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Kids

Kids

“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” is a 1985 pop song performed by Scottish rock band Simple Minds. The song is best known for being played during the opening and closing credits of the John Hughes film The Breakfast Club. It was written and composed by producer Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff, a guitarist and songwriter from the Nina Hagen band.

Recording historyEdit

Forsey asked Cy Curnin from The Fixx, Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol to record the song, but all three declined; Idol did later perform a cover of it on his 2001 compilation album Greatest Hits. Schiff then suggested Forsey ask Simple Minds who, after refusing as well, agreed under the encouragement of their label, A&M. According to frontman Jim Kerr, the band was reluctant to record the song as they felt they should only record their own material, relenting after persuasion from Kerr’s wife at the time, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, and a phone call from Forsey in which he expressed his admiration for the band. According to one account, the band “rearranged and recorded ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ in three hours in a north London studio and promptly forgot about it.”

Continuing the rock direction recently taken on Sparkle in the Rain but also glancing back at their melodic synthpop past, it caught the band at their commercial peak and, propelled by the success of The Breakfast Club, became a #1 hit in the U.S. and around the world. It is also the band’s only #1 hit on the U.S. Top Rock Tracks chart, staying atop for three weeks. While only reaching #7 in the UK, it stayed on the charts from 1985 to 1987, one of the longest time spans for any single in the history of the chart.

The song did not appear on the band’s subsequent album Once Upon a Time, but it did appear on the 1992 best-of Glittering Prize 81/92. It soon became a fixture of the band’s live sets – with an extended audience participation section during its inclusion on the 2015 tour to promote the band’s Big Music album.

Two versions were created for release. A short version, 4:23 in duration, appeared on the single and the original motion picture soundtrack album of The Breakfast Club. A longer version, 6:32 in duration, was released as a 12″ single. This version contains longer breakdowns and drum fills, a second appearance of the bridge and a longer ending.

John Leland from Spin wrote that “‘Don’t You Forget About Me,’ a romantic and melancholy dance track, therefore cuts ice both in the living room and on the dance floor.”

Music videoEdit

The music video, directed by Daniel Kleinman, takes place on a dancing floor in a dark room with a chandelier, a rocking horse, a jukebox, and television sets displaying scenes from The Breakfast Club. The room gets increasingly cluttered with random objects as the video progresses, up until the last minute. The video on YouTube had been viewed over 94 million times as of January 29, 2018.

Track listingEdit

7″: Virgin / VS749 (UK) Edit

Side one

  1. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – 4:20

Side two

  1. “A Brass Band in Africa” – 5:10

7″: A&M Records / AM-2703 (US) Edit

Side one

  1. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – 4:20

Side two

  1. “A Brass Band in Africa” – 5:10

12″: Virgin / VS749-12 (UK) Edit

Side one

  1. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – 6:32

Side two

  1. “A Brass Band in African Chimes” – 9:22

12″: A&M Records / SP-12125 (US) Edit

Side one

  1. “Don’t You (Forget About Me) (long version)” – 6:32

Side two

  1. “A Brass Band in African Chimes” – 9:22

1988 3″ CD: Virgin / CDT2 (UK) Edit

  1. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – 6:32
  2. “A Brass Band in African Chimes” – 9:22

1988 CD: A&M Records / 75021 2375 2 (US) Edit

  1. “Don’t You (Forget About Me) (live)” – 9:02
  2. “Bass Line” – 4:37
  3. “The American” – 3:33

1990 CD: Virgin / THEME10 (UK) Edit

  1. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – 6:35
  2. “Up On The Catwalk (extended version)” – 7:36
  3. “A Brass Band in African Chimes” – 9:24

Charts and certificationsEdit

Weekly chartsEdit

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Chart (1985) Peak
Position
Australia (Kent Music Report) 6
Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders) 2
Canada (CHUM) 2
Italy (FIMI) 2
South Africa (Springbok Radio) 10
US Cash Box Top 100 1

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Chart (1988) Peak
Position

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Chart (2004) Peak
Position
Chart (2012) Peak
Position
US Rock Digital Songs (Billboard) 41

Year-end chartsEdit

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Chart (1985) Position
Australia (Kent Music Report) 47
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40) 28
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders) 1
Germany (Official German Charts) 23
Italy (FIMI) 6
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40) 8
Netherlands (Single Top 100) 11
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ) 26
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade) 26
US Billboard Hot 100 16
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard) 33
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard) 10
US Cash Box Top 100 12

CertificationsEdit

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See alsoEdit

  • List of number-one singles of 1985 (Canada)
  • List of Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles of the 1980s
  • List of Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles of 1985
  • List of Billboard Mainstream Rock number-one songs of the 1980s
  • List of Dutch Top 40 number-one singles of 1985

ReferencesEdit

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  9. Kids. CHUM.
  10. Kids
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  12. Kids. Cash Box magazine.
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  22. Kids
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  26. Kids. Cash Box magazine.

External linksEdit

  • ] AllMusic: Keith Forsey]
  • Kids

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Template:Simple Minds Template:David Cook

