Instrumental Hits of the 80s

Updated on February 6, 2018

Remember the Instrumental Hits of the 80s?

Music changed in the 80s, Punk, New Wave, Electronic music, Hip Hop, and more, really hit their stride. These changes even began to show up in the instrumental hits of that time period.

As you look at these non-vocal hits, you will hear electronic keyboards, moog synthesizers, and even turntable techniques and Hip Hop influences. For this reason, some of these hits were particularly popular in dance clubs. However, both the big and small screens had a heavy influence on our music as well. Many of the other instrumental hits of this period came in the form of theme songs on popular television shows and films.

Below you can sample some of the most popular instrumental tunes from the 80s.

Axel F

Like many instrumental hits of the 80s, Axel F was featured in a popular film. 1984s Beverly Hills Cop was the first of several movies that focused on the antics and crime fighting of Axel Foley, played by Eddie Murphy.

Axel F was written and performed by Harold Faltermeyer and hit the charts in 1985. It's an electronic piece which can be heard below.

Love Theme From St. Elmo's Fire

The 1985 movie "St. Elmo's Fire" produced a couple of musical hits. One was a vocal called "Man in Motion" (performed by John Parr). The other hit was an instrumental (by David Foster) that is known as the love theme. It has of course, been recorded since, including vocal versions.

Hill Street Blues Theme

This instrumental hit came from a very popular television show in the U.S. versus a film. It was the theme song from "Hill Street Blues" a police drama that ran for several years, starting in 1980.

The song was written by Mike Post and can be heard below.

Route 101

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass became popular in the 1960s and on through the 70s. The group disbanded, but then Alpert reformed a group in the early 80s. One of the hits that came from this was Route 101 which hit the charts in 1982.

Like so many instrumentals, you may not know the song by it's name, but if you listen to it, it will likely be familiar.

Chariot's of Fire

The movie Chariots of Fire won numerous awards in 1981 including an Academy Award as well as honors at Cannes. The film included a new composition by Vangelis as the theme. Like the film, the electronic music of the theme song was very popular with audiences.

Crockett's Theme

There were a few popular tunes to come from the television show "Miami Vice". The show's theme song was popular but so was the song later known as "Crockett's Theme". The song enjoyed success in Europe as well.

This instrumental was composed by Jan Hammer and can be heard below.

Peter Piper

The 80s did have a few instrumental hits which were not merely a theme in a popular movie or television show. This song is one example. In 1980, Canadian pianist Frank Mills' "Peter Piper" performed well on the charts, although not as well as his earlier hit "Music Box Dancer".

You can hear this tune below.

Rock It

Herbie Hancock's "Rock It" was a big instrumental hit in 1983. This song introduced turntable techniques, and scratching in particular, to a mainstream audience. It was a huge hit in dance clubs across the country.

Below you can hear it performed.


Saxophonist Kenny G released Silhouette in late 1988 and it was a hit. This instrumental earned him a Grammy nomination in 1989.


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    • mulberry1 profile image

      mulberry1 2 weeks ago

      Summer Madness was great, but it was from the 90's I think.

    • profile image

      Grog 6 months ago

      Totally left out Kool and the Gang's 'Summer Madness'

    • profile image

      Steve 6 months ago

      Paul Hardcastle's "RainForest" is quite an omission from this list....

    • profile image

      Dave 2 years ago

      Here's a video I made- It's a compilation of a bunch of 80s instrumental hits:

    • charliecrews38 profile image

      charliecrews38 4 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      nice list, i particularly enjoy axel f and other tracks from beverly hills cop by harold faltermeyer, and crockett's theme from miami vice

    • Brinafr3sh profile image

      Brinafr3sh 6 years ago from West Coast, United States

      The 1980's is a great time to remember of all the good hits. I know this hub is about instrumental hits, I like Herby Handcock hits as well. But I still like the songs of Cindy Lauper, Boy George, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Run DMC, and Atlantic Star. Would these 80s hits still be awesome if they were non-vocal?

    • janices7 profile image

      Janice S 6 years ago

      Thanks for the stroll down memory lane. Great hub!

    • funmontrealgirl profile image

      funmontrealgirl 6 years ago from Montreal

      Love and appreciate this hub.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Wonderful trip down memory lane. It's amazing how clearly you can remember music.

    • pan1974 profile image

      April 7 years ago from Columbus,Ga

      Oh my God, your hub are so awesome, I was just a child when I watch this stuff on tv, all these memories caught my heart, I never seen that movie Chariots of fire though, that bought tears to my eyes.Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • profile image

      Tony 7 years ago

      I know some of these, might know the rest if I could listen to them. No speakers at work though. maybe tonight... Good memories - it seems so long ago now - hard to believe.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      I am just a vintage person. I love these hits.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Memories. Thanks!

    • irenemaria profile image

      irenemaria 7 years ago from Sweden

      This was a stroll down memory lane for me! Most of the music was in my younger ears.=) Thank you!