Synthpop goes to the movies

Looking for something to watch during self isolation? These recent movies feature synthpop in crucial ways.

This Is Not Berlin

Synthpop ruled the soundtracks of the ’80s. These famous songs from the movies need no introduction: “If You Leave,” “Don’t You Forget About Me,”  “A View to a Kill,” “Cry Little Sister,” and many, many more.

When ’80s nostalgia kicked in, it meant a welcome return of synthpop music in the movies. A number of recent films have explored the ’80s post-punk landscape or featured synthpop tunes in crucial scenes.

This Is Not Berlin (2019)

This must-see movie is about two teenagers in 1986 who discover the goth-industrial club scene in Mexico City. A main character is in a synthpop band that plays original music, and the soundtrack also features classics of the era from Joy Division, Clan of Xymox, and Visage.

The Guest (2014)

This darkly violent thriller follows a veteran returning from the war in Afghanistan. The official soundtrack includes Love & Rockets, Clan of Xymox, and Sisters of Mercy. Additional music heard in the movie includes a couple of songs by Front 242 and even Hocico.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)

Netflix’s weird choose-your-own-adventure movie is about a video game programmer in 1984. He listens to several synthpop classics on his headphones, including songs by Depeche Mode, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Eurythmics, and Thompson Twins.

Atomic Blonde (2017)

Atomic Blonde is a Cold War spy thriller starring Charlize Theron as a British spy in 1989. The official soundtrack is stacked with synthpop classics: “Behind the Wheel,” “Major Tom,” “Blue Monday,” “I Ran (So Far Away),” etc.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Call Me By Your Name is a coming-of-age romantic drama set in Italy in 1983. The soundtrack is not heavy on synthpop though it does feature star Armie Hammer dancing awkwardly to The Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way” at two crucial moments in the movie. The classic song has since become synonymous with the movie.

Ready Player One (2018)

This big-budget Steven Spielberg movie is a big, dumb movie about virtual reality games in the distant future. The soundtrack may be the best thing about it. The trailer features a remix of Depeche Mode’s “World in My Eyes,” and the movie itself includes songs by Tears for Fears, A-ha, New Order, and Blondie.

Worried About the Boy (2010)

This is the oldest movie on this list, but I just recently watched it. It’s a cheaply made biopic about Boy George that covers his time in the punk and New Wave scenes before making it big with Culture Club. Steve Strange of Visage is a main character, and the soundtrack features Bowie, OMD, Soft Cell, and Ultravox. You can watch the entire movie on Youtube.

Sing Street (2016)

The director of Once made this charming movie about Irish kids in the ’80s who start a band to impress girls. The soundtrack includes Duran Duran and The Cure, and there’s a key moment when the main character attempts to sing A-ha’s “Take On Me.”

End of the Century (2019)

This romantic drama set in Barcelona is about two men who spend the day together and realize they met 20 years earlier. Like Call Me By Your Name, it features a synthpop classic at a crucial moment. During their first night together, they dance to A Flock of Seagulls’ “Space Age Love Song.”

And Then We Danced (2019)

This movie is still playing in indie cinemas, so you may have to put it on your to-see list. But I wanted to mention it because I’m thrilled that Kite’s classic song “Johnny Boy” is featured so prominently in the trailer. The movie is about a traditional German dance student who falls for a rebellious new colleague.

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