35 of the most iconic movie songs of all time

Mister D: Honestly, if we are being fair, “The Rose” should have made this list, too. But good job Brinkwire!

35 of the most iconic movie songs of all time
June 19, 2018 by Brinkwire

Bette Midler, Barbara Hershey, Dyed Hair, Beaches

“Footloose” by Kenny Loggins (“Footloose”)
The movie musical quickly became one of the biggest hits when it was released in 1984, in no small part thanks to Loggins’ now-iconic song. It’s impossible not to dance when you hear it, which is probably why the song topped the charts for three weeks in a row on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming such a massive hit that Loggins himself was blown away by its success.

In 2014, he revealed in an interview, “It became the biggest movie of the summer. We didn’t see it coming. But I remember going to the premiere and watching the opening scene of the movie, … using “Footloose” (the song) over the dancing feet. My wife turns to me and goes, ‘This is gonna be huge.’” Audiences furiously kicked off their Sunday shoes in agreement, of course.

“Kiss From a Rose” by Seal (“Batman Forever”)
Seal originally released the song in 1994, but it hit icon status when it was featured on the “Batman Forever” soundtrack a year later, earning the singer three Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

It might feel like an unlikely song for a superhero movie, but that’s what makes it work so perfectly. “Kiss From a Rose” is no doubt Seal’s biggest hit, cementing Val Kilmer’s Batman as one of the most memorable of all.

“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston (“The Bodyguard”)
Houston was already a bona fide music legend by the time she made her acting debut in the 1992 romantic thriller, but the song rapidly became one of her most remarkable hits, thanks to those searing high notes and her flawless delivery.

It’s often forgotten that the ballad is actually a cover of a Dolly Parton song, and it made music history as the only country song to reach No. 1 in three separate decades. It topped the charts around the globe upon its release and did the same within hours of Houston’s death in 2012.

“Lady Marmalade” by Christina Aguilera, Pink, Lil Kim, Mya, and Missy Elliott (“Moulin Rouge!”)
With its suggestive chorus and a medley of high notes from the biggest pop stars of the early aughts, “Lady Marmalade” had new life breathed into it when Aguilera, Lil Kim, Mya, Pink, and Elliott covered it for Baz Luhrmann’s whimsical romantic musical in 2001.

Few likely expected it to become such an iconic soundtrack song, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a karaoke bar or wedding reception where the song isn’t playing. It’s fun, it’s campy, and it brought together a group of powerhouse pop stars in a way that happens all too rarely, topping the Billboard charts for nine consecutive weeks, the only all-female collaboration to do so.

“Happy” by Pharrell Williams (“Despicable Me 2”)
If you have kids, know kids, or have ever met a kid, you’ve definitely sung along to “Happy,” which was first featured on Williams’ album “Girl” before becoming a massive global hit thanks to a feature spot on the animated film’s soundtrack.

“Happy” became the biggest-selling song of 2014, and even years later, it’s impossible to go anywhere without hearing the infectious anthem. So when you do, be sure to “clap along if you feel like a room without a roof” … we’re not entirely sure what it all means, but we’re, ahem, to comply.

“Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees (“Saturday Night Fever”)
It takes a rare film and song to define an entire era, but “Stayin’ Alive,” which served as the iconic opening scene to the 1977 coming of age tale starring John Travolta did just that, becoming one of the most classic disco songs of all time.

The film’s soundtrack featured a slew of hits by the group of brothers and other disco acts, but “Stayin’ Alive” is the one that inspired a generation to strut down the street in their best disco duds.

“Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland (“The Wizard Of Oz”)
The American Film Institute ranked Garland’s wistful ballad as the greatest movie song of all time, and with good reason: Since Garland’s wide-eyed, hopeful Dorothy donned those ruby red slippers back in 1939, the song, her character, and the film have cemented their status in film and music history, beloved by fans around the world across generations.

