Plenty of movies come with original music. Most have a score, and some also recruit popular artists to write songs specifically for the movie. These movie songs are often featured in the film itself or played over the closing credits. When these songs are great, they enhance the films that they're a part of. They create a larger mood that enhances the experience of watching the film.
Many of the most iconic films ever made came with songs that you could listen to afterward. There were also great songs written for movies that couldn't live up to them. The songs on this list have stood the test of time. They've proven that songs written for movies don't have to be corny or hacky. They can work perfectly on their own, and enhance the movies they were written for. Here are 17 of the best movie songs.
8 Mile hasn't exactly been forgotten, but "Lose Yourself" definitely has a more lasting legacy than the film it's from. That's because it works just as well when it's been stripped away from the movie. In context, it's a moment when Eminem's Jimmy realizes he has to make his own way.
Outside of the film, "Lose Yourself" has become an anthem of empowerment. It's perfect for warmups before a game, or as a track to listen to while you workout. Eminem wrote a song that transcended 8 Mile. This is the best case scenario for a movie song.
"Iris" is one of the many movie songs that ultimately transcended the movie it was from. It was originally written for City of Angels, a Nicholas Cage movie that not many people remember. "Iris" has endured, though, thanks to it's soaring, dramatic chorus.
The song's quiet, moody verses work in sharp contrast to the choruses, which are heightened and filled with emotion. The melodies and instrumentation throughout are melodramatic without feeling cheesy, and the vocals are piercing and perfectly raw. It's the kind of song that was meant for a sweeping, romantic epic.
Titanic is one of the highest-grossing films of all time, and it brought a huge movie song with it. "My Heart Will Go On" is as dramatic and epic as the movie it accompanies. Only Celine Dion had the kind of power to deliver such an earnest, powerful ballad about love and loss.
Titanic is a great movie, but it's not particularly subtle. Its power comes from its ability to completely defy the cynicism that powers so much of pop music. Much like "My Heart Will Go On," it's entirely earnest and filled with feeling, and it's all the better for it.
Kenny Loggins had the market cornered on great movie songs in the 1980s. He's the only man with two entries on this list. With "Danger Zone," the song he wrote for Top Gun, Loggins perfectly captured the masculine energy at the center of that film.
"Danger Zone" is an exciting song, but it also feels a little bit edgy. It's a song meant to be played as pilots prepare for flight. "Danger Zone" is a perfect pop concoction and a great movie song. You can listen to it without the context of Top Gun, or as part of the larger experience of watching the movie. Either way, it's terrific.
Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing is a great film. It's improved by the presence of "Fight the Power," which reinforces the philosophy of defiance that many of the film's characters possess. Do the Right Thing is a movie about the complex, ever-changing racial relationships.
"Fight the Power" is an anthem of resistance. It's a reminder that oppression is everywhere, and that power is often wielded by the wrong people. Do the Right Thing is still a powerful, potent movie today. "Fight the Power" is the only song that could do that smart, ambitious movie the justice it deserves.
Simon and Garfunkel famously wrote all of the music for The Graduate, including "Mrs. Robinson." The song actually has a specific tie-in to the movie, which is about a young man who has an affair with a much older woman named Mrs. Robinson.
It helps, of course, that the song works completely on its own. It's got an infectious rhythm and stands out from most of Simon and Garfunkel's songs because it's so upbeat. It hides a layer of sadness within it, though, one that's perfectly in line with the film. "Mrs. Robinson" is a song about aging and loss, and it's also filled with infectious hooks.
Even those totally immersed in film history may not know what Blue Hawaii is. Elvis Presley starred in many films, and not all of them are worth remembering. Even casual music fans know "Can't Help Falling in Love," though. It's an iconic movie song that most people don't know is a movie song.
"Can't Help Falling in Love" is one of Elvis's best, most beautiful songs. It's a ballad that has real feeling, and it's lasted the test of time. There are a few songs that can instantly bring tears to a person's eyes. "Can't Help Falling in Love" is exactly that kind of song.
Once is a tender, intimate movie about two musicians who fall in love. They work on and perfect "Falling Slowly" together, and the song matches the quiet intensity of their relationship.
The song is sung in a small music shop, but it contains the kind of beauty that can't be hidden. "Falling Slowly" is a perfect love song. It's soft and mellow, but it contains deep wells of feeling. Once is a great movie, and "Falling Slowly" is a great movie song. There are few songs written for the screen that work better both in context of the film and outside of it than this one.
"Ghostbusters" is one of the silliest songs ever written, but yes, fine, you probably knew it was always tied to the movie. The words are utter nonsense, but they're perfectly suited to the film they were written for. Ray Parker Jr. seems so enthusiastic about busting ghosts that it's hard not to want to join him.
