Music is just as much a part of the cinematic experience as the visuals. Since the dawn of film, music has played a huge part in the experience of cinema. Back in the days of silent films, when there were no speeches for characters to rely on, all we had was the score. Some songs even transcend the movie they're attached to. And this list of songs have done just that.
20. 'We Are Sex Bob-Omb' By Beck — Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
A movie based on a popular graphic novel by Bryan Lee O'Malley, this intro track does a great job of telling us exactly what we're in for: fuzzy guitar, video game references, and lots of songs written by Beck. As for the track itself, it's a perfect storm of loud guitar and punishing bass, not to mention its nonsensical lyrics.
19. 'If You Leave' By OMD — Pretty In Pink
John Hughes movies are a goldmine for all the best the '80s had to offer, and this track is a prime example. British new wave band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark crafted this one especially for coming-of-age rom-com Pretty in Pink. It's a perfect pop song that encapsulates the very essence of the characters, thanks to singer Paul Humphrey's lazy, almost melancholic delivery, the stirring strings and aching synth section.
18. 'Vindicated' By Dashboard Confessional — Spider-Man 2
What is there to say about this film and its lead track? Not only is Sam Raimi's second #Spidey film the best narrative web weaved for the character, but also its most emotional, well-matched by the profound songwriting and vocals of Chris Carrabba. This song is so good that Carabba rereleased it as a bonus track on Dashboard Confessional's 2006 album Dusk and Summer. It's opening lyrics — "Hope dangles on a string" — work almost like a story, something you'll notice throughout this list.
17. 'Falling Slowly' By Glen Hansard/Markéta Irglová — Once
Excuse me while I wipe the tears from my eyes. This is a gorgeous song that rightfully won an Oscar for Best Original Song. Hansard's gentle gruff mixed with Irglová's thoughtful piano not only tear out your heartstrings, but make you think this might be the definitive soundtrack to falling in love. Our vagabond storyteller and his quiet companion may very well make you believe in love. Check out the documentary about making the music to this film, entitled The Swell Season.
16. 'Gangsta's Paradise' By Coolio — Dangerous Minds
Raise your hand if you've seen Dangerous Minds starring Michelle Pfeiffer. OK, now raise your hand if you know this song. Guarantee you more hands went up the second time. Regardless, this track is great. Not only are Coolio's rhymes tight, but the Stevie Wonder sample is unique. Often the best movie songs connect with the film, and this one does just that (sorta). The music video features the film's star Pfeiffer, but like I previously said, who remembers the flick? This was later released in November 1995 on Coolio's record of the same name. Also, the "Weird Al" Yankovic parody is straight up amazing.
15. 'Holiday Road' By Lindsey Buckingham — National Lampoon's Vacation
Known as the singer/guitarist in the ultra-successful Brit-American rock group Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey Buckingham has written many great tunes over the course of his long career. However, this one — written for the National Lampoon's Vacation soundtrack and used in two of its sequels — might be his most memorable movie moment of all. Can you imagine any of those films without this earworm? No, you cannot, because they are as much a part of the movie as Chevy Chase. Even the 2015 reboot relied heavily on the nostalgia of both the original movie and this song!
14. 'Ghostbusters' By Ray Parker Jr. — Ghostbusters
Not only is #Ghostbusters one of the best comedies ever created, but Ray Parker Jr.'s theme is just unbelievably catchy. Much in the same way that some of these songs are independent of their films, this song is completely engrained in the legacy of the classic comedy it was written for. With an infectious horn section and shouty chorus, everyone now knows exactly who to call when something weird happens and it don't look good.
13. 'Danger Zone' By Kenny Loggins — Top Gun
Maverick said he felt the need, the need for speed — and that speed was surpassed on the highway to the danger zone! There's no better homoerotic '80s pilot film than Top Gun, and no better homoerotic '80s pilot movie anthem that can trump this song. Written by Italian composer Giorgio Moroder, songwriter Tom Whitlock, and performed by beardy pinup Kenny Loggins, with its killer synth and totally '80s 'tude, this is one highway you won't mind being stuck on.
12. 'Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head' By B.J. Thomas — Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid
Perhaps the weirdest entry on this list, just go ahead and watch this scene above. Tandem bike riding? It feels out of place when taken out of context of the film. Nonetheless this track, written by Hal David and the legendary Burt Bacharach, won the Oscar for Best Original Song and has gone on to be a ditty that transcends its movie. All that despite the film being a damn classic that starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford? It must be good.
11. 'Eye Of The Tiger' By Survivor — Rocky III
When it comes to cinematic epic-ness, the #Rocky franchise has it down pat. With its various sports training montages and sequences, there's no series that can match the consistency and quality of Sylvester Stallone's boxing masterpiece. Here we have the biggest and best example of the awesomeness the Italian Stallion and his iconic character brought to the table. And in its third installment, they got it right with this Oscar-nominated Survivor jam!
