Tag Archives: movie soundtracks

The 30 Best Movie Songs of the Last 40 Years

29 Jun

It’s no secret that a movie can become that much better when the images on screen are coupled by the right song at the right time. Whether a swooning ballad when the love interests finally kiss, a thunderous anthem as the hero triumphs, or a heart-breaking song of despair when the protagonist’s dreams are dashed, a truly great movie song can enhance any moment.

Although sadly, no song can enhance a Twilight film. Nor can any film be enhanced by a Nickelback song.

This made me ask myself the question: what are the best ever movie songs? This question led me down a rabbit hole that I almost didn’t return from – an idea for a top ten list ballooned into a top thirty list. Even that was only possible by restricting myself to the last forty years of film music and savagely excluding some of my personal favourite songs for a more rational list. (Trust me, if there was any way of justifying the inclusion of Partners in Kryme’s Turtle Power I would have done it.)

Here are the ground rules:

  1. To qualify a song must be written for the film in which it appeared and for which it was made famous (although in some cases I’ve allowed remakes made especially for a film if they were so good their omission would be criminal). In other words, if a movie used an existing song – even iconically – it could not be considered for this list. Sorry Bohemian Rhapsody and Wayne’s World. Also, even though the Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody was written for a film (Unchained) it would not qualify because everyone associates it with the movie Ghost. And kinky pottery.
  2. All Disney cartoon films are out. In fact, all animated films are out, period. Nothing personal, it just seems like an unfair advantage as there are so many. Perhaps enough for a separate list one day…
  3. Instrumental songs and motifs do not count. That will definitely make a list one day.
  4. Songs must have been released in the last forty years. Yes, sadly that needed to be pointed out.
  5. Bonus points given to songs whose popularity has endured over time, and songs inexorably linked to the films in which they appeared.

Note: references to Academy Awards, Grammies and Golden Globes are references to the Academy Award for Best Original Song, the Grammy for Best Song Written for a Visual Media (or its predecessor), and the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. Other Grammy awards have not been taken into account, and it should be noted that the Grammy was not awarded prior to 1988.

So buckle up, slide on your Beats by Dres, practice your Grammy acceptance speech, and see which songs ultimately made the list.  Click on the next page below to kick things off.

(Disagree? Leave your comments and tell the world what should and should not have made the list.)