The 80s was a dark time for brainy kids when being called a geek or nerd was one of the worst insults out there. Weird Science, Real Genius, Revenge of the Nerds, and many other films helped change the way people felt about brilliant minds. Smart kids everywhere were suddenly less uncool, but they needed a place to go from there. When Hackers came out in 1995, it changed everything we thought we knew about who was sitting in front of a computer. It felt like the future. These characters were fun, attractive, savvy, and street smart, plus they had excellent background music. More importantly, they had computer skills and a rogueish attitude that spoke to rebellious youth. Undoubtedly this film alone is responsible for millions of today’s computer programmers and IT specialists’ career choices. We’re ranking all the songs from the Hackers Soundtrack, and they’re just as good today as they were almost thirty years ago.
14. Good Grief by Urban Dance Squad
Urban Dance Squad is incredibly underrated. Good Grief is a great angry living-in-dystopia song with an even better guitar riff. It’s not hard to see how this song fits well in an ultramodern, forward-thinking 90’s movie like Hackers. Although this isn’t our favorite song by UDS, they undeniably influenced a whole generation of music.
13. Communicate by Plastico
Communicate is a little bit too apropos and on the nose for a movie that is literally about tapping into data streams and passing out hidden information. Plastico does a wonderful job with this song, which reminds us subtly of Front 242. Nevertheless, the minimal lyrics and overtly obvious intentions scored this song lower on our list than some of the more lyrically subtle tunes.
12. Phoebus Apollo by Carl Cox
Anyone who was fortunate enough to watch the original MTV back in the days right after Video Killed The Radio Star will remember delightful offbeat music videos like Carl Cox’s Venus Apollo. The only reason this marvelously nostalgic song is so low on our list is its use in the movie wasn’t exactly a standout performance.
11. Heaven Knows by Squeeze
Heaven Knows is a lovely, mellow song for a calm mood. The same qualities that make this tune enjoyable landed it outside the top ten on this list. Although it’s the sound that ends the entire film, the slow, ultra-classic rock ballad feel isn’t what we wanted from this glimpse into our future
10. Open Up by Leftfield
Open Up from Leftfield’s Leftism album sounds like a song a computer composed as a dance song for clubs. The sound is amusingly electronic while the singer’s voice feels slightly out of place but in a good way. The lyrics are soulful and angry, with statements like “burn Hollywood Burn.”
9. Connected by Stereo MCs
Connected by Stereo MCs is everything we needed in a radio smash hit from the mid-1990s. The upbeat almost funk is perfectly paired with well-composed lyrics about our interconnection and how they can harm us for an electronic hip hop sound that everyone wants to bop to. The song ‘Connected’ is about human beings and the lack of connection there is between anything today. It’s about the way everyone tries to categorize everything. The way every race is trying to separate from each other.”
8. Eyes, Lips, Body by Ramshackle
Fans often debate the exact category to put Eyes, Lips, Body into. Although the song is decidedly breakbeat, it’s easy to see how people trace the roots of dubstep to songs like this. The subtlety in the bassline is a thing of beauty that predates modern dubstep.
7. The Joker by Josh Abrams
The Joker by Josh Abrams is the sort of slow melody we wanted for this soundtrack. This is a trippy beat with an electronic, cyber influence and simple looped lyrics that sample Neil Armstrong from the moon landing. Sometimes less is more, and The Joker is an expert example of that.
6. One Love by The Prodigy
Absolutely everyone who ever saw the film Hackers will instantly associate this song with the movie. Something about it captures the 90’s high-tech style in music form. It simultaneously feels like computers, underground club scenes, video game arcades, and hacking the planet.
5. Cowgirl by Underworld
Cowgirl by Underworld has been sampled more times than we can count. The hypnotic, repetitive lyrics are an experience unto themselves. Meanwhile, the backup synth, drums, and tambourine is all the song needed to achieve a strange yet unforgettable sound, then the extended intro ends, and Underworld kicks up the complexity.
4. Original Bedroom Rockers by Kruder and Dorfmeister
This funky techno sound is what you’d imagine in the background of a leisurely stroll through some neon futuristic city on a calm spring night. There’s a sensual element here bringing warmth to the otherwise electro-pop sound. Original Bedroom Rockers is the sort of song you could slide into any modern soundtrack during one of the sultry moments.
3. The Richest Junkie Still Alive by Machines Of Loving Grace
If you didn’t listen to Machines of Loving Grace and songs like The Richest Junie Still Alive, did you really live through the 1990s? It’s hard to imagine the grunge era without this band and sound. The bass and guitar alone are enough to give you flashbacks.
2. Halcyon & On & On by Orbital
Halcyon & On & On was incredibly popular. Hackers wasn’t the only movie to use this quite deceptive song. Mortal Kombat fans will recognize it from the end of the original MK movie, and so will kids who grew up watching Mean Girls. The serenity at the beginning gives way to a dance-worthy beat that you could hear in any coffee house or club in the 90s. This strange song won numerous awards, but the history behind it is what makes it so exceptional. As Sidney-Yaeko explains, “In 1993, Orbital released a more “melodic and upbeat” version of “Halcyon,” which they named “Halcyon + On + On,” after Ariston washing machine company’s slogan, “Ariston + on + on.” This version of the song surpassed the original version in popularity…” and that’s the tamest part of this odd song’s history.
1. Voodoo People by The Prodigy
In a film and soundtrack packed with outstanding electronic music, Voodoo People is king. This song had to top our list with a sound that still smacks of the futuristic twenty-eight years later. If this song came out yesterday, it would still give us a sense of tomorrows yet to come in a high-tech society we can only dream of.
If you haven’t heard the Hackers Soundtrack, then you missed out on something so quintessentially 90’s we can’t describe it for you. This is one album that simply must be experienced in person. Not only is Hackers packed with superb music, but all of the singers and bands that contributed have much more to offer when you’re done with this list. After almost thirty years, few soundtracks can still sound futuristic, but this collection manages it beautifully. Please don’t take our word for it, though. Listen for yourself.