8 Movie Star-Filled Music Videos from the 1980s

Dan Aykroyd And Tom Hanks star in Dragnet (1987).
Dan Aykroyd And Tom Hanks star in Dragnet (1987).
Shout! Factory

Musicians aren’t the only entertainers who like to flex their performing muscles; actors occasionally can’t resist the lure of regular MTV rotation. That was the trend for a while during the 1980s, anyway. Most of the title songs from films that hit the Top 40 were turned into music videos simply by splicing together a hodgepodge of clips from the movie, but there were some actors who took the trouble to actually appear in the accompanying videos. Whether it was a chance to ham it up with their favorite singers or because the studio ordered them to participate, the results were usually more interesting than the standard collection of movie clips.


Ray Parker Jr. was not particularly interested in writing/recording the theme song for Ghostbusters; his forte was songs about romance, not the paranormal. So he was even less enthusiastic about appearing in the video for the song. When he saw the sparse set outlined in neon, he worried that he was going to look silly prancing around while miming the lyrics. So he suggested to director Ivan Reitman that maybe if he could get some of the guys from the movie to appear in the video, even if just long enough to shout “Ghostbusters!,” the audience would understand that the clip was supposed to be humorous.

Reitman liked the idea and ran with it, popping a cassette of the tune into a boombox and calling on various industry friends (or actors who happened to be working nearby, such as John Candy on the set of Brewster’s Millions), with a small camera crew in tow. George Wendt, like the other cameo actors, did not get paid for his appearance, which later got him into hot water with the Screen Actors Guild and set the wheels in motion for SAG to begin organizing the music video industry.


The Jewel of the Nile producer Michael Douglas was savvy enough to have kept his eye on MTV and the previous videos that had helped to promote films (particularly Eddy Grant’s “Romancing the Stone”) and thus was the driving force behind the video accompanying Billy Ocean’s “When the Going Gets Tough.”

Douglas enlisted his The Jewel of the Nile co-stars Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito to perform with him as a “doo-wop” type of backup group. The trio of actors had three hours of rehearsal to learn their Temptations-style moves, and they actually sang along to the track as it played, rather than simply lip-syncing. “We were singing our a**es off,” Douglas told People magazine in 1986. “You begin to believe in yourself until they turn the sound off and you’re there croaking.”


David Foster, the record producer in charge of the soundtrack of the 1985 Brat Pack angst-filled film St. Elmo’s Fire, approached British singer/songwriter John Parr with the idea of writing a theme song for the movie. Interestingly enough, Foster didn’t provide Parr with any scenes from the movie; instead he showed him some film footage of Canadian Paralympian Rick Hansen who, inspired by fellow Canadian Terry Fox’s “Marathon of Hope,” launched a 26-month “Man in Motion” trek across 34 countries on four continents in his wheelchair.

When it came time to film the video for the song, it had to be shot within a 24-hour timeframe, due to some of Parr’s previous commitments. The stars of the film assembled on a set structured to resemble a decrepit version of the old watering hole they frequented in the movie. Parr later admitted that he didn’t recognize any of the actors—the “Brat Pack” had not yet made an impact in the U.K.—and thought that they were “just kids." Having starred in a few school plays in his youth, he even offered them a couple of acting tips. (Mare Winningham, who played Wendy in the film, was actually three months pregnant while filming St. Elmo’s Fire, and even more so when the music video was shot, which is why she’s holding a folded-up winter coat in front of her tummy during her close-up.)


John Landis directed both the film and the music video for the title song of Spies Like Us. Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd traveled to London to lark about Abbey Road Studios with Sir Paul McCartney. The U.K. refused to air the video until it was reedited to remove scenes of Chase “playing” the keyboard and Donna Dixon and Vanessa Angel singing backup, because they were not members of the Musicians Union.


Steven Spielberg invited Cyndi Lauper to be the musical director for the soundtrack to his 1985 adventure film The Goonies. Lauper was disappointed with the final result, not only because Spielberg cut most of the music from the film—making the soundtrack “meaningless” in Lauper’s opinion—but because the title of her song “Good Enough” was changed to “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough.” Studio execs believed that listeners wouldn’t associate the song with the movie unless “Goonies” was in the title; Lauper thought the new title sounded “cheesy.”

Nevertheless, she filmed a long-form, two-part video for the song, which featured not only members of the movie’s cast but also several WWF stars like Rowdy Roddy Piper, Captain Lou Albano, and André the Giant. “We were spaced out because it was Saturday after a long week,” Sean Astin recalled, “but we flipping loved that song and wanted to do lots of vids with the Great Cyndi Lauper!"