Album: The Breakfast Club Soundtrack (1985)
Charted: 7 1
Get the Sheet Music License This Song 
  • This was featured in the 1985 movie The Breakfast Club. Directed by John Hughes, it featured many members of the “Brat Pack,” including Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, and Judd Nelson. The song is so associated with The Breakfast Club, that it is often used in movies or TV shows any time they reference the movie, often with a parody of the iconic ending shot where Judd Nelson throws his fist in the air (perhaps the most famous freeze-frame in movie history, although Rocky 2, where Rocky and Apollo are frozen mid-punch, is also up there).
    Examples include the TV shows Scrubs, Psych, 30 Rock and Family Guy, and the movies American Pie and Easy A. In the 2001 film Not Another Teen Movie, which even features a cameo by Molly Ringwald, the version in the movie was performed by Sprung Monkey.
  • Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff wrote this song specifically for The Breakfast Club. Forsey, who also co-wrote “Shakedown” for Beverly Hills Cop II and the title song to Flashdance… What a Feeling, was in charge of the music on The Breakfast Club. Schiff had been a guitarist in Nina Hagen’s band and co-wrote one of her biggest songs, “New York / N.Y.”
    Forsey and Schiff wrote a few other songs for the film as well, including “Fire in the Twilight” by Wang Chung and “Didn’t I Tell You” by Joyce Kennedy. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” was the only hit from the soundtrack, but it was a big one, rising to #1 in the US.
  • Simple Minds had been around for five years and developed a strong following in England when this was released. The song was much more bombastic and radio-friendly than their previous material, which alienated some of their core fans, but gave them a breakthrough hit in the US, where it was by far their biggest hit. It is one of the few Simple Minds songs that they didn’t write themselves.
  • According to Keith Forsey, Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music was his first choice to record this song, but Ferry turned it down. Forsey was also a big fan of simple minds, so he tried to get them to record the song by delivering a cassette demo to the band.
    At the time, Simple Minds was gaining traction in the UK, with with three modest hits from their 1984 album Sparkle in the Rain: “Waterfront,” “Speed Your Love To Me” and “Up on the Catwalk.” In the US, however, they had no luck, in large part because their US record company, A&M, didn’t promote them. An A&R guy at the label named Jordan Harris tried to rectify that by having them record this song (The Breakfast Club soundtrack was on A&M), but the band wanted nothing to with it because:
    1) They didn’t like recording songs they didn’t write.
    2) Jim Kerr didn’t like the lyric (especially the “vanity… insecurity” line).
    So why did the band record it? They simply changed their minds. They met with The Breakfast Club director John Hughes and got a screening of the film, which put the lyric in better context. Forsey visited them in Scotland, and they got on well. While there, he convinced them to give it a go, and they recorded the track in a few hours at a studio in London.
  • Jim Kerr didn’t think this song was up to snuff when he heard the demo, but looking back on it, he’s thrilled with its impact on pop culture. “The song and the film are almost iconic to certain generations, especially in America,” he told Songfacts in 2014. “So it’s great when things come together and work so well. It’s been a pleasure to see how much joy that song gives to a lot of people.”
  • This got a ridiculous amount of radio play, partly because it was played on both rock and Top 40 stations. It continues to get played on classic rock, modern rock, and even Top 40 radio stations as a solid recurrent with a huge recognition rating – when songs are tested by stations to determine if audiences like them, this consistently does very well, which keeps it on the air.
  • The prom scene in the 1986 John Hughes movie Pretty in Pink was shot to this song, which might explain why the dancing doesn’t follow the music of the song that was used: “If You Leave” by OMD. Andy McCluskey of OMD told us: “The song had to be 120 BPM cos that’s the tempo of ‘Don’t You Forget about Me,’ which is the track they actually shot the prom scene to. Unfortunately, the editor obviously had no sense of rhythm because they are all dancing out of time in the final film.”
  • The song’s co-writer Keith Forsey took over as drummer for The Psychedelic Furs in 1984 and produced their album Mirror Moves that year. When John Hughes found out that Forsey wrote “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” he delved deeper into The Psychedelic Furs and discovered the group’s 1981 song “Pretty In Pink.” He made that the title song to his next movie, which was released in 1986. This gave The Furs a huge career boost and a surprising hit.
  • Despite the band’s then-popularity in the UK and Europe, back in 1985 Simple Minds remained essentially unknown in the United States. That changed when this song gave them a foothold; their next album, Once Upon a Time (which didn’t include “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”), scored with the #3 hit “Alive And Kicking.” A few minor hits followed in America, but their stronghold remained the UK, where they topped the chart in 1989 with “Belfast Child.”
  • Jim Kerr, the group’s lead singer, was married to Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders when this song came out (they got hitched in 1984 shortly before Simple Minds opened for The Pretenders on a US tour). He was later married to the actress Patsy Kensit, who took up with Liam Gallagher of Oasis after she and Kerr divorced.
  • Molly Ringwald released an album of standards in 2013 called Except Sometimes, which featured a cover of this song. Ringwald wanted to pay tribute to John Hughes and integrate her past by covering the song.
  • In 2005, the punk rock band Yellowcard recorded this live from the MTV Video Music Awards as part of a 20th anniversary special for The Breakfast Club. Clips from the movie were shown during their performance. Suggestion credit:
    Charlie – Las Vegas, NV
  • Season 7 American Idol winner David Cook recorded a cover of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” as the farewell song for the 10th season of the reality television music competition. The song was chosen by American Idol creator and Executive Producer Simon Fuller and made available for sale on March 8, 2011. Cook told The Hollywood Reporter: “When I was approached about that song, my first thought was how iconic it is. Every time I hear that song I think of Judd Nelson on the football field with his fist in the air. How do you make it your own without completely bastardizing the original? It was an interesting experience. I’m extremely happy with the end result. It was a lot of fun to record. We got Kenny Aronoff on drums and Neal came in and helped cut some of the guitars. With Matt Squire’s help – he was on board as a producer – we went in, had fun with it and tried not to worry about the inevitable pressure associated with that song. It was a huge honor.”
  • The song’s “la-la-la-la” coda is a case of a placeholder becoming the actual lyric, as neither Keith Forsey nor Jim Kerr could think of actual words that made sense.
  • The music video was directed by Daniel Kleinman, who also did the clips for Paula Abdul’s “Knocked Out” and Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days.” Oddly, there was no footage from The Breakfast Club in the video, which takes place in a large room filled with the band members and various television monitors. Simple Minds were never huge on MTV, which had moved away from British acts and were more interested in artists like Madonna and Prince. It was radio that made this song huge in the States.
  • The song soundtracked UK catalogue retailer Argos’ 2019 “Book of Dreams” Christmas ad. The commercial celebrates the tradition of circling gifts in the Argos catalogue.

Comments: 38

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From the moment Al Jolson started warbling on screen in 1927, songs in movies have found a treasured place in the popular consciousness. Some of the best film songs – such as ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘Moon River’ and ‘Happy’ – have been written specifically for movies, while some tunes will forever be linked to a film because they sync so wonderfully with the drama (as in Titanic’s love scenes, playing out to Céline Dion singing ‘My Heart Will Go On’), or add vibrancy (The Lion King’s ‘Hakuna Matata’). And some movie songs are just instantly engaging, such as Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbusters theme song.

Here, then, is our pick of the 50 best film songs of all time… but there could easily have been 500. Let us know in the comments section the ones that are your particular favourites.

The Best Film Songs Of All Time

‘Blue Moon’ (Manhattan Melodrama, 1934)

‘Blue Moon’ evolved as a song from the MGM soundtrack-writing system, source of some of the best film songs in their time; Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart tailored the eventual finished version for a Clark Gable film called Manhattan Melodrama. The beautiful lyrics – “Blue moon/You saw me standing alone/Without a dream in my heart/Without a love of my own” – have been sung down the years by most of the greatest singers of popular music, including Elvis Presley, Mel Tormé, Dean Martin and Ella Fitzgerald. The classic love song was also featured in a tribute album called Blue Moon: Rodgers And Hart Covered By The Supremes.

‘Cheek To Cheek’ (Top Hat, 1935)

Russian-Jewish émigré Irving Berlin wrote ‘Cheek To Cheek’ in a single day, on demand, for the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie Top Hat. The song lights up a memorable scene during which a tuxedoed Astaire declares his love for Rogers (dancing elegantly in a feathery white gown). The gorgeous words – “And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak” – and clever dance routine make this one of cinema’s most romantic moments. The song has also been covered numerous times down the years, including by jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong on their 1956 album Ella And Louis.

‘Ol’ Man River’ (Show Boat, 1936)

For a tune to really make its mark among the best film songs it sometimes has to find the right singer. The 1927 Broadway drama Show Boat featured Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s song performed by actors, and, a year later, Paul Whiteman (with Bing Crosby on vocals) had a minor hit with it. But when it was sung in the 1936 film version by Paul Robeson, his moving baritone voice – and edgier interpretation – took the song to a new level.

‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ (The Wizard Of Oz, 1939)

Some songs are the perfect vehicle for a performer’s interpretation and improvisation, and certain numbers are remembered more for the singer than the writer. If you mention ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’, people are more likely to think of Judy Garland’s soaring version for the 1939 film The Wizard Of Oz than the gorgeous work of composers Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg. The song was almost cut from the film, though, because MGM thought the opening Kansas sequence was too long. Thankfully, it was left in and ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ earned its place among history’s best film songs when it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. There have been numerous cover versions since, from artists as diverse as Eric Clapton, John Martyn and Ariana Grande.

‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ (Pinocchio, 1940)

Cliff Edwards, a middle-aged singer known as Ukulele Ike, voices the crow in Dumbo, but his voice is better known for singing the wonderfully sentimental ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ for the Disney classic Pinocchio. The song was written by two giants of film music – Leigh Harline (‘Whistle While You Work’) and Ned Washington (‘High Noon’). Their song for Edwards became a jazz standard, covered by Dave Brubeck and Louis Armstrong, among others. A recent version by Gregory Porter is featured on the Verve album Jazz Loves Disney.

‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ (Buck Privates, 1941)

Who would have thought that a song written for an Abbott and Costello comedy would become a wartime classic? Patty, Maxene and Laverne Andrews based their early style on the close harmonising of The Boswell Sisters, and the public loved it. The Andrews Sisters’ song about the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B survived World War II and was a hit again for Bette Midler in 1973.

‘As Time Goes By’ (Casablanca, 1942)

‘As Time Goes By’ was actually written by Herman Hupfeld for a short-lived 30s Broadway musical, Everybody’s Welcome, but took on a life of its own as one of Hollywood’s best film songs, becoming embedded in the popular musical psyche after it was sung by pianist Dooley Wilson in the Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman movie Casablanca. The same old story, and fight for love and glory, has echoed down the decades since, in versions by Frank Sinatra, Julie London and even Bob Dylan.

‘White Christmas’ (Holiday Inn, 1942)

Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ was on an album of songs from the film Holiday Inn, and the lyrics resonated with thousands of American troops away on duty in the Second World War. ‘White Christmas’ earned songwriter Irving Berlin a 1943 Academy Award and, well beyond being one of the best film songs of all time, it has become the biggest-selling single of all time, racking up sales of 50 million. Crosby’s version – which took only 18 minutes to record – is definitive, but in the decades since, numerous stars have had tried their Yuletide hand, including Bob Marley, Willie Nelson and U2.

‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ (Meet Me in St Louis, 1944)

This started as a dark Christmas song, but when Judy Garland complained that some of Hugh Martin’s lyrics were uncomfortably bleak, he altered them and “Have yourself a merry little Christmas/It may be your last/Next year we may all be living in the past” became “Have yourself a merry little Christmas/Let your heart be light/Next year all our troubles will be out of sight”. The lyrical trick worked, and the song, from the classic Christmas movie Meet Me In St Louis’, has become a standard. Among the numerous cover versions are those by Carpenters, Mel Tormé and, more recently, by Tony Hadley.

‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ (Neptune’s Daughter, 1949)

Another song that made it into the movies only by chance, but which rightly deserves its place among the best film songs of all time, ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ replaced Frank Loesser’s ‘Slow Boat To China’ and became a smash hit, winning an Oscar for Best Original Song. In the movie Neptune’s Daughter, the song – a jokey call-and-response number that Broadway songwriter Loesser used to sing at parties with his wife – was performed by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalbán. Four different duos have had Top 20 hits with different versions, including great bantering ones by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, Ray Charles and Bette Carter, and Dolly Parton and Rod Stewart, in the latter’s tribute album to The Great American Songbook.

‘Mona Lisa’ (Captain Cary, 1950)

When you think of the song ‘Mona Lisa’, 40s jazz bandleader Charlie Spivak is probably not the first singer’s name that comes to mind. But it was the Ukrainian trumpeter who first performed Ray Evans’s lyrics – which started with the title ‘Prima Donna’ – in the little-known 1950 film Captain Carey. Evans and composer Jay Livingston thought it would work as a single for Nat King Cole, and went to his home to persuade him to try it out. They almost failed because a small girl was playing happily and making so much noise that it was difficult for Cole to concentrate on the song. “My daughter, Natalie,” he explained. Luckily, he went ahead and his version was at No.1 for eight weeks.

‘Singin’ In The Rain’ (Singin’ In The Rain, 1952)

When you think of the song ‘Singin’ In The Rain’, you probably don’t think of Oliver Hardy being drenched by a faulty shower nozzle as the tune plays. That was in the 1944 movie The Big Noise. The song had actually been around for 15 years before that – having first appeared in a 1929 film – but songwriter Arthur Freed realised he could make money from his old lyrics, and, as a producer for MGM, he commissioned a musical around his song title. The rest is history, as Gene Kelly’s magnificent song-and-dance version easily turned ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ into one of the world’s best film songs.

‘That’s Amore’ (The Caddy, 1953)

‘That’s Amore’, written by Harry Warren and Jack Brooks, started out as a light-hearted interlude for Dean Martin (poking fun at Italian stereotypes) in the Jerry Lewis comedy The Caddy. But Martin loved the song and it soon became one of his signature songs in concerts, and a quintessential 50s ballad.

‘Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing’ (Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing, 1955)

The song, written by Sammy Cahn for a movie starring William Holden, was originally performed by The Four Aces but has become a recurring number in Hollywood, with versions in movies such as Grease, Private Parts and Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. There was a famous version by Frank Sinatra, while the one Ringo Starr cut for his album Sentimental Journey was arranged by Quincy Jones.

‘Que Será, Será’ (The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1956)

‘Que Será, Será’ was sung by Doris Day in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much. Despite its popularity and status as one of the best film songs in history, Day hated it, saying, “It’s a kiddie song.” But her manager-husband Marty Melcher disagreed and Day relented. She had no idea that the song would become the biggest hit of her career. Evans usually wrote most of the lyrics, while Livingston wrote the tunes, but Evans gave his partner the credit for ‘Que Será, Será’, probably their most enduring hit. “Jay had seen a movie where a family used it as their motto,” he recalled. “He said, ‘Gee, that would be a nice title for a song.’” It won an Oscar and was later used as the theme tune for Day’s own TV show.

‘High Hopes’ (A Hole In The Head, 1959)

This Frank Sinatra cinema vehicle was sung with a children’s choir for the Frank Capra film A Hole In The Head. When Robbie Williams covered the song on his Swings Both Ways Tour in 2014, he performed it around the country with different choirs from the local Stagecoach acting schools. An enduring entry among the best film songs of all time, ‘High Hopes’ was Grammy-nominated and also won an Oscar for best original song.

‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ (Blue Hawaii, 1961)

Elvis Presley’s million-selling hit was written for his movie set in Hawaii. The co-writer of the song, George Weiss, said that when he played a demo of the song to producer Hal Wallis, the latter turned it down saying they wanted “something like ‘Hound Dog’”. Weiss, who also wrote ‘Lullaby Of Birdland’ and ‘What A Wonderful World’, said, “The only person who initially liked the song was Presley himself, who had also created a movie song classic with ‘Jailhouse Rock’. He just happened to overhear it at Graceland as his entourage was sampling a pile of demo tapes for the movie. Elvis was told to ignore a ‘dumb ballad’ but he said, ‘No, I want to do that one in my movie.’ He picked the song. Everyone else turned it down.” There have been numerous cover versions, including by Neil Diamond, Beck and a reggae-style one by UB40.

‘Moon River’ (Breakfast At Tiffany’s, 1961)

Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer had impeccable track records. The former had been responsible for the Pink Panther theme, the latter had provided the words for dozens of films, including ‘Hooray For Hollywood’. Audrey Hepburn’s singing voice was thin and limited in range, though always in tune, so Mancini took a month to compose exactly the right melody to suit the waif-like good-time girl. In the movie, Hepburn sang the song sitting with a guitar on the fire escape of a New York apartment, and the result was charming, forever remembered as one of the best film songs. When a studio executive tried to have the song cut, Hepburn said, “Over my dead body.” Lots of jazz greats have covered it, but other interesting versions include those by Aretha Franklin, Patty Griffin, Elton John, R.E.M. and Morrissey.

‘Days Of Wine And Roses’ (Days Of Wine And Roses, 1962)

Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer were prolific as film songwriting partners, and they contributed the title song to Blake Edwards’ film starring Jack Lemmon. The phrase “days of wine and roses” was taken from a 19th-century English poem. Andy Williams had a hit with the song, which was also covered by Julie London and Wes Montgomery.

‘My Favourite Things’ (The Sound Of Music, 1965)

There were some new songs for the cinema version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical, but once Julie Andrews got hold of them, many became popular classics beyond their placing among the best film songs ever, including ‘My Favourite Things’ and ‘Do-Re-Mi’.

‘Help!’ (Help!, 1965)

Plenty of Beatles songs merit inclusion in this list of the best film songs of all time – including ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ – but the nod goes to ‘Help!’, which was written as the title track to the group’s second movie – a madcap comedy originally mooted for Peter Sellers. The sense of desperation is palpable in lines such as “And now my life has changed in oh-so-many ways/My independence seems to vanish in the haze.” John Lennon told Rolling Stone magazine in 1970, “I meant it. The whole Beatle thing was just beyond comprehension.”

‘To Sir With Love’ (To Sir With Love, 1967)

Sidney Poitier was the main star of a worthy school-based film in which a teacher wins over some inner-city toughs in East London. Lulu, who starred in the film, had a surprise No.1 US hit with the title song. It was co-written by Don Black, a songwriter who had worked on lots of James Bond themes and was a frequent collaborator with John Barry, the soundtrack legend. They both later worked on the music for Out Of Africa.

‘Mrs Robinson’ (The Graduate, 1967)

Paul Simon wrote ‘Mrs Robinson’ for The Graduate, starring Anne Bancroft as Mrs Robinson, a middle-aged woman who seduces the young Dustin Hoffman. Simon and Art Garfunkel’s harmonies are stunning, helping it become one of the best film songs of the decade – if not all time. A famous line asks, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?”; Simon was once asked by his baseball hero, Mickey Mantle, why he had not been name-checked in the song. Simon told him: “It’s about syllables, Mick. It’s about how many beats there are.”

