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60 Best 80s Rock Songs (1980s Rock Classics)

December 7, 2023
80s rock songs

I’ve selected the best 80s rock songs, a compilation of 1980s rock classics that embody the decade’s distinctive sound and energy.

This article is a celebration of the anthems that rocked the 80s and continue to resonate with fans of all ages.

Table of Contents

Top 80s songs

  • “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi
  • “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses
  • “Another One Bites To Dust” by Queen
  • “I Love Rock N’ Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  • “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard
  • “Jump” by Van Halen
  • “When Doves Cry” by Prince
  • “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds
  • “Born In The USA” by Bruce Springsteen
  • “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits

1. “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi

According to VH1, Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” is the greatest hit song of the 80s.

Whether you like Bon Jovi or not, you have to admit that the band made a huge impact on the 80s music scene.

Plus, they still seem to be active, and that’s quite impressive.

2. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses 

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” is undoubtedly one of the most popular 80’s rock songs.

And even after forty years of its original release, it’s still frequently played on radio stations across the globe.

It’s evidently one of those timeless rock hits.

3. “Another One Bites To Dust” by Queen 

Well, Queen’s music is definitely timeless too.

And the band’s revolutionary sound and energy made a huge impact on 80s music and culture.

They released “Another One Bites To Dust” in 1980 and certainly created a proper introduction for the new iconic decade.

4. “I Love Rock N’ Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock N’ Roll” is an ode to rock music. 

After it was released in 1981, many artists made a cover version of the song, including Britney Spears.

But there is something about the original that simply captures the vibe of 80s rock and roll.

5. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard 

Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” is often described as one of the best rock songs of the 1980s.

And we can see why – it’s lively, familiar, and rather catchy.

6. “Jump” by Van Halen

Did you know that Van Halen’s biggest hit was inspired by an actual jump?

“Jump” is allegedly about a TV news story where a man was about to commit suicide by jumping off a building.

Although it has strange inspirations, the song is very energetic, and it’s arguably one of the most famous 80s rock hits.

7. “When Doves Cry” by Prince 

“When Doves Cry” isn’t a typical 80s rock song, but it’s one of the most impactful songs of the decade.

And it’s Prince’s unforgettable signature song.

8. “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds

We didn’t forget about this 80s classic.

“Don’t You Forget About Me” was written by English songwriter Keith Forsey for the famous 1985 film ‘The Breakfast Club.’

And it’s still frequently played on the radio.

9. “Born In The USA” by Bruce Springsteen 

If you’re searching for classic 80s rock songs, then this one’s for you.

The whole album “Born In The USA” received really positive reviews back in the 80s.

And since it’s full of catchy, radio-friendly sounds, that comes as no surprise.

Nevertheless, “Born In The USA” is considered one of the most impactful 80’s rock songs for a reason.

10. “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits

Dire Straits also made a huge impact on 80s rock music.

Lyrically, their signature song “Money For Nothing” is based on an actual conversation between delivery men who were complaining about their jobs.

It doesn’t get more iconic than that.

11. “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey 

“Don’t Stop Believin’” is one of the most streamed 80s songs.

And it conveys an important message that you should never stop chasing your dreams.

Well, since their song is on every 80s greatest hits list, the members of Journey probably achieved their dreams. 

12. “With Or Without You” by U2

One of the bands that emerged in the 70s and thrived in the 80s is U2.

They released “With Or Without You” on their unforgettable album “The Joshua Tree” in 1987.

The album topped the charts in more than 20 countries.

13. “Hungry Like A Wolf” by Duran Duran

Released in 1982, “Hungry Like A Wolf” quickly topped the charts.

And its energetic vibes marked a new era for Duran Duran – they rose to international fame.

Plus, the song is generally considered one of the greatest 80s rock songs.

14. “Rock You Like A Hurricane” by Scorpions

This song indeed sounds like a hurricane of powerful vocals and guitars.

Scorpions’ signature track is also a beloved sing-along song.

If you’re brave enough, you can opt for it on the next karaoke night.

15. “Final Countdown” by Europe

Speaking of sing-along songs

Europe’s “Final Countdown” has arguably one of the most iconic melodies.

It was released in 1986 when it also stayed on US Billboard Hot 100 for four consecutive weeks.

16. “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake

I don’t know where I’m goin’

But I sure know where I’ve been…

“Here I Go Again” is a power ballad about heartbreak and loneliness.

But it’s also quite empowering, especially if you like classic 80s rock songs.

17. “I Wanna Know What Love Is” by Foreigner

This is another popular 80s rock song about love and loneliness.

