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Whatever Happened to Good Movie Songs?

If there’s one thing that this weekend’s Men in Black 3 does, it’s offer a particular nostalgia. No, not for when Will Smith movies were good (Yeah, Hancock is the kind of stink that sticks around, Will. Sorry), but for when pop songs were part of the whole movie package.

Okay, so the hype surrounding Soundgarden’s contribution to the Avengers movie may have had you think that music was still an integral part of the summer moviegoing experience, but anyone who’s seen the movie knows better. Not only is the song a dirge (Sorry, Soundgarden fans, but you know it’s true. I mean —

— come on. You know it’s true), but it’s entirely absent from the movie until the end credits, by which point audiences are already in shock and awe from the movie itself and not really caring about the music because they’re either leaving the theater or thinking about the post-credits scene that they know is coming.

But think about the glory days of musical tie-ins to movies! Like this!

(Godzilla, by the way, was the first movie to have a soundtrack made up of songs not in the movie, creating the “Music from and Inspired By” tag.)

Or, perhaps more appropriately to the subject, this!

And what about this, which was far better than I remembered!

Sure, it’s no Bond theme, the zenith of music-in-action movies, I think we can all agree – and speaking of which:

Oh, Shirley. Never stop – but am I the only one who feels as if more movies need elaborate opening titles featuring songs sung by today’s hottest stars instead of the hottest stars of twenty years ago (Really, Soundgarden? Although I guess that’s still more modern than Iron Man 2‘s AC-DC tie-in)?

I’m throwing this one open to you, dear readers: What are your favorite movie songs, and do you also wish that today’s blockbusters put a little bit more thought into choosing their music? Fill the comments with YouTube videos!


  • Josh

    I thought using Foo Fighters’ “Walk” in “Thor” was pretty good. 

  • Johnny Sarcastic

    I hate to come across as obvious, but I think ‘Ghostbusters’ by Ray Parker, Jr. has got to be the all-time winner here.  I can’t think of a movie and a song more inseparable than that.

  • Ed

    Man, movies and music were never so tightly connected as they were in the 80s! It seemed like EVERY flick that came out had an accompanying soundtrack of songs that were actually used IN said flick itself. There was usually a music video to go along with it that often spliced scenes from the movie in between the musical artist(s) performing the tune.

    Sometimes they would even get the stars from the film to cameo in the video. The two that stick out most to me are “When the Going Gets Tough” from Jewel of the Nile with Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito making fools of themselves on a stage with Billy Ocean. Then there’s “Who’s Johnny?” from Short Circuit. El Debarge’s video for the song featured Ally Sheedy, but apparently her costar, Steve Guttenberg, was too busy because they had to substitute a cardboard cutout for the “real” actor! LOL

    Of course, it can be said that this was more of a marketing gimmick, as MTV premiered early in the decade and was still actually showing videos. But there was nothing like turning on the channel and being able to watch scenes from movies at home to get you even more excited about your favorite films!

  • CopperBlue

    I think the drop-off comes from two things:
    1) A movie can’t reliably make money off a killer (and probably expensive-to-license) soundtrack, because record sales are at a general all-time-low2) A movie can’t rely on MTV to show a video for their killer (and expensive-to-license) single, and thereby promote the movie. 

    So the logic appears to be if you can’t make money off a good movie song, why pay for it?

  • Jugga Lord

    I actually have a LOT of movie soundtrack favorites, more than what I’m listing. Most are from the 80s. Then it occurred to me why.

    Even though I watch more movies now than when I was a kid, the “MTV culture” of that era has been steadily diminishing over the past 10-15 years. Fewer artists produce songs exclusively for movie soundtracks these days. Even if a song gets tied into a movie soundtrack, it’s not exacly as if there’s a huge music video tie-in to go along with it. Certainly not like back in the day.

    Pre-internet, these songs would go viral and become such a strong part of youth culture because of music videos. If you look at MTV’s programming, most of their shows are reality or scripted. They tend to devote about 3 hours to music. 6 if they’re being really generous. Some days, MTV doesn’t even show any videos. (Trust me. I just went through my cable guide.) MTV even went as far as to drop “Music Television” from their logo.

    If a song was really popular in a movie, it used to filter down via music videos. With the interenet and decreased music sales, music has become less of a form of pop culture currency. Great music is still made. I love the hell of of a bunch of new bands and songs of all genres. My collection is still crazy.

    I just don’t think that music drives pop culture as much now as it did 20+ years ago. As pop culture currency, music has lost some of its value to the internet, reality programming, and famous for being famous “stars”. What we value now is a bit different than it was when music videos were in their prime.

    Anyway, here’s my extensive, but incomplete, list of soundtrack favorites.