The song doesn't have to be as well-produced or catchy as it is, but that's what's allowed it to last. There aren't many songs this ridiculous that have survived years and years, and that's because it is great to listen to. Movie songs should fit the movies they're written for, and "Ghostbusters" does that like a glove.
It helps that many of the songs on this list are from truly iconic movies. I'd like to think that occasionally, the songs are what put these movies over the top. In the case of "The Power of Love," the song certainly didn't hurt.
As a song, it's very much of its moment. It's filled with '80s synths and plenty of power chords, but it's also incredibly joyful. It's the kind of song that works perfectly inside a movie that's pleasant, warm, and just a little silly. "The Power of Love" is all about good feelings, and that's why it works so well with Back to the Future.
Rocky movies follow a pretty well-known formula. Each installment has at least one training montage that shows us that Rocky is ready for his next fight. For Rocky III, they had a song specially written for that montage. That song was "Eye of the Tiger," one of the most iconic, inspirational movie songs ever created.
"Eye of the Tiger" is all about proving that you have what it takes to succeed. It's by a band called Survivor, and it shows. There are few songs more perfectly suited to Rocky's universe. He's a perpetual underdog, and it's his ability to keep on fighting that allows him to succeed.
Footloose has one of the oddest movie premises of all time. It's set in a town where dancing is illegal. In order to convince the town that dancing is necessary, they certainly needed some great dancing music. That's where Kenny Loggins and "Footloose" come in.
"Footloose" is a rock song filtered through a pop sensibility. It's a perfect song to dance to, in part because of the numerous guitar licks and booming drums. It's catchy and infectious, and the perfect song for a movie about illegal dancing. "Footloose" is a better argument for dancing than most songs, and that's why it's suited to Footloose.
The Bee Gees were an incredibly popular group in the mid-'70s, but the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack was their crowning achievement. There are a number of iconic Bee Gees songs on that soundtrack, but "Stayin' Alive" has had the most staying power.
In the film, it comes at a moment of reinvention for the central character. Even devoid of that context, though, "Stayin' Alive" is a prime example of the disco era. It's infectious pop, complete with a driving beat that's easy to dance to. The Bee Gees were one of the defining bands in disco, and "Stayin' Alive" was their crowning achievement.
Whitney Houston's acting career wasn't as successful as her singing career, but that's a high bar to clear. When she starred in The Bodyguard, she also lent her voice to the soundtrack. In the process, she created one of her most iconic songs.
"I Will Always Love You" is an outstanding ballad because it's so dynamic. It starts at almost a whisper, and it slowly builds into one of the most beautiful songs you've ever heard. Whitney Houston's voice was unparalleled, and "I Will Always Love You" shows you why. It's almost like a magic trick, and it's remembered that way.
The most recent entry on this list, and also one of the best, "Shallow" is perfectly structured to fit Bradley Cooper's directorial debut. It's a euphoric pop-rock ballad that suits the voices of both Bradley and co-star Lady Gaga.
The moment when it's spontaneously performed onstage is the film's high-point. It's when Lady Gaga's Ally proves that she's a star, and when the film proves that it deserves to be taken seriously. A Star is Born is great throughout, but "Shallow" will be a huge part of its legacy. It's a truly great song, both inside and outside of the film.
"Flashdance" is not a perfect song, and Flashdance is not a perfect movie. Even so, it's hard to deny the song's infectious energy. It's filled with all of the bombast that characterized the '80s, and all of the energy too.
"Flashdance" is a song of triumph and emotion. It's so filled with both of those feelings that it can be overwhelming to listen to. Even so, "Flashdance" serves as a remarkably good reminder of what music was like when "Flashdance" was released. It was silly, for sure, but also a little profound in its silliness. This was a time when music was less self-conscious and sometimes, it was the better for that.
In his heyday, Eddie Murphy made a lot of movies. It's no surprise, then, that not all of them are particularly memorable. Boomerang is a fairly forgettable film, except for the fact that it gave us "End of the Road."
This Boyz II Men song featured a soaring chorus. It's the kind of soulful, quiet R&B that we don't get very much of today. "End of the Road" is focused almost completely on the vocal harmonies of the group, and it became one of their most iconic songs. Most people don't even realize that it was originally written for Eddie's romantic comedy.
Black Panther was an instant phenomenon upon its release. Before it even hit theaters, though, its soundtrack, which comes from rapper Kendrick Lamar, was already proving formidable. Every song on the album is great, but "All the Stars" is the standout track.
It plays over the movie's credits, and with good reason. It has a beauty that sticks with you, and Kendrick's verses are excellent. The power vocals form SZA feel perfectly in-step with the world that Black Panther created. One of the year's best films deserved a soundtrack that could match it, and with help from Kendrick Lamar, it found one.