It seems like songs about this topic never get old.

Of course, you need to know how to portray them, and the guys from Foreigner obviously found a way. 

18. “One” by Metallica

Metallica released one of its most successful 80s rock songs in 1988.

However, the song is based on a rather tragic story.

In short, it tells a story of a soldier who experiences a coma and regains consciousness only to face further convulsions.

19. “Angel” by Aerosmith 

Aerosmith continued to thrive in the 80s.

They released “Angel” on their ninth studio album in 1987. 

It’s a power ballad written by Steven Tyler and the band’s songwriting collaborator Desmond Child who also worked with Kiss, Bon Jovi, Joan Jett, and many more.

20. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar 

Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” hit number 1 in the US charts.

And that’s not very surprising – it’s energetic, catchy, and it has an awesome guitar solo.

21. “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones

When you think about the best 70s and 80s rock songs, The Rolling Stones immediately come to mind.

In a way, they shaped the definition of what rock n roll meant back then.

And they’re still part of the music scene which is actually incredible.

22. “Back In Black” by AC/DC

Despite the death of original singer Bon Scott, AC/DC had a proper comeback at the beginning of the 80s.

And the release of their track “Back In Black” marked the highlight of some of their best years.

23. “Rock The Casbah” by The Clash

British punk rock legends The Clash released one of their signature songs in 1982.

“Rock The Casbah” is about a ban on Western rock music by an Iranian king.

The lyrics were inspired by the real ban in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

24. “Need You Tonight” by INXS

80s rock music also saw the emergence of danceable rock hits like “Need You Tonight.”

The music video is pretty popular too – it also won MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year.

25. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police 

Released in 1983, “Every Breath You Take” was the biggest US and Canadian hit of the year.

And in May 2019, it was recognised by BMI as being the most played song in radio history.

26. “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode released “Personal Jesus” in 1989.

And they certainly marked the beginning of a new music era.

In a way, their music felt like a genre of its own.

27. “The Look” by Roxette

“The Look” by the Swedish duo Roxette is undeniably one of the most widely known 80s rock songs.

In fact, the song was one of the most successful singles of 1989.

28. “Africa” by Toto 

Toto’s David Paich said that the song is about a man’s love of the continent Africa, rather than a personal romance.

Either way, “Africa” has one of the most iconic melodies of 80s music.

29. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister 

Released in 1984, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister is about living your life the way you want it.

It’s glam rock at its finest. 

30. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison

Besides being a famous 80’s rock song, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” is also a good breakup song.

It’s about heartbreak and longing, and the fact that every beautiful thing in life has a painful side to it.

31. “How Soon Is Now” by The Smiths

In a way, The Smiths also invented their own subgenre.

It’s not 80s classic rock that radio stations were used to.

And “How Soon Is Now” arguably became one of their signature songs.

32. “Once In A Lifetime” by Talking Heads

Talking Heads also brought refreshment to the 80s rock music scene.

And their iconic 80s song “Once In A Lifetime” was proclaimed one of the songs that shaped rock and roll.

It was written by David Byrne and Brian Eno who were inspired by Afrobeat musicians such as Fela Kuti. 

33. “Walk Like An Egyptian” by The Bangles

“Walk Like An Egyptian” was Billboard’s number-one song of 1987.

And it’s still one of the 80s favorites.

After all, it’s uplifting, unique, and incredibly catchy.

34. “Breaking The Law” by Judas Priest 

Rock and roll is often associated with rebellion and freedom.

Well, Judas Priest “Breaking The Law” definitely captures that rebellious spirit.

35. “Keep On Loving You” by Reo Speedwagon 

Reo Speedwagon emerged in the 60s but became universally popular in the 80s.

And “Keep On Loving You” is one of their most successful tracks.

36. “White Wedding” by Billy Idol 

Billy Idol first achieved fame in the 1970s, but one of his most memorable music was made in the 80s.

And we don’t have to make a special introduction for “White Wedding” – it’s one of the 80s songs that doesn’t get old.

37. “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. 

Are you looking for some songs for your Halloween playlist?

Well, you can’t skip this Halloween classic and an iconic 80s tune.

Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!

38. “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues 

And when you think about Christmas classics from the 80s, “Fairytale Of New York” is one of the first songs that comes to mind.

It’s hard to imagine the Christmas holidays without The Pogues.

39. “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel

Of course, this 80s rock music playlist wouldn’t be complete without Peter Gabriel.

Although his music and “Sledgehammer” often aren’t categorized as classic rock, it made an impact on the 80s music scene and the evolution of alternative rock. 

