Back in the ’80s, there few women in rock cooler than Pat Benatar. The combination of her powerhouse vocals and punkish style made her a popular artist on MTV in its earliest days, and she was one of the first women to make it big on the channel. Pat Benatar songs are known for being anthemic and empowering — and when you hear one you can’t help but sing along.
Born Patricia Mae Andrzejewski in New York (the name Benatar came from her first husband), Pat got her start as a nightclub singer in the ’70s and released her debut album, In the Heat of the Night, in 1979.
The next year, her album Crimes of Passion became a major hit, and the way she mixed rock-and-roll swagger with pop catchiness made her an undeniable early ’80s icon. Benatar would continue to release albums throughout the ’80s, winning four Grammys in the process.
In 2022, she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame along with her longtime husband and musical collaborator Neil Giraldo.
Now 70, Benatar hasn’t released an album for 20 years, but she still tours, and the ongoing nostalgia for all things ’80s means she’s never far from our hearts and playlists. Here are 10 of the greatest Pat Benatar songs.
1. “Heartbreaker” (1979)
The song that started it all, “Heartbreaker” was Benatar’s first big hit. The Pat Benatar song mixes hard rock instrumentation with her signature soaring vocals and seductive lyrics about a bad boy who’s “the right kind of sinner.”
Amusingly, “Heartbreaker” was written by British songwriters and Benatar felt the original lyrics had “too many British colloquialisms that an American audience wouldn’t understand,” so she ended up rewriting some of them.
2. “Treat Me Right” (1980)
When Pat Benatar demands to be treated right, you better listen! Her second hit, an impassioned plea to a frustrating lover, made it to number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was used in the soundtrack for the hit 1982 movie An Officer and a Gentleman, starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger.
3. “You Better Run” (1980)
Benatar made “You Better Run,” originally recorded by The Young Rascals in 1966, into an ’80s hard-rock favorite. The music video holds the distinction of being the second-ever video played on MTV, and Benatar would be one of the channel’s most reliable presences in those pivotal early years.
In the video, she sports close-cropped hair, punkish makeup, and a black-and-white striped shirt and leather pants — the tough-girl look and sound, like that of her contemporaries Debbie Harry, Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde, would prove highly influential.
4. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (1980)
Fire away! “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” was Benatar’s first single to hit the top 10, and its catchy riff and sassy lyrics led it to Gold Record status. The song has long been popular at karaoke nights and sports games.
If you see Benatar live these days, don’t expect to hear it, though — she’s said that she’ll no longer play it, as act of protest against gun violence. In a USA Today interview, she acknowledged that the lyrics are “tongue-in-cheek,” but said, “you have to draw the line. I can’t say those words out loud with a smile on my face.”
5. “Fire and Ice” (1981)
“Fire and Ice” is another rockin’ track about a guy who doesn’t give Benatar the respect she deserves. The song won a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, and it’s one of the few early songs she has a co-writer credit on, as a number of her most famous songs were penned by outside songwriters.
6. “Shadows of the Night” (1982)
“Shadows of the Night” was originally written for the soundtrack of the cult 1980 teen movie Times Square but it didn’t end up making the cut. The movie’s loss was Benatar’s gain, and the song became the basis for her most high-concept music video. In the video, set during World War II, she played a riveter dreaming of being a pilot and conquering Nazis.
While Benatar admitted the video “wasn’t tied to the song or the message of the song,” she saw it as a fun opportunity to get creative and make a “four-minute action flick.” The video also features appearances from actors Bill Paxton and Judge Reinhold before they were famous.
7. “Love Is a Battlefield” (1983)
“Love Is a Battlefield” was Benatar’s biggest hit, reaching number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was something of a departure from her previous work, given its poppy production, but embracing new wave sounds paid off big time — you couldn’t turn on MTV in 1983 without seeing Benatar shimmying her way through the iconic music video.
40 years after the song was released, it remains one of the defining hits of the ’80s. In the ’00s, it reached a new audience when it was featured prominently in the beloved rom-com 13 Going on 30. Benatar called the song “a living thing,” saying, “every time it comes in a different incarnation, it enhances what it means to you. It changes the meaning.” The defiant, anthemic quality of “Love Is a Battlefield” makes it one of her most enduring and meaningful works.
8. “We Belong” (1984)
While many of Benatar’s early songs were about love gone wrong, “We Belong” is pure romance. The sweeping hit became one of the ultimate ’80s power ballads. The song even features a children’s choir. In an interview, Benatar acknowledged the popularity of the song at weddings and said, “It’s great to have a wedding song in the arsenal.”
9. “Invincible” (1985)
“Invincible” is one of those Pat Benatar songs that gets you instantly psyched up. Benatar has called the song, which was used as the theme for the movie The Legend of Billie Jean, one of her most empowering. In an interview with Vulture, she said, “I’m the total female-empowerment girl. There’s a whole tone to that — they all know in the audience, and I project and I do it. I send it out to all my sisters always. They can pick for whatever reason how they want to be invincible.”
10. “All Fired Up” (1988)
“All Fired Up” was the final of the hit songs for Pat Benatar. Though she’d release a handful of albums in the ’90s, none of them would reach the ubiquity of her ’80s material. She certainly went out with a bang, delivering a big, dramatic song that would become the namesake for her 1994 greatest-hits album.
It’s been a long time since Pat Benatar’s released new music, and while we’d love to see her do another album, in the meantime we’re always happy to blast her classic ’80s hits!
Read more about your favorite ’80s songs here!