‘Everybody’s Talkin’’ (Midnight Cowboy, 1969)

Mention the name Fred Neil and you may get a blank stare. Yet he wrote one not only one of the best film songs of all time, but one of the most famous songs of the late 20th Century. Folk singer Neil, whose work inspired Bob Dylan, was uneasy at the publicity after Harry Nilsson turned ‘Everybody’s Talkin’’ into a worldwide hit in 1970, following its use as the theme tune for the movie Midnight Cowboy. He fled to Florida (“Going where the weather suits my clothes”) to set up a marine project, and devoted the rest of his life to protecting dolphins. Among the cover versions are those by Stevie Wonder, Glen Campbell and Iggy Pop – and Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy.

‘We Have All The Time In The World’ (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969)

Composer John Barry personally visited a poorly Louis Armstrong to ask him to record ‘We Have All The Time In The World’, a new song for the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The results were not only one of the best Bond themes ever, but one of the best film songs ever, too. Barry said, “It wasn’t the popular choice at the time, because we always used, you know, the Tom Joneses, the Nancy Sinatras. And I said, ‘Look, it’s about a man singing about the September of his years.’ And I thought Louis singing just rung true and loved the idea, there were no arguments. But to work with this guy in the studio, he was the sweetest, humblest guy.”

‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head’ (Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, 1969)

Burt Bacharach and Hal David were working on the music for Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid – in which Paul Newman and Robert Redford play 1890s train robbers – when director George Roy Hill said he wanted something evocative of the Victorian era for a scene where Newman takes a romantic bike ride with Katherine Ross. They ended up producing a million-selling hit for BJ Thomas, who had a cold and sang with a raspier voice than usual on the day of recording. Thomas, incidentally, has said that Bacharach originally composed the melody to fit Bob Dylan’s voice.

‘If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out’ (Harold And Maude, 1971)

Cat Stevens sings about wanting to “be free, be free” in his award-winning soundtrack song for the quirky film Harold And Maude, about a teenager who has an affair with a 79-year-old woman. In 2016, perhaps with no irony, it was used as the music to advertise a Jeep Grand Cherokee. It is one of Stevens’ most underrated songs.

‘Duelling Banjos’ (Deliverance, 1972)

Representing the stirring individual instrumental “songs” that have enriched movies – such as Ry Cooder’s ‘Paris, Texas’ or John Williams’ ‘Promontory’ from Last Of The Mohicans – is this cue from the soundtrack of the Burt Reynolds movie. ‘Duelling Banjos’ was composed in 1955 by Arthur Smith, as a banjo instrumental he called ‘Feudin’ Banjos’, and later covered by bluegrass band The Dillards as ‘Briscoe Declares For Aunt Bee’. Given the title ‘Duelling Banjos’, it was recorded for the unsettling Deliverance by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell, and went to No.2 for a month on the Billboard charts.

‘Live And Let Die’ (Live And Let Die, 1973)

Another Bond theme that takes its place alongside the best film songs of all time, ‘Live And Let Die’ shares the unusual distinction of having been nominated for a Grammy under two different performers. Paul McCartney, who wrote the song, was nominated for his version with the band Wings, which went to No.2 on the US charts. It was one of a number of film themes produced by his old Beatles pal George Martin. A version by Guns N’ Roses was also Grammy-nominated, in 1991.

‘The Way We Were’ (The Way We Were, 1973)

Session bassist Carol Kaye said it took 33 takes to get ‘The Way We Were’ exactly as the producers wanted. The hard work paid off. Barbra Streisand’s song – which opens with the sparkling line, “Memories, like the corners of my mind” – was recorded for the film about the love affair between Streisand’s character and Robert Redford’s Hubbell Gardiner.

‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ (Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid, 1973)

Bob Dylan’s song was written for Sam Peckinpah’s western, in which the singer-songwriter starred alongside James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson. The song has become one of Dylan’s most popular among fellow musicians – there have been hundreds of cover versions, including by Randy Crawford, Guns N’ Roses, Eric Clapton, Bryan Ferry, Paul Simon, Jerry Garcia, Tom Petty and Dolly Parton.

‘Stayin’ Alive’ (Saturday Night Fever, 1977)

Bee Gees’ disco anthem ‘Stayin’ Alive’ – a song about the art of endurance – burrowed into the wider world’s consciousness. The glorious harmonies (especially in the “Ah, ha-ha-ha” chorus) and Barry Gibb’s falsettos make this one of the catchiest of all movie songs. Yet it is a song with a serious message. As Robin Gibb said, “The subject matter of ‘Stayin’ Alive’ is actually quite a serious one. It’s about survival in the streets of New York, and the lyrics actually say that.”

‘Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys’ (The Electric Horseman, 1979)

A country song that had been kicking around for a few years, in versions by writer Ed Bruce and then Chris LeDoux, gained widespread attention and acclaim when Willie Nelson sang it for the Robert Redford-Jane Fonda film about a rebellious cowboy. The song was later used in the 2008 Oliver Stone film W and referenced ironically in the 2016 film American Honey.

‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ (Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, 1979)

Rarely does a song of really acidic comedy find such public acceptance. Eric Idle’s ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’, a gallows-humour song sung cheerily by a man waiting to be crucified, has become a singalong anthem at sports events round the globe. Idle sang a live version for the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

‘9 To 5’ (9 To 5, 1980)

Dolly Parton’s anthem for the worker, written for the comedy she starred in alongside Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, won the country singer multiple awards. The song has appeared in numerous TV shows, including The Simpsons, and notable cover versions include one by Alison Krauss.

‘Rawhide’ (The Blues Brothers, 1980)

It would be hard for The Blues Brothers not to appear in a run-down of the best film songs of all time, given that its soundtrack is stuffed with classic Southern soul. ‘Rawhide’, however, is an exception: a fine popular country song, it was a hit for Frankie Lane and the theme tune to the popular TV show of the same name. But there is no more exuberant version than the one delivered by the self-proclaimed Blues Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi) in the John Landis comedy. One very funny scene involves the band pretending to be a country group called The Good Ole Boys, in order to play a gig at Bob’s Country Bunker in Kokomo. As countless beer bottles aimed at the band shatter on impact with the chicken-wire fence protecting the stage, The Blues Brothers pacify the “redneck” audience with repeated versions of ‘Rawhide’.

‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ (The Woman In Red, 1984)

The Woman In Red was a mildly entertaining comedy starring Gene Wilder, but its soundtrack was a Stevie Wonder-helmed affair that included his global smash title track. Wonder’s only UK No.1 hit, ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ topped the charts across the globe and picked up an Oscar for Best Original Song.

‘Ghostbusters’ (Ghostbusters, 1984)

Some of the best film songs continue to pervade popular culture well after their original appearance. Stop almost anyone in the street and ask, “Who you gonna call?” and they will almost certainly answer “Ghostbusters”. The iconic theme song for the 1984 movie was written and performed by Detroit musician Ray Parker Jr, and has remained his biggest hit. The determined and upbeat number took on a life of its own after the release of the film, and the line “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts” has appeared in numerous pop-culture references.

‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ (The Breakfast Club, 1985)

A coming-of-age drama that transcends its era and speaks to all generations, The Breakfast Club’s emotional closing scene, in which five high-school students leave their Saturday detention, having asserted their individuality – and found out about their own true character – remains an iconic piece of high-school cinema. It made stars of the young actors nicknamed The Brat Pack and ensured that Simple Minds’ single went down in history as a generation-defining slice of synth-pop.

‘Twist And Shout’ (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986)

The teen comedy starring Matthew Broderick was memorable for its use of music. As well as Yello’s electro-pop classic ‘Oh Yeah’, which became a cult song after the film and was later even used in confectionery adverts, the film made judicious use of The Beatles’ recording of ‘Twist And Shout’, introducing a whole new generation to one of the group’s finest early outings on record.

‘La Bamba’ (La Bamba, 1987)

Ritchie Valens’ traditional Mexican wedding song – a B-side to his first hit, ‘Donna’ – was revived for the biopic about the young singer who died, aged 17, in the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly. In the film, Valens is played by Lou Diamond Phillips, while the brilliant LA band Los Lobos scored a No.1 hit with the title song, reviving interest in the singer’s music with their vibrant version.

