The 42 Best Movie Songs, From 'Ghostbusters' to 'Wind Beneath My Wings'

Who you gonna call?

best movie songs dirty dancing
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The best movie songs have a way of elevating the cinematic experience. For instance, "Dance the Night" by Dua Lipa instantly transports us to Barbie Land, and Survivor's chart-topping classic, "Eye of the Tiger," still makes us want to grab a pair of boxing gloves and enter the ring. (Step aside, Rocky.)

We can't imagine watching any of our favorite titles without a few catchy tunes in the mix, and according to Adam Grybowski, former Director Of Communications at Rider University, it's all because they add depth and capture the movie's overall tone. He wrote, "It helps shape emotional responses, creates a rhythm to scenes and segments, and comments on the action. Music is often crucial to the experience of a scene and, in some cases, becomes as iconic as the movies themselves." 

So, if you're like us and you have a lengthy list of movie songs that live rent-free in your head, allow us to introduce this list of the 42 best tunes from romantic comedies, drama films and more.

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1. “You Don't Own Me” by Lesley Gore: The First Wives Club

  • Released: 1963
  • Genre: Pop

Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton’s rendition of this original girl power anthem is everything.

2. “Don't You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds: The Breakfast Club

  • Released: 1985
  • Genre: Rock

Take a time machine to the '80s and pump your fist in the air like Judd Nelson.

3. “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion: Titanic

4. “I Say a Little Prayer” by Dionne Warwick: My Best Friend’s Wedding

  • Released: 1967
  • Genre: Soul Pop

There's no better way to convince a room full of people that you’re engaged to your gay bestie than by recounting your love story through song.

5. "Dance the Night" by Dua Lipa: Barbie

  • Released: 2023
  • Genre: Pop

Here's hoping we score an invite to the next disco party in Barbie Land.

6. “(I've Had) The Time of My Life” by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes: Dirty Dancing

  • Released: 1987
  • Genre: Dance Rock

Nobody puts Baby in the corner. (FYI, the hit song boasts several accolades, including an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.)

7. “Don't Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith: Armageddon

  • Released: 1998
  • Genre: Rock

The one film that single-handedly takes credit for the categorization of animal crackers as both children's and “adult” snack food.

8. “You've Got a Friend In Me” by Randy Newman: Toy Story

  • Released: 1995
  • Genre: Pop

A heartwarming ballad that jump-started the friendship between Woody and Buzz (and a childhood memory we'll always remember).

9. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor: Rocky III

  • Released: 1982
  • Genre: Rock

The only theme song that gets us through the day and pumps us up whenever we're down.

10. “Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship: Mannequin

  • Released: 1987
  • Genre: Rock

Long before Kim Cattrall was Samantha in Sex and the City, she was Andrew McCarthy’s fantasy woman.

11. “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio: Dangerous Minds

  • Released: 1995
  • Genre: Hip hop

This 1995 gem + Michelle Pfeiffer = a classic movie combo.

12. “Flashdance...What a Feeling” by Irene Cara: Flashdance

  • Released: 1983
  • Genre: Pop

Three words: Pull. The. Cord.

13. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston: The Bodyguard

  • Released: 1974
  • Genre: R&B/Soul

What we wouldn’t give to hit that high E just like Whitney. (Hey, a girl can dream.)

14. “Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees: Saturday Night Fever

  • Released: 1977
  • Genre: Disco

When John Travolta and his gyrating hips arrive, you know the party has officially begun.

15. “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins: Footloose

  • Released: 1984
  • Genre: Rock

How was there a dancing ban when this song existed? No wonder Kevin Bacon fought so hard to bust a move.

16. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem: 8 Mile

  • Released: 2002
  • Genre: Rap

This 2002 film is not complete without the award-winning rap that started it all.

17. “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler: Beaches

  • Released: 1988
  • Genre: Pop

We hope you have tissues ready when this song starts.

18. “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel: Frozen

  • Released: 2013
  • Genre: Pop

Get ready to unleash your inner princess and belt out the song just like Idina Menzel. (And we apologize in advance if you have kids who won't stop playing this classic on repeat.)

19. “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.: Ghostbusters

  • Released: 1984
  • Genre: Dance Pop

If there's somethin' strange in your neighborhood…Who you gonna call?

20. “Unchained Melody” by Righteous Brothers: Ghost

  • Released: 1965
  • Genre: Easy Listening

We’ll never look at a potter's wheel the same way again.