40. “Girls Girls Girls” by Motley Crue 

In their uplifting rock tune “Girls Girls Girls”, Motley Crue is singing about the rock n roll lifestyle.

If they’re being honest, it seems like they embodied the stereotype of real rock stars.

41. “Walk This Way” by RUN DMC

“Walk This Way” was originally released in the 70s by Aerosmith, but RUN DMC gave it more popularity.

And that rock-rap collaboration was definitely something new and fresh.

42. “Nowhere To Run” by Kiss

“Nowhere To Run” is also considered one of the best rock songs of the 80s.

Besides being noticed in the 80s, Kiss still has many fans across the globe.

43. “Ace Of Spades” by Motörhead

Many would agree that this list of the greatest 80s rock hits wouldn’t be complete without “Ace Of Spades.”

The song refers to gambling; concerning both life and money. 

In other words, it’s about the role of fate in someone’s life.

44. “Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor 

Whether you like this song or not, you have to admit that it has one of the most iconic guitar riffs in music history.

After all, the song got tremendous radio airplay in 1982 and became a chart-topping hit.

45. “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye 

After releasing “Sexual Healing”, Gaye won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance.

It’s a timeless soulful track that affected the 80s music scene and many rock subgenres that evolved during that period.

46. “Cult Of Personality” by Living Colour 

Cult of Personality” is a song by the American rock band Living Colour.

It’s also a term for when a political or religious leader is being exalted and leads with unquestioned authority.

47. “Burnin’ For You” by Blue Oyster Cult 

The previous song reminded us of this 80s rock band.

Blue Oyster Cult’s “Burnin’ For You” is often referred to as one of the most popular 80’s rock songs.

And we can understand why.

48. “Beat It” by Michael Jackson

We don’t have to make a long introduction for this legend.

Michael Jackson certainly made a huge impact on the 80s pop scene, but he also brought some fresh rock elements to his music.

49. “Wanted Dead Or Alive” by Bon Jovi

It seems like Jon Bon Jovi knows how to make memorable rock hits.

“Wanted Dead Or Alive” is definitely an 80s rock classic.

It was released in 1986 on the band’s third studio album.

50. “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty

Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” was released in 1989.

And you can hear in the song’s guitar sound and atmosphere that the 90s are on their way.

51. “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” by Bonnie Tyler 

“Total Eclipse Of The Heart” is one of the most popular 80s songs and a karaoke favorite.

In fact, it was the best-selling single in 1983.

So although it’s not a typical 80s rock song, we simply had to include it in our list.

52. “Rock The Night” by Europe

Besides “Final Countdown”, Europe made another song that made it to the list of the greatest 80s rock hits.

“Rock The Night” was a huge hit when it came out, and it’s actually considered one of Europe’s best songs.

53. “Don’t You Want Me” by Human League 

“Don’t You Want Me” was Human League’s first single in the US.

The song hit number 1 and stayed on the top for three weeks.

So it definitely made an impact on the eighties rock and roll.

54. “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force

Party people, are you ready?

“Planet Rock” was one of the first songs that combined rap and rock.

And it apparently worked.

55. “Photograph” by Def Leppard

Def Leppard released this song on the album produced by Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange, known for working with artists like AC/DC and The Cars.

And it was the first Def Leppard album that reached number 1.

56. “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins

Another 80s gem that doesn’t get old is “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins.

The song is taken from Phil Collins’s debut solo album “Face Value” released in 1981.

57. “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M.

Many describe R.E.M.’s 1987 hit as a fast-paced stream-of-consciousness rant. 

Well, it’s certainly one of the most authentic rock songs from the 80s.

And we dare you to sing it on the next karaoke night.

58. “Summer Of 69” by Bryan Adams 

Bryan Adams released this rock anthem in 1984.

In essence, “Summer Of 69” talks about a dilemma between settling down or trying to become a rock star.

59. “Shout” by Tears For Fears

Although Tears For Fears recorded many synth-pop tunes, they also experimented with new wave and rock sounds.

More importantly, “Shout” is generally one of the biggest hits of the 1980s. 

60. “Edge Of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks

“Edge Of Seventeen” captures the powerful energy of 80s rock and roll.

It’s taken from Stevie Nicks’ debut solo album released in 1981. 

And it undoubtedly withstands the test of time.

80s Rock Songs – Final Thoughts 

And that’s it!

The 1980s was clearly a decade full of great music, and this list is a nice reminder of that.

At the end of the day, most of the songs we mentioned in this article are still played and loved today. 

Similar Playlists:

Best 80s Songs

Best Rock Love Songs

Best 70s Rock Songs

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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