    “What A Feeling” – Irene Cara – Fame (1980)
    “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” – Sammy Hagar – Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)
    “Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor – Rocky III (1982)
    “Holiday Road” – Lindsey Buckingham – Vacation (1983)
    “Valley Girl” – Frank Zappa – Valley Girl (1983)
    “Maniac” – Michael Sembello – Flashdance (1983)
    “Ghostbusters” – Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusers (1984)
    “Footloose” – Kenny Loggins – Footloose (1984)
    “Purple Rain” – Prince – Purple Rain (1984)
    “Never Ending Story” – Limahl – The Never Ending Story (1984)
    “If You Were Here” – Thompson Twins – Sixteen Candles (1984)
    “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” – Cyndi Lauper – Goonies (1985)
    “Back in Time” – Huey Lewis and the News – Back to the Future (1985)
    “Don’t You Forget About Me” – Simple Minds – The Breakfast Club (1985)
    “Weird Science” – Thomas Dolby – Weird Science (1985)
    “We Don’t Need Another Hero” – Tina Turner – Mad Max Beyond Thuderdome (1985)
    “Danger Zone” – Kenny Loggins – Top Gun (1986)
    “Take My Breath Away” – Berlin – Top Gun (1986)
    “Hunger City” – Cherry Bomb – Howard the Duck (1986)
    “The Touch” – Stan Bush – Transformers the Movie (1986)
    “Dream Warriors” – Dokken – Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (1987)
    “She’s Like The Wind” – Patrick Swayze – Dirty Dancing (1987)
    “Lost in the Shadows” – Lou Gramm – The Lost Boys (1987)
    “Anything, Anything” – Dramarama – Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (1988)
    “Partyman” – Prince – Batman (1989)
    “Doubleback” – ZZ Top – Back to the Future III (1990)
    “A Whole New World” – Peabo Bryson – Aladdin (1992)
    “Hold me. Thrill me. Kiss me. Kill me.” – U2 – Batman Forever (1995)
    “Gangsta’s Paradise” – Coolio – Dangerous Minds (1995)
    “Every Time I Look For You” – Blink 182 – American Pie (1999)
    “Wake Up” – Rage Against the Machine – The Matrix (1999)
    “Elevation” – U2 – Tomb Raider (2001)
    “Adrenaline” – Gavin Rossdale – XXX (2002)
    “Lose Yourself” – Eminem – 8 Mile (2002)
    “Bring Me to Life” – Evanescence – Daredevil (2003)
    “Cells” – The Servant – Sin City (2005)
    “Every Day is Exactly the Same” – Nine Inch Nails – Wanted (2008)


    I could list a ton more, but the 80s soundtrack biggies probably outnumber the post-80s ones by 3-to-1. It’s not an issue of “they don’t make music like they used to”. No. It’s “they don’t music WHY they used to.” In an age where image was everything, songs, especially for soundtracks, used to be made with music videos in mind. With music videos on the decline, noteworthy soundtrack tunes aren’t doing so well as pop culture currency.

  • Jaded Devil

    Don’t forget the Dragnet movie and “City of Crime,” with Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks rapping in-character. Ah, Pep Streebeck…we’ll not see the likes of you again.

  • JozefAL

    Sorry, Jugga, but you need to have your memories rechecked.  Yes, Irene Cara performed a song that many people called “What a Feeling” but that song was from another movie called “Flashdance”–the full song was titled “Flashdance (What a Feeling!).”  BUT, Irene DID perform a major movie hit in 1980, but that song was called “Fame” (from the movie of the same name); she also performed a second song, a ballad called “Out Here on My Own.”  (Both songs were nominated for an Oscar.)

    A couple of other minor problems I have with your list:
    1–“Weird Science” was from Oingo Boingo–not Thomas Dolby.  (Oingo Boingo, incidentally, was led by a man who’s become fairly synonymous with offbeat movie music.  Perhaps you’ve heard of him–Danny Elfman?)

    2–“Every Day Is Exactly the Same” (unlike all your other selections–at least as far as I can recall) was released a couple of years before its use in “Wanted.”

    3–“A Whole New World” was by Peabo Bryson AND Regina Belle.  (Incidentally, the pair also teamed a few years earlier with a song from Bill Cosby’s film, “Leonard, Pt 6″; the song was “Without You.”)

  • Kyriemhz

    Honestly, using a song to the extent discussed here makes the movie feel like a music video. The only good “movie music” was Queen’s A KIND OF MAGIC album. I, for one, am glad to see the practice die.