21. “Glory” by John Legend & Common: Selma

  • Released: 2015
  • Genre: Hip hop

With a story so inspirational, it deserves a powerful song to match.

22. “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None The Richer: She’s All That

  • Released: 1999
  • Genre: Pop

It just wasn’t the '90s without a newly glam Lainey Boggs gliding down the stairs to this catchy pop tune.

23. “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel: Say Anything

  • Released: 1986
  • Genre: Rock

We'll gladly listen to this song over and over again if it means we'll get John Cusack outside our window blasting the song on his boombox.

24. “Moon River” by Audrey Hepburn: Breakfast At Tiffany’s

  • Released: 1961
  • Genre: Jazz

The award-winning song fits perfectly with Audrey Hepburn's vocals and impressive guitar playing.

25. “Men In Black” by Will Smith: Men In Black

  • Released: 1997
  • Genre: Hip Hop

We’d like to keep our memories of this classic, please. Now, where do we sign up to be a part of the secret organization?

26. “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper: A Star Is Born

  • Released: 2018
  • Genre: Folk Pop

OK, this 2018 movie has a lot of bops but it's the first number sung by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper that hooked us.

27. “9 To 5” by Dolly Parton: 9 to 5

  • Released: 1980
  • Genre: Country

Fun fact: This song earned an Oscar nod and two Grammy Awards. (Dolly, we’re so not worthy.)

28. “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar ft. Sza: Black Panther

  • Released: 2018
  • Genre: R&B

With Kendrick Lamar producing the movie's soundtrack, it was bound for greatness.

29. “Banana Boat (Day O)” by Harry Belafonte: Beetlejuice

  • Released: 1956
  • Genre: Jamaican Folk

Honestly, we can't sing this song without thinking of this funny scene. (FYI, we're definitely reenacting this choreography at our next dinner party.)

30. “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa Ft. Charlie Puth: Furious 7

  • Released: 2015
  • Genre: Pop

A tribute to the late Paul Walker, this track really hits you in the feels.

31. “Jai Ho” by A.R. Rahman: Slumdog Millionaire

  • Released: 2008
  • Genre: Pop

Remember the iconic train station dance number from this 2008 Best Picture winner? It's just as good on the second (fine, seventeenth) viewing.

32. “Paradise” by Ll Cool J Ft. Amerie: Deliver Us From Eva

  • Released: 2002
  • Genre: R&B

A rom-com starring Gabrielle Union? A soundtrack we can jam to even when the movie is over? Sign us up.

33. “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy: Do the Right Thing

  • Released: 1990
  • Genre: Hip Hop

Spike Lee's 1989 film found a moving theme song in this rap track.

34. “Everything Is Awesome!” by Tegan and Sara ft. The Lonely Island: The Lego Movie

  • Released: 2014
  • Genre: Pop

Don't sing along. We dare you.

35. “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel: The Graduate

  • Released: 1968
  • Genre: Folk

When Simon & Garfunkel are in charge of the whole soundtrack, it's pretty impossible to go wrong.

36. “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” by Three 6 Mafia: Hustle & Flow

  • Released: 2005
  • Genre: Rap

Not only was this the song of 2005, it also won Best Original Song at the Academy Awards.

37. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen: Wayne's World

  • Released: 1975
  • Genre: Rock

Car rides with friends got ten times cooler after this '92 classic scene.

38. “Don’t Let Go” by En Vogue: Set It Off

  • Released: 1996
  • Genre: R&B

The powerhouse of En Vogue fits perfectly with the all-star cast of Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox and Kimberly Elise.

39. “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Ray: The Great Gatsby

  • Released: 2013
  • Genre: Rock

A haunting ballad that describes the relationship of Daisy and Gatsby to a T.

40. "Skyfall" by Adele: Skyfall

  • Released: 2012
  • Genre: Pop

The Academy Award-winning track already makes us feel ten times more sophisticated.

42. “Rain Drops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” by B.J. Thomas: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

  • Released: 1969
  • Genre: Pop rock

Who knew that taking such a major creative risk would turn out to be just what this now-iconic Western film needed?

Add the playlist below:

41. “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin: Top Gun

  • Released: 1986
  • Genre: Pop Rock

We're not surprised it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1986. Plus, honorable mention goes to Kenny Loggins’s "Danger Zone" and the glistening display of testosterone that is the Maverick and Goose versus Iceman and Slider volleyball game scene.


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