‘Unchained Melody’ (Ghost, 1990)

The Righteous Brothers’ gorgeous love song was certainly well known by the time it appeared in Ghost. It had actually been written for a low-budget B-movie, Unchained, in 1955, where it was sung as a prisoner’s lament. But when it was used as the music to accompany the emotionally-charged scene where Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze get steamy behind a potting wheel, it gained a whole new lease of life as a romantic blockbuster.

‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’ (Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, 1991)

Spending a record-breaking 16 straight weeks at the top of the UK charts, and seven at the top of the Billboard 100, Bryan Adams’ indefatigable ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’ owed at least some of its ubiquity to its use in the summer 1991 blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. The song was subsequently nominated for an Oscar, and went on to win the Grammy for Best Song Written For A Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media at the 1992 awards ceremony.

‘Streets Of Philadelphia’ (Philadelphia, 1993)

Movie songs can offer light relief or fuel tension, and sometimes they can be of social importance. When director Jonathan Demme asked Bruce Springsteen to write a soundtrack song about the AIDS epidemic, The Boss obliged with a haunting ballad that was both a hit song and a piece of music that challenged audiences to think. Jackson Browne, who has known Springsteen for more than 40 years, said: “To write from the perspective of someone who is emaciated, with AIDS, is to forsake all of the strength Springsteen had staked his career on. It is quite a feat.”

‘Hakuna Matata’ (The Lion King, 1994)

The sheer quality of the music in Disney’s The Lion King was demonstrated in the fact that three of its songs were nominated for an Oscar, with ‘Hakuna Matata’ and ‘Circle Of Life’ losing out to ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’. Still, that’s three of the best film songs ever in just one movie, and for this list we opt for ‘Hakuna Matata’, with its catchy melody (written by Elton John) and life-affirming lyrics by Tim Rice. The title phrase in Swahili translates as “no worries”, and that’s a problem-free philosophy we could all do with.

‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me’ (Toy Story, 1995)

Randy Newman, the master of biting satire, has always been a fantastic soundtrack composer, and his glorious feel-good song for the Pixar movie Toy Story – sung with Lyle Lovett – became the theme tune for the series of films.

‘You Must Love Me’ (Evita, 1996)

Madonna put real emotion – and handled the tricky soprano chords – as she triumphed with one of the 17 demanding songs in Evita, the musical-turned-film story of the life of the First Lady Of Argentina, Eva Perón. The song was written especially for the movie by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Madonna also covered ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ for the film.

‘My Heart Will Go On’ (Titanic, 1997)

Céline Dion’s power ballad, one of the biggest-selling singles of all time, won a raft of awards and is now almost as synonymous with the doomed ship as the iceberg it crashed into. ‘My Heart Will Go On’ is the romantic ballad that plays as Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet embrace at the front of the ill-fated Titanic. Dion does brilliantly to cope with the tricky modulations of the song, while the sweet tin-whistle playing is courtesy of Andrea Corr.

‘Lose Yourself’ (8 Mile, 2002)

With hip-hop firmly in the mainstream at the start of the new millennium, Eminem delivered a sure-fire entry among the best film songs of all time in the shape of the Oscar-winning ‘Lose Yourself’. Penned for the semi-autobiographical film 8 Mile, Eminem recalled that writing the soundtrack “was different from my usual work because it forced me to step into Rabbit, the character I play in the film, and write from his point of view”.

‘Happy’ (Despicable Me 2, 2013)

A fitting close to this list of the best film songs of all time, Pharrell Williams’ contribution to the animated comedy Despicable Me 2 became the most downloaded song of all time in 2014. ‘Happy’ does what it says on the tin: it is uplifting, catchy and perfect popcorn music. The song did not come easily to Williams, though. He has admitted that the final version was his tenth attempt at creating a song about “agitated and grumpy” fictional character Gru falling in love.

Looking for more? Discover the 50 best film scores of all time.

Facts (and Commentary) About the 100 Greatest American Movie Songs:

Comparing Decades (descending order):

    • The 1960s had 20 songs in the top 100
    • The 1950s had 17 songs in the top 100
    • The 1970s had 16 songs in the top 100
    • The 1940s had 14 songs in the top 100
    • The 1980s had 13 songs in the top 100
    • The 1930s had 11 songs in the top 100
    • The 1990s had 6 songs in the top 100
    • The 2000s had 3 songs in the top 100
    • There were no songs from the 1920s

The earliest song on the top 100 list was:

  • “Isn’t It Romantic” from Love Me Tonight (1932) at # 73

The newest songs on the top 100 list were:

  • “All That Jazz” from Chicago (2002) at # 98
  • “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile (2002) at # 93

Two seasonal songs placed in the top 100:

  • “White Christmas” from Holiday Inn (1942) at # 5
  • “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) at # 76

Two counter-cultural films featured these honored songs:

  • “Born to Be Wild” from Easy Rider (1969) at # 29
  • “Aquarius” from Hair (1979) at # 33

There were no Beatles songs among the nominees — and obviously, in the winners list. Was this because the films were not American-made and therefore ineligible?

Dubious ‘winners’ included:

“Puttin’ On The Ritz” at # 89 was attributed to Young Frankenstein (1974), but was originally sung in Blue Skies (1946).

Three musicals succeeded in having their three nominees honored in the top 100:

Two unrelated versions of “New York, New York” made the top 100:

  • “Theme From New York, New York” from New York, New York (1977) at # 31
  • “New York, New York” from On The Town (1949) at # 41

There were two Burt Bacharach compositions in the top 100:

Two individuals were represented five times on the list:

Four individuals were represented four times on the list:

There were three songs on the list sung by Bing Crosby:

Popular title songs from many musicals or other films failed to make the top 100:

Some song winners represented different genres of music:

Nominees from rock musicals that surprisingly didn’t make the top 100:

  • “The Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
  • “Big Bottom” from This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Songs from Frank Sinatra or from the documentary film Woodstock (1970) did not make the cut to be in the top 100.

Twenty-nine of the top 100 AFI picks won the Oscar for Best Song:

Winners included five Disney animations:

Other animation/live-action and puppetry winners included:

Other classic standard songs that were nominated but didn’t appear in the final list:

Other surprising omissions in the top 100 from the 400 nominees:

Twenty-two songs in the top 100 list were from Broadway productions, many of which were merely adaptations from their Broadway stage musical versions, such as:

One of the songs in the top 100 list was originally from an opera:

  • “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, from Porgy and Bess (1959) at # 52

Photo: Paramount Pictures

In 2017, we celebrated (and continue to celebrate) the 20th anniversary of Titanic, and with it, the release of Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” — one of the most important songs of all time.

Which, of course, is subjective. Where some of us had our biggest moments soundtracked by Céline Dion and vaguely Celtic instrumentals, others grew up watching films that prominently featured tracks by Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, and Eminem (to name a few). In some cases, these soundtrack songs are now more famous than the films they came from. So, for the sake of inclusion, and in an effort to celebrate some relatively recent classics of cinematic songwriting, we’ve chosen to commemorate 25 movie anthems from the last couple decades — to try to do this for the entire history of film would be borderline impossible — alongside the masterpiece that made the perils of Jack and Rose seem even more romantic. Never let go.

25. Frou Frou, “Let Go” Garden State (2004)
To be honest, it was a toss-up between Frou Frou’s film closing anthem and that song by the Shins (that Natalie Portman believed would change Zach Braff’s life). But look: Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” may have gone on to soundtrack one of the biggest moments in television history (see: when Marissa shot Trey on The O.C.), but she also deserves credit as half of the duo who closed out Garden State, a movie about a sad man.

So, no: “Let Go” wasn’t as big a moment as Natalie imposing her headphones on a strange dude in a doctor’s office, but it lent itself to the message that finding a person who truly “gets” you is magic. And that when you find that person, you pull a real Rachel Green and, despite having a life elsewhere, get off the plane.

24. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová “Falling Slowly,” Once (2007)
Fans of the Swell Season, this one’s for you. While we know stars – Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – went on to fall in love and form the two-piece folk band, the indie hit Once offered a realish glimpse into the makings of their music and of their then-relationship. The thing is, the songs came before the film. So where most soundtracks become the platform for burgeoning indie acts, it was Once itself that brought legitimacy to a band that actually existed before its leads sought to tell a story. (Which made their breakup even sadder.)