  • Jugga Lord

    The “Weird Science” & “What a Feeling” ones are just copy & paste mistakes on my part. I had a list in Notepad and I goofed on the paste back here. =) For Irene Cara, I also meant to add “Fame”. D’oh! For Thomas Dolby, it was a mistake stemming from the Chery Bomb “Hunger City” song, which was co-produced by Dolby’s project Cube. Anyway, fixed. Not a memory issue. Just a ctrl-c ctrl-v one. =P

    The NiN song…. I never said that it was produced for the movie. I only listed it as one a soundtrack standout. I know that it was released earlier. A few of these other songs were too. Dramarama’s “Anything, Anything” predates NoES4 by 3 years.

    A Whole New World….. Laziness on my part. I didn’t feel like typing out the whole credit. It’s part of my ID3 though.

  • Jugga Lord

    What about “Eye for the Tiger” from Survivor? I’d certainly say that one’s a contender for all-time best soundtrack song. The producers couldn’t couldn’t secure the rights to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” for Rocky 3. So they just said, “F** it!” and got Survivor to write the absolute best fight montage song ever. In some respects, the song has long outlived the movie’s popularity.

    Another contender would be “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee-Gees for “Saturday Night Fever” flick. I dare you to put that song on and not to walk with that Travolta swagger. This song is not only permanently tied to this movie, but probably also stands out as a poster child for 70s disco in general.

    Ghostbusters is an awesome song and great example, but it loses points for me here by ripping Huey Lewis’ song “I Want a New Drug”. (Remember, there was that damning out of court settlement.”)

  • Fury

     How has anyone not mentioned the awesome awesomeness of Highlander/Queen? Who Wants To Live Forever? Princes of the Universe? A Kind of Magic? COME ON!

    AND POTU has MacLeod dueling Freddie Mercury (using his mic stand!) in the video!

    and then, of course the bastion of 80s music fused with a movie: Transformers The Movie: Stan Bush, The Touch!

    the last decent movie/song fusion was more of a song/video game fusion: Techno Syndrome, The Immortals from the soundtrack to Mortal Kombat. a techno track with samples of the character names, “test your might” and a few dialogue samples. AWE. SOME.

  • Valenciaco2003

    Rainbow Connection….The Muppet Movie hands down

  • Lastnamecumbie

    Hey you people forgot about the ultimate sound track man and that is Kenny Loggins let’s see the song for top gun, footlose, and the soundtrack for caddyshack. There is the song that Patrick Swayze song she’s like the wind. There is the Celine Dion song for Titanic Oh and I have to put this out there (no one shoot me please) but Vanilla Ice’s song for tmnt 2 was pretty good lol.

  • Darren J Seeley

    ” (Godzilla, by the way, was the first movie to have a soundtrack made up of songs not in the movie, creating the “Music from and Inspired By” tag.)”

    This is incorrect.
    Aside from Jon Bon Jovi’s ‘Young Guns II’, Madonna’s ‘I’m Breathless/ Dick Tracy’ , you had three Batman related soundtracks that predate Godzilla. Even if you discounted Prince’s Batman, on a various artists tag there was Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.

    As far as movie music is concerned. I’ve always liked Wang Chung’s ‘To Live and Die in L.A.” (and the overall soundtrack) but for individual songs, I look to music from Top Gun, ‘God Gave Rock N Roll To You’ from ‘Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey’ (but that’s also because KISS performed it) ‘Deeper and Deeper’ (The Fixx) and ‘Blue Shadows’ (Blasters) from Streets Of Fire. Phil Collin’s ‘Against All Odds’ is still a favorite…

  • darthtigris

    I think it usually will take a more POP sounding song.  Straight Rock, Rap or R&B doesn’t generally have the crossover appeal that is needed.

    Plus you need a break out hit movie too that people generally love.

    Even though not horrible, I just wanted a memorable symphonic score for the Avengers and with memorable lietmotif’s for it’s characters (Cap’s theme doesn’t even show up, strangely …).  Some may think that’s old fashioned, but it was recently used to extremely good effect as I was playing through Mass Effect 3 …

  • Cpatmaier

    Interesting thing about the Bond films, I believe “If you Asked me too” from License To Kill is remembered better than the title tune by Gladys Night (Which uses a riff similar to Goldfinger at the beginning).

  • Beacon

    Will Smith’s MIB music is great.


    It’s probably just an age thing but I tend to smile a bit
    when I hear songs from the American Pie movies. It’s kind of unfortunate that the
    soundtrack to American Reunion is better than the actual movie.


    Since this is mostly a comic board …


    That one Batman movie (Forever?) made me love “Kissed By a
    Rose”. Apparently it had the same effect on radio stations because I hated it
    soon after. I heard it a few months ago and enjoyed it though.


    The Iron Man movies may have the greatest soundtracks ever.


