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Home >Lounge >Features >Let 'Class of '83' lead you to great synth scores

Viju Shah’s synthesizer score is perfect for Atul Sabharwal's Class of ’83, a Mumbai cop film set in the 1980s. Synths were the sound of cinema that decade, whether booming or gently pulsing or overlaid with a vocal. Here are some other great film scores from the glory years of synth music.


Thief (1981)

Michael Mann’s film begins with rain-slicked, neon-lit streets. German electronic band Tangerine Dream score this with shimmering synths. As we see the master thief played by James Caan go about his work, the pace starts to pick up; as he drills through a safe, the music explodes. When he’s done and in the clear, the music again slows down to a wash of synths. It’s one of the great early Mann scenes, and the score plays a huge part in this.


Escape From New York (1981)

In addition to directing some of the great pulp films of the 1980s, John Carpenter also influenced a generation of synthwave fans with his ominous scores. His tinkling Halloween score is a classic but he could also rein it in. The first three minutes of Escape From New York is just a black screen with credits, accompanied by a slow-burning, majestic theme.


The Terminator (1984)

Brad Fiedel’s main theme for James Cameron’s film has an elegiac feel—if it were played by a symphony, it could be the soundtrack to a classic western. It’s an atypical track, with an unusual time signature and percussion like metal striking metal, but it builds steadily and memorably.


Starman (1984)

Even when John Carpenter used other composers on his films—like Ennio Morricone on The Thing—the results were close to his own rich, dark sound. Carpenter’s Starman, about an alien who comes to earth and assumes human form, was entrusted to Jack Nitzsche, who’d already won an Oscar for his score for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. He does a wonderful job, supplying Carpenter’s most emotional film with one of his lushest soundtracks.


Blade Runner (1982)

Vangelis’ score for Blade Runner, a 1982 film set in 2019, sounds appropriately futuristic. It’s also more varied than you might remember, from the glittering bombast of the main theme to the overripe Love Theme, the delicacy of Bicycle Riders (Pompeii 76 A.D.) and the poignant wash of keyboards in Tears in the Rain.


Manhunter (1986)

Another Mann film, but unlike the usual single-composer synth scores, this one's a mixture of songs and instrumental tracks by various artists. The '80s sound doesn’t get much thicker than this, with the standout Michel Rubini’s menacing Graham’s Theme.


Chariots of Fire (1981)

The main theme—used for the scene where the athletes are running in slo-mo on the beach—is perhaps the most famous synth piece in all of cinema. But the rest of Vangelis’ score is wonderful as well, the muted Abraham’s Theme and the joyfulness of Eric’s Theme reflecting the personalities of the two protagonists.

Class of '83 is streaming on Netflix from 21 August.

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