’ sax solo.
Put on some headphones and really soak this one in. Lots of fun layers and fanfare throughout. And like so many songs on this OST, it’s loaded with repeated lyrics and simple sentence structure, making it quite easy to sing along.
7 – Lead Me On (Teena Marie)
Again with the fanfare! So much brass in this one, backed up by a gritty guitar and Teena’s powerful voice. The BGM reminds me of stuff we’d all hear on the Sega Genesis years by 1991-1992, and it’s not hard to imagine songs like this influencing some of Japan’s notable composers. Not THIS song necessarily, but that mid-80s mainstream-dance-club feel you’d hear in Streets of Rage, Out Run and so on.
SAD NOTE – the singer suffered from seizures after a PICTURE IN HER HOTEL ROOM FELL ON HER HEAD. From that point in 2004 onward she had to deal with the aftermath of a concussion and eventually died in 2010. Jesus.
6 – Destination Unknown (Marietta)
The Top Gun soundtrack is neatly divided into two 5-song halves – the five songs people know, and the five literally no one but me and their songwriters recall. Destination Unknown tops the latter five in my opinion. Give it a listen – the first 30 seconds are just moaning and setting a tone.
Once things get going you’re in for a solid-ass 80s one hit wonder. Not too fast, not too slow, not too formulaic… it’s just a great toe-tapper with a lovely chorus. You could easily swap this with Lead Me On and I’d be fine with the move, but for my money this is the “best of the worst.”
Up next – the five you actually know!