Top 10 Movie Theme Songs
Movie theme songs can often prolong the lifespan of the film in the memory of the audience and, in extraordinary cases, even transcend their silver screen origins to find a place in day-to-day life.
The right song is everything. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 movie theme songs.
For this list, we’ve decided to stick with pop songs that feature prominently in iconic films, and have chosen to leave out instrumental themes.
While many may remember “Maniac” when thinking of Flashdance, it’s Irene Cara’s anthem that defines this film. With its 80s synthpop sound and triumphant message, Cara took home a Grammy, a Golden Globe and an Oscar for this movie theme. And why not? The song serves as the flick’s bookends, playing as we’re introduced to welder-by-day, stripper-by-night, Alex Owens, and subsequently in Alex’s iconic final audition.
Without taking the movie into consideration, this is one of the most successful mainstream rap songs ever—it won Grammys and an Oscar, and—more importantly—it’s immediately identifiable by an entire generation. Written by the film’s main character, Rabbit, “Lose Yourself” moves through the flick’s emotions and struggles. But most importantly, this rousing anthem gets us cheering for the hero and caps off the entire movie perfectly.
Going into its third installment, the Rocky franchise already had one of the great theme songs. But a new decade needed a new theme, and Sly Stallone couldn’t get his hands on Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” Cue Survivor to strut in and pick up the pieces: not only did they hit the right note with fans; they also revolutionized workouts for eternity.
Simon & Garfunkel contributed several songs to Mike Nichols’ landmark 1968 film about disaffected youth. Their track “The Sound of Silence” punctuates the flick in all the rights places, but it’s the Grammy-winning and chart-topping “Mrs. Robinson” that stands out as the movie’s theme: the tune directly references the characters, but maintains its obscure and esoteric qualities. Plus, the film’s climax just wouldn’t be the same without it.
You can’t talk theme songs and leave out Bond: there are at least a dozen solid hits in the group, with Paul McCartney and 007 theme icon Shirley Bassey turning in epic melodies. But for our money, Adele’s “Skyfall” is number one with a bullet. This multi-award-winning track shares the film’s darkness and finality, harkens back to Bassey’s classics, and reminds us that Bond themes always hit their mark.
Whoa, easy Jim Kerr, we didn’t forget about you. No one wanted to record this synthpop classic in its early days, but the band’s label compelled them to do it. Good thing: it became their biggest hit, and arguably the reason people don’t forget about Simple Minds. But more than that, the song brings you back to an innocent time in the 80s, when Saturday detentions could be unforgettable.
Like Survivor did with “Eye of the Tiger,” the Bee Gees permeated pop culture with their signature song. Sure, there are tons of disco classics on this soundtrack, even a few more by the Bee Gees themselves, but you can’t beat this track about the struggles of big city living. Since Tony Manero first strutted across our screens, pedestrians everywhere have been humming this to match their assured strides.
Of all the theme songs to all the 80s dance films, this one stands alone as king: it won the awards trifecta, is one of the most unforgettable duets ever and it forms a pitch-perfect marriage with the film. By that we mean it’s every bit as emotional, sappy, and—let’s face it—cheesy as Dirty Dancing. But, don’t worry: it’s also the Swayze-est.
It’s one of the biggest songs from one of the biggest movies ever—that means it’s also one of the most overplayed tunes ever. Oh c’mon, take off your grumpy old man hat and try to bring yourself back to a more innocent time—1997 to be exact—when all that mattered was the love between Rose and Jack. Can’t quite do it? How ‘bout now?
Whitney contributed many smash hits to the best-selling soundtrack in history. But there can only be one. This song began its life in 1974, as a modest country ballad by Dolly Parton. But when performed by Whitney Houston for The Bodyguard, “I Will Always Love You” struck a profound chord with audiences and made sure the film’s soundtrack was the first album ever to sell a million units in one week.
Do you agree or disagree with our list? Which movie theme song would you put on your all-time top 10? Be sure to let us know and subscribe to WatchMojo.com for more great top 10s!