Top ten songs from movies

[Another list from Adam Morrison. – AC]

A song can end up on a movie soundtrack because it fits a theme, or because it fits a certain scene. But sometimes artists write songs that are actually about the films for which they’re on the soundtrack. Here are ten of the best such songs.

Only rule: no songs from musicals.

1. The Crow tells the story of Eric Draven, who is murdered along with his fiancee, and then is brought back to make the wrong things right. The Cure describe the journey from the protagonist’s point of view, inspired by the graphic novel the movie was based on.

2. Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For a Film)” is about a particular moment in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and it was indeed the exit music for the 1996 film Romeo + Juliet.

3. “Lose Yourself,” a huge hit for Eminem, was written and recorded by the rapper during breaks in shooting 8 Mile. It’s impossible to imagine another piece of music better capturing the situation and the struggles of the film’s main character. In the movie, we even get to see Slim’s character working on the song. *NSFW lyrics*

4. In 1988, Public Enemy were approached by Spike Lee to create the musical theme of the movie he was directing. Lee says, “I wanted it to be defiant, I wanted it to be angry, I wanted it to be very rhythmic. I thought right away of Public Enemy.” The film was Do the Right Thing, and the song, “Fight the Power,” might be one of the best hip hop songs of all time. *NSFW lyrics*

5. I bet you know the song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” But did you know Bob Dylan wrote it for the 1973 film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, in which he also appeared? The lyrics are about a specific scene. Not that you needed to know this to enjoy the song.

6. “House of 1000 Corpses” appeared on Rob Zombie’s second album, The Sinister Urge, in 2001. In 2003, it played over the opening credits of Zombie’s first film, House of 1000 Corpses. Unsurprisingly, it fits the over the top violent tone of the movie perfectly.

7. While the soundtrack to Rob Zombie’s 2005 film The Devil’s Rejects, a sequel to Corpses, is mostly filled with older rock songs, the man himself provides something far spookier in the song “The Devil’s Rejects.”

8. The 1996 soundtrack to Dead Man Walking features major artists playing songs they wrote inspired by the film’s story. Bruce Springsteen’s contribution, the almost title track “Dead Man Walkin’, is about the Sean Penn character, who resides on death row. See also: “Dead Man” by Pearl Jam, which didn’t make it into the movie.

9. Eddie Vedder has written a lot of music for Sean Penn movies. He did the entire soundtrack for Into the Wild, the Penn-written and directed 2007 film about a very ambitious hitchhiker. Of the song “Guaranteed,” Penn says “this is the musical voice of” the movie’s main character.

10. Jamie Foxx isn’t just a great actor, he’s a solid singer. He can write songs, too. While starring in Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 film Django Unchained, Foxx wrote and produced the Rick Ross-performed “100 Black Coffins.” The song delivers hip hop with an old west feel.

Anything you can add to this list? Please do so in the comments!

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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One thought on “Top ten songs from movies

  • How about Neil Young’s Philadelphia and Bruce Springsteen’s Streets of Philadelphia from the Tom Hanks film, PHILADELPHIA?

    Also, let’s not forget Oingo Boingo’s Weird Science. Perfect quirkiness for that movie.


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