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17 Songs That Got Big Because of Being in a Movie Soundtrack

Songs often achieve significant popularity or resurgence because of their inclusion in movie soundtracks. These soundtracks can introduce songs to a broader audience, recontextualize their meaning, or cement them as iconic within pop culture. Here’s a list of 17 songs that became famous or saw a significant boost in popularity due to their feature in a movie soundtrack:

  1. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston – Featured in “The Bodyguard” (1992), this song became one of the best-selling singles of all time.
  2. “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion – The theme song for “Titanic” (1997) became synonymous with the movie and a global hit.
  3. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor – This song gained massive popularity as the theme song for “Rocky III” (1982).
  4. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds – Featured in “The Breakfast Club” (1985), it became an anthem for a generation.
  5. “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes – This song from “Dirty Dancing” (1987) became iconic alongside the film’s final dance scene.
  6. “Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees – Featured prominently in “Saturday Night Fever” (1977), it’s one of the defining songs of the disco era.
  7. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem – From “8 Mile” (2002), it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
  8. “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. – The theme song for the film “Ghostbusters” (1984) became a pop culture staple.
  9. “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins – Featured in “Top Gun” (1986), it’s closely associated with the film’s action-packed scenes.
  10. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams – From “Despicable Me 2” (2013), this song became a worldwide hit.
  11. “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin – This love theme from “Top Gun” (1986) won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
  12. “Skyfall” by Adele – The theme for the James Bond movie “Skyfall” (2012) won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
  13. “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins – The title track from “Footloose” (1984) became one of the most recognizable songs of the 80s.
  14. “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – From “Once” (2007), it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
  15. “Everything I Do) I Do It for You” by Bryan Adams – Featured in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991), it became a massive hit.
  16. “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper – From “A Star Is Born” (2018), it won the Oscar for Best Original Song.
  17. “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel – From “Frozen” (2013), it became a global phenomenon and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
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These songs not only achieved great success on the charts but also became forever linked to the films they were featured in, enhancing the legacy of both the songs and the movies.



Music in movies is an essential and transformative element, weaving through the fabric of cinematic storytelling to enhance emotional depth, drive narratives, and create immersive experiences that linger in the memory long after the credits roll. This intricate relationship between music and film is a dance of mutual influence, where scores and soundtracks not only complement visual elements but also elevate them, imbuing scenes with a richness that dialogue and imagery alone cannot achieve.

Historical Context

The bond between music and film dates back to the silent film era, where live music accompanied screenings to provide emotional context and entertain audiences. As technology evolved, so did the integration of music in film, with the advent of “talkies” in the late 1920s marking the beginning of fully synchronized soundtracks. This era laid the groundwork for the cinematic use of music, establishing practices that would define film scoring for decades to come.

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Emotional Amplification

One of the most powerful functions of music in movies is its ability to amplify emotions. A well-chosen score can turn a simple scene into a heart-wrenching moment, elevate tension to palpable levels, or imbue a sequence with a sense of wonder. Composers like John Williams, Hans Zimmer, and Ennio Morricone have mastered the art of capturing the essence of a film’s narrative and characters through their scores, creating themes that are as iconic as the films themselves. The haunting strings of Bernard Herrmann’s score for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) or the sweeping melodies of Howard Shore’s work on “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy are prime examples of how music can become inseparable from cinematic storytelling.

Narrative Device

Music in movies serves not just as an emotional amplifier but also as a narrative device. Themes and motifs are often used to represent characters, places, or pivotal concepts within the story. This leitmotif technique, borrowed from opera, allows filmmakers to use music to hint at underlying themes, foreshadow events, or recall past moments, enriching the narrative without a single word. Additionally, diegetic music—music that characters in the film can hear—can further the story, revealing character traits or serving as a plot point.

Setting and Atmosphere

The setting and atmosphere of a film are often crafted through its musical choices. Whether it’s the jazz-infused streets of a bustling city in “La La Land” or the eerie silence broken by sparse, unsettling tones in “The Blair Witch Project,” music (or the lack thereof) sets the tone and helps immerse viewers in the world on screen. It can transport audiences to different times and places, evoking the cultural and emotional landscapes of the story’s setting.

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Cultural Impact and Legacy

The cultural impact of music in movies extends far beyond the theater, with film scores and soundtracks frequently crossing over into mainstream music success. Iconic themes and songs from films become part of popular culture, shaping musical trends and inspiring countless artists. Soundtracks like those from “The Bodyguard” or “Guardians of the Galaxy” have achieved immense commercial success, demonstrating the power of film music to resonate with wider audiences.

Moreover, the legacy of music in cinema is not only in its commercial success but in its ability to evoke memories and emotions associated with the film. The first few notes of a familiar score can instantly transport someone back to the moment they first experienced the film, highlighting music’s unique role in the collective memory of cinema.

Innovation and Experimentation

The realm of film music is one of constant innovation and experimentation. Composers and filmmakers alike push the boundaries of traditional scoring, experimenting with electronic music, non-Western instruments, and unconventional sound design to create new auditory experiences. Films like “Drive” or “Inception” showcase how innovative soundtracks can complement and enhance the visual storytelling, offering audiences new ways to experience film.


Music in movies is a vital thread in the tapestry of filmmaking, a component that enriches the cinematic experience in multifaceted ways. Through its ability to amplify emotion, advance the narrative, set the atmosphere, and leave a lasting cultural legacy, music plays an indispensable role in the magic of movies. As cinema continues to evolve, the relationship between music and film promises to grow ever more complex and enthralling, ensuring that audiences will be moved and inspired by this dynamic art form for generations to come.