It’s not much of a surprise that the song has clocked numerous awards and accolades, including Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1940. It continues to fly way up high, where troubles melt like lemon drops, away above the chimney tops, like no song ever has before, and probably ever will.

“Lose Yourself” by Eminem (“8 Mile”)
When the controversial rapper gave us a glimpse into his rough Detroit upbringing, few could imagine the impact his autobiographical “8 Mile” would have on viewers. But when you hear the first few seconds of that powerful beat, it’s impossible not to root for Eminem, and every kid trying to find their way out of a dire situation.

Plus, it’s surely the only song to ever win an Oscar and feature the words “vomit on his sweater already, Mom’s spaghetti,” and we can’t deny the power of .

“Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler (“Beaches”)
Few things tug at our heartstrings the way stories about childhood friends growing apart could, but Midler’s cover of a country song by Roger Whittaker song absolutely seals the deal, somehow bringing us to tears decades after the film’s release.

Midler almost didn’t put her own spin on the emotional ballad, sharing in a 2014 interview that she thought people would be “angry” at her for covering a country song, but she quipped, “Both of my producers said at the time, ‘If you don’t sing this song, we’re going to kill you!’ The point of it is, the movie [“Beaches”] and the quality of that picture, the way it resonated with people had a lot to do with the success of the song I think.”

She viewed the song as a tribute to her husband of nearly 35 years, Martin von Haselberg, calling him “the wind beneath [her] wings.” Grab the tissues.

“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds (“The Breakfast Club”)
The final scene of John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” is one of the most iconic of all time, and it’s surely thanks to the powerful pop anthem by Simple Minds. The film would go on to become one of the most famous high school coming-of-age movies ever, and we’ll forever raise a fist defiantly to shattering the stereotypes held against us, long after our high school days are (thankfully) behind us.

“Men in Black” by Will Smith (“Men in Black”)
The film and song of the same name might not be the most sophisticated on our list, but they’re both so fun, perfectly sampling the 1982 hit “Forget Me Nots” by Patrice Rushen.

The song also marks Smith’s first single as a solo artist, but by 1997, the former Fresh Prince was already a major movie star. “Men in Black” earned Smith a Grammy Award in 1998 for Best Rap Solo Performance, becoming one of the biggest hits of his music career.

“Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer (“She’s All That”)
High school rom coms dominated the ’90s, and “She’s All That” rightly secured its place at the top with help from this sugary sweet love song by Christian rock band Sixpence None the Richer.

The song plays at the film’s pinnacle moment when nerdy art student Laney Boggs walks down the stairs after getting her makeover of a haircut and contact lenses, and while the premise is as cheesy as they come, the song represents all the best parts of teenage romance.

Few movie “reveal” moments are quite as iconic, which is why this movie — and this song — will forever have a special place in the hearts of ’90s teens.

“Singin’ in the Rain” by Gene Kelly (“Singin’ in the Rain”)
Often considered one of the greatest musicals of all time, “Singin’ in the Rain’s” signature song makes even the biggest pessimist want to splash around in a rainstorm, becoming one of the happiest movie songs of all time.

Film buffs know that the song made numerous appearances for decades before closing out the 1952 musical, but it will forever be linked with the splashy Kelly and Reynolds musical number that made getting caught in a rainstorm feel a little less unbearable.

“I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith (“Armageddon”)
Something about an Aerosmith power ballad in a movie about an asteroid about to hit earth makes no sense at all, and yet, it worked, because 1998 was truly a time to be alive.

Both the song and the movie it was made for dominated in sales, ushering in a new wave of appreciation for the beloved ’70s rock band, and if you can’t help but belt this one out when it comes on in the car, we can’t say we blame you. It’s just good.

“Moon River” by Audrey Hepburn (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”)
As one of the biggest icons in film and fashion, Hepburn’s wistful, romantic song for one of her most beloved movies has become so famous that music legends from Aretha Franklin to Elton John have all put their own spin on it over the decades.