23. Sixpence None the Richer, “Kiss Me” She’s All That (1999)
It’s true: One of the best things to say about She’s All That is that it’s a movie that exists. And while Fatboy Slim’s “Rockafeller Skank” clearly takes top honor for the film’s choreographed prom scene, “Kiss Me” epitomized the brand of romance defined by the question: “Was I a bet, was I a fucking bet?” Plus, it played during the most iconic scene. As the New Laney Boggs™ (not improved, but different) makes her glasses-free debut, we’re treated to the sweet sounds of Sixpence None the Richer, who accompany Freddie Prinze Jr.’s disbelief that a young woman who was objectively beautiful before, could, in fact, still be beautiful.

22. Céline Dion, “When I Fall in Love” Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
Behold, Céline! Four years before she came to define movie soundtracks via Titanic, she teamed up with Clive Griffin to deliver “When I Fall in Love,” the anthem to Sleepless in Seattle. And really, what more can any of us ask for? Originally recorded by Nat King Cole (before going on to be covered by everyone from Sandra Dee to Johnny Mathis to Tom Jones to every other musician who’s ever been alive), the ballad reflected the sentimental notion that hinged on believing that you could fall in love with the help of talk radio. (Or that two little kids would know how to book an airline ticket.)

21. Pharrell Williams, “Happy” Despicable Me 2 (2013)
Maybe you didn’t see Despicable Me 2, but regardless of who you are or where you live, “Happy” — the single tied to the animated family film — likely managed to find itself in your heart and mind for about two years. As the lead off of Williams’s own Girl, the song hit No. 1 in 19 countries, and became the best-selling single in 2014 (on top of cleaning up at the Grammys and MTV Movie Awards). Which is a big deal, particularly when tied to a film not targeted to adult audiences. And while Despicable Me 2 wasn’t a failure by any stretch (its follow-up was released this year), Williams’s capacity to parlay a children’s franchise into an outlet for his own artistry is a reminder that decent pop hooks transcend genre.

20. Seal “Kiss From a Rose” Batman Forever (1994 and 1995)
Thanks to Bruce Wayne, Seal achieved (further) greatness: After releasing “Kiss From a Rose” in 1994, the song was rereleased in 1995 as part of the Batman Forever soundtrack. It scored Grammy wins for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, and was arguably the best thing to happen because of Batman, minus Tom Hardy helping to reignite the demand for shearling coats. But what made Seal’s track unique was the fact that it was tied to the Batman franchise at all — particularly one of its more ridiculous movies. That a song so rooted in romance and vulnerability could be connected to a something so opposite is a testament to Seal’s songwriting.

19. Justin Timberlake, “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” Trolls (2016)
If you can make it through this sentence without getting last year’s Justin Timberlake jam stuck in your head for the rest of the day, then you are a robot.

Sometimes, true power exists in a song’s ability to permeate the cultural sphere and haunt everybody on the planet until we learn to accept its place among us. This time, true power exists in the fact that after 42 forced listens, you will be conditioned to turn up this song and half-heartedly sing along despite never having seen Trolls and having no intention to ever do so.

18. Lana Del Rey, “Young & Beautiful” Great Gatsby (2013)
When it comes to the story about a man obsessed with the past, it’s only fitting that Lana Del Rey — a singer with a penchant for nostalgia — deliver the anthem. And so we get “Young & Beautiful,” The Great Gatsby theme that sums up the way its leads find solace in their prewar personas — despite their own trajectories and realities having taken them far from their long-ago romance. LDR asks, “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?” To which the film itself answers, “As long as you look like Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio, yes.”

17. Bruce Springsteen, “Streets of Philadelphia” Philadelphia (1993)
As the title song from Philadelphia, Bruce Springsteen’s single paralleled the feelings that defined Tom Hanks’s character, Andy: feelings of sadness, of grief, and of quiet acceptance. But where the single was appropriately sorrowful, it wasn’t complacent or dismissive. Like the best of Springsteen’s material, “Streets of Philadelphia” was observational but lent currency to those he was observing — his subjects weren’t helpless victims, but active participants in their own lives. This was a powerful message in 1993 (and in 1994, when it was released as its own single), when mainstream discourse about HIV/AIDS was limited to dialogue in movies like this one. So while much of Philadelphia’s dialogue now feels a bit dated, Springsteen’s song reflects the feeling of the era, as opposed to its conversations or misconceptions, which makes it timeless.

16. Common and John Legend, “Glory” Selma (2014)
At the 2015 Academy Awards, we were all Chris Pine, crying while watching Common and John Legend perform “Glory.” And, after the performance (in which the singer and rapper appear in front of a set of Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge), the single took home the Oscar for Best Original Song, as it should have. Together with Legend’s instrumentals, Common’s lyrics, and the backing choir, “Glory” can be described as the embodiment of just that. An important part of Selma’s message of hope and of power.

15. Adele, “Skyfall,” Skyfall (2012)
Easily one of the five best James Bond title tracks to exist (in this house, we do not talk about Jack White’s “Another Way to Die”), Adele’s Oscar-winning ballad was an awe-inspiring tribute to the franchise, and particularly to the majesty of Bond singers like Shirley Bassey. It was appropriate for a film steeped in nostalgia: from references to trick pens, to the return of Moneypenny, to Bond’s own grown-up approach to death, Skyfall was unique in its self-awareness, and deserved an anthem that matched its mood, which Adele delivered. Thanks to her range, her warmth, and the lyrics that hinted toward impending doom, “Skyfall” injected a sense of maturity into a franchise that’s become increasingly ridiculous, and helped make the characters and plot seem purposeful.

14. College and Electric Youth, “A Real Hero” Drive (2011)
Sleek, cool, and minimalist — College and Electric Youth succeeded at delivering a track that epitomized Ryan Gosling’s infamous Drive character (or at least his scorpion jacket). So it shouldn’t be surprising that where so many movie themes are used to inject emotion, “A Real Hero,” diffuses it and leaves space for anyone listening to assign their own feelings. Which makes sense, especially since Gosling and co-star Carey Mulligan’s performances were so defined by being quiet. They used primarily their faces or body language to convey their dialogue, and the film’s single does the same with its slowed-down beat and vocals that can either seem cold and tense (try listening to it when stuck in traffic and late for a meeting) or warm, romantic, and inherently sad (try listening to it while looking at photos of Ryan Gosling).

As an aside, it is especially an especially great song to play during any awkward silence.

13. Coolio, “Gangsta’s Paradise” Dangerous Minds (1995)
Despite Coolio having released an album of the same name that year, mainstream pop culture has intertwined “Gangsta’s Paradise” almost exclusively with the Michelle Pfeiffer drama Dangerous Minds, especially after it won an MTV Movie Award for Best Rap Video in 1995. But the single had legs of its own: It made No. 1 in 16 countries (U.S. included), was named Billboard’s No. 1 song for the year before winning the 1996 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance. Coolio’s lyrics represented the ethos Dangerous Minds was trying to articulate, but the single transcended the film thanks to the crossover rapper’s gift for painting a portrait of a version of America that most white communities chose to ignore. But that’s just one reason why the oral history is very much worth reading.

12. Lisa Loeb, “Stay (I Missed You)” Reality Bites (1995)
It’s true: “Stay” doesn’t appear in Reality Bites, despite it being forever linked to one of the greatest onscreen representations of the most conflicted and privileged sects of Generation X. (And it landed Lisa Loeb on the charts before she even signed to a major label.) But like “My Heart Will Go On,” Reality Bites’ lead single echoes the sentiments that defined the movie, specifically the way it’s clearly about the end of a relationship. And while many of us would’ve loved Winona and Ethan not to end up together, their beginning ultimately sparks the demise of the friend group. (RIP Maxi Pad.) Couple this with Loeb’s soft vocals, and “Stay” beautifully and effectively succeeds at capturing the quiet turbulence the film’s characters choose to keep themselves in.