    Ghost Rider may not have been the greatest movie (still
    better than people made it out to be though) but it had a great retro


    Awful Macy Grey track side, the Spider-Man soundtrack CDs
    are fantastic … its just a little weird to me that hardly any of those songs
    were in the actual movies. That seems to be a trend with movie “soundtrack” CDs
    in general.

  • NS317453

    Princes of the Universe by Queen — from one of the Highlander movies.

    I can’t hear that song without thinking about the clan Macleod.

  • Demoncat4

    would have to go with eye of the tiger from rocky for that proved how music and a movie can work together as for hollywoods tastes when they are picking the music think that has to do with how much they have in the budget since some muscians cost a fortune to license a song for a movie.

  • Omniaural

    For me, it would be a straight battle between Ghostbusters and Footloose!

    Not sure who would win though :s

  • Matthew Elmslie

    For me it has to be “That Thing You Do” from that thing you do!

  • Christopher Fergo

    The Mortal Kombat theme song of course!

  • Jeff Kraschinski

    Godzilla was NOT the first. Tim Burton’s Batman had a similar soundtrack (although the movie score was ALSO available)

  • Rufus

    “Trouble”by Cat Stevens at the end of “Harold and Maude”

  • Black_manta

    “Pretty in Pink” is my favorite soundtrack.

    “Good Love” by Prince from “Bright Lights, Big City” is my favorite song.

  • Thad Boyd

     Speaking of Huey Lewis, The Power of Love.

    …though yeah Johnny B Goode is the much more memorable musical moment from Back to the Future.

  • Scarlet Silence

    “Ghosbusters,” for Ghostbusters; “On Our Own” and “Ghostbusters” by Run DMC for Ghostbusters 2; “Power of Love” for Back to the Future; “Men in Black” was very good; “You Could Be Mine” for Terminator 2: Judgment Day; the revisiting of “Bohemian Rhapsody” for Wayne’s World; “Ninja Rap” for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze; “Goonies R Good Enough” for the Goonies; and “Highway to the Danger Zone” all immediately come to mind as popular songs from films with videos entrenched in the films they belong in.

    I agree that there is no longer any care for the soundtrack, which is a shame. During the late ’90s I recall a deluge of soundtracks that were filled with very uninspired filler, much of which was made by then-big-name acts. Being able to sample music before buying was kind of a rarity, so maybe that is why they persisted, but it has been very bad.

    I was very disappointed to hear a Nine Inch Nails song over the Avengers trailer instead of an excellent orchestral theme befitting the franchise, but this combines the topic of this thread with that of another: The lack of memorable themes for recent movies in general.

  • JackD

    Scott Pilgrim vs the World !

  • Jmralls2001

     I personally liked Soundgarden’s song for “The Avengers” soundtrack. I don’t care for most new musicians. There are a few that I think are good, but I wish there were more that I could get into. Most of them seem boring to me.

  • Tyson Hinton

    I think that the new songs for the last 2 Bond films by Audioslave and Jack Black with Alicia Keyes were really good. Foo Fighters in Thor wasn’t bad. Songs just are not promoted in films like they once were. Soundtracks are now just crappy (for the most part) songs that artists give to have their name connected to a movie and generally don’t result in quality.

    Most artists these days are horrible. Do you want to go to a film and hear the latest Bieber or Gaga songs blaring at you. 

    A good song is a good song regardless if the person was popular 20+ years ago. I’d take most older artists over a lot of the stuff people like these days. 

  • Mr. M

    Yes, but maybe If You Asked Me To was covered by Celine Dion.  I like Patti’s version better, and am a big fan of the LTK soundtrack.

  • RunnerX13

    Ha, yeah.  I think Will Smith is the very reason why movie songs have gone away.

  • Ernie

    One of the problems was that great soundtracks went on terrible movies, which made studio’s discount the importance of actual songs instead of scores.

    I’m thinking of things like the Batman movies of Schumacher, Queen of the Damned, City of Angels.  All dynamite (or at least pretty decent) sound tracks with songs that hit huge.  But the movies didn’t succeed as much as wanted.

  • RJ Droll

    Actually,  Madonna’s “I’m Breathless – Songs from and inspired by the movie ‘Dick Tracy'” predates Puff-Daddy and Godzilla, making it the first album and movie to claim a soundtrack of songs not in the actual film.  

  • Anon

    Evanescence – “Bring Me To Life” (OST Daredevil)

  • Sean

    Why is it shocking that the Star Wars Prequels and Indiana Jones 4 had great music?

    John freaking Williams did the soundtracks.

  • Sean

    Zimmer’s theme from True Romance is  based on Gassenhauer from Carl Orff’s Schulwerk.  

    In True Romance, it’s a homage to Terrence Malick’s Badlands which uses the music and is also about two lovers on the run.