It’s one of the most perfect love songs ever written, taking home an Academy Award for Best Original Song and Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1962.

“Flashdance … What a Feeling” by Irene Cara (“Flashdance”)
The same way that the Bee Gees defined the disco era with the soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever,” the titular song from “Flashdance” did the same for the ’80s, making leg warmers and cut-off sweatshirts the tried and true uniform for anyone hoping to achieve their big dreams.

The song won numerous awards, becoming Cara’s only song to hit the top of the Billboard charts, securing its rightful spot in pop culture history … long after we stashed away our leg warmers and shoulder pads.

“When You Wish Upon a Star” by Cliff Edwards (“Pinocchio”)
There are so many iconic songs from Disney films that are more than deserving of their own article, but we had to highlight a few important favorites. “When You Wish Upon a Star” was ranked seventh by the American Film Institute in their 100 Greatest Songs in Film History, coming in as the highest ranked song from an animated Disney film, and it’ll bring chills to even the frostiest of film critics.

It has become the signature Disney song for a good reason: It reminds us all that when you wish upon a star, your dreams can come true … something that many of us forget as we leave our childhoods behind, but shouldn’t.

“(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life by by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (“Dirty Dancing”)
More than three decades after Patrick Swayze gracefully lifted Jennifer Beals in the epic “Dirty Dancing” finale, the song and its film have had a lasting impact on audiences, who are well aware that puts Baby in a corner.

The song’s legacy became instantly clear when it racked up a slew of awards, including an Academy Award for “Best Original Song,” a Golden Globe Award for “Best Original Song,” and a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group. We won’t judge if you attempt to try the iconic dance at home, but watch out for any furniture in the way — an accidental dance injury would be the time of your life.

“Beauty and the Beast” by Angela Lansbury (“Beauty and the Beast”)
It’s a tale as old as time, but that doesn’t make it feel any less special. The titular song to the Disney classic is one of the most striking songs from a film , and it’s certainly one of the best from an already pretty stellar Disney catalog… especially impressive given that it was sung by a talking teapot, no?

“Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (“The Lion King”)
With Elton John and Tim Rice at the helm, it’s no surprise why “The Lion King” has become the best-selling soundtrack to an animated film in the United States. We couldn’t pick just one song from such a sweeping soundtrack, so we picked our top two, giving an additional shout out to John’s “Circle of Life” as well.

“Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio (“Dangerous Minds”)
Rap songs rarely get the accolades they deserve, especially in film, but Coolio’s 1995 hit for the Michelle Pfeiffer drama “Dangerous Minds” earned the rapper one of his biggest hits ever, a well-deserved feat given how perfectly the song works with the movie, serving as a stark reminder about how far we still have to go when it comes to racial equality in the US.

“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke (“Mary Poppins”)
In perhaps the only example of a song that would baffle even the most discerning of Spell Check features, Andrews and Van Dyke’s upbeat duet might have you tongue-tied, but you’ll have so much fun singing it, you definitely won’t care how wrong you’re getting the lyrics. That’s the magic of Disney, isn’t it?

“When Doves Cry” and “Purple Rain” by Prince (“Purple Rain”)
Serving as both his sixth studio album and the soundtrack to his debut film role, we honestly couldn’t choose between these two equally important songs. “Purple Rain” first topped the charts upon its release in 1984 before being rediscovered by legions of new fans when the singer died in 2016, serving as a poignant reminder of how talented and fierce Prince was, and how we lost him way too soon.

“Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison (“Pretty Woman”)
Although a huge hit upon its initial release in 1964, Orbison’s classic saw a new life in 1990 when director Garry Marshall cast Julia Roberts as a down-on-her-luck sex worker who finds love with a wealthy businessman, played by Richard Gere.

The song has now become so synonymous with the movie, helping to cement Roberts and Gere as two of the biggest movie stars of their time. We won’t judge if you happily sing along every time you’re walking down the street — we know do.