10. 'The Power Of Love' By Huey Lewis And The News — Back To The Future
Appearing in the first movie in the Back to the Future trilogy, this Huey Lewis and the News track does not connect to the events of the film but instead works as a track that sounds fitting for a mid-'80s film. Lewis himself has stated he suspects Marty McFly's favorite band would be his. Not being a huge fan of Huey or the News, (perhaps I'm just too square to be hip), even I can get down to this track.
9. 'Stayin' Alive' By The Bee Gees — Saturday Night Fever
Disco sucks, but this song sure doesn't. Whenever we hear this familiar driving rhythm and falsetto harmonies, we automatically get transformed to a place where a young, swaggering John Travolta with perfectly coiffed hair walks home with a gallon of paint. In what could be one of the most iconic songs on my list, this '70s classic is one of the few tracks that not only perfectly encapsulates its film, but also its period in time.
8. 'The Wrestler' By Bruce Springsteen — The Wrestler
The Boss does his best to match Mickey Rourke's impassioned performance, and he almost succeeds. There's a lot to be said for what the song's almost minimalist approach does to evoke that response from the listener. Springsteen also illustrates that like Randy "The Ram" Robinson, an old dog can still learn some new tricks. You can feel the swell of emotion permeating through that lump in your throat.
7. 'Live And Let Die' By Paul McCartney — Live And Let Die
Perhaps the best James Bond theme for a subpar #JamesBond film. This Roger Moore-era opener is from former Beatle Paul McCartney and his band Wings. Its slow-building intro crescendos into a rush of beautiful noise. Many will point to Adele's "Skyfall" as the best Bond theme, but those people are also probably all still in elementary school. McCartney really seemed to get Moore's Bond, and this song is how you can tell.
6. 'Don't You (Forget About Me)' By Simple Minds — The Breakfast Club
I mean, this song is like the entirety of the '80s rolled into one. First released on The Breakfast Club soundtrack about a week before it was released as a single, this was Simple Minds' biggest US chart hit. When you think about really great movie endings — that final scene of Judd Nelson fist pumping the air in a freeze frame — well, you can't get much more anthemic than that. Likewise, John Hughes movies are always a great home for fantastic music.
5. 'Save Me' By Aimee Mann — Magnolia
Oh, man! Not only is Magnolia one of those rip-your-heart-out kind of movies, but that's also the message of this song. It's almost as if the film was built around the placement of this song within its narrative — classic Paul Thomas Anderson. While Mann was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song, she lost out to Phil Collins and his cartoon monkeys.
4. 'Fight The Power' By Public Enemy — Do The Right Thing
Written for and at the request of director Spike Lee for his 1989 masterpiece Do the Right Thing, this song was later released on Public Enemy's 1990 magnum opus Fear of a Black Planet. Its message about standing up against oppression matches that of Lee's film, and the music video also mirrors the film's tone — manic and full of revolution. Chuck D's vocals brutalize the verses and Flavor Flav's hype keeps the whole thing moving. Tell me this track doesn't make you wanna start a rebellion all your own, and of course fight the power at be.
3. 'Miss Misery' By Elliott Smith — Good Will Hunting
You know what sucks? Losing an Oscar to Celine freakin' Dion! That's exactly what happened to Elliott Smith. At the 70th Academy Awards in 1998, the former Heatmiser frontman lost Best Original Song to the French-Canadian crooner for her Titanic ode "My Heart Will Go On," which can go suck a lemon because this track is freakin' amazing. Just listen to Smith's dulcet tones as he sings wistfully about a wonderfully melancholic lass, while the lyrics also double as a question of sentimentality. Do you miss misery like you say you do, or is it do you Miss Misery like you say you do?
2. 'Mrs. Robinson' By Simon & Garfunkel — The Graduate
Iconic '60s film featuring a young guy with low self-esteem, a cougar on the prowl, and a soundtrack consisting solely of Simon & Garfunkel. Can anyone imagine this Mike Nichols film without this song? There's something to be said for the way this track juxtaposes the perception we get of Anne Bancroft's character with the description given to us by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.
1. 'Lose Yourself' By Eminem — 8 Mile
In what I'm calling an utter surprise, the top pick is this Eminem Oscar winner for Best Original Song. Honestly, when I made the list I didn't expect this to receive the most votes, and yet it did. This is a great track and universally one of the best ever written for a movie.
So, what songs did I miss? What is your favorite song written for a movie? Let me know in the comments section below.
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[Main image: The Wrestler — Fox Searchlight Pictures]