Iconic Pop Hits from the Movies

Popular music and film have always existed together in a complex way. Whether its the musicals of the golden age of Hollywood such as The Sound of Music and The Music Man or pop group vehicles like the Beatles’ Help! or Prince’s Purple Rain, the impact between the songs we hear and the movies we watch has an almost chicken and egg kind of relationship. More recently, certain films have become unavoidably connected to certain songs. There’s many examples of this connection, but I’ve endeavored to extract 10 of the most immediately recognizable cinema anthems.

Listen to the song first, and see if you can guess the movie.

10. Pretty Woman (1990)

The Richard Gere/Julia Roberts romcom was 100% inspired by the song. Roy Orbison’s smash hit spent three weeks as the number one Billboard hit in Sept. of 1964. It scored Roy a Grammy and the film earned Roberts one of her Oscar nominations.

9. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Robin Williams and Steven Tyler are not a match many would put together, but Chris Columbus brought it to life. Williams’ zany energy and an Oscar winning makeup team created an unforgettable film.

8. Shrek (2001)

A couple other tunes found life in the Mike Myers/Eddie Murphy comedy, most notably Rufus Wainwright’s take on Hallelujah but it was the summer-jam from late 90s power-pop quartet Smash Mouth that connected with the big green Ogre.

7. Footloose (1984)

Did you guess this one? Singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins wrote a pair of songs for the Kevin Bacon-led cult hit. The titular tune earned Loggins an Oscar nomination and was honored as one of AFI’s top 100 Songs.

6. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

The Brothers Gibb wrote over 200 songs, but one of their most recognized is the second single from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. It’s one of the most influential songs ever written, ranking 189th on the Rolling Stone’s top 500 songs All-Time and number 9 on AFI’s top 100. Travolta spun and jived to an Oscar nomination and Fever is a paragon of 70s cinema.

5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Swiss synth duo Yello recorded the mindless dance tune in ’85 and a year later Broderick and Hughes launched it into the pop-culture psyche. Ferris Bueller had a perfect day and in the middle he needed a perfect song.

4. Superman (1978)

Maureen McGovern recorded the song which was originally written by John Williams for director Richard Donner’s seminal superhero film. The single is a combination of Williams’ score, lyrics by British composer Leslie Bricusse, and McGovern’s own arrangement.

3. The Breakfast Club (1985)

Another John Hughes appearance, whatever you think of him, he knew how to find the perfect song for his movie. Scottish rockers Simple Minds recorded the slow-jam for Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff who wrote it for the film. A bit of trivia, it could’ve been Billy Idol – which I must say would likely have been a very different feel.

2. Titanic (1997)

Could’ve easily been number 1. The song has become inexorably linked with the iconic moment where Leo holds Kate out over the bough of the ship. James Horner won an Oscar for the score and for the song itself. Dion has probably sung it 10,000x and it has a pile of awards/recognitions including the ’99 Grammys Record of the Year, Song of Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and Best Song Written for a Movie or TV.

1. Rocky (1976)

Sly dancing on the top of the stairs outside the Philly Museum of Art as Conti’s trumpets blast Rocky’s theme is one of the true mono-cultural moments for filmgoers in the past 50 years.

So that’s my list – what songs and films are connected like this for you?

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