11. Underworld, “Born Slippy” Trainspotting (1996)
You’d be hard-pressed to find another song that could so perfectly capture the dizzying, horrifying, hypnotic, and all-encompassing feeling of Trainspotting, a movie built on themes of addiction, classism, life, death, and youth. And appropriately, “Born Slippy” comes in during the point of highest tension: as Ewan McGregor’s character rips off his “so-called mates,” he starts life anew while reconciling his choices and closing the door on a past defined by self-destruction. He chooses life, as Underworld’s beats match his increased list of goals and dreams and the credits begin to roll, signaling no end in sight for the capitalist mania he’s now a prisoner of. (Which, as we glean from Trainspotting 2, isn’t exactly a walk in the park. But that’s a chat for another day.)

10. Aimee Mann, “Save Me” Magnolia (1999)
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song, Aimee Mann’s haunting counterpart to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia has evolved into a musical force to be reckoned with, going on to appear in several other movies and TV shows. However, Mann’s influence on the film was felt outside the single: as one of the primary producers and composers of the Magnolia soundtrack, her capacity for subtle-yet-affecting musical and lyrical storytelling balanced the emotional intensity of the film. While “Save Me” on its own is a force to be reckoned with, coupled with the soundtrack in its entirety it is an even bigger emotional tour de force.

9. R. Kelly, “I Believe I Can Fly” Space Jam (1996)
Most of us can admit that the further we keep R. Kelly away from everything, the better it will be for all. But it’s worth mentioning that “I Believe I Can Fly,” an oddly dramatic song for a movie about a basketball game in space populated by Looney Tunes and Michael Jordan, was also Kelly’s most successful single.

So there you have it: If you believe you can fly, you too can win out against a team of strange aliens with the help of Bill Murray.

8. Will Smith, “Men in Black” Men in Black (1997)
On paper, the idea of Will Smith rapping about a fictional government agency who diffused extraterrestrial tensions seems ridiculous. But in execution, “Men in Black” was a force unto itself, especially as it was the first solo single for Smith, who’d previously performed exclusively with DJ Jazzy Jeff.

With the help of Coko (who sang in the background), Smith’s track went on to earn him a 1998 Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance, and it also re-introduced him as a rapper to the generation who’d grown up with Fresh Prince of Bel-Air but had been a little too young for “Summertime.” In fact, you could attribute the success of Smith as a solo pop star to his Men in Black movie tie-in: after all, the very next year he released Big Willie Style, gifting us “Miami” and “Getting Jiggy With It,” which rounded out the Will Smith trifecta.

7. Whitney Houston, “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” Waiting to Exhale (1995)
In truth, Whitney Houston did more for movie soundtracks in the 1990s than any composer could even dream of. (Come at me, Hans Zimmer.) Enter: “Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” a single written and produced by Babyface with a strong message about growing up, letting go, and the liberation that comes with both. (You know, kind of like Waiting to Exhale, itself.)
It was a powerful narrative when tied to the film, but was even more when extended to Houston’s own. Especially since on top of winning a Best R&B Song Grammy, the video lent Whitney further agency as a complex, grown-ass woman, as director Forest Whitaker opted to hone in on her face, making it seem like she was speaking directly to us from experience.

6. Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You” The Bodyguard (1992)
If you need me to explain why “I Will Always Love You” is one of the biggest and most important movie songs of the last 25 years, there is no hope for you, or those whose lives you’re a part of. But okay, fine:

A cover of Dolly Parton’s 1974 original, the song is a take on a breakup. Similar to the ending of The Bodyguard itself (spoiler), Whitney Houston sings from the perspective of a woman who’s still in love, but knows the relationship also has to end. So, while countless proms were soundtracked by the ballad, it’s actually a mature good-bye anthem, which serves to curse both parties with the haunting revelation that no matter what happens, or whoever anybody ends up being with, that original love isn’t going anywhere.

Grim.

5. Eminem, “Lose Yourself” 8 Mile (2002)
Fifteen years after the fact, we still remember that, prior to performing, Eminem’s B-Rabbit had vomit on his sweater. And while few of us will ever get tired of making fun of and/or overanalyzing that line (why not just take off the sweater, man?), it’s a testament to the staying power of Eminem’s Oscar-winning song.

Serving as a loose recap of 8 Mile, while encompassing the feelings associated with performance, “Lose Yourself” was not just a testament to Eminem’s own experiences, but to what it feels like to pour one’s self entirely into a dream or opportunity. And yes: to see those lyrics being used sincerely now seems cliché (because it is), but even a tragically misspelled “loose yourself” tattoo furthers the legacy of a single that forever paid homage to someone’s mom’s spaghetti.

4. Missy Elliott, Lil Kim, Christina Aguilera, Pink, Maya, “Lady Marmalade” Moulin Rouge! (2001)
No song can touch “Come What May” (the duet between Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman that I sang quietly to myself during Nicole’s scenes in Big Little Lies), but “Lady Marmalade” — the collaboration between Missy Elliott, Lil Kim, Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Maya — comes close. (A feat, considering All Saints had covered Patti LaBelle’s original only a few years before.)

But where the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack was defined by theatrics, sorrow, drama, and sensational covers of pop classics, “Lady Marmalade” played on the campier side of the movie by featuring the singers and rappers as Moulin Rouge performers, thereby inspiring countless Halloween costumes. Plus, the song avoided any real references to the movie or its characters, which helped it appeal to anyone put off by musicals in a pre-Hamilton era. (It also introduced the line, “Voulez-vous couchez avec moi?” to anyone a little too young to say it back in 1999.)

3. Destiny’s Child, “Independent Women” Charlie’s Angels (2000)
It’s hard to think about (and I consciously try not to), but back in 2000, Beyoncé had yet to establish herself as the goddess she now is. However, thanks to anthems like “Independent Woman,” she and Destiny’s Child began to prove themselves as messengers of power, of authority, and self-worth. So, even outside the realm of Charlie’s Angels, “Independent Woman” was a true jam.

But tied to the film — a movie in which three women operated as an unfuckwithable team while respecting and championing each other’s individuality — “Independent Woman” held even more currency. Mainly, it evolved from a pop song into a vehicle through which to channel Lucy Liu, Drew Barrymore, and Cameron Diaz in some of their funniest (and arguably best) roles. THROW YOUR HANDS UP AT THEM.

2. Aerosmith, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” Armageddon (1998)
In retrospect, Aerosmith performing the song for 1998’s second asteroid film makes as much sense as the film itself, but the world looked different in 1998. (Mainly, it was a world conducive to the release of two asteroid films, but I digress.) “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” might tick the boxes of a decent action-drama ballad (emotional, stirring, catchy), but what made it special was the connection to Armageddon’s lead. Since the movie deals with the sacrifice of one man (Liv Tyler’s onscreen dad, played by Bruce Willis) to save another (Liv Tyler’s onscreen boyfriend, played by Ben Affleck), the video played on the final heart-wrenching moment between Liv and Bruce by placing Tyler’s real Dad (Steven) into the good-bye scene. Which meant that regardless of your feelings about Aerosmith, the song reminded you repeatedly of just how sad the movie was. A true feat, considering Ben Affleck has since done an excellent job of reminding us of how stupid the movie was, too.

1. Céline Dion, “My Heart Will Go On” Titanic (1997)
Few songs embody a film — nay, life experience — like the ballad that served to soundtrack countless school dances, weddings, and anywhere we brought our Discmans. Performed by Céline Dion, the single went to No. 1 worldwide, and also went on to become the best-selling single of 1998 and one of the best-selling singles of all time.

Which makes complete sense: Composed by James Horner, the song wove elements of the score into the single, which evoked the same sense of drama, heartbreak, and romance Titanic itself was defined by. So ultimately, listening to “My Heart Will Go On” was like rewatching the James Cameron masterpiece in four-minute increments — moreso if you were technologically inclined to tape the video off TV and watch a full VHS of Céline, Kate, and Leo on repeat while telling yourself it was just as good as watching the real thing again in theaters.