Queen was commissioned to provide the soundtrack to the 1986 film Highlander, and “Princes of the Universe” (which was played over the main titles) was the only track on the album to be credited solely to Freddie Mercury. The video that accompanied the song was directed by Russell Mulcahy, who also helmed Highlander, and was filmed at London’s Elstree Studios.

There was great attention to detail (not to mention expense) on the set when it came to recreating the Silvercup rooftop scene with scenes of the medieval crumbling castle in the background. Brian May, John Deacon, and Roger Taylor were dutifully clad in official Connor MacLeod trench coats (“Macs” to U.K. readers) for the occasion. Highlander star Christopher Lambert flew in from Paris just to film a quick “sword battle” with Mercury for the video. Lambert told Entertainment Tonight that he totally enjoyed the experience; that it was like being witness to a private Queen concert.


“Sweet Freedom” wasn’t technically the theme song to Running Scared, the 1986 buddy cop film starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines; that honor belongs to Fee Waybill’s “Running Scared,” which played over the opening credits. But the lead singer of The Tubes didn’t have the Top 40 marquee value of Michael McDonald, who’d fronted the Doobie Brothers for seven years and had several top 10 hits under his belt. “Sweet Freedom” was produced by Rod Temperton, who wrote Michael Jackson’s hit “Thriller,” and was heavy with the percussive synth-bass that was the 1980s movie backdrop “sound.” Crystal and Hines joined McDonald to “sing” along on the chorus, luckily in more toned-down plumage than they sported in the film during this Key West musical montage.


Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks aren’t known for being singers, much less rappers, but they gamely recorded the closing theme for their 1987 big-screen version of Dragnet. Paula Abdul devised the choreography for the music video, recycling some of the moves she taught ZZ Top for their “Velcro Fly” video.

During a 2015 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Hanks busted a few rhymes from the song “that will haunt him for the rest of his life” and also revealed that “City of Crime” was the first video he ever saw on YouTube—courtesy of his children, who couldn’t wait to taunt him with it.

Amazon’s Big Fall Sale Features Deals on Electronics, Kitchen Appliances, and Home Décor


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10 Surprising Facts About Britney Spears

Britney Spears performing in Germany in 2008.
Britney Spears performing in Germany in 2008.
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

While it’s now well-known that Britney Spears got her start as a member of Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club, the show didn’t immediately catapult her to superstardom. Spears was still practically an unknown when she released her first single “...Baby One More Time” in 1998. Needless to say, that anonymity didn't last.

Spears quickly became the poster child for pop music at the turn of the century, redefining the genre with ensemble dance numbers, a not-that-innocent onstage persona, and the occasional Burmese python. From her brief stint on Broadway to her trailblazing Las Vegas residency, here are 10 facts about the star who inspired an entire generation of kids to choreograph dance routines during sleepovers.

1. Britney Spears was an Off-Broadway understudy at age 10.

In 1992, Joel Paley and Marvin Laird were busy auditioning hopefuls for Ruthless!, a spoofy Off-Broadway musical about a young girl willing to kill her competition for the starring role in a school production. They had already cast their leading lady—future Broadway heavyweight Laura Bell Bundy—and were worried an equally talented understudy would prove impossible to find. “And that’s when we found Britney Spears,” Paley told the New York Post. Spears, then 10 years old, was a triple-threat, complete with “confidence and a great mom.” She stayed with the show for about eight months, until the repetition started to bore her. Her successor was another future star: Natalie Portman.

2. Britney Spears went back to being a regular kid after the Mickey Mouse Club ended.

Spears first auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club at age 8, but producers told her she was too young for the show. Her second tryout was successful, and she joined Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, and a few other budding entertainers as Disney’s new class of Mouseketeers in 1993. But when the program ended two years later, Spears didn’t head to Hollywood. Instead, she went home to Louisiana and enrolled in high school.

“I was so bored,” Spears told Rolling Stone in 2011. “I was the point guard on the basketball team. I had my boyfriend, and I went to homecoming and Christmas formal. But I wanted more. I mean, it was fun while it lasted, but then I got the record deal, and I left.”

3. Britney Spears almost headed up a girl band.

Before she embarked on a solo career, Spears was briefly the frontwoman for a girl band called Innosense, which was created by Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC manager Lou Pearlman. The group—which also included Awkward star Nikki DeLoach—was originally meant to be America’s answer to the Spice Girls, but Spears left before the project got off the ground, and the band never amassed a very large fanbase. Innosense did, however, get to open for Spears at a few concerts in 2000.