“Let It Go” by Idina Menzel (“Frozen”)
Not even a decade old, “Let It Go” has already cemented itself as a modern classic thanks to Disney lovers young and old celebrating the song and the movie, making it a box office success and selling nearly 11 million copies upon its release in 2014.

Not a bad feat in an era where album sales have been replaced by streaming and digital downloads, proving that the power of princesses is .

“Fame” by Irene Cara (“Fame”)
Cara strikes again, this time tugging at the heartstrings of talented but misunderstood high school students everywhere in the eponymous track from the 1980 musical film. The song won both an Academy Award a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, topping the charts in multiple countries and earning legions of fans globally.

“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor (“Rocky III”)
The theme to Rocky III really had no business becoming as iconic as it did, but the song’s legacy has endured thanks to the uplifting message behind its lyrics and those illustrious opening chords.

“Eye of the Tiger” sat pretty on top of the Billboard charts for six weeks in a row, also nabbing a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by Duo or Group in 1982, firmly securing a spot on every workout playlist and sporting event soundtrack for the rest of time.

“Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel (“The Graduate”)
At the time of this song’s release, Simon and Garfunkel were already famous hit-makers, but the duo’s inclusion on the 1967 soundtrack to “The Graduate” elevated them to a level few musicians have ever seen.

The film’s director wanted them on his soundtrack so badly that even though the first two songs they wrote weren’t quite what he was looking for, it seems the third time’s the charm — “Mrs. Robinson” swiftly hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, was the first rock song to win Record of the Year at the Grammys.

“Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. (“Ghostbusters”)
Back in 1983, Parker was approached by producers of the upcoming comedy about scientists tasked with tackling ghosts to create a theme song, reportedly giving him only a few days to do so. Inspired by a late-night commercial he saw on TV, he created one of the most enduring theme songs in film ever made, finally giving us the answer to the all-important question … “who ya gonna call?”

“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake (“Trolls”)
At only 35 upon the song’s release, Timberlake was already a music industry veteran, having been famous since his late teens as part of *NSYNC and through his solo career. But “Can’t Stop the Feeling!,” which he produced and performed for the “Trolls” soundtrack, helped him win fans across all ages, from little kids to their grandparents, all thanks to his infectious, feel-good smash hit.

The song became the best-selling of 2016, and even if Timberlake has lost a bit of his “SexyBack” edge, we can’t even be mad at him with such a jubilant, optimistic tune that will have everyone on the dance floor in seconds.

“Take My Breath Away” by Berlin (“Top Gun”)
Yes, it’s cheesy, but you simply can’t deny the appeal of this power ballad that defines the mid-’80s like no other.

Audiences embraced the cheese in full force, with the song winning both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in 1986. Its lasting legacy is nothing short of, well, breathtaking … if we’re being honest.

“Skyfall” by Adele (“Skyfall”)
Adele managed to breathe new life into a decades-old franchise, crafting a truly beautiful ballad for an often campy franchise, proving that there’s nothing quite like the power of Adele.

“Oh Yeah” by Yello (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”)
The poppy, electronic hit so perfectly captures the essence of Ferris Bueller’s sick day misadventures that we’d be remiss not to include it among the greats. The song may have never topped the charts, but it has amassed such a legacy that co-creator Dieter Meier has earned $175 million in investments, despite the fact that he’s reportedly never even seen the film.

“My Heart Will Go On” by Céline Dion (“Titanic”)
A movie as as, well, “Titanic” needed a big love song, so who better than Céline Dion, with her powerhouse pipes, to set the stage for one of the most tragic fictional love stories ever told?

Even if you haven’t stayed awake to watch “Titanic” in its entirety, you know this song. Everyone you knows this song, because it topped the charts globally in 1998, becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time. It’s hardly a surprise that we hear the song pretty much , even more than 20 years later … this song is an absolute classic, a staple on every karaoke playlist and wedding reception soundtrack in the universe, proving that love conquers all … except maybe a massive iceberg.

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