And that’s where the true magic of this anthem lies. While “My Heart Will Go On” is obviously recognizable to most Western-pop-culture-consuming people on the planet, it’s also as divisive as the movie itself. So for some of us (but especially me), it embodies the drama, the sensationalism, and the heartbreak of the movie — while for others, it represents the worst part of a year in which it was impossible to escape the King of the World and any/all references to flying. But that’s powerful. Because two decades after the fact, our reactions to “My Heart Will Go On” are strong and visceral: We love it or we loathe it. We turn it up to soundtrack our arguments that Jack could’ve fit on that godforsaken wardrobe door, or we switch it off and recoil, haunted by our pasts. “My Heart Will Go On” garners no lukewarm responses, because it is a song of extremes. And if that doesn’t make it deserving of the top spot, then heaven help you.

The best movie moments come when sound and vision are in perfect harmony – a dramatic turn or comedy beat or burst of action accompanied by the exact right musical cue. Here are the greatest soundtrack and movie-music moments of 2018, from sweeping new scores to brand new film-inspired soundtrack songs, as well as old favourites given new life and meaning on the big screen.

Watch the Best Movie Trailers Of 2018 here, and read the Biggest Movie News Of 2018 here.

‘Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life’

Artist: Michael Bolton (and the Teen Titans cast)

Movie: Teen Titans Go! To The Movies

If anything was going to get us through the trials and tribulations of 2018, it was an ‘Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life’. Just, don’t listen to it while driving…

‘Always Remember Us This Way’

Artist: Lady Gaga

Movie: A Star Is Born

‘Shallow’ got all the plaudits (and is tipped for Oscar gold), but we’d take this one instead. A cosy power-ballad that cements the best times in Ally and Jackson’s dramatic relationship.

‘Pray For Me’

Artist: The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar

Movie: Black Panther

The entire Kendrick Lamar-curated Black Panther soundtrack is a belter, but this is its shiny vibranium nugget – with Kendrick in full-flow, that addictive beat, and complete with Wakandan backing vocals.

‘Remember Me’

Artist: Anthony Gonzalez

Movie: Coco

The emotional sucker-punch of Pixar’s latest tear-jerking adventure. Yes, we’re crying now too.

‘Suspirium’

Artist: Thom Yorke

Movie: Suspiria

The Radiohead frontman nails it with his first film score. The (sort-of) title track is truly spine-tingling, with its haunting looping piano chords that emphasise the current of melancholy that flows through Luca Guadagnino’s remake.

‘Harvest Moon’

Artist: Neil Young

Movie: A Quiet Place

Among the oppressive silence of John Krasinski’s ultra-tense monster-horror, this beautifully human moment flourishes – the tenderness of the central couple’s relationship is cemented as they share earbuds and slow-dance to Neil Young.

‘Sunflower’

Artist: Post Malone and Swae Lee

Movie: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

The glitchy, glowy synths of ‘Sunflower’ are a perfect compliment to Spider-Verse’s vibrant animation. Tip: pretend to be actual Miles Morales by trying to sing along while not really knowing any of the words.

‘Yellow’

Artist: Katherine Ho

Movie: Crazy Rich Asians

Jon M. Chu sends his brilliant rom-com out on this perfect song choice – a Mandarin cover of Coldplay that’s steeped with extra importance. Just read his letter to the band asking for their permission to use the song and explaining why it means so much, and try not to weep.

‘Wild Heart’

Artist: Bleachers

Movie: Love, Simon

Jack Antonoff’s big-hearted Springsteen-as-modern-pop is the perfect accompaniment to Greg Berlanti’s teen LGBTQ rom-com – ‘Wild Heart’ especially, with its widescreen synths and epic drums.

‘Jump’

Artist: Van Halen

Movie: Ready Player One

From the moment the very first synth stab of ‘Jump’ lines up perfectly with ‘An AMBLIN Production’ in the opening credits of Ready Player One, you know you’re in for a big, splashy action-adventure romp. Cheesy? Yep. A total joy? You betcha.

‘Mary’s Theme’

Artist: Takatsugu Muramatsu

Movie: Mary and the Witch’s Flower

The music of Studio Ghibli was pure magic – and in Studio Ponoc’s first film, that tradition continues. This is a soaring, sparkling suite that blends perfectly with Mary’s gorgeous animation.

‘House Of Woodcock’

Artist: Jonny Greenwood

Movie: Phantom Thread

One of the surprises of Phantom Thread is how lush and swooningly romantic it is (before that intoxicating third act kicks in), and plenty of that is down to Jonny Greenwood’s astonishing piano score. As old-fashioned and beautifully crafted as one of Reynolds Woodcock’s signature gowns.

‘Hearts Beat Loud’

Artist: Kiersey Clemons, Nick Offerman, and Keegan DeWitt

Movie: Hearts Beat Loud

The heartbeat of this sweet indie drama is in its titular propulsive pop song, written by father-daughter duo Frank and Sam. A gem to be played, well, loud.

‘My Love, My Life’

Artist: Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Lily James

Movie: Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Deep breaths, everyone. The bit that drew racking sobs from just about everyone in the Mamma Mia sequel is an intergenerational ode to familial love and motherhood – an ABBA all-timer, given gorgeous new context.

‘Young, Dumb, and Broke’

Artist: Khalid

Movie: Skate Kitchen

The kids of Skate Kitchen might not be dumb, but in every other sense this is a perfect choice for Crystal Moselle’s ace coming-of-age film, soundtracking Camille, Devon and friends shredding through the streets of New York.

‘Lunar Rhapsody’

Artist: Dr. Samuel Hoffman

Movie: First Man

What a year for the theremin, which got the surround-sound treatment thanks to Damien Chazelle’s latest. This sumptuous ode to the moon is used in such a way that it feels like another thing drawing Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong towards his eventual lunar destiny.

‘The Landing’

Artist: Justin Hurwitz

Movie: First Man

‘Lunar Rhapsody’ had to make the list, but we couldn’t just ignore this stunning suite from Justin Hurwitz’s score – a majestic and dramatic piece that builds steadily until the horns and soaring strings come crashing in. A key component to one of 2018’s most astonishing sequences.

‘A Place Called Slaughter Race’

Artist: Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot

Movie: Ralph Breaks the Internet

After struggling to find her place in the world (wide web), Vanellope Von Schweetz – SPOILER WARNING – finally gets her Disney Princess moment with a blast of that old Alan Menken magic.

‘Children Of The New Dawn’

Artist: Johann Johannsson

Movie: Mandy

We tragically lost Johann Johnnsson this year – and there’s no better reminder of his talents than the brooding, hypnotic Mandy score. Revel in the woozy wonder of this spacy epic.

‘Ashes’

Artist: Celine Dion

Movie: Deadpool 2

After soundtracking much of the first Deadpool with hip hop classics, who better to get on-board Deadpool 2 than… Celine Dion? It’s a very Deadpool choice, a ballad that plays it entirely straight to add to the meta weirdness of it all. Except for the video which has a ‘sexy’ Deadpool pirouetting around a stage, because Deadpool.

‘I Won’t Hurt You’

Artist: The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band

Movie: Isle Of Dogs

A none-more-Wes-Anderson choice in a none-more-Wes-Anderson film. This oddball ‘60s ditty is a lovely accompanying texture to the hand-crafted stop-motion animation of Anderson’s ode to man’s best friend.

‘When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings’

Artist: Tim Blake Nelson, Willie Watson

Movie: The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs

Death finds its way into every story from the Coen Brothers’ Wild West anthology. This lilting, melancholic tune encapsulates that perfectly, feeling authentic both to the film’s themes and it’s lovingly-evoked period.

‘Come On Get Happy’

Artist: The Partridge Family

Movie: Ant-Man And The Wasp

What happens when you spend months on end under house arrest for your technically illegal superhero exploits? You end up doing karaoke to the Partridge Family theme. Maybe Scott Lang can cheer Cap and Black Widow up in Endgame with a sing-along?

‘Trip A Little Light Fantastic

Artist: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emily Blunt and cast

Movie: Mary Poppins Returns

The magical nanny’s big comeback is a shining light at the end of a dark year – and this number is, fittingly, all about bringing some much-needed illumination to the world. Plus, Lin-Manuel Miranda – squee!

‘We Are The Champions’

Artist: Queen

Movie: Bohemian Rhapsody

If the Freddie Mercury biopic proved divisive, the music of Queen is undeniable – and the closing suite of Live Aid recordings remains as powerful as ever.