The decade of the 1980’s contained some of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, E.T. The Extra-terrestrial, the Back to the Future Trilogy, Aliens, Blade Runner, The Terminator and multiple Star Trek movies. Some of the greatest film music ever written accompanied them. But for every ET there were dozens of other science fiction movies that sunk without a trace. Some of them had pretty good scores too and here we celebrate some of the lesser known science fiction movie music from the eighties.
I’ve never watched Tobe Hooper’s space vampire movie but Henry Mancini’s opening titles music is a great way to start off oon our adventures in eighties science fiction!
John Williams is synonymous with the greatest science fiction scores, but maybe this isn’t one of them. The eighties was also the decade of the synthesizer and here Williams departs from his usual orchestral compositions to score this largely unknown comedy about a pair of escaped robots.
Battle Beyond the Stars
Any reference to eighties sci fi has to include both James Cameron and James Horner. In this low budget Roger Corman extravaganza Cameron did the special effects and Horner the score. It’s not great, but it does embody the eighties science fiction that tried desperately to cash in on some of the success of the Star Wars franchise.
From the director of Tron, Steven Lisberger, and Gary Kurtz, the producer of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, Slipstream stars Mark Hamill, Bill Paxton, Bob Peck and Ben Kingsley. Despite all the involvement of so many big names, the movie was released straight to video in the United States and disappeared largely without a trace. The score by Elmer Bernstein is fantastic and deserves much wider recognition. You can even hear some elements borrowed by James Horner for Bicentennial Man, another movie about a robot trying to be human.
Flight of the Navigator
You are probably familiar with Alan Silvestri’s orchestral score to the blockbuster eighties sci fi movie series: Back to the Future. Flight of the Navigator also involves a form of time travel, but here it’s eighties rock and synth sensibilities and a whole lot of fun.
Joel Dante’s Explorers debuted Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix in this fun romp about a pair of kids who build their own spaceship out of an old fairground ride. Jerry Goldsmith’s typically energetic score embodies the excitement of our heroes and the surprises that await them.
Jack Nietzsche’s electronic score is one that will haunt you for a while to come.
SpaceCamp was about a group of kids who inadvertantly end of in space aboard the Space Shuttle. Unfortunately, it was released shortly after the Challenger Disaster and was a box office failure. Whatever its faults, they don’t include John Williams’ fantastic score, which successfully returns us back to Earth.