4. The music video for “...Baby One More Time” was all Spears’s idea.

Music video director Nigel Dick's original idea for the "...Baby One More Time" video envisioned Spears alighting from a spaceship and launching into a dance routine on the surface of Mars, which Spears vetoed immediately. Instead, she pitched a Grease-inspired scene in which a group of bored students dance around their school. Dick and the studio executives decided their teenage starlet probably had a good grasp on what would appeal to other teenagers, so they went with it. Spears also came up with the idea to wear school uniforms—Dick had planned to dress them in basic T-shirts and jeans. The director’s original idea did eventually make it off the cutting room floor; Spears’s “Oops!...I Did It Again” video, which was also directed by Dick, takes place on Mars.

5. Britney Spears auditioned for The Notebook.

Spears is no stranger to the screen. In addition to making memorable guest appearances on Glee, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Jane the Virgin, Will & Grace, and other shows, she starred in the 2002 romantic comedy Crossroads (written by Shonda Rhimes). Not long after its release, she was in the running to star alongside fellow Mouseketeer Ryan Gosling in 2004’s The Notebook. “She did an excellent job, actually,” Gosling said of her audition. The role of Allie Hamilton ultimately went to Rachel McAdams, who impressed Gosling and director Nick Cassavetes with her assertiveness and emotional range.

6. Britney Spears had a short-lived, long-distance dalliance with Prince William.

By Spears’s own account, reports of her romance with the future king of England hit quite wide of the mark, and the pair never actually met up. During an interview on The Frank Skinner Show in 2002, Spears admitted that Prince William was technically to blame for their missed connection. “We exchanged emails for a little bit, and he was supposed to come and see me somewhere,” she said, “but it didn’t work out, so that was it.” When Skinner expressed mock outrage that William stood her up, Spears demurred. “He’s a busy guy,” she said.

7. Britney Spears often travels under an alias.

Ms. Alotta Warmheart departing a Manhattan hotel in 2002.Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images

As one of the most preeminent pop stars of the 21st century, Spears incites a media frenzy with virtually every move she makes. To give herself a little anonymity, she doesn’t always book hotel rooms under her own name. But her pseudonyms, which she often invents on the spot, don’t exactly fly under the radar. Spears divulged to James Corden during "Carpool Karaoke" that she’s been Alotta Warmheart, Anita Dick, and Chastity Montgomery in the past. Biographer Steve Dennis alleged that she has also used Mrs. Diana Prince (a nod to Princess Diana), Mrs. Abra Cadabra, and Queen of the Fairy Dance.

8. Britney Spears inspired a Barry Manilow album.

The paparazzi have ruthlessly documented Spears’s personal life in a way that many consider shamefully exploitative. Witnessing her battle for privacy escalate in 2007 actually inspired Barry Manilow’s 2011 album 15 Years. “She couldn’t have a life without [the paparazzi] pulling up next to her car and following her and driving her crazy," Manilow told the Los Angeles Times. “We all looked at it in horror, and [my collaborator Enoch Anderson] and I said, ‘Is this what happens these days?’ So it seemed like a thing to be writing an album about.”

In another section of the entertainment industry, screenwriter/director Shana Feste was watching with similar horror, which inspired her to develop the 2010 film Country Strong. In it, Gwyneth Paltrow plays a country music star navigating the many pitfalls of fame.

9. Britney Spears's “Do Somethin’” music video was banned in France.

In 2005, Spears released a highly imaginative video for her single “Do Somethin’” in which she and her friends fly through the clouds in a bright pink Hummer. They also evidently imagined that Louis Vuitton would take no issue with said Hummer’s upholstery looking suspiciously similar to Louis Vuitton’s Cherry Blossom pattern. Unfortunately, the Paris-based brand sued the record label. “We don't make dashboards,” a spokesperson said. The case was settled, but Sony BMG had to pay more than $117,000, and France was banned from airing the video. In the version currently on YouTube, there’s nary a cherry blossom in sight.

10. Las Vegas dedicated a day to Britney Spears.

Britney on her eponymous holiday in 2014.Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Before Celine Dion came to town at the height of her career, the Las Vegas Strip had a reputation as the place “where musicians go to die,” i.e. where aging musicians can perform an entire concert series without all the tiresome travel necessary for a tour. Spears upped the ante in 2013 with a dynamic, high-budget residency complete with a fire ring, acrobatics, giant hamster wheels, and plenty of other gasp-worthy effects. The spectacle drew a younger crowd than usual and set a new precedent for Vegas shows; since then, the city has attracted performers who are currently ruling the charts, like Lady Gaga, Drake, and Cardi B. To acknowledge Spears’s impact and express gratitude, Las Vegas declared November 5 “Britney Day” in 2014. Spears was given a key to the city, and the first 100 people named “Britney” to arrive at the celebration got free tickets to see her show.