Some months back we did a post Enhancing Film – Soundtracks where we listed our favorite movie soundtracks. It’s one of our favorites because it merges two of our favorite things: music and movies. Music is often an important piece of making a great film. We thought we would take a shot at a few of our favorite songs in films. There are so many to choose from, we could probably do hundreds, but let’s stick with 20 and maybe a couple bonus ones.
Big movie soundtracks and huge hit singles from the movies seems to be mostly a thing of the past outside maybe A Star is Born or a Disney flick, so my list is mostly a trip in the Way-Back Machine. I bypassed a lot of the big ones everyone else loves, “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic, or “I Will Always Love You” from The Bodyguard (Have to pick movies I like right?). I picked songs that were either used really well or I really liked in the film, some enhanced it and some just fit.
- “I Can Dream About You”, Dan Hartman (Streets of Fire) – Totally out of place with the other songs in the film, but it’s a hit single and fits for an opening band.
- “The End”, The Doors (Apocalypse Now) – Ironically this plays at the beginning of the film when Martin Sheen actually cuts himself. Just sets the tone.
- “The Porpoise Song”, The Monkees (Vanilla Sky) – Trippy song in a trippy film, typically Monkee songs wouldn’t fit in most films but this one does in this underrated film.
- “Stuck in the Middle With You”, Steeler’s Wheels (Reservoir Dogs) – Tarantino always good with music, hits this one out of the park as Michael Madsen dances to this while using torture.
- “Save Me”, Aimee Mann (Magnolia) – Anderson also does a lot with music and Aimee Mann did most of the soundtrack including this masterpiece which says a lot about the characters in this film.
- “Crazy for You”, Madonna (Visionquest) – Madonna no stranger to movie music sings one of her best ballads in this high school wrestler meets older girl underrated gem of a film. Also, a pretty solid soundtrack.
- “No Easy Way Out”, Robert Tepper (Rocky IV) – I know Eye of the Tiger gets props for the 3rd film but I prefer Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out”, not as clichéd and it’s a great song montage in a crazy film.
- “Don’t You Forget About Me”, Simple Minds (The Breakfast Club) – OK, so I did pick one giant one. It closes out the film and it’s a true hit. Amazing that Simple Minds did not want to originally do this song.
- “The King of Wishful Thinking”, Go West (Pretty Woman) – Huge fan of Go West and without this song, they may have been forgotten about. Thank you to Paul Rudd and Jimmy Fallon for creating the wacky remade shot for shot video.
- “The Moment of Truth”, Survivor (Karate Kid) – Survivor is king of the inspirational movie fight songs and this one is my favorite made me want to be Daniel and start crane kicking everyone into next year.
Bonus: “Duel of the Fates”, John Williams, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – Not a true “song” more of a piece of music (that’s why it’s in the bonus, can’t envision a post on classical film scores) but no piece of music fits a scene more than this one. It’s literally the only redeeming quality of the film, John Williams and the Darth Maul fight scene.
MG: Lots of good songs on here, starting with one of my favorites: “I Can Dream About You” from Streets of Fire. I barely remember the film itself, but another great track from it is “Deeper and Deeper” by The Fixx. The use of “The End” in Apocalypse Now was epic and visionary – it wasn’t common at the time to use already-released songs in films, especially from a huge band like The Doors. “No Easy Way Out” is a good call – a lesser known track, and it fits in well with the footage. (By the way, I have been meaning to bring the idea of best movie scores to you, so try to start envisioning it).
I recently called out the Best Song award in our post We Hate The Oscars, because for whatever reason putting original songs in films is rarely done anymore. I can’t figure out why, as good songs in movies both enhance the entertainment, and also work to promote one another. This was especially true after music videos exploded in the 80s. It was practically a rite of summer to see the first music video, usually in May, from an upcoming summer blockbuster. Anyway, enough of the lamenting of the past: here are 10 of my favorite movie tracks. By the way, I’m partial to songs that have lyrics that tie into the film.
- “Batdance”, Prince (Batman) – Prince did a whole album of songs, but they were sparsely used in the film. “Batdance” is a funky tune that was the perfect promotional vehicle for this first of the hugely successful comic book films.
- “I Will Remember You”, Sarah McLachlan (The Brothers McMullen) – This song has far outlasted the film. Remember when Ed Burns was supposed to be the next big director?
- “For Your Eyes Only”, Sheena Easton (For Your Eyes Only) – There had to be at least one Bond song on our lists. This is still my favorite Bond film. Bonus points for sharing the film’s title AND Sheena Easton was in the opening credit sequence.
- “Back In Time”, Huey Lewis and the News (Back to the Future) – A much better fit lyrically to the film than the overplayed “Power Of Love” from the soundtrack.
- “Shitlist”, L7 (Natural Born Killers) – This song plays from a jukebox in a brutal scene where Juliette Lewis beats the shit out of a sexist pig that harasses her. She even yells out “You made my shitlist!” as she’s stomping the guy into the floor.
- “Blaze Of Glory”, Jon Bon Jovi (Young Guns II) – Another song whose popularity has probably outlasted the film. I liked this film at the time but maybe should avoid watching it again now.
- “Down To Earth”, Peter Gabriel (Wall-E) – This is still my favorite Pixar film, and this song sounds like it was written with the film’s story line in mind. Gabriel’s music has been in a number of films and TV shows (see Virtuosity – actually don’t).
- “Maniac”, Michael Sembelo (Flashdance) – Way better than “What A Feeling”, the more widely recognized track from this film. I was too young to watch Flashdance when it came out due to the nudity, loved this song on the radio though.
- “I’ve Seen It All”, Bjork & Peter Stormare (Dancer In The Dark) – Not a pop song, and likely forgotten by most, but I bet you remember the swan dress Bjork wore to the Oscars when this song was nominated in 2001.
- “Against All Odds”, Phil Collins (Against All Odds) – Had to get one more movie title track on here. I didn’t like this in the 80s, but love it now. Hard to believe it lost the Best Song Oscar in 1984 (to “I Just Called To Say I Love You”, by Stevie Wonder). Footloose and Ghostbusters were also nominated that year. Tough competition.
Bonus: For my bonus, I will also reference The Phantom Menace, believe it or not, with “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “The Saga Begins” (a parody of Don McLean’s “American Pie”). No, it wasn’t in the film or on the soundtrack, but it was released just after the film came out, and, along with the video, helped to promote it. Legend has it Yankovic had to write most of the song from internet spoilers, as Lucasfilm would not let him see an advance screening.
DJ: I was huge fan of the Batman soundtrack, the lesser known Prince and Sheena Easton song “Arms of Orion” was great. Ed Burns, right, Jesus what happened to him? I should have put a Bond film on here, although “For Your Eyes Only” is great, “Live and Let Die” is better mostly because you hear the music throughout the film, it reallys adds to the film. I love Young Guns II, I can’t agree with you there, and I know its probably not a great film but Blaze of Glory is awesome. I loved the song “Against All Odds” still do, the music video made me want to see the film, it looked amazing, sadly the film not as good as the song.